“Mr. Bunny?” Asked the small female, dressed in a professional tailor made suit, with small black rimmed glasses. Her face was cold and emotionless, but then again, most lawyers learned early on to put on a game face when they were in public and working.

“That’s me.” Replied Bear Cat who was massaging his left temple. X-ecutioner was standing next to him, paying attention to what was being said.

“I have been contracted by a third party to bail you out. Please follow me.” She said stoically while she handed over the papers that would set him free. “You will find that everything is in order, and please also note a restraining order on the account of my client, the Fellows of Apocalypse and any of their representatives are not to come within five hundred yards of Mr. Bunny.”

X-ecutioner looked them over, and turned to the last page of the official documents, to find them signed by Judge McArthur, High Court of Justice. The third party in question was a numbered company, with a postal box for address, located in Nevada.

“May I have your card, miss?” Asked the tanker to the small lawyer.

“Corbo, Clara Corbo, attorney at law.” And whit that she took out a card from her breast pocket and gave it to X.

“You mentioned a third party, Miss Corbo, can we have its identity?” Asked X while he put the card away, into his utility belt.

“That’s a client privilege, and it’s not part of my mandate.” Replied flatly the lawyer, as she stepped aside to let Bear Cat come and stand beside her, in the lobby of the HQ of Apocalypse. “Were you harmed in any way, Mr. Bunny, and should we start procedures to press charges?”

“Nothing some aspirin and a bottle of whiskey won’t fix ma’am.” Replied Bear Cat with a gruffy voice, pounding headache throbbing in his head.

“Please follow me.” Went on the lawyer as she started walking towards the revolving doors. X-ecutioner watched them go, perplexed and bothered that they were loosing their chance to further interrogate the alleged leader of a rogue Apocalypse faction. When the two of them reached the doors, the huge tanker of the Hunters stopped, eyes lost in the distance as if he was having an internal debate about an issue. He then turned and walked back to come and stand right in front of X. He leaned over X-ecutioner’s left shoulder and whispered in his ear:

“I know where Turbo Starr is…” Then walked away again, leaving behind a stunned and surprised X-ecutioner. The leader of Apocalypse had been declared dead, and most of the people in Apocalypse knew that Ghost Starr was in fact, their former leader, transformed into a deadly entity by the Circle of Thorns. Without saying a word,
X-ecutioner turned and walked to the elevators, he needed a conversation with Cavalier about this.

Stepping outside, Bear Cat and the lawyer walked over to a parked limousine waiting on the boulevard. The driver opened the door to let them in, then drove away, heading north towards Talos Island. The woman handed Bear Cat a cellular phone and said:

“There’s a number in the auto-dial memory for you to call, please do so once we have dropped you off.” Bear Cat grabbed the phone, and sighed heavily, hooking the unit to his belt, next to the one Dr. Wepp had given him. This was beginning to look like a collection. But he knew who would answer at the other end, when he would call, and he knew almost to a certainty what that meant. The Hunters of Apocalypse had been caught, their days were numbered. The limousine entered Talos Island, and after a few minutes, stopped right beside the magic shop, to let Bear Cat out on the sidewalk.

“Leave the city Mr. Bunny, and never come back.” Said the lawyer, as she closed the door. The limousine drove away and lost itself in traffic. Bear Cat started to walk slowly, towards the train station, troubled, he was wondering his next move. There was no point for him to delay this phone call, it had to be made and the consequences of it would be dire. But, in his line of work and with the type of contract he had signed with his employer, the rules were clear and simple: Do not get caught.

Reaching at his utility belt, he pulled the phone Miss Corbo had given him and opened the auto-dial section, then pressed the button. Waiting for the answer, he leaned himself against the wall in an alley, away from the sidewalk and prying ears.

“Hello?” Answered an aged voice, raspy and dry.

“This is Daffy Duck, I would like to speak with Elmer Fudd.” Said Bear Cat, using the code phrase when he contacted his employer.

“Yes Mr. Duck, this is he. I’m afraid our relationship is coming to an end.” Replied the voice and Bear could hear some shuffling paper sound in the background. “I have terminated all operations and money transfers for the Looney Tunes.” The Looney Tunes in questions was the code word used to describe the Hunters of Apocalypse. “When I heard this morning through one of my lawyers that a certain Mr. Bugs Bunny had been arrested, I knew we had reached the end of our agreement. As per detailed in our contract, you have one week to leave the city, will you comply?”

Bear Cat thought hard and fast about his answer. Nothing in this deal had permitted any mistakes, and for almost a year, the Hunters had kept a perfect record. But since this morning, that record held a blemish from which there was no turning back. He knew his people must have already scattered and some of them had probably left already for gentler skies. But he, he was stuck here no matter what, and he had to see it through. Seems that everyone he talked to recently was giving him a week to achieve some goal or other, and no more. On the one hand, Dr. Wepp wanted the Mark IV WinterTech armour, on the other, his employer didn’t want to risk exposure and public outcry if it was found out that the Hunters had been privately financed through him.

“Sir, things are not quite what they seem, I need more time.” He then replied to the man on the phone.

“Mr. Duck, do not make me repeat myself, or the consequences will be dire.”

“But, Mr. Winter, you have to…” Then spoke Bear Cat, but the phone had been hung up already. In a fit of rage, Bear Cat threw the phone on the ground and stepped on it until it was crushed and broken.

“Cavalier, Hormesis here, you alone man?” Asked the radiation defender to his leader over the telephone.

“Yes, go ahead.” Replied the squared jaw scrapper while he went to his office door to close it.

“I found his trace, pretty fresh too. It’s leading me to Dark Astoria.” Went on Hormesis while Cavalier heard the horn of a car passing by in the background.

“Well done Horm, pinpoint him, then call me will you?” Cavalier felt a tightness in his stomach, maybe his hopes to resolve the Voyager situation were too high, but he believed in giving the man a chance to come clean, even after all he had done. Flashback images of a good friend fighting alongside of him, when he was still but a captain in the Apocalypse family rushed by. Bloodrock, Star-Crusader, Voyager and he, fighting crime for the greater good, the glory days of not having so many responsibilities were filled with vivid images. Having only his team to answer to, Apocalypse was still a small super group then, on the verge of being known throughout Paragon, those memories were filled with emotion and sorrow now.

Sitting down at his desk, he brought up the Thomas Bane file once more, reading it over for the hundredth time. He felt responsible for his former friend situation in a way, ever since Crey had captured him, way back then. And anything he could do to maybe, just maybe help him back to a normal state of being, he would attempt. But his failure as a captain was not the responsibility of Apocalypse, or its members, it was his alone. Lost in the distant past of his thoughts, he recalled how Voyager and him used to talk about life issues and exchange philosophies on the nature of power. He smiled distantly as the image of the two of them being drunk like there was no tomorrow, flashed in his mind's eye, as they were trying to arrest some low ranking Skulls in Perez Park. What a mess it had been to clear up, when they woke up at the police station after attacking the police drone by mistake. Or that time Turbo had given them a speech, that lasted almost twenty minutes, about the duties of a hero and how to not take advantage of single women too impressionable by their status.

If he could talk to him, reach out to him somehow, maybe Thomas would listen and stop all this insanity. He knew in his heart of hearts that he would most certainly be sent to prison for the remainder of his natural life, but he knew that the Thomas Bane he had fought alongside with, would not have stood by and let this happen, if the roles were reversed. How Cavalier wished it was him that Crey Industries had captured that day, and not his friend. How he wished he could turn back the clock and give a different order than the one he gave Voyager that day. He knew his career as a hero wasn’t spotless or free of screw ups, but somehow, the weight he carries concerning Thomas was still alive and present. And now, that Voyager was back in town, within his reach, he felt the need to rectify his failure once and for all. He needed to come to terms with it, more so because he knew the reasons why Voyager was here, knew what he was after. Cavalier just hoped he would be able to stop him in time.

His reverie was stopped short by the telephone ringing.

“Cavalier here.”

“She’s in Kings Row.” Simply said Icy Heart, then hung up the phone.

Cavalier looked at the telephone, and wondered how the arrest of Jade Rade and her companions would go, all thoughts about Thomas Bane vanished. Thinking for a few moments, he reached a decision as a knock on the door was heard.

“Come in.”

“Cavalier, sorry to bother you, but there is something you need to hear.” Spoke X-ecutioner as he leaned inside the office, door partially open.

“Funny, I was just about to call you. I have a mission for you.”

“And I have something to say to you.” Replied flatly X-ecutioner to his leader. Taking a few minutes to explain the last hour to Cavalier, X-ecutioner brought up the last thing Bear Cat said to him before leaving the HQ. Taking a seat on the old leather couch Cavalier uses as a bed, the piece of furniture moaned and groaned when he did.

“Why did you come up here, you should’ve kept him in custody until we could get to the bottom of this?” Replied the squared jaw scrapper as he started pacing the room. Could it be that a flicker of hope was finally lighting the darkness. Turbo Starr was still alive.

“Restraining order on our behalf, had to let him go.” Simply replied X.

A knock on the door cut their conversation short.

“Come in?” Spoke Cavalier and the door opened. “Professor Jenkins, what a wonderful surprise, I was about to call your office to request your presence.”

“After the incredible night we have just lived through, I had to come and see if I could be of any help. The Circle of Thorns are my specialty, young man.” Spoke the old university professor, as she walked into the office. Cavalier made a gesture for Jenkins to wait, and looked at X-ecutioner.

“It’s not that I don’t trust her, or them, but I’d like you to keep an eye on Icy Heart and Cymbaline during their mission. They’re about to either engage or arrest some escapees called Jade Rade and Metal Core. I know the girls can handle a tank easily, given their demeanour, but Rade uses radiation and will not be easily stopped. The two of them together might mean a long fight, and I want you as back-up.”

“Understood boss, I’m on it.” And with that X-ecutioner exited cavalier’s office, nodding a warm salute to Mary Jenkins as he did so.

“What brings you here Mary?” Asked Cavalier while he tried to organize the mess of papers on his desk, and restore a sense of decorum to his work place.

“The sword, I’d like to see it.” She said those words with avidity and need.

“It’s in our vault right now, and it will stay there.” Replied Cavalier flatly, eyebrows creasing at the thought of the Ghost Sword sitting in the underground safe of the HQ, waiting to be studied by a team of specialist, as soon as he could locate one.

“It’s more than likely a Circle of Thorns artefact, Cavalier, and who better than Paragon University to examine it?” Replied the sometimes Academy of Heroism professor, and also one of cavalier former teachers.

“My team is ready to study it from every perspective, and I promise you that all the results will be submitted to you first, and I assure you that we will not go public with the results, without your say so. But you have to understand, this is an opportunity I can’t let pass me by. This sword is more than likely the best proof we have that magic activities from the Circle of Thorns have resumed, and who better than us to ascertain its powers?” She spoke fast and with certainty, Cavalier couldn’t argue the fact that yes, Mary Jenkins and her team at the university were the foremost authority on the Thorns.

“Mary, that sword has to stay here, for safety reasons and the greater security of the city.” Said squared jaw Cavalier as the souvenir of the blade piercing him through washed over him.

“Until night falls, I am fairly certain it will be safe to study the sword. I can have it return before diner into the vault. And we will resume studying every day, with that same schedule.” She said as she sat down on the couch, almost disappearing in the huge couch that let her small figure sunk in. What a frail looking woman she was, although she must’ve been quite a catch back in her days.

"Why until night falls?" Asked Cavalier, uncertain as to why Jenkins had said so.

"It's my belief that the weapon's wielder can only live in our realm at night, therefore, he cannot claim it until the evening comes, hence, it is safe to study it during the day.” She spoke that last as if giving a lecture in a class room, stating facts rooted in beliefs and common sense.

“Let us shed some light on this mystery, Cavalier, let me help as best as I can.” She smiled gently, and Cavalier saw in her eyes the same care he would a mother. He remembered her gentle ways when she was teaching, every student that attended her class always received the attention needed, every question they had asked she had answered. He trusted her entirely, so did Turbo Starr, and that was enough to decide him.

“Ok, Mary, I will release the sword to the university for studying purposes, and it will be returned to our vault every day before five in the afternoon. Any findings and all final results are the property of the Fellows of Apocalypse, do we have an understanding?”

“Of course we do young man, can we start today, there is still enough daylight to start gathering data?” She asked as she stood up to walk to the door.

“I’ll clear it with security downstairs, and I will send an escort to guard the sword.”

“Escort?” She chuckled a bit when Cavalier said that.

“Well, yes, I have to make sure the sword makes it back here Mary. Nothing personal, but these are my conditions, the sword will remain within eyesight all the time. And besides, if the Circle of Thorns are acting up again, I will feel safer knowing one of my people is protecting you.” Cavalier smiled gently, knowing that being safe was better than sorry, he grabbed his phone and dialled a direct number inside the building.

“Nether, Cavalier here, I have a task for you…” A few moments pass while Cavalier listens to what Nether Spirit is saying then: “No, it’s not Infernal… No, not Bobcat… No… Listen Nether, I need you to guard a sword…” And with that, Cavalier pushed his ear away as he the phone on the other end was slammed down. Nether Spirit’s office was two doors down the corridor, and Mary Jenkins and Cavalier clearly heard Nether Spirit scream.

“Oh sure, and why don’t I go shopping for teddies as well!”

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