ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE
Those of The Nameless who could make it to Allied Armored Car did so with haste. The company was located in a relatively safe spot in Galaxy City, near the monorail station.
Bluedragon smiled broadly when he saw the others; LiveWire and WhiteDiamond flying in at an incredible rate of speed, Stingray running even faster. Even Psirene came, flying as fast as her condition could allow.
“Flora couldn’t come?” he asked when she landed.
Psirene shook her head. “She didn’t react at all when I told her, Diego.”
A slight frown furrowed his brow, but he turned his attention to the others. “I already asked if the guards involved in the incident are here, but was told that they are still at the police station making their statements.”
Psirene closed her eyes. “Not exactly; it seems that they’re inside, talking to another team.”
The five heroes burst into the small office, and stopped dead in their tracks.
Standing before them, and apparently finishing up with taking a report was Kirk, along with a couple other heroes they didn’t recognize.
The Nameless collectively glared at their wayward member, who returned the icy stare right back at them. Bianca found herself wishing Edward were here to get the mood calmed down.
WhiteDiamond broke the silence. “Getting information on Nightbringer, Vision?”
The other hero with Kirk spoke up. “You mean Deathbringer, right? We’re going to bring him to justice.”
“Jon is not well, and you know it, Kirk,” stated WhiteDiamond flatly, ignoring the other’s comment. “Anything he is doing now is under Nocturne’s influence.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Xandria,” came a familiar voice from someone entering the office.
The group turned, and were stunned to see Cassie Miller, also known as Faberge, enter the room. The model-turned-superhero walked past them and took the disk Kirk held in his hand. Then, she turned to face The Nameless.
“We have been gathering evidence of other attacks that have involved Deathbringer. It may be unpleasant to hear, but from all appearances, your former leader has switched sides of his own will. Statesman has said too many heroes skirt with playing the villain, and he wants to make sure there is a clear delineation between the two. If someone has to be made an example of,” the diamond-skinned heroine shrugged, as if for effect, “So be it.”
“You little viper,” snarled Xandria at Cassie. “I knew my first instinct about you was right.”
“Delineation?” scoffed Stingray. “That’s a mighty big word, Rockhead.”
Faberge merely turned her nose at his comment. “I’m only repeating what Statesman’s been saying. Maybe if your team bothered to show up at the required seminars, you would understand. Some of us actually care about trying to help the world.”
“What good is saving the world, when no one in it is going to be loyal to each other?” countered WhiteDiamond. She looked over at Kirk, who sheepishly looked at his soon-to-be-former teammates. Shaking her head sadly, Xandria motioned for The Nameless to leave.
The group headed over to a park to allow the other team to finish. Disgusted with how things were turning out, they immediately started discussing counter strategies.
“We could easily follow them,” suggested Stingray.
“Naw, that won’t work. If we try to stop ‘em from ahrestin’ Nahtbringah, we could git ousselves thrown in jail,” LiveWire sighed. “We need to find him first.”
“But that’s the problem. We don’t know where he is,” sighed WhiteDiamond.
“Um, excuse me?” came a tiny voice.
The Nameless turned around, and saw an old woman, well dressed and professional looking. She smiled cheerfully at the heroes through round spectacles. “You’re looking for that Deathbringer man too, right? Are you friends?”
Xandria sighed. “Yes, ma’am, we are. He’s not exactly feeling like himself, so he’s going by that name for now.”
“Oh, yes, sweetie, I know how that goes. I had a feeling you kids really care for him, so I didn’t tell those other heroes the whole truth.” The woman held up a hand over her mouth as she giggled. “Our guards also have other footage from a previous attack, but it went unreported.” She produced a disk out of her purse and held it out to the white-clad heroine.
“Why wasn’t it reported?” Xandria asked as she tentatively took it from the woman.
The old woman shook her head. “Who knows? I guess since nothing happened on that occasion, the guards felt it wasn’t worth reporting to Freedom Corps. Actually,” she leaned in closer for the supergroup to hear, “the guards have told me they’ve seen this man several times over the last few weeks.”
Xandria smiled; finally, they not only had a break, but a good lead. Jon was in an established pattern and could hopefully be found easily.
“Thank you, very much, Ms…..?”
“Renoir,” the woman nodded politely. “Although back in my heyday I used to be called Morpha.” A little flicker of energy emanated from her fingertips, only matched by the wicked grin she flashed the group. “You could ask Statesman about me, but he’ll probably blush all kinds of colors.”
Psirene immediately understood the woman’s implications. “Tell me, Ms. Renoir. Did he ever do a thing where he…”the bombshell whispered the lurid description of some maneuver into the old heroine’s ear. Morpha laughed.
“Honey, who do you think taught him?” she cackled, which made Psirene laugh out loud.
“Well, thank you, again, ma’am.”
“Tell you what, kids. Come by anytime and I can share some of the old war stories with you…like what really happened in some of those famous exploits you’ve read about.”
The group nodded in agreement. “Will do, Ms. Renoir,” said Stingray.
“Please, you can call me Morpha if you like.”
“I had to see you again,” he said, stealing a cautious look around at the adjacent apartment balconies.
“Why?” was all she could find herself asking, even though her heart was pounding at what felt like a million times a second. Ever since the fight in the alley, she had found her mind drifting towards thoughts of him, the Skull who was standing before her.
He had taken off his Skull mask, allowing her to see him face to face. He had eyes bluer than any other person she had met before, which went along well with his blonde hair and chiseled features. She found herself just staring at him.
He in turn, found himself absolutely entranced by this girl. While exotic looking heroes swarmed Paragon City, he had never seen one that looked like her. Her skin was green, but with such a richness of color it reminded him of leaves on a tree. Her hair too, was green, but a deeper shade, like forest shadows. He took her hand and held it. As he ran his fingers down the back of it, he could sense what felt like scales, tiny, but scales nonetheless. She seemed even more exotic and wonderful to him. Her features were long and elegant, making her easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. His pulse raced faster.
Flora took in a deep ragged breath; this could not be happening. She was in love with Ranger Cole, and the man before her was a Skull, one of the villainous groups they were trying to take down. However, instead of pulling herself away, she found herself stepping closer to him. A strange chill seemed to emanate from him where she would have felt warmth from his body.
“What’s your name?” he whispered.
He chuckled. “I asked first.”
“What’s yours?” she asked again, feeling his hand come around the small of her back.
“Jon. The guys just call me Deathbringer.”
“Well, the guys just call me Madam Medusa.”
A sudden sound of the front door being opened broke the mood. Jon grabbed his mask and jumped the twenty feet down to the alley below, but not before stealing a quick kiss.
Flora woke up from her memory-induced dream to the sound of tapping. She heard the sound again, coming from the window.
Getting up out of bed, she raised the shade. Standing on her fire escape was a man dressed in all black armor. The earth controller could detect the scent of ozone coming from him.
“Who are you, and what do you want?”
“Are you Madam Medusa?” he asked. His voice sounded young, and could be clearly heard despite the helmet he wore.
She nodded. “Who wants to know?”
The figure pulled a card out from his belt. “It concerns your husband. Do not be late.”
Flora took the card and watched her visitor take to the air and fly away. Looking back at the card, she studied it. On the front was a logo those in Paragon City were only now getting acquainted with; that of the Rogue Isle Protectors. On the back was a name and address:
326 S. KING ST.
Flora was puzzled; she had never heard of any place called Underworld. Most times, whenever the superpowered needed to contact one another, they met at Pocket D. She put the card on the side table and decided to get dressed. It was 10:00, and her visitor told her not to be late.
“Sweetie, I’ll play your movie in the other room, Mama and Daddy have to watch our movie in here, ok?” WhiteDiamond said to her son, who looked like he was about to let loose with a scream of protest when she stopped his program.
Delilah grabbed JT in one hand and the dvd in the other. “I’ll take care of it, Auntie X.”
The adults watched the girl leave the room. “That child is a miracle of politeness, Bianca. She’ll be a real help when the baby comes.”
Bianca smiled proudly. Although her relationship with Delilah’s father was strained at best, her love for her daughter was constant.
“Let’s see what else the guards had recorded,” prompted Stingray. Xandria could tell he was anxious to get out and look for Jon.
The Nameless leader put the disk in and pressed the play button. Taking a few steps back from the tv, she held the remote, ready to pause the images.
“Do we know where these were taken?” asked Stingray.
“I didn’t think to ask. It might say on the disk itself,” replied Xandria, focussed on the tv to look at him.
“If I had to guess, I’d say Steel Canyon. It is, after all, the financial district of the city,” offered Psirene, who shifted in her seat.
“But why would they start targeting armored cars? I remember Edward telling me something Tristan told him, that Nocturne sends her zombies into the water to search for shipwrecks,” came BlueDragon’s puzzled statement. “Why go into something risky when you’ve got a sure thing!”
“Wait! There he is!” exclaimed LiveWire. “Rewind, baby, rewind!” he gestured rapidly.
WhiteDiamond re-wound the film; on the screen they could see Jon staring at the armored car between two buildings, and then disappearing down the shadowy alley.
“It’s not a lot to go on, but…”she looked at the paused image more intensely, “Find out which buildings have the address 9…2…is that an 8?”
The others strained to see.
“Could be, Xandria. A quick search online could tell you for certain,” offered Stingray.
“Computer’s in the next room, Evan,” she said.
“Cool,” he said, getting up. As he did, a thin cable seemed to appear from the back of his neck. He pulled a small box from his belt. “I’ve just invented this, and I want to give it a spin.”
The others looked at him in horror.
“What does it do?” asked Psirene.
“Basically, I haven’t found a computer that can process information fast enough, so this cable connects my brain to it. I can do whatever I need to do a whole lot faster.” He grinned and went into the next room.
He was back approximately fifteen seconds later. “There’s a couple buildings with that number, but I think we can find the right one through process of elimination.”
“First, take out any where Allied Armored Car wouldn’t pass on their routes,” suggested BlueDragon.
“Done. That leaves us with 14 more addresses,” said Evan.
“What about time of day? Shouldn’t that get figgahed in?” asked LiveWire.
“Combining time of day with known routes, we are down to two possibles,” announced the technologically-enhanced hero.
“Where?” asked Xandria.
“One is in the Copper District, the other is in Founder’s Falls,” he answered.
“Ok. Get in touch with Edward and Sara. We’ll have them check out the Founder’s Falls location. Tell Flora too, that might perk her up. The rest of us are going to see if the Copper District is our site in question.” Xandria said in her authoritative tone.
Psirene called her brother and relayed the information. “I guess I’ll stay here keep an eye on the kids,” she commented.
“See if you can contact Flora, she’ll want to hear about this,” WhiteDiamond added as the team left the house.
Psirene called her apartment. The phone rang several times, and then went to her answering machine. Hanging up, the psychic tried Flora’s cell phone, which ended up going straight to voicemail.
She left a brief message and found herself worried for a moment.
The club was nothing like Pocket D.
As the name implied, one had to go down a flight of stairs from the street level to access the front, through a pair of wrought-iron gates and under a sign that read, “Abandon all Hope, O Ye Who Enter.”
Flora suppressed a shudder, wondering what kind of club she was going to. She could hear music, but it didn’t sound like anything heard at Pocket D. The music seemed gloomier with an angrier edge.
The bouncer looked at her; Flora’s costume would certainly make her stand out, and he even said so.
“I’m meeting someone,” she replied, and pulled out a twenty.
“Your host is inside, and he’s already paid your way, Madam Medusa,” he stated in a deep, ominous voice.
Apprehensively, Flora went in. The club was dark, illuminated only by red lights throughout the bar area, as well those coming from the stage, where a band was playing. She listened to the music, it sounded unfamiliar, but when the band reached the chorus, she realized it was a Nine Inch Nails song, one Sara liked playing whenever she was practicing her fighting technique.
The crowd on the dance floor jumped and pushed each other in time with the music, and Flora just watched them for a few minutes.
“Excuse, Madam Medusa, we have a booth over here,” came a voice over her shoulder.
She started; Flora never liked anyone sneaking up on her. It was the Protector who had come to her apartment earlier.
She followed him to a quieter section of the bar, a quiet booth tucked even deeper into the shadows. Cautiously, she slid into her seat. She recognized the man who had invited her instantly; it was the Protector who had joined them several months ago when they went to Portal Corp.
“Madam Medusa,” he said in greeting, nodding his head slightly.
“You know…you know where Jon is?” she asked.
“Not me personally,” Norman casually replied. “The band’s lead singer happens to be an acquaintance of my associate. She has seen your husband.”
Flora took a look back at the stage. The singer looked to be about nineteen or so, her hair dyed a wild mix of black and purple. The heavy Gothic make-up and piercings made it impossible to tell what she might have looked like underneath it all. Her singing was a screeching caterwaul that seemed to be perfect for the song she was singing, another Nine Inch Nails song.
“When will we get to talk to her?” Flora asked.
“Soon enough. But first, I would like to make something clear,” Norman paused for effect, letting his words sink in. “This information does not exactly come without a price.”
Flora looked at the Protector with confusion. “What could I possibly offer you? I don’t have a lot of money, and,” a sudden, horrifying thought crossed her mind. “I’m not going to betray my husband for this information!”
Norman and his associate laughed. “Voltech, could you excuse Madam Medusa and myself? I need to talk privately with her.”
The other Protector got up and wove his way through the crowd. Flora saw him standing by the stage, as if trying to get the singer’s attention.
“I’ll be to the point, Madam Medusa. What I want from you is your DNA.”
Another confused look crossed Flora’s face. “I don’t understand.”
“Lord Recluse is always looking for those who can improve his Protector program. While it seems unlikely that you would join such a program, my Lord has expressed…interest in your abilities. We would need enough of a sample to replicate to infuse into a participant. It’s a small trade for getting your husband back, don’t you think?”
“But, isn’t that sort of work illegal?”
“Only in the United States and maybe a handful of other countries that have outlawed human cloning. But, think about it, Medusa! You’ll have your husband back! Contrary to what you think, I do know what love is, and how strong a motivation it can be!” he told her in earnest. Norman wondered if he was overdoing his performance.
Thoughts were flying in Flora’s head; doing something illegal, and dangerous, to get her beloved Jon back. Likely, the Protector would insist on secrecy, and the rest of The Nameless would never know her whereabouts. Then there was the matter of willingly offering up her DNA. How much did he need? Where would he take it from? Looking back at the Protector, the answer was clearly seen in her eyes.
“I agree. BUT,” she emphasized. “I want to make sure Jon is safely back home, and then, you can have whatever you need from me.”
“The terms are acceptable,” Norman agreed. He motioned for Voltech to bring the singer over so they could talk to her.
TO PART 4 >