Prologue: “AH-CHOO!” The sneeze roared and echoed through the vast corridors, fog spilling down the walls like waterfalls, the man whom the sneeze originated from tapped the thermostat on the wall hoping that the temperature reading would change and the ungodly cold reading was just a mistake, “Why does it always have to be so damn cold in here? It’s not like any of ‘em are just going to walk out.” Another man sat in a derelict looking office chair, his feet were propped up on the desk at which he sat, and every small motion of his not so small frame resulted in a squeak of protest from the chair’s screws, as if the chair was just barely holding together. “It’s regulation, just in case any of the systems fail, the cold temperature ensures that they won’t thaw out as fast while we get someone in to fix the cells.” “Yeah, yeah.” The first man said looking at the clock on the wall, “Speaking of regulation, Jim, it’s time to start the rounds.” He picked up a flashlight and his blue and black guard cap, the other man, Jim, hardly moved at first. “Come on, it’s not like it’s a hard job.” “I know, kid, but sometimes I just don’t think it’s right keeping people frozen solid just because they’re a little bit different.” Jim said with a sigh, a sad look passing over his face momentarily. He was an older man, somewhere in his mid-fifties and dressed in a blue guard uniform. He had a small shock pistol strapped to his hip and a collapsible baton on the opposite side. He fit his cap down over his thinning, salt and pepper colored hair before standing up and following the younger man out of the office door and into the main holding area. “Bobby, sometimes I wonder if it’d be such a bad thing if they went free.” “They’re dangerous, Jim, you heard the official report, they’re too risky to be allowed to live in normal society.” Bobby said, he was thirty-five, with his thirty-sixth birthday rapidly approaching, he felt old, but the truth was that he was still a kid at heart. “Just don’t think of ‘em as people, they’re monsters. That should make it easier.” Jim just nodded and walked along, inspecting the power levels on the cells that they passed. They were two of the seventy guards in cell block E, where most of the more dangerous prisoners were kept. The cells were a scientific marvel, each one held only one prisoner, and that prisoner was frozen in a stasis field, surrounded by a ball of solid steel, and then frozen in a block of ice. They were completely isolated, surviving in comatose like states of unconsciousness, some of the lesser threats were awakened every three years or so for a month of consciousness, most of them couldn’t even remember how to walk until their final week. But so long as they were alive, “It’s not an execution,” The Secretary of Defense had said, “It’s a prison for their kind, and a way to keep our way of life safe.” The more dangerous of them, they were kept in a state of total unconsciousness, never waking from their endless slumber. A built in sensor monitored their brainwaves, and could alter them to trigger dreams, in this way they could feel alive, in this way they weren’t just living corpses. The cells were stacked six high, in order of increasing strength and threat level, those weaker on the bottom, and those whose powers were “a danger to themselves and everyone around them” being on the top. That way the guards knew who the most dangerous were, and they knew how serious it was if they got an abnormal reading for one of the cells on the top. Like the one that caught the eye of Jim as he passed by their twentieth column of cells. “That’s odd,” Jim said aloud as he looked at the monitor, “The brainwave pattern of this guy is way higher than it should be, almost like he’s aware, it looks like he’s in a state of near consciousness.” He tapped the monitor, but the reading stayed the same. “That’s not possible, he’s frozen in time, there’s no way that he could wake up unless we wanted him to.” Bobby said, though he looked much less confident than he sounded, “He’s one of the high threat level guys,” He added looking up at the top cell. “You know, there was a time when they would have been called super heroes. Back before politicians got involved.” Jim shook his head, “We better call one of the maintenance guys, and get one of the scientists up here while we’re at it. They’d know what to make of the brainwave patterns.” Jim pulled out a radio and clicked the button in, a small beep sounded letting him know that the radio was ready to send his message along, “Hey, this is Jim Patterson, we’ve got a problem in Cell Block E, one of the prisoner’s brainwave patterns is abnormal. Could you send someone up to check it out?” For a minute there was nothing but static on the other end, then a voice answered after what seemed like an eternity, “Hi, Jim, I’ve been waiting ages for someone like you to come along. Could you do us a favor and press the green button on the control panel there?” The voice had a sort of cockiness to it, as if the owner of the voice knew that he was better than anyone and everyone else. “What for?” Bobby asked. “Who’s that? Is there someone else with you, Jim?” “Yeah, that’s Bobby, my partner.” Jim answered, feeling a little unnerved by the voice for reasons he didn’t quite understand. There was a long pause on the other end of the radio, almost like whoever it was speaking to them was thinking about something. Then finally it said, “Well, we can’t have that now can we?” Suddenly the radio sparked, shocking Jim’s hand and causing him to drop it. As soon as it hit the ground another shock leapt from the small device into Bobby’s flashlight that hung at his hip, the bulb began to glow a brilliant white and then it exploded, an explosion that was far bigger than anything the flashlight should have been able to produce. When the smoke cleared, Bobby was laying on the floor, with his legs blown about five feet from his torso. Jim stumbled back, gagging from the smell of burnt flesh and fresh blood; he fought to hold onto consciousness. “Jim, stay with me, I kind of need you awake for this bit, push the green button on that control panel.” The radio said, the voice still sounded cocky, only now it sounded more pleasant as well. Like the voice had just done the world a favor. “What the hell did you do!?” Jim yelled into the radio, “Bobby, he’s… he’s…” “Dead. Yes, ‘fraid so. You see, if he was still alive he would have tried to talk you out of doing this small favor for me, and now, of course, you see that not complying is just an all around bad idea. I’d imagine you’re quite attached to all of your limbs.” The voice laughed a little bit, “No pun intended, though appreciated.” “I- who are you?” “Now isn’t the time for questions, you waste of flesh, push the green button.” The voice lost its friendly tone, and now it sounded angry. It just occurred to Jim to be frightened, whatever had just happened to Bobby could happen to him, he thought about his wife and son, he quivered and then he answered. “Y-yes, I’ll push the button, just don’t hurt me.” “Good lad, about time. Now, just press the green one. Can’t miss it, I know I didn’t when they lead me in here… oh, six or seven years back. That’s a long time to be trapped in here and I’m not very happy about it as you can imagine.” Jim pressed the button, an alarm sounded and red lights flashed. The top cell of the column began to steam, the water was siphoned out of the tank and the ball of steel split open. In the cell now there was a man, he stretched and cracked his neck. He stood up, apparently with no trouble at all and hopped down the thirty feet to the floor with even less trouble. His hair was long and black, his eyes were a golden yellow, and he wore a prisoner uniform with the number one hundred twenty one embroidered on the front. He was barefoot and broken shackles still hung from his arms and legs. He didn’t appear to be older than twenty-five “Good man, Jim. I’ve been waiting a long time to make my move. I’m glad that I got you of all people, you hardly needed any persuading.” The man looked over at the now lifeless body of Bobby, “Oh my, I made quite a mess.” “Don’t hurt me.” Jim said stupidly, it was all he could think to say. “Oh, don’t be silly, Jimmy. You’re my new bestest friend. Not to mention that I don’t need to lift a finger, you see, the penalty for releasing me will unfortunately be death. You could always try running I suppose.” The man stretched again and cracked his back; he then looked at the damp, gray stone wall and extended a hand toward it. The wall imploded before him, moonlight flooded in through the hole in the wall. “See ya around, Jimmy.” He said with a smile before walking toward the hole. “You’re a-a s-s-super h-human-“ “I prefer the term supreme being. Anyway, yes I am. You can call me the Shadow Man. Sorry, but I must be off, they’ll be here soon. Cheers, Jimmy!” The man jumped out of the hole he had created only moments before and disappeared into the night, leaving a shaking old man in his wake. As armed guards surrounded Jim he just kept muttering, “He’s mad, absolutely mad, and he’s going to kill us all. The Shadow Man.” The last sound the man heard was the order to fire, and the crack of a gun. ---------------------------- The sun was rising, but it was hidden behind a veil of clouds, the morning brightened slightly, but the day was still gray. Lightning flashed in the distance, a light rainfall was beginning, but the man knew that it would soon become a heavy torrent. He also knew that he was very conspicuous in a bright red prison uniform; luckily he had torn the metal shackles off of his wrists and ankles, now he just needed a change of clothes. He wasn’t ready to draw attention to himself, not yet. He would wait for the storm to be in full force, and that was still a few hours away. He had managed to make it to the nearest city to the prison, it had been about two hundred miles south, but he had made it in a little over five hours, when one could walk among the clouds distance had little meaning. He stood at the edge of the city centre, looking at the various shops and restaurants. The first thing he needed was to change his appearance, then he could focus on getting a real meal. He walked into the nearest store, it wasn’t open yet, it was still too early in the morning, but he walked through the door with no trouble, as if it were smoke. In a few short moments he was out of his prison uniform and dressed in a black t-shirt with the heavy metal band Cradle of Filth on the front, which was covered by a black jumper that was covered with zippers and patches. He had unlaced combat boots on his feet and simple blue jeans. He glanced at himself in one of the store’s mirrors and extended his right index finger toward his long black hair, a small blue flame began to singe off the long locks of hair, before too long it was short and smelled a bit burned. He ran a hand through it, making it look messy and unkempt, then he walked out of the store, as easily as he walked in. He had told the guard the night before to call him the Shadow Man, the codename that the government had given him before they had arrested him; causing trouble in Seattle. He was originally from Birmingham, but he had moved to the United States when the super human scare had began in the year 2053, he managed to avoid attention for three years. Then he heard about the arrests, he preferred to call them kidnappings, people proven to have powers that the so called normal people didn’t have were black bagged and taken in to a top secret facility. He got angry and decided to send a message; by snapping the space needle in half. The Shadow Man because he appeared like the boogeyman from ghost stories. The Shadow Man because no one knew where he would strike next. The Shadow Man because he had more powers than any other super human on record and they knew he was a threat, like a shadow cast over the continued well being of humanity. He went cross country, sending a message to the government, he made it to Illinois before they finally caught him. When they processed him, they learned his real name was Alexander Millen, a nobody; but everyone knew of The Shadow Man. That name was legendary. That name was power. He sat in front of a fountain in the middle of the city, he figured that he was somewhere in North West United States. He bit into a cheeseburger, after seven years of dreaming, it was the most delicious cheeseburger he’d ever tasted. He ate the first and second without stopping for breath, then started in on his French fries and tossed a few every so often to the birds that were gathered in the square. The storm was much closer now, it was almost noon and the rain fell heavily. Despite the rain there were still people crowding about, it was a city after all, always busy. Alex smiled thinking about what he was about to do. He threw the rest of the fries on the ground for the birds and walked into the middle of the street. He stood fearlessly as cars sped toward him, slamming on their brakes, but still about to hit him. With a smirk he extended his arms and held his hands before him, toward the cars. With a twist of his wrists every car in the area, even the parked ones, flipped over, people started screaming and panicking. He yelled above them all, “Quiet down you pathetic normal people!” He spat the words and the people listened, staring at him in fear. “Guess who’s back?” He laughed as he flexed and the flipped cars exploded into bursts of fire, soon the entire city centre was an inferno. “Thought that I had gone!?” He slashed his hand through the air, slicing lampposts and signs in half with a burst of air. “Think I’m a monster!?” He stomped the ground and chunks of asphalt erupted and shifted like an earthquake. “Mankind is the monster, I’m the victim! Me and my whole kind! We, the supreme beings!” He rose from the ground, closing his fist and crushing the burning hunks of metal into super dense ball bearings. The small bits of metal drew closer to him and in an instant he sent them raining down like meteors, with enough force to embed themselves five feet into the ground, saw through solid metal, and pierce straight through the flesh of the panicking crowd. “The Shadow Man! Tell them! The Shadow Man did this! And he’s not going to stop here.” A bolt of lightning streaked down from the clouds and struck Alex, when the thunder sounded and the flash had faded, he was gone.