Kardiac was a loner. It wasn’t something he necessarily liked, it was just his nature. He enjoyed having friends to back him up, even often-annoying, paternal friends who dressed in blue, but friends brought problems of their own. You had to watch their backs, and you had to accept responsibility for failing them. It was that very responsibility that had driven him to separate himself from them tonight.
Sometimes, it was a pain in the ass to have friends. Tonight was undoubtedly going to be one of those nights. Even now, as he electromagnetically clung to the outer steel wall of the Lexington Towers fourteen stories above the very-solid ground, he could think of little more than the danger his friends were in, danger he put them in.
He continued climbing, and finally stopped upon reaching the nineteenth floor. He pulled a glass cutter out of one of the pouches in his left gauntlet and proceeded to work on the glass. The glass-cutter wasn’t his. It had been borrowed a couple of months back, and the owner had left town before he’d had time to return it. That thought didn’t make what he was about to do any easier.
The Lexington Towers had a good security system. Electricity flowed through micro-fibers in the glass. Break the circuit, and the world would know you were there. Of course, when you were a circuit, this wasn’t quite as much of a problem.
Once inside, Kardiac replaced the circle of glass he’d removed and traced the flow of power to ensure that the circuit would continue along its original route once he left the room.
Once he was certain that the alarms weren’t going to be an issue, he started down the well-lit hallway he was now standing in.
Alexandra Vega was sitting at an antique roll-top desk in what served as her office. The desk had been her father’s, and it was the one piece of furniture she’d brought with her from Brazil. The desk served to remind her of why she was back in Garrison City after all these years.
She glanced up from the ledgers she was reviewing at the sound of silenced gunshots just beyond her door. Silencers only worked so well, especially in close proximity. Without consideration for who might be dying on the other side of the door, Alexandra rose to her feet, crossed to her night-table, and removed two large-but-sleek metallic-pink pistols.
The guns were custom made. There were no others like them in the world. She had to make the ammunition herself, since the weapons’ inventor had died an untimely death shortly after selling them to her. The lead of the bullets within was dyed to have a slightly-pink color.
Still silent, she walked over, unlocked the door, the crossed back to the bed, where she sat in the lotus position, aiming both weapons at the door. A few seconds later, there was a loud, clumsy knock. She took a deep breath, and called out. “Come in, Amante.”
The door opened to reveal Kardiac standing on the other side. He dropped the unconscious bodyguard whose head he’d been using to as a door knocker and stepped into the room, hands clasped behind his head. “Hello Alexandra,” he said in a coldly unemotional tone.
She simply smiled, guns still trained on him. “Why so formal, Amante? I always liked it when you called me Lexa.”
“I’m not here to talk to my ex-wife,” he said, flatly. “I’m here to talk to Alexandra Vega, head of the Vega Drug Syndicate.”
“What interest would an alleged Drug Queen have in speaking to a costumed vigilante?” she asked, still smiling.
“I’m not interested in playing semantic games tonight.”
“And I,” she answered, “am not interested in talking to Kardiac. I would, however, not mind catching up with my Marido.”
Kardiac narrowed his eyes. “Fine,” he said after a moment’s silence. He closed the door, pushing out her bodyguard with his foot as he did so, and removed his mask. He pulled the static away from his vocal chords, and locked the door behind him.
“Are you satisfied?” he asked, eyes still brimmed with anger.
“Not yet,” she answered. Standing, she put her guns back into the drawer of her night-table before sitting back on the bed. With a mischievous smile, she laid back against the headboard and patted the pillow next to her. “But I’m sure I could be before the night has passed.”
Eddy frowned, his face reddening slightly as his anger rose to the next level. Admittedly, the anger was somewhat forced to the next level, as he tried to ignore how good she looked. She’d been ready to turn in before he’d arrived. She was wearing the red satin teddy he’d given her for their first anniversary… the one with the black lace. It had always been his favorite. Right now, he needed to be angry. “What’s the game, Alexandra?”
“Game,” she answered, feigning innocence. “You come into the bedchambers of your Mulher and say you are not in the mood for word games, then when she makes herself ready for you, you begin playing a word game of your own.” She glanced off towards the window, now feigning offense. “It really is enough to confuse a woman.”
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and let out the bad air. He crossed the room to stand at the foot of the bed. He really wasn’t in the mood to be manipulated.”Let’s cut to the chase,” he said as he stopped walking. “I want you to call off your assassins. If you want to come after me, that’s fine, but leave my friends out of it.”
She scrunched up her face and donned a confused smile. He could hear her heart beating, sense her body heat, but there was no change in either as she replied. “What are you talking about, Amante?”
His eyes narrowed again, instinctively. “You tried to recruit me. I refused. Now my friends are being targeted for assassination.”
The lines of confusion left her face and her smile returned. She crawled over towards him with a seductive gait, stopping at the bottom of the bed, looking up at him from where she stood on her hands and knees. “You think I targeted your friends because you wouldn’t join me?”
Again, her vital signs were unchanged. She was telling the truth, or she was a damned good liar.”Yes,” he replied, though he was beginning to think he was wrong.
“I did no such thing,” she said, her heart and warmth confirming her words to his extra-normal senses. She rose up to her knees, tracing her finger from his midriff to his chest as she rose. He shuddered under her touch, but clenched his teeth and tried to hide the reaction.
She placed her hand flat on his chest, leaned in close enough that he could taste the flavor of her lips as she spoke, her eyes locked on his at such a range that clear focus was impossible. “I want you back, but that is not my way.” She smiled, pulling back ever-so-slightly. “Besides, if I was going to target anyone, it would have been the woman. You know this.”
She was right. This wasn’t her style. He’d reacted because, deep down, he wanted it to be his fault. Then, at least, he’d be able to put a stop to it. Apparently, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
“But you do not lie to yourself without good reason,” she said, leaning in again, moving like a snake charmer trying to make a cobra dance. “Why did you make yourself come to me, Amante?” she asked. “What drove you here?”
Again, Eddy closed his eyes. He could smell the lilac in her hair. Taste the strawberry on her lips. He frowned. He couldn’t let himself lose control of the situation. Of course, he also wouldn’t let himself realize that he already had.
“If not you, then who?”
“I wish I could tell you,” she said, bluntly, her breath now hot in his cheek. “Then you would surely go eliminate the competition for me. But alas, Amante, I cannot.”
He pulled back a few inches, took her shoulders in his hands, and looked her in the eyes. They were so beautiful, and the usually malevolence he saw in them seemed to have been completely masked.”If this isn’t extortion — if you’re not trying to force my hand and exchange my loyalty for the safety of my friends — then what is it that I ‘don’t know?'” he asked. “Play your hand, and let’s get this game underway.”
She smiled, the mischief coming back into her eyes. She grabbed him around the waist and pulled him against her. She leaned in, took his earlobe in her lips, and let it slide out as she pulled her head slightly back. The air of her voice tickled as she spoke into his ear. “I never filed the papers.”
Eddy froze. One of her hands moved to his chest, as if to push him away, even as the other stayed on his back, holding him close. He couldn’t react to either motion. He just stood there, face blank, wordless. The other hand was on his chest before he realized she’d moved it, and her lips were once more precariously close to his.
“I could not bring myself to let you go.”
“But you’re the one who…” She placed a finger against his lips. It barely fit in the space between their mouths.
“Shhhhhh,” she whispered. “Drawing up the papers was a mistake, Marido,” she said, breathily.
“I still love you.”
Eddy didn’t know how to respond. His senses, the base five and their superhuman colleagues, all told him that her words were true. He’d never wanted the divorce, but he’d signed when he realized that it was inevitable… when he realized he was going to have to kill her father. But did he ever stop loving her? He asked himself, and immediately knew the answer.
“Then,” he answered. “I’m yours.” She smiled, but he pushed her back to arm’s length.”Unfortunately, I don’t have time to show you how I feel about you… they’re waiting for me. If I don’t show up soon….”
“They’ll come to ‘rescue’ you,” she said, a smile on her voice that matched the one on her lips.
“I’ll come back to you as soon as I can get away from them,” he said, running his hand down her cheek. He pulled his goggles back on, changed his voice, and turned towards the door. She took his arm, turning him around.
“I’ll be here,” she answered, mischief still in her eyes.
He leaned in and kissed her deeply, as if for all the years of their separation he’d been saving up his passion for her. There was a spark, and their lips hummed, as the mild current he used to change his voice passed between then. She shuddered.
“Wait up for me, Lexa?”
“Eagerly, Marido,” she replied with hungry eyes.
He turned and left the room, giving her bodyguard one last kick after closing the door. A few minutes later, he was on his bike and headed West. He keyed his communicator to Bluewolf’s private frequency.
“I’m on my way.”
“Everything all right?”
He was far enough away that Blue couldn’t hear his heartbeat, and he hoped the inherent static of their comms would cover up any other hint of the lie. “Couldn’t be better,” he answered. “Kardiac out.”
Things had just gotten a lot more complicated.