The Next Morning
Scott and Alexa had spent a restless night keeping watch over Seline and Sophie. The girls had been terrified of what this man, Etoile would do to them should he find him, and they were convinced that no matter where they went, they would never be able to get out of his reach. Although both Scott and Alexa were more than confident that they could handle this monster and his minions, they took extra precautions in order to assure the sisters that they were safe. Scott had offered to stay awake and keep watch in order to ensure that no harm would come to the girls. Though he honestly believed that the danger had passed, at least momentarily, he was happy to do whatever he could in order to give the two sisters peace of mind. Alexa had agreed with this line of thought, and offered to take the second watch.
And as they had expected, the rest of the night had been uneventful.
Alexa sat on the lush couch in the living room of the hotel suite, looking out the big picture window that overlooked the city. She watched as the sun rose over Paris, the Eiffel Tower casting a long shadow in its wake. She was somewhat mesmerized by the view, and was slightly startled when Scott appeared next to her, offering her a cup of coffee.
“Morning.” He said to her with a boyish grin.
“Morning.” She repeated as she took the coffee from him, then taking a long sip from the cup. After a moment she looked back to Scott and asked, “So, what do we do now?”
“I don't know. We have to do something. We can't just send them on their way, Etoile will find them, and we know what will happen then.” Scott said darkly.
“Right.” Alexa said with a pause. “Well, we have another problem.”
“What's that?” Scott asked.
“I'm starving, and we have no food.” Alexa said with a smirk.
“Yeah, that's a problem.” Scott agreed jokingly. “Why don't I run to the bakery and get some pastries for breakfast, then we can figure out our next move.” Scott said slightly more serious.
“Yeah, that's a good idea.” Alexa concurred.
“Yeah, I'll be back in a little bit. Stay out of trouble.” Scott said. He then bent down and kissed Alexa on the top of her head, before retreating back into the bedroom to gather his wallet and keys, and then left the hotel suite.
***Twenty Minutes Later...
The smell of coffee wafted throughout the spacious suite, filling ever corner with its delightful aroma. The pleasant odor was enough to stir Seline and Sophie from their restless slumbers and draw them to the kitchen, where they found Alexa brewing a fresh pot. Sophie entered the kitchen first, with her older sister following close behind. Sophie approached the counter where Alexa stood and reached for a box of danishes, and when she realized it was empty tossed it aside.
“Morning.” Alexa said to the girls as she poured them each a cup of coffee. “I don't know how you like it, sugar's in the cabinet over the stove, creamer's in the fridge.”
“Where's Scott?” Seline asked after taking a drink of her coffee.
“He went to get breakfast. He should be back soon.” Alexa told him.
“Good, I'm starving.” Sophie chimed in as she loaded her coffee with more sugar than Alexa had ever seen anyone put into anything...ever.
“Hey, slow down there. You're one sugar cube away from a foot amputation.” Alexa joked before taking a sip from her second coffee of the morning.
No sooner had Sophie taken a sip of her sugary concoction and there was a knock on the door. Alexa stepped away from the counter and made her way to the suite's front door. Sophie and Seline both looked uneasy, but Alexa smiled to reassure them.
“Scott must have forgot his key.” She said with a smirk as she opened the door. However, much to her surprise, it was not Scott who greeted her on the other side of the door. Instead it was a man that she had not seen before, a man with sharp features and a slight beard. The man looked completely normal save for his eyes, which were almost otherworldly. Large silver eyes with a thin black line which encircled where his pupils should have been. Alexa wasn't able to say anything before the man and his thugs forced their way into the hotel suite and backed her and the girls into a corner.
“Prends les.” He said as he motioned to his minions to take the girls.
“Back off.” Alexa ordered the men as a small current of electricity began to bounce between her fingers. She didn't know anything about the Etoile or his men, and she really didn't care. She and Scott had taken it upon themselves to protect the sisters, and that was exactly what Alexa planned to do. However, as she was preparing to strike, she heard the sounds of little feet running down the hallway of the hotel, and she remembered where she was. She knew that this hotel was full of vacationers and she was suddenly aware of the cost of a public confrontation with these monsters. She knew that these men did not care who got hurt, so long as they got what they wanted. So she relented.
“It'll be okay.” She whispered to Sophie and Seline. Wherever Etoile was taking them, he would be taking her as well, and she knew that the girls would be safer if she was with them.
Scott returned to the suite as promised with a box of fresh pastries from a small bakery just down the street that he had seen while he had been exploring the city on his own. When he slid his key card into the lock and opened the door, he was surprised by how quiet it was.
“Babe?” He called as he stepped inside the suite, and as he had suspected, it was empty. He first went back into the kitchen and placed the box of baked goods down on the counter, which is when he noticed the practically full cup of coffee sitting there, nearly untouched. Something was wrong, that much was clear, but what had happened was a mystery.
Then, his phone began to ring. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID. When he saw that it was Alexa calling, a wave of relief washed over him.
“Hey Babe, where'd you go?” Scott asked as he answered the phone.
“Hello 'Babe.'” A stranger's voice, a man's voice replied.
“Etoile.” Scott replied, his tone growing darker. “If you-”
“You will bring me what I want, or I will kill them all. Then I will come for you.” Etoile cut him off.
“If you've hurt them...” Scott began.
“I assure you, they are fine. For now. However, that may change at any moment, depending on you.”
“Let me talk to Alexa, I want to know that she's alright.” Scott ordered.
“You're in no position to be making demands. Bring me the Divinity Shard, and they might make it out of this alive.” Etoile told him. “5350 Rue de Saint-Simon. If you do not bring me what I want, I will kill them all. Beginning with your Alexa.”
“Etoile-” Scott began before being cut off again.
“You have two hours. Do not be late.” Etoile said before ending the call.
Scott stood alone in the hotel suite staring at the phone in his hand, unable to believe what had just happened. He blamed himself for the predicament that he found himself in. I never should have left them.
He thought to himself as he put the phone back in his pocket and began to make his way into the bedroom. He knew Alexa, and was sure that she was more than capable of handling Etoile on her own. However, he also knew that she must have had her reasons for allowing herself to be taken. It must have been the only way. In the bedroom, Scott went into the closet and began going through his bags, until he came to the one that he was looking for, a simple nondescript black suitcase. However, when he opened it, there was nothing ordinary about the contents. The familiar blue and silver uniform of Icon.
“I guess there are perks to flying on a private jet after all.” He said to himself as he took the uniform from the case.
Etoile had made a grave mistake. He had underestimated Scott and Alexa. His overconfidence had caused him to tell Scott exactly where to find him, and when he will be there. However, Scott was not going to wait the two hours that Etoile had given him, he was going to go to the address now. And unfortunately for Etoile, it wouldn't be just some random American tourist who showed up on his doorstep, but one of the most recognizable people on the planet.
Icon soared through the skies above Paris toward the address that Etoile had given him. It didn't take him long to find where Etoile had been hiding. It was an upscale art gallery inside a large windowless brick building. The sign that hung from the doorway read Galerie de Lumière. Icon circled above the building for several moments, in order to get an idea of what he was walking into. Although both he and Alexa were more than capable of taking care of themselves, Seline and Sophie were both in real danger. As he flew above the building he closed his eyes and concentrated. He tapped into his ability to use echolocation, an ability that his little sister Jenny had dubbed his “Radar Sense” to locate just where the girls are being held.
He almost immediately had a hit.
Within the building he was able to pinpoint a large spacious area. There were numerous objects in the cavernous room, and he could sense that there were several objects inside huddled together, which were different than some of the other objects. They gave off a different frequency than the other, harder objects which Icon had assumed were works of art, sculptures and statues and the like. These objects were organic, and they seemed to move slightly.
They were human.
“Got you.” Icon said to himself with a grin as he altered his course, quickly descending toward the building.
Inside the art gallery, Alexa found herself bound to a chair in the corner of a large open room. Both Sophie and Seline were there with her, bound in a similar fashion while the criminal Etoile and his men stood guard. The walls of the building were covered with some of the finest art outside of The Louvre. There were a number of paintings that she had recognized, though, there was something odd about them. Many of the paintings had been thought lost to history. She immediately recognized famous works such as “Man with a Pipe” and “The Just Judges,” however, they were mixed in with a number less famous pieces.
However, Alexa was less concerned with the paintings than she was with getting out of the predicament she had found herself in. As Etoile conversed with his thugs, Alexa was working on getting out of her bonds. While her captors were not looking, Alexa had been using a small, barely noticeable electrical discharge to “cut” away at the rope bound her. It was a tedious process, however, it was her best option at the moment to ensure the safety of the sisters. She just needed a bit of patience, and with any luck, a bit of a distraction and she would be able to get free and get the girls to safety.
She didn't have to wait long.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash, and an explosion of brick and mortar that filled the room with dust and debris. There was an almost otherworldly silence in the room as the shock of the sudden impact, and as the dust began to settle, the familiar form of a blue and silver clad hero stood amongst the destruction.
“You boys really screwed up, you know that?” Alexa taunted as she freed herself from her bindings.
The room then exploded in red and green flashes of light as Etoile and his men sent deadly mystical energies toward Icon. The streams of magical energy hit Icon square in the chest, neck, and torso. However, much to the surprise of Etoile and the others, the mystical bombardment had little effect on the hero.“Ouch.”
Icon said as he brushed off the assault and continued toward the men.
Now free from her restraints, Alexa walked up behind one of Etoile's men, who was distracted by the sight of Icon approaching him. He was so distracted, that he never detected Alexa making her way toward him. The man was so startled by her sudden appearance, that he jumped and let out an audible cry when she put her hand on his shoulder. When Alexa touched the man, she released an electrical discharge that stunned the man, knocking him to his knees. Then a second jolt of electricity rendered the man unconscious.
“Stay down, Jackass.” She said as she stepped away from the man, and went over to release Seline and Sophie from their bonds.
Etoile took a step back as he saw Icon continue to advance on him, and with a wave of his hand, a strange white light engulfed his two remaining henchmen. The two men then began to writhe in pain as their bodies began to twist and writhe, the sounds of bones breaking and joints popping filled the room as the men began to grow in size, their bodies taking on new, monstrous forms. Etoile's men had been transformed from two unassuming men to a pair of massive gargoyle like beings. Large, stone-like wings grew from their backs. Their faces were twisted and deformed, until they wore a dragon-like visage with gaping maws full of razor sharp teeth.”Well, that's new.”
Icon said shaking his head in disbelief. He then launched himself at the first of the creatures, connecting to its jaw with his fist.
Icon laid into the first creature, hitting it with a series of punishing punches that knocked the beast down to a knee. However, before he could hit it with a finishing blow, the second creature was on him, wrapping him up in its massive arms and squeezing with everything that it had. Icon grabbed the monster's wrists and began pulling them apart, in an effort to get free from its grasp. Just as he was about to pull himself free, the other creature pounced. It struck at Icon with its blade-like claws and gnashing teeth. The sudden attack kept the hero off balance, forcing him back. However, Icon rebounded, hitting the attacking monstrosity with a hard right hand which glowed with a blue-green energy that crackled when it connected with the side of the beast's head. A second such strike rocked the beast, sending it again to its knees. Then Icon clasped his hands together and struck the beast again, hitting the beast with the back of his fist with a powerful ax-handle strike which fell the beast. As the beast lay still, it began to transform again, this time back into the form of a human.
Icon didn't have time to revel in this small victory, as the second beast charged him, grabbing him by the throat and driving him through a support beam. Without relenting on its grip, the beast then ran through the gallery at a full sprint and threw Icon through the wall. The hero landed in a pile of bricks on the concrete sidewalk outside of the building. The sudden emergence of the hero, as well as the gargoyle-like monster that had attacked him sent the numerous residents and tourists alike, scattering away from the scene of the disturbance.
Icon immediately got to his feet, and almost as fast, he again left them, as he drove his shoulder hard into the beast's midsection, sending it crashing back into the gallery. Icon moved around the creature at a great rate of speed, peppering the beast with a vast array of punches and blows which staggered the creature.
“Cela ne fera pas, cela ne fera pas du tout.” Etoile said to himself as his monster minion fell, crashing to the floor. It had barely begun to return to its human form when Etoile made a circular motion with his right hand, opening a portal in which he stepped through, before closing it again.
Several minutes had passed before the Parisian police force had arrived on the scene of the disturbance and quickly set out to secure the scene. An officer was taking a statement from Alexa, who was telling the officer everything that he needed to know, when Icon approached them. “Excuse me.”
Icon said to the officer. “Miss Winstone, I just wanted to make sure you were alright. I'm sure that this must have been...quite the ordeal.”
Alexa just laughed.
“Listen Big Guy, living in Lost Haven, this is just a Tuesday.” She told him. “I guess you're right. Well, have a good day, miss.
Icon said before taking to the skies, leaving the bystanders in awe as he flew out of sight.
Scott and Alexa stood in front of the Le Grande Peninsula Hotel with Sophie and Seline as they said their goodbyes. The two sisters had expressed their gratitude for everything that Scott and Alexa had done for them, as well as remorse that they would never be able to repay the debt. Alexa and Scott had dismissed that talk as nonsense, and let the girls know that they would gladly do it again.
“If you ever need anything, you know how to reach us.” Alexa told Seline.
“Anything at all.” Scott reiterated.
“We should probably get going. We have a lot to do.” Seline said. “We still have to bury our family.” She said with a deep sadness that hadn't been there before, almost as if the weight of what had happened, and how their lives had been changed was finally just hitting them. Seline leaned into Scott and gave him a long hug, and then embraced Alexa.
Sophie then followed suit. After they said their goodbyes, Sophie and Seline left Scott and Alexa standing there in front of the hotel as they walked away down the street, until finally, they had disappeared from view completely. Scott and Alexa just stood there for several more moments in silence, looking in the general direction that their new friends had gone, until Scott finally broke the silence.
“You think they're going to be okay?” He asked.
“Yeah, I think so. They're strong, I think they'll be just fine.” Alexa answered.
“You're paying for the funerals, aren't you?”
“Yep.” Alexa confirmed. “And Scott...”
“Yes?” He answered.
“If you ever call me 'Miss' again, I'm gonna kick your ass.” She said with a hint of laughter in her voice.
“I understand, miss.” He replied with a teasing laugh of his own.
“That's enough out of you. We should get upstairs, you
have a lot of packing to do. We leave for Skopelos first thing.”