Another day, another dollar, he thought.

Kirk stared at the large pile of postings in front of him. Despite the initial problems with the Colosseum, the place was booming. People couldn’t seem to get enough of watching the heroes of this city battle it out in a variety of formats. They seemed also unable to get enough of the gambling; Colosseum management had to set up separate offices to manage it, and had now decided to keep the arena open around the clock. The increased traffic meant an even greater amount of Kirk’s abilities to be called upon. He had slept very little in the past two days and already it was taking it’s toll.

He wanted to get back to Kenji’s house, since he had been unable to take the costume and staff with him, but now he didn’t see that would be possible. The future seemed almost closed off to him, which made the paranoid part of him think that he would be dead soon.

The less he tried to think about it, the more the thoughts of the rooftop shooting haunted him. Soon, very soon, Draco would try to kill him. He had no idea why or what events would lead up to it, only that it would happen.

He looked at the first match-up and concentrated.

Renee woke up to find herself tied to a chair. That did not entirely surprise her, nor did the fact that she was not at a police station. The identity of her captors, however, did.

“So, you remember me, don’t you, Renee?” asked Edward. “You know better, of course, to even think about lying to me. Not only can I tell if you are, but I can force you to tell the truth.” He sat in a chair opposite her, along with some blonde woman, presumably White Diamond.

“And if you decide to not say anything, well, that’s where I come in.” she purred.

“So, Renee, where would you like to start?” Edward asked casually.

Renee felt the pressure building. She had long known that there was the distinct possibility she would get caught. She never expected to have the whole operation blown apart by a bunch of low-level wannabes. She knew Edward and his track record; she had looked up information on White Diamond, Solanum and their other associates. She sneered in contempt at the pair.

Edward shook his head in mock pity. “Such disdain. Truthfully, any help you give us will be mentioned to the District Attorney. It may go better for you at trial.”

“And what about your trial, Beguiler?” she retorted.

If she was hoping to get a reaction, she was not disappointed. A sharp pain ran through her mind. Xandria looked at Edward with a slight panic in her eyes. Edward released his psychic grip on Renee, his violet eyes narrowed to barely visible slits.

“For what?” he hissed.

In the adjoining room, the remaining team sat quietly, listening in with a baby monitor that Sara had purchased for her friend. They exchanged looks at the implication of Edward having been a superhero. They moved closer to the monitor to listen.

“You know what you did.” she answered defiantly. Who was he to judge anyone, she thought.

“Tell me what I want to know.” he repeated.

Suddenly, Renee yelped in pain. Xandria was tired of this woman, whose actions had caused untold misery and suffering to others. Because of this woman, people, heroes had died. Tearing through her psychic defenses like wet paper, Xandria started examining the contents of her mind, being brutal in the process.

The woman’s screams and moans could be heard over the monitor. The others stared at the white
plastic box with horror.

“What are they doing to her?” asked Flora.

“Don’t know. Do you actually feel sorry for her?” Sara asked.

“No, not really.” Flora mumbled. “I just don’t like to hear sounds of torture.” Memories of time in Rio flooded back, shortly before she had escaped to the United States. Similar sounds were the last ones made by her friend and mentor before she died.

The cries subsided, and Edward told them they could come out. Renee was slumped over in her chair, the ropes keeping her from falling on the floor. Jon looked at the pair.

“She made it difficult Jon.” Xandria said. “I did what I had to do.”

Jon just silently nodded and slapped a teleportation tag onto Renee. When she had faded away, he spoke.

“Tell me what you found out.”

“So, Renee was the leak. Good call, Evan.”

Evan smiled proudly, as did his sister.

“She made the information about Bluedragon available to Draco, along with the rest of us. She’s been doing this for some time, I gathered.”

“What else?”

“There was something about a little girl they kidnapped and is still hostage. They keep her mother under control that way.”

Edward seemed to perk up. He had been in a sour mood since the interrogation. “Where are they keeping her?”

“Who, the girl? Why do you want to know? You know her, or something?” Xandria asked. “And what’s with this ‘Beguiler’ business she called you? You got mad as a hornet when she said that.”

Edward seemed to compose himself. “Beguiler is the name I went by when I was a hero. I did all sorts of things that I’m not proud of, but what’s done is done. I was probably the first one Renee contacted Draco about. From there, he was able to get his hands on my niece, and through that, my sister.” He sighed heavily. “I very much would like to make amends for my small role in Draco’s scheme, but first, I need to get Delilah to safety. When she’s safe, then my sister can act against Draco.”

“So, where is she, Xandria?” Jon asked.

At evening time, Draco received word that Renee had been arrested, although she was currently in a coma. Unable to get the details of what had happened, he sat down at his desk, nervously drumming his fingers, trying to formulate an emergency plan.

He would have to get another plant into the Department, and fast, that much he knew. He would also have to prevent his cousin from talking. Then he would find out who was responsible, and deal with them.

The mansion looked more like a fortress; the Gothic architecture was made more eerie with the wrought iron gate and spikes protruding from the high stone walls. Guards patrolled the ground armed with assault rifles, and a long way to the front door made it seem most foreboding.

The plan was a relatively simple one, even with the intense security; Jon would fly to the roof and pick off the guards. Flora and Evan would go around back to also draw as many guards as possible, while Sara and Edward would go through the front gate.

Concealing himself in shadow, Jon slowly flew to the rooftop, undetectable by human or electronic eyes. He disable three of the sentries on the roof so he could move with relative freedom in his vantage point. He saw his first target, a group of six guards standing around in discussion. Concentrating on his dark powers, Jon released a slender beam of darkness at one of the men. The guard let out a loud gasp and fell to the ground. Some of the guards readied their weapons while two checked on their fallen comrade, calling for help.

Releasing another spell, he caused the group to become enveloped in a dark cloud, causing them to fire off their weapons in confusion. Unable to remove themselves, the disoriented guards were easy pickings for Jon, who one by one started to take their life energies. The tattoos on his arm seemed jubilant in the way he was using their power. He kept fighting the urge to let their will take over his own; he had long since vowed that the Banished would not reclaim him.

Hearing the ruckus, Evan and Flora took their cue. Carefully climbing over the wall, they quickly made for the bushes. Two guards saw them and called out for backup as they ran towards the pair.

Eyes glowing fiercely, Flora’s expression changed from one of exotic beauty to terrifying. The two guards suddenly stopped. As they ran past them, Evan took a look at the guards; it was if they had been turned into statues. A chill ran up his spine as they made it into the house without any other resistance.

“Ok, you two, we’re in. You’re up.” came Flora’s voice over the comlink.

Sara looked Edward over. Both of them looked like two wealthy residents of Founder’s Falls out on a date. She had come to the conclusion that maybe he wasn’t as bad as he seemed to be, but he was definitely no Boy Scout. Apparently, he picked up on her feelings, because he chuckled.

“You don’t strike me as the type to date Boy Scouts, Solanum.” he said with nonchalance.

“Are you ready?”

“I’ve been waiting for this for years.”

Also responding to their cue, Sara and Edward rounded the corner, staggering down the street like a well-to-do, drunken couple. Laughing and flirting with each other, they stopped in front of the main gate. The guard seemed to focus on the pair, rather than notice that his co-workers were beginning to drop like flies from Jon’s rooftop attacks.

“This is private property, leave now.” he ordered, his hand on his rifle.

Giggling, Sara put her arms around the guard. “Ooh, I just love a man in uniform.” she said.

The guard was mildly annoyed, but thrilled on some level. A very drunk, very beautiful woman was flirting with him. She moved very close to him, her lips fractions of an inch from his. He took in a deep breath as she ran her finger down his chest. As her hand went lower, he closed his eyes, but suddenly they popped open. He felt claws poking him in his groin, and whimpered slightly.

Sara had her seductive smile on her face. “Now be a good boy and open the gate.” she said. “Or you may have to start shopping in the ladies’ department.”

Nervously, the guard did as she requested. Before they went through the gate, Edward blasted him, making him collapse to the ground in a heap.

“Clever move, Sara.” he said, scanning the front yard to make sure no guards were coming.

“That was nothing. You should see me in a fight.”

“We’re clear.” he said into his comlink, and the two of them made a run for the front door.

The sound of barking caught their attention as a pack of four guard dogs came running up to them. The dogs backed the two by the fence, their hackles raised as they growled menacingly at them. A guard came with his handgun drawn.

“Hold it right there!” he ordered.

Edward reached out with his mind; the dogs were under his control in seconds. The four dogs started to wag their stumpy tails at their new friend, whimpering for him to pay them some attention. Edward told them to turn around, which they did.

The guard, sensing he was losing control of the situation, tried to keep his eyes on both the intruders and the dogs, who were now growling at him.

“Sic ‘em.” Edward said, a malevolent smile on his face.

The four dogs leapt on the guard, who screamed in panic as the canines tore into him. Edward called them off and had them intercept another group of guards on their way to them. The lead dog leapt into the air and bit down on one of the guard’s hand as he tried to fire his weapon. As Edward and Sara ran for the house, they heard the sound of gun fire as the guards were forced to shoot the dogs to save themselves. A sad expression crossed his face as they got inside.

“What?” Sara asked.

“They were just dogs, but they deserved better than that.” He looked out the window and reached out again with his mind, this time healing the beasts of their wounds. The guards, who had their backs turned, were completely caught unaware by the revived animals, and were quickly taken out. A perverse smile crossed Edward’s face again as the guards’ screams subsided.

“Wow, this is some place.” remarked Sara as she looked around the huge foyer. Twin staircases led to the upper part of the house. She tapped her communicator. “We’re in, guys.”

“Let’s find my niece.” Edward said, concentrating. “She’s here, but I can’t pinpoint it.”

“Then let’s start looking.” Sara said, and ran up the stairs.
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