AND A CHILD SHALL LEADÖ
Nocturne smiled graciously
at The Nameless as the supergroup stared at Beguiler with a baffled
"You nevah said nuthiní bout beiní married before!" guffawed
"Shut up, JD." growled Beguiler, still glowering at his
"You didnít tell them about me? Trying to rewrite history
for yourself, my dear? I wasnít that horrible to live with, was I?"
the blue-skinned villainess took a couple of steps closer. Her undead
honor guard moved with her in perfect unison, stopping when she did.
She turned her attention to Solanum and gave her a studied once-over.
"I suppose this is what occupies my place these days. Hmm."
could feel the anger rising up in Solanum. Every stereotype about
redheads and Irish tempers were completely true in her. It took very
little to provoke a fight from Sara, and Nocturne was exceptionally
skilled at pushing buttons.
"What do you want, Nocturne?" Nightbringer
asked, hoping to break the mood.
She smiled warmly at the tall, blonde
hero. "I sense in you one who handles the powers of death, and you
are not afraid to do so." she began calmly, and with all the skill
of a diplomat. "I am sure we would have much to discuss. However,
I came to see my husband about our son."
"Your what?" asked Solanum,
her claws resheathing from the shock of this revelation.
I had, have, a son. Heís fourteen."
"Yes, and whether you know it
or not, he was also enrolled at Sussex Academy." Nocturne added.
youíre saying weíre in the same boat." asked Medusa.
The ring of a cell phone suddenly broke the awkward silence.
Nightbringer answered it, leaving the rest of the group to talk.
kids were last seen going towards Eastgate." started Vision.
territory? Theyíll be killed!" hissed Nocturne. "How did you let this
" How exactly is this my fault?" snapped Beguiler in protest.
"Weíre headed that way now." Solanum informed her. "Youíre welcome
to come with us."
Nocturne nodded in acceptance of the offer. Trolls
were no threat to one such as her; but to her son, whose powers were
just beginning to manifest themselves, it was another story.
teleport all of us." she said, palms turned upwards as she began to
summon the necessary energy.
"Whoa, whoa, wait!" said Nightbringer.
"I just heard from WhiteDiamond. We need to meet her at City Hall
right away. You five go ahead and try and find the kids. Weíll catch
up as soon as we can."
With a graceful, almost regal, nod, Nocturne
agreed, then cast a shadowy envelope around herself, her retinue,
and the four heroes. When the shadow dissipated,they had vanished.
Taking to the air, the rest of The Nameless flew off in the direction
of City Hall.
White Diamond watched the crowds of heroes swarming
the building with icy detachment. A quick skim of their minds revealed
that only a few were actually trying to track down Gamester, and even
less were looking for the children. Annoyed by their thoughts, she
walked away from the entrance, where her attention was drawn to three
heroes sitting, looking somewhat glum.
"Whatís eating you?" she asked
as she walked up to them.
The three men seemed startled that someone
was speaking to them.
"Nothing." replied one of them, whose yellow
bandana, black t-shirt, and jeans seemed the most unheroic outfit
she had ever seen.
"Youíre tracking down Gamester, arenít you?" she
pressed as if she hadnít heard his gruff reply.
One of the three,
dressed in a white flak jacket stood up. "Yes, we are. How did you
"Because your thoughts are as transparent as glass." she replied
with a smile. "Most people donít bother with their thoughts around
City Hall. Besides, the few who are looking for him are few and far
"Who are you, anyway?" asked the man in white.
My team, The Nameless, are on their way here."
"So you know Solanum,
then." said the third man as he elbowed the man in white.
blonde gave him a curious look. She could easily see into his mind,
but seeing his face was another matter. "Yes, I do."
The man in white
took over. "Iím Medik, this is Red Sniper, and heís Fixit."
Auto Body?" she asked.
Fixit turned to face her. "Yeah, thatís me.
Howíd you know?"
"My teammate Psirene brought her car to you a couple
of months ago. She said you were fantastic." she gave him a little
To her delight, he suddenly turned beet red, and got up to go
light his cigar.
Medik and RedSniper turned from their teammate and
looked at White Diamond, who had a subtle smirk on her face.
was that about?" Medik asked.
"Iím sure I donít know," she replied,
flipping her hair over her shoulder. "Psirene has a thing for double
entendre, but Iím willing to bet he got lucky." Smiling at them again,
she changed the subject. "Now, what have you boys found out that we
Eastgate would have been a good place to live, had not the
Trolls decided the same thing.
In an attempt to expand their territory,
they set a bunch of explosives into a portion of the sewer network.
The resulting explosion triggered a massive cave-in due to the presence
of the caverns underneath the tangle of pipes. The newly opened territory,
dubbed "The Hollows," quickly became a turf war between the drug-addled
gang and the Outcasts. More recently, however, strange creatures called
Pumicites had been seen crawling up from the very depths of the caves,
some felt they came from the molten interior of the earth itself.
All in all, Eastgate had been forever altered.
The five heroes looked
over the once-fine neighborhood for any sign of the children.
do we start?" asked Valdrich, his brown eyes intently watching a group
Solanum pulled out her PDA for information on the neighborhood.
"Itís mostly residential, a few shops, but I donít see anything that
would attract attention for a bunch of mind-controlled thieves."
basically, we have to walk around and ask," sighed Psirene. "Lovely."
The group set down the hill, only to be met by a large group of Trolls.
"Capes no allowed!" the largest one challenged. The others grumbled
"My, my, you can use words with more than one syllable,"
purred Nocturne in a way sure to provoke a fight. "Iím almost impressed."
"We do not want to fight," began Valdrich, stealing an uneasy glance
at Nocturne. "But we will if we have to, and you will most assuredly
lose. We need to know if you have seen six children come this way."
The Troll looked at them, confusion obvious on his face. Most capes
fought, and these didnít.
"What, is six too high of a number for you
to count to?" snarled Nocturne.
The bass growl coming from the giant
could be felt as much as it was heard. Solanum gave a warning glance
at the indigo woman, wishing she would shut up.
"Assuming you didnít
try to eat them, which way did they go?" Nocturne demanded, pushing
her way to the front. The deathly chill coming from her zombies made
everyone give her a wide berth.
Sufficiently angered to attack, the
Troll raised both fists high in the air, and brought them crashing
down towards the slight woman, which was all she wanted.
With a wave
of her hands, the zombies leapt onto the Troll leader, their cold
flesh slowly draining the life from the monstrous gang member. A quick
summoning of shadow kept his fellow Trolls from fleeing; she wanted
them to see what was about to happen.
Having been pinned by four undead,
the Troll was crying piteously; the chill touch hurt, and he felt
a little bit of himself drain away with each second. Nocturne knelt
down, grabbed him by what little hair he had on his head, and made
him face her.
"I have neither time nor inclination to wait for your
slow-witted answers. Did you see six children pass this way?" She
shook his hair, pulling on it and made him yelp in more pain. "ANSWER
ME!!!" she screamed.
Psirene worked quickly, circumventing the fallen
Trollís consciousness, and finding what part of his mind was still
human and cognizant. Seeing through his memories, she saw that the
children, did indeed, pass through this part of The Hollows, but proceeded
to go northward, out of the area.
"Nocturne, stop." she requested.
Slowly, the dark woman turned to face her former sister-in-law. Red
eyes narrowed, she reluctantly unhanded the now-weeping Troll. Wordlessly,
she called off the zombies, who resumed their respective places around
their dark mistress. Nocturne schooled her expression back into cold
"The children did come through here, but headed north.
Iím not sure what else this Troll saw, but at least we know which
direction to go looking in." Psirene informed.
"Letís get moving,
then," Solanum said. She was now even more uneasy about having Nocturne
working with them, but figured her powers would come in handy if they
encountered Piper or the others.
When the rest of The Nameless arrived,
White Diamond made the introductions between them and the three heroes
she had just met. Then she went straight into what she had found out.
"Several of the children have been apprehended. Someone by the name
of Spectreblade managed to get teleportation tags on several children
and send them to Chiron Medical for a psyche evaluation."
Medik. He could tell something else was going to follow her announcement.
"Heís gone missing. He reported that he was engaging in a fight with
"Hmm.." mused Nightbringer. He was trying to piece everyoneís
role. "So, Piper watches over the children, the other four are just
distractions, Gamester oversees the whole thing. But I still donít
"Revenge is always a motive," offered Red Sniper.
but who is Gamester trying to get revenge on? There seems to be no
connection to any of it. I mean, no one has actually seen The Gamester,
have they? He keeps sending out those damned boxes that people keep
opening. The city might as well call out the snowplows."
Nighbringuh, that might not be a bad idea. Put a big olí blade on
the trucks, and WHAM! Them oversized snowmen wouldnít know what hit
Ďem." LiveWire chimed in.
"Go make that suggestion, and see if you
can get us an interview with Dr. Webb while youíre at it."
saluted LiveWire as he ran into City Hall.
"We questioned him, but
we didnít get a whole lot. I think Emplate freaked him out." stated
Medik. "He said that Gamester came to him, threatening to expose his
experiments to Statesman if Webb didnít do as he demanded."
have an ambitious newcomer manipulating a very talented inventor.
Where do the others fit in?"
"Maybe I can help with that," replied
The heroes turned to look at the speaker. She clearly was
an ordinary citizen, but looked like she had been following this story
closely. She nodded a greeting to Fixit, and introduced herself to
the others. Pulling out a notepad, she began to read her findings.
"Several months ago, the Circus Royale was in town."
Delilah and Carlito to that. She said it was pretty bizarre." commented
"Well, while they were in town, several performers disappeared."
"Four; their strong man, a juggler, a clown, and their
sideshow fortuneteller." she read.
"Add some technology enhancements,
and I think youíve got Gamesterís gang," concluded Nightbringer. "But
that still doesnít answer how they started working for him."
about Piper? Did you find anything about him, Lindsey?" asked Fixit.
The reporter shook her head. "I went to Sussex Academy to talk to
the faculty. I was able to talk to all of them except one, Jeffrey
"I think Psirene mentioned him. She said that all the kids
love him." remarked Vision, leaning on his staff.
"From what I found
out, they have good reason to," replied Lindsey with a cryptic smile.