As the University of Arayton Lions were gearing up for their football game, they were listening to the radio in the locker room. Mark heard the report say that four people had died in another shooting in Arayton, California.
"So what's this month's count up to?" asked Gary the quarterback.
"I think it's at 37 now. And it is only February," replied Mark. "There aren't enough police in this city. But there sure as hell is a lot of criminals."
"Shut that radio off Carlson," said the coach walking into the locker room turning off the box. "Ok team. We lost more people tonight. Now that doesn't mean we are going to lose this game. Now let's go out there and show Arayton that their Lions show no fear. Let me here you roar!"
"ROAR!!" the locker room yelled as they ran out of the locker room and on to the field. The team went to the side lines and waited for the game to start.
Up in the stands were Jason and Ray Dockings. Two fun brothers. Ray studying to be an engineer and Jason studying art. They held up giant signs with the number 52 on them, Mark's jersey number.
"Mark has gotten more touchdowns then any other tight ends I have seen," said Jason.
"I wonder how many he will get tonight bro," laughed Ray. "Go Dime!"
The end score for the game was 32-12. Lions win again. Mark and his teammates were loving the repeated victories. The team lifted Mark onto their shoulders.
"Let's here it for Dime everyone!" the coach exclaimed following the team into the locker room. "Undefeated team since he joined. The New 52 on fire! I have never seen anyone who is able to push down every defensive player will running the ball for an 89 yard touchdown. How do you do it?"
"18 years of martial arts, 8 years of football, 2 years of Parkour, and 22 years of awesomeness!" yelled Mark.
"That is why everyone knows your name in this city!" said Gary setting Mark down.
"Now, if you don't mind guys," he said picking up his sports bag ", I'm going home to play some Xbox."
He walked out of the locker room as everyone cheered. He was greeted by Jason and Ray. They took their cardboard signs and started pretending to cheer.
"Woo! Dime is the greatest Tight End in the world. He is faster than an Amtrak, stronger than a Kevlar suit, and can leap grown men in a single hop, he's Mark. Ah eh oh," said Ray waving his arms around as crazy as possible.
"Ok guys. I get enough pampering in the locker room give me a break out here. Let's just go home and play some Arkham City please," said Mark laughing.
The three of them walked a couple blocks till they came to a small apartment building. They walked up stairs to a third floor and went inside. Mark jumped onto the couch and sprawled out.
"I can't believe I'm not tired at all. I ran that ball more than the running back. But then again, no defense player can touch me. Now somebody hand me the controller so that I can make Nightwing do my bidding," said Mark said as Jason handed him the controller while he went to grab a beer from the fridge.
Mark jumped right into the game taking control of his favorite comic book character.
"You want to know why Nightwing is the best?" asked Mark
"No," said Jason taking a drink.
"He has no powers.." started Mark.
"So does Batman," said Ray.
"He doesn't have any wealth..."
"Neither does Punisher," interrupted Jason.
"And he uses batons. Throughout a my years of martial artist, the one weapon I completely mastered was the baton.."
"We have heard this story a hundred time Dime," snapped Ray.
"Every move that Nightwing can do, I could do. I'm just like him," said Mark.
"Except you are muscular, live in an apartment with two other guys, and you are real," said Jason.
"What? You think you can become the next Robin, Mark?" asked Ray.
"Damn guys. It's fun to pretend. Come on. When we were kids we pretended we were all superheroes. We would play Kid Avengers at recess. Remember that?" asked Mark.
"Yeah, you were Hawkeye. I was Nick Fury. And Ray was always Iron Man," responded Jason.
"That's because I've wanted to be an engineer since I was young. But Mark, we all have to grow up sooner or later. We learn that life isn't all about swinging around pretending to be a hero. We have to study and make a career for ourselves," said Ray.
"You guys have lost your imagination. It's sad. You know what? I'm going to come off Xbox. Good night guys," said Mark leaving the room after turning the game off.
The next day the guys went to mall for a fun day. The only problem was that Mark kept getting spotted and everyone was wanting to talk to him.
"Hey Mark! Do you have time for an interview with Arayton Record?" asked a reporter following them into the mall.
"Sorry. Not today. Today I relax with my buddies," said Mark. He looked back at his friends and put his sunglasses on. "I know that we're shades indoors makes me look like a douch, but I need to protect my identity."
"Sure it does Dick," laughed Jason.
"So now we are back on the whole Nightwing debate again?" joked Mark.
They walked over to the food court and got some Hot Dog on a Stick. They walked over to table and sat down. There was an extra seat open at the table. One of the UOA cheerleaders, Stephanie, came and sat down next to them.
"Hey guys. What's up?" she asked them.
"I know you recognized me through my disguise," said Mark playfully trying to hide the rest of his face with his arms.
"Haha Mark. Did you hear that NCAA is considering putting UAO in their next game because of how amazing Mark is?" said Stephanie.
"Really?" Ray asked after taking a bit of his corn dog.
"Yeah, turns out they have been really impressed with how he plays. They might even put him on the cover," said Stephanie taking a sip of her soda.
"Wait, does the Madden curse happen the same for the NCAA games?" Mark asked confused.
"Does it matter? Nobody can touch you on that field anyways," said Stephanie rubbing his arm.
"Ok then. I am excited to be an the cover," said Mark standing up taking his sunglasses off.
"Oh my gosh. Is that Mark Dime?" said a voice in the food court.
"It is!" replied another.
"Sorry Stephanie we got to blitz now," Mark said putting his sunglasses back on.
Ray and Jason jumped up from the table. This had happened a couple times before. They ran down a wing of the mall with lots of stores on both sides of them. Mark had run this mall enough times to know all the shortcuts in it. They could here all the footsteps behind them. Mark ducked between two stores and went into a door between it, Jason and Ray were trying to keep up. The narrow hallway turned left. Mark stepped on the wall to right to launch him left. They kept going until they came to a door that said EXIT. They walked through it. It was bright outside. But they had escaped another horde.
"Damn Mark. You need to remember, not everybody is as fast as you. If we hadn't had ran that course multiple times, we would have lost you," said Ray.
"Thanks guys," Mark said leaning up against the wall. "Can you believe that NCAA wants me on the next cover?"
"That's amazing dude. You are the most skilled football player I have ever seen," said Jason.
The three guys walked down the alley behind the mall to try and remember how to get out from their secret passage. They had only gone this way a few times and now seem to be getting lost. Suddenly a man in a large trench coat cornered them in the alley. The man pulled out a gun.
"Ok guys. I don't want to hurt any of you. So all I want you to do is turn around, look at the wall behind you, set all your possessions on the ground, and I will be on my way," the man said.
Their hearts were racing they act tough, but you put a gun in a situation, and the toughest sometimes become the weakest. The three of them turned and faced the wall. There was a broken pipe hanging at eye level near where Mark was standing. He took out his wallet, iPod, phone, and set them on the ground at his feat. The others did the same. The robber kept his gun pointed at them the whole time. Mark watched the robber the whole time in the pipes reflection. The robbed grabbed Mark's stuff first. Then he grabbed Ray's. Then the robber was farthest away from Mark, picking up Jason's possessions.
It was now or never. Mark jumped at the wall grabbing the pipe with his right hand. He leaped over Ray and knocked the gun out of the robber's hand. The robber jumped to the ground to grab his gun back. He picked it back up and aimed it at Mark. Mark swung the pipe at the robber's head. The robber lost control of himself. He fell the ground while pulling the trigger. The gunshot echoed throughout the alleyway. The man was now knocked unconscious on the ground.
The bullet completely missed Mark, but it perfectly hit Jason. The bullet had hit Jason right in the chest.
"Shit!" yelled Mark. "I'm so sorry Jason. I tried to get the gun out of his hands."
"It's fine. If you hadn't have stopped him. He would have killed all of us. Nightwing would be proud of your deeds today," said Jason leaning up against the wall smiling.
"But we can get you out of here. We can get you to a hospital," said Ray holding onto him.
"Don't freak out guys. The bullet is two inches away from my heart. There is no way we can get to a hospital in time. Just let me rest today. Don't let it be in vain," Jason said closing his eyes and leaning up against the wall.
"Come on Jason. This isn't funny. We need to save you," said trying to get Jason to wake back up. Jason didn't budge. "Come on dude! We have to go!"
Jason's body was unresponsive. Ray tried to pick up the limp body. "I don't even feel a pulse on him Mark," said Ray. "My brother is dead."
Mark picked grabbed his phone from the trench coat pocket it was put in.
"Hello, 911. There has been a shooting in a back alley behind the mall. One dead. The shooter has been subdued and is unconscious now. Ease be here fast. Thank you very much," said Mark as he hung up. "They are on their way. They have a small station near the mall for such events. Tells you bad this city really is."
"What do you think he meant by 'don't let it be in vain'?" asked Ray. "We already caught his killer."
"I think he means that he is also tired of all the deaths in Arayton. The cops don't do shit about it. A killer gets arrested, put in jail, and back to murdering a week later. No wonder this town it rated worst to live in," said Mark plunging the pipe into the brick wall.
"Someone needs to stop these criminals before the entire good population of Arayton is dead," said Ray.
"Fine. I'll do it. More than anyone else. I'm tired of this shit. I'm tired of all these deaths. All these criminals. I'm fired of this city!" yelled Mark.
"So what? You going to become a cop?" asked Ray.
"Cops don't get shit done Ray! I need to be more than that," Mark yelled kicking a hole in the wall.
"You can't just become a real life Nightwing dude," joked Ray.
"Why not? There are all these real life super heroes in the world. Yet nobody knows about them. They have teams all over New York to California," snapped Mark.
"Your body has pretty much been trained to be a superhero since you were four. You have mastered Escrima. But couldn't you get sued by DC if you start running around calling yourself Nightwing and wearing similar clothes?" asked Ray.
"Of course not. I will be take a different name. A different identity," said Mark pacing around.
"Then what will you call yourself?"
"In my martial arts class, I was nicknamed The Cudgel King because of my skills with Escrima. Since most people don't know the cudgel means baton, I will just call myself Cudgel."
"That's all fine and dandy, but how are you going to do what you are hoping? You don't have Batman's utility belt."
"No, but I have a friend majoring in engineering who wants to be the designer of CIA special devices."
"Funny how that works out. What should I go by?"
"How about Analog? You are amazing with software and engineering. It would be perfect."
Ray looked down at his dead brother ", I'm in."
Just then the police came down the alleyway.