Shadows of a Flame
by Myths n' Wraiths
Saundra absent mindedly wiped a tear from her cheek as she sat in
the formal leather couch outside of the Mayor's office. It had been
two weeks since the Blood Hound gang had come within a stones throw
of inciting a zone wide riot in King's Row; two weeks since a patrol
in Perez Park had found Elizabeth Essan’s body being watched over
by two borderline comatose children; two weeks since Victor himself
had gone missing, lost in the sewers of Paragon, but still she was
having trouble dealing with the tragedy of the whole thing. It had
been the most emotionally trying time of her life and it was all compounded
by the fact that she still had no idea why any of it had happened.
If she was not under enough stress already, she was facing a conduct
review board in three days. Since she was the officer in charge of
stemming gang crime and all Hell had broken loose on her watch some
very powerful people were looking to see someone burn for it and she
was the most likely person. She would have to stand in front of six
of her peers and explain her actions or inactions in relation to the
terrorist activities that had nearly sent King's Row into a wide spread
riot and she had no idea what she would tell them.
Well its time to
get some answers. She thought to herself as a grim determination spread
across her face. Moments later the large double doors that lead to
the Mayor's office opened slightly and her supervisor, Darek Haskin,
stuck his head out.
"Their ready for you Saundra." He said as he waved
her in. Saundra quickly got on her feet and followed Darek into the
large office that was decorated in a dark wood, rustic look. Behind
a large desk, in a comfortable leather chair sat the Mayor of Paragon
with his hands folded across his barrel sized stomach. Across from
the Mayor sat two older men, each attired in buisness suits and crowned
with gray hair. One of the men was Walter Williams, the foremost psychiatrist
that worked for the city since Elizabeth had passed away. Saundra
did not recognize the other man sitting across from the mayor or the
younger, darker figure that she noticed was sitting back in the corner.
This nondescript man was dressed in less formal attire and even though
there was a lit lamp sitting next to him on a small table, the shadows
in the corner around him seemed overly pervasive.
All of the men rose
courteously when Saundra came into the room and Walter, in his typical
gentleman manner, offered Saundra his chair. "Saundra, good to see
you again." The Mayor said as he offered her his hand, which she shook
politely. "You know Walter of course but let me introduce you to Christopher
Johnson," The Mayor continued as he motioned to the other man in the
suit that had been sitting next to Walter. "And his associate Night's
Wind." He said, referring to the dark figure in the corner that had
already returned to his seat.
"A meta-human I presume." Saundra said
with a slight hint of surprise.
"A mutant to be precise." Christopher
interjected with a polite smile. "We both are. My associate and I
work for an agency that has a vested interest in what has transpired
over the past couple of weeks but perhaps I should let his honor,
the Mayor, explain."
"Thank you Chris." The mayor began as he took
his seat and the rest of the room followed suit. "Let me start by
saying that I have already spoken to the board members on your upcoming
conduct review. I told them that despite the chaos and travesty two
weeks ago, I have personally looked into your conduct and I am nothing
but pleased." The Mayor said with a broad smile as he leaned back
in his seat. "Your quick reaction to the situation saved hundreds
of lives Saundra and I am damn proud of you."
"Thank you Mr. Mayor."
Saundra replied politely. I wish I could say the same thing. She thought
"I also understand that your investigation into the cause
of the riots has stalled." The Mayor commented.
Saundra quickly shifted
into defensive mode. "Mr. Mayor, in defense of my team, they have
been working around the clock to..." The Mayor silenced her with a
"Relax Saundra; this is not a reaming session." He said
with a slight chuckle. "I have no doubt that you and your people have
done everything possible to connect the dots for us but I think that
after we all hear what Christopher has to say we will have a better
idea of what really happened. Chris and Night's Wind work for an agency
that specializes in tracking and containing mutant threats." The Mayor
said as he turned the floor over to the elderly gentleman.
it so politely Mr. Mayor." Christopher Johnson said as he turned in
his seat to face Saundra more directly. "We are, as the Mayor stated,
a policing agency for mutants. We track down those of our kind that
choose to miss use their gifts and if possible rehabilitate them."
"And if that is not possible?" Saundra interjected.
"We are not an
execution squad if that is what you mean. We do everything within
our power to contain legitimate mutant threats, while extending them
the full protection of the law that every other citizen enjoys." Johnson
"So what does this have to do with a gang uprising?"
Saundra questioned pointedly.
"Have you, in your investigations, put
a name to the leader of the Blood Hounds?” Johnson responded with
"Yes, we believe that the man that reorganized the
gang went by the name of Bloodlust."
"That is correct." Johnson said
with a note of surprise. "I am impressed; this particular villain
is notorious for covering his tracks. The fact that you were even
able to get his name is a tribute to your investigative skill."
do my best," Saundra said, blowing off the compliment. "Are you saying
that Bloodlust is actually a mutant?"
"That is exactly what I am saying.
His real name is Darious Grieven; he was born around 1100 A.D. somewhere
in southern Europe with a very rare mutation..."
"That grants him
immortality?" Saundra said as more of a statement than a question.
"In a form; Grieven does have a virtually endless life span but as
always there is a catch to his gift. His body, while it has barely
aged since his powers manifested themselves in his late teens, has
a deficiency that causes his blood cells to deteriorate at an accelerated
rate. If he does not replenish the blood in his body every few weeks
he will weaken considerably and eventually go into a coma from which
he would never awaken."
"Are you talking about a vampire?" Saundra
asked with a note of doubt in her voice.
"Is that so hard to believe?"
Night's Wind spoke up for the first time since Saundra entered the
room with a voice so deep and gravely that it barely sounded human.
"You have seen the unique traits that mutants poses first hand in
your interactions with Nathaniel and Elizabeth Essan." The dark figure
continued. Saundra started at the reproach and the mention of her
missing friend but gave no response.
"There are many creatures that
fall into the classic vampire stereo-type." Christopher broke in again
stealing Saundra's mind away from the thoughts of her late co-worker.
"He is not the only mutant to have this type of ability. We have even
developed treatments that can contain their condition; unfortunately,
since the treatments are sedatatary in nature, they seriously impair
the patients other abilities and reduce them to an average human."
"Is that such a bad thing?" Saundra asked spitefully?
"Not if that
is what you were born to be." Night's Wind retorted.
"Perhaps we should
move on to the part that applies to our current situation." The Mayor
spoke up wanting to cut the animosity that was clearly building between
Saundra and Night's Wind.
"Of course," Johnson responded. "Grieven
has, over the centuries, performed atrocities that I can not begin
to get into at the moment but needles to say it was enough to draw
the attention of my agency and put him on our most wanted list. He
was at that point caught between a rock and a hard place, as the expression
goes. He had no interest in being captured and sedated of course but
his unique feeding needs were our only way of tracking him wherever
he went. As you might suspect, when a body turns up having been drained
of all its blood it tends to get a little noteriety. So as any creature
of intelligence would do, he tried adapting his needs."
searching for alternate forms of treatment that were less likely to
draw our attention but the effects were less than desirable in his
opinion, until, while raiding a local blood bank, he came across a
blood sample of our very own Elizabeth Essan; the woman better known
to us all as Sage." Johnson shifted in his chair and a look of sudden
remembrance flashed across his aged face.
"I should mention that in
addition to Sage's work with your police forces; she has also done
a great deal of work for our own agency. Her empathic and psychic
abilities have helped us apprehend more villains in the past two years
than we have in the twenty years prior to that. It was that empathic
ability that drew Grieven's attention to her family. He discovered
that the genetics in her blood sample contained enough regenerative
ability to sustain him for months. He used that time to set a plan
into motion that would both supply him with a substantial amount of
blood containing the same regenerative ability and a means to fuse
it into his own body so that it would become self sustaining. He used
his abilities to steal information on the Essans and coordinate an
elaborate smoke screen that involved leaving King's Row in ruin and
"So you’re telling me that you knew this mutant
was working in our city and you didn't think to inform us." Saundra
said as her face reddened slightly and she sat forward in her chair.
"Now is not the time for finger pointing Saundra." The Mayor spoke
up trying to leash Saundra before she made it out of her chair. "The
review board will do more than its fair share of that in a few days
so let’s focus on the business at hand."
"Yes," Johnson agreed as
he tried to gain control of the conversation once again. "As I was
saying, Grieven needed to obtain a larger amount of blood with the
same regenerative qualities in order to accomplish a successful transfusion."
Suddenly Saundra remembered what the Crime Scene Investigator had
told her about how he found Sage's body. He had said that there were
blood marks consistent with a major abdominal wound but he could not
find the wound itself, or any other injury for that matter. It later
became apparent that the twin boys, that were found in complete shock
by their mother's body, had had their powers awoken by the trauma
of the situation and had tried to heal their mother after she had
died. They had managed to regenerate all of her physical injuries
but not until she had been dead for some time.
"Their children had
the same abilities; he kidnapped her children to extract their blood."
Saundra said in disgust. Johnson nodded sharing her distaste for the
"It was not the trauma that awoke the boy’s abilities, as
your doctor presumed however; they were pumped with a genetic accelerant
that forced their abilities out of dormancy. Grieven found a third
party, that we have as yet not been able to identify, who apparently
had the expertise to administer the accelerant and perform the transfusion.
Victor and Sage must have arrived just in time to stop the operation
and save their boy's lives," At that point Johnson paused solemnly.
"Though it cost them theirs."
"We don't know for sure that Victor
is dead." Saundra countered
"Saundra, there is no way that anyone
could survive in the sewers for two weeks." Darek spoke calmingly.
Forcing herself to take her mind off of the subject Saundra spoke
up. "So the entire Blood Hound riot, the phone center bombing, everything
was a distraction so that he could kidnap two children?"
"It is how
Grieven works. Please believe me when I say that this mutant is an
Arch-Villain in the most classic sense of the term. He has played
a hand in the toppling of countless city's and even entire civilizations
over the centuries. The destruction of one neighborhood is child's
play to him." Christopher responded in a most dead serious tone.
long silence followed Christopher's monologue as the weight of his
tale settled in. "All of that, done by one person." Darek said as
he shook his head in astonishment.
"This leaves just one question."
Saundra said in stern tone.
"And what would that be my dear?" Johnson
"Where is Grieven now and how to I take him down?" Her jaw
was as set as stone as she spoke.
"That is something we are going
to leave up to Christopher and his people Saundra." The Mayor interjected.
"But sir," Saundra said, almost coming out of her seat.
I know what this means you but our police forces have too much on
their hands right now to be chasing this Bloodlust character down."
The Mayor could see his words were having little or no affect on Saundra
but he persisted anyway. "Our responsibility is to this city Saundra,
not to vendettas. And I don't need to explain how badly this city
needs every last one of it's finest focused on rebuilding." Saundra
glared at the floor for a moment before nodding her head bitterly.
"Now I imagine that Christopher will show a little interagency courtesy
and keep us posted on his investigation, especially as long as it
is taking place inside our city." The Mayor said as he turned to give
Christopher a mild glare.
"Of course Mr. Mayor." Christopher responded
with his unshakably polite smile.
"Now for our final order of business."
The Mayor continued. "After hearing Christopher's and Walter's opinion
on the matter I am willing to back their decision to turn over custody
of the Essan boys to Christopher and his agency."
gasped as she shot forward in her chair once agian.
Walter spoke in a soothing, fatherly voice as he placed a calming
hand on her shoulder. "I spent two solid days with those boys and
could not get a single word out of them. In fact after those two days
I could not even go near them. Their abilities are out of control,
by no fault of their own, but after two days they had worn down my
mental resistance so badly that my own emotions were being dictated
by their mood swings. On top of that, after two days I was not even
able to determine which boy was which. Their medical records were
stolen from the hospital and with them unwilling or unable to speak
to me I can't even tell who is who."
"Christopher on the other hand
was able to calm them and actually begin speaking to and treating
them within an hour. After watching them interact over the course
of the past week I am very confident in Christopher's ability to take
care of the children."
"So we are turning the entire thing over to
an agency that could not handle its own in the first place; villain,
victims and all." Saundra spat bitterly as she stood up and fixed
Christopher and Night's Wind with a withering stare. "I hope for all
of our sakes that you guys get a half as good a grip on what you are
as Victor and Sage had. You don't deserve to avenge their deaths and
you sure as Hell don't deserve to have their kids." With that Saundra
spun on her heals and made for the door.
"Saundra!" Darek called after
her but she had already made it through the door and let the heavy
oak slam shut behind her.
"It's ok Darek." The Mayor said as he waved
for Darek to return to his seat. "Give her some time. She's been through
a Hell of allot over the past couple weeks... we all have."
did catch up with Saundra later that evening. He found her standing
in a dim hallway at Walter's personal care facility, staring through
the window side of a one way mirror into an observation room. He didn’t
need to look over her shoulder to know that she was looking in on
two young boys. He approached her quietly, not wanting to disturb
her but while he was still several feet away she shot him a tired
sideways glance and wiped a tear from her eye.
"Walter was right.
I'm standing out here and still I can feel their powers overwhelming
my emotions. Their fear is so confused, so unsure." She said as she
tried to hold back her tears.
"Are you sure it's their emotions you
feel?" Darek asked gently as he walked up and placed a comforting
arm around her shoulder.
"What’s going to happen to them when we turn
them over to that agency Darek?" She asked as she watched the two
identical young boys coloring haphazardly on the floor of the observation
"I don't know Saundra, but I do know that there is nothing you
or I could do for them. Most mutants don't get their powers until
adolescence but these guys are only eight. I mean you say that you
can feel the backwash of their power standing out here so just imagine
what they could do if they grew up without someone to train them on
how to use those powers. By the time their twelve they could send
an average person into a deadly fit of depression with a single thought.
Sorry girl but their aint nothing we can do for these kids; except
maybe to hope for the best." Darek said with a heavy sigh. "At least
Christopher can keep them safe until they capture Bloodlust." He added
in an attempt to pick out the silver lining in a sky full of clouds.
"No," Saundra said as she shook her head wearily. "They haven't been
able to catch him in all these years, what makes you think they will
ever be able to."
"I don't know; who better to catch a mutant then
another mutant?” Darek said dejectedly. Saundra pondered his words
for a moment then, as if she was filled with a new strength, she straitened
herself and shrugged Darek's arm off of her shoulder.
"Would you send
a cat to hunt cat?" Saundra asked pointedly.
"You don't use
a cat to hunt another cat, you use a dog. So why would you use a mutant
to hunt a mutant. Why not find something that is a little more suited
to for the job." With that Saundra turned and began to walk away.
"Saundra, where are you going?" Darek called after her in confusion.
"One day, years from now, those boys are going to want vengeance for
their parent's death and I'll be damned if after all of those years
I won't be ready and waiting to help them."