The six rode back to Jon and Flora’s neighborhood in what seemed to be the most uncomfortably silent ride home. Several times, Sara had tried to attack Xandria, and it finally took Flora’s stone cage to keep the redhead from slicing the blonde to ribbons with her claws. JD tried to keep the mood light, but no one seemed interested in talking.

Jon decided it would be best if they ditched the van, so they left it running near Kings Row. As soon as they had gotten out, NAGA, the android that JD had found in Crey Industries lab, said she had to leave. She could not explain why, but, she said she felt too powerful of a calling. They watched her run in the direction of Galaxy City. JD seemed sorry to see her go.

“C’mon. Our place isn’t far from here. We need to get this sorted out.” Jon said.

The five made an imposing sight; Jon wearing flowing black robes with a hood that covered his face. Flora walked beside him, her green skin and dreadlocks making her look like the Gorgon she named herself after. JD and Sara walked behind, each in outfits of black leather. Finally, Xandria seemed almost out of place, still dressed in her white leather bustier and miniskirt. Any villains who saw them ceased in their activity, lest the group spot them. They all seemed to walk with determination, with an air of power that they were skilled in using.

Jon looked over his shoulder, and gave a chuckle. Everyone else turned around to see what he found so amusing. Someone was already casing the van; within seconds, the person had hopped into the driver’s seat and drove off in it.

“You can see why Paragon City needs help.” he commented as the van whizzed by them.

“You left it running, Jon. Isn’t that entrapment or something?” Sara asked.

“Well, I suppose technically, it is. But it proves my point.” he said.

A helicopter came out of nowhere, flying very fast and very low. The van was about to turn the corner when the chopper’s pilot fired a rocket at it. The van exploded, killing the driver.

“Wow. Looks like the Fourth of July.” JD quipped. “Good thing that wasn’t us.”

“Crey must put tracking devices in their vehicles. Actually, they put tracking devices on a lot of their things.” Jon looked back at Sara and Xandria.

The two models were not exactly on speaking terms. Sara steadfastly refused to believe that Xandria’s actions weren’t done of her own free will, despite the latter’s repeated efforts to explain herself. Both had been injected with a substance produced by Crey Industries, and would probably always have to be looking over their shoulders for Crey’s minions.

Back in the apartment, instead of an explosive outburst, Sara grabbed her things and left. Unable to stop her, everyone just watched her leave.

No one talked about it. The night had been a long one, and everyone was exhausted. JD and Xandria passed out on the living room furniture. Jon and Flora went to bed as well.

Sara made her way back to Founder’s Falls in a sullen mood. She was nowhere closer to finding her brother than when it had all began, and Jon seemed to accept Xandria into the group. On the monorail, there were few passengers, but all were heroes. Some were dressed in flashy, eye-catching costumes. Some wore what looked like street clothes. Her outfit was more about comfort, and to a certain extent, fashion. One of the heroes sitting across from her gave her a smile.

“Long night?” he asked.

“Just busted out of Crey Labs.” she said, slumping back in her seat.

Alone?” he asked, seemingly stunned by the statement.

“No. Someone actually came to rescue me. Imagine that. The hero needing a hero.” she chuckled at the irony.

“Good thing you have friends to help. A good team can be a powerful force in this town.”

She looked him over; he had coal-black skin, bright blue pants and boots. His hair and eyes were the exact same shade of pale blue. Emblazoned on his bare chest was a fireball symbol, also in blue.

“We’re not exactly a team. Just a bunch of people thrown together by circumstance.”

“In my opinion, there is no such thing as chance. Very likely, something brought you all together for some greater purpose.” he smiled. “But, that is just my opinion.”

“I didn’t want to be a hero.”

“How many of us in this city did? Most of us are here because of some accident or other twist of fate. When I was little, I had a favorite place to go swimming. What I didn’t know was that was where someone decided to dump their chemical wastes.” he held out his arms. “This happened when I was about sixteen.”

“What did you do?”

He shrugged. “I just accepted it. I found out not only did I look different, I had power as well. So, I came here, hoping to make a difference.”

“You sound like an idealist.”

“Perhaps I am. But sitting around sulking about what has happened to me still does not change the fact that it did happen. So, why not use my powers to help humanity?”

“I just want to find my brother.” she said quietly.

“Maybe someday you will. Until then, you must keep fighting the good fight.”

“Sounds like you’ve been to the Statesman’s empowerment seminars.”

He chuckled. “I’ve just read the book. I’ve only been in town a week.” he extended his hand. “Call me Bluedragon.”

She shook his hand. “Solanum.”

“What do you do?”

She unsheathed her claws.

“Wow. Those look sharp. Ever break one?”

“No. And hopefully, that won’t happen.” she retracted them. “Here’s my stop.” she stood up and went to the sliding doors. The train began to slow as it pulled into the station.

“On to an assignment?”

“No. I’m going to bed. Have a good night. I’ll see you around the city, Bluedragon.” she added as she stepped out the doors.

“You too.” he cheerfully waved. His eyes seemed brimming with excitement as the doors closed and he looked out the window to his destination.

As she walked down the street toward her apartment building, a man rushed past her, bumping into her.

“Hey! Watch where you’re go-“ she started, when two other men ran past her in hot pursuit of the first. In the bright streetlights of Founder’s Falls, she could see the black vests with red embroidery on them. Hellions, she realized. Probably out to try and expand their territory in this neighborhood.

The man was herded into an alley, and Sara could hear him beginning to scream for mercy.

From what she had heard about the Hellions, it was unlikely that they would grant him any. She unsheathed her claws and summoned her dark energy cloud. As it radiated out of her, she ran to the alley that the man had been chased into. The Hellions never showed a victim mercy, and she was not inclined to show them any either.

“You’re kiddin’.” JD said, leaning on the counter at the Registrar’s office.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the moniker, ‘Live Wire’ has been taken for some two months now.” the clerk, a little, bookish man looked at the youth with a certain veiled annoyance. “You can’t use it.”

“I’ve been ‘Live Wire’ for over a year now back home, and you’re tellin’ me I can’t use my own name?” the more upset he became, the thicker his accent grew.

“I’m sorry, sir. But that is department policy. Perhaps if you were registered in your home town, then maybe you could make your case before a committee.” the clerk offered.

“Perhaps you could kiss my –“ JD started to retort, but a stern look from Jon stopped him.

“Are there any alternate spellings for that name available?” Jon asked.

The clerk tapped quickly on his computer’s keyboard. “Look’s like there is one.”

JD sighed heavily. This certainly wasn’t what he wanted. “Alright. How’s it spelled?”

He received his ID badge and medical teleporter. He hoped he would never have to use it, but it was always good to have it on. He looked at his badge and grimaced.

“L—y-v-e-W-y-r-e.” He spelled out. “How stupid is that?”

“Don’t worry, about that, JD. You’ll always be spelled correctly in my book.” Jon patted him on the back as they went to their seats. Xandria had been sitting there the whole time, filing her nails, seemingly indifferent to what was going on.

“Next.” the clerk droned. Xandria stood up. She opted to wear something even racier-looking today. It was another white leather top, but very low cut, along with a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and high boots. JD had said she looked completely hot; Jon and Flora thought she looked like a hooker. The clerk looked like his head was about to explode. Xandria came up to the counter with a very seductive walk.

“Real, ahem, name?” he stammered, almost afraid to make eye contact with her.

“Alexandria Dauphine. Or,” she leaned forward, guaranteeing the clerk a view of her ample cleavage, “you could just call me Xandria.” she reached out and twirled the clerk’s front lock of hair. “ Are you sure you can’t do something about my friend’s name registration problem?”

The clerk gulped loudly. Jon rolled his eyes. These two didn’t need a mentor; they needed a babysitter.

Jon left the registrar’s office with LiveWire and WhiteDiamond. Xandria had never given any thought to actually becoming a crime fighter, so she had been hard-pressed for names. JD had suggested it, being grateful for her assistance in getting his name back. However, Xandria was perplexed when she saw her license had a restrictions notice on it.

“Why do I have to have so many restrictions, Jon? Is it because I’m a woman?” Xandria complained.

“No, it’s because you have a small criminal record. A lot of department stores have you on tape obtaining high-priced items without paying for them.”

“I’m being penalized for shoplifting?”

“Xandria, the stuff you took would cost in the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. At that point, it’s theft.”

“Oh.” she nodded. “I wish I could remember what I got.”

Jon handed her a list. “Freedom Corps has Flora and I as your sponsors. You’re basically under our tutelage until they feel you have ‘reformed.’ This is a list of things you misappropriated while drugged.”

Xandria looked over the list, a scowl crossing her face. “Gaultier? I took Gaultier? I must have been on drugs.” she said in disgust. “Can’t I just pay them back?”

“If you want, but the restrictions are still going to be there.”

“Fine, I won’t pay them back then. But I’m ditching the Gaultier as soon as I can. I hate his stuff.” she said in a bratty tone.

Jon sighed, and again hoped Sara was alright.

Thomas and Spyke returned back to Thomas’ apartment that afternoon, only to find several vans marked “Crey Industries” on the sides. He found this to be an amusing development, and at the same time, he wondered what they could possibly want with him.

As he entered his apartment, he found his friend, James, waiting for him. Hiding his fury at this intrusion and invasion of his home, Thomas merely smiled politely.

“This is unexpected. You should have called. I might have been able to rearrange my schedule.”

“Save it, Tom. The girls are gone. I’m taking your bodyguard back.”

Thomas’ smiled faded to a more neutral expression. He wasn’t sure which bothered him more; the two models escaping from Crey’s fortress of a laboratory, or his bodyguard being taken from him. It was his one leverage against Sara, whom he felt would not give up until she had her brother back.

“May I offer you a drink, Jimmy?” he said graciously. Playing host would give him time to figure out what to do. “I’m sure we can come to some sort of amicable arrangement.” He went to his bar and took out some glasses. Opening the freezer, he put ice in them and poured in some scotch and soda water. He handed his college buddy the drink.

James took a sip of the beverage. “Quite good.”

“I only purchase the best.”

“Seriously, Tom. The Countess is furious. She wants the people who broke into the lab ‘dealt with.’” he held up his fingers in quotes to emphasize the euphemism. “She almost fired the entire security team, at least, those left alive.”

“What happened?” he was intrigued.

“Some kid managed to sneak into the lab and activate a prototype android. He also managed to find the two girls and get them out of their stasis chambers before we could process them. And then, before anyone knew what was going on, two other heroes helped them get out before reinforcements could arrive. They stole a van, which was destroyed, but there was no evidence the six of them were in it at the time.” James sighed.

“So how is this my fault exactly?” Thomas asked indifferently. He made a motion to Spyke to leave the room. The kid did so.

“It isn’t. The Countess can be highly irrational at times. But suffice to say, she wants Evan returned, and unless the two models are back in Crey custody, you’re not getting him back. Her orders.”

So, the Countess was angry with him. Add another on to his enemy list, even if her entry might be a bit premature. No matter. The threat she posed to him, like the Skulls and Trolls, was inconsequential.

“I really don’t think I can do that, Jimmy.” he said in a calm, lethal voice.

“I thought you might say that.” James pulled out a gun and fired it at Thomas. The dart hung limply in his left shoulder. His friend looked at him in amazement.

“That should’ve..How did you…What the…?” he stammered out.

Spyke reentered the room with a glowing vial. James tried to run for the door, but Thomas paralyzed him with a wave of his hand.

“Let’s just say, I’ve had a spiritual awakening of sorts.” Thomas took the vial from Spyke, and pulled a syringe from one of the drawers behind the bar. He filled the needle completely with the green fluid. “This won’t be on the same level for you, Jimmy, but I guarantee, you’re going to like the results.”

He jammed the needle into his friend’s arm. James could do nothing but howl in pain as The Serum activated his latent mutant genes.

The guards and techs in the waiting vans heard the screams, but never had time to get into the townhouse. Waves of darkness surrounded the vehicles, and when the black fog had lifted, the vans were empty, as if no one had been in them at all.

Thomas smiled in delight. He turned back to his friend, who, thanks to another injection, was now his minion.

“I told you we could come to a settlement we could both be happy with.” he told the lumbering hulk that had been his friend.
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