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Chapter 1: The Falling Pieces


Location:
Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge




Weeks passed since The Hounds of Humanity lost their battle to the superheroes of Lost Haven, and the Eye of Osiris was busy. The sudden influx of recruits from the former organization that were mostly scattered in most of Lost Haven and Crown Ridge were rounded up and were either drafted into the fold or ‘purged’ at the whim of Dullahan. The faithful already in the Eye before the influx were consolidating their positions in the two cities that were left because of both the gang war between the Yakuza and Triads plus the Hounds. In each case, the use of the Penose in Lost Haven and the Haitians in Crown Ridge made keeping the secrecy of the organization easier in the long run.

In Crown Ridge, Dullahan and a few of the key figures in the Eye were in a separate room. Altogether, there was him, his bodyguard Sobek, the spear-wielding man and the axe-wielding man standing around a table with a fifth person lurking near the ominous leader. “Right now,” Sobek spoke, keeping his eyes on the table that had the map of Maine and smaller maps of both the city of Lost Haven and Crown Ridge. “We have the base facilities for the import of our needed equipment set up in the Chinatown edge of Lost Haven, so we can get the specialized gear from our main warehouse across the Atlantic. As for the facilities here, we are mostly using them to keep stock of Eye personnel and military gear. That plus the warehouse on the edge of town allows for the drugs that will be coming in from the Netherlands and Haiti could be supplied throughout North America. Funds from previous endeavours allow for the goods to leave the city easier. The city’s no capes policy, although will be circumvented by local heroes such as Lyger, will make things easier as well.”

“But what about the big heroes like Lyger?” The spear-wielding man spoke up. “Small heroes could be easily deterred by the No Capes policy in the city, but heroes that stopped D-Day and Pax Metahuman will certainly cause problems down the line.”

“But you forget that in the process of setting up shop that some of our high-tech gear used to obtain those facilities will be there,” replied the axe-wielding man. “While the turrets and the gear we used was only specific to target the gangs and Hounds, they will be targeting both human and superhuman invaders when we finally set up everything.”

Sobek looks up at the two men. “Sekhmet’s right, Montu. The gear we have already is getting changed over as we speak in terms of the programming so that it will target heroes like Lyger and with them being high-tech, any of the known instruments used by Lyger himself will have reduced effectiveness against them. Trust me… He won’t be much of an issue and things being low-key will not warrant the attention to Iron Knight and Icon.”

” And of the location of our missing item?” Everyone bar the lurking figure turned towards their leader as he spoke for the first time during the meeting. ”Is there any progress?”

Sobek’s face turned sombre as he shook his head. “Anhur reports in that since locating the woman in question weeks ago, she had gone underground and with…”

Dullahan’s fist curled into a fist on the table as the red eyes of his helmet turned bloodier in colour. Both Montu and Sekhmet silently gulped in trepidation. Sobek was the only one unmoved by the sudden threatening posture from the leader. ”Get Anhur on a line… NOW!”


Location: An unknown warehouse, Chinatown, Lost Haven


The Penose were hard at work. Since the warehouse facilities on dockside Chinatown were obtained, shipments from worldwide came in and were running like clockwork. While some of the cargo was for legitimate uses such as imported food and textiles, some of the Penose product was also important and were prepared to be distributed. Overwatching it all, Anhur leaned against the railing on the upper floor of the warehouse. “Everything seems to be going along smoothly,” the man with the skull-face tattoo muttered to himself. “Just wish that Pasadena bitch would be found.” He had spent the past few weeks getting the network of Penose to locate the woman in question, who he knew as Kayla. That was the only information he had, despite the accurate description of her looks and the rough area of where she lived.

The closest he got to get to her was a college student who wanted the money for blow. He had managed to find her. And how did that turn out? An arrest and interrogation from a bow-wielding vigilante that came to be known as Fletch. Since word got out from what happened that night, not only had the woman disappeared, but no one followed up on obtaining the bounty he placed on her. And the fruitless endeavour was the reason why Dirk, the tall-blond Dutchman that led most of the Penose in the reclamation of the warehouses, was by his side with a phone in his hand. Reaching for the offered phone, Anhur pressed it to his ear. “Can I help you?”

“It’s Sobek. How goes preparations in Lost Haven? Any news about the girl?”

Anhur sighed, left hand raised to the bridge of his nose. “Things have been proceeding as scheduled. More of our turrets and ground-based attack drones have arrived and being distributed to the warehouses in Lost Haven as we speak. Once the next shipment arrives, they will be shipped to Crown Ridge. As for the girl…” He sighed. He had an idea that Dullahan was on speaker too to hear everything. “… Still, no signs. She seems to have slipped the…”

”Find her.”

Anhur shivered at the sound of Dullahan’s voice over the phone. “I’m trying, sir. But no one is taking up on the bounty that has been placed. Not while a vigilante with a bow is going after them.”

” I don’t care how you do it… Raise the bounty on finding her… Allow people wanting it to use our weapons… I don’t care… Just get it done, Anhur. You know what’ll happen if you disappoint me again…”

Then, Anhur was left in silence as the phone was hung up, with Dirk behind him wondering on the conversation.


Location: Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge


With the phone to Anhur hung up, Dullahan sighs. ” Now that matter has been dealt with, what about our other sources? Have they narrowed the search?”

Sobek perks up a little. “While we haven’t had much progress with finding the girl, our network has sensed that the search area is on the western side of the US. We’re still narrowing down as we speak, though anything from Anhur will help significantly.”

Dullahan sighs. ”Very good. Keep your eyes on that. As for what to do, Sekhmet will head to Lost Haven and help with keeping our men in line. He would also help Anhur with his search for this… Kayla. Dismissed.”


Location: An unknown warehouse, Chinatown, Lost Haven


With the monotonous tone of the call ending, Anhur paused there in silence. On the one hand, everything was going smoothly with bringing the Eye’s equipment and product through that it would make the upcoming operation smoother to run for Dullahan. On the other, the smooth operation going on now meant jack shit if the girl was not located. The skull-faced man knew that without her, the critical item for the operation would not be found and scupper everything. And the last thought, tied in with the vigilante archer, pissed him off.

The skull-faced man threw the phone onto the floor below, yelling in anger that surprised Dirk. Then, Anhur turned to the Dutchman, his golden eyes swirling with hatred. “Get… the word out to every motherfucker in the city!” he bellowed, the Dutchman cowering with the overwhelming fear he was facing. “I am tripling the bounty on the bitch’s head for her to be brought to me alive. I’m also putting a $2 million bounty on the archer’s head to be brought to me on a fucking platter!”

While he was on a role, he thought about the hotbed of heroes that were present in the city. He thought about the thousands of poor people and criminals in the city that were in desperate need of the cash. If the operation were to run smoother than it already is, might as well remove a few more obstacles out of our way. The thought made Anhur smirk maniacally. It was for this reason that Dullahan had put him in charge of the operations in Lost Haven. “And while we are at it, send the word out to every poor soul and low-life thug that is out there. I am putting a $500k reward for each hero’s head. If they need the gear to do so, they get it through our suppliers.”

Dirk stood there, still frozen with fear.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO!”


Location: Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge


With the three men gone, only Dullahan and the lone figure remained in the planning room. The Eye leader paused for a moment, pondering on something. ” For now, keep a close eye on your phone for any new orders from me. In the meantime, you carry on with whatever contracts you have open. Is that understood, Anput?”

The lurking figure stood up. Moving into the light, the figure wore a full military gear, hooded and mask covering any features that would identify what gender they were. Through the purple lenses of the goggles, they looked at Dullahan. ”Understood.” Then, as if by an unknown ability, the assassin disappears from the room.

Dullahan remained in his chair. While he sounded menacing to their comrade in Lost Haven, he knew that the words he said were to only fire up Anhur to getting things into motion. After all, a city of heroes is hard to cause chaos from the get-go. Weeks are needed before his plan could finally go into action and the better prepared they were for the operation, the smoother things will run, and the probability of success will increase. Then, much like the moment with the Hound recruitment, Dullahan smirks under his helmet.

”Everything is now falling into place.”

and
JAI HALE


Kayla’s eyes flickered towards Jai. While she was still getting her bearings straight from the healing process from hell, she did manage to catch some of the words he said. Slowly, she propped herself up into a sitting position, her cognac eyes looking at him. ”Maybe at some point, when I have come to terms with it,” she replied to the comment. Her head throbbed, her sense of balance thrown into spinning circles as she tried to regain her other senses. When she felt her body was stable enough, she raised her left hand to go to rub the temple.

About halfway through the movement, her hand stopped mid-motion. Without her willing it, her hand - her whole body - slowly shifted towards Racheli. Much like what had happened in Sherman Square when the Hounds attacked. Kayla’s mind still bogged down from the pain, recalled the same moment when Racheli was also annoyed at that kid. That moment caused her to stop too. She also controls metals or magnetism? But before she could follow that thought with the same question, her friend turned and left the garage. She winced as the door was slammed shut.

It was at that moment she noticed a change in demeanour in the virus in the room. Normally, she wouldn’t be bothered by the apparition, but something was different. The words that came from its mouth stunned the archer before it disappeared into thin air. In her moment of showing both Jai and Racheli that she wasn’t weak - that she wanted to feel as strong in her human form as those two - she pissed off her friend. ”Oh hell,” she spoke, exasperated in tone. ”Looks like I need to talk to her before she disappears…” Slowly, she tried to get up onto her feet.

Jai was near unresponsive at Kayla's remark, just shifting his dual irises in her direction with a subtle quirk of his brow. His blue eye had mechanical like circles inside it as if he was continuously analyzing the scene and her. But, the gaze shifted its focus when Racheli stormed out, slamming the door behind her. The virus's words were ominous, but he said nothing. At the moment, everything seemed well enough…

He moved when she did, hands reaching for her to hold her steady. "Steady, Kayla," Jai warned, gripping her forearm and shoulder. "I do not think it is advisable to move quite yet."

He blinked and his sensors were giving him the information he didn't notice before. Switching his one eye to a different view, he noted the strange electrical energy coming off of her. "She will be back in a moment, but pace yourself. I should warn you that there are changes happening that I'm not entirely sure is happening."

Leila was observing and taking notes and seemed to be very dedicated to it while she paced the room.

Kayla was surprised to see Jai near her when she tried to get up from the ground. Logically, she understood his concerns and should be following them. However, her stubbornness and determination weren’t having any of it. ”And doctors told me it wasn’t advisable to do archery ever again, but look how that turned out.” As she looked at him, her eyes gave off a sense of deviousness to them. There wasn’t hiding the fact that she was going to ignore what was advised and try to get up. If she wasn’t to get onto her feet, then at least she could get onto the nearby chair. ”Besides, I bet you’d love to say ‘I told you so’ if I collapse onto the floor again.”

Slowly and hesitantly, she got off of the floor and moved onto the nearby chair. She wasn’t going to lie to herself and say that was a piece of cake. Her entire body ached throughout the move. When Jai spoke again, the archer looked somewhat perplexed at what he had said. ”There are changes you aren’t sure of? What’s that supposed to mean?” The concern in her voice raised the volume slightly to make it more audible in the garage than what it would normally be.

When she rejected his aid, he dropped his arms to his sides. Still, that didn't prevent him from standing close enough to catch her if she did stumble. There's a wry smile that ghosted over his lips, a faint semblance of amusement at her words of practising archery. "As amusing as it would be for me to say 'I told you so,' I don't think that would give me or you any sort of enjoyment for rubbing it in." The only look he received was a raised eyebrow as Kayla doubted he wouldn’t enjoy the comment.

There was a wary glance when she shifted to the chair without much trouble. Still, the sparks of energy had yet to cease. The amusement dissipates when she asks and from the corner of his eye, he can see Leila shifting, and listen in with a keen eye.

Kneeling down in front of her, his elbows on his knees, he said, "You have strange electrical energies radiating off of you that shouldn't be normal in someone who just received what Leila gave you." His eyes darted to her and returned his focus to the woman in front of him. "Not only that, but I was absolutely certain that there was nothing entirely metallic in that injection and I'm watching—" His eyes slide to her shoulder blade where she had been previously shot, "—where you've been previously shot slowly be filled with something metallic." He looked away and returned his focus on her.

"Is there something either me or Leila should know?"

At first, a puzzled expression was etched on Kayla’s face as the information on electrical energies came up. While the nanites she was injected with could be something that is the cause of that, she doubted that as Leila had tested it before and it didn’t come up. And the concoction that Evergreen gave her that enhanced her agility? That certainly wouldn’t be the cause of this energy.

The expression changed into shock at the mention of something metallic being in her body. She knew that the modified nanites that came from Racheli’s blood were organic, so that definitely came from something else. Her eyes widened with shock and panic at the idea that something was inside her that she didn’t know about. Her heart rate began increasing once again as panic set in. ”There’s something inside of me?!" she gasped, her voice breaking. It certainly didn’t help her that whatever was inside of her was going back to where she was shot before. The whole thought of that night giving her something else made her nauseous. Her skin paled as her skin began to clam up.

It didn’t take long before the archer’s arms scrambled for the nearby bin and threw up. It had been too much for her. Once she finished, she slumped into the chair. She felt more exhausted than she did the moment the healing process finished. Breathing heavily, her eyes slowly moved from the bin to Jai and Leila. ”I swear… I don’t know… I didn’t know…”

Jai could only sympathetically watch when Kayla did not take the news well. But, clearly, there was someone else intervening with Kayla and her body that was not Leila. Setting the thought for another day, he needed Kayla to focus on something else and try to move past the initial news. They need to try to figure out a way to find the answers rather than worrying about it. Though, as concerning as it was, he supposed that it was only normal. Most, if not all, do not take too kindly to finding out that there was something invading one's body. The very thought gave him pause, and he forwent the idea of further contemplation.

The soldier shook his head, glanced in Leila's direction where she gave a hard look. At Kayla, he stood up so that he could reach forward and place a hand on her shoulder as a means of reassurance. "If you don't know, then perhaps it will be best if you let Leila take a few samples from you to figure out what it is exactly you have in your body. Much like how she did for Racheli."

At her cue, Leila walked over with her arms crossed, a finger tapping her chin in thought. "Certainly," she said with a nod. "I'll definitely have to take samples and analyze. I want to make sure that they are not going to wreak havoc on you, but it doesn't seem to be anything alarming since it seems as though it is helping you rather than being a concern. So I do not imagine it'll be too much of a problem for the time being." The woman hummed. "But rest first and we'll collect the necessary samples later. Don't worry, I'll take good care of you as I did with Racheli."

Jai dropped his hand from Kayla's shoulder. "You are in good hands, Kayla."

Kayla gaze sank to the floor in front of her, her mind still trying to process everything that was said. While she thought of the possibilities into what caused whatever was inside her to get there in the first place, her thoughts instantly returned to the night she almost died. It seemed to be more than a coincidence that the place the metal inside of her was returning to the same spot of where her injuries were, but it was reopening a wound she spent the past few years trying to close. It was getting too much for her and she was on the verge of breaking down.

When the warmth of Jai’s hand touched her shoulder, she stiffened slightly. It was the first time someone outside of her family and Mr Taylor had placed a hand on her in a while. The added thought of someone else getting in her personal bubble was mixing her addled mind more. However, the touch and warmth of it grounded her tumultuous emotions to allow her to think more clearly. She failed to notice her body slowly gravitating towards the source of the touch as she zoned out for the briefest of moments. It wasn’t long before she focused back on the conversation about Leila going to examine what was inside of her.

”It sounds like a logical course of action,” she replied, her voice still choked up from the shock. Her body returned to its normal position when Jai’s hand was taken away from her. ”The sooner it is examined, the sooner it can get out of me.”

Jai isn't accustomed to touching since he's "returned" to Earth. Reappearing as he did, touch felt almost foreign to him that doing it seems almost a necessity rather than any sort of habit. Rehabilitating him when he was with Leila helped, he noted, and that was perhaps why touching never seemed to give him the same sort of initial aversion when he "came" back. So seeing Kayla relax and perhaps become grounded from his touch was something he noted to do a bit more of in the future.

"I suppose this is a lot to take in one go," Jai said with a subtle lift of his brow, but his tone of voice was almost… concerned.

"We'll take this one step at a time," Leila said, frowning. "Just focus on recovering and resting from this first and we'll tackle this another day. I'll figure out whatever it is later, I promise."

Jai crouched in front of Kayla, looking her over with his eye. While the electrical energies had yet calmed, still, it was fascinating to watch it bounce off of her the way it was. For now, it seemed harmless and he hoped it would stay that way.

"Like Leila said, it seems harmless and it's helping you so I cannot think it's going to hurt you. I just wanted to let you know to be on the lookout for any changes."

Leila nodded. "Mhm. You should be experiencing the things I've outlined in that documentation that I had you sign before we started all of this. If you experience anything outside of that, tell me right away."

Kayla listened to both of them as they both understood that the information was a lot to take in and it was something they would deal with. At least that is reassuring, she thought, nodding to them as she understood that she needs to rest after the healing process. It was at this moment that everything caught up to her. Exhaustion kicked in as her energy levels plummeted. Her back slowly fell to the back of the chair she was sitting in, allowing it to support her as she fully relaxed.

When it came to the topic of letting them know she was experiencing things that were unexpected. ”Yeah, I’ll make sure I’m on top of it,” she sighed, the sudden fatigue apparent. ”It’s certainly the last thing I want to happen, especially when the trail of the Penose is still warm.” While she hadn’t mentioned much about it, Kayla had spoken to them about a problem she encountered prior to the Hounds attack and that she obtained some information to follow up on. The specifics of Mark’s injuries and her infiltration of the police HQ to ‘question’ the man who attacked her were left out as it had been need-to-know. Roadblock was the only one who had an inkling of an idea of the former and knew of the latter. With him involved now, she needed to make sure some of the information is correct.

It was a moment in her reflection on the Penose that she noticed Jai was looking at her, crouching in front of her. She noted the fascinated look on his face. ”Anything that eye of yours noticing?” Her left eyebrow curled up as she asked him that question, her gaze curiously looking at his response.

Leila, at this point, had wandered off to the other part of the garage once Kayla gave her confirmation, taking a seat on one of the chairs in the corner as she recorded her notes.

Any comments either of them could've made regarding the Penose fell short when Kayla seemed to be lost in thought.

"To be frank, it's interesting to see how your body is reacting to both the injection and how there was already something else inside of you that is creating what I see," Jai answered, gesturing to the sparks that hovered over the surface of her skin. Even if she couldn't see it, he could. "It is not often that I can see the effects of something like this." And in person, he might've added, if he were to consider his stance on the matter.

He dropped his hand to return his focus to Kayla. "Forgive my impertinence," he said with the shake of his head. "How are you feeling?"

Kayla listened as Jai talked about what he was seeing. She had to admit that it was interesting to hear what he was seeing, still wrapping her head around the idea that one of his eyes can see more than what she can with her own. Her gaze on him remained as curious as ever. The corners of her lips curled up slightly as her subconscious noted the gaze he was giving her as well as his hand hovering over her. She failed to notice her heart skipping slightly with his hand being close to her.

The fleeting moment disappeared as soon as his hand returned to his side. Her curious gaze disappeared and returned to a resting face she had before, the signs of fatigue returning. ”I’m feeling ok, all things considering,” she replied. ”Tired as all hell though.” Her eyes looked up at the clock on the wall, noting that it was getting closer to when she was due to leave. Jeremy had other business at another location he was hoping to buy, so he was giving everyone in the shop half a day. She cursed under her breath. ”And it’s almost the end of the working day too. I still have a lot to do before closing up for the day.”

Tentatively, Kayla pushed herself up onto her feet, her footing feeling slightly uneasy from everything earlier. After a few moment, her entire body was steady again. ”I shouldn’t keep you guys waiting. I’m sure you have other important plans waiting for you back at where you’re based than to babysit me.” Her lips curled up slightly as to try to reassure both Leila and Jai that she was going to be alright. ”I’ll be fine with doing the closing and getting myself back home, okay?”

When her gaze shifted to the clock on the wall, Jai knew what she was thinking moments later. He frowned and stood with the shake of his head. "As appreciative as I am of your work ethic, you just went through a huge ordeal that I don't think it's advisable that you move when you just said that you're 'tired as all hell'," he said when she pushed herself to standing. His hand shot out to her side, hovering next to her when she was unsteady on her feet.

It was only when she was steady once more that he slowly dropped his hand once more. Still, he didn't move too far from her. His gaze subtly narrowed and he sighed, despite the reassuring smile. "I wouldn't call this babysitting as it's more out of concern for your wellbeing."

Leila lifted her brow at Kayla once she was finished with her notes. Rising to stand, she said, "Kayla, Jai can finish up your work for you—just direct him and he'll do it for you." She glanced around the garage. "I'd rather you not push yourself this first day." She shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. "And we only did this today because it was a halfday and Jai can help cover if need be since he was the only other mechanic in the shop that knew what we were going to do," she pointed out.

"Unless you don't believe I can help you finish your work properly? In which case, I have half the mind to prove you otherwise." There was a ghost of a smile curling at the edges of his lips, hinting toward something of amusement. It seemed unlikely, given how he was just as qualified and competent as she was for the job. Still, it was what most would've considered a joke and it's perhaps the first one that Jai had ever made.

When Jai retorted to her wanting to close up shop, Kayla wanted to object. ”I’ll be fine,” she replied back, her tone turning sterner. In her mind, she knew she was the complete opposite. She had never been fine since that night. She knew that her physical capabilities would never be the same with the muscles in her shoulder being damaged. But she endured through that and she was sure as hell was thinking she’ll endure this. And she was sure as hell not letting anyone get in the way of that.

Kayla had to bite her tongue when Jai tried to reassure her that he wasn’t babysitting but ‘being concerned’ for her wellbeing. While she knew that they do mean well and whatever she was going to say will only make her feel better, she didn’t know the impact on the words. The archer had an inkling of an idea that Leila would have picked up on the types of medication she is currently on with the condition she’s on. It didn’t help that the same medication on her medical file was wearing off and she would be needing it soon. It hadn’t helped when Leila herself interjected into the conversation and mentioned that Jai should help.

”Fine…” Kayla responded curtly, her right hand rising up so her thumb, index and middle finger pinched the bridge of her nose. There’s only so much I can hold back of my irritability, she thought. She needed to take her medication before it wore off and her annoyance becomes too much. ”Just make sure all of the machinery in the shop is shut off for the day. I’ll get the end of shift paperwork sorted out and shut the computer systems in Jeremy’s office.” Reaching for her bag that was by her bench, she began walking towards the office to fill in the sheet and shut the computer down.

Despite the fact that Jai suspected otherwise in Kayla's demeanor that she was anything but fine, he dropped the subject. In fact, he lifted his brow but said nothing when there was an indication that she wanted to say differently. He waited several beats before Kayla finally responded, sounding exasperated, if not at herself, but at him.

He only turned away when she pinched the bridge of her nose, and he began their closing procedures with shutting each of the machines and closing up shop. Their current cars were parked and locked, and current projects left for the next day to tackle. He did a cursory glance, switching between his visions to make sure all of the machinery were off before proceeding to doing a quick cleanup. It was a lot quicker than he expected but by the time he was done, Kayla stood off to the side, watching him.

"How do you like supervising me?" he asked and he walked over to her. "I trust it meets your expectations?" Jai glanced around the garage for another glance, but dropped his gaze back on Kayla. He knew he did a fine job, having been at the garage long enough that the closing procedures was committed to memory. Still, maybe he ought to tease the ruffled feathers of a certain archer.

Leila seemed to be finishing up her notes from where she was sitting. She hadn't moved from where she initially sat down.

Kayla arrived in the office after storming out of the shop floor for the electrical work. She closed the door behind her before resting her back against the door. The archer took heavy breaths as she finally slumped fully against the door, her body slightly shaking from the pent up emotions. She didn’t know what it was, but the way Jai teased her struck a chord in her. The shaking in her shoulders moved heavier as she raised both her hands to her head, her finger tips running through her hair. The more she thought about it, the more the question she thought resonated with what she felt. Why of all things he is doing reminds me of him? With her body propped up against the door to prevent her from slipping down, her head slowly sank towards her chest, fighting the tears back.

Gathering a few moments to try and compose herself, the archer got back up onto her two feet and walked over to the computer. Wiping her eyes from the excess water, Kayla began closing the running programmes. Once satisfied, she began closing the computer down. With that task done, the only thing left was to sign both her and Jai out. She walked over to the clipboard where the sign out sheet was. Seeing a water bottle by the stored archery kit she had at the garage, she took a moment to pick it up. Her left hand reached in the bag to pick up the medication and deftly opened it with one hand. Shaking the contents towards her mouth so two of the tablets entered her mouth, she closed it again and drank the contents of the bottle. Once happy with getting everything done, she turned to walk out. While she thought about it, she decided that the arrows in the kit would need to be refletched. Decided in the last minute, she turned back to her archery bag and slipped the arrow tube of the case and walked out of the office.

When she returned, Jai was almost finished with the cleaning. Kayla had half a thought about watching him, though the emotional drain caused her to zone out. She was tired. She felt overwhelmed. She wanted to just be left alone for the rest of the day. Despite all that, she did want to say sorry to Jai, Leila and Rach for everything that has happened today. It was the one thing she wanted after the past few weeks: she wanted to feel like she wasn’t burdening everyone she came across. Especially in a world where there are people with amazing abilities.

Just as Jai finished cleaning up and was looking back at her, Kayla zoned back in. Listening to him, she instantly felt the teasing nature behind the words. Her head slouched forward once again, trying hard to regain her composure. When she thought she had her emotions in check, despite the redness around her eyes suggesting otherwise, they all flooded back. ”Just stop…” she muttered, choking on the words. But the words weren’t enough to stop the emotional breakdown she was about to face.

”JUST STOP IT!”

Her face shot up as she screamed in the shop. Her eyes welled up to the point of her starting to cry. The glare she was giving fully betrayed the hurt behind them. She couldn’t take this any more. The only thing Kayla wanted at this moment was to get out of here. Without much warning, she tightened her grip and ran out the door. Ripping the door open, she left without any further word and slammed the door behind her.
After all that stuff happening last month, I can finally get back on the bandwagon with everyone's favourite archer.

And The Wanderer



&



In

Take a Look, It's In a Book!


Location: Pacific Point, CA


”Here we are, quiet, out of the way, and one of the coolest places in Pacific Point!”

When arriving, The Wanderer couldn’t believe what he was seeing, leaving him speechless. Upon finishing their business in the street, Voyager had insisted on the time traveller to visit a library. Most of the libraries he was used to was either rubble or gutted of most of its contents. This one had been different to him.

The library was modern in appearance with a glass front that exposed the literature that was inside. People inside were reading through the books, working on their laptops or flicking through the catalogue of books to determine where everything was. To a normal person, it was just your average library. To the mutant, this was something he couldn’t get his eyes off. There were more books in this one building alone that those he had seen in the whole of Pine Bluff 200 years in the future.

The pair of them approached the front desk, prompting the attention of the blond, curly-haired librarian sorting returns and the puppy curled up in a blanket next to him, yipping happily at the two superheroes.

“Ah, good morning...er...Voyager…” the librarian said, pausing as he took in the appearance of Wanderer.

“Morning, Mr. Savo!” Voyager said, reaching over to scratch the puppy behind the ears. “How are you and Lee doing today?”

“Fine, fine,” Mr. Savo said, not taking his eyes off the more dangerous looking of the two. “Er….who is your friend here?”

”While I do not have a name to give myself,” The Wanderer started, his attention returning to the new conversation at hand. ”But for simplicity, I am known as The Wanderer. The name might be familiar from the monster metahuman problem the city had a month ago, where I stopped the problem alongside the heroes Gajana and Firefox.”

The time traveller looked around the building. ”Actually, as we are here, I was hoping if there was any information in relation to world history and the news of the city within the past few months. Can’t say much, but I’m not from around here so any of that information would be helpful.”

“Ahh, I do think I remember you from that incident. Always nice to see more heroes around here.” Mr. Savo murmured as he crossed to his computer to perform a search. “In any case, besides our historical encyclopedias, we have an archive of local and national newspapers backed up on our systems. Should help you get caught up, eh?”

”That should help me get caught up a lot,” the mutant replied, a small smile forming on his usually stern face. ”Thank you very much for the help.”

With the information he wanted being here, The Wanderer began to walk further into the library. The number of books in this building had been more than what he had seen from the outside. As his hand touched the books, feeling like-new to his fingertips, he sighed with a sense of peace. ”When I had been trying to survive back in my time,” he started, directing it to Voyager when out of earshot of everyone else in the library. ”There had been only a few dozen books that were salvaged from all the buildings around our settlement. None of them had been in the same quality as these books. This will certainly help with everything that our knowledge didn’t have back then.”

“Yeah, I came here a lot when I was figuring out stuff. It is very calming to just spend some time here, thinking.” Voyager responded, flipping through a picture-filled history text. “I cannot imagine what it was like to not have all this stuff to access...though it was not very helpful when it came to understanding what I can do...or what I was...” Her voice faltered slightly before she set down the book to look at Wanderer curiously. ”Do you think that is why I had that vision a month ago? Because the Psionic Nexus being wanted to send me to someone who knew about what I could do?”

The Wanderer looked up from the book he had picked up while Voyager had been talking to him. He immediately put down the encyclopedia and raised the now-freed right hand to his chin. He thought about the meeting he had with the Nexus. While it had given him a mission to try and find Voyager, the reason behind trying to meet it was something that he still thought about to this day.

”To be frank about it,” the mutant started, both eyes looking at her. ”I have no idea what the Psionic Nexus is planning or if it’s in relation to the visions you had a month ago.”

Relaxing his body, The Wanderer allowed his right hand to slide down to his side. ”To be honest, if it wasn’t for that psionic event you caused during the Hounds attack, I probably wouldn’t know it would have existed. But it did want me to find you for something or another. Probably to train you in psionics, seeing as you had used them like a kid with a new toy. No offense.”

”None taken.” Voyager said, sounding understanding as she flipped through a stack of archived newspapers. ”I cannot exactly take classes on it, and the visions are often the least confusing parts”

The Wanderer looked away, thinking about the vision Voyager kept mentioning. This vision, his chance encounter with The Psionic Nexus and its message to find her and that psionic event came from her. They were all connected in some way. ”As for your vision, when did you get it? Did you also experience something like that when you were in Pacific Point a month ago?”

Voyager paused, looking up from the newspaper stack thoughtfully. ”Ah...yeah, I think I did experience that vision a month ago. I remember, it was right when we were heading back from Lost Haven, and the whole Hounds incident. I think it happened before too, and maybe a little...after?” Voyager rubbed her temples to repress her frustration. “Ech, it is so confusing. I can understand how to travel into space but I cannot decipher this vision. Is the Nexus always this….vague, with you?”

”Hmmm…” The Wanderer murmured. The information on the visions was certainly more helpful to him to try and understand what Voyager was trying to figure out. ”From what I can gather, these visions might be directing you to try and find the things that are in them. I think that much is evident as you did have a vision of me in them.”

When referring to the Nexus, the mutant couldn’t hold back a chuckle. ”To be honest, I’d be lying if I said I understand its cryptic messages. It didn’t specify why I was to find you a month ago, just told me that it was. These visions of yours, however… I do not fully think that those were from the Psionic Nexus. I could very well be wrong, though. There’s a whole lot to it that I have no idea about. The only thing I know is that it was the cause of that psychic ‘earthquake’ that happened a month ago, and I think that was just it arriving to the vicinity of this planet.”

”Yeah, I sort of have memories of that happening...” Voyager pondered. ”My vision that I have of you didn’t feel like that though, so maybe it was something else that sent it? Maybe it had something to do with that creature that was also in the vision...”

The Wanderer listened to Voyager as she spoke more on the visions. The whole thing was still a bit confusing, despite knowing about the type of psionics in his future to certain individuals. For someone to give someone else visions? That was a first for him. ”Well, it sounds like you have a plan of action then,” he replied. No doubt, whatever she needed to do was something she would do herself. He was only there to meet with her, as per The Psionic Nexus’s instruction. Perhaps to train her? Perhaps to band together to help stop the apocalypse from happening? For now, those answers remained elusive to him.

Equally lost for any further information, Voyager glanced over at the newspapers Wanderer was sorting through, spotting the familiar shape of a anchor-wielding monster on the cover. ”Hey, I remember that, it is the Game Genie incident! My first time trying out my powers and helping people. I even met my first friend, Miss Pendragon and...her…”

Wanderer’s mind drifted off as she began talking about an event that happened in Pacific Point before the Hound attacks. He paid no attention to her flipping through the pages like crazy. He just focused on reading the news stories of the time when the Esper family was killed to try and see what events led up to that moment. So it came to his surprise the instant a news article was shoved in front of his face, the mutant hiding none of the look.

“DICKENS!” Voyager shouted, prompting angry stares from the other patrons, though she could care less right now. ”This dragon, Dickens! He was in my vision, the one that led me to you! The Psionic Nexus or whoever sent the vision must want me to find him again!” Voyager looked like she was about twelve seconds from bouncing off the walls, she was so excited. ”I bet Martel would know where to find Pendragon and Dickens. He knows everything!”

Voyager handed the paper back to Wanderer, pointing out the building in the background of the photograph. ”I have to go and find him, if you need me I’ll be around this place! This...this feels like the right thing to do. Like it is going to answer all my questions.” And with a flash of purple and an excited yelp, Voyager shot out of the library and was gone.

Being bombarded with information at a very quick page, he was still focusing on processing it when she dashed off out of the library. With a confused look on his face, The Wanderer looked around to see some of the annoyed people in the library with him. Unsure with what to do now, the mutant shrugged and carried on sifting through the newspapers, carrying on with his search.


&



In

One Psionic Headache


Location: Pacific Point, CA

One Month Later…


While he did leave Gajana and Firefox in a condition that was of great concern, The Wanderer had pulled through it and had almost returned to normal. The mutant had kept a low profile since then as the revelation that he was from the future had made those who had heard him declare it skeptical of him as a person itself. While it didn’t concern him that people might not believe his word on his origin, but the view that he could be ‘insane’ was something that did. With that, he kept it from everyone else that he did come across and kept his presence unknown. This was despite the fact that he was one of the heroes in Pacific Point that helped with the enraged metahumans that had appeared out of nowhere in the city. While there had been a few questions about where one of the heroes, Voyager, had been a month ago, the news of her being in Lost Haven to fight the Hounds of Humanity was enough to answer them. But the news about him had been made, his disappearance also making the pages of the news, kept appearing in one form or another.

If I am declared a hero by the people my ancestors grouped with, then so be it.

The Wanderer had wandered the streets, trying to avoid the eyes of onlookers as he continued to nurse the almost-healed injuries from the month before. The time he took off was good for his recovery, the strength of his psionics returning to 100% afterwards. In fact, the mutant had noticed that there was a larger capacity within him than before and that reflected in the strength of his psionics. Not only he noticed it, but the control he had before the time jump had returned to him. Now he was able to control the full extent of his psionics with the right amount of power. With the Hounds of Humanity also being no more, his focus had turned away from them and slowly return to figuring out the calamity that was to happen that cause the apocalypse in his time. Meanwhile, he slowly began to work in the city helping those in need from the crimes that he thought were abhorrent to have in this society.

From the corner of his eyes, he sees a disturbance in a grocery shop in the street. Two men had began the proceedings of robbing the store, a gun in one guy’s hand and a baseball bat in another. Sighing, The Wanderer crossed the road towards the store, his eyes fixated on the two men. With the same confident strides as when he faced the metahumans, he walked into the store. After a few shouts and sounds of a scuffle, both the robbers were hurled out of the window. From inside, a voice calmly came out of the door. ”Call the police. I’ll keep them under wraps. Look after their weapons as the police will need them to send these guys down.” With that, he walked out and began walking towards the thrown men, slowly getting up in a daze.

“Useless idiots,” grumbled an unseen man overlooking the commotion in front of the store from the rooftop of the post office. “Can’t even bait the right muties out.” Grumbling, he heaved the massive silver case lying next to him onto its side and began punching in the password, allowing the crate to open with a hiss.

“The Hounds may be down,” the man said solemnly, taking a moment to admire his precious cargo. “But humanity is not going to fall to these abominations. No, not while I have anything to say about it.” Adjusting the black armband with the homemade logo, the man removed the long tube of a rocket launcher from the case; evidence from a Hounds armory that was misplaced by the Pacific Point police department before he was unceremoniously fired by said police department for “losing” evidence.

“I wanted the growing girl, or one of those animal freak shows,” the man mused, loading in a deadly payload and hoisting the whole setup onto his shoulder. “I guess this one will have to do.” Putting his eye to the viewpiece, he placed the back of Wanderer’s head right in the crosshairs, but was stymied when his view began to drift up and to the left from a sudden weight on the back end of the launcher.

“Wha….who the ...?” the man spluttered as his view began to dance back and forth. Turning his head around, he glanced up at the alien heroine Voyager, pushing the back end of the launcher back and forth with one finger playfully. Looking up, the alien caught the would-be killer’s gaze and smiled cheerily.

”I was wondering how long it would take you to notice,” Voyager said. ”I was not overly annoying, I hope.”

Answering with a violent swear, the man swung Voyager off the end of the launcher, turning it towards her and slamming on the trigger, filled with glee at the prospect of taking this popular freak with him in a blaze of glory. Voyager lurched backwards as the rocket sprung from the weapon with a blaze, but the explosion did not come. Staring in disbelief, the man’s jaw dropped as he saw the rocket he fired suspended in a hazy purple energy field between both of Voyager’s hands.

”Ooh, it works!” Voyager said excitedly as the flaming tail of the rocket went out. ”You said it disarms if the tail goes out, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a safety feature, in case it flies into the sky and stuff like that,” Jordan Fletcher remarked on the other end of Voyager’s communicator, breezing through the specs of the would-be terrorist’s weapon.

”Then that means…” Voyager said, trailing off as she turned her attention back to the rocket. Clenching her fingers slightly, the rocket began to pucker and distort, crushing itself into a misshapen lump of metal. The terrorist mumbled nonsense words under his breath as Voyager released her grip and the busted rocket fell to the ground with a soft ‘plink’.

”Those things are dangerous, you know!” Voyager scolded the terrorist wannabe, dusting off her superhero suit, updated with silver garnish to match the purple. This was the final straw for the terrorist, and with a primal scream of rage, he tried to swing the launcher around to clobber her and promptly lost his balance and caught his heel on the edge of the roof. Feeling his life flash before his eyes, the terrorist felt himself topple over the side before what felt like a cloud of static caught him, slowing in midair. Looking around in a panic, he recognized the same purple haze that stopped the rocket now holding him like a cloud.

”Hey, that is dangerous too!” Voyager called out, poking over the edge with her hands out in front of her, concentration evident in her voice.

“PUT ME DOWN YOU MUTIE FREAK!!!!”

”Okay!”

The man screamed as the cloud suddenly gave way and he began falling, only to stop again as he landed face-first in a bush.

”Now you stay there and -unf- think about what you did!” Voyager called out, grunting as she picked up the rocket launcher, figuring out that best way to disable it was breaking off important looking chunks. ”Or...something like that. Just sit there!”

As the two men finally came to their senses, the mutant had reached them. Grabbing the pair of them, The Wanderer extended his arms. In one, violent motion, he whipped them towards each other. The resulting impact that the two men faced was enough to send them unconscious. Satisfied with the result, he threw the two men back towards the convenience store, the pair of them collapsing into a heap when they stopped.

Sensing that his job here was done, The Wanderer began to walk away from the scene. The only thing that stopped him was a yell from behind. He turned to where he thought he heard the sound from and managed to catch a glimpse of a man starting to fall from the top of the building to the bushes below. While there wasn’t much he could do for the fallen man, his steeled gaze focused on the person on the rooftop. While it had faded from view, the mutant’s psionic eye noticed a disturbance in the air above where the man had fallen into the bushes. It can’t be psionics, can it? he thought, wondering on the thought. While he knew he was still looking for the one called Voyager, the figure up on the rooftop didn’t act like a hero.

The only conclusion he had: a new threat had arrived and he had to deal with it.

In his mind, the thought of him facing a possible person with psionic potential had been realized when he watched them take something off of a tube that he recognized as a rocket launcher. With civilians around, he knew he had to act quickly before any damage could be done. He raised his right arm up into the air, his right hand in the direction of the figure on the rooftop.

”Don’t think I’d let you use that here, you bastard!” he called out to figure, his eyes steeling in preparation of what was to come next. Without much concentration, he allowed the purple flames of his psionics envelop his body. A moment later, a beam shot out of his raised hand, the beam surging towards the figure with speed right as his opponent looked up.

”...uh oh…”

Voyager barely had time to throw up a PsiBarrier in front of her eyes before the beam collided with her, producing an almighty bang and, oddly enough, a mauve cloud of dissipated entry. Thrown backwards by the blast but remaining upright, Voyager steeled herself and kicked off the ground into the air.

”I am made of tougher stuff then that!” she declared triumphantly. ”But if you seek to play the proverbial “hard ball”…!” Determined to stop what must be the ringleader of these bandits, Voyager tilted forward and flew right at her assailant, chucking PsiBlasts with each hand.

Just as I had feared, The Wanderer thought. While the dust kicked up from the impact had blinded his normal eye of its vision, the psionics the figure used was clear as day in the other eye. The purple mist created turbulence in the psionic energy throughout the area, the mist itself appearing as a lighter shade of purple in his psionic eye. This isn’t going to go down as easy as I thought.

With him now knowing that he was fighting someone else who was capable of using psionics, he knew he had to end this fight quickly. That would be a challenge, though, as it was apparent shortly afterwards that the figure was capable of flight using psychic energy. As they declared themselves to be tough, her voice betraying her gender, she began flying through the air towards him, firing balls of energy at him. With him watching what his opponent was doing, only one word escaped his lips in a mutter.

”Amateur…”

With his right hand now lowered, he raised his left to create a barrier. While he would normally cast a dome-shaped wall to protect himself, he created a concave wall. With that, the blasts of psionic energy from her would destroy themselves safely without harming any observers of the fight. But the destruction of the blasts also would act as a catalyst for what he planned next.

As the first of the blasts exploded safely against the barrier, The Wanderer clenched his left fist. The barrier seemed to have disappeared in a concussive wave of an explosion. The leftover remnants of the blasts’ explosion re-exploded and kicked up the dust and smoke forward back at the figure.

As she charged into the smoke, a declaration was said to her. ”Don’t get cocky! You have no idea on the full extent of psionics!” His voice sounded scarily close, despite appearing far away prior to the explosion. Before she knew what was happening, The Wanderer shot beside her, purple flames enveloping his entire body. As soon as the smoke formed, he engaged his aura and surged forward on his legs. His right hand clasped her right shoulder and his left grasping the uniform on her right hip. With his strength imbued with his enhanced psionics, he whipped his body around. He released his grip on her. The momentum of her flight with his added strength sent her flying towards the ground with force.

Once gravity had brought him back to the ground, The Wanderer’s body skidded along the tarmac on his left hand and knees as he watches for movement of his opponent. His right hand was poised ready to attack in case they tried to get back up.

Voyager wasn’t downed, mostly thanks to some well-timed Psibarriers and her inhuman physiology, but she was certainly rattled. Shaking her head to reorient herself, she leapt to her feet in one elegant, agile movement, wobbling slightly as she recovered from the body slam.

”Oof...well at least I am awake and alert now...if rather bruised.” Brushing her tentacle hair aside, she lowered into a fighting stance only to stop short at the sight of her opponent, more out of surprise then anything else.

In all honesty, The Wanderer had wanted the last attack to have worked and not wanted to resort to further violence. However, as soon as she got back onto her feet, he sighed. ”If only you had stayed down,” he muttered to himself. While his aura was still on, he summoned his trusted psionic weapon: his psionic blade. With the same sudden speed as before, he launched himself forward, the blade forming an arc to attack the mysterious figure.

”Hey, do we not know each other from somewhere?” Voyager pondered, just barely dodging the shimmering blade. ”Wait...yes, that strange dream! With the space dragon and the wolf!”

As he watched as the person he was fighting dodged his attacks, the sudden change in tactics from all out assault had puzzled him. If she said she was ‘made of tougher stuff’, then why is she all of a sudden dodging? he thought. If someone wanted to prove that they were tough, at least from his experience, they’d be going all out to prove that point. So why? Why change tactics all of a sudden.

As his attack missed, The Wanderer planted the blade into the tarmac, allowing him to skid in a near-circle to face her again. ”What’s the matter, figuring out that you’re biting off more than you can chew?” he barked, raising his right hand. In another change in tactic, he stopped using his psionic aura around him. If she’s not going to attack, then I can focus on other abilities. ”If you’re not going fight me, I’ll go on ahead and beat the living tar out of you. Then you’ll give me the answers to how you know about the Psionic Nexus, cooperatively or not.”

”The Psionic What?” Voyager asked, more then a little indignant. “The only Nexus I know about is the weird ribbon thingy from Star Trek Generations, and that was just a heaven-thingy, or something.”

As soon as she raised questions about the identity of the Psionic Nexus, The Wanderer had hesitated. She doesn’t know about it being the entity behind the psionic energy? First the dodging, now this? With her sudden referencing of something relating to a Nexus, he was beginning to question who this woman was. The conclusion in mind was either a very talkative bad guy, like The Officer, or someone who had caught his attention at the wrong place at the wrong time.

”I’m just trying to help and you are trying to interrogate me? That’s just...aaah!”

Without so much as a warning, Voyager charged forward and jumped at him, the Wanderer flinching at her sudden charge, getting ready to fight in close quarters when it came to it. A distraction technique aimed to lower my guard? his initial thoughts were. As he was ready to counter the move, he couldn’t hold his surprise when the woman had grappled him. Then, the all too familiar sounds of gunfire exploded in his ears from behind, Voyager wincing as the bullets bounced off the PsiBarrier protecting her arms and the Wanderer’s upper back.

“Mutie freaks!” the rocket launcher man screamed at the two of them, firing wildly with an undiscovered revolver, his face bleeding and raw from his fall into the bushes. “Scum-sucking parasites! Inhuman pieces of sh-”

”Watch your mouth!” Voyager cut off, her eyes turning a gleaming shade of solid violet, before firing off a PsiBeam. The angry radical yelped in pain as the beam annihilated the gun in his hand, seconds before he was body-slammed to the ground by one of the nearby officers.

“I’LL KILL YOU VOYAGER!!!” the man screamed as he was unceremoniously cuffed by the officer. “YOU AND THE REST OF YOUR FUCKING FREAK SHOW!!! THEY’LL BUILD STATUES OF ME FOR SAVING HUMANITY FROM YOUR KIND!!!”

”It will be nice when they do not show up anymore,” Voyager said with a sigh, still clinging around Wanderer’s neck.

The mutant’s head turned to see who was firing at them. He recognized the man was thrown off of the roof a moment earlier. In that split second, the pieces fit together. So he was the one who was about to use the rocket launcher and not her? This entire time, his assumptions of the woman, alien-like in appearance, was wrong.

Before he had a chance to think about teleporting and disabling the threat, the woman managed to destroy the revolver in hand. As the authorities took the man down, he paid very close attention to what the man was saying. His eyes widened when he learnt the identity of the woman that had her arms around his shoulders. All this time, I’ve been fighting Voyager? It wasn’t something that he was expecting, his search for her lasting a month since being told to find her. The Wanderer turned his attention back to Voyager.

”So…” she said, grinning sheepishly .”We were fighting, yes?”

A chuckle escaped his lips. ”We were fighting,” he replied. A moment later, the sound of the psionic blade disappeared as it vanished. ”But seeing as I now know who you are, I no longer need to.” Placing both hands underneath her arm, he removed her from around his shoulders and placed her on the ground. His eyes and body then turned to focus on the three men being led away by the police. ”I take it that those guys were former members of the Hounds?”

”It is hard to say,” Voyager said, dusting herself off. ”Probably just admirers. He is not the first guy I caught in the last month who screamed about muties.”

”To be honest, whether he’s an admirer or not, I wouldn’t blame him. With those Hound bastards using devices that changed regular metahumans into tough berserkers that rampaged through the city, I bet there will be a handful of people who think they are dangerous. Just glad that they were dealt with while you were fighting them in the other city.”

”Yeah, I wanted to stay and help but the Finger of God was definitely more of a priority,” Voyager mused, a bit of guilt in her voice as she took in the appearance of the Wanderer. Even a month after that vision his face had not faded from her memory. Whoever he was, he had to be important to whatever gave her that vision.

”So..uh...you mentioned something about a Nexus?”

Heads up that I have tweaked The Wanderer's attributes to reflect the power boost he received shortly after his last post and during the transition period.
I swear I'm not trying to hog all the spotlight on Page 40 of the IC. Promise


&



In

A Man Out of Time #8: The Fall of Rage

Location: Pacific Point, California


The wind metahuman summoned a gale that blasted the three heroes who had appeared to stop the ramage of the metahumans victimized by the Hounds of Humanity. These winds would have knocked the average person off their feet, but Gajana, a mountain of a man, crept forward, approaching one step at a time. The wind metahuman kept pumping more power into the violent winds, but no matter how much the winds raged, Gajana kept inching forward until he was standing right next to the man. Gajana then raised his arms up and slammed his fists against the wind meta’s shoulders. As a result of blow, the wind metahuman was momentarily stunned, which caused the winds to die down.

“Firefox!” Gajana exclaimed, since he had made an opening for his teammate.

Another portal appeared next to the elephant man and the nine-tailed fox girl hopped out of the portal and landed next to her teammate. Using her fire powers in the same way she did on the speed metahuman, Firefox pressed her hand against the circular device that was attached to the metahuman’s stomach. In mere seconds, she was able to deactivate the device and revert the metahuman back to his original state. Gajana then lifted the now unconscious metahuman and gently placed him down on the other side of the portal, so the individual would no longer be in danger.

“Look out!” Firefox called out when she saw the light-powered metahuman charged up an energy blast and shot it at Gajana. Firefox instinctively leapt into the path of the beam and took the hit for her teammate. However, due to her powers, Firefox’s body absorbed the energy. As a result, the tips of her nines began to glow, signifying that the energy had been stored in her body.

Meanwhile, the Wanderer had been tussling with the rust and ice metahumans. The buffeting winds from the wind meta had done little to deter him, his bloodied face scowling at his two opponents through the purple haze of his barrier. The combined strength of rust spears, the wind and a blizzard-like beam did little against the strength of the barrier despite it looking impressive. As the attack brushed up against the barrier, the mutant focused on the area around them, trying to find the best place to launch a counterattack of his own. As he focused on a potential location, he knew that with the three attacks striking up against the barrier, there was little in the way of him preventing himself from sustaining an injury.

As soon as Firefox took down the wind meta, the mutant saw his opportunity to strike. Releasing his hold of the barrier for a second, he focused on phasing to the next location. While the icy blast and the metal spears struck him as he focused, their attacks seem to do little to deter him. The spears were only glancing strikes against his arms and legs and his body armour slowed the advance of the cold against his body. Smirking, The Wanderer disappeared into thin air, reappearing a moment later between the two metahumans. Before they had a chance to react, he low kicked the ice meta across the knee. The kick itself was ineffective, but it gave him the position needed to blast the rust meta across the street with a beam of psionic energy.

Reduced to one enemy, he began focusing on the ice meta and launched an attack of his own. The psionic blades began to work as they chipped away at the icy exterior of the meta. As he shifted between attacking with the blades and phasing around the metahuman, the blades disappearing between each shift, it wasn’t long before his barrage became too overwhelming. The ice metahuman collapsed to the floor in a daze, much like the wind meta before her. ”Another metahuman down,” he called towards Firefox. He then turned to face the rust meta, managing to get back up on its feet after getting blasted.

While the Wanderer was facing the rust metahuman, Firefox opened up another portal and jumped through it. She landed next to the downed ice metahuman and started working on destroying the device that had turned these metahumans into these raging monsters. The light-based metahuman was momentarily disorientated by his target suddenly disappearing. However, when he turned around, the metahuman immediately found its target again.

“Gajana,” Firefox shouted to her teammate. In turn, Gajana rushed forward the light-based metahuman and he threw a right uppercut. However, the punch did not hit its mark. Instead, his fist passed through the metahuman’s body, as if the light being was intangible. The light-based metahuman turned, raised his hand, and blasted the elephant man with a light burst, which sent Gajana flying into the side of a nearby building.

While her teammate momentarily distracted the light-based metahuman, Firefox was able to revert the ice metahuman back to normal. However, she did not have enough time to open another portal and transport the metahuman to safety. Therefore, the only option she had was to take any hits the metahuman could dish out.

As the fight with the rust metahuman was about to start, The Wanderer noted the two warriors as they were preparing to remove the device from the downed ice meta. As psionic blasts hit the surface of his opponent, he watched from the corner of his eye as the device was successfully removed from the victim, though at the cost of Gajana being struck into the side of the building. While the rust meta was being dealt with medium success, his slight distraction wasn’t enough to fully put the monster down. When the light metahuman was ready to launch an attack on Firefox, with the recovering metahuman still in the field, he had to act.

As the light meta was done focusing on the elephant man, it raised its hands to begin another attack towards the kitsune woman. After it finished charging up, tendrils of light shot out from the ball of light that formed within its hands, each finger darting towards their target. A moment later, the attack connects. However, they collided with something other than their intended target. A translucent dome of a faint purple hue appeared in their path, the damage from the attack doing nothing to dent it. A little further away, The Wanderer had his back turned to the rust metahuman, the monster getting back onto its feet after a psionic detonation blasted it off its feet.

As the tendrils disappeared, the mutant focused on the light meta. His eyes narrowed as his thoughts channelled in on one thing to do, much like he had done with the group of Hounds. The barrier fizzled out, but the beam used to create it surged from it towards the light metahuman. The psionic beam successfully hit the meta, sending it flying. He chuckled at the result. I’m starting to get the hang of thi…

As his thoughts were finishing, the rust metahuman had reached him and slammed its right arm into his side, sending him flying into the building close to where Gajana was. As he collapsed to the floor, groaning at the pain that was now pulsing through his body, he turned to the elephant man. ”I think it’s best if you go for the rusty one while I go for the light-based one. What say you?”

“Sounds better than being blasted by this human lightbulb,” Gajana answered the Wanderer.

Gajana then pulled himself back onto his feet. Before he had time to rush into action, the rust metahuman had Firefox in its arms while trying to squeeze the life out of the fox girl. Gajana could not just confront the enraged metahuman without endangering his teammate.

Suddenly, fire burst out on the tips of Firefox’s tail. The flames then started to spread down her nine tails, until it had covered her entire body, from head to toe. The heat that the flames were giving off grew in intensity. Once she was outputting enough heat, the rust metahuman loosened its grip on her, allowing her to slip out of its grasp. She then rolled out of the way, giving her teammate an opening.

Once Gajana saw his cue, he picked up one of the wall chucks that were created by his impact with the building and chucked it at the rust metahuman’s head. The blow to the head dazed the metahuman for just enough time for Gajana to charge over against their opponent. With one strong punch to the jaw, Gajana knocked the metahuman out cold. As a result, the rust metahuman crumbled to its feet and rolled over.

Firefox dropped to her knees and began working on the device that had drove the rust metahuman crazy. This time, since she had used her powers to covered her entire body, including her suit, with flames, this procedure took even less time, since it took less time to heat up the device. Once the rust metahuman had been reverted back to normal, Firefox stood back up next to Gajana, who had turned to see if the Wanderer needed any assistance.

As the rust metahuman was reverted back to normal, the lone light metahuman snarled at the two heroes. Like a feral animal trapped in the corner, it roared at them in defiance as it began to charge another attack. As both hands were forced into the air, the light in the surrounding area began to darken. Even in the broad daylight, the light from the sun seemed to wane as the skies around them seem to go black. Each passing second went by and the ball of light grew bigger and bigger.

With the attack from the enraged metahuman almost concluded with its charging phase, The Wanderer phased into the line of sight between it and Gajana and Firefox. While he blocked the way so that he would take the brunt of the attack instead of the two heroes, the mutant thought about how to counter whatever the attack was. He thought about the barrier to shield them from the attack, but with the length of the charge then the surrounding area would probably get destroyed. Likewise, if he used a barrier to surround the metahuman, the attack could risk killing the person inside of it. Seeing no other choice, with even a close-up attack being ruled out for it being too slow, he began charging his own attack. He raised his right hand and pointed it towards the light metahuman, the flames of his psionics migrating to his hand as a ball of psionic energy formed in it.

Then, both of them fired. The purple beam of psionic energy and the beam of light collided in the middle of the street, the destruction in the road forming at the point. At first, the two beams were equal in strength, not wanting to budge an inch. But with the previous exertions of the past couple of days became apparent as moments later, the beam of light slowly started to creep forward as it pushed the psionic beam back. The mutant gritted his teeth as he dug his heels into the ground and searched within himself to find more energy to stop the incoming attack. ”I don’t know how much longer I can hold this back,” he grunted at Gajana and Firefox, his body slowly edging back towards them. ”Get the changed people to safety before I lose my strength.”

Suddenly, something tweaked throughout his being. As if something was beginning to break within him, The Wanderer started to feel more energy coming into him. This was visually apparent to those near him as the purple flames of his psionic aura began to flicker with shades of blue in the tips of the flames. Whatever had happened, it gave the psionic beam more energy than before and started to push the beam of light back. Then, as the energy started to increase, the purple beam split the beam of light in to. It surged forth until it hit the light meta. The enraged person was sent flying down the street as the beam of light disappeared with the attack. The purple beam disappeared as soon as The Wanderer reacted to the attack hitting the metahuman. He collapsed onto his hands and knees, panting heavily as the sweat dripped from his face.

A moment later, he looked up towards the light metahuman. With the sudden surge of energy that went into the attack, he feared the worst had come to pass. While his normal eye saw the metahuman’s body looking limp, his psionic eye saw the waves of psionic energy still emanating from the body. ”Good,” he muttered, audible enough for Gajana and Firefox to hear. ”The metahuman is still alive, but they would need some serious treatment after this.”

While Firefox took care of the now downed light-based metahuman, Gajana immediately contacted the authorities to send an ambulance as soon as possible. Before the heroes knew it, emergency sirens were blaring in the distance, signalling that the EMTs were on their way.

“Thanks for the assist,” Gajana told the Wanderer. “However, I would suggest you let the medics take a look at you. You took quite a beating back there.”

“I agree,” Firefox said while she walked away from the light-based metahuman. As she approached, the flames that had covered her entire body started to extinguish itself. However, when these flames disappeared, her costume turned out to have not been damaged at all, since it had been designed to withstand the heat that Firefox could output. “You don’t want those wounds to fester.”

The Wanderer panted as the two heroes dealt with the last of the enraged metahumans. It wasn’t too long before the sound of the emergency vehicles were in his ears. Guess with this over, it’s time for me to make my leave, he thought to himself, getting back to his feet. While he had suffered injuries from both the Hounds and these metahumans, he was still new to the timeline he was in. Meaning, there wouldn’t be any record of him in the books at all bar the heroics he will have written about him in the news outlets. Besides, he suffered injuries like that before and he figured he could pull through them again.

When Gajana spoke to him, the mutant nodded at the elephant man. ”And likewise,” he responded in kind. When the suggestion of getting the medics to check his injuries from both heroes, he shrugged off the idea. ”While I am sure you’re right about me needing to get checked out by the medics, I’m afraid I’ll have to give that a pass.” He paused for a moment, deliberating on whether to reveal that he was from 200 years in the future. Ah, fuck it, he thought. They might press on their point on getting the medical attention so he better reveal it now than learn about it in the future. ”Besides, I’ve shrugged off much worse injuries from worse beings in your future and still live to be able to get to your time.”

If any word could describe the expression on Firefox and Gajana’s faces, one would use the word ‘surprised’. Although this world had seen interdimensional demons, metahumans, and users of the mystic arts, something like time travelling was too far-fetched to be science fact. This had to be this guy’s gimmick. It was either that or he was mentally unbalanced enough to believe in such a delusion, or possibly both. But what superhero isn’t a little crazy in the head when they run around a city in tights to beat up bad guys.

However, although the Wanderer had taken a beating from his encounters with the metahumans who had been sent into a rage by the Hounds, Firefox and Gajana decided that it was probably better not to try to take the Wanderer in to inquire about the validity of his claim about being from the future. They would only endanger the first responders and any other civilians by starting another metahuman battle.

If the expression that the two heroes were any indication, The Wanderer’s declaration of him coming from the future had taken them by surprise. Of course, he thought, the feeling of disappointment in realizing the error in making such a statement. They probably think that me being from 200 years in the future is too outlandish for this timeline. Nevertheless, he needed to convince them that what he was saying was true and not a delusion that anyone would make up when meeting other superheroes in this city.

Ok, trying to convince them is the next part, but how? was the major question that ran through his mind now. The easiest solution would be to show the various news articles that had been saved in the small memory banks of his wrist device. But, with the more advanced technology he was used to, he decided against it. Without calling past events of this year without much in the way of knowledge on his part, there was only one option for him to take. One that he didn’t like at all.

”Judging by the looks on your faces, what I have said seemed to be a bit… absurd?” He asked, pretty much validating that he has read their expressions. ”It is a large bit of information about me that I have given you, so it might be deemed as impossible. We can talk all day about it and try to convince that I’m from a time 200 years in your future, but that might make either one of us frustrated at the other.” He paused for a moment. ”It doesn’t matter if you think that I am delusional or not, that is the truth that I will say about myself. Whatever its interpretation, I’ll leave to you. Nevertheless, you still have my gratitude and I hope that we meet again under better circumstances.” As his time with this fight has drawn to a close and the threat on civilians are no longer around, he nodded farewell to them and walked away from the scene.


In

Prelude: Within the Depths of Fear


Location: Unknown building, somewhere in Crown Ridge




The Penose had achieved their goal. Every one of the smaller outposts in the Lost Haven and Crown Ridge area belonging to the Hounds had been taken over. And the Hounds that had managed to retreat from their battle in Sherman Square had come back to an ambush. With the head of the Hounds no longer communicating their efforts, any attempt to take back the lost outposts was met with swift defeats. While some had died in their vain attempts, nearly thrice as many had been captured. However, the unusual thing about the Penose’s victory was not the manner they achieved it, but who was assisting them when the Hounds returned.

Another unknown group had appeared once the outposts were seized. Similar to the Hounds, the new organization wore an attire that was black in colour: black body armour, black full-helmets, black boots and black trousers. However, the key difference that made them stand out was the lone, golden emblem that was spray painted on the right breast and on both shoulders. While the Hounds did have S.T.R.I.K.E to thank for their armaments, this organization had similar specifications of technology. The few that stand out had additional weapons. The first man that stood out had two ornate axes attached to either side of his hip, while the man next to him had a similar style of spear strapped to his back.

As the Hounds faced away from the doorway in their room of capture, location in what was determined to be this organization’s new headquarters, there were two men. The first was a beast of a man, standing well over 6’5” and was ripped with muscles that would make most bodybuilders envious. While his uniform was similar in style to the men that stood watch around the room, the shoulders were more elongated from the tops of his shoulders. Another big difference was the rifle was strapped to his back, though two unusually-designed swords on both sides of his hips suggested that he, too, was someone of significance in the organization. The dark brown hair was left draped over the back and front of the armour as his piercing eyes scanned the room of their prisoners.

“Brothers and Sisters of the Hounds of Humanity,” the man spoke up, his voice just a spoken tone but carried throughout the large room. “For the past few weeks, your masters had tried to wrest back the power of back from what you deemed was the plight of humanity: beings with powers and traits that are deemed a danger to the world. For weeks, you have tried to take back the control you have had nary a year ago. For weeks… your masters have failed you.” Measured in steps, the man moved from where he stood to stand in front of the kneeling men and women. “What would you think would happen? That you’d be able to fight these beings with simplistic weapons that one of them could snap like a stick? That your powerful Finger of God would allow you to take control from those beings, despite it now being nothing more than space debris that will crash upon this Earth? Your games of fear and false ideals against the metahuman, mystic and supernatural worlds was doomed to fail from the moment your masters had wrought their agenda to the world.”

Finally, the man stopped at the end of the very small platform that was indicated by black and yellow tape. “But don’t let your ideals end here. Not on the day the Hounds of Humanity were finished. For there is another path to follow. Your ideals were heard. And while the Hounds are to diminish into the history books as nothing more than a terrorist organization that failed, the ever-present eye has been watching. Waiting. Biding its time to find the right moment where our goals are to be accomplished. Where our goals that once started will cause the inevitability of the new era where beings of power will be managed. And I ask of you: What will it take for you to complete the ideals you once had with the Hounds of Humanity? If you say that you will die to make this world a safer place for all who reside in it, then I ask of you this one thing: Join us. The Eye of Osiris has been watching, it has been waiting and it is ready to lead the charge where a new world order will be achieved. The plight that you see is on the verge of being purged from this world and we welcome all to our fold and embrace the change that you so desire. For those that deem our goal to be unworthy for you to take on, then we ask you to stand tall. But for those who want the change, want the peace they are wanting from this world, then we ask of you to remain seated and you will be deemed worthy to be welcomed in the Eye of Osiris.”

As the Hounds murmured amongst themselves about what was said, the man returned to where he was standing, waiting to hear what the captured in the room were deciding. It hadn’t been long before one Hound stood up, followed by a few more. After a short moment, no more than a couple of dozens were on their feet.

“If you so think you are worthy of fighting back these scum, then why haven’t you done it by now?” The man closest to the front shouted out. “Why wait until after the Hounds of Humanity made its charge? You know what I think? I think you’re cowards and you’re never going to accomplish near as much as we have done.” The Hounds that were standing up cheered.

While the man that was standing had been the focal point of the standing Hound’s furious disagreement, the other had been sitting there. While the facial expressions were unseen behind the metallic sheen of his helmet, the red-tinted glass that covered his eyes, the appearance of him slouching in the chair and head resting on his propped up left hand gave the notion that he appeared bored by what the man had said. Motioning towards the standing man, he whispered something as his comrade leaned in close to listen to what was said. The blond-haired soldier stood upright again and turned to the defiant Hound. “I believe we haven’t met. And you are?”

“The name’s Dominic.”

“Right, Dominic,” the man spoke in kind. “The reason we haven’t acted until now that unlike your masters in the Hounds of Humanity, we are waiting for everything in our plan to align before we make our presence known and felt throughout the world. We don’t plan on going half-cocked, which we have clearly seen with your pla…”

“Oh, bullshit!” Dominic spat out. “Unlike you, we don’t wait for ‘everything to align’. And certainly compared to that cowardly piece of shit that you’ve spoken to, we aren’t afraid to go out into the light and show what we’re made o…”

Before he could finish his sentence, something grabbed him by around the neck, choking the last few words into silence. His hands reached out to grab what he felt was a human spine that had grabbed him. The man that was sitting down, with his body now upright, held onto the user end of the skeletal whip that appeared out of nowhere. With a simple tug, the Hound was thrown to the ground. The sitting man then stood up from the chair, the red-tinted lenses of his helmet now glowing. ”Because of the feeble men you had pledged your allegiance to,” the man started, venom laced in his voice as he walked towards his trapped prey. ”Your plans to stop who you deem as your ‘oppressors’ has failed. And who by? By the superhumans that you swore to defeat. To the likes of Icon.” When the hero of Lost Haven was mentioned, the venom in his voice seeped through as he spat the name out. ”If you were the so-called Hounds of Humanity, you would have achieved your goals. What say you, Dominic?”

As soon as the Hound’s name was mentioned, Dominic felt an overwhelming feeling of dread in every fibre of his being. Almost shaking from the sudden fear he was feeling, he looked up to the man that had grabbed him by the throat. The red glow that was in the man’s eyes disappeared, both eye sockets and the mouthpiece fizzling into empty cavities of black. Then, as if the deepest, darkest fears had come to life, a whole manner of spiders and snakes seemed to creep forth from the cavities, each arachnid and serpent slithering and crawling out to the floor. It hadn’t been long before the Hound was made into a quivering mess, wetting his pants at the sight.

”That is what I thought,” the whip-wielding man spoke as if amused by the sight that was in front of him. ”It is also because of men such as you that the Hounds of Humanity had failed. Weaklings such as yourself had tarnished the lofty goals into failure. And that will not be tolerated.” Once again, he tugged onto the whip. Unlike before, the tug of the whip had done something else. For those closest to Dominic, they see the coiled bones of the whip morph into shape, turning sharper in appearance. The end result surprised all witness into shock, with Dominic’s head cleanly taken off as his body was dropped to the floor. Returning the length of the whip to his hand, the man turned to the armed men around the room.

”For those who are standing, you have been weight and measured. In the end, your ideals are left wanting. And in the eyes of Osiris, you are deemed unworthy.”

As if it was a signal, the members of the Eye raised their rifles and pulled the trigger. The remaining Hounds that were standing had no chance to defend themselves as the bullets ripped through them in a firing squad-like fashion. As the smoke of gunfire settled, the dozen of men remained motionless, their black attire riddled with bullets as the hollow-point bullets remain embedded in their bodies. The whip-wielding man then turned to the remaining Hounds. ”For those that remain, the Eye of Osiris has deemed you worthy for our cause. Be not afraid, for our gracious goals are soon to be upon us and the revenge that you are longing for is within your grasp.”

With what seemed to be the initiation into the organization, the captured Hounds still surprised with what had happened, the whip-wielding man returned to his chair. Once settled in it once more, his head turned slightly towards the blond-haired soldier of the Eye. ”My dear Sobek, have you heard from Anhur of the Pasadena girl?”

The dual-sword wielding Sobek turned towards the man, his expression remaining unchanged during the moments before. “He has located the girl in Lost Haven and is still proceeding to track her down, Dullahan. It won’t be long before we are in possession of what was taken from us.”

Dullahan’s red eyes looked on from Sobek, turning to the people leaving the hall to begin the next phase of their initiation. Inside the helmet, his lips curled into a smirk. ”Good, then all things are proceeding as normal. Tell Anhur to proceed as normal. We leave for more information on our missing treasure.”

and


Location: At the HoH base
Time: Attacking the second Base.



As soon as the beast burst out of the vent Richard was already in a full sprint towards them, but luckily he didn’t need to travel all the way back over, as soon as Fletch miraculously dodged out of the way Richard unloaded his rifle into the animal, or at least he tried. Several of his bullets made contact as tiny spurts of blood shot out, but the beast was quick, and sprung into action. It’s quick leaps and jumps were erratic.

”Shit, he’s fast!” Richard shouted, he continued to use quick bursts from his gun, but it wasn’t enough.

It continued to dash and jump towards him, it deftly climbed around his armored body and mounted itself on the front. It’s claws tried to tear into his chest, furiously clawing and scratching at what it could, and the head of the figure clamped it’s jaws around the sides of his head, destroying the outer sensor module in the process; a sparking mess of wires and ruined metal hung from the side of his head.

As the beast took aim at Roadblock, Fletch remained on her hands and knees at the final resting place from her roll as her bow remained nearby. Having such a thing trying to attack her with killing intent, the thought had sent her into a sheer panic. The repressed memories of when she almost died in Pasadena - the night she lost Jason - flooded back into view. Reliving that night had caused her to freeze up, almost sending her into a sobbing mess. In her frantic mind, she knew that there was danger still about and she needed to help fend it off. But the only thing her body and mind wanted to do is curl up into a ball and sob her heart out. I don’t want to die, was the only thought running through her mind, jumbled in with the flashbacks and the fond memories of Jason.

Then, another feeling came into her mind.

Snap out of it! While she had been frozen in place, the mindset of Fletch came back through, almost shattering whatever was holding her in place. That was in the past! You are in the now and you freezing up here will get yourself and everyone you’re with killed. Now. Get. UP!

As if the mental bitch slap was enough to shake her out of it, she looked up and examined what was happening. The beast, a large, canid-like humanoid that had been marred with various scars and sutured-tended cuts was gunning for Roadblock. While she could hear Nemesis yelling through the door and bangs as she and Hound Dog were hitting it to get through it, it was too muffled for her to understand what was said as the beast collided with the suit. The monster had grappled the policeman, trying to get into the suit with its razor-sharp claws and vicious fangs. While it wasn’t as visible as it was before, the neck had been torn open and whatever was inside it was glowing red off of the metal surface of the suit.

Now thinking a bit more clearly from her panicked state, though fear was still the dominant feeling, she charged at the pair of them. Grabbing an arrow from her leg quiver, she jumped onto the main console and onto the beast’s back, her left hand grabbing a huge tuft of hair on its head. ”Take this, you ugly son of a bitch!” Grabbing a secure footing, she thrusted the arrow into the beast’s neck. As the blood spurted out of the new wound, some of it landed onto her hand. While she didn’t know of it, the blood began eating away at the already damaged glove. It didn’t take long before it got through and began to burn her skin. She yelled out in pain as soon as it began eating away at her hand. But the move was enough to distract the monster.

The canid yelped out in pain, quickly disengaging its hold with Roadblock. Sensing a new threat on its back, it began to thrash about trying to grab the archer off its back. Fletch remained where she was, though was struggling against the powerful and rapid changes in movement. As soon as one of her feet slipped off the back, she almost fell off. But one of the large, clawed hands managed to grab her around her torso. She screamed in pain as claws dug into the sides of her rib cage, though the awkward position meant that she wasn’t crushed in its hands. As it finally got a hold of whatever it was holding, the beast threw her away from it, sending her body slamming into the wall. Bouncing off of it like a doll thrown into a wall, Kayla dropped to the floor and remained there, dazed from the collision. The claw marks left on both sides of her were deep, but fortunately not long enough for her to need many stitches. From there, she remained motionless in her daze as the canid began to focus on the weaker of the two targets.

”Stay down!” Richard yelled. Fletch didn’t seem to be one of the physically enhanced metas, if she was at all, but she also looked dazed, so there was no telling if she heard the warning, which meant he needed to get over to her as fast as possible. He jumped towards it, holding his shield in arm, he rammed into it, slamming it right into the wall with a fleshy thud. Blood escaped from some of its earlier wounds and burned at the shield, but Richard gave it another slam before it pushed back.

He pulled his rifle up again to suppress it in a wave of inaccurate hip fire, but Richard barely had time to level his gun before the creature was up, a few of the bullets hit, but it didn’t seem to cause any notable damage. However, with the sudden change in targets, along with the fight escalating, must have caused it to rethink its actions as it quickly darted up the wall, and crashed through a ceiling vent.

Richard stared down the vents in the room and even the door for a few more moments before quickly making his way over to Fletch and examining her. Blood leaked out of the claw wounds on her side, but it didn’t seem serious so they could address that later. She was thrown across the room, that might have broken something, and depending on how she hit a concussion wasn’t out of the question either. However, the base in the blood from earlier was still active and continued to slowly eat away at her hand. Artemis saw his hesitation as he scanned over her.

”Use water to help neutralize the base on her hand.”

Richard glanced around the room, scanning for anything with water, and spotted a half empty bottle. He wasted no time moving over to grab it and nearly tore the cap off while emptying the cool liquid all over Fletch’s hand.

”Are you alright?”

For what seemed like a long time, Kayla remained motionless. While she had been dazed from being thrown into the wall, it was fortunate for her that the impact hadn’t been hard enough for her to have any broken bones, though the grip it had on her might have broken one or two of her ribs. And from the impact, her head didn’t hit the wall at the same force so a concussion was likely to be out of the equation. But the impact had knocked the senses out of her and had spent those moments regaining them. During that time, any sound coming from the room and from the hallway.

The first thing that came back to her was the throbbing pain that her right hand was experiencing. While her glove took the brunt of it, the caustic blood had left some damage on there. But as the cool sensation of liquid hit her hand, she finally began to stir from her stunned state. She moaned as she slowly raised her head up to look at her surroundings. The first thing her groggy vision had noticed was that the beast was no longer in the room. The second was that the room was still under lockdown. Finally, Roadblock was by her side tending to the wound on her hand.

When he asked if she was ok, she slowly began to work her way through what had happened and what her condition was. As she slowly got herself up to a sitting position, she noted the pain on the left side of her chest. Her head had been spinning, but it was quickly disappearing and there was no pressure in her head. ”I think that apart from a couple of broken ribs and the feeling the room is spinning around in my head, I think I’ll be alright.”

With the threat immediately gone for the time being, the first thing that came to mind was the lockdown. ”We need to get this lockdown lifted. For all we know, whatever that bastard is might be attacking the others.” Slowly, using her uninjured hand to prop herself up against the wall, she managed to get herself back onto her feet. ”I’ll… I’ll try to get it lifted using that console… If you want to stand watch in case it comes back. Your armour seems to be able to resist the caustic blood much better than the fabric my costume is made off. Sound like a plan?”

When Fletch had mounted the creature earlier its blood had also managed to take off a little from the top, but that was probably because there was so little. Other than his damaged sensor module, there were numerous paint scratches all over his torso.

”Sure, but if you need me too I can take the console.” Richard moved to follow her, if the creature burst out again he needed to be in it’s way, it was far too fast to try to intercept it from any amount of distance safely.

”The lockdown must have activated when you shot it earlier...Although, that beast doesn’t seem like its a part of normal Hound operation, and yet its presence alone didn’t activate the alarms.”

Once she was steady on her feet, Fletch listened to Roadblock talk about the console and the lockdown. When he mentioned about the possibility that the blood might have triggered the lockdown in the first place, she thought about it. ”Yeah, that makes sense,” she replied in agreement. ”I mean, it being in the room before to take out that lone Hound didn’t trigger the lockdown before.”

Then, she slowly made her way to the console. With the Hound now on the floor, it made sense for her to sit down on the chair while she began to work on lifting the lockdown. She made slow progress getting into the mainframe, so she thought about something to break the silence in the room. ”What do you think that thing was? Looked like something you’d see in An American Werewolf in London. But when I got on it… it looked like it had a lot of stitches in it…”

”Sure, looks like a werewolf, but that kind of thing doesn’t really exist.”

”Lycanthropy, have you heard of it Mr. Hunter? It’s the transformation of man into wolf, most believe those are merely fairy tales, and yet, the tales had to come from somewhere.”

”Eh, yeah, those stitches, and that weird red glow from earlier, I still don’t think we’re looking at a ‘werewolf’. But some kind of frankenstein project, maybe. Richard said, he didn’t try to hide his skepticism at all.

”Say, while we’re in the clear, you happen to look like someone that raided HQ a little while back. You want to explain yourself, ma’am?”

Once her mind had gotten clearer from being thrown into the wall, Fletch was busy at work getting the lockdown lifted. She had to admit that she knew some things about IT from her degree, but nowhere near enough to disable the lockdown. But she had to try anyway. Her brow began to furrow as she focused on the computer.

While that was happening, the archer listened to Roadblock’s reasoning to what they were facing moments ago. While it was amusing to hear the skepticism in his voice about the ‘werewolf’ idea, what other explanation was there to determine what that thing was? Maybe there was more to this world of superheroes than what it seemed, especially as the idea of metahumans and an alien helping out humanity was a known fact. And she reflected on that when she replied to him. ”Well, we are in a world where people like Icon exist. Maybe there is another area of the world where cryptids like the werewolf exist. That plus it is another thing that the Hounds of Humanity would want to get rid of.”

”I don’t remember those fairy tales talking about werewolves having acid blood. Like I said, I still think this is some kind of animal the built from scratch somehow, maybe to hunt down metas, to stalk them when they can’t.”

She carried on typing onto the computer when Roadblock mentioned her raid on LHPD HQ. At that moment, she stopped what she was doing, her hand freezing in the spot. That moment she decided to go after the man that had attacked her wasn’t the lightest moment she had done during her time as a vigilante, but it wasn’t done, she would still be a target to the Penose until she was killed. While her mouth was hidden from it, the eyes through her yellow sunglasses showed the pained expression that was on her face.

”While it probably would be better to lie about what happened there, but that person you’re talking about and I are the same people,” she replied, her voice more of a loud whisper that reflected her guilt. ”To be honest with you, I never intended to cause any hurt to anyone on LHPD force. But the person was hired to kill someone close to me. The group that hired him was already targeting her for some reason or another and they blew up a bus to try and get to her.” She let out a sigh, her hands sinking to her lap as she leaned back in the chair. ”That bus bomb killed a few people and her friend’s would-be fiancé is still in a coma from it. It’s because of that I raided the HQ: I wanted to know who was behind the bus bomb and my friend’s attack and stop them from causing anymore harm.” Another sigh escaped her lips, her eyes shifting from the computer to look at Roadblock. ”I’m not expecting that this explanation would exonerate me from what I had done, I really don’t expect it. I just hope it brings an understanding for why I had done it.”

After a moment of silence, with the banging from the other side of the blast door ceasing, she got back to trying to get through the lockdown. The more she focused, the more she felt the pressure of the focus behind her eyes. Perhaps I do have concussion, she thought, stopping to pinch the bridge of her nose. ”Sorry to have to ask this, but could you take over from getting into the console. Starting to think that me being thrown into the wall has caused more injuries than I had thought.”

She really is just some reckless vigilante, she’s going to get herself killed.

”Alright, just stay close to me, just in case that..werewolf..comes out again” He hesitantly said it, but just calling it an animal might be confusing if the Hounds had another lying around. As he walked up to the console, he realized he actually didn’t really know what to look for, the UI was way different from any computer he touched, and they really didn’t have the time for him to start searching aimlessly through the setup.

”Lost? I’m not surprised, they don’t give any computer training at the police academy, I imagine.”

”I’d like to see you try this.” Richard placed a finger on the other side of his helmet, as if he was activating some earpiece, just in case Fletch was close enough to hear him whispering.

”It can’t be helped, I want to see what the Hounds are up to as much as you do. But for future reference, I hate this.” An awkward moment passed and Richard still hadn’t moved, it became clear he was waiting for her to do something. She gave off an exasperated sigh, which was fake of course, but it was meant solely for Richard to hear.

”I guess it was too much to expect you to read the entire manual. On the underside of your arm, you can pull out a USB cord, plug us in and I can do the looking.”

”Luckily the Hounds computers are more are less the same.” Richard took an extra moment trying to pull the USB cord out, but eventually he managed to plug it in. Now that Artemis could get to work, and maybe help him save face, he remembered he still wanted to speak to Fletch.

”I’m not saying you’re in the clear, or you were right to tamper with evidence, along with assaulting an officer. But it sounds like they’re targeting you specifically, it might be time to bring in a third party, somebody they don’t expect.”

Fletch nodded as Roadblock came up to the console to try and get into it. She rolled the chair out of the way so he could face the console itself. Then she remembered her bow being on the ground near where she dived out of the way and quickly went over to retrieve it. Much like before the bow had suffered some scratches, but was otherwise undamaged. Not wanting to hang around to inspect the bow properly, she moved back close to the control panel. She hadn’t forgotten his reluctance to call that beast a werewolf, but decided not to press him further on it. Much like him, she was still coming to terms with what they had seen and fought. But the odd thing was that it had caustic blood and that red glow that seemed unnatural for such a monster.

She remained near the policeman as he fumbled around getting started on the console. It didn’t take long before a USB cable was pulled out from his suit and plugged into the computer. I’m guessing his suit has some sort of AI that could bust through whatever encryption the Hounds were using, she thought. She had been tempted in asking Roadblock if that was the case, but with her mentioning that she was the one who raided LHPD HQ she decided against it.

When Roadblock talked to her about the raid itself once it was sorted, she could hold back the surprise in her eyes at what he had said. While she had expected that she wasn’t cleared for what happened on that night, she hadn’t been expecting him to offer his assistance in tracking down the Penose. It was also the wording he used when making the offer, suggesting that he had put two and two together in knowing her true identity under the Fletch guise. It was that kind of wording that the thought of turning down the offer. She weighed up all of the pros and cons of allowing the policeman to help, she made her decision.

”I figured as much that I wouldn’t be cleared for what had happened. Hell, I think I wouldn’t have cleared myself if I was a cop. Might face the consequences of my actions in one form or another in the future. But for now, whatever I am dealing with with the Penose is my fight…” She sighed, determining if she had made the right choice. A moment in reflecting on it, she looked up to Roadblock’s visor. Her eyes had shown relief in his offer to help. ”But I figure that I am only one person against god knows how many of them. So any help will be appreciated. Don’t want these bastard to trouble anyone else in our city, eh?”

This dumb kid still wants to fight, but I can’t blame her, they made it personal.

”Yeah, you pick up any more leads on these Penose, and you call me. I’ll help you out, and vice versa. More and more metahumans are going out trying to be heroes, but none of you have to do it alone, remember that.” Richard’s words were earnest, nobody becomes a policeman for the money after all, so he honestly wanted to help, but there was another reason for this too.

He couldn’t know what her day to day life was like, but considering she only had a bow, he wagered she could use a hand. Of course he thought about dissuading her, like any normal policeman would, but these Penose sound like they made the fight personal, and he knew what that was like.

It was then she had an idea about what to do once they broken through the Hound’s console in relation to what they were facing. ”I just thought of something. If that thing wasn’t a member of the Hounds and it’s in their HQ, they must have some form of record on it. Think that AI of yours could try and find any information on it as well as find a way to shut down the lockdown?”

”It’s because you keep leaving everything to me she figured it out.” Artemis’ voice turned to audible venom. He didn’t know why her existence had to be kept secret, but it really made things unnecessarily complicated sometimes.

How can she even get angry, she’s a damn program. Why couldn’t it just be a guy that said “yes” all the time?

”Hmm, AI? We wish. No, only Iron Knight has something that advanced, probably. What I’ve got is more like an automated google search.” As if on queue, several new tabs appeared in what looked to be the taskbar, Richard quickly pulled it one up to fullscreen, there were several options, the one at the top appeared to be asking for confirmation to lift the lockdown. The password appeared to already be entered, just awaiting confirmation from him, and with a click.

The dark red emergency lights spinning in the room shut off, then replaced by the sterile, bright white from earlier. The control room door gave a slight hiss before it opened up.
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