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                Kirsten followed the masked and caped man who had been trying to get her attention all night.  Earlier he had spoken to her about a most peculiar offer, waving a small roll of cash as an incentive.


                “I need you to say you’ve seen this man,” he showed her a photo of a blonde man with curious tattoos.  “I’ll pay you for your assistance.”


                The singer gave the Protector an odd look.  “Why?”


                He seemed to be short on patience.  “Because it is necessary for my investigation.”  The money in his hand promptly doubled.


                “Sure,”  Kirsten shrugged.  Taking the money and tucking it into her pocket, she asked, “Is that all?”


                “Act like you know me.” 


                Now, she had been told, was the time to put on their pretense.  Taking the Protector’s hand, she let him lead her through the crowd, who was now leaving the dance floor to drink at the bar until the next set.


                He led her to a corner booth where another couple was waiting.  The man was dressed in the red and black armor of the Protectors, and the woman had deep green skin.  Kirsten thought everyone looked ridiculous.


                “Underworld really isn’t a hero bar, you know,” she started.  A wry smile crossed her lips as she added, “At least, for none of the virtuous types.”


                “Kirsten, this is Madam Medusa.  She’s looking for her husband,”  prompted the Protector seated next to her.


                I get it, show time,  she thought.  “Yeah, I’ve seen him around.  Sometimes he’s shown up here.   Most anyone here who has powers are usually Dark Force users.  No one messes with him though.  I think he scares a lot of people.”


                “Will he be here tonight?” asked the green woman, her red eyes flashing with hope.


                Kirsten shrugged.  “I dunno.  It’s been about a week since I saw him last.  It’s hard to miss anything from on stage.”


                “That’s not really a lot to go on, Protector,”  the heroine protested, and it seemed she was trying to get out of the booth.  “Thank you for your time, though.” 


                Norman was not about to let Madam Medusa get away;   he grabbed her wrist and squeezed tightly.  “You are going nowhere, Floralia,” he said in a dark voice.




                “Are you sure she wasn’t there, Edward?”


                “I’m telling you, Bianca, the apartment was empty.  I could sense no emotions coming from your place.  Flora, I’m afraid, has vanished.  If you had given me an extra set of keys, we could have checked.”


                Bianca ignored the told-you-so comment. “At any rate, how did your search go?”


                “It seemed to go alright, but I don’t think the Founder’s Falls location is the site on your video.  Has the other team called in?”


                “No, so it leads me to think they’re on the right trail.”  Bianca sighed heavily. 



                Xandria looked at the small group of Outcasts The Nameless had subdued with disgust.  A brief glance at LiveWire, BlueDragon and Stingray told her they were ready to renew the fight if need be.


                “Like I told you boys before,” she smiled serenely, “We just need to talk to you.”


                “We weren’t doin’ nuthin’!”  protested one of them, eyeing the flames and lightning that surrounded them.


                “Yes, I’m quite aware of that.  We’re looking for someone, and since you guys run these streets, you’re in the best position to give me information on this matter.” She took a step closer, confident none of the gang would attempt to break through the summoned barriers.


                The Outcasts eyed the tall blonde woman with a mix of apprehension and desire. 


                Xandria produced a photo and showed it to their captives.  “He goes by the name of Deathbringer, and he may be seen in the company of this woman,”  she showed them a photo of Nocturne.


                “Wait!  It’s that crazy zombie chick!”  One of the gang members exclaimed after several silent moments.


                Xandria arched an eyebrow.  “So, you have seen them.”


                “Yeah.  I saw them take out that armored car a coupla days ago, but I’ve seen ‘em around before that.  It seemed like they’re waitin’ for sumpthin’.”


                WhiteDiamond took a brief look at her teammates.  A shrug from BlueDragon told her they would need a little more information.


                “Did they attack any other vehicles?”


                “There was one…didn’t really look that remarkable, but the Tsoo had an interest in it too.  That was one ugly fight, man!”  the other Outcasts laughed at the memory.


                The psychic’s cool expression seemed to lower a few degrees.  “Explain.”


                “The Tsoo were holding up the car, and were getting ready to start unloading it, but then zombie lady and  that guy completely took them out.  Not even those ancestor spirit thingies they like to summon could help them.  That blue chick,”  he shook his head.  “Naw, I don’t wanna cross her.


                “I thank we owe the Tsoo a little visit, then, darlin’,” commented LiveWire.


                “I believe you’re right, my dear.”  Xandria nodded for BlueDragon and LiveWire to release the Outcasts.  “Thank you very much for your help, gentlemen.  We’re letting you go, but try to stay out of trouble.”


                “Or what?”  one of the others challenged.


                Xandria looked over at a nearby garbage can.   With a thought, she made it instantly collapse on itself, looking like a metal sculpture of a paperwad.


                “Imagine that being your skull,”  was all Xandria said.  With a nod, and a psychic command, the five heroes took off, heading back towards Silver Lake.



                By the time Xandria and the others had gotten back to their house, Beguiler and Solanum were waiting for them.  The pair filled them in on Flora’s disappearance.


                Xandria, in turn, told Beguiler and Solanum about what had happened at Allied Armored Car, including their run-in with Vision and the Longbow agents he was working with.


                “It would appear they are looking for an arcane item.  The Outcasts we interviewed told us of another attack against the Tsoo after they had begun robbing an armored car.  Now, they did not say whether Jon and Nocturne took the items, so we’ll probably need to find out what was transported.”  She looked at her team, wishing Flora was here, and that Bianca would be able to help.


                Thinking for a moment, she continued.  “Sara, Edward and JD,  you three go to City Hall and see if you can talk with Azuria and find out why magical items are being so recklessly shipped.  The rest of us are going back to Allied to see if we can find out if more shipments are being made.”


                The team nodded in agreement, and quickly fanned out across the city to their respective destinations.



                Flora stared at the Protector in horror and with the sudden realization she had just been swindled.


                “You have no idea where he is, do you?”  she asked.


                “No more than you do, my dear,” he replied, and quickly injected her with a needle.  The drug took immediate effect, and Madam Medusa slumped forward, unconscious.


                Norman’s baleful gaze shifted to the singer.  “Leave us,” he growled.


                Kirsten quickly slipped out of the booth, unwilling to be any part of a kidnapping.   She saw nothing, she kept repeating to herself.  She saw nothing.



                “I hate coming here,”  Sara said aloud.


                Several other heroes walking by her heard her comment, and gave her disdainful glances.  Beguiler  chuckled at everyone’s reaction.


                “Now, Azuria.  She’s the gal with MAGI, right?”  asked LiveWire.


                “Most unfortunately,” commented Edward.  “Some in the hero community think very little of her skills at heading a department.  It seems all sorts of magical items have been stolen since she’s assumed the title of Director.”  His violet eyes narrowed as he watched all sorts of heroes walk past them.


                “Excuse me,” he said to Sara and JD, walking up to a hero dressed in green and yellow spandex.  The hero’s red cape seemed to billow out from him, even though no breeze was blowing and they were all inside a building.


                “What’s that all about?”  JD asked.


                Sara shrugged.  Her fiance had been caught up in all kinds of strange business when he had gone overseas during his suspension.  He had told her some of it, and he seemed like he didn’t want to discuss it any further.  Odd behavior was, for Edward anyway, par for the course.


                “Maybe it’s a blast from his past, JD.”


                “LiveWire.  We’re in public, remembah?”


                Sara smiled to herself.  Prismatic had been insistent on keeping their given names private.  By continuing the custom, they kept some part of her alive.


                Suddenly, Edward took a wicked right hook at the hero he’d been talking to.  With no powers flaring up, the pair went at each other.  Two tankers grabbed each of the combatants and  restrained them.  Sara and JD ran up to them, trying to find out what had happened.


                Instinctively, Sara’s claws extended, and several other heroes gasped.  The baleful glare she gave them all told them one thing:  back off.


                “What gives?”  she asked, her voice a shadowy whisper that could still be heard over the din.


                The brightly-costumed hero gave a snort.  “Ask your friend.  He came up asking about someone I had run into, and  wanted to go into my head to see it.  I told him no.”


                Is that true?  Sara asked Edward.


                That’s a lie, Sara, and you know it.  I never ask permission unless I know the person.  Besides, he’s seen Jon.


                Follow my lead.


                “I’m sorry, my friend is…impulsive at times with his powers.  Personally, I think he likes to show off.  We had a bet that the tackier costumed heroes had a better sense of humor.”  Sara smirked.  “Guess I lost.  No harm done, then…” she fished for the hero’s name.




                “Right.  Tropicallo.”  Seeing the tankers had released both him and Edward, she politely brushed his cape smooth and straightened it out.  “See, no harm done?”


                The tall hero stared at Sara.  Whomever he was, he was clearly not amused.


                “Come on now, Beguiler, we have an appointment to see Azuria,” she said slowly and a faux-threatening tone.


                “Right.”  He jerked his arms free of the security guards’ grips and straightened out his leather jacket.   He looked at Tropicallo with a sneer and turned to go, but couldn’t resist throwing one more thought into his opponent’s head.


                Technicolor jackass, the empath mocked..


                Beguiler smiled as he heard Tropicallo yell and lunge at him.  Edward tried not to laugh as he heard the four security guards beat him down.


                “Did you get what we needed?”  Sara asked, wondering what her fiance had said, looking over her shoulder at the scene.  “My, that looks nasty.”


                “Absolutely.  Our multicolored friend ran into Jon and Alyssa  as they were robbing a magic store in  Steel Canyon.”  Edward’s expression was one of smug satisfaction.  “He didn’t even realize I was poking around in his head the entire time.”


                “So now what?  Do we still go see Azuria?”  asked LiveWire.


                Sara nodded.  “They seem to be targeting magical items.  So either they’re looking to flood the market, or they’re looking for something specific.  And Azuria is going to tell us.”



                “Where have you been, Deathbringer?”  asked Black Hand as he lit his cigarette.


                “Out.”  Answered  Jon gruffly.


                His friend’s eyes narrowed.  Lately, Jon had been vanishing for hours at a time, and always going on his own.  Both Thomas’ and Jon’s expanding powers were making them almost necessary for the success of each job they went on.  Their superiors had, in fact, raised them in rank in the gang so they could get a chance to use these powers more fully.


                “We really needed you on the bank heist, today, man.”  Thomas took a swig of beer.  “You are going to help tomorrow when we rumble with the Hellions, right?”  his tone indicated more command than request.


                Jon smiled.  “I’d never miss a chance to kill those worms.”  He snagged a beer for himself out of the cooler and opened it.


                “So, you seen that new dancer yet at BellaDonna?” Thomas asked, changing the subject.


                “Naw.  What’s she like?”


                “Aw, man, unbelievable!  Blonde hair, purple eyes, big..” he gestured in front of his chest, “I mean, absolutely HUGE!!!”


                Jon chuckled.  The thought of such a girl might have appealed to him a few months ago, but lately, he found himself preoccupied with the lingering kisses and caresses of a green-skinned girl from Brazil. 


                “I’ll have to check her out, Tom,” Jon lied, and took a deep swig of his beer.   “Maybe after we smoke some Hellions.”


                “Now you’re talkin’, Jon.”


                Deathbringer shook off the daze he was in.  He wasn’t sure if he had just experienced a memory of a past life or what the feeling was.  Whenever it was, it was in the distant past, or at least he supposed.


                A dusky blue arm moved across his chest, the hand gently caressing his pectorals.


                Nocturne propped herself up onto her side.  “You’re awake?”


                He looked at her, cold blue eyes glinting in the pale light of the room they shared. 


                A smile crossed her lips, a smile that told him she only wanted one thing at that point.


                Pulling Nocturne close to him, he kissed her passionately, and felt all memories of a life, whether real or imagined, fade away.

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