There really was nothing they could do. The monster barreled into them, scattering Dan and Ben like ninepins. They were protected by forcefields and armor, respectively, but both brothers had difficulty righting themselves after the assault.
“Dan!” Ben groaned, “How’s the armor?”
“Holding,” his brother replied, “and your… thingie?”
“Just as long as Chuckles here doesn’t knock me unconscious.”
The creature struck again. Luckily, its titanic size and strength made it a rather slow-moving adversary. Try as they might, the brothers could not completely avoid each blow from the massive, swinging arms.
“It’s really hard to get away from this guy,” Ben mentioned as the two ducked into the doorway they’d originally entered from, “when he makes the floor shake every time he takes a freakin step!”
“Reminds me of a guy I fought in Philly once,” Dan said between saving gasps of air, “big strong ape of a guy, genetic experiment.”
The two of them scrambled further into the hallway as the Sonderkommando’s hand tried in vain to reach them inside.
“Any plans, little bro?”
“We could always try to wait him out,” Ben muttered, “This place looks ready to come down on us any minute.”
“I don’t much like that plan,” Dan replied darkly, “I wish I had my ring!”
“What about Gina?” Ben asked after tossing a loose piece of concrete at the retreating arm and hand, “We going after her?”
Dan threw a piece of his own, smiling grimly as the creature howled.
“I’m sick of begging her to stay,” he said, his smile fading immediately, “This is her decision.”
“Hey,” he fixed his younger brother with a fierce gaze, “I screwed up back there. I let him get to me. I shouldn’t let anyone hurt my family. Not anybody.”
“You’re not the only one who screwed up,” A voice came from behind them. The two brothers turned around to see Tom: bloodied, shuffling, both his arms in makeshift slings… but not out for the count.
“I never went eye to eye on what exactly it meant to be me, to be us…” he looked around at his brothers, “I just wanted to stop fighting all the time.”
Dan smiled as the three brothers looked across at each other in the dimly lit hallway. The creature howled outside, feeling cheated.
“Looks like your friend is going for a running start, Banjo,” Dan noted, “Guess it’s your turn.”
“What do you mean?”
“Confession time. We can’t have a great, big group hug if you don’t spill your guts, too.”
“Are you serious?!” Ben shouted, “With that… thing outside?”
“Tom’ll come up with some sort of plan in, like, two seconds,” Dan waved his hand dismissively, “Til then, it’s your turn.”
“Confessions, huh? What’s my big fear?”
“Yeah, lay it on me.”
Ben didn’t even have to think about it.
“You want my big fear? You want to know what keeps me up at night? You want to know why I dressed up like a gypsy and ran out into the streets with nothing but an untested prototype hard-wired into my brain?”
With a bloodcurdling shriek, the monster charged into the wall. Everything shook, and bits of the lair fall all around them.
“I don’t want to let you guys down. Let my family down. Even before I knew what you guys were, even when I only knew you two behind the masks, I knew you as two of the coolest goddamn guys that ever walked the earth. You guys were geniuses and strongmen long before I knew you had powers. I was lucky, I got both of you to help raise me, and you two are just as much the same as you try to be different. I learned how to be analytical like you, Tom, and I learned how to be bold like you, Dan, but at the end of the day we’re still brothers. Everyone in our family are good, strong people: and that includes Mom, Dad, and the ladies. You gotta be strong to make it in this world, and you sure as hell gotta be strong to make it in our family.”
The beast struck again, sending more bits of concrete and masonry cascading.
“You guys were… still are… my heroes, even when you’re not in spandex… and every day… every day I go to that damn dead-end job, and I hear about all the problems in the world, and I feel like either I can’t do or I’m not doing anything about it… I feel like a failure. Not to myself, though… if I let myself get away with looking like this…”
He patted his still ample belly, tears clearly in his eyes.
“I do not want to fail you guys, or Mom, or Dad, or anyone in my family. That’s what scares me, and that’s what keeps me going. And I know that whatever that Nazi jackass says isn’t going to mean a damn thing to me… because my family will always be there.”
There was a small silence then as the Sonderkommando retreated for another attempt.
“Dass beau-tee-ful,” Dan said in a ridiculous meat-head accent, sniffing in an exaggerated manner but still smiling that TV grin.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ben summoned up the courage to finally make a rude gesture, albeit jokingly, in his brother’s general direction. It felt like, after years of being the kid, he was finally being allowed to be a little more mature… so he chose to respond in the most immature way possible.
“Anything you want to say, Tom?” Dan asked hopefully. Tom nodded seriously and turned to face Ben.
“What can you tell me about the composition of your forcefields?”
Ben’s eyes flickered momentarily to Dan, who gave him a look that seemed to say “that’s the best you’re going to get out of him, so enjoy it.” Ben took a second to bask in his oldest brother’s newfound trust in him before explaining.
“I haven’t really tried too much, to be honest. I can cover myself and probably either of you two… Dan, you’d have to duck down for it.”
“Good thing you’re as broad as a barn door, eh?”
“Thanks,” another rude gesture, “I’ve been able to sort of ‘push’ people with the fields, too, and they do a good job insulating my hands if I have to punch someone.”
“Could you insulate yourself?”
“Your entire body,” Tom looked a bit frustrated, “could you cover your entire body in a field?”
“I don’t know,” Ben looked worried, “It might create a vacuum, or it might leave me with no air after a short time.”
“You can hold your breath for a bit, right?”
“Do it. Dan!”
He motioned with his neck for the middle brother to come closer.
“I want you to see if you can pick him up.”
“I can, but not for long. My ring…”
“I know you don’t have your ring!” Tom snapped quickly, not wanting to be reminded, “If Ben can seal himself, it might create a bubble or vacuum that could make him significantly lighter.”
“Uh, it could also murder him.”
“He should be able to survive long enough,” Tom said quickly, “Ben, can you try it?”
“Uh, sure…” He looked to each of his brothers, forcing a smile over the fear.
“Either of you guys know CPR?”
He got a smile from Dan, and it was enough. Ben closed his eyes, activating the computer system embedded under the skin under his temple. It took that unique human impulse to make it happen, the impulse that turned off the self-preservation instinct, the impulse that told you you might die. In the work of an instant, there was a whoosh of energy and, suddenly, Ben felt himself afloat. Of all the things that could have, or should have gone through Ben Graf’s mind at that time, he felt himself overwhelmed with a childlike sense of glee, the first he’d had since Dan, Tom and himself had put on their gear. The first thought that giddily flew through Ben’s mind as Dan hefted him as easily as a baseball was:
“I can fly.”
And fly he did. When the monster had reached its furthest point, all three of the brothers leaped out from hiding. Incensed, it flung itself forward, howling through the spittle and the broken teeth.
“Hold on, Dan…” Tom had his legs bracing himself, and nothing else, “not yet.”
“Say when, Tom.”
“Just like third base back in Summer Rec.”
“H-hold…” Tom’s voice wavered ever so slightly.
“You all right, Ben?”
Inside his capsule, Ben nodded, breathing as shallowly as possible.
With a roar, Dan took a short crow-hop and flung the light green ball as hard as he possibly could. He felt a little something give in his right elbow, but he pushed on. Ben flew from Dan’s hand as a projectile, screwing his eyes up as tight as he could and rapidly using all of his air in panicked breaths. The monster was barreling forward when Ben made contact with the misshapen nose, right between the piggish eyes. The Sonderkommando stopped in his tracks, poleaxed, as Ben’s capsule began to ricochet off the walls, ceiling, and floor of the room. Inside, Ben kept repeating the same phrase, even as he ran out of air.
Finally, Ben got the courage to open his eyes when he felt the momentum cease. He was lying on the floor again, a spent bullet. He removed the force field, his lungs screaming in agony as he began to pull fresh, useful air back into them. He took stock of his surroundings and noted with horror, long after his brothers did, that the creature had not been felled.
“Tom.. Tom!!!” Ben cried when he breath had finally returned, “It’s not dead, Tom! I think I just made it mad, Tom!”
“Shit!” Dan hissed, trying his best to split the distance between he and his brother, “Shit!”
Tom, still leaning against the wall, felt his eyes open wide and his brain begin to ache as he began to force his brain to work.
“It must not have a standard human brain…it must have been augmented, changed… that monster!”
Dan skidded on his kneepads to a halt next to Ben, trying to help his brother to his feet.
“Dan, what are you doing?”
“Fuck if I know!” Dan hollered, “now, move!”
“Where?” Ben screamed, chancing a look back.
“I don’t know!” Dan screamed back, “Ask Tom, he’s the brainy one!”
“Aw, bullshit! You had the best ACT score!”
“Is this really the time to discuss this, Ben?”
“Well, if we’re going to die, I might as well get it all out now!”
The monster was still dazed, allowing Ben and Dan to stumble back to Tom at the far wall. Still, they continued to bicker as brothers do.
“You think we’re going to die, huh?” Dan shot back tauntingly, “I guess you don’t have a lot of faith in your brothers!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Ben spit the words at Dan, “I didn’t mean–”
“Shut up, both of you!” the oldest brother shouted. Dan and Ben both fell silent after Tom’s outburst.
“Listen…” Tom said, narrowing his eyes. The two brothers tried hard to listen over the slavering of the monster and, soon enough, a rhythmic thumping noise could be heard coming from the outside: slowly at first, but quickly gaining in speed before a voice, a powerful voice seemed to sing out from the very stone of the building, seeking to bring down the walls of the structure he had brought down once before.
“Get ready for Ultro…
The Man of Now…
THE MAN OF WOW!!!!!”
The wall immediately to the left of the monster collapsed in an explosion of building material as the overall-clad Bob Graf powered through the wall, fist extended, delivering a punch directly into the temple of the Sonderkommando monster. The punch concussed the brain of the creature, nearly snapping its neck from the impact and killing it stone dead before it hit the ground. Bob hit the ground hard, on one knee as the abomination fell behind him.
“My God…” Tom said, his mouth hanging open in wonder.
“Man, that catchphrase…” Dan said, half in awe and half in embarrassment.
“Well…” Ben said with a small shrug, “It was the 70s.”