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Just Another Lone Wolf Part 1
By Zack Bouis

         "You’re moving too rigidly. There’s a reason you never see robots practicing swordsmanship you know."
         "Yes sensei."
         "Remember you must be fluid in your movements. The great swordsman is not like a stone, but like water."
         "Didn’t Bruce Lee say something like that sensei?"
         "Bruce Lee was a greater man than you know. But focus! You still need to work on loosening up your Tai Sabaki."
          "Yes sensei."
          "Can I stay late for practice tonight, sensei?"
          "Not tonight, I’ve got some things to take care of tonight."
          "Yes sensei."
          The young boy left, leaving the master to admire the progress of his pupil. "Daniel’s a good kid," he thought to himself, glad of the progress he had helped the boy make through the past year. Along with him and two or three other students this tiny Iaido school could be going places.
          There was a tournament coming up in a few weeks and he was hopeful that his students could prevail this time around. But as he walked the two blocks from his dojo to his apartment his thoughts turned away from his students and to the work ahead this night.
          When he designed the outfit he had done so with the concept of simplicity in mind. He needed to hide his identity and rather than just run around in street clothes with a mask on he had remembered something that his master had told him. "Never underestimate the power of symbols Kabu. There are reasons several clans used images of animals as their symbol of recognition. All natural things have power as symbols. You must always remember to take notice of the symbols around you, and remember the power that they can bring to you."
         Later when he became a hero he remembered those words. He had decided to shape himself in the image of the wolf. The hunter, the one who is just as deadly with the pack as by himself. And so his name reflected that and he had done what he could to make a costume that gave him the appearance of the great predator.
         Gray had been the color for it. Plain and simple gray. Gray pants, gray folded over boots, gray gloves, a gray belt with a black jewel in the center, a gray t-shirt with a black ring strap on his chest and a gray and black mask. Gray and black.... the dreary colors served him well in his battles. Recently he had been allowed by the city to wear a cape, which he had decorated with a gray and black hourglass symbol.
         Now that he was dressed to kill, he bent down and took a long black case out from under the bed. The case was of a very fine mahogany and on it was multiple Japanese characters painted in gold. Inside this case, lying on a sheet of silk, was the hero’s katana.
         After holding the weapon in his hands for a moment, Gray Wolf suddenly began to swing the blade in a complicated pattern of arcs, and thrusts, slicing it through the space around him so that the air in the room began to hum with the movements of the blade. At the end of the kata he leapt, clearing the room in his jump and bringing his sword down at the end of it.
         It was time to get to work. "Christine?"
         "Hey Gray, you up for another one?"
         "You got something?"
         "Council’s doing something with their computer system. I’ve had dozens of reports of terrorist related hacking and its all been traced back to them."
         "Alright I’ll get to it. Where’s the base?"
         "I’ll upload the location to the map in your communicator."
          The Council base was in Talos. Which meant taking the train to Steel, walking all the way through that zone and then taking the train to Talos, or taking the train to Skyway, walking through that entire zone and ending up in Talos. Neither of them would take him to his destination quickly.
           He had thought about moving out of Atlas Park, since for a while now his missions had just gotten farther and farther away from it. But, that was the problem with having to keep a secret identity. Unlike most heroes in the city, Gray couldn’t manage his life with the city’s hero allowance check as his only income and with his identity up for any investigative reporter who wants his backstory. No, he had a day job, being a hero is just something he did because he has to.
           He eventually reached the council base after a long walk and two bus rides.
           He entered the base, keeping his eyes open for the computer that would have the hacked information he was supposed to collect. While walking down a dark hallway his instincts went on alert and he dived to the side as a sonic blast went by his shoulder. "Thank you master Fukui Seisho." he thought to himself as he danced between the oncoming bullets of the Council machine gun. He dodged and ducked his way right up into the face of the Council gunner and swung his blade into the man’s lower abdomen. The body armor the troops are forced to wear shattered under the force of the blow, and with it gone, Gray put his foot into the man’s stomach pushing him off into the approaching fire of the Council soldier holding the Sonic rifle. The man fired off two blasts at the mad hero rushing towards him, but the attacker was able to dodge both of them and he leapt in the air spinning around to bring his sword down in a slice knocking the man unconcious.
            "I wish I didn’t have to knock them all out." Gray thought to himself. When he became a hero he had to slightly alter his style in order to attack the villains of Paragon City without killing any. Actually, in previous cases, some of the criminals apprehended by Gray Wolf had actually died due to their injuries. But as long as the numbers were never too out of hand the city overlooked such things to all heroes who operated like this.
            Gray Wolf continued through the base, extirpating Council goons along the way until he came across a War Wolf and a Vampyri, patrolling together. Knowing the best way to take on the Wolf was with surprise he rushed forward, moving as fast as he could while remaining silent at the same time, he was a few feet from the thing when he dropped to his knees, the momentum carrying him forward as he drew his sword, sliding under the creature’s legs and giving it a diagonal cut across the chest. As it fell to the ground he got back to his feet but his super reflexes did not react quickly enough to allow him to dodge the dark energy punch sent by the vampyri. He hit the rock wall behind him and ducked down as the next blow from the deformed monster hit the stone. He got up and quickly brought the blade to the creature’s neck and while the off color blood dripped from it, the beast attempted to drain Gray Wolf’s life force for itself. Not allowing it the concentration Gray swung his leg underneath it tripping it up and as it hit the ground he brought his sword down, hard, into its chest to ensure it wouldn’t get back up. He pulled his blade out of the monster, hoping that it’s mutated bodily functions would keep it alive after his attack. He wiped the blood from his blade, finding that it clung to the surface of the metal, then continued through the dark corridors.
         "Ulyr," Gray muttered to himself while sitting in the dark corner of the last remaining unsearched room in the complex. He had encountered this Vampyri Archon before, cold, calculating, a lot like himself really.
         The wolf eyed his prey from across a large room filled with multiple pools. For all this time Gray had never figured out what these rooms were for. A teammate had once suggested that this is where the evil organization stored their sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. He had yet to notice any sharks though.
         In spite of the superior senses that the vampyri were gifted with, the powerful Archon failed to notice the blade wielding hero descending from the catwalk above him. While the vampire was knocked to the ground the hero used the gained moment to move through the guards surrounding the leader. With his energy built up, and moving quickly, they were on the ground by the time the Archon had managed to get himself back up.
         The two foes faced each other and in the instant that Gray Wolf made the move to attack he found his feet stuck to the ground. Ulyr dived for the hero, his claws extended.
         Gray saw it coming, his honed senses slowed down the moment as he struggled against the bonds of darkness holding him to the floor.
         He struggled but there was nothing he could do, none of the abilities he had learned throughout his life could help him escape from this. Then with Ulyr’s claws less than a foot from his face, the tendrils holding him in place dissipated and Gray leapt up, and just in time.
        Ulyr’s attack only just missed his mark, actually taking the rubber off the bottom of one of Gray’s boots. As Gray hit the ground he struck the Archon with his off hand, then he spun backwards in an attempt to catch him off guard. The Vampyri caught the blade with his hands and pushed Gray backwards with his foot.
         Ulyr sent a dark blast at Gray, he rolled under it and came up with his blade only to find Ulyr blocking it with his arm as though he was attacked with something other than a three foot piece of sharpened steel.
         A deadly dance emerged between them. No matter what the hero did he could not land a serious blow against his opponent. Ulyr would attack and Gray would dodge or parry it. Gray would attack with physical blows or slashes from his sword and Ulyr was capable of dodging each attack or blocking the blows with his invulnerable skin.
         Then, Gray saw an opening in his opponent’s defense. Taking the opportunity he thrust his blade under Ulyr’s arm into his chest. The Council Archon fell to the ground, blood spurting from his mouth. Gray pulled his blade from the body and took out a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe down his sword.
         "Good thing I made this costume with pockets," he thought to himself. "Most tights don’t come with that."
         He found a computer and pulled up the base’s data. "So this is what they’ve been doing with their hackers," he thought to himself. The most impressive database on the various criminal organizations in Paragon was here. They were trying to size up potential threats and had hacked into the computer’s of front companies for several crime groups.
         He downloaded it into the multipurpose hero communicator and sent it to his contact. "Christine sure will be happy to see this."
         He made the long walk back to his apartment in Atlas, slowed down a bit with the missing shoe sole. He took off his costume, throwing it on the floor to be washed... whenever. Then he took out his sword case and reverently held the blade in both hands before setting it down on the sheet of silk.
         He had just gotten into bed for the night when his communicator rang again.
        "Christine?"he addressed his contact, somewhat irritated.
        "Gray I was looking through that crime database you got from the Council base and there’s something you ought to see."
         He hung up and picked up his costume again, wondering what could be so important.


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