January 11, 2026
Rain in Brooklyn was seldom this time of year; gelid New York winter clasped the city. Snow hushed violent green grass and made the crush of shoe and boot into music, a music only a native could appreciate. The city was pulsating, melanoid sky be damned. On a bus stop sat Terrelle Pryor, 19. Black bubble goose jacket, fur hood pulled atop his head; a black skully rested atop his cranium. His hands were shaking inside his coat, the plated .357 was cold against his right thigh.
Pryor rubbed his hands together, attempts to bring warmth to his cupped hands as though it would suffice to heat the rest of his shivering body proved questionable as his presence on this bus stop in the middle of a city he barely knew. Nevermind it, he was supposed to wait until a black SUV picked him up. Headlights flashed twice and then pulled up to the bus stop. A door swung open; Terrell stood up and looked both ways before he was hurried to the car’s interior by the beckoning of a baritone voice,
“Hurry up, we ain’t got all gahtdamn day.”
Pryor stood, pulled up his sagging jeans, and got inside the vehicle after a skinny bald headed fellow exited the back left side so Pryor could get in. A low light emanated from the car’s interior lights and Pryor pulled the hood from his head, the only thing shielding his skull now was a black du-rag. Beside him sat one medium size man with rose colored aviators and a grey hoodie, a single gold tooth and a patchy beard were the most interesting things about his otherwise languid countenance. On Pryor’s opposite side sat a woman in a purple dress, hair kept up in long thick locs, she wore regular reading glasses. They looked to be prescription; a newspaper was unfolded and she was scanning its headline,VIGILANTE SILENT, WHERE IS ‘THE TIGER’?
Pryor was still warming his hands frantically, the sound of skin and friction grated Lavelle Hammond’s ears. He pulled the rose aviator’s from his face and grabbed onto Pryor’s wrists,
“Boy if you don’t cut that shit out. I put on the AC for a reason!” Lavelle leaned forward and spoke to the woman who wore the purple dress,
“Cherry, baby, put down that damn paper! We got
the mothafucka; his ass ain’ goin’ nowhere. We gon’ make sure dat. Well,” Lavelle’s eyes moved toward Pryor,
gon’ make sure of that, righ’? Big Lou tell me you the finest out of town help we can get and I payed ‘best-out-of-town-help’ money for your black ass, so he betta be good and right ‘bout it.” Hammond licked his gold tooth, a surly affirmation of his own gall and conceit. From the silence between the gross sloshing of Hammond’s tongue along his teeth, Cherry spoke up,
“Don’t ever call me ‘baby’ in front of the help again or I cut off your other finger, Lavelle.” Pryor’s eyes went wide; being licked with the flame of a tumultuous relationship was unsavory--being licked with the flame of a tumultuous metahuman relationship was deadly.
“Mr. Pryor,” Cherry began as the black SUV reached the abandoned steel mill on the other side of town in an inhuman amount of time, what felt like five minutes, “your friend Dupree tells us you are particularly skilled with dispatching gifted individuals.” for the first time, Pryor got to speak up,
“Yeah, yeah, som’ like it, fo’. Y’all tryn’ make me hit that Tiger nigga?” Pryor shook his head,
“‘Ono, fo’ be on heels. Ain’ really trynna turn pack.” a bit of a southern drawl, but the dialect was distinctly Midwestern. Cherry and Lavelle raised eyebrows in sync, both emitted a mocking laugh as they exited the vehicle; Cherry grabbed Pryor by the ear,
“Aye, fo’, fuh’y’doin’? AGH!” a snap of her fingers and the trio was inside the abandoned steel mill and inside of a dark room. It smelt of crimson and water. A man’s intensified breathing could be heard amongst the musk. A buzzing sound from a generator and then the whole room lit up. What Pryor saw before him was a man clinging to life, an assortment of needles breaching his body from the neck down; tubes lodged into his biceps and quads.
Marvin Hayes, reduced to a living science experiment. When the wounds would close, another injection of the anti-healing serum was given from each needle lodged into his skin, and an electrical shock to make sure each time he healed was slower than the last. Behind the trio that watched the dangling Hayes was a giant monitor which kept track of his vitals and gave a true percentage as to how fast he was currently healing. A small red bar teetered from one end of the color-coded chart all the way to the other side where a giant ALERT
sounded loud to indicate that the patient was near death before it quickly bounced back to the other side to indicate that he was fine.
“Our problem, Mr. Pryor, is that our serum proves ineffective; the samples CADMUS sent are… missing something. You, Mr. Pryor, have just what we need to finish what CADMUS started.” Cherry gave a subtle grin, the dark lip gloss gleaned against the light and almost matched the ebony of her skin.
“You simply need to kill him.” it was more than that; Terrelle Pryor was walking venom, his blood corrosive to the touch, black and thick.
Hayes body was lowered on the fly machine until his bare feet touched the floor. The mechanical arms which held the some one hundred pins inside of Hayes yanked each one out of him at the same time, and as violent as possible. Hayes let out a curdling howl,”GRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”
he had jolted to life; but in his writing, a current of electricity shocked him once more; one could smell the hair frying atop his head and in other more private parts of his person. Marvin’s head hung down, blood soaked the floor around him in near an instant; his vigilante’s suit had holes peppered across it, some twenty wounds open at once and Marvin was bleeding out profusely. And then, just as before, they would heal.
Hayes heart was beating fast; blurred eyes viewed three images in front of him. He could not tell who these people were, but he knew there were some hundred more of them in this place, conducting the same experiments on others of his ilk in the same fashion. Reinforced walls muffled the other some hundred screams from the metahumans hung, caged, and being experimented on in the expansive steel mill. All CADMUS approved.
And Hayes would free them all as he had planned… Pryor stepped up to Hayes; the .357 drawn from his jeans and pressed to Marvin’s head,
...If he didn’t die first.