The day was waning, as Mind’s Eye finished driving off a pack of strung out Suprex addicts from Freetown. He looked down at his communicator, hoping to get some sleep in; he’d been on patrol for nearly 16 hours straight. He saw the Blue Boys had posted notice of a domestic disturbance they, but that they were tied up at the moment. Being the closest available Sentinel, Mind’s Eye headed in to take care of business.
“Zareth, Mind’s Eye. Any more info on that domestic disturbance?”
“Elderly woman, Mrs. Hoffman. She said she’s got an apparition in her home, said it was made of glowing sparks.”
Mind’s Eye knew this would come eventually. Weeks before, the Sentinels had disrupted Sparkblade, but it was only a matter of time before he reformed. And there was no way he could leave him unchecked in some woman’s home.
“Are you alright ma’am? I came as soon as I could.”
Mind’s Eye burst through the door as he spoke. He noticed a distinct lack of chaos. Mrs. Hoffman, an elderly woman in her sixties or seventies, approached him in her walker, “Oh thank god, a superhero. Would you tell this damned thing to get the hell out of my house? It’s ruined enough as it is!”
His eyes drifted over to the glowing outline of Sparkblade. He was sitting on the floor, cross-legged, his hands miming eating a bowl of cereal. He stared blankly at an unplugged television.
“…How long has he been like this?”
“Damn near five hours now. He’s been bumming around my home, scorching the carpet worse than it is.”
Mind’s Eye pondered the situation briefly, running through possibilities in his head, “Ma’am, you’d better step outside. I don;t know what he’s going to do, and I don’t want you getting caught in any crossfire.”
He gently pushed Mrs. Hoffman out into the hallway, closing the door. He approached Sparkblade cautiously, trying to gauge the villain’s reaction. He slowly reached out a hand to him.
Sparkblade looked up, “setting down” his “bowl”. He stood, the arcs forming his body just grazing the top of the scorched shag carpeting. He looked to Mind’s Eye and spoke, but all that emerged from him was the sounds of static and electrical pops. He reached out for Mind’s Eye’s hand, and as his electrical form grazed him, The both of them reeled back like they were simultaneously shocked.
Mind’s Eye winced, gritting through the pain, “Should’ve seen that one coming,” and he tried to gauge Sparkblade once more. The electrical specter spun around in place, confused by his surroundings. He spoke again, this time actual words coming from him.
“Oh god. It’s all so different. So old, so…ruined. The years have been hell on this place…”
Sparkblade looked over to where he had been sitting, “I was, I was right there, Saturday morning, watching The Eventide Knight And His Amazing Friends….”
He looked back to Mind’s Eye, “I can;t…what’s happening? Why is it so hard to remember?”
Mind’s Eye gestured out the door, “I think we ought to head somewhere else. So you can think better. Clear your head.”
Sparkblade shook his head, as if trying to clear it, “Yes, yes…think, better, sure…”
Mind’s Eye led Sparkblade out of Mrs. Hoffman’s home, one hand on the radio wave generator Pumpkin King had designed all those weeks ago. Just in case.
Mind’s Eye and Sparkblade sat together on the ledge of a building. The sun just began to set over the Santa Monica Bay, the rays of light turning the sky a beautiful orange, sparkling across the water.
“Sparkblade…Do you remember who I am?”
Sparkblade appeared to clench up, his electrical form mimicking what would be his human movements, “You’re….you’re….”
He concentrated for a few moments. It was clear he was struggling to remember even these most basic of facts.
“M-Mind’s Eye. Superhero. Sentinel. Fought…you were in an arena. And then I was using a bow….”
“A bow…The Archer’s bow. But The Archer, Archer Archer Archer, so familiar, but who is it…?”
“Fought him lots of times….fought him over and over again….a villain? Was he the villain?”
Mind’s Eye slowly shook his head, “No. No, he was not…”
Sparkblade began to concentrate harder, and then realization dawned upon him.
Mind’s Eye felt his stomach doing somersaults, watching Sparkblade struggle to hold onto his memories. He couldn’t see any of the man he once was in front of him, no trace of the murderous psychopath who had tried his damnedest to kill him on more than one occasion. All he could see was a man struggling to keep himself from falling to pieces. He rested a hand on his shoulder, focusing what psychic energy he could on holding him together. He couldn’t stop this….but he could postpone it. It was a losing battle, but he could delay the inevitable for a little while longer.
Sparkblade looked at Mind’s Eye with sadness. A deep sadness, “Everything is fading, I don’t…what’s happening to me?”
Mind’s Eye sighed, and steeled himself for what he knew he had to do, “You’re dying. You haven;t had a physical body in….months. You’ve been psychic energy clinging onto the energy of a lightning bolt and your own bioelectricity. It’s a miracle you’re as coherent as you are.”
Sparkblade looked away briefly, his mind clouded in thought, “I remember….dying before. It hurt. Hurt a lot. It felt like everything was on fire, like my skin was melting and burning and I could feel the current in my bones, and then…everything turned into the Lightning.”
“I honestly don’t know if it will this time, Sparkblade. It’s scary. Dying, I mean.”
The pair of them were silent for a few moments, contemplating. Mind’s Eye finally spoke up, “What’s your real name? So I don;t have to keep calling you Sparkblade.”
“It was…..god, so hard to remember, everything is so fuzzy now, fuzzier every second….”
Sparkblade struggled to get the words out, like every syllable was just out of reach, “I’m….my name is….”
Mind’s Eye reassured him, “It’s okay. You can do this.”
“Lllllester. Lester, Lester James Hoffman.”
Mind’s Eye managed a smile, hidden as it was beneath his mask, "Lester. Nice name, " he extended a hand to shake, “My name’s Nathan. It’s nice to finally meet you, even if it had to be like this.”
Lester stared off into the sunset, perceiving it with his electrosense, observing the massive hyperspectral array of light and electromagnetic energy he was privy to, “I remember killing a lot of people. I remember smelling their charred flesh and laughing. Giggling, to myself, like tragedy was some kind of big joke. And I remember the rage. Rage against The Archer, The Recluse, against The Sentinels, against all of you. Everyone who tried to stop me. To stop me from doing bad things.”
“I remember too. I remember everything. Lester, I don;t know how much time you have left, you’re fading fast….”
Lester looked back to Nathan, looking him in the eyes, “Why was I a monster? Why can’t….I can’t remember. I used to love superheroes, I watched you all on TV, in comic books. I looked up to you and….”
Nathan finished his sentence after he trailed off, “…And then everything came crashing down around you. Lester…I forgive you. I can’t speak for everyone, but for what’s it’s worth, I forgive you. You were sick, you couldn’t control yourself….”
Lester slammed his fist into the building. His electrical fist phased through the brickwork, leaving a smoking hole, “WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?!”
“LESTER! It isn’t your fault! You had a disease, you were sick in the head. What you did was terrible, but you weren’t in control of yourself! And then Vanguard got a hold of you, and made you his Hand. Made you pretend to be The Archer.”
Lester’s form quivered with rage, slowly subsiding, “Something, I….I remember the lightning. The pulse, the power, the first time, way back when. Tingling on my skin. Pulsing with my heart. One big living conductor.”
Nathan’s voice cracked slightly, as tears begin to well up, ever so slightly, “Where were you when that happened?”
“The city. Always been in the city. It was the day the city went crazy, the first time. The big one. When the earth shook beneath our feet and the gutters ran red with blood and we all thought that God was punishing us for our sins….”
Nathan nodded thoughtfully, “The Riots. I remember….some, of it. I lost my brother then…”
Lester continues, completely lost in thought, going down the trail of his coherent memory, “I think….someone tried to hurt me. Someone had a knife, and I backed away, and then….The Lightning came to protect me. I touched him and he dropped, right to the ground, knife clattering. The lightning in my skin.”
“Did…no….yes? Did that happen? Something to my brain….so much electricity, bouncing around in my head….is that right? I can’t even remember anymore.”
Nathan’s Metahuman mind began to put pieces together. He forces a smile, knowing that sometimes, people need certainty. Even if it might not be the truth, “Yes. That sounds right to me.”
Nathan reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a small handheld digital audio recorder, as he felt a lump form in his throat, “Lester, I want to make sure you’re comfortable while you…while you make your transition. I know you’ve done a lot of bad things, but, if there’s anything you’d like to say before you’re gone. For posterity. I can record it. Make sure it gets…wherever it might need to go.”
Lester thought for a moment, “What could I say? What could I even say? There’s just, just so much blood on my hands, there’s nothing I could…”
Revelation struck him. Lester knew what he had to say.
“I can make at least one thing right.”
Nathan nods, turning on the recorder and setting it down between them.
Lester struggled as he tried to keep himself together long enough to get the words out that needed to be said, “My name is Llllll….Llllester. Lester James, James, Ho….Ho….”
“Hoffman. Lester James Hoffman. I was better known as Sparkblade. I was a super-villain. I was a murderer. I killed many people, and did many bad things. One thing I was not, was The Archer.”
Lester continued, his conviction pushing him even as his body and mind began to drift apart, “The Archer was a good man who did good things. He tried to stop me from killing people at every turn, trying to make sure my madness was halted. He usually succeeded. Then I….something. Something happened. Something happened, and he died, and I impersonated him. I tainted his legacy. It was an act, a guise, a ruse, designed to do just that.”
Lester looked down, seeing some of his form begin to fade away, “To anyone The Archer held dear. To his many fans, and his adoring public. To the many people that I killed, and everyone whose life was saddened and made worse by their absence. I am sorry. I don;t ask you to forgive, because that’s not something I deserve. This isn’t about helping me; I’m long past that point. I just want you to know, for the little that it is worth, from a truly repentant soul. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Lester began to repeat his last words over and over, his voice filling with clicks and electrical pops. Nathan turned off the recorder, and withdrew his psychic buffer from Lester. More of his form faded, but he snapped out of his repetition.
Lester nodded, turning and looking out at the sunset, “It’s so different with lightning in your eyes, you know. I wonder if you’ll ever see it like I can. The infrared radiation heating up the air molecules….the UV rays activating the vitamin D in your skin….”
Lester grew quiet. Nathan cleared his throat and spoke, “…If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I heard that in church, once.”
Nathan and Lester both stood. Nathan put the recorder back into his pocket, “You’ve done what you need to do. I don’t know where you’re going, or what’s going to happen to you next, but…it’s time for you to go.”
Lester nods, summoning his final strength to speak one last time, “Please don’t tell my mom. She still thinks I was a good boy….”
His electrical form sparks one final time, just as the last rays of the sun fade from view. His visage flickers briefly, an afterimage burned into Nathan’s retinas and his memories, as the stars shine down on the cloudless night. Nathan smiles a bit, “I’d like to think that, somewhere deep down, you still were….”
Mind’s Eye, alone on a rooftop. Night time in The Walled City. He turns his back to the spot where Lester once was, “Goodbye, Lester.”
Mind’s Eye’s brain raced, trying to puzzle out the truth and put everything together. Did Sparkblade’s AGM awakening really drive him crazy? Did he just absorb some stray memories of Nathan’s own awakening during the Riots? Was that really him, or just an echo of a man who died long ago?
He pushed all that down. He stopped himself from going down that road. He knew it didn’t matter who that really was. What really lay in the past. All that was, when he came upon him earlier, was another person. Someone lost and confused, scared of their own memories and of the ones they were missing. Someone who needed the common courtesy to be helped when he may have deserved none, at the end of his life. Even prisoners get last rites.
Mind’s Eye lifts his mask, the accumulated tears dripping from his face as he wipes his eyes with his sleeve. He wasn’t quite sure what he really thought about what happened next, but all the same he looked out across the horizon before re-securing his mask and leaping off into the night.
“…Go easy on him, okay?”
“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner who needed it most?” -Mark Twain