Tyler Vega hefted his gym bag over his shoulder as he crossed the intersection and stepped onto the corner of Bronze Way in Steel Canyon when he caught sight of a crowd gathered across the street, at Paragon City University, armed to the teeth with signs and banners. He was just about to cross to find out what all the commotion was about when he heard a voice call out to him.
It was a nickname Tyler hadn't heard since freshman year. He whipped around to catch sight of a big, burly black man with a heavy goatee he recognized jogging to catch up with him. "Coach Chambers." Tyler laughed. "It's been awhile."
"Damn right. What's happenin' young-blood?" As he caught his breath the coach pulled Tyler into an embrace.
After they parted Tyler patted his bag. "Its leg day. You still at PCU?" he asked.
"Comin' up on fifteen years now." Coach Chambers nodded with a smile. "Still haven't found anybody who can match your quarter-mile. How's your auntie doing?"
"She's good. Always grindin', you know how it is." Tyler up-nodded to the scene across the street. "What's going on?"
"Humans First rally." Coach answered with disgust in his voice. "University passed an edict that allows magical creatures to enroll. They aren't happy 'bout it."
Humans First was a pro-human organization who campaigned and protested against aliens, intelligent animals, artificial intelligenci, and non-human looking metahumans. Viewed as a hate group by most, the organization was practically universally disliked by the entire populace yet, being protected by the freedom of expression and opinion, still operated openly.
"Its crazy..." The coach placed his hands on his hips and shook his head. "Back in the day it was hoses and dogs when we marched. Now these guys get police escorts." He gestured to the smattering of police officers posted around the crowd. Tyler sighed and opened his mouth to say something but stopped when he felt a drop of water land on his forehead. A second later another, and suddenly it was pouring rain.
"The hell did this come from?" He wondered out loud as he raised his bag above his head to shield his face from the downpour. The coach was about to answer before he was interrupted by a crack of thunder and a flash of light. Then, across the street above the raucous crowd, it was as if there was a literal rip in the sky as a portal opened up, pulsing, swirling and crackling with blinding electricity. There was another flash of lightning and a cloud of smoke and then, just as fast as it appeared, the portal was gone and the rain had stopped. A hushed silence fell over the mob before there was a deafening roar. As the smoke cleared a colossal being appeared. Tyler recognized the creature. "A cyclops?"
At least ten feet in height, the massive behemoth towered over the frightened crowd, who’d all crouched to their knees out of fear. When the cyclops bellowed, the mob scrambled. Tyler turned to Coach Chambers and shouted “Run!”
He waited until the coach had turned the corner and then, in the blink of an eye, he’d changed into his costume.
The police officers on the scene opened fire on the giant but their bullets might as well have been quarters as they bounced off him. Seeing how ineffective their weapons were, the officers retreated, crouching behind their police cruisers as the giant rampaged. Tyler sped across the street to confront the cyclops.
“Whoa there, big man.” Tyler cautioned, raising his arms in a non-threatening manner in front of the giant. “A little far from home, yeah?”
The cyclops roared and swatted at Tyler but as big and slow as it was, he dodged the attacks with little effort. The speedster circled the giant slowly until his breathing slowed. He huffed and grunted but seemed to relax. “There you go... Easy now...” Tyler took a step forward slowly. Then another. And then another, until he was standing right before him. He extended his hand towards the Cyclops before a voice from behind it called out.
The sudden surprise caused the giant to lash out. Before Tyler could react, the cyclops lifted his massive foot and kicked him square in the chest, launching him backwards into the air. He crashed through a campus trolley selling t-shirts. Grunting in pain, he clutched his midsection. That was definitely a broken rib. His accelerated healing would fix that in a few hours but it didn’t stop it from hurting all the same. The cyclops whipped around, turning his attention from Tyler to the one who’d called out. Tyler looked past the giant and from his spot on the ground he could see that the group of protestors had reformed near the edge of the campus. The group parted as the man who’d shouted walked through the crowd. Clad in ornate, white and gold-trimmed battle armor, the chiseled and brawny blond man stood tall and confident as he walked forward slowly. The suit he wore was clearly high-tech but decorated with Roman emblems and a large crest of a roaring lion on his chest. He pulled free two longswords from scabbards fastened to his back.
“Who in the blue hell are you?” Tyler shouted from the debris.
“I am God’s Glory, put upon Earth to smite the evil.” he yelled back as the cyclops turned to face him. He raised one of his swords, circling the monster and ducked when it swung at him, sweeping around to slash at the giant’s calves. It howled and fell to its knees.
With a groan, Tyler picked himself up out of the wreckage of the souvenir cart. “Glory? Like the Denzel Washington movie?”
The man didn’t answer as he kicked the cyclops in the face, then a rapid left-right-left-right combo left the giant dazed. The crowd of hateful protestors cheered and he turned towards them and smiled confidently, waving with one hand and raising his sword above his head. When Tyler recovered, he sped towards the newcomer and the mob. He stopped short when he realized the crowd had stopped cheering and regarded him with expressions of disdain.
“Yo! Bombastic Bible-Thumper. Imma’ need you to kick rocks before you get-“
Tyler was interrupted when a massive hand wrapped around his neck. The Cyclops has recovered. It lifted him off his feet and threw him backwards into the college’s main building, small fragments of stone flaking off at the point of impact. “...Hurt.” he finished with a groan. He quickly recovered and using the building as a starting block, sprinted forward.
The giant ripped a stone column out of the ground and swung it like a baseball bat. Glory leaped over it while Tyler, moving at superspeed slid underneath it. To Tyler, the rest of the world appeared as if it was standing still as he circled the cyclops, picking up speed until he was nothing but a blur. The kinetic energy he’d absorbed from being kicked and then thrown into the building plus his momentum fueled the strength of his next strike, the force of the punch equating to that of a semi-truck. His fist connected with the cyclops’ jaw and he was spun around on his toes and knocked unconscious, slowly toppling backwards like a giant redwood.
Tyler skidded to a halt just in time to see Glory brandishing his greatsword as he stalked towards the prone cyclops. Tyler raised his hands.
“Whoa, whoa. He’s just lost and confused.” Tyler reasoned, standing firm between the man and the cyclops. “You’re not killing him.”
“IT...” he corrected. “... is an abomination and must be destroyed. God demands it.”
Tyler raised his fists and squared up. "I've met gods. I don't think they'd agree with you."
"A pagan?" he questioned, with disgust in his voice. He lowered his sword until the tip touched the ground and as he circled Tyler slowly, sparks flew. "Then perhaps you've heard the story of Icarus? “ He questioned. “He made wings of wax so that he could fly, but when he flew too close to the sun, to God, his wings melted and he plummeted back to the ground." He paused to lift his long-sword again, pointing it towards Tyler. "Your ‘abilities’ are the devil's attempt to thieve power from the Lord, our God, and I, his humble servant, am here to melt your sinful wings."
“Yeah, we’ll see.” Tyler charged towards him, clearing fifty yards within a second. The moment he reached him, there was a flash of light from inside the lion’s gaping maw on his chest. It blinded Tyler as Glory casually stepped to the side, tripping him up. He skidded across the ground at 100 mph until he hit a stone statue. His opponent was fast. Not as fast as Tyler, but faster than an average human being should be. Slowly, Tyler rose, blinking furiously waiting for his vision to come back into focus.
“The only difference between that thing and you is that you can still be saved.” Glory declared, marching towards him. Tyler threw a slow punch that Glory easily dodged before he hit him with a jab to the solar plexus, kicked the back of his knee and swept his leg. Tyler hit the asphalt hard and rubbed his eyes as his vision gradually cleared. Glory was standing above him, blocking out the sunlight as he pointed his sword down at him.
“Whoa. What happened to saving me?” Tyler questioned as he watched the sword come to rest at his heart.
“Death will be your absolution. Only then can you be purged of sin.”
“Yeah, I don’t really like this system very much.” In the half-second it took Glory to thrust his sword downwards Tyler had already moved, speeding away from him. Behind him, Tyler could see a cadre of Midnighters had appeared and gathered around the fallen giant. They chanted, performing complicated gestures with their hands before a glowing golden portal in the ground opened up and swallowed the giant. He could only assumed they’d returned the cyclops to his proper time period. Glory too witnessed the act and shouted in frustration.
Tyler was just about to charge again when he was pelted by a rock. It ricocheted off his helmet with a loud clang. Then another hit him in the shoulder. His reflexes kicked in and he plucked the third out of the air, turning to see that the crowd of protesters had gathered together and shouting angrily. “GO HOME, FREAK!” One of them yelled. Glory slowly approached them, his gaze never leaving Tyler as they welcomed him. He moved to the forefront of the crowd and raised his arms, as a wicked smile spread across his face. For the moment, he’d beaten Tyler. The cyclops was gone and the crisis averted. The crowd no longer wanted him there. His presence would only serve to incite them. There was nothing left for him to do. So he did the only thing he could do. What he was best at.