A hidden grove...
"First off, who the hell are all of you?" Maria snarled.
Hacker smirked. "I? I am Martin Hacker, former partner of Matt Bluestone when he was in the FBI, assigned to keep him going
on wild goose-chases to keep him from discovering my real employers, the Illuminati. He may have told some of you this part
already, but I'm repeating it for those who don't know. After Matt FOUND out about us and completed a little assignment, he
was given an entry level position in the group. I was to keep an eye on him and his friends in case we needed to activate
him for an assignment."
Matt frowned. "Activate me? I'm not a robot."
Hacker shrugged. "It's the term we use. Anyway, that's me. These two are the result of our efforts to have some super-powered
beings at our beck and call. Varua the Titan is incredibly strong, is EXTREMELY hard to hurt, as well as superhumanly fast,
and Valdez the Efreet can control and generate flames. He's also learned how to teleport by transforming his body into heat
waves. There are eleven more working for us, and lucky me, I get to boss them all around."
"VERY lucky, as we'd kill the little rodent otherwise," Valdez said, laughing.
Elisa frowned. "Why tell us about this?"
Hacker grinned. "Why not? There isn't a damn thing you can do about them. You just have to wait and see what they do as
it pertains to all of you."
Elisa growled, but said nothing. Maria continued to lead the questioning.
"What did Sevarius do to us?"
Hacker popped a stick of gum into his mouth and began to chew. "Well, from what we've been able to get from his notes,
it's an advanced mutagenic virus designed to overwrite human DNA with that of a mix of wildcat, bat, and electric eel, which
is how you can shoot those lightning blasts. From what we've been able to figure out, the chances of reversing the changes
on your bodies are next to nothing."
Feral twitched, her fists clenched tightly. "How are you so fucking sure of that?"
"An outside source. She copied his notes when he wasn't around, submitted them to us, and allowed us to peform some testing.
We managed to create a formula that purged the animal DNA, the problem was that what was left of the human test subject fit
into a Ziploc bag," Hacker said all this casually, oblivious to the shocked expressions on everyone's face. After a moment
of casually chewing his gum, he noticed the silence and chuckled. "We DID give him a cremation and proper funeral. We're not
heathans. Well... most of us at least,"
Varua chucked and pulled Hacker's hat over his eyes. Hacker smirked, and waited for everyone to come out of their shocked
Maria, still too furious with these people to stay stunned for long, recovered first.
"If we and the gargoyles weren't the real target, WHO WAS?!?"
Hacker frowned. "That we're not sure of. We have our suspicions, but they're so ridiculous..."
"Bullshit," Feral snarled. Maria glared at her.
"Chill out, Margot. I'm handling this."
"Fuck you, Chavez. This is bullshit! This little twerp is hiding something, something about Sevarius's formula..." Feral
snarled, starting towards Hacker.
"Yale, STOP IT before you make this worse!" Maria snapped.
"Really, 'Feral.' You're not helping at all," Matt said, grabbing her arm. He had to step back a second later, though,
when Feral lashed out with her claws, raking at Matt's face. She stomped forward then reached out and grabbing Hacker by the
throat, moving far faster than the two superhumans thought she could.
"You're hiding something, I know it!!" Feral snarled, her grip tightening around Hacker's throat. "TELL ME WHAT YOU'RE
NOT TELLING US!!!"
Varua kicked her.
The blow was so quick, so sudden, that no one there had time to react. Feral flew back, crashing into her husband, who
moved behind her to catch her. Maria and Goliath both snarled at Varua, but she just smirked, beckoning them on.
Reluctantly, both gargoyle and mutate backed down.
Hacker coughed, but still smiled. "That was interesting. Anyway, since it seems you can't keep your pets on a leash..."
Feral snarled, and it took every bit of strength Rip had to keep her down. Valdez chuckled, and created a large ball of
flame in his hand. Feral sneered, but calmed down.
Hacker, confident now that everything was in hand, stood up and said, "Anyway, since you've offended me with that little
outburst, I'm saying just this before I leave: We want Sevarius out of the way because, quite frankly, we know jack about
him. And like most people, what we don't know scares the hell out of us. He's interfered with our plans on more than one occasion,
and quite frankly that virus he made for Demona was the last straw. We have a general idea of where he is hiding from the
surveillance we took when you five mutates were shipped out to the warehouse in town. We intend to find him and guide him
to you. And once we do, we are going to let you handle him and his bodyguards, Jackal, Hyena, and Wolf. They have upgrades,
but they're meant for us. You should be able to handle them easily, and get to Sevarius."
Goliath snarled. "What do want us to do with Sevarius when we find him?"
Hacker grinned, and broke a branch off of a nearby tree. He held it in Valdez's fireball, which the metahuman hadn't dispersed
yet. Once it was set fire, he threw it down at the group's feet.
"When you find him... Make it MESSY," he said. Without another word, all three Illuminati members vanished in an cloud
of Valdez's flames.
After they were gone, Elisa snarled, smirking. "Make it messy? Fine by me."
Goliath frowned, and Beth gave her a concerned look. Elisa snarled again. "I'm DONE playing around. He's never hurting
any of my friends or family ever again!"
Maria frowned. "He should be taken to the police, stand trial..."
Goliath shook his head. "Sevarius has an uncanny ability to disappear completely when there's trouble, even from situations
that look inescapable and fatal, such as on a sinking submersible we encountered in Loch Ness. I'd normally agree with you,
but even if we do get him to stay put, what would we convict him for? How would we get people to believe us over whatever
he could say?"
"You're kidding, right?! Look at what he's done to us!!" Feral almost shrieked.
But Matt had already seen Goliath's point. "So we show ourselves? And then what? How would we get people to believe us,
that we are who we are, especially since we look so much like gargoyles? If we didn't get killed by Quarrymen, we'd be captured
and shipped off for testing at a laboratory somewhere. Probably Area 51 or something like that."
Feral flinched, as if hit, when the realization of this hit her. Maria just sighed, understanding. Beth frowned. "So there's
really no other way?"
Elisa sighed, putting a hand on her sister's shoulder. "Believe me, sis, I'm not fond of this either. But Hacker had no
reason to lie about what they said about a cure. And I can personally attest to Sevarius' ability to escape from bad situations.
We have to deal with him on a permanent basis and make SURE that psychotic son of a bitch is dead, or he'll keep coming back
to haunt us."
Goliath nodded. "I'm inclined to agree. This Sevarius has done too much. I don't like it, but he has to be eliminated,"
The other gargoyles didn't respond, but did nod and make affirmative sounds here and there. Matt agreed as well. Maria
frowned deeply, but nodded. "This REEKS of vigilantism, everything I'm against... But you're right. We have no other choice
if we want him to stop doing what he's doing."
Rip looked nervous about the whole thing, but said nothing. Feral was too angry to speak. Beth sighed. "So what now?"
Angela stepped forward. "Actually, I was wondering... What did this 'Hacker' person mean when he said you were 'shipped'
Matt fielded the question. "He had the Pack heard us into a large box, which was then taken on out of the city. None of
us saw where we were being taken, so we couldn't find our way back. Beth drove up, but Wolf switched with her briefly once
they got out of the city and took her that way, so basically..." he said, shrugging.
"We have to rely on the Illuminati to find him for us..." Angela said, almost snarling in her frustration.
Goliath shook his head. "I suggest that my clan head home for the evening. I don't think any of us have the heart for patrol
anymore tonight. As for all of you..." he said to the mutates.
"I know the way down to the Labyrinth," Beth said, "Elisa's taken me a couple times, and I've visited more than once on
my own before I went off for my second semester of college."
"All right then," Elisa said. She hugged Beth tightly, the mutate returning the hug with equal affection. The former policewoman
smiled warmly, and said, "Take care of yourself, okay?"
Beth smiled. "I will. Laters, sis," she said. Elisa smiled weakly, and left with the other gargoyles to find a place to
take to the air. Beth sighed, and motioned for the others to follow her. Feral sighed weakly as they all started after her.
"Where are we headed, anyway?"
"Underground, to the Labyrinth, where the other Mutates live. The old Cyber-Biotics underground facility. It's easy to
find, really. All roads under the city lead to it," Matt said, helping Beth look for a manhole or a sewer grating to crawl
Feral and Rip both stopped, going wide-eyed.
"You... You mean to say..." Feral stammered.
Matt shrugged, and found a grating. He easily ripped it out and put it aside, smirking a little at his strength. "'Fraid
so. We're going to be living underground from now on," he said, jumping in, Beth following after.
"You... You can't possibly expect me to..." Feral sputtered.
"Yes, we can," Maria said, coming up behind her, "Now get in the sewer, Yale."
Feral started to sputter another protest, but Maria, LONG past wanting to deal with Feral's tantrums, just growled, her
eyes glowing a bright, electric white. Feral whimpered softly.
"Come on, honey," Rip said, gently nudging his wife towards the sewer grating.
Reluctantly, Feral jumped into the sewer grating, caping her wing around her shoulders to avoid damaging them. Rip sighed,
and jumped in after her. Maria shook her head, and followed soon after.
Fifty Minutes Later...
Brentwood giggled as he rolled a ball back and forth between himself and a young human boy. He'd been enjoying himself
greatly since being taken in by Talon and becoming part of the underground community. He wasn't the brightest of the clones
(a tragic irony, considering who he was cloned from), but he was good at doing simple scut work and errands. And like all
the clones, he was an excellent guard, performing his duties relentlessly when on patrol or when it was his turn to guard
Fang. But now he had no duties, and was free to enjoy himself.
A loud banging noise came from the front gate of the Labyrinth, where Brentwood was playing with the boy. The purple-skinned
gargoyle looked around in confusion, trying to find the source of the sound.
The banging came again, and Brentwood blinked when he realized where it came from. He gave the ball back to the young boy
and shambled up to the door, opening it up.
His eyes widened when he saw five new mutates gathered at the door. They looked tired, bedraggled, and wet. The seeming
leader, a lynx mutate female, smiled weakly and said, "Um... Hi. Could we talk to Talon, please?"
Brentwood blinked and nodded. "Okay. Come in and wait here, please," he said, opening the door further so they could come
in. He shambled off into the sprawling complex, eventually coming across Maggie, who was reading a book in one of the upper
levels, sitting in a threadbare barcalounger that had been scrounged up earlier in the week.
"Miss Maggie ma'am?"
Maggie looked up from her book and smiled. "What is it, Brentwood?"
"Kitty peoples like you and Master Talon at door. They want to see Master Talon, but Brentwood no can find? Help Brentwood?"
Maggie blinked. "Wait a moment. 'Kitty peoples like me?'"
Brentwood nodded, smiling. "Uh huh. Kitty peoples. Five of them."
Maggie's eyes widened. It couldn't be... Not again... "Where are they now?"
"They in front by main door," Brentwood said, looking concerned at Maggie's worried expression.
Maggie set down her book and stood up. "Brentwood, go get Talon. He's four doors down in the direction you were going."
Brentwood nodded and trotted off. Maggie ran out into the tunnel and headed into the main lobby of the Labyrinth, where
the five new mutates were gathered, huddled together, several of the homeless living there staring at them. One of them, a
cheetah mutate, looked up and spotted Maggie, waving to her.
"Heya!" she called out. Maggie's jaw dropped. She knew that voice. It was deeper now, a bit gruffer from the mutation.
But then, so was her own...
The cheetah mutate nodded, grinning weakly. "Omigod, DEREK!!" Maggie shouted, turning in the direction she came.
The massive panther mutate came down that path about a minute later. "Maggie, what..." Then he noticed the gathering below.
He leaped down towards the group, Maggie following after, their wings spreading wide to catch the breeze and glide down
to the others.
"Hey big bro," Beth said, grinning weakly.
"BETH?!!" Talon almost shrieked, "How... What..."
The white-furred tiger mutate stepped forward from behind the two lions, the female looking exceedingly sullen and staying
close to her apparent mate. "Look, I know this is a rather big 'moment,'" the tiger said, "but we had a sewer pipe discharge
on us halfway through and we REALLY need a place to clean up. Then we can get with the introductions and explinations."
Talon blinked, then nodded. "Yeah, sure. We wash up in here," he said, leading them down a hall to a large shower area,
sticking close to Beth the whole time.
Twenty minutes later, after most of the muck had been washed off and fur dried as best as possible, Beth, Matt, and Maria
explaining as best they could.
Talon, needless to say, was not taking it well.
"I'll KILL HIM!! I'll rip him apart, grind him into goo, and flash fry him into ash!!! And then, once I'm REALLY mad, I'll
learn voodoo, bring him back to life, and do something REALLY nasty to him!!" he snarled, stomping back and forth, his hands
sparkling with electricity.
"I can't believe that he did it again," Maggie said, shaking her head. Beth sat near her, her wings caped on her shoulders.
Maria and Matt stood near Talon, while the Yales, Brenden having dropped his 'mutate nickname' and Margot still huddling up
to her husband's chest, still insisting she be called Feral. Claw, who had come in halfway through, looked stricken once he
was filled in.
"Calm down, Derek," Matt said, "We'll get him eventually. We have some very powerful friends helping us."
Maria looked everyone over, and said, "I think we would all be best served if we got some rest. Then we can talk in a more
coherent fashion, figure out what to do and so on."
Talon glared at her, but sighed. "Yeah, you're right. I think we all need a good day's sleep. Then we can figure this out
Maggie nodded. "Come with me, I'll show you where you can rest."
Talon and Beth hugged, as Matt just sighed, following Maggie out, the Yales following soon after.
"Oh God..." Feral whispered, tears starting to flow freely down her face, "This is really it, isn't it? This is our life
Brenden just hugged her, and kissed the top of her head. "Sssh. It'll be okay. We'll figure something out. But now, we
need some rest."
They followed her out. After a long moment, Talon and Beth broke their hug. "Do Mom and Dad know, at least?"
Beth shook her head. "Haven't had a chance to tell them. And Elisa may not be able to, since it's close to sunup."
Talon shook his head. "This is just too much," he said.
Beth chuckled. "I'm FINE, Derek. And I know that we can deal with this better after we all get some sleep."
Talon nodded, and led her out, pointing her in the direction the others went in. He then turned to the last remaining.
"Well, you obviously have something on your mind. What is it?" he said, his voice weary.
Maria frowned, and folded her arms. "You have a lot of people hear. You obviously have gotten food and medical supplies
down here, as well as some electronics that are a little more advanced than what most people would just throw away to be scavenged."
"Yes, yes we did," Talon said, sighing.
Maria nodded. "How? How did you get it?"
Talon sighed, and the soul-tired expression he gave her was enough to startle even her. He stared at her a long moment,
then told her.
Maria shook her head, "Dammit Talon..."
"It was the only way we could get the supplies we needed. It's not like we can just ASK someone for charity."
Maria rubbed her temples, sighing. "All right. For now, until we can think of something better, you do NOT mention to your
supplier that there are five more mutates down here. We need at least one advantage over this scumbag."
Talon sighed. "I'm sorry about this, Captain Chavez.
"Just Maria will do. I don't think they allow batwinged catwomen to heads of police squards. And as for the current situation,
don't worry about it. You did what you had to. But we'll find a way out of it."
Talon sighed. "Hopefully."
Maria bit her lip, and hesitantly asked, "There's... one more thing. The Illuminati mentioned that an outside source had
given them Sevarius's old notes and they'd confirmed that the process was irreversible... The outside source, was it Maggie?"
Talon closed his eyes and nodded.
Maria sighed. "So there really is no cure?"
Talon shook his head. "It seems likely. But quite frankly, even with what you told us about them helping us find and take
out Sevarius tonight, Maggie, Claw and I don't know what to believe about anything they say."
Maria chuckled softly. "Clutching at straws, then."
Talon grinned. "Have to clutch at something."
Maria shook her head and laughed. "C'mon and be a gentleman, show a lady to her room."
Talon nodded, and offered her his arm. "This way, Miss Chavez."
Lair of Anton Sevarius...
At the same time...
"...so you see, I am indeed prepared for everything. I know that they are coming. And I am ready for them," Sevarius said,
grinning and leaning back in his chair.
Wolf shook his head, pacing. "I don't know about this... The psychos got LUCKY against that muscle-chick, and you said
yourself that the gun was a one-time use."
Hyena scowled at him. "As much as it pains me to admit (and you have no idea HOW much it pains me), the hairbag is right.
You've got a lot of freaks lining up to rip you a new one, Doc."
Sevarius chuckled. "You're thinking about leaving?"
Jackal nodded. "There is too much risk and not enough profit in this, Sevarius. We're grateful for the upgrades you've
given us, but I think it's time to sever our ties."
Sevarius just smirked, and turned to his computer, calling up some new files. "What if I made it worth your while to stay
by my side?"
Wolf, Hyena, and Jackal traded suspicious looks, and stared as Sevarius brought up three different files.
Wolf choked. Hyena giggled shrilly. Jackal gasped.
Sevarius grinned, and gestured grandly to the images on the screen. "Swear total loyalty to me, no matter what happens,
and I will give you THIS upgrade. I call it 'Project Ultrapack.'"
Wolf pointed at the screen, his hand shaking from the sight before him. "You... can make us like THAT?"
Sevarius grinned wickedly, and nodded.
Hyena laughed. "You give us that kind of power and we'll follow you into the Ninth Circle of Hell."
Sevarius chuckled. "Like I said, my canine companions, I am prepared for EVERY eventuality. All the pieces are moving into
checkmate. And in the end, WE will be the only winners."