Flora stared out the window of the apartment she and
her husband rented. He had left to go see the enigmatic Madam Lotus
about The Serum, a mysterious substance that triggered mutations in
those who were injected with it. She thought he would have been home
by now, since dusk was approaching, and he would never go out to fight
crime without her.
She saw someone running down the street, and sighed
when she saw it wasn’t him. Being someone’s partner in crimefighting
was one thing. Being their spouse was another thing entirely. She
hoped that his desire to help Sara wouldn’t lead to anything else.
To be honest, she liked the model well enough, but still had her reservations
about letting her stay with them. Sometimes, she thought Jon’s altruism
would be his undoing. While Sara had taken some of his training to
heart, she seemed more interested in exacting vengeance than in exacting
justice, and Flora wished her husband could see that.
at the plant growing in the windowsill. Sara had found it growing
up on the rooftop one afternoon during a training session. Enchanted
by it’s purple flower, she brought it inside, where it promptly took
over the window, growing into a thick-stemmed vine covered with deep
purple blossoms and juicy, red berries. Despite the temptingly delicious
look of the berries, Flora knew that eating them would be disastrous.
She thought of when Sara read about her little “houseplant.”
dulcimara, Bittersweet nightshade. So-called by those foolish enough
to taste its delicious-looking berries, it is also called Deadly Nightshade.”
“It’s not going to take over my house, is it, Sara?” Flora asked.
“Um…no. It can get big, but I’ll keep it pruned. Besides, once I find
Evan, I’m going back to my place, so I’ll be taking it with me.”
you considered what you will do once you find your brother? You’ve
been given a gift of sorts, Sara. Paragon City could always use another
Sara rolled her eyes and returned to reading her book on poisonous
It was shortly afterward that the model gave herself the codename
“Solanum,” after her beloved plant. She had originally chosen the
name, “Lady Nightshade,” but to her dismay, that name was already
in use, according to the Hero Registrar. Sara had gotten registered,
but it was merely a formality, just a way to give her assaults on
the Skulls some legitimacy. She seemed to have no interested in helping
fight crime once she had gotten her brother back. Flora sighed again.
Jon really should be home by now-
The door swung open, and Jon stood
in the doorway, an urgent look in his eyes.
“Where’s Sara? Is she
“No. She’s been gone all day. Where have you been? I’ve been
“Trying to find Sara. She’s in danger.” he ran into
their bedroom and ripped his shirt off. The tattoos on his arms seemed
even more intense in coloring, like they always did when he was about
to use their power. He reached into the closet and pulled out his
costume, a long black robe with a hood. The sleeves widened at the
cuff, and it was cut so his legs could move freely. He stripped off
his jeans and grabbed the black leather pants and boots that completed
“What sort of danger?” Flora said, changing into her
costume just as quickly. She wore just a simple black cut-off muscle
shirt and black and grey fatigues. She grabbed her combat boots and
slipped them on.
“The Serum has a chemical tracer that the scientists
at Crey Labs can track. They’ve grabbed anyone who’s been injected
with it. I don’t know what happens to them, but I’m willing to bet
it’s not good.”
“Well then.” Flora said, her eyes beginning to glow
ember red. “We had best be on our way.”
JD stood outside the ominous
looking structure that was one of Crey Industries many labs. He had
no idea where he was; but the place gave him the creeps. As if to
add to the eerie scene, a green mist seem to hover over everything.
He could hear all kinds of noises, and realized this was no place
for a beginning hero.
“Why am I doing this, anyway?” he asked himself.
The security around the science facility looked almost as forbidding
as it’s neighborhood. JD was beginning to have second thoughts about
this little venture.
In the distance, he heard an insistent beat,
like techno music. The sound gave him sudden chills.
he whispered. He had read up on the various elements plaguing Paragon
City, and what little was written about that particular gang was not
good. JD realized his odds of staying alive were better in the lab,
so he looked for an opportunity to get inside.
Fortunately, the exterior
security was all automated. JD carefully went up to one of the sentries
and touched it. The electricity he generated was enough to short it
out. Very quickly, he ran to the door and pulled the handle. The door
didn’t budge. He gave the door a shock. He heard the lock give, and
the young man went inside.
If the outside of Crey Labs was forbidding,
then the inside was a veritable maze. Colored lines ran down the hall
and branched out various directions, each leading to different areas.
Unfortunately, he had no idea as to where they led to, or where he
needed to go.
Seeing a door marked “Janitor,” he quickly went in and
found the little office empty. He saw a grey jumpsuit about his size.
He grabbed it and put it on over his costume, hopefully this would
keep any personnel from stopping him. No one ever noticed the janitor.
He stepped out into the hallway again, this time with a little bit
more confidence. Hiding in plain view, he mused as he decided to follow
the yellow line. He had no better idea as to where it was taking him,
but at least he could wander around with less worry.
“It’s a shame,
really.” said one of the technicians.
“Why?” asked his companion.
“These two women. They’ve got superpowers, they’re completely hot,
and it’s going to be our job to end their lives.”
“You’ll get used
to it. That’s the only way we can harvest The Serum. Besides, from
what I’ve heard, these two are particularly dangerous, and the Countess
doesn’t want anyone like that running around. Or at least, not under
her control. Anyway, we’ll do the processing in the morning.”
to the technicians, their conversation was being overheard by one
of the two women. Though they kept her in a suspension chamber, her
telepathy was powerful enough to read the minds of those around her.
She realized the gravity of the situation, yet could do nothing about
it. She realized the mess she had gotten into, and wished she could
re-do the past six months. She had been approached after a show in
Milan by Thomas, who, for all appearances, was educated, rich and
very much a gentleman. However, he injected her with something that
made her a veritable slave, taking away her freewill. Then he injected
her with another substance that altered her; she now had powerful
psychic abilities. Unfortunately, due to the first drug, she was unable
to use her new-found powers for good. She had told Thomas about Sara
Shaughnessy’s younger brother, Evan, and that the supermodel would
do just about anything if Evan was in any danger. Now as she was in
the chamber, trapped within her mind, she had all the time to regret
her actions. If they got out of this, she would make amends to Sara
as best as she could.
The yellow line led to a room marked “STORAGE”.
JD had no problem getting into this area; the door wasn’t locked.
Inside the dark room were piles of computers and other office equipment,
all gathering dust. He saw stacks of boxes, each labeled as to their
One computer was on, JD presumed it was to catalog all the
contents of the area. He took a quick look at the screen. It appeared
to be an electronic memo.
TO: STORAGE DEPT.
SUB: RE: NAGA PROJECT
Sending down the prototype to be taken to the Talos Island facility.
The project has been declared unsuccessful as the prototype seems
to be free willed and unable to respond to programming. The prototype
will be arriving this morning and needs to be dismantled for shipping
“Hmm. That sounds interesting.” JD commented.
He quickly looked around. Being too nosy would definitely get someone’s
attention. He also saw a post-it note on the desk, which read “Dark
Ion Project Missing, try to get some order down here!”
interesting.” he said aloud. He looked through the storage area, and
concluded the ladies weren’t in that location. He turned to leave,
and he saw a distinct female shape, the sight of which made him jump,
He walked up to it. It looked like a mannequin, but the
skin seemed silver, like metal. It had dark lines running along it’s
body, and he wondered what they were for. The face seemed to be sculpted,
and despite the non-human, non-organic nature of it, was still very
beautiful. JD reached out and caressed the robot’s cheek.
he said to the machine, “You’re kinda hot, for a robot.” He began
to walk away, when a sudden voice from behind made him freeze in his
“NAGA-01MG is not a robot.”
JD turned back around. The thing
had come to life; the dark lines now glowed green, along with her
“Scuse me?” he asked.
“NAGA-01MG is designed for crowd control.
That is my programming.”
“Oh, you’re the one they talked about.” he
thought for a second, an idea beginning to form in his head. “How
well do you know this facility?”
“I have some knowledge.”
some help finding my friends. Help me find them and I’ll make sure
you don’t get turned into a tin can.”
The green eyes pulsed as if
NAGA did not understand.
“They want to take you apart and store you
somewhere.” JD said, slowly and loudly, like one would talk to a foreigner.
“I understand English. You do not need to increase the volume and
decrease your pace when you speak to me.” she replied in what sounded
“Sorry. I’m not used to talking to robots, er, prototypes.”
he went out into the hallway, holding the door open for her. She may
be metal, but still a lady, he thought.
“I believe the term you are
looking for is android. Robots are not capable of acting outside of
their programming. Androids are.” her voice was pleasant, with a hint
of a British accent.
“Well, what should I call you?”
“How about just NAGA?”
“That will be fine. Do you
know the location of your associates?”
“Not really. Where would they
study humans at?”
“This way.” she ran down the corridor as easily
as if she were a real person, making none of the clanging noises one
would expect of someone made of metal.
JD stripped off the janitor’s
outfit. No point in disguising himself if he was running around the
lab with some metallic woman. No janitor in the world did that.
one.” Flora said, using her chin to point out the black van parked
at the 24 hour donut shop.
The two had gone in search of a van owned
by Crey Industries, who could be seen frequently enough, but Jon found
it frustrating that when they needed to find one, they were hard pressed
to find any. But now it looked like their luck had changed.
you want to do this? Sneak on board?” Flora asked. “We have to work
quickly, Jon. The driver is getting in the van.”
calling on the power of one of the strange tattoos. He felt its power
burning on his arm as he activated it. A deep shroud seemed to envelope
the pair, while not making them invisible, it made them difficult
“Let’s go.” he said. They ran up to the van and grabbed
onto the back of it as it started to pull away. He hoped it would
take them to the right place, after all, Crey Industries had all kinds
of facilities throughout Paragon City; Sara could be in any of them.
Thomas and Spyke arrived at the mansion on Talos Island at one in
the morning. Normally, he would not be called to this place, but recent
events were likely the reason for his being summoned. So, he dressed
the part, wearing a fine black suit, and collarless shirt. His walking
cane was more accessory than functional, but the head of it was a
silver skull. He quickly surveyed the scene. Outside, various cars
with attendant drivers waited outside the marble stairs leading to
the opulent home.
He sighed lightly, partly out of nervousness. It
looked like a meeting of some of the heavyweights in the Skull organization.
He recognized several of the drivers, and knew who it was they ferried
around. The ones he didn’t recognize had him worried. He and Spyke
walked up the stairs to the front door, where it was opened for them
by the butler, an older man who greeted them with an almost bored
“The Masters are waiting for you in the Grand Library.” he said.
“This way, please.”
The butler led them through the exquisitely decorated
home. Thomas felt a knot in his stomach form. “The Masters,” the butler
had said. This was looking less and less good, but he had all his
explanations lined up. He was not afraid of his bosses, much less
his fellow lieutenants.
The butler took them to the Grand Library,
which was exactly as the name implied. The room was simply large in
size, but seemed different from what Thomas remembered. Instead of
tables and chairs in the center of the room, there was one long table,
and seated at it were two other Skull lieutenants, one of the Bosses,
and several people he did not expect. The green skin gave them away
as members of the Troll gang, a group who provided some secret muscle
to the Skulls. Also seated at the table were three Asian men. Tsoo,
Thomas thought to himself. This was not good.
“So, you have the guts
to show up anyway.” said one of the lieutenants.
Thomas rolled his
eyes in contempt. Who were the other Bone Daddies to judge him?
boss spoke. “You need to explain why your district seems to be drying
up. Protection money is down by a third, membership in your area is
in a noticeable decline, and there are reports of some woman with
claws attached to all of it.”
Thomas cleared his throat. “The woman
for some reason has a vendetta against me.”
One of the Tsoo spoke
in a quiet voice. “A spurned lover perhaps? A vengeful woman is a
bad thing. A vengeful woman with power, that is another.” He chuckled
at his statement.
Thomas was grateful for the man’s comment. He thought
he could play that angle.
“What about this supposed substance you’ve
been injecting your members with? We heard reports of another woman
in your company who had powerful psychic abilities, yet was completely
held in thrall by you. Care to explain?”
“The woman was an up and
coming superhero. I have a friend who works at Crey Industries, and
he provided me with an experimental drug. They recently took her for
“That’s not the drug I’m talking about. We have heard
from a reliable source that you received a new drug that gives people
superpowers by unleashing any latent abilities. You injected it into
several people, and now they are gone.” he leaned back in his chair.
“Again, would you care to explain?”
The Troll members seemed to shift
uneasily. A new drug that rivaled Superadine would be devastating
to their sales. What was worse, this drug actually gave superpowers,
not just gave the feeling of it. Either they were mad because Thomas
used it, or they were mad because he didn’t give them any. It didn’t
matter to him anyway. In his opinion, the Trolls were just a bunch
of doped-up losers, like Freakshow.
Thomas stared at the boss and
unblinkingly lied. “I don’t know anything about that.”
“Who is that
with you, Black Hand?” The boss asked, calling him by his “official”
“This is my payment for helping my friend in his little experiment.”
He said calmly.
“We have reasons to believe you are following your
own agenda, Black Hand. This is unacceptable to our organizations.”
The Tsoo gentleman who had spoken earlier said.
The plural sense was
not good. He was as good as dead, and he knew it. The two other Bone
Daddies jumped over the desk with knives in their hands. This wasn’t
a meeting; this was his execution.
The two assailants never made two
steps across the floor to him. Spyke leapt into action, hitting one
of the men with the huge spine to the abdomen, and the other received
a blow to his chest. They looked at the scrawny kid, puzzled, but
then started convulsing violently. Within seconds, both were dead.
Spyke walked back behind Thomas.
The boss glared at Thomas, his eyes
narrowing to the barest of slits behind his mask. Thomas smirked at
him, the defiance obvious in his expression.
“Get out.” the boss ordered.
Thomas turned around and left, Spyke following. As he walked out of
the mansion to where his driver waited for him, his mind was in a
blur. Circumstances were always changing, he was aware, but the speed
with which they sometimes would do so could be a little difficult
to adjust to. He knew he would be fine. Let the three gangs put a
death mark on his head. By the time he had what had been promised
him, any attempts on his life would surely come to nothing. He poured
himself a drink as he slid into his seat.
“Where to, sir?” asked the
“Astoria. I have another meeting there.” he told the driver.