Whenever Flora visited Skyway City, she found herself imagining the city planners giving the same wistful excuse she did when she was a little girl and a plan went awry: Well, it seemed liked a good idea at the time. She chuckled to herself; her childhood had very few happy moments, but at least she survived it.
She stood outside one of the few apartment buildings in the area known as Vista Plaza. For a place with a supposedly scenic name, there was a lot of nothing to look at, she mused. She remembered when she first came to Paragon City, how grand some of the places sounded to her, a girl from Brazil who spoke very little English. The reality was that most of the names reflected happier times, and now that the criminal element permeated the city at practically every level, the names mocked the listener.
Flora looked around cautiously; Skyway was Troll country, and she did not want them to sneak up on her. She thought of going to the rooftops, but the presence of Clockwork made her think otherwise. While the little robots usually did not attack without provocation, there were always exceptions. She still bore a scar from a blast one of the automatons unleashed on her when she had just moved to the city. The blast also gave her a trip to the hospital and also an appreciation for the deadliness of the things.
So she waited. She didn’t want to spring everyone on her old teammate without a warning. She knew he was still living here; for some odd reason, he liked Skyway, and had no plans of leaving.
Evan and Jon came at the same time by different means; Jon by flight, Evan by extremely fast running. Apparently, they had decided to race; both were a little winded. Flora shook her head in disapproval.
“Boys.” she said in exasperation.
The sudden thump of someone landing made them all turn around. There stood Sara, a dark expression on her face, and for all appearances, a new costume. The halter top had been replaced by a one piece costume with a plunging neckline. The boots were still tall, but not the stiletto heels she used to have. They eyed her new look critically for a moment.
“What’s new?” she asked. “Am I still wanted for murder?”
Flora smiled slyly. “Not anymore.” She waved the file around. “I’ll explain upstairs, but let me go in first. This guy can be a little jumpy.”
The three heroes exchanged curious looks as their green companion went inside.
“So, how is Kirk feeling?” Draco asked Edward.
“Feeling better. He was able to get a good deal of his grief out of the way. Quite cathartic, actually.” Edward liked using big words on Draco; it gave him a slight feeling of inferiority.
“Anything else happen while you two were out?”
Draco produced a tape player and hit the play button. His expression stayed neutral as the tape played back the conversation Edward and Kirk had at Kenji’s house.
“Are you trying to undermine my efforts, Edward?” he asked in a lethal voice.
Edward quickly scanned Draco’s emotions; anger and a sense of bloodlust were coming to mind. He was skating on very thin ice.
With an equally neutral look on his face, Edward replied. “No.”
Doubt flooded Draco. Edward was not surprised by that. He was going to try to trip him up.
“I don’t suppose I have to remind you that the Countess would be more than eager to take you back. She never forgot your little caper.” He was fishing, trying to get Edward to crack.
Edward grinned. “I’m glad to know she hasn’t.”
A rumble in his mind; that wasn’t the reaction Draco was expecting. Most people would be singing by now. To Edward, this was an elaborate dance.
Draco slammed the tape player down, reached across the desk and grabbed Edward by the front of his jacket. Pulling his face inches from his own, he spoke in that soft lethal voice that terrified everyone who heard it.
“If you go anywhere near Kirk, or do anything to him, I will do more than kill you. I will destroy you like no other who has gotten in my way.”
The absolute conviction coming out of him convinced Edward that he would make good on that threat.
Saying anything would prove fatal, so Edward nodded in acquiesence. Draco released him and motioned for him to leave. Edward did so, quickly.
After he left, Marco and Louie came into the office. Draco had sat back down, stroking his goatee, coming up with a plan.
“Get him out of here. He’s up to something, and it’s gonna ruin the operation.”
“Where do you want us to take him?”
“Do you have to ask?” Draco snarled. He snapped his fingers, and the two enforcers followed Edward down the corridor.
“Oh, Mr. Harlowe…” Draco heard Louie call out. As the sounds of fighting and pain reached his ears, a cruel smile crossed his lips.
Kirk looked over the pictures and concentrated; the future flooded his mind. The original vision of the bloody hands seemed to be clearer now, and he could see that someone else was going to die, but this time he would be holding the victim.
Brushing that thought aside, he tried to think of the future winners. He did know that he would have to watch the fights for this information to come to him. He sighed deeply, he really didn’t like fighting. He remembered the faces so that way he could bring the information to Draco.
The thought of Draco suddenly shifted his visions; he was on the rooftop again, as he had seen before. He was on the ledge of a roof, and now he could see who was pointing the gun at him, none other than his boss. Kirk saw himself jump just before Draco fired his gun.
The images started to melt away, like chalk drawings in a rainstorm. Kirk shook his head to clear it. The last image puzzled him, as did the one of blood-covered hands. The fact that both were becoming more clear bothered him, because it meant that they were imminent.
Gathering together the pictures that were the winners, he left his suite and headed towards Draco’s office.
Flora entered the dingy apartment, looking around. Her former teammate was sitting in a beat-up armchair, looking terrified. He’s using again, she thought.
“Liquid Chill, it’s me, Madam Medusa.” she said reassuringly. He recoiled in imagined horror. “Hey, Jake! It’s me, Flora.” she repeated.
A weak smile crossed the white-skinned man’s face. His dark eyes seemed glazed over. Flora got down beside him.
“I need to ask you something. Were you in the sewers at anytime last night?”
“Yeah…” he croaked. “Two guys in suits said they’d give me some stuff if I took care of a Lost who stole something of theirs. I didn’t want to, but they gave me something and I couldn’t say no.” A violent shudder racked him. “I fought the guy, but he didn’t really fight, not like the Lost usually do. A quick blast of ice did it.”
Flora shook her head sadly. Liquid Chill had started using drugs shortly after his escape from Crey Labs. He had gotten himself cleaned up, but apparently someone found his weakness.
“I’m going to bring a few others up here, ok?”
“Sure. That’s fine.”
Flora went to the window to motion to the others to come up. She saw the three of them getting into what was the final stages of an altercation with some members of the Troll gang. As the last one fell, Sara made the gesture of wiping her hands together and the three entered the building. Their footsteps could be heard coming up the stairwell.
“Liquid Chill, these are Stingray, Solanum and Nightbringer.”
“Hi.” he said to the newcomers.
“I have no doubt about that.” Sara quipped.
Flora shot her a look causing her to regret her comment.
“Turns out Liquid Chill is the one who killed Iron Spike, although, he was under another’s influence.” she explained.
Jon’s eyes narrowed. “Who made him do this?”
She looked over at Liquid Chill, who had fallen asleep. “Two men. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea as to who.” She opened the file. “I had the forensic people give me a copy of the Tsoo killing in Steel Canyon a few days ago. Turns out, the prints weren’t Tsoo. They belonged to members of the Family.”
“Wait a second,” Sara held up her hand, trying to process this information. “The Family faked a Tsoo killing? Why?”
“To throw investigators off, perhaps?” Evan volunteered.
“That’s plausible. They could frame another group, and get their hands on the gardener.” Jon said.
“But how would they know about him to begin with?” Sara asked.
“Maybe there’s a leak at City Hall or something.” Evan said. He had never been one to offer his opinions, but lately that had changed. The others looked at each other in amazement.
“That makes sense.” Jon nodded.
“Oh, God, you’re right!” Sara breathed. “How else would they get information on a hero’s drug habit, family history, or anything else?”
“The house!” Flora exclaimed. “Xandria’s there all by herself! If the Family tried to frame Sara, then who knows what they’ll do to the rest of us!”
Jon grabbed Liquid Chill. “Let’s get to the house. I’m taking him over to Cygnus.”
The five left the building in the slowly gathering twilight.
It was hard for Edward to determine which noise was more annoying; the hissing noise or the beeping. He took in his surroundings with blurry vision. He had no idea where he was, other than someone’s basement. He shook his head, still groggy from the drugs and the club over the head. Marco would definitely pay if they crossed paths again, he mused.
As he looked around, it was then he became aware that he was not alone. Passed out and tied up, the blonde woman seemed to have fallen victim to Draco’s wrath as well. He could sense all sorts of power radiating out of her, enough that he could tell she too was superpowered. As he tried to read her feelings, he found them to be doubled. Edward then realized that she was pregnant.
He sighed deeply and tried to sit up. He tried to determine the source of either noise, but his senses were so addled by the drugs, he could not make it out. He saw some blinking red lights, but he had no idea what they belonged to.
Edward concentrated for a moment; he knew he could beat this if he tried hard enough. Sometimes his ability to feel what others felt could translate into healing. Maybe if he could undo whatever had happened to him, he would be able to make heads or tails of his situation. He felt the tingle of healing come over him, and he felt the injuries and cloudiness dissipate. He tried again to help the woman, but he found that he couldn’t.
Taking another look, he saw what was going on; several tanks of compressed gas were opened just enough to allow the contents to escape. While Edward couldn’t see what was it was, he could still see the telltale symbol of them being flammable. Looking closer, he could see that some sort of wire was connected to it, one that went upstairs. The source of the blinking red lights made his stomach twist into knots; it was a timer, and he had no doubt what would happen when it reached zero.
Kirk brought the predictions down to Draco’s office. He was busy talking to an attractive woman with brown hair and deep brown eyes. Kirk shyly looked away.
“Hey, Kirk! You got my scores?”
“Um…yeah.” he said. Beautiful women always made him nervous.
“Sorry, where are my manners? This is Renee, my cousin.”
Kirk mumbled a greeting. Renee chuckled at his shyness. “Is he always this talkative?”
“No…sometimes I can get him to say three words.” Draco cracked. He leaned over and gave Renee a friendly peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you later at Marconi’s, right?”
“Yeah, and Ma will be there, so behave yourself.” she replied as she left. When she was gone, Draco seemed to change his mood from jovial to all business.
“Edward had to leave. Personally, I think he felt threatened by you. I can’t say for certain, but he may have even planned to have you killed.”
Kirk seemed shocked. “What? He seemed so nice!”
Draco shrugged. “I guess you can never tell about some people.”
As Kirk left the office, he was puzzled. Edward had always been honest with him, and had been the closest thing he had to a friend here. Now Draco was telling him that Edward had something dastardly planned for him. He found it all very difficult to believe, especially since it was coming from his boss.
Before leaving, Draco had Louie follow Kirk back to his suite. Since Edward was gone, Draco told him, the big enforcer was going to be his bodyguard. If he needed to go anywhere, Louie was supposed to go with him. Kirk found the huge man’s presence somewhat unnerving, and walked as far ahead of him as he could.
In his suite, he again attempted to look into the future; but this time his vision stayed cloudy. Wondering what it meant, he gave up. Draco told him he needed to be at the arena before seven. One thing he did know about his power was that whatever future event he saw meant he would have to be present to observe it.
Changing into clothes that made him seem completely unremarkable and unmemorable, Kirk exited the suite and gave a quick smile to Louie, who followed him silently. As they made their way down the twisting corridors, Kirk wondered if Edward was alright.