Lords of Chaos, Part Eight: The Park

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“I thought that Kaine was going to be causing trouble at the dam.” Zuki looked around the small park in confusion, scratching her chin. Trees overhung a scenic-looking river, and fishermen sat along its banks, with the city skyline overlooking them. All of those who had been present at the meeting were here except for Nadia – after some argument, it had been agreed that if Kaine showed up, she could be in danger. Strategos had also called for the other three Victors, who had arrived promptly to help with showing up their enemy. “This does not appear to be a dam. Have I made a mistake with my English?”

“The dam's right over there.” Strategos pointed idly towards a long footbridge that barely slowed the river rushing under it. Zuki's brow furrowed.

“That is a dam? I was… I believed that they were meant to stop water.” She studied the river intently. “How does that…?”

“It's not actually a dam.” Amber interjected quickly. “It's the North Avenue Dam Footbridge. There used to be a dam there, but it got wiped out in '95 when the Victors were in the middle of a battle with Grand Slam McGrath. The river was nicer without it, so they built a bridge instead.” She shrugged. “Everyone just calls it the dam. Look, there's a statue of Rustbelt over there.” She looked at the statue with a smile.

“I don't think I know the gentleman.” Zuki followed her gaze, studying the granite-chiseled statue. Rustbelt was standing with his arms at his hips, a pair of oversized goggles hanging from his neck and with a backpack from which a pair of sonic blasters extended. “A local hero?”

“Pretty much. He was the founder of the Milwaukee Victors, back in the forties, and a hell of a gadgeteer.” Strategos smiled thoughtfully in remembrance. “I met him a few times – he was retired long before I joined, of course, but he still kept an eye on things to the day he died.” She paused, and shook her head. “I'm glad he didn't see what we – what Mistral did to the team.”

“Not the first time there's been more than one team of heroes in the city.” Stormfront pointed out, hovering over the river as she swept back and forth. The teams had agreed that Kaine seemed to be striking at areas of spiritual significance to the city, and were currently looking for any magical relics or artifacts that might be hidden in the area. Stormfront, her costume a traditional tight yellow-and-blue, with a cape flapping in the breeze behind her as she flew back and forth over the river, was sending out tiny gusts of wind to turn over objects that looked vaguely interesting. “Hell, you guys were a secondary team once.”

“Not. The. Point.” Strategos glared at her companion for a moment, then returned her attention to the path. Powerblock looked like he was about to point something out, as he dredged the banks of the river, then wisely stayed silent. Bloodline, the team's last member, wasn't around to comment on the issue. His ability to control the blood of others the way that Stormfront could control the weather wasn't of any use for the search, unless someone cut themselves, so he was settling for checking along the benches and trash cans in the park, sighing quietly every time a grass stain or dirtmark appeared on his immaculately-cleaned brown-red suit.

“Easy, Karen. She was just commenting.” Timebender smiled despite her self, pausing on one of her madcap dashes. “Anyway, I'm not having much luck. Jhim?”

Handyman, who had just returned from a walk around the perimeter of the park, shook his head, raising a dark grey object that he held. His mask and gloves were firmly in place, sheathing him in blue. “No signs of magical residue over here. We might just have beaten Kaine to the punch this time. Besides, I expect Lucky would have found what we were looking for if there was anything to be found.”

Lucky, whose investigative technique up to this point had consisted of randomly diving around, over, or under various objects and shouting “Ah-haH!”, nodded glumly from his position hanging over the edge of the footbridge, calling out to the others. “Yeah, I'm not having any luck, and that is saying something.”

“Great.” Strategos nodded firmly, surveying the park. “I think you're right. Everyone, back here!” She waved to Bloodline, who strode over, and Stormfront quickly landed nearby. “Alright, we've got two possibilites. Either we've made a mistake, and Kaine isn't coming…”

“Not likely.” Said Timebender. Strategos pointedly ignored the interruption.

“Or he's going to come in the next day or so, in which case we can set up traps for him. Any suggestions?”

“I can craft some energy traps, if we need them.” Handyman smiled easily. “And Zuki should be able to tell us if anyone is approaching.”

“Give me time, and I can get the winds just right for a major storm.” Stormfront was grinning ear to ear. “Double my power. I almost never get to do that. And the best part is, it'll just take a trigger – until then, it'll be weather as usual.”

“Great. Good start.” Strategos nodded. “I've been surveying the area, so we can drive Kaine back and forth as needed for the best ground cover and situational advantages. Timebender, Lucky, why don't you help Handyman with his traps. Bloodline, you and I are going to make a few small changes to the trails so that Malleus doesn't get away. Powerblock…” She trailed off. “Um. Guard the statue.”

“Guard the statue. Seriously?” Powerblock pouted. “Do you know how strong I am? I could make changes to the trails.”

“Not subtle ones.” Strategos shook her head. “The statue represents the civic pride of this city. Chances are, it's going to be Kaine's first strike, and if he teleports in we might not get much warning. Protect the statue.”

“You don't believe that.” Powerblock said. “You're just steamed at me because I'm still on both teams.”

“This is not the time or the place, Joe!” Strategos glared, and Powerblock took a step back, hunching his shoulders slightly. Before he could say anything else, Zuki's eyes suddenly unfocused, and her head snapped to one side as she stared at the treebanks.

“Someone is here!” She said urgently. Instantly, the team went alert. Strategos cursed quietly.

“Right. New plan. Powerblock, cover Zuki. Handyman, get whatever magic suppressors you have ready. Stormfront, I want…”

Lightning crackled from a clear sky. It struck Zuki full-on, and the Sayleen psychic collapsed with a strangled moan, smoke rising from her uniform. Everyone twisted in shock as Stormfront rose higher, and clouds began to swirl at her unspoken command. Strategos gasped. “What the hell, Stormfront!”

A slow clapping came from the treeline. The trees bowed and splintered, shoved to one side as Malleus Kaine strode through where they had once stood, a carpet of still earth laid out behind him. “Beautiful. A perfect strike.” He smiled menacingly, holding up an obsidian amulet that matched the spike-laden armor in which he was covered. “The amulet of Kalkoon. I'm afraid that a shard of your little friend's soul has been lodged inside it for some weeks now, allowing me to control her at will. It took me hours to extract it – she is a feisty one.” He smiled up at her, then turned his attention to Strategos. “You didn't really think that time I knocked you all unconscious at the Drama Museum was meaningless, did you.”

“I've heard of that amulet.” Strategos said grimly. “It's banned magic. Last held by Dreadlock, the Fear Force's resident sorcerer. Where did you get it?”

“Guess.” Kaine smiled again. “I don't need to hide my sources, not anymore. I'm done playing games with you. Now that Ladd is here, I can have my reckoning with him.” He turned his attention to Lucky. “And this time, you aren't surviving.”

“Seriously?” Lucky gaped in amazement. “Me? I'm flattered. Only, you're about to get your ass kicked. Because one, even if you did take control of Stormfront, we just have to beat you up and take that amulet and she's normal again. Two, even if you took out Zuki, there are still six of us, and one of you – well, one and a half if you count Stormfront. And three, even if that weren't true, do you remember my super powers? There's no way in hell that you're going to kill me.”

“Oh, yes, there are so very many of you. It's enough to make me wish that I had my own forces.” Kaine glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, look! Clockwork and Warzone are here. Hello, gentlemen.”

The air behind him was rippling, and three figures took shape. On the left, Clockwork cracked his knuckles, glancing around the team. “We meet at last, Champions. And the Victors – I am very interested to see how you measure up to your predecessors.”

On the right, Warzone took a step forwards, towering over his companions. Beneath his helm, his voice was tight with anticipation. “You don't look like much, but you have both gained some recognition. This should be entertaining.”

But it was the third figure who had the attention of both the Champions and the Victors. Kaine noticed them staring, and his smile became a grin. “And then there are your powers. Very inconvienient. Trying to plan for you was enough to make me wish there were other people with powers like that.” He took a half-step to one side, so that everyone could see his last companion better. “I guess wishes really do come true.”

Scourge gave a bow, pistols at his hip and a cruel smile on his lips. “Surprise.”

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