New Babylon was eerily quiet this day.
For a city that had managed to maintain a population of multiple millions throughout the last 50 years of nearly constant upheaval and warfare, one would think that its condition would reflect that of an aged man, skin spotted and pocked with his years, than that of a vibrant mega-city.
Yet for all its might, between all the towering structures of titanium, each of them bearing the red and black banner of the skull, there was no activity. Silence filled the void, followed sometimes by the dancing crackle of an abandoned newspaper pushed alongside the road, forced, as it were, like the march of political prisoners that had marked the earlier week's festivities: purge.
And to think that at one point New Babylon could have ever been the hub of opportunity the world had believed its name to be New York or that Kampfgruppe District 19 was once called Long Island.
Or that at one time, children spoke openly of heroes.
Curtiss "Teddy" Bentley could recall no such memories, however.
"Herr Lynch, your surveillance report explained that the exchange would've taken place by now. You know how the Oberstandartenfuhrer feels about such delays..."
The black clad 'stormtrooper' tried Bentley's patience every moment they were in business together...but at least Bohrmann's presence was more preferable in comparison to the stiff and uncompromising group of men who called New Babylon District 19 their home.
Lynch, thought Bentley, You find one man, one man who happens to have the ability to jump more than 30 meters or can run faster than any vehicle...and can see farther than his own needs....and they never let you forget...
Pulling the smoking cigarette from his mouth, Bentley batted away another brief memory of a neighborhood hero strung up on a thin wire by the very communities he had tried to save. That memory was quickly covered by nearly 250,000 Reichsmarck placed in 4 rucksacks with a personal commendation from his boss, the Bureau Direktor.
"Bohrmann, trust me. He'll be here."
Bohrmann's tensity didn't relent and Bentley did what he did best. He fully understood the man standing beside him. They had maintained 5 minutes of conversation, more than enough for him to analyze this man. Already, images of goals, ambitions, fears, swastikas, rationed tater tots, and an odd BBQ from 20 years ago, flooded Curtiss' mind. Bohrmann was an easy man to read. He stomped his cigarette with his dress shoe a little too vigorously.
"Bohrmann, don't ever think of selling my information to the Black Market in case my leads end up getting you a reprimand from the StandartenFuhrer. I'm always right. Also, you left your refrigerator running. You already know that the electric bill from the Commissary will be arriving today. The note you read, on the nightstand."
Before the disheveled Nazi could react, Bentley pointed out the mark, a gray-coated man of around 45 walking around with an old Fedex package. Bentley turned on his heel as Bohrmann stumbled for words, quickly regaining some sort of composure and shouting for his men to arrest the mark. The money for this little bit of information was already in his account and now, it was time to wash his hands clean of this matter...and purse trying to manage nearly 25 world districts of information that the Bureau had tasked him with maintaining. It was ironic to Bentley that a lifelong skill of total empathy could be used to effectively decipher any situation was now being used to police and manage superhumans and other dissenters...ironic because the skill's very existence marked him as a superhuman.
His cellular phone beeped with a 12 digit number. A location of interest marked by the Bureau. A quick look told him all he needed to know regarding his next objective.
North Eastern Amerika Exact Coordinates Unknown They'd dragged his family and himself out of their beds in the middle of the night.
Giles Hendrick's could no more explain why than he could provide himself enough warmth. A dark green forest surrounded him and 300 other displaced persons, all of them rounded up in a pile of debris in a clearing. He could see his wife, Ema, not too far away, perhaps 10-20 meters. He'd run to her if it hadn't been for the fact that the black clad officers had separated the men and women from each other, threatening deadly force if they didn't comply. He could Ema clutching their daughter, Sarah, with a tightness that only a mother could truly muster under such freezing conditions.
The atmosphere was poor in the middle of this forest north of New Babylon...everywhere there was weeping, coughing, muddled words here and there, all of which contributed to the utter sense of confusion as to why any of them had been selected and stolen away by the authorities of Amerika.
Did it have to do with the death of the Red Skull?
Word had traveled fast in the classes of New Babylon. Try as the Reichsministry could to hide the fact that the Eastern seaboard of the 'Eternal Reich' was now 'headless,' hope permeated the concrete walls that choked the ports and harbors from escapees. Talk of 'heroes' had sprung up...Giles was among them. Perhaps this was a ploy to scare them?
Giles hoped so. He had gazed upon the banners of the Red Skull too long. The indoctrination, the speeches, the long lines of black clad men and women marching along Times Square to the Koniggratzer March, he'd had enough of the 'neue walt.' He could do with change.
He gazed out at the tall, menacing, and faceless soldiers surrounding them. They were motionless, silent, without sympathy for those they guarded.
"Please! Please! Just let us leave! We've done nothing!" Shouted a middle aged woman with red hair, likely dyed, as her age betrayed her appearance. She begged and begged, somehow managing a strong grip on a guard's black glove.
Suddenly, the black guards moved aside, leaving the woman in the fallow Earth in the open ground. A figure approached and the woman became silent.
The figure wore a black dress uniform. He was tall, muscular, and had the visage of a man all feared.
The Red Skull.
The protesting woman fell into line quickly. Giles wondered if it was because she was afraid...or that she knew that with men like the Red Skull...there is no compromise, no sense of empathy...no sense of Humanity. The group of captive civilians visibly shivered and moved away from the Skull.
A pair of almost reptilian eyes surveyed the group. He waved a gloved hand.
The guards parted from the middle of the group, allowing for the families to be joined back together. Instantly, Giles felt hope and he ran for Ema and Sarah,holding them tight and planting kisses on both of them, rejoicing in the security that family brought. But no way opened for them to leave this place. Instead, the stormtroopers encroached in their space even more so and man carrying pumps and gas canisters strapped to their backs began to make their way to the front of the line of stormtroopers.
The Red Skull turned and look at the crowd again, approaching it.
His cold gaze evaporated the temporary hope of reuniting with family. Giles felt his core begin to twist beneath the man's gaze.
The Skull seemed to smell it and it spoke.
"You are afraid...you are right to be."
The voice was deeply accented but no less resonant.
"All things which know that they are at a possible end feel fear. Animal instinct, if you will. But realize that fear is more than this. It is an indicator of your worth, of your importance...and the fact that I see it now...is proof, that you are truly, sheep."
The words were cryptic to say the least. The half smile of the Red Skull did little to help.
"I am your shepherd, your guide, to the better realm. A realm where you realize your place in the great wheel of the Gods, of society. And that is below me, beneath the boot of visionaries and activists...individuals who know the truth that they are true sons of the Masters....that they Masters. Quite honestly, you have forgotten such truths. You have spoken of pretenders, of creatures who pride themselves on weakness and refuse to truly save the societies they once served. But realize this..."
"...they are not the Superior Men."
"Because I am the Superior Man....and in your demise, I will find strength to help save you from your simplicity...and will forge the frontier to create the true Reich Eternal....one which will see perfection culminated in every man, woman, and child. The true Overman. The inevitable next step in evolution."
Giles couldn't comprehend fully what this thing intended, but he knew it could only put his family in danger.
"But remember...species move forward only when those who are weak have been weeded out. Only then can it progress. So...."
He raised a gloved hand, "Realize that this cause is greater than all you have surveyed, all you have comprehended....and as such, you are heroes."
Giles held his daughter closer.
The Skull lilted his head to the side.
"I will waste no more time."
He waved his hand and the men with the gas canisters stepped forward and sprayed liquid flame into the group. Instantly, the air was filled with the screams of the crowd. Giles shielded his wife and daughter with his body, but there was no protecting them from the scalding heat surrounding them. It was only a matter of time before he would watch their skin peel from their flesh as the flame stole them from his arms a final time.
Darkness panged with red flashes plagued Giles' vision as he fell away from his family...and watched a Red Skull walk amongst the flailing and flaming corpses, hands folded in a leather jacket.
Giles could only scream and writhe as he watched all that he loved do the same. The only mercy from this fate was death. And the Red Skull, clad in black, amongst them walked confidently.