Table of Contents
ALSO BY MICHAEL CARROLL:
Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening
Quantum Prophecy: The Gathering
Quantum Prophecy: The Reckoning
A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by the Penguin Group.
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Copyright © 2010 by Michael Carroll. All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Carroll, Michael Owen, 1966-
Super human / Michael Carroll. p. cm.
Summary: A ragtag group of young superheroes takes on a powerful warrior who
is transported from 4,000 years in the past to enslave the modern world.
[1. Superheroes—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.C23497Su 2010 [Fic]—dc22 2009029965
eISBN : 978-1-101-18769-2
To the Mighty Tharg,
and all the Squaxx dek Thargo
4,493 years ago . . .
The afternoon air was thick with dust and screams, blood and war cries, flashing blades and piercing arrows. So much blood had already been spilled that in places the desert sand had turned to red mud.
Krodin had long since abandoned his shield and was now swinging a sword in each hand, the weapons almost too heavy for the average man to lift, let alone wield.
He was of average height, though well-muscled. His bronzed skin was flawless, completely lacking the battle scars and tattoos of his comrades. He kept his dark beard close-cropped, and his long, sweat-drenched hair hung loose, free to whip around his head as he fought.
He was the greatest warrior the Assyrian empire had ever seen, and today’s battle was only serving to strengthen his reputation.
A desperate Egyptian lunged at Krodin with his spear, but Krodin simply spun: The blade in his left hand severed the spear’s shaft, the tip of his right blade passed through the Egyptian’s torso.
Krodin had already sent another Egyptian to the next world before the spearman’s body had collapsed to the ground.
A quartet of swordsmen surrounded him, rushed at him with their shields raised, their weapons flailing. Krodin leaped at one of the men, ducked under his swinging sword, crashed into the man’s shield. Behind him, the Egyptian’s colleagues slammed into each other, stumbled.
It was a moment’s work to cut them down: He sliced at the knees of the first, punctured the stomachs of the second and third with a double-thrust of his swords, and slashed at the fourth with such force that the man’s feet left the ground.
Krodin’s hands and arms were thick with his enemies’ blood. He dropped both swords and took a moment to flex his fists—the knuckles cracking loud enough to be heard over the roar of the battle—and wipe his hands on a dead man’s tunic.
There was a wound on his upper right arm, a deep cut that seeped his own blood. He didn’t recall receiving it and didn’t care. It was already healing, and within the hour his skin would be as flawless as ever.
From the west came a low rumbling. Krodin didn’t waste time looking to see what had caused the sound—it was all too familiar. He snatched up two of the dead Egyptians’ shields and ducked down behind them.
Moments later the sky darkened. Like rain from Hell, ten thousand arrows fell on the battlefield, piercing friend and foe alike.
Protected behind the shields, Krodin grinned. Only a truly foolish or desperate leader would order his archers to take such action at this stage in the battle.
As the last arrows thudded into the shields, Krodin grabbed his swords and began to run.
For as far as he could see, the bodies of the dead and dying littered the sand. The air was laced with the metallic tang of blood, and filled with screams and moans and panic-filled prayers.
He leaped over bodies, skirted around shattered and burning siege vehicles, and—without slowing—slaughtered every Egyptian in his path, regardless of whether the man was fit enough to hold a weapon.
He knew that somewhere to the west the Egyptian general was watching. And he was sure that the general was praying to the war god Onuris that Krodin would be struck down before he got too close.
Another rumble, another barrage of arrows was loosed.
Krodin took shelter in the lee of a half-dead rhinoceros, tucked himself inside its bronze armor-plating. The stench of the animal was almost strong enough to block out the smell of blood, and the ground shook from its desperate, pain-filled roars.
Then the arrows fell, and the rhinoceros shuddered, bellowed one last time, and was still.
The Egyptian general would be already planning his retreat, Krodin knew. The coward would disappear across the desert and lie to his king about the success of this attack.
In terms of numbers, the Egyptians had already won. They were remarkable warriors, highly trained and well-equipped. Krodin’s own men were also excellent warriors, but the Assyrian empire had been greatly outnumbered and was unprepared for this attack—though Krodin knew that it was hardly unprovoked. It was retaliation for an earlier incursion into Egypt by the Assyrians, which in turn had been sparked by a previous event.
Krodin didn’t know for certain how many of his men had fallen, but he strongly suspected that by now almost all six thousand of them had been guided toward the short, agonizing path to the afterlife.
But Those Who Dwell Above—the gods of the other world, if they existed—would have to wait a long time before they greeted Krodin at their gates. He would not die this day.
And the Assyrian empire would not fall this day, not to the Egyptians.
He broke cover and raced for the enemy’s encampment.
A frenzied cry rose from their ranks, and their archers began to shoot at will, no longer waiting for orders.
Again, this was a good sign. Krodin grinned, and—still running—he closed his eyes.
An arrow whipped toward his face. Krodin knocked it aside with the sword in his right hand, and with his left sword he split the shaft of a thrown spear.
Less than a minute later he was too close to the Egyptian pikemen for their archers to fire.
A dozen or more pikemen rushed at him at once. Krodin ran, tensed his muscles, leaped over their heads. He spun and twisted in the air, slashing out with his swords, taking down four of the pikemen before he touched the ground.
The Egyptians came at him with swords, and he hacked at them with a speed and fury like they had never imagined.
Now desperate and mindless of their own men, the archers unleashed a thick cloud of arrows, and Krodin dodged or shattered every one.
They launched spears and tridents and nets. His flashing swords moved so fast that nothing could touch him.
An enormous, enraged, armored rhinoceros was set loose. Krodin stood his ground, waited until the beast was almost on him, then dodged to the right. His swords pierced its armor-plated headgear and the rhinoceros crashed roaring to the ground. Krodin, still holding on to the swords’ hilts, vaulted onto the beast’s back and jerked the swords free.
The Egyptian slaves—promised freedom if they could stop the Assyrian—launched themselves at him with daggers and clubs. Krodin knew that they were not warriors, neither bred nor trained to fight. They were weak, terrified, and clumsy. Even a moderately experienced fighter would be able to disarm them without issuing a single fatal wound. They did not deserve death, certainly not like this.
Still Krodin killed them all.
Then a deep, powerful voice bellowed, “Enough!”
Krodin stopped. His breathing was heavy now, his body drenched in sweat and spattered with blood.
The voice boomed out once more. “We yield, Assyrian! Enough!”
Krodin finally opened his eyes, and turned in a slow circle. The scene was much as he had pictured it in his mind. So much destruction and death that the desert floor looked like a dense field of scarlet flowers.
The remaining Egyptians encircled him, their weapons at the ready. They were out of reach of his swords, four or five men deep.
But Krodin knew that they would not attack.
Then a parting appeared in the crowd, and a tall, thin man strode through. He had coal-black hair and bronzed skin, and wore a long, spotless white tunic. There was a simple gold loop around his forehead.
“I am Imkhamun, first general of the royal guard of the palace of his sacred majesty—”
“Kneel,” Krodin said, his teeth bared. “Kneel before the might of the Assyrian empire.”
Without hesitation the Egyptian dropped to his knees, lowered his head. Then Krodin looked around at Imkhamun’s men. “Drop your weapons.”
The sound of spears and swords hitting the ground was almost deafening. Krodin pointed to one man at random, an archer. “You. Water. Now.”
The archer stumbled backward into his colleagues, then pushed through them and ran.
“Raise your right hand, Egyptian,” Krodin said to Imkhamun. “Spread your fingers.”
Trembling, the thin man did as he was told. Krodin’s sword flashed, and Imkhamun’s right thumb dropped to the ground. The Egyptian screamed and doubled over, cradling his wounded hand to his chest. A crimson blossom appeared on his tunic and grew rapidly.
The archer pushed his way through his fellows, carrying a skin of water. He slowed almost to a crawl as he approached Krodin.
Krodin snatched the skin from his hands, passed it to Imkhamun. “Drink, so that I know it is not poisoned.”
Fumbling, hindered by the loss of his right thumb and his shaking, blood-slicked hands, the Egyptian pulled the stopper from the skin, took a long drink, thin streams of water spilling from the corners of his mouth.
Krodin watched him for a moment, then, satisfied, took back the skin and sipped from it.
“You are mine,” Krodin said. “All of you. Every man in your army now belongs to Assyria. You will move through the battlefield. Scavenge the dead for weapons and supplies. Any Assyrian you find who still lives, tend his wounds. Any Egyptian too badly wounded to march, you will kill.”