The New Titans: Transitionary Dependence, Prologue: Freaking Out

by Hitman 44077

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Denton, Texas:

A young man no older than sixteen kept to himself as he walked down the city street. Dressed in ripped jeans and a torn Ratt Poison T-shirt, this boy with messy blond hair appeared nervous, wiping the sweat from his head as he stopped in front of Garrett’s Drug Store, which was closing for the evening. The youth watched as the lights were turned off and walked away as the owner locked the doors from the outside. Once the owner had finished and headed off on his way, the youth walked back to the storefront, shaking.

Need something, anything, to quench the pain! the young man thought wide-eyed as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. Unfolding the knife, the young man tried unsuccessfully to break into the drug store. His patience severely worn as he continued to shake, he finally punched the glass door in anger with his right hand. The action not only embedded shards of splintered glass into his hand, but caused the drug store’s burglar alarm to go off. He also dropped the knife he’d been using with his left hand.

Christ! the kid thought, paying more attention to the alarm rather than his now-bleeding hand. I can’t get caught! Not until I make the pain go away! The young man finally unlatched the drug store’s lock, even as the sounds of police sirens filled the air. He opened the door and ran inside, searching frantically for something to kill the gnawing pain within himself. He reached the back of the drug store and found the location where drug prescriptions were filled. But that door, too, was locked.

“No, no, no!” the young man screamed, realizing that he couldn’t break in. The flashing police car lights caught the corner of his eye, and he turned toward the front of the building. Tears began forming and then dropped from his eyes as he watched several officers exit from their vehicles.

The young man looked at his right arm and stared at the needle marks that had covered parts of his arm. The youth closed his eyes as he knew he had no hope left. All I wanted was the greatest high ever, and now I’m as low as I’ve ever been, the youth thought, weeping softly. He opened his eyes as the pain in his body grew stronger. He knew the pain was only going to increase, and he made what he thought was his only choice.

Pulling out a rubber cord, he tied it around his right arm tightly so that the veins were evident. He then pulled out a syringe from his back pocket, removing its cap and exposing the sharp needle underneath. The syringe itself was filled with a purplish substance. Making sure he’d found the proper vein, the kid injected the syringe’s contents into his vein, collapsing instantly as he shook.

Two police officers entered the drug store, guns in one hand, flashlights in the other. “We know someone’s here,” one of the officers said. “Come out quietly, arms raised!”

Both officers heard rattling near the back of the store. Focusing their flashlights toward the noise, the officers cautiously approached. “It’s now or never! Show yourself now!” the officer exclaimed, pointing his gun in front of him while walking.

Suddenly, a scaly creature emerged from where the boy had once been. With lightning-quick reflexes, it took the two police officers by surprise, grasping their heads with its fists. The officers screamed in pain, which alerted other officers. Two other officers ran inside, weapons and flashlights in hand, and watched in horror as the scaly monstrosity squeezed the two police officers’ heads until they burst. The officers’ bodies fell limp to the floor.

“Mother of Christ herself!” one of the surviving officers exclaimed, firing his gun at the creature. The bullets seemed to cause no injury to the creature’s body, only bouncing in various directions upon impact.

The other officer stopped dead in his tracks, horrified by what he’d just witnessed. The creature used that opportunity to gut the officer with a fist made of sharp claws.

The final surviving officer retreated, knowing he alone couldn’t stop the creature. Running to his police vehicle, he radioed in reinforcements, which soon arrived, and — unknown to them — an unexpected ally also arrived on the scene, hidden for now.

“What are we dealing with?” an elder officer asked the lone surviving police officer.

“Some type of monster, sir! It already killed Grady, Collins, and Porter!” the survivor exclaimed, the events still replaying themselves inside his head. “An alligator-type monster, built like a human, only larger! And bullets don’t affect the thing! It’s still inside the drug store there!”

“Another freak,” the elder officer said. He’d experienced similar events within the past few months, but not as publicly displayed as tonight’s event. “This isn’t good at all.”

With those words, the scaly creature burst forth from the entrance, surprising everyone as it launched into an all-out assault on the police officers at the scene.

Nearby, the hidden figure watched the attack, his own suspicions confirmed. Those officers don’t have a chance, and maybe I don’t, either. But I’ve got to try, especially if it’s connected to someone who meant a great deal to me. The figure flung a strong line forth and began to swing toward the creature, who now had an officer in its grip.

The officer tried to shoot the creature and did manage to shoot one of the creature’s eyes out. “RRAAGGHHH!” the creature screamed, releasing the officer and clutching its eye.

The officer began to run away, but the creature’s pain was temporary. It grabbed the officer again, as if in revenge for the pain the officer inflicted on it. But before it could do anything, the creature received a swinging kick to the head by the hero known as the Protector.

The action caused the creature to release its prey, and as the officer made her escape, the creature turned toward the purple-clad hero standing near it. “I hope you’re just another criminal, ’cause I’d sure hate to feel some compassion for you,” the Protector said as he reached into his belt.

The creature lunged forth, but the Protector was quicker — narrowly.

I’m glad I kept in shape over the years, even if I’ve pretty much been in retirement from crime-fighting, he thought, removing his cape and placing it over the creature’s head. He then pulled more cord from his belt and tied it around the creature.

However, it wasn’t enough to stop the monster. It broke free within seconds and once again tried to attack the Protector. He escaped the attack and flung a gas pellet toward the creature. Maybe I was wrong, he thought, questioning the nature of his foe. Maybe it is a legitimate threat — maybe something way out of my league.

The creature fought against the smoke and lurched toward the young hero. It decided to pick up a small car, and that was its undoing. The strain took a toll on the creature, which staggered around in pain — until it finally collapsed. The Protector watched in shock as the creature slowly changed back into a human teenager. Bruises had remained where bullets had landed on the teen’s chest while he was in his transformed state, and one of his eyes had also burst from a bullet.

Aw, no, it’s Casey, the young hero thought sadly as he stared at the teenager lying on the street. He kneeled down to the youth and checked his pulse. He — he’s dead. Almost as an afterthought, Protector noticed the right arm of the deceased teen. He knew immediately what he was dealing with.

The Protector’s thoughts were disrupted by the older officer who’d arrived earlier at the scene. “I haven’t seen you in some time, Protector,” the officer said, extending his hand. Protector shook his hand.

“It’s good to see you, Officer Haley. I just wish it was under better circumstances,” the young hero responded solemnly.

“I can’t believe that… creature was a kid,” Haley said in disbelief.

“I can,” the young hero replied as his own thoughts intertwined with the night’s developments.

“There was a break-in at Garrett’s across the street. That’s where this all began,” Haley said, removing his cap momentarily to push his hair in place.

“You don’t mind if I look inside, do you?” Protector asked, curiously.

“Go ahead. I’ll call this into the coroner’s office,” Haley said, noticing the pained look on the young hero’s face. “It’s a damn shame kids have to be pulled into nightmares like this. And the hardest part is dealing with the parents.”

“Yeah, that is the most difficult part,” Protector said quietly as he walked inside the drug store. The Protector began exploring the store, shocked at the dead officers and the prospects connected with it. I’m really hoping it’s not what I think it is, but I know I’m right, he thought, a cold chill running down his spine.

He finally discovered that he’d been right, as he found the used syringe on the ground at the back of the drug store next to the shredded clothing of the teenager. The remnants of the purplish substance inside the syringe confirmed his fears.

The Protector exited the drug store, leaving the crime scene as it was, when Officer Haley approached. “Was there anything inside that would give us the kid’s identity?” he asked the hero.

“Yeah,” he said. “Look, I have some business to take care of. I gotta go, OK?”

“All right, but thanks again for your help, lad,” Haley said calmly.

The Protector picked up his cape from the street, and after flinging a cord toward a lamppost, he swung away. Minutes later, he stopped on the top of a city building roof. Guilt filled his emotions as he removed his mask. I failed him, he thought sadly, closing his eyes in remembrance. I failed Casey Thompson, just like I failed my cousin Ted. When I was helping out at the Denton Youth Center, I took Casey on as a little brother. I thought I’d helped him beat drugs, but now he’s dead. Just like Ted.

I tried for years with Ted, tried to help him stay clean, but this stuff, this so-called Ambrosia, it’s worse than anything I’ve ever dealt with. For all that Dick taught me, I haven’t been able to do crap to locate the people manufacturing this garbage.

Here I am, too, ready to begin my college career in a few days at Manhattan University, but I’m not about to forget the life I have here. I’m leaving Denton, but I will be back. And maybe with the help of a few friends, we can put whoever’s behind this poison out of business!

Jason Hart pulled his mask back on and, as the Protector, headed home to finish packing. He was ready to renew old friendships in New York.

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