I looked over the smoldering ruins of what was left of the Enlightened Base. Now the only thing that’s “enlightened” was the sparkling embers drifting into the night sky. My dark skin blended in with that same night, but it gave me no comfort. I felt old and frail, especially since I know what was coming. Like Cassandra in the middle of Troy, I knew the end was near.

The Enlightened were so named because they were Supers who chose to stand with humanity, against the tide of darkness. In a surprising twist, though, it turned out that being enlightened didn’t stop death from coming.

Just hours earlier, the Enlightened Headquarters was a paragon of the city’s finest architecture, with firm steel framing providing a strong yet comforting presence amid the darkened streets. The steel was warped and twisted beneath the flames of the battle that transpired here. Now the HQ was a twisted wreckage of the promise it once was.

I live in a world of the unimaginable. It’s a world of gods, monsters, demons, aliens – the works. And even in this world, what happened here tonight amid the rubble and debris was absolutely insane. I was the last Watcher in the world, and even I didn’t believe it, even as I saw it with my own eyes.

Blaze, the leader of the Enlightened, was dead. His still burning corpse was a bright flare in the middle of the twisted husk that used to be his base. He’d been dead like that for several hours, but probably because of his powers, his body was still a raging fire. The firefighters told me the water evaporated before it even reached the hero’s corpse. He was impaled on a steel rod along the outskirts of the base’s perimeter, in what looked to be the outdoor training ground for rookies. Now he was a warning to everyone – human or otherwise – of what came next.

Blaze deserved better.

I tapped the nearest firefighter on the shoulder while I produced a small light blue capsule the size of a rock from my coat pocket. It emitted a light glow from the shadows. The firefighters looked on with a mix of wonder and anticipation.

“Get back!” I yelled. The emergency personnel obeyed my command without a second of hesitation.

Sometimes, being a Watcher had its perks.

With a grunt, I tossed the cryo-capsule towards the remains of Blaze. There was the sound of popping and cracking as everything within a ten-foot radius instantly froze. The twisted wreckage now resembled a placid lake after an icy freeze, but it didn’t change the fact that Blaze’s corpse, now coated in frost, was still at the center of the newly formed frozen lake.

The crackling sound of ice breaking beneath my feet pierced my cold ears with every step. It reminded me of the past crumbling beneath my feet. When my uncle William trained me for this job, he said, “You gotta be ready for anything.” But how could I be ready for this?

How can you prepare for finding Mankind’s greatest hope, the most powerful of the fire Supers, burned to death?

I was Frank Plummer. I was the last Watcher. For as long as there have been people like Blaze, both humans and otherwise, there had been people like me. Watchers who observed the gods, demons and things that go bump in the night, no matter how benevolent or “Super” they claimed to be. For what it’s worth, Blaze’s claims of benevolence were truly genuine – and it got him charred to a crisp and impaled on a long pointy spear.

Blaze was part of a long line of Supers who drew the line in the sand, with himself and the rest of humanity on one side, and the rest of the Supers on the other. He was part of a dying breed.

Just like me and the Watchers.

And now he was actually dead.

“Shit!” I exclaimed as I pulled the long iron shaft from Blaze’s stomach. It was still scalding hot, despite the cyro-capsule’s freezing effects.

Without a word, I left the scene of the crime to the first responders. I began the long trek back to my office with the sharp pointed spear in my grasp. In a world of Supers and monsters, no one thought a middle-aged black man in an overcoat carrying a bloody spear was the least bit odd.

That’s the world we live in now.

I drove back to my uptown apartment. I lived on the fifth floor of the old complex. I headed up the stairs with my spear in hand. I figured I needed the exercise. Besides, maybe it would clear my head.

Ten minutes, I arrived at the apartment. The exercise did little to help my mood. If anything, it just made it worse. My heart was racing more than it was when I received the news of Blaze’s death. And my mind was flooded with far worse possibilities.

I laid the spear down on a table as I began to examine the spear with a magnifying glass. I was always more of an analog guy anyway. The spear was odd. Instead of seeing the blue glow of the cyro-capsule, I instead recognized a sheet of black ice on the spear, running over the surface in layers of broad, overlapping circles, like the rings of a tree once it has been cut down.

A loud clanging sound distracted me from the spear as a small throwing blade landed inches from my hand. I looked up to see three ninjas cloaked in black garb standing in my office. One wore ancient armor, while the two smaller ones were clad in less distinctive black outfits.

“You know, most people just say hello,” I said. It had been a long night, and I wasn’t in the mood.

“You’re too open!” The tall one said. “Do you know how many times I could have killed you over the years?”

“I recall you trying . . .” I smirked as I outstretched my hand. “Remind me again . . . how did that turn out for you?”

Their leader reaches forth and clasped my hand. He removed his mask, displaying a shaved head with haggard features. Izuki was a Japanese man close to my age. His two other ninjas rushed forward to embrace me.

Ninja hugs. This was my life now.

“It’s good to see you guys, but me and your dad have to speak in private,” I said. “Why don’t you guys run along and play Pac-Man?”

In an instant, I had two ninjas playing video games on my couch. Izuki looked pensive. This could be a bad sign, but in my experience, Izuki always looks pensive.

“It’s happening again,” he said. “Like back in fifty-five, but worse. They’re killing everything that moves now.”

“I know,” I nodded. “They’ve killed all the other Watchers . . . and Blaze.”

Like I said, it had been a long night.

“Have they tried to get you yet?” Izuki asked, concerned.

I smiled and remove the handgun from my trenchcoat. “Someone is always trying to get me. But I can protect myself.

“What about Patricia?” Izuki asked.

“Patricia?” I almost grinned. “Trust me, they ain’t ready for her.”

Izuki gave me a dark look. “I can no longer give the same assurances. We barely made it out with our lives.”

He gestured to the ninjas playing on my couch.

“Do you remember why I named my son after you,” Izuki said, pointing to the youngest ninja, Frank Chan, my godson. “No matter what we came at you with, you survived. I canceled the contact rather than wasting time and energy on such a resourceful foe.

This led to us becoming friends,” he continued. “Frank and Kerry cannot meet the same fate as the Watchers. There have been too many casualties already in this war.”

“Is it the Supers?” I asked. Honestly, I didn’t think anything else that could make Izuki this concerned.

“No,” Izuki said. “It was another group. At first, I thought it was simply an inner-city gang,” Izuki said stolidly. “After a few encounters, I killed their leader, thinking that was the end of it.”

“The leader’s pupil was relentless. He was joined by eight others, then located our base and wiped out our entire order, save for us,” he told me. “We were lucky to escape.”

“Maybe it’s time to hang up the swords,” I told my old friend. “None of us are getting any younger. I don’t know about you, but retirement is sounding pretty good right about now.”

“No,” Izuki said, donning his mask once more to hide the fierceness of his features. “I must face him alone.”

I wanted to roll my eyes. Izuki was big on honor. That’s one of the reasons we went from being respectful enemies to close friends. These were dangerous times. Honor had a way of getting people killed.

Blaze learned that the hard way.

“I have secured a place for Kerry at Orion’s,” Izuki said, indicating one of the ninjas still engrossed in a game of Pac-Man. “Since he enjoys learning about tech, it makes sense. Can Frank stay with you?”

“Yes,” I said, looking at my godson. “He’ll be safe until Patricia gets back.”

With the conversation reaching its end, I resumed my investigation of the spear. As I examined the rune-like structures carved in ice, I knew where my investigation would lead. Some part of me had known from the start.

“I need to speak to Orra,” I said. Izuki laid his hand on my shoulder.

“We all have our parts to play,” he said. He was a ninja, so he was good at being vague and cryptic, but this time, I knew his meaning – even if I didn’t want to.

“Izuki,” I said. The warrior’s hardened face turned to me. “If this is the last time we speak, I just want you to know . . . whatever’s in the past . . . is in the past. I forgive you.”

I clasped him on the shoulder, and the old warrior returned the gesture with a hardy grip on my shoulder. I wanted him to know I forgave him for trying to kill me all those years ago, but even more to the point, I wanted to plant a tracking bug on him in case he needed help, or more likely, I needed to find him.

I hoped he forgave me for that . . . if he ever found out. Which he probably would . . . eventually. Izuki was a pretty sharp guy, but I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. Right now, I needed all the information I could get.

“Good hunting, old friend,” I said as the ninja descended through the darkened city on a zip line. “I’m going to have to rely on my conventional means of transportation.”

Not long after he left, the rain started to pour. It was just perfect. I could fend off any Super, but do you think I bothered to bring an umbrella? I moved down the street, the cold city rain pelting my skin. My car, a rusted beat-up sedan at the end of the street, waited for me. I opened the door, but just as I found sanctuary from the rain, I saw a shadowy figure waiting for me in the backseat. I clenched the steering wheel with one hand while reaching for the gun in my pocket, but the figure was too fast. That or I was too slow.

Either way, whatever was in my backseat had me dead to rights.

The Last Watcher

The Last Watcher – Extinguished Blaze