by Hitman 44077
Manhattan University later in the afternoon:
After an overnight plane ride to New York City, all Jason Hart had wanted was a good night’s sleep. However, it wasn’t going to happen. His first order of business after his plane had landed was arriving at the campus where he planned to spend the next four years of his life.
He made his way to the campus cafeteria, where he found other first-year students lined up for the first day of orientation. He walked to one of the administrators passing out freshmen orientation information, and once he gave his name, he received his orientation packet. With that in one hand and his suitcase in another, he’d managed to take in many of the campus’ sites and buildings, some buildings farther away from others. He felt a little odd carrying his suitcase, but once he was in his dorm, it wouldn’t matter.
Well, at least they have my classes lined up right, Jason thought as he was handed his regular class schedule once all had arrived back at the campus cafeteria. He had two classes on Monday and Wednesday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and two classes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, both afternoon classes. At least I’ll be able to sleep in on certain days, unless I’m cramming for exams.
Jason thought he was set, until he realized he was missing one small item. Where’s my dorm info? he thought, puzzled. He looked inside the envelope where his class schedule had been placed and even in the folder where he’d received his orientation packet. However, there was no key to be found.
He walked back to the administrator who’d handed him his packet. “I hate to ask, but wasn’t I supposed to receive my dormitory information? Like which dormitory building I’m supposed to head to?”
“I’m sorry, but if you didn’t receive that information with your class schedule, then the dorms are probably filled,” the gray-haired woman wearing a blouse and slacks said, as she’d been asked that same question only moments earlier by another student.
This answer really annoyed Jason, but he kept his cool despite the worries starting to fill his head. “Ma’am, I just arrived from Texas. I paid for my courses well in advance, and I made my payment with my dormitory fee. A dorm runs close to one-thousand dollars. Now, I have my schedule for my classes, but I’m out when it comes to a place to stay,” he said calmly.
“If you need a place to stay immediately, check the bulletin boards, dear,” the woman said in a harsh manner. “Many students are looking for roommates. As for your deposit, please go to the Bursar’s office for a refund. That’s all I can advise for you right now.”
“Well,” Jason said, flashing a pleasant smile. “Thanks a bunch.” Then, with great restraint, he managed to walk away before losing his cool. Great. Just $%@&ing great, he thought, agitated. He walked outside the cafeteria and down a hall, still holding his schooling info and suitcase. He finally stopped and leaned against a wall, weary from the lack of sleep and the mounting stress.
Not the best start to one’s college life, is it? he thought, wiping sweat from his head. Leaving Denton after what happened to Casey and Ted, and then walking into this mess. But I want to be something — I want a future. Most people don’t have the opportunity I have. If I have to use the last of my cash to rent a place for a month, then I’ll do it. It’s not going to be easy, though. Juggling college, a job, and–
Suddenly, a familiar haunting voice called out to him, interrupting his thoughts. “Jason?”
Jason turned to his right, where the voice had sounded closer. Sure enough, it was someone he knew, and he smiled at the friendly face that smiled back at him. “Raven!” he said, placing his suitcase down and giving Raven a hug, which she returned warmly. “Hey! How are you?”
“I am doing well, Jason,” Raven replied with a warmth Jason hadn’t noticed before. She was dressed in a long-sleeved dress shirt and a knee-high skirt, and she looked much more normal than she ever had before. “It has been a long time since I have seen you.”
“Yeah, it’s been a few years,” Jason said. “You seem a little different since I last saw you.”
“Things have changed for me,” Raven answered, being somewhat vague so as to not draw attention to the fact that she was a member of the New Titans. “For a little over two years, I’ve been able to live without the fear which controlled my every action. And I am so very grateful for that change in my life.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, genuinely happy for his friend.
Raven’s powers as an empath detected some emotional pain inside the young man speaking to her. She also remembered just how she’d spotted her friend leaning against a wall, eyes closed. “Jason, I don’t want to intrude on your feelings, but is there anything wrong?” she asked.
Jason paused before answering. I’d planned on paying a visit to Dick and the rest after I’d settled into college, but I guess now’s as good a time to talk, he thought, knowing he had to be honest. “Yeah,” he said to Raven. “I do have some stuff taking a toll on me, but right now, I’ve got to look for a place to stay. It seems there’s no more dorm rooms on campus.”
“I believe that is a problem easily solved,” the empath responded. “Titans Tower has several living quarters unoccupied. There would be no problem with you staying with us. We know you, and we trust you.”
Jason was surprised by the offer. “That’s for real? You sure? Dick and the others won’t mind?” he asked in amazement.
“I know they won’t,” Raven said confidently. “Very few use the living quarters at the Tower right now. Aside from Richard, Koriand’r, and myself, there are no other occupants.”
“I’d appreciate it a great deal, Raven. I’ll stay there until I get this problem with my dorm straightened out,” he answered with some relief.
“I still sense burdens dwelling within your mind, Jason. I will listen to you,” Raven said, being careful on her wording.
“I know, and I’m glad,” Jason said with a sad smile as he remembered what he’d lived through in the days and weeks before. “I just want to make sure I don’t get lost when college starts for real.”
“Then I can show you around. But from my own experiences, do not keep your emotions locked within you. No one deserves that type of hell,” Raven said as she remembered her own past and its painful lessons. Together as friends, Raven took Jason on a longer tour of Manhattan University, even as Jason himself shared the events that had shaped and changed him before his arrival.
A simple house stood alone in the neighborhood. It was indistinguishable from the other homes nearby, but it held its own secrets inside. A middle-aged man with sandy blond hair and glasses looked at the clock that hung from a wall next to him. “Hmm,” this man said, noting that there were but a few hours before sunset. “Perhaps tonight will allow me more success.”
With that thought, this middle-aged man, dressed as if he were a scientist of some type, made his way to his living room. It was in the living room that this man walked toward the small chemical laboratory constructed nearly eight months before. Who would have thought my attempts to find a better painkiller would have turned up the results I’ve seen over these past months? he thought, flashing an amused smile as he placed plastic gloves on each of his hands. He then turned on several makeshift burners and began his normal work.
Time passed as it often did for this man, working with a fast-yet-careful action as he measured, mixed, and boiled the substance he crafted. His actions led to him contemplating the results as he did nearly every night, watching as the chemicals from one beaker boiled from gray to the purplish liquid that kept him in business.
“Perfect!” this man said as a glint of evil sparkled from his eye. In fact, this was because his hand-crafted drug was complete. Turning the burners off, he allowed the beakers to cool. As they were cooling, this man walked to a storage closet and pulled out a box of syringes. Once the substance in the beaker had finally cooled to a desired result, this man began filling each syringe with the purplish liquid until there was none left.
With this feat complete, this individual walked to his phone and picked it up. He dialed a phone number and also turned on a voice harmonizer so as to disguise his voice from the party he was calling. A rough-sounding voice answered the phone. “Yes?” the man asked over the phone.
“It’s me,” the middle-aged scientist replied over the phone, his voice distorted. “It’s ready.”
“Good,” the rough-sounding man said over the phone, pleased with what he’d been told. “Where do you want to meet?”
“Same time and place as before. Make sure you bring your cash,” the distorted voice answered.
“I remember. I’m not going to have my guys make that mistake again,” the rough-sounding voice spoke, a hint of fear the only reminder of a previous encounter gone wrong.
“Good.” With that, the middle-aged scientist hung his phone up abruptly.
I usually keep the calls below a minute. They’ve done some good work for me, but there’s no telling if someone has infiltrated their little group. But then again, I know them better than they realize, the man thought with a faint smile. Still, there’s another night’s work to be done. And there’s only one man I know who can do the job.
With those thoughts, the middle-aged man walked toward his basement door and opened it. He heard sounds emanating from the basement — grunts, machinery working, even sweat dropping from one’s body. He walked downstairs and watched as a man shrouded in shadows continued to work. Even within the shadows, one could see that this individual was built solidly. His dedication was tireless. But one could only wonder what motivated him to be this way.
“You continue to impress me, my friend,” the blond man said to this man in shadows. “Out of everyone who’s tried my contribution to society, you’re the only one to conquer it.”
The man in shadows stopped, as if he’d just noticed the blond man standing near him. He looked up and became all business. “It’s time, isn’t it?” he asked, his voice without a hint of emotion.
“Yes, another day begins for us,” the blond man said, pushing his glasses closer to his face. “The same spot as usual, and I think they learned their lesson from a few weeks ago.”
“Good. I make no apologies for my actions, but those who cross us will pay as they did — with their lives,” the man in shadows said.
“I have often wondered why you continue to aid me, even after all you’ve endured,” the scientist asked the man in shadows.
“I see in you… someone who shares strength. It was you who supplied me with Ambrosia,” the man in shadows responded.
“You’re never without the mask, are you?” the middle-aged man asked his large comrade as he moved closer to his partner and looked at him.
“Indeed, the mask is a part of me. My face is a reminder of who I was before — it is a reminder of weakness and failure. The mask I wear doesn’t hide any physical deformity, as you know, it only represents me as I am today — as I will always be!” the man said, walking away from the shadows.
Standing six foot, six inches was a man whose physique was more imposing than any bodybuilder’s. Wearing spandex pants and fighting gloves, this man seemed to be more than what he appeared. He had a device attached to his right wrist, which served to hold the purplish drug that he himself used, and it was connected to the back of his neck with a nearly detachable thin hose. And the mask — it was mostly black, yet the facial portion was white. Complete with red eye pieces, it was clear this man had no desire to show anything that would remind him of his past.
“Here,” the scientist said, pulling three small tubes of the purplish substance. “That should keep things going.”
The large muscular man placed the vials within his wrist device. He pressed a button on the wrist device, and the substance immediately shot into his body. For only a few seconds, this muscled man shook softly, and then abruptly stopped.
“We may have to sever ties with our little group. Even with the cash of our benefactor, the money involved with those here in Denton is dwindling. Now our benefactor needs results soon. In fact, I’ve been working on a modified formula, something that just might have less ill-fated side-effects. Therefore, if our little friends don’t live up to their words, do what you must. We can find more people to pay for my research,” the blond-haired man said, handing the muscled man a bag of filled syringes.
The muscled man accepted the bag. “Of course. But they will know one thing if they seek to defy us. They will know my vengeance — the vengeance of Bane!” the muscled man said, showing no further emotion except for the hate inside him, now evident with the flow of the purple drug inside his body.