It had been an interminably long day for Aaron. And with the events planned for the evening, it wasn’t going to get much better. A quick meeting with Jenna early in the day for information exchange and then it was business as usual. Unfortunately his thoughts kept drifting to the performance they had to give later. Aaron knew Kardiac was already nursing a few cracked ribs, but he wouldn’t be able to pull too many punches and still look convincing. Leaving the office early, he headed back to his brownstone to try and relax a little.
Not five minutes after he walked through the door, the phone rang, “Hello…”
“Hey dear,” Kaye’s voice came as a pleasant surprise.
“HEY! How are you? What’s going on? Everything okay?” Aaron’s voice was a mixture of elation and concern. Despite Jenna’s assurance that Strategoi would provide extra protection, plus Kaye’s own ‘natural’ abilities, Aaron still worried.
“Everything is fine, I just wanted to let you know things are going better than expected down here and it may be a little longer before they let me come home.” Kaye explained.
“Well that just sucks, but I’m glad the dig is going well,” he said. “Probably just as well, I guess. Work’s been keeping me busy lately.”
“Uh huh…” she paused a moment, “Which ‘work?'”
Aaron sighed into the receiver, “Both, actually… There are a few things we need to talk about, but it can wait until later.” He heard a muffled voice rattle off something in Hispanic on the other end, most likely one of the local workers hired by the Museum.
“Crap, I have to go… I’ll call you in a few days.”
“No prob. Love you.”
“Love you too,” and she hung up.
The night was cold, but not unbearable, and the snow had stopped. Bluewolf hunched in the shadows atop the marina’s clubhouse. Clubhouse hell, it was more like a mini office building. Heat signature scan had placed the gathering in the office suite directly below, with auditory evidence that it was indeed the right group of ‘businessmen.’ Bluewolf could think of nothing much more embarrassing than dropping in on a group of gray-haired yacht owners discussing the next season’s slip rental fees.
He had been keeping watch for Fox and Kardiac as well. At the same moment they slipped through the gate, his comm link sparked to life, “Wolf, Silhouette here. Ready when you are…” came Jenna’s voice.
“The operation is a go. Romeo and Juliet are in the vicinity. Keep an eye out for the fireworks.” Wolf answered in a low voice.
“Gotcha. Be careful… both of you. Out.” Jenna signed off.
A few moments later the comm link activated again, this time with Kardiac’s loud whisper, “I hope you can hear this damned thing.”
“I read you,” Bluewolf replied.
“Good,” the vigilante replied quietly. “I’m about to enter the conference room. I’ll tap twice when everyone is in position.”
“I’m already on the roof. Ready to receive.”
Kardiac clicked off the comm, then clicked it on again quickly. “One more thing… the fight needs to last at least sixty seconds… and it needs to be as visually-compelling as possible.”
“You’re up to something,” Bluewolf replied with a smirk the vigilante could hear.
“Never me,” Kardiac said with a soft chuckle. “Out.”
Seconds later Bluewolf heard shattering glass, immediately followed by several shouts and weapons being cocked. The exchange between Kardiac and Begnini was almost comedic to a point, with Wolf realizing more and more how much of a flair for the dramatic the vigilante had. The comm link clicked twice, signaling it was time to party…
“I’ve grown sick of this little game, Alfonse. I’m not playing it anymore.” The vigilante threw his arms out, toppling the table and scattering both the papers littered across it and the men sitting around it. “One way or another, this ends tonight!” he added, raising his hands toward the mobster.
“Just not the way you want it to…” Bluewolf said, as he dropped in through the window. Kardiac turned around, hands still blazing. Bluewolf immediately dropped into a ready stance, he couldn’t play the defense like he had in their first ‘scuffle,’ that wouldn’t be conducive to their show, but he would let Kardiac make the first move…
Kardiac decided to make it nice and easy to predict, going for a move he knew Blue would suspect because he had supplied the weapon. With a snap of his wrist, the cable lashed out, barbed hook on the end. It was energized just by passing through the energy around his hand, but as he expected, his armored compatriot cleanly dodged the taser wire. The vigilante had left an opening… the left side of his chest, hoping his partner in this dance would remember not to attack him on the right side of his ribcage.
In a swift dodge and duck maneuver, Bluewolf snatched the wire before it could retract. Yanking hard, he extended the opening Kardiac had given him and landed a solid kick to the vigilante’s left side, just below the armpit. Kardiac grunted, grateful that Bluewolf seemed to be holding back just enough. A flash of motion caught Wolf’s eye as he blocked a shot from Kardiac, Fox’s gloved hand snatched a small booklet from where it had fallen near the doorway. Luckily, the focus was on the two battling costumes.
“You call that a hit,” Kardiac said through clenched teeth. He wanted to make it look worse than it had been, not that it hadn’t been bad enough. His ribcage ached with each move and each hit just made it worse. Still… he had to hold out just a little longer. He felt Vivian’s heart, felt the small jump from the adrenaline as she made her grab for the book. Good… almost there. Another blow came in, this one a little higher than Bluewolf would usually swing. Kardiac went low and shot his arm up, passing his hand over the unprotected area of his compatriot’s face. The burst he let out sent a tingle through his opponent, but most of the energy had been discharged from the back of his hand, to make it look far more impressive.
The show must be making an impact on their audience, since Wolf could hear the whispers of bets being laid. They were actually giving odds to Kardiac, Well, he is the local boy, Wolf thought to himself. Kardiac snapped out his left leg in a kick aimed at Bluewolf’s head, a move he telegraphed perfectly for Wolf to catch and swing him bodily into the wall behind them with enough force to crack the sheetrock wallboard. “Let’s dance, Sparky…”
Ouch, ouch, ouch…. but damn it looked good. Kardiac pulled himself back to his feet, forcing himself not to hold on to his ribcage. “Did you just call me Sparky, Dynomutt?” he asked with a sneer. He knew if he wanted to he could produce enough juice to get through to the man inside the armor… after all, in Brazil he’d made electric chairs envious, but he had to be careful… make it look like he was pushing himself without actually hurting Blue. Had this been real, he was pretty sure his compatriot could take him… so long as he kept his amps non-lethal, but he couldn’t let the spectators know that. He had to look overconfident… cocky. Hell… that was easy. He set himself ablaze with energy, smoking and charring the floor as he stalked across it. He lunged with a loud snarl.
Bluewolf was fairly confident in the dog and pony show up until now. He was assaulted by the odor of ozone that Kardiac’s power was giving off, but held his ground as the vigilante leapt for him. The light show caused when the two heroes collided was nothing short of spectacular as blue-white energy engulfed them. A simple roll/kick sent Kardiac flying towards the group of mob bosses, who scattered on impact. Kardiac rushed again noticing Bluewolf mouth, “Go with it.”
The heroes collided again, but this time Bluewolf landed a right cross to Kardiac’s jaw, enough to stun him. Wolf immediately followed up a series of blows to Kardiac’s midsection. The assembly couldn’t see much more than a blue and silver blur and Kardiac convulsing from the rapid-fire strikes. What they couldn’t see was Bluewolf pulling his punches.
Kardiac buckled under the ‘force’ of each blow, finally stumbling backwards and on to the floor. He pushed himself up, chancing a glance at the mess of papers to see a familiar-looking brown book sitting among the documents. Good girl, he thought with a slight smile. He covered the reflexive smile by turning into a smirk, looking back at Bluewolf. “That all you got,” he asked, a little bit of blood dripping down his lower lip. He hoped Viv didn’t catch sight of that. >Time to end this. He charged forward, head low, and lit up the room. He hoped that he’d measure the capacity of Blue’s insulation correctly, and rushed in, tackling his partner and sending both rolling. The blue-white fire danced across them both as they rolled apart, Kardiac not letting go completely.
Bluewolf got to his feet first and set his hands on either side of Kardiac. The vigilante saw the move, he’d seen people try it before… and fail badly. This wasn’t the movies, after all. Still… he began to stand, set his head in just the right place, and threw himself into a rather dramatic spin as Bluewolf grabbed him and twisted. It very nearly snapped his neck… which is precisely how it was meant to appear. As he fell, he felt time slow down with his metabolism as he slowed his heart, his breathing, and his reflexes. A few last bolts of white crackled across them both as he hit the floor with a dull, flat thud.
Wolf stood over the fallen form of the vigilante, breathing heavy. Mostly for show, but partly from the energy required to stage the event. He could barely hear Kardiac’s heartbeat, and he hoped it was enough to convince Begnini and his associates, as the mobster motioned Vinny to check the body. The lumbering hulk of a man kneeled down, and hesitantly placed two fingers at the hollow of Kardiac’s neck checking the jugular. Vinny looked to Begnini and nodded then reached for the vigilante’s mask.
The thug stopped short with a searing pain in his shoulder. Vinny looked up to find Bluewolf’s hand the source of his pain. “Not today, junior. Not ever.” Wolf said through a clenched jaw, shoving Begnini’s heavy away from the body. There was no way he was letting them discover Kardiac’s true identity.
“Your people guaranteed me that we would get to keep the body.” Begnini said.
“Get over it.” At that, Bluewolf snatched Kardiac’s limp form from the floor and pitched him through the broken window, clear into the harbor below.
Instantly the impact area exploded in a blue-white discharge of electricity. So intense was the blast that Begnini and his men had to shield their eyes from a flash that lit up the sky. When the light finally faded, boats rocked in their slips and the rippling water literally steamed from the heat of the explosion. Begnini found himself face to face with Bluewolf.
“Remind your pals in the Organization that this was my final job.” Bluewolf leaned in closer, “If anything happens to The Fox, you’ll be seeing me…” he said in a deadly cold whisper. “And if you thought Sparky was a thorn in your side, then you’re in for the shock of your life.” Bluewolf backed away from the group, launching himself through the window he had entered through. Vinny and Tony rushed to the window, but saw nothing of Wolf’s escape.