Aaron is down a back alley. His phone is pressed against his ear. He’s in a full blown panic. Like the rest of the Gods in the city he’s heard about the death of Headshot. It would be impossible not to have. After all, everyone believed the gifted and powerful meta-humans to be invincible. And this news, headline news, can be described as nothing short of terrifying by the blond haired man with brown eyes. A bottle of more than half drunk tequila grasped tightly within his left hand.
Aaron, also once known as Emperor of the Sky, is an alcoholic. It’s a fact known by only a select few and most of those few are Gods like him. Chiefly they are members of his old, since disbanded, crew. One of which is the recently dead Hayden ‘Headshot’ Wilkes.
The pair might rarely have gotten along in recent years but that doesn’t change the fact that they were brothers. Not literal brothers, but figurative brothers. And in many ways they had more in common than most siblings ever would. It’s part of the reason he screeches down the phone, “What are we going to do? You’ve seen the news. Hayden is dead! It couldn’t be much worse than that.”
Aaron pauses and waits. He hopes some words of wisdom will come through the speaker and into his ear. Instead, he gets anything but words of wisdom and comfort, and so he blares, “This is serious! How are you not more worried? And don’t tell me to calm down. I’m not a child. We’re the same you know.”
Aaron stops again. He could go into a full rambling monologue, but resists the urge to as he paces back and forth along the same metre and half stretch of shattered grey asphalt. His thick healed brown boots quietly crunching the loose remains of what once would have been a smooth pristine surface. That was a long time ago and in the many years that have followed the back alley has been neglected and forgotten. Even the homeless and the desperate don’t tread this particular maze of pathways in the city anymore. It leads nowhere of note or importance, and few people of consequence reside in the vicinity now. Facts that are not lost on the street dwellers who know much better places to beg for money, or embark on plots to commit desperate crimes in hopes of changing their bleak fortunes.
The only reason Aaron comes here is because he knows it’s quiet and because there is a liquor store round the corner. How it stays open in such a destitute section of the city is anyone’s guess. Though, it’s possible that Aaron may very well be the answer. With how much he drinks and the poverty of this part of town it’s likely that whatever rent or costs the shop owner, Ilhan, has are minimal compared to what he’s making off the Emperor of the Sky. Ilhan being one of the few non-Gods that knows who Aaron used to be and that he is a full-blown alcoholic. It would be difficult for the liquor store owner not to know Aaron is an alcoholic with how prevalent his visits are.
Again the voice on the other end of the phone offers him nothing that he finds reassuring or even logical. So moments later he feels the end to roar back, “This isn’t some prank or some mortal’s death. This is the death of a God. One of our own. Why aren’t you more concerned? You should be because it’s never happened before. We shouldn’t be willing to stand by while someone out there has worked out how to kill what was, up until this point, stated to be unkillable!”
Aaron stops. Not because he is out of things to say but because he feels a sudden change in the air. More accurately it is a sudden change in temperature. Not a literal one, at least he doesn’t think its literal, but a figurative one. It’s why he feels a long strong chill shudder from the base of his spine all the way up his back. The severity of the chill causes him to physically rolls his shoulders independent of one another and then shakes his head right, down and then finally left, just to get rid of the sensation. Yet, the feeling is unlike any he has felt before. It’s why he turns soon after expecting to be met with something. He doesn’t know what. But he isn’t. Instead, all he is faced with is the unremarkable empty alley that is dimly lit and bathed in shadows because the hour is late and the sun has long since sunk below the horizon.
Suddenly he is pulled out of his daze, his focus on the alley and his feelings because the voice on the other end of the line asks if he is still there.
“Yeah, yeah I’m still here. But I’ve got to go. Something’s not right. I need to get someplace safe. One God dying is more than enough for a lifetime, whatever you might think.”
However, instead of ending the call he hears the voice call him back. After a quick glance over his shoulder, which again reveals that he is still alone with the bottle of tequila in his hand, he puts the phone back to his ear just in time to be met with an accusatory question. It grates visibly with the man who answers bluntly, “Yeah, I’ve been drinking. What of it?”
Perhaps his directness is a result of the alcohol in his system. If he was asked he wouldn’t agree. He’d say it’s because of a fear of death. A fear he hasn’t had in a long time. And one that he is no mood to have to live with again.
Then the voice on the other end of the line says something that makes Aaron’s blood boil over and result in an outburst of, “Fuck you! You don’t get to tell me what to do!”
Following that he jabs his thumb into the phones display, ending the call without a second thought.
He’d only been half listening to the voice when they’d criticised him. But as soon as the words registered he felt rage. They have no right to criticise my life. I’m no more fucked up than they are, is what went through his head before and during his final line of the call.
Its rage he still feels the need to vent and why he continues cursing over and over until he feels the familiar thirst for drink. Without hesitation he raises the bottle in his hand and takes a large gulp. It couldn’t be called a swig. It’s much more than that. A mouthful would be more appropriate.
Aaron swirls the tequila round in his mouth, feeling the comforting burn it always delivers and then with a backward throw of his head he swallows the liquid. It slides effortlessly down his throat, stinging as it goes. But Aaron loves the sensation. He craves it. It’s why he drinks bottles of the stuff each and every day without remorse. And, at least in his eyes, he holds together well. Lesser men, mortals especially, would be flat out on the floor and in need of a trip to the emergency room. He doesn’t. He takes the kick, the pain, the burn and he keeps going. That is what a God does and that is what he is.
But with the precious mouthful of tequila swallowed, Aaron slaps his lips together noisily. In his eyes it’s the appropriate sign of admiration for the drink. To anyone else it’s a clear display of his lack of manners. He doesn’t care. He’s alone. Though, he does feel the sudden need to shudder again. He can’t explain why. It isn’t for the same reason as before. With his senses dulled by the booze in his veins it takes him precious seconds longer than it should to conclude that, this time, it feels like he’s being watched.
Instinctively he turns in the direction it seems as though the eyes would have to be. He can’t answer why exactly he thinks that, but notes that it isn’t important as he stares intently into the dark shadows. His brown eyes searching, desperately, for something, anything that might explain the feeling of being watched that he has. But he can’t see anything except the darkness created by layers upon layers of shadows and the night sky. And though he can see nothing it doesn’t stop him from staring expectantly at them until finally he accepts the feeling is likely nothing more than the result of paranoia caused by learning about the death of Hayden yesterday.
So Aaron laughs at himself. It’s more of a chuckle really. Then he sniffs, the cold night air having got to his nose, shakes his head and does the only thing he really cares about in this world, drink. He drains what little remains of the tequila before tossing, unceremoniously, the glass bottle aside.
It flies through the air for a couple seconds before crashing into a nearby stone wall and exploding into a plume of tiny translucent shards, which are cast out in every conceivable direction. They clatter and chink as they bounce off the shattered asphalt.
Meanwhile, Aaron is gathering his energy for a jump. It’s his power. He can leap huge distances, though most mortals actually believe he can fly. He’s made many a private joke about that before by remarking how stupid people are for believing such things.
Aaron feels light-headed and there is a definite, unnatural cantor and spin to the world around him. If he were new to drinking he’d think something is wrong, but he isn’t. For him this is normal. Though, that is not to say that his leaps haven’t gone wrong as a result of his indulgence. After all, Aaron is a violent drunk. Not like Hayden who before his death had been accepting kill contracts. Aaron is never violent in that way. No, he just has a tendency to beat people, usually because of a slight he often imagines has occurred. In his eyes the beatings are fun. For his victims though, who are more often than not strippers, hookers or onlookers, it’s horrifying and life altering.
Now with his power gathered and his body ready, Aaron pushes off against the shattered asphalt. The ground dips, ever so slightly, as he is launched up into the air.
He watches as the buildings around him, old and squallored, race past him. A whooshing noise fills his ears. He then looks up, past the edges of the buildings to the sky beyond. He’ll be up there soon and then he’ll sore over the city.
As he reaches the limits of the high walls of the alley he hears something other than the whooshing. He turns wondering what it could be, only to see a hooded figure flying through the air right toward him.
The only place they are able to have come from is the nearby rooftop that he has just sailed past on his continued ascent.
Aaron can’t see how that is possible, even if it is the only explanation he is able to give in the brief period before he throws his arms up to shield his face, while a scream manages to escape his lips.
Surprisingly there isn’t the body-to-body impact that Aaron had been expecting. Rather, he feels a rush of blood and a searing pain in his gut. He howls like a banshee in response but somehow manages to deliver a swift kick to the mass before him.
The thick heel of his brown boot makes contact, driving his attacker away far enough that he is beyond their reach. It affords him the ability to then watch as the figure, shrouded in mystery, drops away from him, while he continues to sore ever higher into the cloud filled night sky.
The initial wave of panic the Emperor of the Sky felt drains away rapidly before the recollection of the pain in his gut returns to him. It is at that point he dares to look down to assess the damage.
To his dismay he finds that below the remains of his moth eaten grey sweater is a shredded mess of what used to be his abdominal flesh. Blood is pouring from the wound. Not profusely, but sufficiently enough that the sight sends Aaron into a frenzied panic that almost sees him forget to splay his arms wide so that he can glide over the city streets below.
However, at the last moment he does just that and though he’s now gliding at a far lower altitude than he would normally be, he is no longer in danger of crashing back down to earth in an area littered with traffic and high rises.
Still, he can’t stop himself from repeatedly glancing at the remains of his midriff as blood continues to pour from the wound.
He even curses as he feels wet drips splatter across his black trouser leg, while his head begins to spin much faster than he would associate with being normal for him.
Aaron, Emperor of the Sky, lasts about another thirty two seconds and covers roughly two miles before the mixture of intoxication and blood loss result in him losing consciousness. At that point his arms go limp and he begins to plummet out of the sky.
He freefalls for a while until finally he slams, full force, through an old warehouses metal sheet roof with an enormous boom. It barely breaks his fall, which is why he then thuds into the concrete base upon which the warehouse is built. A sticky crunch, which is without question the sound of bones shattering, ringing out as a result.