The ties that bind.

During the morning that followed one of the worst massacres seen in a long time, the scrappers made ready to go deep into the sewers system, to hunt down and close the portal that allowed the Circle of Thorns to come into the world. Requisitioning everything they could lay their hands on, guns, ammo, bows and arrows, and even a hefty supply of C-4 explosive, the ground fighters of Apocalypse emptied the stores of the Hunters HQ.

The mysterious Erg, who could not be hit by any means, even when he stood still, had professed that they were welcomed to use anything in the base, right before he left. Stating that he was expected elsewhere, and also because Xanthion recognized no threat in him, they allowed him to go. Sun Heat and Cabaret were ordered to accompany him on his venture, and to provide all the help they could if he requested it. Uncertain of the nature of Erg, Xanthion had recognized the universal fact that much like any other man, Erg couldn’t stop staring at Cabaret’s well rounded behind. And he hoped that by sending the two women with him, they would learn more about the Hunters of Apocalypse, exploiting his weakness for curves and sensuality.

Xanthion and the scrappers entered the sewers system a little after eight o’clock in the morning, unaware that a beast was roaming its corridors as well. A beast that was summoned during the dreadful night, wanting and hungry, it had to hide from the sunlight. Far from being just an animal, it could think and learn from its mistakes, and could recognize the need for survival early on. And it found itself a deep, dark and murky place to hide, until night would come once more, and until its lackey and General could come back, Ghost Starr. Confident that they would succeed in their task, the entire team began its way down into the bowels of the Kings Row district, where they were hoping to find and close the portal once and for all.

On the other side of town, in an extraordinary reunion, the Leaders of Apocalypse were faced with a difficult decision. Cavalier, Moon Heat, Electrobolt and Chromium Man were hard pressed by the mayor’s office to provide an explanation for the recent events, and the lack of cohesion that had surfaced during the city’s darkest hour.

“We’ve had to call on you three times, and you never sent anyone to help out, now we’ve lost him inside our own city walls, he’s free again.” Said city counselor Wepp, chairman of the board and also the director of operations at Crey Industries.

“Voyager can’t be considered a threat, Mr. Wepp. However, and now that the Kings Row situation is under control, we have our best people on the lookout for him.” Replied Chromium Man who was also monitoring the body reactions of everyone in this room, using his Multi Optic Helmet, MOH, as a lie detector and much more. Counselor Wepp was very nervous about this issue, very uneasy every time he mentioned Voyager’s name.

“Chromium is right, Mr. Mayor, and might I add that until we know more about why Voyager came back, all we can do is wait for the time that he is found or that he makes his motives known.” Control, always the voice of reason, was trying very hard to stay still and calm. But all he wanted to do since the morning, was to head straight to Talos Island and check in on Mase Lokrin, who had sustain a massive injury while saving him. Granted, Mastema Reign had kept the famous defender alive and well, but last he heard, the doctors at the hospital had been operating on his friend for the last two hours, trying to repair a cut spinal cord. The odds that it would succeed were slim, but the best surgeons had been assigned to the task.

“Ladies, Gentlemen, I’ve been listening to this argument for an hour now, and frankly, we’re going around in circles. Cavalier, as Leader of Apocalypse and also the chairman of the board of the ECPC, I order you and your troops to arrest Voyager by any means necessary. I don’t care how you bring him in, but I want him back into Firebase Zulu before the end of the week.” The mayor nodded at counselor Wepp, then looked at Cavalier, awaiting his answer.

The famous leader stood there, arms crossed across his muscle bound chest, in the official city office, without saying a word. The silence became palpable, heavy and full of meaning. What was going on here that Voyager posed so much of a threat to the city? The mayor should be more concerned with Kings Row’s aftermath, than a single controller roaming free. As hard as he tried to put it all together, it didn’t fit. Something here was missing, hidden, it reeked and smelled bad. Looking directly at counselor Wepp, eyes cold and measuring, Cavalier replied:

“It will be done.”

“Then gentlemen, best of luck to you and your troops. Report to me once the mission is completed.” The mayor stood up and walked for the door, followed by the officials and counselors, leaving the heroes alone.

“Chromium?” Asked Cavalier

“Ya?” Replied the armored hero.

“I want you to pull everything out on city counselor Wepp, even the dirt under his nails.”

“You got it.”

Far away from there, in the polluted district of Crey’s Folley, under an abandoned factory near the Ritki Crash site, in a laboratory where Crey Industries scientists were secretly working on projects to improve technologies and enhancements, awaited patiently Bear Cat. For the last ten hours, he has been sitting in a cell, meditating and waiting for someone to open the door, which he couldn’t break down. Inside this laboratory, in a giant sized glass tube, was a man Bear Cat had sworn to rescue and bring to safety. If it weren’t for that, he would’ve more than likely destroyed the whole installation, and bring it crashing down on their heads. But until he could determine how, and also if it was safe to remove the man form his contraption, he would remain still and quiet.

“You know, I can hear you.” He spoke aloud to the room, to the scratching noise coming from the ventilation shaft in the ceiling. At first, he had believed it to be a rat, rummaging through them, but after a few minutes of careful listening, he surmised that rats didn’t curse when they bumped their heads. Whatever it was, didn’t make noises heavy enough to be human or anything that size. Definitely smaller and, it had to be to circulate through the shafts like that. Knowing that he was inside a base very similar to his own HQ in Kings Row, he knew the outlay well enough, and knew that the ventilation shafts wouldn’t allow for someone, or something bigger than a toddler to crawl into them.

The ventilation plate suddenly squeaked open, and hung to the side, moving to and fro as if the wind was pushing it. A dark, square whole, about ten inches wide from which he could see a pair of pink eyes blinking, was opened.

“Who are you?” Asked a small female voice, while he could see two little hands with sharp nails grab the edges of the opening, as if to look more closely from the darkness.

“I go by the name of Bear Cat, and who might you be?” He squinted his eyes, to try and see through the darkness, to make out some features from this new arrival. But the light on the ceiling made it impossible to see well into the darkness of the ventilation shaft, it provided cover for the mysterious being up there.

“You can call me Lab, I guess. I live here.” Replied the small female voice.

“I see. Well, hmmm, Lab, can you tell me where here is?” He asked her, while slowly standing up from his yoga position and stretching himself. He looked very heavy and muscle bound, and to an untrained eye, he would look slow and clumsy. But the last half of his name, Cat, defined exactly how he could move.

“Oh, well, it’s kinda hard to explain. The doctors create things here. Like drugs and things like that, and they also make cool gadgets.”

“That sounds like fun.” He replied to her, suddenly understanding that whatever she was, she had a tone to her voice that was very innocent, very childish.

“You bet. You know you’re the first person I’ve seen in a long time that’s in a cage. A very long time.” She went on from the darkness, pink eyes blinking once more.

“How long?” So, he wasn’t the first one to come here, was he?

“I don’t know, but a long time. The last one that was here wasn’t too nice to me, he was very rude and angry.”

“Is that why you’re staying up there? I will not harm you, I promise.” Bear Cat was intrigued, had this laboratory been running for so long undetected?

“You’re a very big guy, you know, and I’m very small. If I come down there, I won’t be able to come back up.” She replied stoically, as if Bear Cat should’ve known better than to ask a silly question. “Besides, you said your name was Bear Cat, and it so happens that I’m very afraid of cats.”

Scratching his head in puzzlement, Bear Cat came to stand right beneath the opening, raising his massive arm, with his hand opened, he said:

“I can bring you down, and I promise to help you back up when you want to leave.”

She remained silent for a while, pink eyes blinking in the darkness, looking at the huge hand that was waiting to help her get down from the security of her position. Bear Cat waited patiently, not saying anything, looking at his most peaceful.

“All right, but if you trick me, I will hurt you.” Replied the small voice. Then, two very small feet appeared from the edge, smaller than a baby’s feet, and then she jumped to land standing in his hand. Bear Cat was totally surprised, his eyes grew wide and wonderment appeared on his rugged features.

She stood about twelve inches high, no more, long sharp pink hair and eyes, blue grey skin with a long tail, reminding him of a rat. Pants, shoes and t-shirt were the size a Barbie doll would wear, and she looked almost human, were it not for the whiskers on her face and that wiggling grey tail.

“What are you?” He asked her incredulously, while cocking his head from left to right, detailing her.

“I told you, I’m Lab. The old geezer that was here before you gave me a last name. Lab Experiment, pleased to meet you.” And with that, she made a formal bow, and flashed a sharp teeth smile. Shaking his head, Bear Cat asked:

“What old geezer?”

“His name was Voyager, he’s gone now, been gone a long time.”

Bear Cat’s eyebrows raised up at the mention of Voyager. He had read the file, thoroughly, and he recalled that at one point before his banishment, he had been taken prisoner by Crey Industries.

“Voyager was here?” He asked her, while remembering the file has stated something about some sort of experiment that had been performed on him, during the time they had held him here. He also recalled that Turbo Starr and the Riders of Apocalypse had rescued him some time later.

“Yes, and he wasn’t very nice to me. I’m almost glad they hurt him. But when others like you came to rescue him, and almost destroyed my home, I was glad to see him leave.” She replied with a serious tone, while brushing dust away from her hair.

Bear Cat sat down on the floor, and set Lab Experiment down on it, where she stood, looking up at him. The Voyager file had mentioned that he had been injected with drugs during that time, and that soon after, he had lost all control over his power, making him a walking time bomb.

“So, when the “others” came to break him free, why didn’t they free the man in the water tank?” Asked the leader of the Hunters, trying hard to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.

“Oh, that one. He wasn’t in the big tube at first, he was a friend of Dr. Wepp, it’s only when they rebuilt the laboratory that he was put in there.” She replied while brushing her whiskers.

“A friend of Dr. Wepp. So why is he in the big tube as you say?” He replied, while his eyebrows creased in concentration. This little one knew a lot of what was going in here, and information what exactly what he needed right now.

“I don’t know, he’s been there for a very long time now, always sleeping. They never, ever take him out of there, and before he was put in there, they kept him sleeping.” She replied, pink eyes blinking and tail wiggling.

“Oh, so he wasn’t a friend of Dr. Wepp after the others came to free Voyager?”

“I’m not sure anymore, I think I had banged my head too hard back then. But I think there were two of him during that battle to free the old geezer, one left, the other stayed here and is in that tube.” She looked around the room, searching the ground for something.

“Don’t you have any food?” She then asked.

Bear Cat thought long and hard, while Lab Experiment ran from place to place in the small cell, looking for crumbs of food.
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