to start at the beginning. The first heroine to go missing, a woman
by the name of Anri, had been on a mission to investigate this warehouse
in Skyway City. He dropped to the ground in front of the building
and found the door unlocked.
"Strange", he thought as he entered the
facility. The place was indeed empty, although there were some signs
of recent activity and a considerable amount of graffiti on the walls.
He went through the building quickly and found nothing. The hero Crimson
had sent earlier was right - there was nothing here, except some empty
crates and now some dust that had settled over the preceding month.
But still, something didn’t feel right. Tropic went through the place
again, looking closer at walls and floors, corners and crannies. Passing
by a dead-end corridor in the rear of the warehouse he stopped and
looked again. Something was off. He could almost feel it, touch it.
He stood staring at the wall and then the floor. Suddenly it hit him.
There were tracks on the floor, tire tracks, made by a pallet jack
or perhaps a fork lift. But the odd thing was that they went right
up to the wall. There was no accounting for the load that was carried
or even a bumper on the forklift. The tracks looked, for all intents
and purposes, as if they went straight through. Tropic examined the
wall closely. Then the side walls of the corridor.
He frowned. A slight
depression was in the wall of the hallway right next to the dead end.
Tropic placed his palm against it and pushed. A rumbling started and
the back wall rose up revealing an entire new section of the warehouse.
He cursed to himself. The other hero had missed this completely. Those
missing girls might have been found by now if it weren’t for that.
Tropic sighed and stepped forward and began to search this new section.
It was much the same as the first part of the warehouse. Empty, dusty
and full of crates that revealed nothing. However there was an office
in this part of the building and Tropic focused his search there.
The office was a typical small warehouse office, maybe ten by ten
feet. There was a desk, two file cabinets, a couple of chairs and
a painting on the wall of a fishing village of the 1920’s. Tropic
began his search at the desk and found exactly what he expected to
find: nothing. The two file cabinets yielded nothing but empty hanging
file folders. He examined the painting on the wall. He found nothing
on it, in it or around it and there was no wall safe hidden behind
"Wouldn’t get that lucky", he thought to himself. He sighed and
looked around the small office once more. Then he saw it, the edge
of a piece of paper, it’s corner peeking out from under the desk.
He bent to pick it up and saw it was the page of a desk calendar dated
a week ago. "When the last heroine went missing.", he whispered.
was nothing on the paper except a name. Al-Salim Kabir Asam. Tropic
grinned slightly. Something, not much, but something.
Then he heard
a door open and shut and raised voices and cackling laughter. He spun
around and willed himself invisible. Tropic smiled. Someone had come
into the warehouse. And Someone was going to answer some questions.
Still invisible, Tropic flew towards the entrance of the warehouse.
Alighting silently atop a stack of crates he stared downwards at the
new arrivals. Five Freakshow gang members had entered the building
as if they owned it. A couple of Freak choppers, a Juicer, a Stunner
and a Tank Smasher whom Tropic had dealt with before named Nik-Nak.
They stalked casually towards the back of the warehouse right past
and directly under the hero.
Tropic gathered his energy and, becoming
fully visible again, launched a bolt of pure flame directly into Nik-Nak’s
back. The tank staggered forward and nearly fell. The other Freak’s
looked back towards their attacker. "It’s Tropic!", screamed one of
the choppers. The Juicer and Stunner took to the air firing energy
bolts at the hero.
Tropic leapt from the crates landing in front of
the two choppers. A fire ball engulfed the both of them quickly followed
by a blast of fire that put them down. Having dealt with the choppers
he quickly fired another blast at the tank adding to the confusion.
The two flying Freaks were hovering overhead still blasting away at
him. Tropic jumped up on one of the crates and launched himself towards
them. Suddenly a sword of pure flame manifested itself in his hand.
He swung in a wide circle and caught both of them in its fiery arc.
He landed cat-like as the Juicer and Stunner fell dazed at his feet.
Tropic rolled forward just as the Tank’s hammer swung over his head.
"Gonna get you, Tropic!!", Nik-Nak giggled as he pursued the hero.
The hammer, attached where his hand used to be, swung back and forth
as the Tank tried desperately to connect. Tropic jumped and rolled,
turning back to fire blast and bolt at the Freak boss. He connected
a few times but it barely slowed his foe down.
Tropic turned and ran
directly at Nik-Nak. At the last moment he leapt up and somersaulted
over the top of the Tank. When he landed he gathered his power and
shot a powerful blaze into the Freak. Nik-Nak stumbled but still came
on. Tropic fired another bolt into him and the boss slowed even more,
wavering on his feet. Tropic rushed forward, fired another blast and
the sword appeared again, swiping forward and catching the Tank in
it’s devastating power. Nik-Nak wobbled, said "Dammit" and fell at
the hero’s feet.
Tropic sighed heavily and fell backward onto a crate,
taking a moment to rest. "Well", he said to himself, "that was no
fun." Through the course of the chase he had led Nik-Nak back to the
other Freaks he had defeated. They lay groggily about him and, before
they fully awakened, Tropic encircled each of them in a ring of fire.
The Freaks slowly became aware of their predicament. They stood warily
in the center of the fire and looked angrily at the hero.
a menacing smile and said, "Let’s talk."
Nik-Nak sneered back at the
hero. "We got nothin to say to you, Gooder."
The other Freaks murmured
in agreement, taunting Tropic with threats and curses. Tropic raised
his hand and began to close it as if to make a fist. As he did so
the fire rings surrounding the thugs grew smaller, starting to lick
at the feet of the trapped criminals. They yowled in protest and Tropic
relaxed his grip. The rings widened slightly again.
"This is the deal.",
Tropic said, looking at each Freak individually before continuing.
"I don’t care what you’re doing here. Don’t care what you’ve done.
I need information." He looked at them all again. "You talk, you walk.
Don’t talk and I hear there’s plenty of room in the Zig. Simple as
The choppers, Stunner and Juicer looked at each other. Nik-Nak,
for his part, took the hard line. "You must be crazy, Cape! We ain’t
telling you jack!" He looked to his men for approval. His men looked
at him with less conviction.
"Fine." Tropic made a show of taking
out his communicator. With great flourish he proceeded to call the
Before his finger could hit the number pad one of the choppers
shouted out, "WAIT!".
"Shut Up!", Nik-Nak yelled.
"No way!", the chopper
said angrily. "I’m a three time looser! Next time I get popped its
fifteen hard. I ain’t gonna do that time!"
"I just got out!", said
"Me too!", the Stunner added.
"And I ain’t goin back!",
said the other chopper.
"OK", Tropic smiled, "Talk and walk. What’s
been going on here in the last couple of weeks that’s been…out of
the ordinary?" He crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
guys just shut up!", Nik-Nak yelled.
Tropic pointed his finger directly
at Nik-Nak. It’s tip glowed white hot. "You. Quiet."
He turned to
the other Freaks and waited expectantly for their story.
One of the
choppers cleared his throat and looked around at his friends. His
gaze fell upon Nik-Nak, who stood glaring at them. He turned from
the Tank, looked towards Tropic and then down at his feet. "It was
maybe a week, week and a half ago," he began. "Me and Rakit here",
he gestured at the other chopper, "was coming back from something
late and we passed by here. It was like two or three in the morning
and this place was lit up like Times Square. We decided to see what
was goin’ on so’s we snuck in the back."
Rakit nodded in agreement
and took over the telling. "There was this semi trailer, you know,
a eighteen-wheeler, and it had all these guys swarming around it.
They was all dressed in black and some of ’em had this glowing thing
on their backs. There were some cowboys telling’ ’em what to do and
they were loading these big tubes onto the trailer."
forward. "What kind of tubes?"
"I dunno, regular tubes." Rakit said.
"Big, um…people sized. They was black wit silver stripes on ’em. They
just loaded up and drove away. And then a bunch a vans followed the
truck." He paused and looked at Tropic. "That’s it."
The two choppers
nodded and looked at each other. They turned to their friends who
had more skeptical looks on their faces.
"Let me see if I have this
straight.", Tropic smiled. "Some cowboys were telling a bunch of glowing
guys dressed in black to load people sized tubes into an eighteen-wheeler
and then got into some vans and drove away."
The silence that hung
in the air was deafening. When the story was said out loud like that,
it sounded ridiculous. The two choppers nodded vigorously. The Stunner
and Juicer looked at each other and then at the choppers with doubting
expressions. Nik-Nak smirked at the idiot tale.
"Man, that’s kind
of thin.", the Juicer said shaking his head.
"Well, the truth usually
is.", Tropic nodded.
Nik-Nak’s jaw dropped in disbelief. "What?!?
You believe them?"
"Yes, I do." Tropic waved his hand and the fire
rings disappeared from around the four Freakshow goons. "Walk", he
said simply, and then called out to the backs of the fleeing gang
members, "And try to be good!".
He turned to the Tank who was still
surrounded by the ring of fire. Nik-Nak waited expectantly. "Well,
Cape? You gonna let me go or turn me in?", he stood defiantly in the
center of the flames.
Tropic smiled. "Nothing I can really turn you
in for, is there?"
"What!? You said the Zig…"
"I lied. You guys didn’t
do anything that I saw.", Tropic turned and began to walk away. "And
those flames will snuff out in a couple of minutes…or maybe an hour.
I can never tell." He left the warehouse serenaded by the curses and
threats of the Freakshow leader.
He now knew that the Malta Group
was behind the super heroine disappearances. The chopper’s description
of cowboys and glowing men could only be Gunslingers and Sappers.
And the people sized tubes were canisters containing the lost heroines.
He touched the calendar page stored in his belt. Time to get the name
on it and the rest of this information to Crimson. Tropic jumped into
the sky and streaked towards Peregrine Island.
She felt her feet sliding across the floor, felt the rough hands gripping
her arms and under her shoulders and knew she was being dragged. She
had been in something round and close and dark but could do nothing.
It was as though the thickest fog in Dark Astoria had crawled into
her head and surrounded her body. She heard voices but couldn’t understand
them and had lost all sense of place and time.
She was dragged for
a long time it seemed and was beginning to get some feeling back into
her befuddled mind. War Witch started to move her head a bit, her
green and blue striped hair flipping from side to side, and was able
to finally see some of where she was.
A long corridor with rounded
walls and ceilings. It looked like a Portal Corp lab but the men holding
her were far from scientists. Dressed in black and all carrying weapons
of some type they continued pulling her until they reached a barred
It looked to her like a prison cell and as the door clanked
open they pulled her inside. War Witch started to move her head slightly
again and mumble, becoming more difficult as she gained some feeling
back in her arms and legs.
"She’s starting to wake up.", one of the
men said matter-of-factly.
"Don’t worry.", another voice answered.
"She’s still so out of it she ain’t gonna be no trouble."
the hands on her clutch at her costume. War Witch heard the rip as
it was torn away from her and her athletic body exposed to the leers
of her captors. She couldn’t fight or even cover herself in her dazed
state. She tried to move her arms and shake her head but moving was
so hard. She mumbled "No! Stop!" but was barely coherent.
laughed and she felt something draped over her. It was some type of
shift made of linen, white and resembled a potato sack with holes
cut in it for her head and arms.
Then she felt something on her wrists
and heard a metallic scraping and knew they were chaining her. War
Witch screamed at herself to fight. She felt her coven about her but
they were just beyond her fingertips, too far away to help. And then
that smell again. And the voice.
And she curled up on the cold metal
floor…asleep and bound.