Elsewhere, the hooded man listened to his Hand’s report about the progress of crime when a messenger interrupted the meeting. The messenger reported that an Eye had been destroyed. The hooded man cleared his throat almost imperceptibly as his hooded visage turned to the messenger. The messenger managed to keep the fear from showing, except for a slight bead of sweat that appeared on his forehead as he moved out of the room, never turning his back on the hooded man.
“I see the training has taught that one to never turn his back on me,” the hooded man said in his harsh and dry voice.
“The Eye that was destroyed was keeping watch over the stranger with the sword,” one of the Hands said.
“The one that I considered unlikely to be a threat. Prepare a contingency plan based in case he becomes troublesome. I leave the details up to you, my faithful Hands.” The hooded man looked at the two who had risen from the ranks to the position of Hands without emotion as they crafted a suitable contingency plan on the spot. What the sinister scheme would be would go unknown as the focus turned to others in the city.
Two nearly identical-looking men sat in an apartment complex watching an office building across the street. They called each other by their code-names instead of the ones they were born with. They were the grandsons of the golden-age villain known as Deadshot, with the same father but different mothers. Despite this, they looked like twins, giving them the nickname of the Trigger Twins.
The black-haired man known as Sharpshooter was the one currently watching a particular office with high-powered binoculars. “Ah reckon this Doc Oka is mighty rich or mighty busy, since she never seems ta come to her office.”
The brown-haired Marksman sipped from his coffee cup as he watched the office as well. “It has been four or so days since we set up shop here, and no sign of her in all that time.”
“Not very nice o’ th’ Doc to stay away when a couple o’ good ol’ boys like us want to take her on a trip. Ah reckon she ain’t goin’ t’ show today,” Sharpshooter said as he put the binoculars on the table.
“So you want to go to a movie, then, and we’ll take back up our watch tomorrow?” Marksman asked as he tossed the plastic coffee cup into the sink from his chair without looking.
“Ah suppose so. Ah jus’ don’t want to see none of them fool shoot ’em up movies. Ah hate seeing lousy shots in action.” Sharpshooter crumbled up his paper cup and tossed it into the trashcan, also not looking at the target.
“Let’s go see that movie The Princess Bride, then.” Marksman checked his pockets for the door keys as the two exited their apartment building. Soon they were in the Cineplex watching the movie with keen interest.
If Mitch Shelley knew of the sinister plans afoot, perhaps he could have acted to stop them, but he was unaware of what was going on in secret. He was busy, in fact, searching through the large central library he discovered after disappearing from the battle scene. He sat in a wooden chair at a large oaken table, engrossed in scanning the pages of a large tome. Others wandered in and out of the room where he sat.
“Are you having any trouble reading that book, Mr. Shelley?” a young librarian asked with a definite English accent. “I can still ask if our resident translator can help you.”
“Thank you for the offer, Rupert, but I seem to have no problems so far. I am just lucky that I had my card, or else they would not let me in here,” Mitch said while still scanning the pages.
“They are rather particular about the older books, but your membership allows you complete access to all of the restricted books. Perhaps if you could tell me exactly what you are searching for, I can direct you to the right series of books.” Rupert pushed his glasses back as he re-shelved several books.
“That’s the problem. I’m searching for an analogue to symbols I have seen, but no luck so far. I even know what the symbols mean, but where they come from is not known. I would be frustrated, but the smell of the books is quite pleasing.” Mitch Shelley closed the tome after scanning the whole book and gave the young librarian a soft smile.
“Perhaps if you could draw some of these symbols, I could eliminate the books I know that couldn’t possible contain the symbols.” Rupert offered a pencil and a notebook pad to Shelley.
Mitch Shelley started drawing a whole series of symbols with a deft hand as Rupert watched. Rupert hid the astonishment he felt as he recognized several of the symbols. Shelley tore the top piece of paper off and handed it to Rupert. “Do you think this would help?”
“This library contains no books like you are seeking. In fact, I am certain that only in London could you find books containing these symbols. Where did you say that you saw these symbols, if you do not mind my asking?” Rupert’s smile was still just as bright, but his eyes contained only a deep seriousness as he watched Shelley.
“I saw them on a set of arm bracers a while back. It’s not that important, but my curiosity was aroused, so I came here. So I have to go to London to find a tome with these symbols, you say. I am not certain if I will have time to take a trip to London, though. I have taken enough of your time with my curiosity, so farewell for now.” Shelley stood up and left the library so abruptly that Rupert was unable to stop him.
Rupert advised an associate that he needed to make a private phone call about some obscure research material, and he headed down a set of stairs to a secluded office hidden amongst piles of stacked books. His pleasant smile was replaced with a look of extreme concern as he dialed a London number. After informing the person that answered the phone that it was an urgent council matter, he was connected to a higher-up.
“Someone came in today searching for a book with certain symbols.” The other end of the conversation went unknown as Rupert explained the situation.
“No. He was not one of them. Yes, I am certain. He came into the inner stack that is surrounded by protection spells. He’s human, but he might be working for the opposition. I am telling you that the symbols he drew match almost perfectly the ones that our group has guarded for centuries. He also was able to read several dead languages with no problems at all. No, I can’t take time out to watch him. I am rather busy keeping an eye on our actual responsibility. You will have to send someone from your end, then. If he comes back, I will interrogate him as subtly as possible.” Rupert hung up the phone with vigor.
“Bloody Council is stacked with idiots these days. I wish I had stayed a free agent instead of rejoining them,” Rupert Giles said with venom as he returned to the public area of the library.
The well-dressed Mitch Shelley guided his rental car into a parking garage three blocks away from the Excalibur Club. A bouquet of roses was in his hand as he locked the car up before striding confidently toward the club. His mind reviewed the past three weeks since he left the hidden base. His days had been spent in research or spending time with the lovely Bell Dixon, while his nights had been directed toward weeding out the drug dealers, specifically the ones dealing Boost. He was proud of his success in destroying the drugs, while the money was confiscated and given to various charitable organizations.
The smile faded to a look of horror when he got within sight of the Excalibur Club. The place had been utterly destroyed, leaving nothing but ash behind. A voice came from behind him. “They came in three nights ago and killed everyone inside except for one girl. My brother said it was guys dressed as cops that did it. Afterwards they painted a message on a wall over there where they dropped the girl.”
Mitch Shelley’s face became a blank mask, but his eyes burned with a terrible fury as he turned toward the voice. “Show me this message, then tell me where the girl is.”
The man backed away, frightened by the menacing tone in Shelley’s voice before taking him toward the wall. The man pointed at the wall, shaking slightly as Shelley stalked toward the message. His voice rang out as he read the message out loud. “‘The price of heroism is paid in the blood of the innocent.’ Nobody knows what it means, but everyone is still scared because they don’t want it to happen to them, mister. The cops came in and took the girl to County Hospital. That’s all I know, so please don’t hurt me.” The man looked at Shelley and felt relieved that he wasn’t the one who had to face this stranger.
“I am not going to hurt you, so go ahead and leave,” Shelley said as his fist crumpled up the bouquet of roses. The thorns pierced his hand repeatedly as blood dripped down onto the flowers. He tossed the bouquet to the ground before walking away. This was his fault, he thought to himself as he stalked toward his rental car. It was an effort to control the urge to anger and rage to strike out randomly, but he throttled his desires as he unlocked the car and got inside. He drove sedately out of the garage after paying his parking fee as his thoughts went in all directions. The car moved toward the County Hospital as Shelley clenched the steering wheel with full force.
He parked in front of the hospital, slamming the door to his car. Several of the people he passed started visibly at the aura of menace the well-dressed Shelley radiated. He strode toward a desk, giving the woman behind the desk an insincere smile. “I would like to know which room an Isabelle Dixon is in, please.”
The woman started looking through her computer before answering the question. “She is located on the fifth floor in 521, but only family is allowed to visit, sir.”
“Thank you ma’am,” Shelley said as he walked toward the elevators. Several people moved away from the elevators, uncomfortable when their eyes caught Shelley’s. He had a slight trace of a smile on his face as he stared straight ahead, but his eyes still burned with fury. One elevator opened, and a familiar face stepped out.
“Mitch! What are you doing here?” Dr. Yokito Oka asked, sounding pleased to see him.
“A friend of mine is here,” Shelley replied as he put on a pair of dark sunglasses.
“You must mean the girl on the fifth floor. It’s no good going to see her since, she is in a coma,” Yokito explained. “The hospital called me in after they took blood samples. They were just lucky that I had gotten back from vacation.”
“A coma? Why is she in a coma?” Shelley stepped toward Oka, who took an involuntary step backward. She gestured him to follow her as she stepped back in the elevator. Shelley followed.
Yokito started to explain after the elevator door closed. “She was given a massive dose of a street drug called Boost, which should have killed her instantly. Instead, it put her into a coma that the hospital couldn’t explain. They didn’t know what I know about certain genetic indicators.”
Shelley slammed his fist into the elevator wall, no longer able to control the flow of anger. “This is all my fault. I should have known what the higher-ups in that drug organization would do, but I ignored it. So is she going to recover or not?”
“Don’t blame yourself, Mitch. I think she will recover because of her genetic structure. It’s something that not everyone has, but she possesses what my father labeled the meta-gene. There’s no telling, however, when she will come out of the coma or what she will be like when she does.” Yokito started to place her hand on Shelley but stopped, uncertain what to do.
“I want you to make her well, Yokito. That’s what I want you to do for me,” Shelley asked as he put his hands in his jacket.
“I guess this woman means a lot to you, Mitch, so I will do the best I can.” Yokito’s eyes darted back and forth as she controlled her own emotions.
“She’s a special young lady and a dear friend. I just wish that I could have been there to save Red and the others,” Shelley said with a deep emotional regret as the elevator reached the fifth floor.
The two stepped out in silence as she took him to room 521. Shelley gazed at the slumbering Bell Dixon for a few moments before touching her hand. “You will get better, I promise you, then I will take you back to the Zoo Crew Theme Park so you can ride all the rides.”
Shelley stepped away and left the room, with Yokito following him. “She has a good chance, Mitch.”
“I know she does, Yokito. I know. I have made my decision about joining your organization, by the way. I am going to be a part of it as long as I get a chance to take out the scum that does terrible things like this.” Shelley put his hands in his pockets again.
“That’s good. I am leaving here, since there’s nothing else I can do right now. Do you want to go with me?” Yokito asked.
“Yes. I can’t stay here right now without losing control. You don’t mind if we take the steps, do you?” Shelley pulled his sunglasses off as he opened the stairway door. Yokito nodded her head in agreement as she followed him down the stairwell. The two exited the building and headed toward the private parking lot where Oka was parked.
The two mercenaries chose that moment to strike, with one of them shooting each of the tires of the car. Sharpshooter spun the gun in his hand in a circle before covering the two. “Ah think it’s right inconsiderate ta go off on vacation without telling th’ people waiting to abduct her ’bout it.”
“My associate is exaggerating slightly, since we are getting paid by the day instead of by the job.” Marksman smiled behind his face mask as he aimed his gun at the two as well.
“You picked a good time to try to abduct her, friends.” Shelley pulled his hands out of his pockets slowly, with two gleaming bands encircling his wrists.
“Ah think this yahoo wants to play hero, Marksman. Ah reckon ah can plug him fulla holes quicker than a mongoose.” Sharpshooter gave Shelley a soft Southern smile as he aimed his pistol at his chest.
“There’s no need for your friend to be hurt, Dr. Oka. Our current employers have no desire to harm you. In fact, they want your particular expertise quite badly. Of course, if your friend continues, my associate Sharpshooter will be happy to relieve him of the burden of life.” Marksman triggered his laser beam on his gun and pointed it at Shelley.
“Yokito, get behind your car while I take care of these two.” Shelley’s eyes turned hard as the smile on his face grew menacing.
“Mitch, be careful.” Yokito ducked behind her car.
“Call me Dragon Knight now.” Shelley activated his costume, transforming it from the suit to a light green costume, complete with cowl and goggles. Emblazoned on the right breast side of the costume was a noble white dragon. Shelley moved into a guard position as Marksman and Sharpshooter fired their weapons. The shells impacted the costume with no effect as Dragon Knight laughed loudly.
“Dammit, he’s a sooperhero,” Sharpshooter cursed as he backed into a more defensible position.
“That means the kid gloves are off, then,” Marksman said as he switched the ammo on his gun around.
The gun fired a burst of electricity at Dragon Knight who, instead of jumping out of the way, threw up his left arm. The symbols on the band activated, creating an energy shield that the electricity bounced off of. In his right hand formed a sword of gleaming white that he swung with expertise.
Marksman and Sharpshooter, deciding the better part of valor was to retreat, tossed several smoke grenades on the ground. The Trigger Twins disappeared into the smoke as the Dragon Knight looked triumphant.
“The bands are new, aren’t they, Mitch?” Yokito asked as she waved away the smoke.
Mitch Shelley deactivated the bands and transformed his costume back to the suit before answering, “Yes, Yokito, they are new. I suppose I should escort you back to base in my car.”
Yokito smiled widely in the smoke. “I would appreciate that greatly, my heroic Dragon Knight. Ryo-wo is going to be pleased by your acceptance of his offer.”
“I am not doing it for him, or even you. I am doing it for those people who died because of me.” Shelley looked into the smoke, thinking of his lost new friends.