The dim light of the fading Moon
With one powerful upward swipe of the old long blade, the metal door of the warehouse split open. Bear Cat, Metal Core and Jade Rade rushed in, while the rest of the team stayed outside, still hoping for a surprise on the enemy. One by one, the three grafted super beings reported their “all clear” from inside. Throwing a sideways look inside, Cavalier got a quick glimpse of an empty warehouse, about he size of a football field, big enough to fit a small plane inside. Dim moonlight came through the dirtied windows, basking the scenery with an eerie feeling of abandonment and decrepitude. Old newspapers and boxes littered the floor, broken crates spilling dried straw on the floor in one corner, a fork lift turned over on its side in the other. The team walked in expecting to meet resistance, and instead walked in to a building that had been left vacant for years. Had it not been for Moon Psyche and Bear Cat, both arguing for different reasons that this was the place, Cavalier would’ve ordered an entire district search. Moon kept feeling Icy Heart, in all of her pain and suffering, directly underneath them, and Bear Cat muttered something about the sewers’ door ore than likely being welded shut forever.
They walked slowly across the dirtied floor, and it was Jade Rade who found the fresh tracks of what must’ve been a wheeled pallet jack, leading off towards the center of the huge room. They all looked ahead, following the wheel impressions with their eyes to a place where the moon beams passed just over, hiding from clear view the floor underneath it, creating a zone of darkness due to the pale brightness.
“You know mates, I was somehow expecting a fight at this point. I don’t mean to complain or anything, but it would’ve somehow made things more in accordance with my state of my mind, than…. Than this!” You could feel Cavalier’s frustration building, arms outstretched to encompass the whole room, sword back in its scabbard. He walked ahead, one hand brushing through his short hair, looking at the tracks on the floor, he followed them. They all followed quietly, darting eyes trying to pierce the darkness all around them, all looking for the tell tale sign of trouble.
“There has to be a way in. Spread out, look for a door or a switch.” Spoke Moon Psyche.
They searched the walls, looked into the old offices on the far left, even lifted the turned over fork lift, in case of a floor entrance, but nothing they found. Minutes passed by until Sun Heat noticed a pattern in the garbage and debris accumulated towards the middle room, piled to perfection if you looked at it from a certain angle, it seem to cover a rectangle on the floor of a bout five meters. The heroes cleaned the area, and doing so revealed the end of the wheels’ tracks, broken by the fine line of what seem to be a metallic sliding door, built into the floor itself. Under the sooth and dirt, the metal was strong and sturdy, and felt warm to the touch. A few more seconds of investigation clearly detailed that this door was blast proof and probably more.
They tried everything, fire and heat from Sun Heat, Voyager and Metal Core, sheer strength from Bear Cat, radiation was thrown into it as well to melt it down some, Moon Psyche could not even probe beyond it, so much it was thick. Cavalier attempted to plunge the blade straight through to no avail, nothing attempted seemed to break it down or even soften it a little. This door had been custom built to prevent anyone from entering without proper clearance.
“Should we try knocking?” Spoke Frank Winter with a smirk on his face, the only non-super powered person in the room.
“Good idea, let’s order a dozen pizzas and hide in that corner.” Replied Jade Rade with a childish, rueful smile.
Moon Psyche and Cavalier exchanged a long look, not saying a word, but knowing full well that by now, the Crey personnel was surely aware of their presence. That they did not respond, or were holding back, was worrisome.
“They know we are here, there’s probably half a dozen spy camera on us at the moment, and yet, no attacks?” Spoke aloud Sun Heat, not just for the group, but for the entire warehouse. Soon after she spoke the these words, lights blinded the heroes from all around, and a humming sound from below began. The floor vibrated from it, soon after, hydraulics accompanied the vibration.
“Frank, Voyager, Moon, get in the center, Jade you cover us. Sun Heat, Bear Cat and Metal Core, form a perimeter.” The orders came barking out of Cavalier, sword at the ready, jaw clenched and eyes deadly.
“My signal is jammed, I can’t report our position to Apocalypse.” Quickly spoke Sun Heat, who took a position in front of Cavalier, away from the two other tanks.
“Mine too.” Replied the squared jaw scrapper while looking down at his radio, it was flashing red, displaying the lack of frequency to emit.
A sliver of green light, rectangle shaped appeared from the floor, at first very thin, the far end of it began to widen, and a downward ramp was revealed, leading below the old warehouse. The heroes repositioned themselves to face the ramp, and any incoming threat. Hearts quickened, powers activated, they waited for it. Frank Winter felt very small just then, knowing full well that whatever he could put up, would be very dangerous to his life. But nonetheless, he was Apocalypse until the end. Without his armour to supply the awesome array of powers he could display, Chromium Man would have to rely on quick reflexes and wits to get through this one.
“If anyone gets their hands on a gun, throw it my way.” He said through clenched teeth, afraid as he was, he had rarely felt this alive.
Sounds of stomping feet came their way, from below and out of sight, and everyone squared their feet for the oncoming rush. Moon Psyche counted at least fifty, if not sixty different thought patterns. Some were soldiers, but others were more powerful, more certain of their capabilities. Soon after, the green glow coming from fro underneath the warehouse, began to darken, as Crey Industries personnel made their way towards the ramp and up to the surface. They did not fire or attack, but simply exited the underground complex and ran to the far side of the room, taking position to encircle the team of heroes.
Power Tanks, Voltaic Tanks and Cryo Tanks, accompanied by many Eliminators, Juggernauts and Crisis Units, all of which held themselves ten yards ahead of the entrance, blocking the path. Tension rose quickly, Cavalier measuring the odds against the team, and finding them not good, not good at all. Their one chance would be to breach the Power Units line quickly, to find refuge and protection from the gun fire, below.
“Good evening Mr. Bunny.”
The voice resounded throughout the room, echoing against the walls like a drum. The loudspeakers from which it had come from were unseen, but the voice itself, could not be mistaken.
“And Mr. Bane as well, I see you keep odd and unwanted company Mr. Bunny.”
“Wepp.” Muttered Voyager to himself.
“Doctor Wepp.” Hissed Bear Cat.
“All right, here’s how this is going to be. You are all under arrest, lay down your arms, power down your suits and come along peacefully, or we’re going to make damned sure the paperwork to file after this fight, is minimal.” Cavalier took a step forward and spoke these words, blatantly aware that if he were on the receiving end of them, he would’ve laughed out loud at such bravado.
“Cavalier, I think you’re pushing it a little.” Whispered Sun heat in the direction of the scrapper. “If I counted right, the odds are a bazillion to one, and not in our favour.”
“Anyone else got a better plan?” Replied the famous scrapper to his team.
“Don’t shoot, we surrender!” yelled back Voyager, raising his hands high above his head.
“Link us, Moon.” Cavalier’s eyes had narrowed as soon as Voyager had spoken the words. What was he up to? Moon Psyche concentrated for a second, then opened a psychic channel for everyone on his team to be able to communicate without words. The advantage of doing this were instantaneous and very fast, an entire conversation could be exchange at the speed of thought, where twenty minutes became twenty seconds. And the very first thought that came across, was that of Cavalier:
“You bloody old fool.”
“You can call me anything you want, but a year in the Shard has thought me when to run, when to fight and when to surrender. I can fulcrum shift the power units, but not the guns. You wanted in the base, well surrendering is one way to get in there.” Mindspoke the old controller towards his friend and the team.
“Kill that one.” A female voice said from above. “I know you can still hear me, playing the deaf hear does not change the outcome of the future. Kill that one before he kills you.”
Moon Psyche probed around the room, gently, secretly. As the vessel through which all minds were meeting to converse, he had not expected this. Before, he had tried to locate a presence while interrogating Voyager, back at the headquarters. But had he tried to actually forward his thoughts to another, he would’ve heard the voice the old controller said he had been listening to all this time. Surprised and amazed, Moon Psyche laughed at himself for not thinking about this before, what he was hearing coming from Bane, was nothing more than an echo of another conversation taking place on the psychic plane. Voyager had been carrying another psychic conversation on his own, all this time.
The voice of the woman communicating with Voyager had an alien taint to it, cold, uncaring and calculating. The intent behind her thoughts seemed to be directed towards him though, even if she couldn’t know that he was listening in on her channel, he felt the heat of it wash over him like water from a fall. And something else too, something that raised the hair on the back of his head right away, instilling fear and anger on a primal level. That alien presence talking through Voyager had all its concentration rooted on one person, probing and measuring the life signs, thought patterns and stress levels, monitoring every change in her body and that of her womb. Sun Heat and his child.
Confined in the head of the bearers, thoughts travelled at the speed of light, making bodies move, motivating ideas and emotions, quicker than the blink of an eye. But they were also just that, incorporeal energies that very few could manipulate to their will, lesser still that could use them as a weapon. Moon Psyche was one of the latter, he could tap into the primeval power and will it to become a tool of war, a sharp and precise sword of pure emotion that would kill instantly and without mercy its target. It was his conscience that prevented him from killing Thomas Bane, his soul that he considered to be his greatest asset, stopped the incredible urge to release the energy needed to tell the body of the old controller to stop functioning. But if he so much as touched Sun Heat, all bets were off.
“Bloody hell Thomas, I am leading this team, if we surrender, I get to decide that, not you.” Cavalier’s thoughts were clear and angry, sharp and edgy much like his sword. There was a difference there that Moon couldn’t quite understand. Cavalier had always been one to face the day, everyone knew that, and that was why he had been chosen as a Leader of Apocalypse. The man knew battle, simple and true, he had a keen understanding of its shapes, its motions and outcomes. Countless times he had turned the tides of a fight by finding, or better put, by feeling what would change it in his favour. But today, now, Cavalier’s judgement was somewhat shady and confused, interested more in resolving a personal vendetta, than making sure everyone would go home.
“Look around you Cavalier, they have us outnumbered and in their sights, you want to fight and die gloriously or what?” Jade Rade’s pattern was more confusing, too many ideas racing through her head all at once. You could feel her past in there, the abuse and the confusion, the low self esteem and frustration, layers upon layers of psychotic damage. She was wounded in her soul, scarred there more that her small beautiful body showed. Negative energies ebbed from her, surrounding and shrouding her being in a dark halo that flowed from her towards Metal Core. She loved him dearly, but was unable to tell him so.
“Jade’s right man, better to live and fight another day.” The Japanese tanker was more of an assemblage, in psychic terms, than a whole being. Mingled in there were anger and love, mistrust and weariness, innocence and hope. He considered himself a criminal, an exiled and outcast, from what he had always hoped to become, a good guy. Regrets and mistakes clouded his judgement at every step, blocking him from becoming what he had dreamed of as a kid. The promise Metal Core had secretly made to himself back then, haunted him to this day by the magnitude of what he considered to be his biggest failure. A hero he was not, not according to him anyways. But a villain he wasn’t either. Strangely, he felt a deep love for Jade Rade as well, and yet had never spoken to her about it.
“As much as it annoys me to admit, Voyager is right. And I will not permit anyone to endanger the life of my child.” Patient, caring and calm as a quiet sea. Moon Psyche clearly couldn’t think right when it came to her. He could now feel the faint presence of their child in her, no clear thoughts yet, but it was there, building itself. She was beautiful under any light, sometimes Moon felt she had been placed on earth to test him, so that he could find the limits of what he would do in her name, for her sake. It centered him to know her, to feel the warmth of her body next to his when they slept at night, the softness of her skin and the smell of her hair. She clouded his judgement from the day he met her, spinning him about in more ways than he could count. Sun Heat was her battle name, but in his mind, in the secret place where all that he cherished, was guarded from foe and friend, he had another name for her, love.
“Guys, if they start shooting, I’m going down so hard and fast, I won’t even have time to curse you all to hell.” Even under duress, Frank Winter had an outlook to life that spoke of his upbringing. Careless and free, educated by the best schools his father’s money had provided, his mind was a technical encyclopaedia of untapped potential. Had he born in an average family, both parents working and barely making ends meet, he would’ve more than likely grown up to be nothing more than an average Joe himself. The difference between knowledge and intelligence is not always clear to describe, and knowing which is which, sometimes harder to say. Chromium Man knew a lot of things, had assimilated a lot of facts and practiced a lot of theories, but he hadn’t been faced by the challenges of real life that most people have. He had been sheltered and prepared to take over one of the biggest industries Paragon had, until recently that is. You could feel the fear of the unknown in him now, something you couldn’t find there before, surely brought on by his recent experiences. He was not wearing his battle armour, but Frank Winter still held strong the belief that he could make a difference, if he lived.
“Look people, I don’t care what we do here, but you all seem to forget they are holding Turbo Starr down there, even if we won this fight, they would have the time to kill your much vaunted leader before we got to him. If the plan is still to rescue him, put an end to this insanity and all that crap, then shut the fuck up and surrender already.” Moon had probed his mind once, and had found nothing but sheer brute strength in there. The man only counted the end results, not the ways to get them. Bear Cat should be in a prison cell, and yet had managed to keep his people and his organisation, hidden and untouched. It couldn’t helped, the man would someday be caught and arrested, he knew it, understood it and didn’t care for it. Until then, his sole purpose was to bring a terminal justice where there was none to be given. He moved in shadows, lived in them and permitted no one to tell him what to do. His mind was trained to keep mind searchers out, every second that passed brought on a different image of no relevance, a flower, a bath tub, a pair of pants. He rotated these thoughts all the time on a rhythm, but Moon Psyche had forced his way in once, and he could do it again.
Moon cut off the psychic link, severing the ties between all of them and time resumed its normal pace. Although he wished he had taken more time to investigate Voyager and that presence talking to him, the team needed to focus on the situation at hand. The Crey personnel could not know what had just taken place, for them, only the fraction of a second had gone by. But Moon Psyche had been the vessel, the server if you will, for all these thoughts and emotions, and was now aware more than ever, that there was more here, than met the eyes.
One by one, the heroes raised their hands and crossed their fingers on top of their heads. They knelt and did not resist when the Voltaic tanks placed power shackles on them, rendering their powers inert for a short duration, until they could be placed into cells. Doctor Wepp’s voice was confident and victorious as he spoke of their wise choice to surrender. The dice was cast, they were now prisoners of the devil.
“Be mindful of where you put that sword friend, I will need to retrieve it in order to run it through your overfed belly.” Even cuffed and unable to fight, Cavalier felt the need to taunt the enemy, to make him aware that he was indeed a danger to be acknowledge.
They were place on a mag lift and brought below, heavily escorted by the power units, closely followed by the security force. The wide corridor, neon lighted and olive green painted, filled with many office doors, led them towards the main research area. The sterilised smell came to their nostrils as soon as they were brought down. When the doors opened and they were glided in, the team was met by a nightmarish sight. Cavalier let out a loud curse and started to struggle to break free of his shackles. So much so, that one of the power tanks had to stun him with an energy punch behind the skull, knocking him unconscious. But everyone else on the team felt stunned as well, by what they saw, when they laid eyes on the scene taking place in the laboratory.
Icy Heart was in a tube, filled with a reddish liquid, spasms and shocks rocked her body. She was bleeding, from her eyes, her ears and any place where blood could exit, and she was very much in pain. Had she not been kept suspended in water, she would have been screaming in agony over what was happening to her at the moment. The water filled tank, with all its filtration and tubes, its calibration systems and measuring gauges, had a very hard time keeping itself filtered from the red taint her blood was creating. But what had made Cavalier scream in anger and the others look on in fear, wasn’t the sight of her being tortured like this, but more what was being done to her.
In a second tank, a few meters away, Ghost Starr was also hooked up and floating. He seemed to be unconscious as well, peaceful and uninjured. Several tubes were hooked to his body, pumping out a black liquid from his veins, sucking it out into a dialysis machine. And his blood, or whatever it might be, was being fed to Icy Heart, pushed into her small body that was writhing in agony, reacting with such force that blood exploded out of her. No one knew how Crey Industries had laid hands on Ghost Starr, but what was being done to Icy Heart here this day, had just sealed a declaration of war between Apocalypse and Crey Industries, forever.
TO PART 16 >
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