The Woops factor



Jenkins ran out of her study, maybe she would get there in time, just maybe it wasn't too late. She sprinted as fast as her fifty-three years old legs permitted, rushing down the stone stairs, shovelling everything out of her way. Coming out of a side alley, she reached the center of the magic city out of breath. She grimaced at the sight. Whoever had taken the place of Turbo Starr had paid a dear price. The Behemoth Fire Lord had burnt the entire body, broken bones at odd angles, he had followed orders. What was pinned to the X, was a charred, misshapen, groaning and wailing human wreckage. She would never know who this man was.



Taking a step back, holding her forehead, she thought about the consequences. True, whoever that was, held enough to power for the transference. true also, that her Master didn't need to know that they didn't get their hands on the famous leader, and that by making this mistake, it might just be possible that the Apocalypse people would not come looking for him. She came to stand before the tortured man, reaching with a hand to press a finger on his thigh. The skin felt like cooked chicken, and the impostor only could grunt. Who was that man, that he didn't say anything when the chips were down. What could have motivated him to withhold such an information. If she would've been in his shoes, she would have screamed to the world that it was a case of mistaken identity, would have convinced them with solid proof. But he, he didn't say a word. Was it possible that he didn't know? Or that, much like herself, he obeyed orders in such a way, that if he failed, he died?



"Prepare him for the ritual." She says to the life mage who had kept him alive.



"It will be done. What about the young ones?" Asked the mage to Jenkins



"Let the ghosts flesh them, then prepare them for sacrifice. The extra power it will give us during the casting of the spell will be appreciated." Jenkins waved their fate like swatting a fly. Annoyed, bothered and very much scared that her Master might find out the truth, she walked back briskly towards her study. The Master couldn't find out, it was as simple at that.



Entering her study, she found the mage that had analysed the blood sample still there, waiting for her biding, as always. She walked towards the library, as if to reach for a book, which placed her right behind her servant. In a swift motion, she turned around, drew a curved cursed blade, and slid the throat of her man servant. He died silently, trying to hold in the blood that was flowing freely out of the wound. She wiped the blade on his robe, then drew a small red pouch from her desk. Walking towards the body, she opened it, poured some dust on the inert man. Within a few seconds, the body started to vanish, to turn to dust. After a few minutes, all that was left of her most trusted servant, was a pile of dust that she quickly scattered over the floor.



"No one will know..." She whispered to herself.





Bear Cat had followed her all the way into Crey's Folly, almost to the entrance of the Ritki Crash Site. He had watched the Crey sniper shoot and injure two heroes during the last eight hours, and couldn't help but wonder why the elite shooter hadn't changed location after the first shot. It was a standard military reaction and tactic of snipers to move themselves after each shot, so as to make them difficult to be spotted. The sniper made her way through the Freaks town undisturbed, some did see her, but let her pass safely and without challenge. Which, in itself, was even more disturbing, Freaks were well known to rob from anyone that came within their reach. But not here, not today.



The Crey sniper came to a alt in front of a run down factory. Windows were broken, roof had caved in at one of its end, most doors were lying on the ground. She must have taken a small portable radio of some sort, because a few moments later, a man came out of the building, nodded to her, took the rifle from her hands, and headed out into the territory, most likely, to assume a firing position. This was very odd, to say the least. Bear knew when he saw something fishy, and this qualified. He stayed there, hidden in the shadows, not moving only waiting, for almost an hour.



Quietly and swiftly, he jumped through the opening in the roof, wide enough to let in an helicopter, and landed in the middle part of the old factory. Rusted machines and debris completed the decor. He went to position himself by an old truck, slanting on its side, and looked around himself. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Trying to discern footprints from the agents on the ground, he noticed they vanished about halfway across the factory floor. Could it be? He asked himself, was this factory built the same way as the one the Hunters used for HQ?



Stepping outside, he searched the ground for the telltale unused sewer hole. He found it, almost in the same place it would've been in Kings Row. Bear Cat then jumped away from the building, removing himself from the perimeter of the building. The next few hours, he spent locating the four snipers that were protecting the area. After assembling all the information he needed, he headed back towards HQ, tonight, the Hunters would hunt.





Price check on a soul…





The crescendo of voices reached its peak, Jenkins had been reciting the intricate words of the ancient spell without a fault, all was coming to an end. Before her, laid on a rectangle rock made to receive a sacrifice, laid the body of the unknown man, which had passed for Turbo Starr up until recently. In her right hand, she held an incense burner hanging from a chain, in her left hand, the Shard of the Soul. That last was the only remaining crystal of the Dark Age library of Orebanga. With it, and the proper spell, she could transfer the soul essence of a vessel into another vessel, which, in this case, would be the dark matter that laid in the tar pit of Orebanga. The tar pit conscience was pure evil, unable to take shape in any form, it was the idea of hate, the fuel of all evil, assembled in a black river that laid around the city itself. From it, would rise the dark champion that had been prophesized in the scriptures, and through it, the Circle of Thorns would once more reign supreme on Earth.



She raised the sharp, green long crystal over her head, as if it were a knife, finishing the last sentence of the spell, she plunged it into the heart of the helpless, blind and unable to flee, impostor. His body jerked, a long moan escaped from the tongueless mouth, anger and despair mingled in it. Then, all life escaped the man, and all voices stopped reciting the rhythmic chorus of the spell, all was silent. Jenkins looked on in anguish, looked for a sign that all was going according to plan. From the river, slowly rose a dark, viscous human shape, tall, strong and not holding yet any features. A fearsome scream escaped it, and some of the acolytes present took a step back, as if to ward themselves from the danger coming. Jenkins watched in awe as the dark matter being started to walk towards the altar of sacrifice.



"The sword, fool, give me the sword..." Said Jenkins to an acolyte standing outside the ritual circle. He handed her a long sword, sheathed in a plain red sheath, the hilt of it being silver and black leather at the handle. Nothing about it could discern it from any other sword, except that it wasn't earthly forged. The dark being put a viscous hand on the hilt, pulled the sword, slowly, from it. The blade came out with a soft sound, it was ebon dark, with red magic signs running from the bottom to its tip. When the sword was finally fully out, the beast raised it above its head and roared. Features had appeared on the being, those of a handsome man, very tall, very muscular, dark hair, dark beard and glowing red eyes.



"I am Ghost Starr." It screamed in a thunderous voice that could be heard far across the city. And in response, came the vociferous clamour of an entire army, ready for battle.





Where is everyone, thought to himself Bear Cat. He had just made it back to HQ, in Kings Row, and upon entering the underground factory, not even the support staff could be found. He walked around the empty corridors, looking for anyone left in the building. His search brought him to the infirmary, where he found the doctor, sitting at her desk, reading papers and sipping tea.



"Doctor, where is everyone?" Asked the quiet leader.



"Gone... Keeping a Riders of Apocalypse prisoner, namely O-Lan, had everyone talking, Bear. They were afraid that the Riders would come looking for her, the union representative said they would come back to work once the situation had quieted down." The doctor looked at Bear Cat with a raised eyebrow, wondering what his reaction would be. He remained still, introspective.



"How's the kid?" He asked about Shadow-Step.



"Fine, he's sleeping it off, should be alive and kicking in the morning. The technicians looked over his transponder, and it's not emitting any signals, here's the report they left for you." She handed over the papers she had just been reading. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going home, my cat must be missing me." She then got up and headed for the main hallway, that would lead to the outside world through the secret sewers exit.



"Bear wish the doctor good night. He sat at her desk to read the technical file on the transponder unit. Everything about the little locating device implanted in Shadow-Step's shoulder was familiar, very familiar. The frequency wave, the numbers, the assembly. Yes, someone was using the very same technology that allowed Firebase Zulu to become a prison for Voyager, someone was sending heroes to die out there. With such a device implanted, no one could get close to the shield without the base knowing it. It prevented re-entry into our world, and it allowed careful monitoring of life signs and powers. Why was Shadow-Step equipped with it?



He got up and headed for his office, footstep resonating across the floor. Stopping in front of the boiler room, he remembered they had locked in O-Lan in there. He stood in front of the door, wondering if the simplest solution wasn't the best, in her case, set her free and hope she doesn't squeal. He opened the door to find her, still sitting in her cage. When she saw him standing there, on top of the short stairwell, looking at her, her face became flushed. She stood up and came to stand close to the thick metal bars, grabbing them in her hands.



"I am hungry!" She yelled at him while shaking the cage like an angry animal.



"They... They haven't fed you yet?!" Bear was taken aback here. No one left on the base grounds, who would cook for O-Lan? Granted, he had the skills needed to perform dangerous and perilous missions, never backed down from a fight, but, picturing himself attempting to make a tuna fish sandwich for a hungry prisoner, was beyond his expertise.



"You big loaf of a..." Bear closed the door on her, as if shutting her out. He walked briskly away from the boiler room. He would leave a note to the doctor to feed the scrapper, when she got back in the morning. No way in hell was he gonna throw a cooking apron over his battle suit, to fix lunch for her. A man, and especially him, has his pride.



He stopped by his room, to dump the technical file on his desk. Then went on to the supply room, where he gathered some things he would need to raid the Crey base in Crey's Folly. Smoke grenades, stun grenades, rope, night vision goggles, battle harness and his most favourite toy in the whole world, the taser gun. Turning to look on the weapons wall, he wondered about the wisdom of bringing a gun. Looking at the hand pistols, he decided against them, he wasn't such a good shot with small weapons. He pondered upon borrowing a blaster rifle, those guns had everything to level a city block, probably even including a setting to shoot down satellites in orbit. But, last time he attempted to use one of these, the ordinance sergeant had ended up in the infirmary with a bullet in the foot. Besides, guns were too primitive, they lacked class and honour.



But a big nasty, spiky and rusty war mace, now there was a weapon. Medieval weapons were very short range, unless you could throw them at your target, which he could. The wall had a profusion of them, swords, knives, shields, maces, bows and hammers. He brushed his hand on a few maces, imagining the stunned look on the bad guys, as they would see a big, tall and angry guy coming down on them with a mace. A wicked smile started to make its appearance on his face. Yes, life was sweet at times.



His eyes stopped on a war hammer. It looked vaguely familiar to him, had he used it before? He took it down from the wall mount to weight the weapon. Two-handed with a long hilt, its head being flat on one side, sharp and curved on the other, well balanced and light enough for him to use it with one hand if needed. He liked this weapon right away, even tough rust covered it, the old hammer felt good to hold.



Strapping the battle harness and affixing the grenades and trinkets he had chosen, Bear Cat took the hammer by the middle of the hilt, and carried it like a musician would carry their guitars, by his side. He headed for the main hall, tonight he would perform a true symphony, a rock’n roll concert, he thought to himself, a rugged smile that he was unable to contain still present on his face.
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