By Jeff A. Hatch
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Episode Two:

The End of the Beginning

A television buzzed in the shadows of the poorly lit office.

Blane had darkened the whole level of the eighth floor. He only needed the light from his computer screen to see by. On the screen three-dimensional plans for the Defender suit were displayed. It was the latest in humane crimefighting, armed with tear gas, armor, and a high-rate tranquilizer weapon.

The television was on channel five. Tom Sal, the lead reporter for channel five, read a report regarding the death of a technician for Enco, a rival to Trask Ind. The technician was killed by "no known cause".

A chill went through Blane. He and every citizen of Necropolis knew that it meant that the technician was killed by "Epitaph", an unseen killer who was reputed to kill by touch. The thing was that he left no trace.

Another news article showed the death of yet another ENCO employee; this time it was Dr. Casper Claude Channing, the foremost authority on the concepts of light and energy. He had died in a laboratory explosion; it appeared to the authorities that he had come too close to completing his work and blown himself and his wife up.
His son survived and was placed in the Necropolis orphanage.

Blane shuddered to think what life was like growing up in an orphanage. Suddenly he felt glad to have a father, even one who did not pay attention to him.

Blane was so absorbed in the announcement and the modifications he was doing
on the Defender Project, that he failed to notice how dark the room was getting, even darker than it was before.  Blane didn't notice that there was a figure in the darkness, a figure that was moving towards him.

The figure was wearing a dark trench coat, and a slouch hat. Bluish goggles covered his eyes, and a scarf of thick grayish cloth obscured the remainder of his features.

The figure came around the banks of computers to appear in straight view of Blane.

"Blane Trask." The voice was low and hollow.

Blane reflexively kicked back in his chair and fell to the floor. He could only stutter at first. "W-Who i-is it?" Blane knew full well, but was unable to accept the appearance of the dark-clad crimefighter in his office.

"I am Eclipse. I mean you no harm." The voice was low still, but more reassuring.

Blane felt sick; he felt afraid, but he could not figure out why. "What do you want with me?" Blane was crawling on the floor on his ass.

The dark-cloaked avenger almost glided across the room.  No weapons were in sight; he really seemed to be on the level. His cloak-like coat whipped about his body as he approached. Eclipse really made a fearsome entrance.

"Y-You saved me the other night....Why?" Blane was managing some real thought now.

"I had to," replied Eclipse enigmatically.



"This is getting us nowhere!" Blane felt angry now; someone was messing with his whole way of life and he did not like it. "Tell me why you had to save my life -- are you working for my father?"

"Your father is dead!" The voice changed to venomous thunder. Blane jumped at the words.

"I just saw my father today -- you're crazy!" spat Blane in return.

"The man who raised you is not your father. Anthony Trask killed your real father and took his place!"

"I.... You don't know what you are saying!" Blane was really mad now.

"Everything you know and everything you have done is a lie. I have come to tell you the truth. It will still be the truth, even if you do not believe me."

The ebon-cloaked crimefighter had backed Blane into the corner. Blane was afraid, but he wanted to know what made this guy think these things.

"Prove it!" Blane snapped.

"If you want proof" -- Eclipse's hand shot to his scarf --"this is your proof!"

The scarf came away and the goggles as well. The features behind the mask of Eclipse were gaunt and Aryan, but different -- not like Trask's, more like Blane's.

"Y-you look like me!" Blane was really freaked now.

"Yes," hissed the now unmasked crimefighter. "I am your grandfather!"

Blane was staggered by that one. His father, or the person who was supposedly his father, always said that his grandfather was dead. But here stood a man who looked like Blane, and had secrets to tell. Blane decided to listen to Eclipse and then try to figure out what was going on.

"I am Andrew Merritt. You are Blane Merritt. Trask kidnapped my son, Luther, your father, and, after you were born, he killed him and your mother."

The elder Merritt looked tired. His features looked no older than late forties, yet they were drawn tight like a bad facelift. His eyes were the same brilliant blue that Blane's were. The eyes were the same, thought Blane. No one had those kind of eyes except him and..... Blane dropped his head into his hands.

"Look at the hidden files; Trask has altered your invention, the suit. He intends to use it against the police." Eclipse gestured at the computers.

"I don't have the codes," babbled Blane.

"You are too smart to say that. You can 'hack', can you not?" Eclipse saw through everything.

"Yes." Blane felt low for some reason. He hit the keyboard and started to fish through his father's files. A sign saying "Classified" came up and Blane danced around it using some old program codes.

In about a minute Blane was looking at a decidedly different version of the Defender suit than he had ever seen. It was equipped with flame-throwers and a lethal automatic pistol, as well as other weapons that Blane had never thought of. The file was labeled 'Destroyer'. Blane was still listed as the creator, but the whole thing was different.

"Have you seen enough?" Eclipse seemed impatient.


"Then it is time --"

There was a sound. The sound was a slight disturbance in the air; something flapped in the wind. The hairs on Eclipse's neck stood up and he thrust an iron hard arm at Blane. "Get Back!"

Blane fell under a bank of hard drives and monitors. From his vantage point, he saw a figure appearing out of the darkness. The figure had on a cloak and hood; what showed of his face was white with a latticework of blackened scars criss-crossing his features. The eyes of the man were dead, no pigment. The figure strode forward, lifting a hand that was as pale and ghostly as his face.

When the man spoke, his face was like a spider's web that blew in the wind.

"I am Death -- I am Epitaph!"

If Blane was older he would have died of fright right then and there. Epitaph was the most dangerous man alive -- if he was truly alive. No one had ever lived to tell about him.

Andrew Merritt leapt into the shadowy assassin. He intercepted him and prevented his hand from reaching toward Blane. There was a flash of gleaming silver and out came a compact submachine gun. The thing chattered at Epitaph, but the assassin swept Eclipse's arm aside and tried to touch him with his hand.

Blane imagined that the touch would slay instantly. Blane was right, but it had to touch something, and it looked like the elder Merritt was not willing to be touched.

Blane saw Eclipse swing his arm back onto the target at hand. Lead burst from the automatic weapon thundering into the arm of the super assassin so feared by the citizens of Necropolis. Epitaph was blown backwards by the power of several .45 slugs.

Into the darkness he flew and, then as if by magic, he was gone.

Blane was amazed; he was so over-powered that he stood there watching as Eclipse turned. He could think of many things to say but only one set of words could possibly escape his lips...

"I'll believe anything you have to say."

Blane was almost on the verge of tears.

Eclipse groaned. Blane had thought that he had fended off Epitaph's touch, but he must have been mistaken. The black-garbed crimefighter fell to one knee, and tried to speak. His body rocked violently with horrible spasms.

"Get me out of here!" Eclipse's hand crept up to Blane's shoulder; it was iron, like a vice squeezed shut.

Blane used all the strength available to him and lifted the figure of Andrew Merritt and carried him to the service elevator. At the elevator, he saw the attendant gone, probably out for coffee or donuts. Blane worked the elevator and it roared noisily to the street below. Blane found his Porsche and laid the body of his grandfather in it. He drove as if he was guided by unseen hands to Golden Gate Park. There he realized that the poor man in his back seat would not go much farther.

"G-Get me out of the car." His voice was still commanding.

"Okay, but don't you think you should have some help?" Blane seemed confused; he had brought Eclipse here, yet he thought it was the wrong thing to do.

"Huh huh." Eclipse laughed and coughed at the same time. Bits of mucus and blood came out. He stopped his convulsions as if by pure will power. "Let me speak to you before I go. I am dying; no man can go through what has happened to me and survive much longer."

"But there are doctors..." Blane was still confused; he felt helpless.

"Do not worry about me. I have found you and that was my wish. I am happy in a way." In the palm of Eclipse's hand was a key. He pushed it into his grandson's hand.

The two spoke fast. It was of truth and determination. Blane saw greatness in this man. Blane saw, for the first time in his life, someone who was really what he seemed, a hero. A few hours ago his 'father' would not give Blane the time of day; now this man who claimed to be his grandfather had given his life to save Blane.

"Blane." Eclipse coughed, and Blane drew him close. "It was good to meet you. I have watched you grow from afar, never daring till now to approach you. You are far more than you know. I hope you will honor me and make me proud."

Blane held him tighter as if that were enough to stay his death. Blane felt him change and sputter more. Then he felt the life drain from him.

Blane looked at his grandfather and saw as he died that his features grew old. He was as old as he should have appeared at first. When the final convulsion came, he looked at Blane with those brilliant blue eyes and they smiled. Blane cried. He had never cried in all of his adult life. Now he cried with all the tears due him for his thirty-two years of life. For the first time in his life, he had found truth, and someone or something that meant shit to him.

Now that someone was dead. Blane felt his soul tearing, he felt betrayed and lost. He just sat there holding the body of the bravest man he had ever seen and wept till there were no more tears to shed.

A feeling came to Blane. He felt a sickly wetness in his hand. Blane looked down to see that his hand was bleeding. He had gripped the key so hard that it cut into his hand. The blood was dropping like rain drops from his fingers.

Hope flooded back into him. Maybe this key was part of the puzzle that his life had become in the last hour. He looked at it and saw that it bore the letters "H42". Blane noted that it was a BART locker key. Blane released his grandfather. He then buried him there and sat for a while in the rain. As the heavens drained down on him, Blane knew at that moment that his life would never be the same again...

Next episode....Legacy of Darkness!

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Necropolis is copyright 1999, Jeff A. Hatch. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)