Shadow of a Flame
by Myths n' Wraiths
Chapter Two

Victor threw off his baseball cap, revealing an unkempt main of brick red hair, and cast away his concealing jacket, displaying himself for the mountain of a mutant he was. All around him police officers were bursting out of cars and vans, charging for the warehouse with their assault rifles and stun rods at the ready.

In one effortless leap Victor cleared the hundred yards that lay between him and the warehouse and collided with the back door with all the force of a SCUD missile. The wooden entry shattered like glass under his blow and he charged into the cluttered chasm of a building.

Instantly Victor scoped the entire room, picking out just over a dozen mobs scattered amongst the many shelves, tables, boxes and containers that crowded every corner of the massive building and there in the middle of it all was the target. The file that had been compiled on this particular Blood Hound boss showed that the man had accrued quite a few aliases over the years but was currently known as Capillary.

“This is the Paragon City Police.” Victor yelled in his deep booming voice. All around him the heads of over a dozen panicking gang members snapped up in his direction. “We have a warrant to search and detain everyone on the premise. You have the right…” Victor never got the chance to finish his statement because suddenly there was at least one weapon for every Blood Hounds member present, and they were all pointed at Victor. …to get the living crap beat out of you. Victor thought to himself as he let his considerable powers loose and veiled his body in a layer of protective energy so intense that it ignited the air around his body.

“Take him down!” Victor heard Capillary’s voice shout out to the gang and in one united response a hail of gun fire was sent flying in his direction.

Despite his considerable resistance to pain and injury Victor had no intention of allowing himself to be a sitting target for these common thugs. Thinking fast and moving even faster, Victor picked a minion toward the center of the room and lept over to confront him. Now in a location that would both draw the attention of the gang away from the other police officers that were streaming into the building and positioned so that the mobs would be less likely to use their guns on him, for fear of hitting each other, Victor brought his full strength to bear on the criminals. One powerful blow from Victor’s energy enveloped hand and a minion collapsed unconscious at his feet.

A quick glance toward the entrance showed Victor that the police teams had already entered the building and were fanning out quickly to surround the gang members and apprehend them. Wanting to subdue the mobs and end the confrontation before his fellow officers got involved, Victor picked Capillary out of the gang and squared off against the much smaller villain, hoping that if he could subdue their leader the rest of the gang would follow suit.

Before he could close the distance between himself and his quarry however, another of the lower level minions slipped in close enough to Victor to bring a wooden bat down across his jaw with enough force to splinter the weapon into pieces. The minion’s attack did little more than to distract the giant mutant, who responded in like manner by throwing a hook that caught the minion in his side and sent him flying across the room to a crash into a pile of boxes almost twenty feet away.

Once again Victor turned his attention to the Blood Hounds leader, who was desperately trying to organize his minions against their attacker. The mutant waded through the small horde that separated him and his target, allowing the flames that where radiating from his body to force the minions out of his way. A few of Capillary’s more loyal subordinates stood fast, attempting to guard their hierarch from the oncoming assault. Victor swept them aside as easily as if he were pushing open a curtain and placed himself menacingly in front of the Blood Hound boss.

Victor could pick out a look of fear a mile away. As a mutant people had been afraid of him for as long as he could remember, whether he gave them reason to or not; but the level of terror that the gang leader was displaying caught Victor off guard. He knew from years on the police force that these gang bosses did not get where they were by shrinking from a fight so when the Capillary turned to run from Victor’s presence in terror the powerful mutant was as much surprised as he was amused.

“How did you find me you damn monster? Get away from me!” Capillary shouted when he discerned Victor’s face through the crimson flames that enveloped the mutant’s presence. As Capillary turned to flee from his assailant a blazing fist snatched him up by the front of his jacket and yanked him into Victor’s other fist, which incidentally was heading in the opposite direction of Capillary’s face. The old physics law about how two objects are not able to occupy the same space at the same time proved true once again and Capillary was knocked out cold.

Sudden shouts of, “Police, freeze!” and, “Drop your weapons and get down on the ground!” were sounding off all around the warehouse now that the rest of the police force had moved close enough to engage the mobs. The various Blood Hound minions capitulated in turn, having seen the fate of their leader.

Within a matter of moments the police officers had cuffed all the gang members and were ushering them out of the building. Victor stood menacingly in the middle of the vast room, watching over the minions as they were escorted out of the building. Despite the fact that he had ceased exuding the flow of energy that gave birth to the flames that guarded him, his presence alone was enough to discourage any further acts of resistance from the apprehended thugs.

No sooner had the last thug been hauled out of the warehouse than Saundra and the rest of her team filed in. Saundra spotted Victor immediately and started picking her way toward him, her slender and elegant form sliding gingerly through the mess of crushed boxes and toppled shelves. Showing her usual efficiency as a leader she started passing instructions to the detectives that followed her, sending the half dozen men in different directions to begin the long and tedious process of sifting through the entire warehouse and labeling everything that might be used as evidence against the newly reformed gang. A grin of excitement spread across her lips as she approached the stern faced mutant.

“You did it again.” She said as she slapped Victor on his chest, the percussion of which closely resembled that of smacking marble. “Eighteen heavily armed suspects apprehended and not a single police injury.”

"All in a days work Boss." Victor replied as his brutal persona softened to a casual demeanor. "How long do you think it will take to get this place sorted out and cleaned up?" He said, changing the subject. While Victor was far from timid, he was also not a glory hound. He liked to hear his boss say, "Job well done," as much as the next guy but he had learned long ago to avoid too much attention, whether it be good or bad.

It had taken Saundra time to get used to Victor's sense of self-denial when it came to getting praise for his work but over the years she had grown accustomed to his unusual methods. "Depends on how much of this stuff in here is actual contraband and how much of it is legitimate supplies. I have the crew giving the place a quick look over to see if there is anything we can find that might help the DA get the judge to deny the gang members bail. Judging by how ready they were to defend this place I am guessing there has got to be something pretty valuable to them mixed in with all this mess."

"Hey Saundra," One of the detectives shouted across the room. "We got something here." Victor glanced in the direction the voice had come from to see a couple of the detectives digging excitedly through a set of filing cabinets.

“Ask and ye shall receive.” Victor quoted to his superior with a slight grin forming on his lips. Saundra shot him a quick smile than nodded her head in the direction of the filing cabinets as if to ask Victor to come along. “Nah,” He responded. “You go ahead. I am going to take a look around outside. A bust like this is sure to draw some attention.” Victor was counting on the fact that news of this arrest would travel quickly and that some of the less intelligent local low-lifes would let their curiosity overwhelm their natural tendency to avoid police and come to see for themselves what had happened. Picking out overly curious gang members from among the naturally inquisitive populous could give an officer some insight as to which gangs were operating in the immediate area and in what strength.

“Alright Big V. Danny picked up your jacket and hat for you. He’s probably got them over in the van if you want to get them.” Saundra said as she strolled away.

Victor began making his way to the buildings exit as he reflected on his recent actions. Every aspect of the operation began playing back through his mind and he carefully dissected each moment as he prepared himself for the arduous task of filing the necessary paperwork that came with an arrest of this size. Over all Victor was satisfied with the entire operation. It had been done quickly, professionally and without any casualties and that was really all that he was concerned with. He left the nagging questions like, “What did the gangs business in this warehouse consist of?” and, “What was their major goal?” up to the team of detectives that Saundra always had tailing her; all that concerned him was that every one went home safe… except for the bad guys.

One thing did nag at the back of Victor’s thoughts though; the way that Capillary acted when he saw him. It was as if the gang leader knew him from somewhere in his not so distant past. Victor supposed that it was possible they had had a run in recently; he was after all responsible for well over a hundred gang related arrests. Still it was not like him to forget something of that nature especially since he had looked heavily into Capillary’s history before the operation began.

Victor was about to pass the whole thing off as nothing more than an unusual coincidence when Saundra’s voice pulled him away from his personal thoughts and back to his present. “Victor, get over here quick!” Victor had spent many years working with Saundra and the tone in which she called to him was one he only heard on the rarest and worst of occasions. It was not an order that she spoke to him but a plea, a call filled with both confusion and fear.

Moving on an instinctive reaction Victor spun around and leapt across the cluttered warehouse to land next to Saundra. The police inspector had a shocked and confused look on her face as she handed Victor a manila folder packed full of papers.

“These guys have a file an inch thick on you Victor. Your address, your history, your family, your abilities, it’s all in there.” Saundra spoke in a concerned hushed tone. “Some of those files are even police records. Things that no one but myself and the district director have access to.”

“That’s impossible.” Victor responded incredulously but when he opened the file to see exact duplicates of his original police testing and records the sickening realization of just how possible it was began to sink in.

“That’s not all. There are blueprints of almost every major building in Kings Row in these file cabinets and some papers referring to an Operation Blood Drive but it’s all in code.

Suddenly Victor’s face went blank as a sickening feeling of dread sunk into his stomach and an overwhelming sense of desperation flooded his mind. Confusion set in for a moment as he tried to justify the sudden sense of panic but then he realised it was not his own thoughts that were cuasing him to feel this way but somone elses. He heard a call for help echo in his thoughts and he knew instantly that something was horribly wrong.

“It’s my wife. I have to go.” The shell shocked mutant said bluntly as he turned to leave.

“What’s wrong Victor? Where are you going?” Saundra shouted after the retreating mutant, who had already cleared the distance between her and the exit.

“Sage is in trouble.” Victor responded just before his large frame disappeared through the door to the warehouse.

In Victors mind rang out a plea and a cry unlike anything that could be described. Across a great distance the pain and the sorrow of another person was being shouted into his very soul and he knew without a doubt that the pain and sorrow were his wife's. He had felt her use her ability to manipulate and broadcast emotions before, but never in this way; it was like a beacon, a guiding light that drew him in a direction that he quickly realized, with a note of dread, led to his home.

Victor struggled to stave off a wave of panic as he exited the warehouse and in one incredible leap cleared over two city blocks. Hundreds of nightmares flashed threw his mind as he leapt from one building top to another. Doubts and confusion flooded his thoughts. He was so deep in his own fears that when the building he had just jumped clear of bloomed into a massive fiery explosion he almost leapt away without noticing.

Saundra raced out of the warehouse just in time to see Victor clear a building top two blocks away. Without missing a beat she ran over to a van about a dozen yards away that was sporting a soft drink advertisement on the side and tore open the back door. Inside the rather inconspicuous van a decidedly conspicuous young man sat surrounded by computers and communications equipment.

“Danny!” Saundra yelled as she gingerly climbed into the van. Her dramatic entrance nearly startled the young technician out of his chair. “Give me your head set I need to speak with Victor.”

“I thought Victor was inside with you, what is going on?” Danny said in surprise. He quickly removed his hands free communications set and passed it to Saundra, fearing that if he let her get within grasping reach she would snatch it off his head anyway.

“I don’t know,” Saundra replied curtly as she held the set up to her ears and spoke quickly into the set. “Bid V, Big V, come in.” Static was the only reply that she received.

“Wow, He still has his com piece and tracking node but he is already out of signal range and heading north east at an awesome rate of speed.” Danny said pointing to a tracking screen that showed a flashing red dot moving across a topographical view of the city. “Saundra what’s going on?”

Saundra glared at the tracking screen for almost a full minute before turning her attention back to Danny. “I want you to call Victor’s home and see if you get an answer. If you can’t get through send a squad by to…” Before Saundra could finish passing out her orders the van was rocked by a sudden and powerful shockwave followed a second later by the deafening boom of a massive explosion. Computer consoles toppled off their shelves all around Saundra and Danny and crashed at their feet.

“What the f…” Danny began to scream franticly.

“Danny shut up and get in touch with dispatch.” Saundra snapped, instantly organizing her thoughts and directing her subordinate. “Get a report from them on where that explosion took place.” She ordered the young and shaken technician as she turned to jump out of the van.

“Uhm... boss I can’t get in touch with dispatch.” Danny said picking up a console and pointing at the blank screen dejectedly.

“Why? It doesn’t look broken.” Saundra replied eyeing the equipment and the technician dubiously.

“It’s not.” Danny said with a confused shrug. “I just don’t have a signal. The phone line must be down.”

“But our coms don’t run off of land lines. For us to lose the signal the satellite receivers at the phone center would have to be…” Saundra’s voice trailed off as a rescent memory of something she had seen on the blueprints they had found inside the warehouse returned to her. “Danny, get on the radio and direct all available personnel in the immediate area to the Paragon Pell phone center on Richards St. Police, Emergency Medical and Fire Department, everyone needs to move to that location immediately; that’s where the explosion took place.”

“Woe, did you guys hear that explosion?” A patrol officer said as he stuck his head in the back of the van. Saundra rolled her eyes.

“Yes! Now do me a favor and run inside and find detective Peterson. He has a bunch of blueprints that we found in the warehouse.” Saundra directed the patrol officer. “I need the addresses for the buildings on all of those blueprints and hurry.”

“Yes Mam,” The patrol officer said as he ran off to accomplish his task.

“Danny, as soon as we get those addresses I want you to send a squad to each of those locations to check them out. Use our own people if you can’t get in touch with dispatch.”

“Saundra?” Danny pleaded.

“What.” She responded coolly.

“What the heck is going on?”

“Someone just cut this neighborhood’s communications off at the knees and I have the crazy suspicion that the phone company is not the only building they are going to hit.”

“Oh boy, this sucks.” Danny muttered.

Victor leapt from what was left of the second story of the decimated phone company building and landed lightly on the pavement, holding an unconscious body in each of his arms. The explosion had taken place on one of the higher levels of the building where there was more equipment than people; still the destruction was devastating. The building had once towered ten stories high, now all that was left of the fifth through tenth floors were the metal and concrete skeletal remains of what was once the buildings infrastructure and there was not a single window left intact on the entire block.

Having taken a good look through what was left of the building Victor was confident that the remaining floors were stable enough to allow the people that were still on them to find there own way out. It was hardly in keeping with his character to leave people that were in need unaided but the anxiety that was coursing through his mind could not be ignored. Once he had laid the unconscious victims in a safe place on the street corner, where he was confidant that rescue workers would find them quickly, Victor took off toward his home once again.

A hollow pit of dread formed in Victor’s stomach as his imagination began to run rampant. In the ten years he had known his wife he had never felt her use her powers to call him in such a way, to attack his very emotions. Dreadful scenarios began to run through his mind; everything from his wife being assaulted to their apartment being attacked, and still none of these ideas seemed to match the desperation that was resonating in his mind and heart.

Victor made it to his home in record time as he pushed his body to the limit, crossing four city blocks with each tremendous hurdle. He caught sight of his apartment building on the pinnacle of one of his leaps and guessing the distance perfectly bounded across another two city blocks to land on the balcony outside his home. He noticed instantly as he approached the front door had been busted in and rage mingled instantly with his dread.

“Sage!” Victor yelled as he barged through the entrance and into the living room, ready for anything. All he found was his wife kneeling on the floor with her face buried in her hands, sobbing. Victor rushed over to her and caught her up in his arms, quickly checking from her neck length sandy brown hair to her slender feet for injury and breathing a sigh of relief when he saw none.

Sage grabbed her husband in vise like grip as he pulled her close to him and placed her mouth next to his ears. When she spoke through her tears her voice was a hoarse whisper and her tone was seething with rage and dread. “They’re gone Nathan, our boys are gone.” Victor felt his very soul fall out of him as she continued. “They took our boys!”
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