“She will be a work of art, once we are done with her.” Dr. Wepp walked slowly from the entrance of his office, towards the tanks, careful to avoid some wires laid on the ground. His hawk like features were old, but his mind was clear and sharp. He enjoyed this moment tremendously, the power of it, the sheer helplessness of the heroes. Many long years had he dream that he would someday, hold the high ground against the city’s finest, and it had come. Proud Cavalier and his friends had lost a battle, maybe not the war, but a battle nonetheless. Struggling to stand, hands shackled behind his back, Voyager finally stood up on the gravity platform carrying the team, fiery red eyes looking straight at Wepp, his former tormentor.
“And you will be a bloody pulp, once we are done with you.”
“Come now, Mr. Bane, no harm will come to me if I loose. I might be arrested, but anything beyond that would qualify your actions as unbecoming of a hero.” Wepp paused, then went on: “Although, you don’t qualify as a hero anymore, do you?” He cackled a quick laugh at that, and motioned for two guards to grab hold of the helpless controller.
“Bring him down to the sewers and kill him.”
Sun Heat screamed outrage as they dragged Voyager away, the others followed suite, but there was no helping it. The old controller struggled against the guards, kicked and screamed, nonetheless the trio disappeared up the ramp.
“Settle down heroes, or more will follow. You have been caught on private property, and according to civil rights, Crey Industries is allowed to shoot trespassers on sight. Did you really think we did foresee this day, that we would simply surrender and throw ourselves to the mercy of Apocalypse?” Wepp came to stand in front of Cavalier, kneeling on the platform, and held his bloody chin in his hand. The famous scrapper spat for scientist’s face and missed, landing the spit on his tailor made suit’s shoulder.
“We won’t arrest you, Wepp. This I promise.” He said through clenched teeth.
“Wepp, be very careful what you do here. Apocalypse will retaliate in kind in the end. You cannot win.” Moon Psyche was calm, composed and relaxed.
“Win? Win implies we are playing a game, and we are not. Crey Industries is the only frontline this city can turn to, when your kind becomes volatile, when innocents lives become pawns in your all too powerful battles. Has it ever occurred to you, that many an innocent victim fell unnoticed, many lives are destroyed as we speak, while entire city blocks collapse to the ground?” Wepp pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket, and brushed Cavalier’s spit away from his suit.
In the distance, two dry gunshots were heard. Sun Heat let out a long wail of despair, tears rolling down her cheek, as she pictured Voyager’s last few moments on earth. Cavalier’s reaction was much worst. His friend had been killed without mercy. His entire body reacted, as he propelled himself, hands tied behind his back, to tackle down Wepp in one motion. His attempt succeeded, the two of them landed on the floor, but soon after, several guards had started to clobber him senseless with batons. Wepp stood up and recomposed his stature a few feet away, watching his henchmen beat the squared jaw scrapper within an inch of his life. Several times, bones were heard breaking from the force of the blows. With one motion, he stopped them.
“Put him in cell number three.” The guards grabbed the unconscious scrapper, and dragged him away towards the far end of the room, where they vanished through a door.
“Does anyone else feel like they should resist?” Wepp smiled as a few guards took a step forward, awaiting his word to hurt the helpless heroes.
“I do.” Spoke calmly Moon Psyche, standing up and defiantly staring down Dr. Wepp.
Wepp looked at him, knowing full well what the Leader of Apocalypse was doing.
“So be it.” The scientist nodded in the guards’ direction, and they executed themselves promptly. For several seconds, they went at it, Moon used all of his willpower not to give in, but alas, there is so much violence a body can endure before knees buckle and presence of mind fails. Sun Heat screamed and pleaded for them to stop, they didn’t. Not until Moon’s limp body had suffered several hits, not until Wepp motioned for the assault to end.
“Heroes… Always reacting the way you expect. Who’s next?” The Crey scientist was taking no pleasure in this, and whether the heroes were in a pristine condition or not, would not modify the results of the upcoming experiment. A shame, truly, about Mr. Bane. Wepp would’ve enjoyed taking live sampling from this experiment, the autopsy would have to do.
“You offered me a job once, I’d like to accept it now.” Sun Heat and Frank Winter’s heads snapped around and stared directly at Bear Cat, anger and resentment burning deep.
“I’m afraid it’s too late Mr. Bunny. Besides, I have something special in store for a man of your talents, something I will enjoy tremendously watching.” Wepp spoke these last with a certain hunger in the voice, much like a drug addict would, when talking about drugs.
“Well, in that case, do I still have the option to resist?”
“No, not you. You have something special to attend to later on tonight, and I would not like to think you were not fully ready for this… Experiment.”
Bear Cat swallowed hard, a trickle of sweat rolling down between his shoulder blades. Were he free to act, he could have easily broken the scientist’s neck like a twig. Then again, his past experience with the man had thought him that Wepp, always came prepared to a meeting.
“I don’t do windows Wepp.” He managed to retort.
Wepp smiled ruefully at the bravado. He should’ve hired this man the first time they met, a few sessions of thought conditioning would have made him a prime asset.
“No, Mr. Bunny, windows will not require cleaning.” He waved a hand towards Ghost Starr and said : “When we captured this magnificent specimen, he was accompanied by a beast, and so far analysis has shown some results to be off the charts. We need to quantify the monster’s abilities, in order to synthesize a new super strength serum. That’s where you come in. I was hoping Mr. Cavalier would provide help in this matter, but things being what they are, you will do quite nicely.”
Bear Cat looked deadly just then, not quite certain what was in store, he did not like this one bit. “I will not become a guinea pig for your experiments Wepp.”
“It’s a choice Mr. Bunny, there’s always a choice.” Wepp walked away to come and stand before Icy Heart’s glass container, lovingly looking at her body, rocked by pain and suffering. His eyes wandered to the computer station close by, assessing the numbers he saw, he nodded to himself. Turning around, he walked towards Sun Heat. “According to our scans, this woman is nine weeks pregnant, the fetus appears to be a mutant. Can you imagine Mr. Bunny, what we could do to her, and it as well, can you?” He stared directly into the huge man’s eyes, promises of pain evident in his look. “Whether you cooperate or not, is of little value to me, but I will promise this. If you do what I require of you, then she will remain unharmed, her baby as well. If you do not…” He let the words hand for a moment, waiting for the former leader of the Hunters of Apocalypse to reply.
“I will break you little neck, old man, slowly.” Bear Cat leaned down and stared directly into the scientist’s eyes, to make sure he knew this was not a false promise. “I will kill you, then I will track down everyone that bears your name, and murder them.”
“I’m sure you will, but until you do, you are mine to do with as I see fit.” The old scientist backed away slowly and came to stand in front of the gravity lift, looking at all of them.
“I believe you heroes enjoy jousting in the arena, for training purposes. This will be no different. Mr. Bunny here, will fight for our enjoyment. Mind you, science requires it as well. Take them away, and prepare him.”
The heroes were then dragged away towards the same door Cavalier had been brought through a few minutes away, and thrown into separate cells. Wepp returned his attention on Icy Heart and Ghost Starr, more precisely, on the results coming through from the computer. “She will be a fascinating specimen.” He whispered aloud. “How long?”
“A few hours at the most, sir” Replied a technician close by.
“Very well, “ He sighed “Call me when it is done.”
Metal Core watched the reinforced door slide down in position, and a guttural growl escaped his lips when it did. He started pacing to and fro in the confined space of the jail, images of murder clouding his vision. He cursed Jade Rade, damned Apocalypse and ultimately himself, for ending up in this predicament. Had he listened to Lil’ Smoke, he would already be starting a new life in the Rogue Isles. But no, Jade’s bullheadedness had landed him here, helpless and powers subdued, a prisoner to a fate worst than the Shard had ever been. At least there, he had been free to roam, albeit in another prison. His thoughts wandered on Voyager for a moment, although he would have wanted to kill the man himself, he felt bitter at the end the controller met. They shot him like the rabid dog that he had become, had given him no quarters. But he had seen first hand what the old man could do, and if he had been Wepp, he would’ve done the very same thing, dispose of him before any danger could arise. He swallowed hard, Voyager’s end was not one he envied.
The one thing he could not fathom, was the lady in the bloodied water tank. He had seen many a strange sight in his life, this one qualified as unholy. Something dark was being done to her, disturbing the fragile equilibrium between good and evil He was no scientist, nor was he technologically inclined, the word techno-magic was the only one he came up with describe her situation. And this other man, next to her, in the other tank, looking peaceful and serene, what was his role in all of this?
His train of thoughts was broken abruptly, when the scratching sounds of a rat became audible from the ventilation system up above.
“Figures that Crey Industry would have a rat problem.” He muttered aloud, leaning against the wall. If only he could break these shackles apart, he would be able to escape, free the others and run as far away from here. “I need a miracle.”
Further into the jailing the area, Bear Cat sat composed on the floor, listening at the sound her scratching feet made above. He was not surprised that she was there, crawling through the vents, spying on him once again.
“Hello again, little one.” He spoke softly. Silence followed, but he knew she had heard him. “No point in pretending I cannot hear you, come visit me.”
The ceiling vent trap clicked opened, and it hung there for a few seconds, its opening dark and empty. Her pink eyes appeared from the darkness, blinking twice, soon after, she let herself fall to the floor, standing proud for such a small being.
“Do you have a membership to this cell?” She asked in her small voice, looking left and right for food she would not find. Her ears moved back on her skull, she was listening to sounds in the distance, wary like small animals usually are.
“Hello Lab, it’s good to see you. Although I’ll admit, I am annoyed at you.” Replied the massive tanker.
“Annoyed? At me?” She looked perfectly innocent, her features revealing nothing but sorrow at that last comment. “I thought we were friends, guess I was wrong. Could you stand up so that I can leave?”
“Not this time little one.” Bear Cat stared at her, debating whether or not he should attempt to gain her cooperation. Seconds passed, and he decided on a gamble. “I have cheese.”
She blinked a few times, letting the phrase sink in, when her stomach growled. Embarrassed, she blushed a crimson red. “I can have all the cheese I want, if I behave.”
“What if I were to tell you, that you could have all the cheese your little heart desired and more?” The ante was up, let’s see if she would fold or follow through. She was about to reply something, when the cell door slid opened, two guards entered, guns at the ready.
“I believe I asked you to go talk with young Mr. Winter, Lab, what part did you not understand?” Dr. Wepp walked through the door, hands behind his back, one eyebrow arched in disapproval. Clearly, Lab’s mental conditioning had started to weaken, he would have to schedule another brain surgery on the mutant soon.
“Sorry master, wrong cell.” She cooed, after which she hustled out of the cell like a bat out of hell. Bear Cat watched the small being vanish around the corner, his eyes darted towards Wepp.
“Mr. Bunny, as always, a pleasure to see you.” The scientist slightly bowed his head, before speaking again. “We have secured Sun Heat in the compound, she is unharmed for the moment.” Bear Cat’s eyes narrowed, his jaw clenched, while his massive arms strained against the power shackles. Strength personified. “She will be my insurance policy against your cooperation in this matter. Let me be blunt if I may. By doing what I ask of you, she and her baby, will remain unharmed. I promise.” He then smiled, like a grandfather would, nothing but trust and good intention there.
“You can take your promises and shove them up you arse, Wepp. Your words are nothing but lies. You’ve been aware of my comings and goings from the start, and you let me come here all the same. That tells me lots about your motives. What guarantee can you provide me, that she will go free once I’ve done whatever it is you want from me?” Bear Cat could picture his hands around that scrawny man’s neck, slowly twisting it out of shape, very slowly.
“Free? I’m afraid you have misunderstood me greatly, Mr. Bunny. I promised that she would remain unharmed, nothing more. Sun Heat’s pregnancy is an event that cannot be ignored. The first mutant born in captivity, under scientific supervision. The data we will be gathering from this will be formidable. Imagine, we will be able to quantify the mutation process in the womb. In the near future, creating mutants will not be a random accident, but a predictable process from which Crey Industry can, and will provide the perfect soldiers for the city and the armies of the world. No more wild cards on the loose, only perfectly calibrated fighting machines, able to carry out the most difficult tasks without question or motivations.” Wepp’s face illuminated while he spoke, he thought of himself as a visionary.
“You’re one crazy mother fuck…” Bear Cat didn’t finish that sentence, a guard had given him the butt of his gun across the face, sending him trashing sideway on the ground of the prison cell.
“Your opinion of me carries little value, Mr. Bunny. Make your decision now, will Sun Heat be allowed to bear her child naturally, or do I order my team to begin experiments right away. The choice is yours Mr. Bunny, decide now.” Wepp remained quiet, awaiting the answer, which he obviously expected to be in his favor.
Spitting blood, Bear Cat sat himself straight. He needed to buy time, for himself, for Sun Heat and the heroes. “And what about Turbo Starr, what will happen to him?”
“Mr. Starr, I’m afraid, is far too dangerous a man to be let free. He will remain in the tube, where we will continue to pump his blood out. He has provided us with incredible resources, his super reflexes can actually be broken into amino acids that we can inoculate. The “Starr Serum” has been in circulation amongst Crey personnel for almost a year now. You’ll understand that we cannot simply unplug the only supply we have for it.” Wepp paced to the far end of the room, turned and pulled out a short wave radio. “Your decision, Mr. Bunny?”
“You will not harm her, in any way? Gentleman’s promise?” Bear Cat did not believe for one second the man would hold true to his words, but in the lack of better leverage, calling on the nobility of the soul was all he had.
“No harm whatsoever. We will simply observe her, provide any medical assistance that might be required, you have my word.” Wepp spoke the words with belief, but knew them to be a lie. Once Bear Cat had accomplished his task, all bets were off, Sun Heat was his to do as he pleased. No one could stop him.
“All right, all right. You have my cooperation, what is it you want of me?” Replied Bear Cat, not fooled for one second about the outcome.
“In less than an hour, guards will escort you to a room, where you will choose one weapon. Once that choice is done, a door will open to the “arena”, you will enter and confront the beast. We will monitor it, and yourself. The fight will be stopped before one of you dies, medical treatment will be provided if you should require it after. Simple really, just be what you are, a fighting machine.” Wepp awaited his answer.
“You want me to fight the beast you mentioned earlier, the one you are unable to chart and... Quantify?” The former leader of the Hunters of Apocalypse wasn’t fooled by it, they expected him to die.
“That’s the idea. Only a superb fighter can go toe with that monster, and you are such a man. Less than an hour, Mr. Bunny.” Wepp and the guards left the room, leaving Bear Cat to his thoughts.
“Better to die standing and young, than an old man in his sleep.” He whispered to the walls.
TO PART 17 >
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