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Chapter Seven: Allies and Enemies
By Myths n’ Wraiths
Edited By Vindea
“What is the emergency?” Shadow Pain asked when she entered the modestly decorated hall that made up the Onami Strike Force’s conference room. The sword master’s three eyes quickly darted around the room, taking in its inhabitants and seeing which of her fellow Heroes were present.
Around a conference table, which was set to one side of the square room, sat Kwang Ghe, a man whose calm hands and deliberate movements told of exceptional martial skill, and the Nighthawk, whose veins glowed a faint blue from the raw energy that coursed through his body.
On the opposite side of the room, sitting on a tastefully covered couch and watching a television screen intently, sat two more of her fellow Onami members. Brain Fried and Remedy Hart, two powerful mentalists, reclined comfortably on the leather couch. The former was a small man with a painted face who dressed in white with red stripes. The latter was a slight woman with blue skin who rarely spoke aloud but preferred to use her telepathic abilities to communicate.
Shrugs and a mingled chorus of ‘I don’t knows’ were the only answer that Shadow Pain received.
Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket she glanced at the text message she had received for the third time. “Return to the base ASAP. P.H.” was all it said. Shadow Pain reluctantly took a seat at the conference table and removing her katana from her back, placed it gently on the wooden surface.
Patience, she thought to herself. It was not in her nature to be so anxious but to be pulled from a Vahzilok hunting party in Steel Canyon by a mysterious message from her surrogate brother and leader made her uneasy to say the least. Taking a deep breath and closing her three eyes, she let the concern fall from her mind, filter down her limbs and pass from her body.
She and the other Onami members did not have to wait long before the conference rooms heavy double doors opened once again and two tall heroes walked in. First through the door was a slender woman with ebony skin and stunning orange hair. Her familiar face was an icon of the group and all the men in the room stood in Thauma Guard’s presence. Bringing up the rear was a tall form with dark brown hair and radiant green eyes. He wore a battle suit of red and white and on his chest was stenciled the figure of a cresting wave.
In her brother’s presence, Shadow Pain stood out of respect and out of love. She passed him an expectant glance and PhoenixHawk responded with a confident grin.
The two entered the room and all its inhabitants migrated to the conference table where they each found a seat. PhoenixHawk waited a brief moment for everyone to get settled and then began to speak with his usual candor and confidence, “I am sorry to have pulled you all from your current tasks, but some things are going on in this city that may require all of our attention.”
“May?” Brain Fried questioned feeling the reservation in his leader's mind even when it was not evident in his voice.
“There has been a break in the case regarding the murders last night. One of the suspects has been apprehended and is being turned over to Longbow as we speak for questioning,” PhoenixHawk explained to his fellow Heroes. The Onami members passed a combination of grim and expectant glances among themselves at the news.
“Numina has called for a task force to be formed and placed on standby so that they will be ready to act on whatever information is taken from the suspect. I have already spoken to Numina and told her that we will answer the call.” The Onami leader spoke with unquestionable resolve, but despite his fervor, a collective murmur of doubt rose around the table.
Kwang Ghe was the first to speak his concerns aloud, “Aaron, it is not that we doubt the importance of such a mission, but I for one was on my way to aid in a hostage situation in Talos Island. To abandon honest people in need so that we can hunt down something that, to this point, has only harmed criminals? It just doesn’t hold water.”
“I understand your objection, Kwang Ghe,” PhoenixHawk said, nodding somberly. “This is not the type of thing that I would normally volunteer us for, but the suspect they apprehended for last night’s murders is no villain. He is a civilian, an average man who up until last night had no powers and not so much as a traffic ticket against his name.”
Silence filled the room, tainted only by a slight confusion.
Phoenix Hawk pressed his point. “He was given the powers to do what he did and so changed from an innocent man into killer. Something is manipulating the innocent people of this city and using them for its own purpose, and I intend to aid in stopping it."
* * *
“Myth?” Emerald Queen shouted into her phone. Static was her only answer.
“What is it?” Pierce questioned in a concerned tone while taking his eyes off of the road for a brief second to look at his partner and leader. Fear was crawling across her face. That alone was enough to infect Pierce with uneasiness. His grip tightened on the steering wheel of the semi trailer.
Emerald Queen glanced nervously in the side mirror back along the length of the titanium trailer that housed Jeremy for the transfer from the Paragon Patriot’s base to Brickstown. Two of her strongest Super Group members where seated in the trailer with the prisoner, while another two flew overhead, keeping pace with the one truck convoy. Together with her and Pierce’s powers they made a formidable force. Would it be enough? Could she risk it?
“What is it?” Pierce repeated more forcefully when he did not get a reaction from Emerald.
Her mind began to race frantically with concern for her young Heroes and doubts about what was happening. Myth had more emotional fortitude than any man she knew and for him to call her in such a state was enough to put her on the edge of terror.
“Pull over,” she ordered Pierce suddenly.
“Wha-?” Pierce began to protest.
“I said pull over!” she shouted at Pierce before he could finish a single word.
Biting back his own ego and frustration, Pierce obeyed and drove the semi over onto the shoulder of the highway. The wheels had not even stopped rolling before Emerald Queen kicked open her door and jumped from the vehicle. The two airborne Heroes swooped down to meet her and see what the problem was, but she paid them no mind as she made her way to the back of the semi trailer and feverishly pounded the security code into the digital panel. A slight click announced that the five inch thick titanium hatch had unlocked. Two more Heroes blinked at her in confusion when the door opened.
“You are relieved,” she said pointedly to the four subordinates. “Return to base and seek further assignment for the day from your usual contacts.”
All four of her junior members stared at her in disbelief.
“Go!” she snapped angrily. Collectively, the four red and white clad men bustled past their leader in confusion and took flight back toward their base. Their bewildered mumbling could be heard drifting off into the air while they slowly disappeared into the horizon.
“Tell me what the hell is going on Emerald,” Pierce nearly growled while following her into the back of the truck. Walking down the trailer, the pair passed dimly lit cells the size of large wall lockers, which served to hold Paragon’s filthiest and most dangerous criminals during their transit to Ziggurat when teleportation was not an option.
Pierce had objected to using the truck at all, but the Patriot’s resident doctor had deemed Jeremy too weak for another teleport.
“I don’t know,” Emerald shot back over her shoulder and made her way to the front of the trailer where Jeremy was being held in a larger cell with conventional bars. The middle aged man looked ashen and on the verge of death. He lay on a narrow bench, his chest rising faintly with each raspy breath.
“Something has gone wrong with the Dogs of War,” she concluded.
Pierce slammed his fist against one of the cell doors with enough force to crack his knuckles. His face grimaced for a split second before his advanced healing erased the wound.
“It’s Wraith isn’t it?” he spat through clenched teeth. Emerald Queen did not respond. She simply pulled the clipboard next to Jeremy’s cell off the wall and began to flip through the transfer papers.
“What are you doing Emerald?” he protested, his anger boiling up in his voice.
“I am going to transfer him back to their care,” she replied, her authoritative tone hiding her anxiety.
“Are you out of your mind?” the veteran Hero shouted. His voice echoed off the close metal walls, adding to the volume and making Emerald Queen flinch in surprise.
“Do you have a better idea?” she retorted after gaining her composure. “You know Wraith as well as I. He wouldn’t be coming for this man if there were not a reason. Even if he had none, even if he had gone mad, do you think that those four Heroes and these tin walls would be able to stop him from getting what he came for?”
“No,” Pierce spoke in a condemning tone. “But I would be.”
With a sudden and surprising speed, Pierce caught Emerald Queen by her shoulder and shoved her into one the open wall cells. Quickly slamming the door on her, Pierce jammed a large red button on the cells control panel and released a depressant gas, which was used to sedate prisoners for their transfer.
“Sorry Emerald,” he shouted over the noise she was raising by pounding on the inside of the cell. “But I am not going to let you ruin my Super Group over that petty prick.”
Slowly the sedative took its affect and the pounding coming from inside the cell grew weaker and less frequent. Pierce listened to it dispassionately, his cold grey eyes glaring at the cell door with a mingled look of both disdain and regret.
“If yu need some alone time, then don’t let me bother you,” a low calm voice echoed into the trailer.
Pierce looked up to see the darkened silhouette of a man with long hair and loosely fitting clothing blocking the door to the trailer.
“I’m just here for the old guy,” the silhouette added.
“You’re not getting him, kid,” Pierce replied with a condescending chuckle. “You’re going to learn that you can’t just run around this city with less regard for its laws than the villains you hunt. And I’m going to teach you that lesson; that one and more if you think you’re walking out of here with this prisoner.” While Pierce spoke, long, white spines slowly began to protrude from his body. The ivory barbs cut through his uniform and jutted outward, forming a deadly shield of razor sharp bones.
Wraith stepped forward into the dim lights of the trailer and kicked the door shut behind him. His dark eyes sized up the lethally barbed hero then settled on his face, searching the rage that boiled behind his glaring eyes.
“This has got nothing to do with that man,” Wraith saw it in Pierce’s eyes, the unrelenting contempt. He pulled his Medical Transponder out of his belt while he spoke. “But if it is a fight you want then let’s play for blood.” With those words, Wraith crushed the transponder in his fist. The faint crunch of its durable plastic shell resounded through the trailer. The ferocity in Pierce’s eyes wavered when he saw the crumpled pieces fall to the floor, his certainty faltering despite his rage. The intensity quickly returned however, and he grabbed his own Medical Transponder and tossed it to the ground. With a show of bravado and resolve he stomped on the device with his thick-soled boot.
“Blood it is, kid,” he said, baring his teeth.
* * *
Octive gripped the slender, chill, metal cylinder of his microphone and felt it quickly warm in his sweaty grip.
“Let’s knock it out one more time!” Break Glass shouted enthusiastically, laying his sticks to the tight skin that covered his drum sets and filling the room instantly with an unrelenting and contagious rhythm of concussion. The thick chain that hung from his neck rattled with the movement of his arms, and his blond-topped head rocked in rhythm to the beat.
The waves of sound washed over Octive with the force of a rushing tide. He felt them, grasped them with his mind, and hurled them throughout the room with the force of the world’s largest amplifier. They fell rhythmically onto his senses and his mutant skills manipulated them with ease.
An ear-piercing shout rang out from Tempo when he leapt forward on the stage and slammed on his bass guitar, adding a soul-vibrating depth to the beat. The darkly clothed musician’s tattooed arms rippled wildly with each eccentric movement of his hands.
Thundering Takai stepped next to Octive, and with a sensuously wild wave of her bleached hair, she joined Tempo’s bass guitar with her own electric. Tossing her hair again and placing her head next to Octive’s at the microphone, she began to sing.
The music filled the large, dimly lit, bar and vibrated the walls, shaking dust from the rafters and causing glasses to fall from the bar. It calmed itself under Takai’s and Octive’s combined voices and then exploded again in the seemingly confined space of the building.
When it was all said and done, the music subsided with the ease of a slumbering beast after a savage feast. The lights on the stage dimmed and the rooms grew lighter. In the far corners of the otherwise abandoned room sat two secluded figures. One was slightly familiar to Octive. He was a reporter that had heard their band, Citizen Hero, when they were first starting out and had taken an interest in the all super-powered group.
Octive wiped the sheen of sweat from his forehead and tried to remember the man’s name. Brian Shimmer, Shutter? Something like that. He had to pass of a sting of embarrassment for forgetting the reporter’s name. An article the man had done on them ended up being the best publicity the band had gotten in the past year and was one of the main reasons they were looking at a sold-out show tonight.
The other man looked as if he had snuck into the bar in hopes of missing a night on a park bench. His hair was long, sloppy and dark. His clothes looked eight sizes too big and like they had not been washed in as many days. His skin was gaunt and pale but his eyes had a focus of a man who had weathered the storm and won, but just barely. The man blanched, even if just slightly, when the lights came on and, realizing that he had been noticed, stood to leave.
“Didn’t like the music?” Thundering Takai shouted after him before he could make it to the door. “It wasn’t our best song. You should stay for the show and see my solo. It will be worth the wait, I promise,” she continued with a wink and jumped off the stage.
The man paused with his hand on the door and looked over his shoulder at her. “My son used to listen to you all the time. It’s all got too much emotion in it for me,” he said in a hollow tone. Without a chance for further conversation, the disheveled man pushed the door open and disappeared in the afternoon sun.
The members of the Citizen Heroes exchanged confused glances. Break Glass broke the uncomfortable silence. “Too much emotion… that just might be the best review we ever got.”
Tempo coughed out a laugh past the cigarette he had just lit and rested his guitar against the wall. “Damn skippy,” the small man muttered with a wry grin.
The sudden crash of the door slamming open startled the band from their joking and they looked up in unison to see a man with tangled white hair standing in the door. His casual clothes hung in singed tatters around his lean, strong frame and were stained and soaked a foul smelling black.
“Myth?” Octive muttered, barely recognizing his leader and friend.
“Show's canceled, Octive. Let's go,” Myth spoke in nearly a growl before turning and walking back out the door. The four bewildered members of the Citizen Heroes stared at the now closed door in disbelief. Each exchanged confused glances then all eyes settled on Octive.
“You got to be kidding me,” Thundering Takai muttered in amazement.
“That is your boss?” Tempo asked looking at Octive with a mix of shock and pity.
“Is he always like that, or did someone just piss in his Wheaties?” Break Glass added.
Octive looked sheepishly back at his band members and gave a defeated shrug. “I uhh… gotta go guys. I’m really sorry,” was all he could manage to say before jumping off the stage and chasing after Myth.
Thundering Takai was staring after her fellow singer in disbelief when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. Flipping open the small device she hit a single button and took a moment to read a text message. Her face filled with even more frustration while she read the illuminated screen and cursed softly before slamming the phone closed.
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” Tempo chided before she could speak.
“I have to go too guys,” she muttered disappointedly.
“I told you not to tell me,” Tempo countered with mock disappointment.
“Makes no difference now T.T.,” Break Glass replied understandingly. “Go handle your business, doll.”
“Yeah, I am sorry,” she persisted with a shrug and then headed out the door herself.
The drummer and guitarist exchanged dejected looks once their second band member left.
“Manager is going to be pissed,” Break Glass said with a frown and a nod.
Tempo chuckled lightly, “Yeah. I say we split before he shows and let our agent break the news.” The bass guitarist rested his dark grey instrument over his shoulder and snatched his leather jacket off of the floor just behind the stage.
“Works for me,” Break Glass said slipping his sticks in his belt and joining his friend as they headed to the door. “So are we getting wasted or are we doing something heroic?”
“Why not both?” Tempo replied in a disturbingly serious tone then added before they left the room, “I got this hot new contact in Steel Canyon man. You gotta’ meet this one.”
The pair laughed and joked their way out of the bar leaving only the still, unobtrusive personality of Brian Sutter in the quit hall. The reporter’s steady eyes and even more persistent ears were practically tingling with curiosity. Picking up his phone he opened his speed dial list and scrolled down to the word ‘dispatcher’ and then searched for a particular name. Finding it he gave a satisfied grin and pressed the phone to his ear.
“Rachael? How are you?” he said, seething as much charm as he could muster. “I need a favor, actually two. If I give you a number could you triangulate the location of the phone?” He waited for the response, his face growing a little dim when he heard her answer.
“Well, that never stopped you before,” he replied matter-of-factly. “I’ll make it worth your while, darling.” Again he waited for her response.
“That’s a girl. I really owe you one.” He spoke coolly, calmly, while his fist flew up in triumph and he rose up out of his chair. He quickly grabbed his notebook off the table and flipped through the “O” listing until he found the name Octive. The radiant smile of confidence beamed on his face while he read of the number to her then added, “And while you’re running that search is there any chance you could check to see if the Onami Strike Force has been tasked by the Hero Corp for anything major?” A brief pause and the smile only broadened.“You are a doll, Rachael,” he chimed. He might just get something for the afternoon edition yet.