Things are gonna get worse before they get better.
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The street at the head of the alley was at least a hundred feet away. He preferred not to make a dash for it until he knew the location of his enemy.
Suddenly he heard the hollow manic laugh again, but this time it was much nearer, terribly close now, and bearing down on him. Half by instinct, Chad dove aside.
A quick roll and Chad was on his feet again. He threw his arms up in a defensive stance. The weird hovercraft wheeled around a little way off from where it had shot past him. When it turned, Chad saw what he was already expecting: an eerie figure covered in black wearing a freakish white mask.
“Enough!” Chad growled. “What do you want from me?”
That chilling laugh again. “Want from you?” The voice was deep and grisly, distorted behind the mask. “We want nothing from you. You were given a chance, but you were full of scorn and simpleness! Now you are but another number among the endless count of fools full of fright stumbling through pitiful lives drenched in typical and disgusting complacency!”
Chad was more indignant than afraid, but still the macabre timbre of the voice touched his spine with a cool electricity. He clenched his jaw. A faint shade of discolor flashed across his face.
“Fear.” The blank unchanging expression of the mask was almost unnerving. “Fear is what we want. Fear is the lust of the Powerful. We are vexed by those who stand not with us, and they will learn to tremble at the doom in the sound of our footstep.”
Vexed? You feel vexed? Chad’s eyes narrowed. I’m done with this. Muscles began to bulge and spasm like living things in Chad’s legs, back, and neck as his entire body clenched. Keep talking, big guy. A pale glint ﬂickered behind his eyes.
“There is no hope for the Weak. They will never be more than helpless cattle, dying slowly and miserably.” A pause, and for a moment or two the only sound was the whirring of the strange aircraft. “It is the destiny of the Weak to be consumed by the Powerful.”
Without warning Chad sprang forward at lightning speed. In the blink of an eye he had tumbled head over heels toward his opponent and vaulted himself into the air, quick as a snake striking its prey. His skin began to change. Little shimmering ripples cascaded over him, and his appearance took on a dull grey hardness. The glider jetted forward, but Chad already had hands on his enemy. He wrenched the villain off the strange craft as he hurtled over it and smashed the white mask down against the cracked asphalt.
But something wasn’t right. He had felt it the moment he snatched his enemy out of the air. Chad’s skin returned to its natural hue and texture as he rolled the black body over and ripped off its mask. It was a mannequin.
Chad whirled around. A dark ﬂying object struck him in the head and knocked him back. The thing didn’t fall away, but fastened itself to his temple as he reeled. Chad clawed at it in vain. He could feel the blood rushing to his head as veins swelled around the strange object. For a brief moment, Chad’s arms went hard and green. Then he sank slowly to the ground and lost all consciousness.