The Skulls lieutenant was not in a particularly good
mood. Lately, scores of underlings had been picked up by the police
after being found as bloody, beat-up heaps of flesh. Membership in
his domain was beginning to noticeably decrease, a fact which surely
his superiors would not ignore for long.
For the past month, this
situation had been in existence. He had a good idea as to who was
behind all the attacks, but he knew his hands were tied. His superiors
would mark him a dead man if they knew what he had been up to.
ago, he had been approached by an old acquaintance who now worked
for Crey Industries with a proposition. There had been several new
products being tested by the megaconglomerate, and if he could find
some “participants,” they would be happy to compensate financially.
The products were two drugs, one named Persuasion, and the other,
The Serum. He had tried it out on a few of his underlings, and to
his amazement, the products worked incredibly well. But before the
young Skulls could go out and test their newfound powers, a black
truck marked “Crey Industries” on the side would pick them up, and
the lieutenant would never see or hear from them.
About six months
ago, he started to develop a plan; one that would lead to greatness,
not only among the Skulls, but among Paragon City’s powerful. He kidnapped
an up and coming model named Xandria, injected her with both drugs.
The result was the tall beauty becoming a psychic completely loyal
to him. Deciding if one high-powered model was good, more would be
better, and he set his sights on Sara Shaughnessy. Xandria told him
everything he wanted to know about the redheaded supermodel, and that
was how he was able to lure her in.
“And now the seed has grown and
blossomed.” he whispered, repeating the line one of the young Skulls
had told him after getting out of the hospital. The boy told of a
vicious attack he had survived, but barely. The Bone Daddy thought
nothing of it at first, but now he was beginning to think Sara Shaughnessy
was very much alive and out to destroy him.
Xandria entered his study
with her usual slinkiness. She was tall for a woman, but fortunately,
he was taller still. The Persuasion made her vulnerable to a stronger
mind, suppressing the conscience and inhibition in those who took
it. He capitalized on Xandria’s reduced mental capacity, not only
for information on Sara, but in other ways as well.
He smiled at his
prize. “My dear, how was shopping?”
“There was a sale today, darling.
One hundred percent off of everything.”
“You’ve been using your abilities
for selfish gain again, haven’t you?” he chided.
She smiled, and he
wondered briefly what she would be like if she wasn’t on the Persuasion.
She probably would fry my brains out, he thought. Instead of one supermodel
out to get him, he’d have two.
“Xandria, I’m going to need you to
do something for me.” he said, a plan beginning to form in his head.
“I need you to find Sara and bring her to me.”
Across town, Jon was
in no less of a bad mood. He had tried his best to help Sara to work
with Paragon City’s law enforcement, and for the most part, she did.
Unfortunately, she was keeping her main focus on two people; her brother
and the Skull lieutenant who had kidnapped him. At every opportunity,
she was out prowling the streets of Kings Row, slowly decimating the
Skull network in the area in her efforts to find Evan.
This was not
to say the reduced number of Skulls in the area displeased him. To
the contrary, people were hearing about how Kings Row was being cleaned
up, and some of the property values were starting to go up, even if
slightly. What concerned him was Sara’s obsessive drive for vengeance
on the Skulls. More than once she had run off en route to a mission
simply because she saw a Skull member across the street or duck into
He sighed deeply, waking his wife up. She smiled sleepily
“You should talk to her, Jon.” she said in a thickly accented
voice. “She may be getting powerful, but she needs guidance. Like
you did, remember?”
He smiled back at her. He remembered the day he
met his wife; she was a novice heroine, he was a member of the Skulls.
Instead of fighting, the two were immediately attracted to each other.
Jon ended his affiliation with the gang to join the exotic Madam Medusa.
For a while, they worked with legendary swordswoman Madam Lotus, using
their combined might to fight crime. During that time, though, Jon
had to retrain his thinking; he had learned to use his powers for
evil, and now had to use them for good. But the powers he wielded
came from darkness, and reflected a sinister nature at times. It was
always a fight to not let that darkness consume him again. If Flora
hadn’t been so patient with him….
“You’re right, my dear.” He took
her hand and kissed it. He often wondered how she managed growing
up the way she did; green, scaly skin and eyes that seemed to glow
red. Her childhood seemed to be a sore subject for her, and so he
rarely brought it up. Maybe someday she would tell him, after all,
they hadn’t been married very long.
“I’ll talk to her later. Right
now, I’ve got to go see Madam Lotus. She called with some information
about The Serum.”
Up on the rooftops of Kings Row, Sara watched what
was going on in the alley below. Three Skulls had cornered some unfortunate
woman. Somehow, she doubted they were interested in just her purse.
She moved in closer to investigate.
“Come on, hand it over, and we’ll
be easy on ya.” said the leader.
“Get away or I’ll scream!” the woman
said, fumbling around in her purse. She brandished a can of mace with
a violently trembling hand.
Her threat only seemed to illicit laughter
from the gangers, who pressed in close on the woman.
Sara had seen
enough; she silently came down the fire escape and made a heroic leap
behind the men, who were oblivious to her presence. She unsheathed
her claws, which had since become longer, extending about eight inches
from her fingertips. The action produced a curious noise, like the
sound of a switchblade knife, only instead of one blade, it was ten.
The three turned around slowly. They had heard tales from some of
their brothers about the red-haired woman who seemed out to destroy
the Skulls in this area. Word came from their boss that whoever brought
her in, alive or dead, would receive a great reward. They knew that
this could be their chance; there was three of them, and no reports
indicated that she attacked groups.
“Are you here for the party?”
the leader asked.
She smiled. A cheerless smile, it seemed more rooted
in malevolence than mirth. Her hazel eyes gave no warmth, only a glittering
coldness. Her claws were pointed at them, ready for them to make a
“If it’s a party, you forgot one my favorite things.” she finally
The Skulls fanned out slightly. The woman cowered behind
“What’s that?” the leader asked.
She leapt into the
air in a rapid spin. With her claws extended, the effect was part
tornado, part buzz-saw. The leader saw his two underlings fall to
the attack. He managed to duck in time and now realized he was going
to be facing her alone.
“Confetti.” she said, resuming her claws-out
He pulled out his knife, a large enough blade, but he would
still have to get close to use it. If he could just buy himself some
time, he might be able to get away from her. Aside from The Nightbringer,
the Skulls had few enemies that solely targeted them, so whoever this
girl was, she had obviously decided they were going to be her key
“Bring it, then, baby.” he taunted, readying his knife.
He managed to miss her first swipe, a fast downward slash, and was
able to counter with a hit on her arm. Her leather armband, however,
absorbed the damage. He felt her other hand cut into his side and
the force of the blow sent him back a few feet, and spun him around.
He looked at the wounds. Several long slashes were in his jacket and
shirt. The cuts were long and shallow, but bleeding profusely. If
he took many hits like that, he would bleed to death. Thinking quickly,
he jumped on top of the dumpster and over the tall fence. He was knew
that he would be able to find a hiding place if he was quick. This
encounter would have to be reported to his boss.
the thought of going after him, but decided that the woman needed
some help. She walked around the dumpster. The woman was still huddled.
“It’s alright. They’re gone. You can call the cops to deal with these
two.” she nodded at the two unconscious Skulls. She turned and started
walking down the alley toward the street.
“Thank you, whoever you
are.” the woman called out.
Sara turned. She had given some thought
to her code name after she had decided to embrace what seemed to be
her destiny in crimefighting.
“Call me Solanum. It’s Latin for ‘nightshade.’”
she replied, and turned back around. With a swift leap, she climbed
up the fire escape to her vantage point on the rooftops. As soon as
she was away from the area, she felt as if something grabbed her mind.
She huddled on the rooftop clutching her head.
“Well done, darling.”
the voice mocked. She could tell it was Xandria. “Like they say, you’ve
come a long way, baby.”
“What do you want?” Sara snarled.
“A chance to talk. Meet me at Warehouse 7. Don’t worry about any sneak
attack. This is purely woman to woman. Around dusk, then?”
As quickly as it descended, Xandria left her mind. Sara
looked around the rooftops for any sign of the telepath. Seeing none,
a sense of frustration filled her. Aside from the Skull leader, Xandria
was her best lead to finding Evan, and while she wasn’t sure she could
fight her friend alone, she did not want to drag Jon and Flora into
She jumped to the next rooftop, towards the warehouse district
and to what she hoped would be her brother.
“Thank you for allowing
me to come, Madam Lotus.” Jon said, bowing deeply.
The Japanese woman
merely nodded in greeting.
“You have information on The Serum?” he
asked, trying to get a word out of the swordswoman. Her taciturn nature
was almost as renowned as her skills with the katana.
“Yes. We have
uncovered something regarding it. I will tell you the findings over
tea. Follow me, please.” she answered.
She took him through her apartment,
a spacious place, open and contemplative. The place seemed to encourage
introspection and meditation, and one could hardly believe that just
outside was the hustle and bustle of Paragon City. Stepping into Madam
Lotus’ place was like transporting to a manor house in Osaka.
tea room was small, and overlooked her private courtyard. Down below,
four girls were training hand to hand combat. The courtyard reflected
the beauty and discipline that Madam Lotus herself always projected.
She bade him to sit down, and proceeded to pour the tea for them both.
“What is your interest in The Serum, Jon?”
“Flora and I rescued someone
that was injected with it. I’ve seen it used on someone else, but
couldn’t help her. The only thing I know is that the effects are different
each time.” he took a sip of the tea, and grimaced slightly from its
bitterness. “The problem is, Sara seems more interested in getting
revenge on the people responsible than in finding her brother, which
is what led to her getting injected with The Serum in the first place.”
Madam Lotus took in the explanation silently. She took a drink of
her tea and paused for a moment.
“The Serum was created by Crey Industry’s
laboratory. What you have told me is correct, it works differently
on everyone. Why it was created is unknown, but like most experiments,
Crey Industries wants to keep track of the results.”
“What do you
mean?” he took another sip.
“The Serum contains a chemical tracer
that Crey scientists can track down. One of the students happened
to find a vial and bring it here. For the past week there has been
a Crey Industry truck parked outside my apartment building.”
can find whomever has been injected with it?” Jon asked, realizing
what danger Sara was getting into. Madam Lotus nodded again.
down the last of his tea. The still hot liquid burned slightly, but
he ignored it. He started to get up from his seat. “I apologize, Madam
Lotus, but I have to leave.” He grabbed his black leather jacket and
threw it on. He was too self-conscious about the strange tattoos on
his arms to let most people see them. The ink seemed to be burning,
as if crying to him to use the power they gave him.
He left the apartment,
unsure of where he might find Sara. He decided to head home and get
Flora. The two of them could find her, and if need be, protect her.
As dusk began to settle on Paragon City, the Skulls lieutenant received
a phone call. He was actually surprised to hear the voice of his friend,
the one who worked at Crey Industries.
“How can I help you?” he asked.
“Thomas, we’ve got a problem. The Countess is furious that The Serum
got used on “unauthorized” participants.”
“What does she want?”
wants those two models you injected. And don’t think she doesn’t know
about it. She does! It’s amazing she hasn’t sent a team over to deal
with you already.” His friend sighed deeply. “Look, I’m sure that
you had your fun with that blonde, right?”
“Xandria? She was rather
amusing. A little high-maintenance, perhaps.”
“Well, if you’re looking
for some sort of personal bodyguard, then she’s willing to give you
one of our latest projects. A one of a kind thing, to be sure.”
thought for a moment. He really didn’t have a choice. The Countess
was not a woman to take lightly. He had absolutely no reason to make
an enemy out of her, especially when she could help him in his plans.
“Very well. When can I expect my bodyguard?”
“We’ll be dropping him
off once we’ve secured the ladies.”
The connection ended, and the
Skull lieutenant stared at his study in reflection of what was about
to happen. Shrugging, he returned to reading his novel.