(OOC: This is an RPG for my two characters Eclipse and Hesperus. It's not FanFiction because I created both characters. This takes place after the Champions of Peace RPG 'Fate of the Dragons' and before 'Our World Aflame' and 'The Beast Within'. Feel free to comment, there's only going to be one post and I'll edit the following chapters into it. Enjoy! And when you're done, go read Paragon's Blog-RPG, Snow Patrol)
Chapter 1: Falling into Old Habits
Champion Tower, 30th April 2011
"Happy Birthday, Jason!" Charles Barnes grinned as he patted his friend on the back.
"Shhh!" The young hero known as Eclipse hissed, wobbling on his crutches as he glanced around quickly. "Please, try not to tell the whole team. The last thing I want is any fuss. I had a party with the Ice Dragons last year, and that's enough to last me a lifetime."
"At least you got one awesome present!" Blair chuckled, her enchanted hair shimmering as she tugged at the Teen Wonder's spectacular nano-suit, currently in the guide of the teen's civillain clothes.
"I also got an ice sculpture of myself..." Eclipse cringed, lowering himself down into the sofa as his friends sat down around him.
"Any plans for today, hero?" Laura asked, leaning back against her boyfriend.
"Oh, you know, visit Mom and Uncle Rick, like I do every year." The reason Jason never celebrated his birthday was because it was also the anniversary of the death of the only family he had. They had been murdered 7 years ago and every year since the boy had visited their graves on his birthday.
"We can stop there on the way, then." Laura nodded to the others.
"On the way?" Eclipse frowned.
"They're only here for one night." CellPhoneGirl tossed him a ticket. "What do you say, Circus boy? Feel like going home?"
Jason smiled. It was the circus he was raised in. They had been performing every night on his birthday since the death of their star performers, but he had never had the courage to actually attend. "Sure." He grinned. "Sounds like fun."
'There he goes.' The young assassin glared at the crippled hero Eclipse, as he made his way to a jet, laughing with his friends. 'The only thing standing in between me and a normal life. I'm one year older today... But that just means I'm one year closer to my own demise. Unless I eliminate Jason Dodd.' Hesperus was the son of Surreal SaDiablo, a renowned assassin, and Thomas Rayne, an extreme Fundamentalist. Damian was born with crescent markings on the back of his hands, just as Jason was born with similar markings on his palms. According to their people, these markings meant the boys had an intertwined destiny, and both would die either trying to destroy the world or save it. In Damian's eyes, it was Jason who was the harbringer of the Apocalypse, and if he killed him in advance of their destiny, it could all be avoided. While he originally joined the Champions of Peace in an attempt to kill his enemy, Hesperus soon came to enjoy being a hero, and his attempts to take Jason's life came to a halt as he embraced his new life. He even began working with his former foe on a regular basis. Until recently, things were going well between the two boys. Until two days ago, when everything changed again...
"Be aware of everything." Jason instructed as they waited in the dark. "This guy is very dangerous, and always prepared for everything. You need to be totally aware of your environment."
"Oh, give it a rest, mother." Damian groaned as he leaned over the edge of the rooftop. "According to you he doesn't even have any powers, just immortality and a lucky coin."
"He doesn't need them." Eclipse replied grimly, levitating above the surface. "All he needs are his traps... And his words. He was once the sworn enemy of the Vine Titans. He could take on all of us at once."
"Yes, I can see how you, Sunshine and Stripes would be incredibly difficult to take down." Hesperus rolled his eyes as he checked his gauntlets were secured properly. Damian's battle-gear included bladed gauntlets on his arms and legs, to take the place of his swords if he lost them.
"Just be careful." The teen hero smiled, as he grabbed the shoulder of his younger counterpart and teleported them into the building opposite in a flash of light. "Hello, Madros."
And there he was. It had been over a year since Eclipse had last laid eyes on the man who ordered the death of his family; the man who forced Jason to become his apprentice; the man who unintentionally caused the formation of the Vine Titans. His face was still as disturbing as ever, half of it the image of the perfect man, clean-cut hair, dazzling eye and bright smile, while the other half was a demonic, malformed mess of burnt flesh and protruding muscles, with a bulging eye and yellowing teeth. For the last few months, Eclipse had been battling his new arch-nemesis, a bumbling yet brilliant villain named DaggerKlutz. But the relationship between Patrick Back and his nemesis had never been particularly fierce, Patrick had always seemed like more of an attention seeker than a full fledged supervillain, whereas Madros had done his best to ruin his foe's life completely on numerous occasions. Now, DaggerKlutz was gone... Whether he was dead, or something else entirely, Jason had no idea. Yet in some ways, Eclipse missed his arch-nemesis. He certainly preferred the Bald Baddie to his current opponent.
"Jason. It's been too long." The maniac grinned as he sat at the head of a table, it was a meeting with his lieutenents, who had all leapt from their seats to defend their master. All of them had some sort of burn on the right side of their face, the opposite side of Madros' scars. The more serious the burn, the greater their loyalty to him. "Ah, and you brought a new friend!"
"Screw you." Hesperus growled as he withdrew his swords, vaulting across the table and swinging his blades towards Madros' head. The villain responded swiftly with his own weapon, a two-handed broadsword, which he swung up from below his seat and smashed into Damian's katanas, sending both of them straight up into the ceiling, where they became embedded.
"I warned you about his swordplay!" Eclipse shouted angrily as he used his gravitational powers to blast the various thugs out of the way, simultaneously using his electromagnetism powers to divert and reflect the barrage of bullets heading his way.
"Why else do you think I wanted to take him on like this?" Damian smirked as he used his bladed forearms to parry a swing from his opponent. He leaned to the left, dodging a heavy blow of the sword, and struck out with his leg. The kick missed its target as Madros shifted his leg slightly, but at that moment the boy activated the blades on his legs, causing them to extend and tear through Madros' lower right leg. Then, hooking his foot around the madman's leg, Damian pulled back towards himself, causing Madros to fall flat on his back, his broadsword clattering to the ground on his side. Hesperus then kicked away the sword and, withdrawing his leg blades, pressed one knee against his enemy's chest, holding his forearm against the villain's throat. "Checkmate."
"Nice work." Jason flew over to the two of them, having dealt with all the henchmen easily. "And Madros, before you try any of your tricks: I took out your snipers earlier; I deactivated all the bombs in this building; my nanobots have shut down the bombs strapped to your chest and blocked your emergency distress signal."
"Then it seems I am beaten. Congratulations. You've won." Madros grinned maliciously, blood trickling from his leg. And yet, as Eclipse handcuffed his old foe and prepared to transport him to the Champions of Peace holding cells, the teen had a horrible feeling that Madros had only just begun.
"Why did you do it?" Damian asked simply, standing before the bars in his brightly coloured costume, his domino mask tucked into his belt as he stared at the villain with crossed arms. "I'm curious. What drove you to kill Jason's parents?"
"I have lived many centuries, young Rayne." Madros replied, still grinning despite his hands and legs being cuffed together, now dressed in a plain prison jumpsuit with the Champions of Peace emblem on it. He ignored Damian's surprise at the fact that the maniac knew his name, and continued. "And while I have no powers, I am able to survive in my line of work through recruiting help. In my experience, the younger an apprentice, the better. That way they are easier to mould, and also have the potential to serve me for much longer. The choice to kill his family was one made not by me, but my enchanted coin. It indicated to me that if I killed the Dodds and took in their boy, I would be able to bend him to my will. So I gave the command that they were to die and that the boy was to be sent to me. My plans did not work out quite that way, but it mattered little as I had already found a new apprentice by that point. It was only 5 years later, when that servant outlived his purpose, that I directed my attention towards Eclipse yet again."
"How would that plan have worked, anyway?" Hesperus frowned. "You kill his family, so he joins you?"
"Of course I wouldn't have mentioned that particular detail. No, I believe my intention was to show the boy evidence that his parents were involved in some rather unsavory activities and their deaths were retribution from a local criminal gang. If he felt the desire to seek vengeance, I would have assisted him in achieving his revenge on the gang, and so brought him over to the side of reason. Instead, the boy was brainwashed with heroic nonsense and turned to a life of idiocy and waste."
"Living as a hero is not a waste." The boy replied firmly. "We both have limited time here, we should spend that time trying to help others."
"Ha!" The villain laughed. "You're starting to sound like him yourself. Is that how you truly feel, Damian Rayne, or are those simply his words on your tongue?" There was no reply from the young assassin, so Madros pressed on. "You think you're taking the hard road, don't you? I know about you, Hesperus, I know your history. You are born of liars and killers, from both sides of your family. You may have been tricked into believing such people are 'evil' by your current associates, but such thinking is impractical. What does one gain from helping others? Happiness? Gratitude? Peace? What use are any such emotions when a hero risks their life on a regular basis? My life, a life which has led to me being labeled as a villain, is a self-centered one. There is nothing on this Earth more important than self preservation. Why should any of us care what happens after we die? I have lived a very long time, Damian. It saddens me to think you won't even live a fraction of that time. If only there were some way to avoid your destiny..."
"There is," Hesperus blurted out. "if I simply killed Dodd, then our shared destiny could never come to pass! I would have my freedom from this curse! I--" The boy paused and considered his words. It had been a long time since he had thought of such things. "I have learned how to be a hero under these people... And as much as I despite admitting it, I feel whole when I am here. Through their teachings, I have been able to find my path."
"And what have they taught you?" Madros whispered. "That throwing your life away is the best option for you, a 10 year old boy with a great future ahead of him? There is only one obstacle in your way, Damian. After Dodd is dealt with you can choose whatever path you like, whether that is a path of idiocy or reason is up to you. But unless you take him out of the picture, you won't even have the privilege of such choice. How would your mother feel, knowing that you threw your life away for nothing? How proud would your father be, if you lived long enough to gain his inheritance, if you were able to bring new glory to the Rayne household? To not kill the hero would be suicide. And only a fool would take his own life. Are you a fool, Damian Rayne?"
Hesperus stood silent, gritting his teeth behind his lips, as Madros' words tore through him. "He's been manipulating you all along, you see. Trying to save his own skin. That's all that really matters to him. Did you know I once made him turn on his closest friends simply by threatening his life?" Damian was silent, his fingernails digging into his palms. "You have to kill him. It is the only way." Madros smiled. "And to do that, you must release me. I have resources, child, things beyond your wildest dreams. Together it would be all too easy to bring Dodd to his knees. On your own? Clearly, you wouldn't stand a chance."
"No." Damian growled, leaning towards the bars with a face full of contempt. "Jason Dodd is a great hero... And you? You wouldn't last two seconds against him." The young killer then turned away from the villain, who was grinning like a cheshire cat. As he made his way towards the elevator, Damian muttered to himself. "... But you're right... Unforunate as it is... His death is unavoidable."
Chapter 2: Lessons in Life and Death
"Sire, he awakens!" A voice shouted, as Jason returned to consciousness, the throbbing pain in his head suddenly clear once again. He heard a pair of footsteps coming his way, and opened his ears blearily.
"Wh--where am I?" The young hero groaned, his eyes not yet adjusted to the light. As they began to focus, Jason had to blink several times to be sure of what he was seeing. Leaning curiously over him was a knight, clad in shining metal armor, with a servant girl at his side.
"Odd, he seems not to know how he came to be here..." The knight mumbled to his servant, before leaning closer to examine the teen's face. "Where is it you come from, young man?"
"Uh... America... I'm with the Champions of Peace." Jason responded, noticing the strong English accents of his new acquaintances. This seemed to puzzle both of them, and they looked at each other with great concern. The hero attempted to search for his COP communicator to prove his claims, but upon looking down, he found that he was naked, covered only by a bedsheet. He tried to summon his nanosuit, but was shocked when nothing happened. His suit had been bonded to his central nervous system for a year... It always answered his call.
"We know not of such a place." The knight stroked his chin, "But you say you are a champion? That is surprising, for one as young as you..."
"What the hell did you do with my suit?!" Eclipse exclaimed, attempting to throw himself out of bed and onto the knight, only to find himself plummeting headfirst into the floor. He often forgot that he could no longer walk, but he could always catch himself with his gravity powers. Today, however... Nothing happened. Jason's face hit the stone ground hard, his head bouncing up from the impact as blood spurt from his nose. Breathing choppily, taken aback by his loss of power, Jason attempted to lift himself up using his arms, before he found himself being hoisted back into his bed by the metal-clad stranger.
"You are a cripple." The knight noted, removing his helmet to show a handsome face, surrounded by smooth black locks and a mustache. "And yet you claim to be a champion. You become more and more interesting in each passing moment."
Jason stared at the face of his new acquaintance for a moment. He seems almost familiar, and yet... Different. It was a face that he had seen as a child, but with more imperfections. Several cuts of the face, wrinkles caused by stress, not age, and even the odd mole. "Who are you?" Eclipse gasped, wiping away his bloody nose with his forearm. "And where are we?"
"Why, I am Sir Lancelot!" The knight replied, smiling, despite Jason's look of absolute shock. "And we are in the land of Camelot!"
"Oh." Jason replied, suddenly groaning and putting his hands on his head. "Now I remember how I got here..."
Champions Tower, an Hour ago/Centuries in the Future...
In his solitary room in Champions Tower, Damian was crying. While many of his team-mates had chosen more comfortable lodging as soon as the apartment block was complete, Hesperus desired no such thing. He liked his solitude, he enjoyed having the tower to himself the majority of the time. It was used for recreation and planning by the other Champions, but Hesperus was there at all times... He often referred to himself as Lord of the Tower. Yet today, on his birthday of all days, the young assassin could not contain his emotions. The pain and anger, kept bottled up for so long, always leaking out in small doses of venom, leaping from the boy's tongue to sting his comrades. Frustration, desperation, loneliness, Damian sometimes felt like he had no direction at all, like he was stumbling through life, jumping from one mentor to another and shifting his moral code to match. Crumpled in his hand, soaked in tears, was a letter. It read...
In the course of your life you have been many things to those around you, son, traitor, friend, brother, destroyer and today you enter the time of your true manhood. I have let you thus far, follow your own course and find the direction you so long to seek. You have assisted your family when required and been a loyal and faithful servant to your mother and to those above you.
In all these things I am honoured to call you son, but there is something your mother must remind of you. On the day we pulled you from your fathers grip you were connected to one who is the death of you, his mercy has been your undoing for some time and your mother is concerned for your well being. You will of course obey your resolve in all things and your betters in others, so to this I leave your decision to your own decree and trust you will make the decision required of you.
The writing of his mother soothed Damian's soul, but when read in addition to the comments he had received from Madros, the words cut deep. She was concerned... Worried... Afraid that her son would lose his life, simply because he lacked the courage to take another's. It would be selfish, then, to let such cowardice hurt the only person in the world who truly loved and accepted him. No matter the cost, Damian was decided. Eclipse had to die. The young killer had learnt much in his time on the Champions of Peace, he had learnt how to be a hero, in his own way. While taking the life of a hero like Jason would be seen as an act of villainy, Hesperus knew he was justified. He still felt the desire to help those in need, to eliminate those who would take advantage of the weak, to punish those who deserved it... But if it came down to a simple choice between his life and Jason's, there was no choice at all. After all, Dodd had no family. What did he have to live for?
Eclipse was smiling, hobbling into the Tower on his crutches, having just returned from the best birthday he'd ever had. It began with a trip to the cemetery, like all birthdays, where Jason and his three best friends all paid their respects to his deceased family. Then, taking the night off from heroism as their team-mates covered for them, War Killer, Talon, CellPhoneGirl and Eclipse went to the circus. Upon arriving they were invited backstage, and for the first time in 7 years Jason Dodd saw the people he grew up with: Sanchez the strong man, who taught him how to throw a punch; Tyrone, Dmitri and Omar, the clown trio who taught him to have fun; Teresa the gymnast, mentor of the Dodds and occasional co-star; Gunter the lion tamer, who was Jason's teacher in the place of a mainstream school; and many more. In the wake of his family's death, Jason had never had the courage to return. But now, thanks to his friends, he finally had. Now he could die in peace.
Suddenly, Jason stopped walked, leaning back onto his crutches as he almost jumped out of his skin in fright. A moment ago he was in the clean, shiny entrance hall of the Champions Tower, but after a single step forwards, he found himself in the cold, dark, rainy night once again. Lightning lashed across the sky, as Eclipse realized he was standing on the roof of the Tower. It was a small space, barely enough room to stand, but as he looked backwards, the Teen Wonder shuddered. "I thought you were past all this." Jason shouted over the thunder, as the small figure behind him stood, arms crossed over his crimson chest. "I thought you'd changed."
"This is nothing personal, Dodd." Hesperus replied loudly as the harsh rain tore into his face. "I've even come to tolerate you recently... But I didn't make the rules." Jason tapped his crutches against his legs, as his nano-suit began to rush all over his body, and attached itself to the crutches at the hip. Letting go of his walking aids, Eclipse was able to support himself while keeping his hands free, and use his nano-suit to change direction. "Either you die, or both of us die. I don't have a choice." And without another moment of hesitation, Damian swiftly withdrew his dual blades, attempting to cut through his foe's neck and abdomen. But Eclipse was the student of Nighthunter, he had been trained to anticipate such attacks. As quickly as his younger counterpart had pulled his blades from their sheaths, Jason had grabbed his old extensible bo-staff from his belt and swung it across his body, so it smashed into the two swords and parried them away.
The young Rayne didn't miss a beat, however, and immediately spun with the momentum of the block, taking a step forward and attempting to plunge the katana into Dodd's stomach. The crutches, reacting to their master's mental command, leaned to the left, so Eclipse dodged the attack, and retorted by swinging the staff up, attempting to strike his opponent in the chin and knock him off balance. Simultaneously, he attempted to summon a lightning charge, but Damian, sensing the distortion to the electrical field, was able to use his own powers to cancel out the move. Leaning backwards to avoid the strike from the staff, Hesperus planted both hands on the surface of the roof and brought his left heel up swiftly. Eclipse was leaning forwards from his own attack, so was completely unprepared when Damian's foot smashed into his throat, causing his jaw to smash into the rest of his face. Feeling as if his teeth were going to crack, the young hero attempted to stumble backwards to regain his balance, but with no control over his legs, he simply toppled over, falling off the edge of the Tower.
As Eclipse hurtled to the hard ground below, he tried to use his control over gravity to fly, or at least slow his fall. But the two boys shared exactly the same powerset, so Hesperus was able to block every one of Jason's abilities. Grabbing another gadget from his old utility belt, Jason aimed towards the sky and let loose with his grappling hook. The projectile blasted up into the air, rocketing up past the top of the Tower. It went so far that the hook continued up into the air, snapping off the cord which held it and spiralling into the dark sky. Damian looked on with a sneer.
"He missed."A few moments later, the 11 year old assassin felt a sharp pain to the back of his head, as the remains grappling hook collided into him, knocking him off balance so he, too, began to fall towards the ground below, his swords falling with a clatter onto the roof. Attempting to fly or teleport out of danger, Hesperus cursed as he realized his powers were being blocked too. Extending the blades on his arms and legs, Damian swung his limbs backwards, embedding his forearm blades in the wall of the Tower. He continued to fall for a while longer, his blades slowing his fall, until he eventually came to a halt with a look of anger and humiliation on his face.
Just below the dangling Hesperus was Eclipse, held securely in place on the vertical wall of the Tower thanks to his crutches. He lashed out with his bo-staff, which was long enough to cover the gap between the two Champions, while the younger boy's legs were not. Damian kicked out, trapping the bo-staff between his legs. Acting swiflty, he yanked his arms out of the wall, and slid down the pole before his opponent had a chance to move it, smashing his foot into Jason's chest as he fell. The powerful blow dislodged the crutches, and both fundamentalists once more plummeted towards the ground, this time tangled together. As the wind howled and their bodies fell like ragdolls, the two fighters were locked in a fierce battle. Eclipse was gripping his former student by the wrists, preventing the killer from driving the arm-blades into his chest, while Hesperus instead lashed out with his leg-blades, hacking away at his foe's own legs. Unable to feel anything below the waist, Jason was only aware of these attacks through the blood spatters spiralling through the air, but he felt no pain from them.
It wasn't long before they began to near the ground. Eclipse was trying to slow their fall with his control over gravity, but Hesperus was stubbornly disabling the powers of his brother in destiny. It wasn't until they were around 10 feet above the ground that the boy relinquished control, allowing Jason to slow their fall. It was enough that the impact didn't kill either of them, but they still crashed into the ground harshly, a few feet away from each other, having separated just before they hit ground.
"You... You have to die... Can't you see that?" Damian gasped, getting shakily to his feet as he limped towards the body of his enemy. "You say you're a hero, willing to sacrifice yourself for anyone... Why won't you sacrifice yourself for me?" Hesperus didn't have the strength to fight yet. He simply stood over Jason, eyes full of pity, his tears invisible under the rainfall.
"What happens if you're wrong... What if you're not Hesperus, the Evening Star?" Jason panted, seizing his crutches as he pushed himself up to his feet. "What if you're the Morning Star, the cause of all the destruction? If I'm dead I won't be around to stop you... I can't take that risk. Don't you care about that?"
Damian's brow became wrinkled as his temper returned.
"If I don't kill you, then I'll be dead before I even hit puberty. And that's a risk I can't take, whether I'm Hesperus or not."Hurling himself at Eclipse, the assassin made one last attempt to tear his foe's head from his shoulders. Refusing to surrender, Jason lifted his crutches, falling backwards as he tried to smash them into the boy's head and knock him out before he could land an attack. The two of them seemed to be moving in slow motion... Getting slower... And slower... Until suddenly, time froze altogether, and a great white light engulfed everything...
"This fighting accomplishes nothing." A deep voice boomed, a voice familiar to Eclipse as that of Father Time, one of the two elder Fundamentalists. "You both have much to learn before your destiny can come to pass. Neither one of you is ready for fate to claim you. But you cannot learn your lessons here, with the weight of destiny heavy on your shoulders. You shall both be given time, relief from your burden, until you have lived and learned all that you need. Use your time wisely, it will be gone sooner than you realize. Treasure this peace I have granted you, however fleeting it may seem, as it is the only peace either of you shall ever have until you pass from this world into whatever follows. Goodbye, sons of destiny."