SHOCK VALUE


JD looked around the terminal with wary eyes. He was deep in enemy territory, and it felt like it. People looked the black-clad youth with the strange white lock of hair suspiciously. He wondered for a moment what their thoughts would reveal if he could read them.

He looked down at his watch. 7:50. Director Nash said he would arrange for a contact to meet him. He scanned the faces of those standing around the terminal. Everyone seemed afraid or indifferent, all unwilling to make eye contact with another. The lack of sociability annoyed him. Yankees just did not know how to be polite, he thought.

JD headed for Baggage Claim, even though he had brought just the one carry on. He traveled light, and he knew he would not be here long.

As he made his way through the cavernous terminal, he saw a group of people holding signs for unknown travelers. He saw one man holding a sign that read, “Bascombe”, and walked over to him.

“’Scuse me, but did you happen to catch the score of the Braves game?” he asked.

The man looked him over for a moment, then replied. “Yeah, they lost, two-zip.”

“Dang!” JD spat. “I think I owe someone twenty.”

“Gambling is a fool’s path.” he looked around. “Eric Tanner. Call me RedShift. We have a car waiting outside, Mr. Bascombe.”

“Great. And you can call me JD, or LiveWire. Take your pick.”

As the two men walked through the airport, they were unaware that for all their discretion, they were still being watched. An attractive woman with blonde hair pulled back into a neat bun sat at one of the airport’s bars. She observed the pair walk by, and casually reached into her purse for her cell phone. Without even looking, she dialed the number of her boss.

“Hello?” came a gravelly voice on the other end.

“It’s me. The kid is here. Shall we follow?”

“Yes, but do so carefully. We don’t want to tip them off. They’re the last pocket of superheroes in the city. I want to make sure we get rid of all of them.”

“Gotcha.” she hung up, paid her tab, and walked out of the bar. She followed the two men out of the terminal and got into her nondescript grey sedan. She watched them get into an equally undistinguished car and begin to drive away.

Megan turned the radio volume down so she could concentrate on tracking the pair. She followed from a ways behind so as not to alert them to her presence. Her skills at tracking people were unequalled in the organization, add to that her innocuous appearance, and she was probably Don Antonio’s favorite assassin. It was not without reason she had been dubbed “The Hero Slayer.”

As she followed them, she mused over recent events; a hero from the East Coast had arrived and had bargained his brother’s life in exchange for doing some Family work. Of course, once the hero returned home, he was dealt with immediately and his brother recaptured. Now another hero from the same city had come here. She wondered what, if any, connection he had to Bluedragon. She would have to ask Antonio when she got the chance.

She sighed deeply; she knew that in all likelihood, he would tell her nothing. He was a man of many secrets, and not forthcoming with any of them. She had her secrets as well, which he neither acknowledged or even attempted to uncover. A half-smile crossed her face; that was probably the secret of their successful working relationship, their mutual distrust of the other.

Deciding that she wanted some music for this trip, she turned the radio back on. It appeared that her targets had gotten onto the turnpike. This was going to be a longer drive than she had expected.


In the other car, JD kept pressing his face to the window, looking at the attempts of the city to rebuild. Several skyscrapers were in the process of being rebuilt, and he could see the tiny figures of workmen scrambling on the outside of the massive buildings.

“So…how bad was it here when the Rikti came?” he asked.

“Bad. Whole suburbs of the city were leveled. Aurora, St. Charles, West Chicago, all gone. The Rikti flattened the National Accelerator Laboratory. It was almost like they had a grudge against it, or something. The resulting explosion demolished everything around it. Everyone else took a bad hit, but the outlying areas seemed to suffer the most, in addition to downtown.” Eric explained. A sad look crossed his face. “My wife and kids were among the casualties.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to bring that up. We got hit bad too, down home.”

“Where’s home? Originally?” Eric added.

“Little town called Diamondhead, Mississippi. Halfway between Biloxi and Nawlins.” he slurred.

“Where?” Eric asked. He found the young man’s heavily accent almost indecipherable.

“New Awlins.” he repeated.

“Oh, New Orleans.”

“I just said that.” JD said, shaking his head. Yankees, he thought. “Anyway, the Rikti came, tryin’ to take over an all. But everyone in the area did what they could to fight em off. We even threw a few moonshine bombs at em. I guess they don’t care much for alcohol, especially when it’s on fire. They were screamin’ like a bunch a girls that seen Elvis, or somethin. They ran back into their ships and just started shootin’ at everythang.” he shook his head. “Lost my daddy, couple of brothers, and a cousin, and…someone else real close to me.”

“Let’s change the subject.” Eric suggested. “After the Rikti, the crime families took control of the town’s government. They had managed to consolidate themselves and now have Chicago under martial law. The state government is powerless to do anything about it, either that or they don’t care. Those who are superpowered are hunted down and either are forced to join the Family or be killed. Most of them choose the latter.”

“So how many are left?”

“Not many. I lead the last group. There may be others, but they’re individuals scattered throughout the city and no real way to contact them.”

“How do you guys help anybody, especially if you’re bein hunted and all?”

“We find a way. Carefully, of course. We have to live double lives or risk getting captured.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave? Go to a place where you’re wanted?”

“The thought has occurred, JD. I must confess, it would be nice to be in a city where we would be welcome. But here, we are needed.” he explained.

JD nodded. That made perfect sense to him.

“You do realize that you have to tone yourself down. Nightbringer and Medusa sent a message saying as much.” Eric said as he pulled off the turnpike and proceeded into the downtown area.

“They are such pains!” JD sighed in exasperation. “Why can’t I do this mission in my own way?” he looked around. “Not that I know anything about this city, but, where are we going?”

“You need answers about Bluedragon. We’re going to get some answers. Then we can go to the safe house. Besides,” he said calmly, “we’re being followed.”


“Where are they going?” Megan asked aloud. She had hoped that they would head straight to wherever all the remaining supers were hidden, but it seemed that she was following them around without end.

It was then that the thought occurred to her they might be aware of her presence. Watching them get off at the La Grange Park exit, she called into her boss and gave him the information. There was no point in her continuing to shadow them. Besides, there were enough spies and contacts in this city to keep an eye on them. That was all they needed to do; she would handle the rest.

She watched the grey car drive out of sight and continued on her own way.
CONTINUE >
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