- Epilogue - - -

Cayo-Tay stood above the two graves that lay side-by-side. Rain fell around him, soaking his clothes for the first time since he had the experiments on his home planet. Barbara sat on her knees between the graves, tears trailing down her cheeks as she mourned the loss of her only two children.

At the head of each grave stood a statue, depicting the two heroes at their best. The headstone below the statue of Barbara’s daughter read:

Andrea “Star Storm” Knight
April 4th, 1978 – March 13th, 2004
Fought with honor and valor
Died defending the citizens of Paragon City
Hero from the day she was born

Likewise, the headstone that stood beneath the statue of Barbara’s son read:

Richard “Lightning Storm” Knight
October 18th, 1976 – March 13th, 2004
Son of Paragon City
Defender of the World

Tay nodded his respects, knowing deep down that they would still be alive if not for him. He whispered softly to both of their spirits, “Your deaths will not go in vain.”

Barbara rose in front of Tay, turning as she stood to face him. They embraced tightly, sharing their grief.

“I can’t stay here, Tay,” Barbara said finally.

He nodded, already knowing that she was going to leave. “I can’t go with you. They died saving me. I’m going to make the Crey pay.”

“Vengeance doesn’t make the hero, Tay. Vengeance will lead you down the wrong path,” her voice was forced, wavering from sadness.

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t change what I’m going to do to the bastards that –“

Barbara placed a hand on Tay’s lips, staying his voice with her gentle touch. Her eyes were red, brimming with tears. He nodded, surmising the gesture’s meaning. The petite woman stepped back, pulling in a shaky sigh. “I know you’ll do the right thing when the time comes, Tay.”

At her feet was a bag. In it was a box wrapped to protect it from the weather. She picked up the bag and held it in her arms. For several long moments she looked at the box before holding it to Tay.

Their eyes locked as he accepted the bag. “It’s a new costume. I was planning on giving it to you when you got back from your stakeout three weeks ago, but…” She trailed off. He knew what would have been said, so he didn’t press for her to continue. “Don’t open it yet. Wait until you get back to your apartment.”

“All right.” He smiled softly, wanting to assure her that everything would be indeed be all right. It’s a bitter thing to know that nothing will be all right, however. “I heard about an outbreak in one of the containment zones. I was going to head there after we left here. I’ll wear this there.” They hugged again, and then Barbara began walking away towards her car.

Tay stayed between the graves, holding the box against his chest securely. Barbara took one last look at the man who had saved her so long ago. Her lip quivered, seeing her daughter’s smiling face on the statue depicting her. She called out, her voice a mere whisper. Tay heard her well enough, though. His hearing was still as attuned as ever.

After she spoke, she got into her car and left the graveyard. Her words rang in Tay’s mind over and over.

“Don’t look for me, Cayo-Tay.”

- -- - -

In the Crey Industries skyscraper, Countess Crey sat at her desk, sorting through the myriad of files strewn haphazardly in front of her. Her mind was strictly on business. The mess with the two Storm heroes had her company in a PR nightmare, but they would recover. They always had.

The buzzer on her intercom went off and she pressed the button with the slightest touch. “Send in Dr Vasques, please. Also, call Bruno and Madeline to my office.”

“Yes, Ms Crey.”

The intercom clicked off, and a few moments later Dr Vasques strode purposefully into the office with a file tucked between her bosom and forearm.

“Before you say anything, Doctor, know that your project was a complete failure. We failed to get any useful data from the subject before our lab was completely destroyed, that is if there was even any useful data to begin with. So, begin by telling me why I shouldn’t have you thrown into Liberty Harbor?” The Countess didn’t even look up from her papers as she spoke.

The suddenness of the death threat took Vasques off guard and she stuttered as she attempted to do just what the Countess asked of her. “Th-the incident was unfortunate but wasn’t a complete disaster. While the raid on our – your – lab took place, I was in a research room examining the subject’s DNA.”

“I assume you’re going to have a point?”

“Y-yes, Ms Crey. I found that his DNA was much like ours, humans that is, except advanced.”

“Advanced? He was a mutant? I fail to see how this helps you, Doctor. There are mutants popping up all over the world.” The door to the office opened and in strode a slickly dressed man with a fedora propped crooked on his head alongside a female who’s head was wrapped in a bandage.

Doctor Vasques recognized the woman immediately as the psychic that had kept Heat Flux unconscious for two weeks. All of a sudden she began to feel uneasy.

“No, not a mutant. Not a human either.” She opened the file and dropped several enlarged photos in front of the Countess. “Look at those.”

“I’m not a Doctor, Doctor. These mean nothing to me.” Countess Crey nonchalantly pushed the photos off her desk.

“Those were taken with your lab’s best microscope. It’s his DNA. What I found was… was incredible! Here, look! She moved closer and held a paper out. She dropped the rest of the file onto the desk and pointed at a line of code that ran from one side of the paper to the other. “This here shows a part of one helical turn. In it are four hydrogen-bonded bases. Now humans have four bases: Adenine, Thymine, Gaunine, and Cytosine. This shows that there are two more bases in his DNA!” Her eyes were wild, a grin on her lips from ear to ear.

The Countess looked up and gauged the scientist’s reaction to the revelation she had just nearly shouted. “Again, I say that I am NOT a scientist. I am a business woman.”

“Right right,” replied Vasques quickly. “Short and sweet. Two years ago we procured DNA from the aliens that attempted to invade earth. Their structure was similar to this, only way more advanced. If I had to guess, I would say millennia or more.

“Like chimpanzees and humans. Heat Flux is the chimpanzee to the Rikti’s human!”

The Countess cocked her head, and then smiled coolly to the Doctor. “Good work, Doctor Vasques. It would seem that my investment in your project wasn’t a waste. Do you still have samples of your subject’s DNA?”

“Yes! Of course! We took several over the course of the two weeks we had them. They are at cold storage in your Skyway City location.”

“Good. I appreciate you bringing this to me, Doctor Vasques. If you follow Bruno and Madeline, they’ll take you to your new offices.”

Vasques smiled broadly and strode ahead of the two lackeys. Her head was held high as she left the office.

The Countess tapped a long fingernail on the desk, gaining the attention of Bruno. They shared a mere glance, one that told the mook everything he needed to know. It was a look he had seen many times before. He grinned a gap-toothed grin and tipped his fedora forward. “Yes, ma’am.”

As they left the office, Madeline asked, “Where are we taking her?”

“Liberty Harbor.”

The End
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