Siberian Star was on his way to meet an informant. The man said he had information about the fires that had been popping up in the area.
The chilled superhero stopped his flight and hovered over the city briefly. Ironic, he thought, that the flames would be snuffed out by a man armed with the harsh cold of Mother Russia. He smirked and thought of his grandfather, before the whirr of his bootjets kicked in and propelled him to the rendezvous point.
Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Flex rushed to keep up. In the space of him being here he had yet to untangle what was going on. He knew from the mission briefing that the Siberian Star had taken out Net operatives, but was he working alone or for himself. He could be working for the Russian crime bosses. In any case perhaps this was the chance for Flex to get some headway in this case.
As he leapt from rooftop to rooftop he kept the the Russian Super in sight. "Would not do to loose my strongest lead just yet." He said to himself, pressing on a little faster.
Siberian Star dropped down near the alley where he was to meet his contact. Unbeknownst to him, Flex took up a spot across the street.
Flex saw a man come out of the alley door of one of the buildings, and a moment later, Siberian Star dropped down from the roof to talk to him.
Moving slowly so as not to catch their eye, Flex shapped his hands and feet to allow him to move carefully down the wall. "If I can get closer I can listen in on what they are up to," Flex reasoned to himself as he attempted to move silently down the wall.
Landing softly, Siberian Star dusted the man with a bit of snow before speaking. "You have information for me, da?"
"Da," said the man. He continued in Russian, which did Flex no good. "These fires, they are not natural. There is a person setting them, and she is paranormal - a firestarter."
"Who does she work for?" he asked. Quickly following up with a request for her next target.
Frustrated by his lack of Russian, Flex continued to watch, wait and listen. "After all," he thought to himself, "What else can I do."
"Frolov, Anatole Frolov. He's the one she works with, I don't know where they'll strike next. I must go," the man stubbed out his cigarette and slipped back through the door.
"Spasibo," he thanked the man. Siberian Star took off effortlessly into the air and decided he fly around the Park once again before retiring for the evening. Paying special attention to any women out alone was his only lead, tomorrow he would ask around about Frolov and see where that could take him.
Seeing Siberian Star about to take off, Flex thought hasty action was his only way forward. Since he couldn't fly, it was now or never. Perhaps now was the right time for a confrontation. "Man, I do pick em!" Flex couldn't help muttering to himself as he leapt for the highest point around and started to shout toward the Siberian, to draw his attention. As he shouted Flex's hand shot out expanding rapidly. It looked almost comical as this thinned appendage wafted about above him, seeking the attention of the Russian super human.
Breaking the stillness of the night was a voice, then out of the corner of his eye Siberian Star saw the source of the disturbance. He turned in the air and approached cautiously at the odd sight. Upon drawing closer he relaxed, dropping his guard and suspicions. It was Flex, another hero of Port Alexander that he had read about in the papers. Curious, he descended.
"Da," he acknowledged the hero, "do you need help?" he asked in English.
"Erh, no. Actually, I wondered if you did?" Flex thought being upfront might not get him too far. "After all he," he thought "Being told you are under suspicion as a former criminal never won anyone over. "Its just that, we don't get many Russian Supers in this part of the world. What brings you all the way out here anyway?" Flex forced himself to relax, despite the fact he did not know if he was dealing with a known criminal or not.
"I don't have time for chit-chat," Siberian Star said coldly. "If you want a signed photograph, then we can arrange another time, another place." He began to levitate and softened his tone, "I apologize, I should make time for fans. But I'm currently on an investigation."
"Bloody arrogant..." Flex began to feel himself loosing his temper. "I am not a fan." Flex said with exagerated patience, "And it's precisely because I suspected you were not here for the sight seeing, that I wanted to know if I could help? I have contacts, there may be some mutual gain." Fled shifted the tone of his voice so as to try and sound more friendly again, "Now why don't you stop acting all 'high and mighty', and come down so we can talk about this...? Flex stood waiting. For some reason, this Rusky had began to annoy him. "Perhaps he fells he has something to prove!" Flex thought to himself. "Maybe this was his sense of Russian humour, if it is I fail to see the funny side of it." He nonetheless waited, hoping his stance did not seem overly hostile.
Siberian Star hovered and crossed his arms defiantly. "I do not appreciate being spied upon. However, I am familiar with your work. You have operated with the Protectors, I believe." The Russian landed on the rooftop and walked toward Flex. "So you know why I am here?"
Flex had to think suddenly, "Oh man, Protectors business. And something I know nothing about as well." Flex could see the Russian was getting impatient. "Actually you have me at a disadvantage, I do work with the Protectors, but I have been working on a solo mission and have not had the opportunity to check in with them. When I heard about your being in the area, well I thought I'd look you up. So tell me what are you here for?" Flex sat back aiming to create a sense of confident calm, whilst hoping his partial ruse worked.
Siberian Star gazed suspiciously through his silvered helmet, the starlight reflecting off it. "Look Flex," he said in a condescending tone. "You flagged me down offering help, and now you're playing games while the trail grows cold," he chuckled at the irony of that idiom. He started to say something else, but caught himself and cooled his temper. "Time is slipping by, and each tick means another place could go up in flames."
Flex hopped up to attention, "Huh, well now you are talking my kind of language. Lead on and I will follow from below." Flex waved grandly forming his hand into suction pads kneeling down ready to leap. Audaciously - obviously intending the Siberian Star to show him the way.
"Easy," he paced over. "All I have so far is a name of an employer, and a shoddy description of the firebug." He took another step which was into the sky as he hovered over the building's edge. "A woman is setting our fires, I was planning on doing a once over of the city looking for any suspicious ladies with a fiery demeanor. Care to join me?"
Flex grinned something had changed. He did not know if he should still trust the easy going Ruskie but if the Protectors did, then he should be able to. "In any case," Flex thought to himself, "following along will make it easier to keep tabs. To find out if he is stringing us along or if there is a different man beneath that armour." Turning around to the floating Super, Flex grinned like a Cheshire cat and said, "After you..."
The young man jetted off into the night and came to a stop turning back to see if Flex was following, and to gauge if he could keep up. Seeing the hero follow along, he set off for some areas of Resky Park which he guessed may be potential targets for the arson. Ever since the first fires he had been trying to piece together a profile of places, considering proximity to people, its impact on the community, ownership, etc. Tonight was another search but with an added wrinkle, he was looking for a woman. Tomorrow a Mr. Forlov would further increase the odds.
A few frustrating hours and one terrified mugger later, the pair decided nothing was going to be happening on this particular night - at least, not that they were going to find.
Disappointed, Siberian Star landed atop an apartment building and waited for Flex to follow. The night was only modestly fruitful, perhaps a talk with Furlov would bear more tomorrow. Siberian Star stretched and sighed, he had an early day tomorrow and a lab to supervise. He would be so glad when Professor Losky returned from the conference.
"Thanks for the company," he said halfheartedly to Flex. "I'm sure our paths will cross again."
"Not so fast friend." Flex said as he held his hand out to stop the SS. "Since I am still going to be patrolling this area and since it would seem you are to. Why don't we work something out to our mutual benefit?" Flex tilted his head forward and opened his hand out. In the palm his hand was his mobile communicator.
"Look I will give you my number, I am going to be around and about, we are looking for some sort of fire starter, right? Well if either one gets a hint of something going on then, we can let the other know. Imagine I'm your back up! Ok?" Flex waited for the Siberian Star's approval. After all he didn't want to muscle in. But what better way to see if the Russian was on the up and up than making himself useful to him?
Siberian Star looked at Flex's imposing hand and his eyes narrowed behind the silver helmet, but then they softened. In what seemed like minutes in thought, but was really only a few seconds he concurred. "Maybe you're right. How about tomorrow night we meet back," he looked about," here!" pointing to the rooftop for emphasis. Hopefully his leads would pan out and there would be something to investigate.
"Say, 10:30 and don't be late."
Flex let his mask follow his facial movements, as he winked cheekily at the Siberian Star and said, "Oh I am never late."
He watched the Russian fly off, before turning around to take another route around the area and then headed off home to a warm bed.
* * * *As he put his tools away, Jim stretched his back to straighten out. He didn' t really need to, since the bonding he underwent that moulded the plastic life form to his own body, he never felt stiff, or slow. Maybe one day he would but it was more force of habit that made him do it now.
A little later after the evening meal Jim took his leave and headed out to a different part of town. Although still somewhat ashamed of his past, it did have its uses. Now he could take the opportunity to ask innocent questions about Resky park and the fire that Siberian Star was so interested in. Jim thought it didn't hurt to find what the word on the street was about the Russian at the same time. After his meeting with him yesterday, Flex did feel that he was not a genuine threat - but nonetheless he wanted to be sure. Jim also made a mental not to check in with IPAC, Wilkins was probably would want a report on his progress by now.
As he stepped into one of his familiar haunts, Jim saw a group of 'friends' and after getting a small drink he moved over to mingle among them. As he went he noted his watch - 8:15 pm it flashed back at him. "Hmmm, not long." He thought to himself. "But hopefully long enough."
Flex arrived at the meeting place a few minutes before the scheduled time. He had learned a few things in the short time he had had. Word on the street was that the fires were definately part of a campaign between rival organized crime gangs.
He sat and thought for a while, then realized that the time for the meeting had passed. Time ticked by. Finally, twenty minutes after the scheduled time, he heard the whir of Siberian Star's boot jets and saw the Russian approaching.
Gently Siberian Star landed on the rooftop, and walked up. "Good evening. Ready to catch a firebug?"
"Indeed. But what kept you?" Flex said as he got up and moved toward the Siberian Star. After hearing the news about the fires being more about intergang rivalry, Flex was more sure that the Siberian was on the up and up. But that did not explain why he and more importantly this suit, that once belonged to a known criminal, should be here now. "Questions for later." Flex thought to himself.
Siberian Star ignored Flex's question with an cold stare reminiscent of a tenured professor, "What do you know about organized crime here in the Park?" he asked.
Slightly taken aback by the Siberian Stars cutting across, Flex nonetheless mentally noted it down. He had spent his whole life being careful around others. Since gaining his powers so much had changed, but still instinctively around powerful people he always backed down from confrontation. Preferring to take a subtler route. He nonetheless noted all he saw for further consideration later.
"Organised crime in this area!" Flex said slowly feeling his way slightly. He knew a bit about the 'scene' here, but in reality his life had been so long focused on the Parts that he knew little beyond what he had found out already. "Well Resky is controlled by Russian gangs, one would think the Russian Mafia, has or would like a controlling stake in things. Probably they are not alone. I am well aware that the various arson attacks have been in part of a spate of tit for tat fights between these different factions. Beyond that.Well lets say the Parts are my speciality.
Stopping to take note of what Siberian Star thought Flex waited for some sort of response. Before continuing, "So tell me what have I missed.?"
Siberian Star looked shocked, much like one looks when a child says something completely out of character that transcends their youth. "Not much, you haven't missed much at all," he said with awe.
"I have a name, a mobster as it were, who just may be the bank behind our firestarter. And in the absence of a target to stakeout we may have to go to the top." The young Russian checked his watch, "In fact he may still be at the Odessa Tearoom." He looked back at Flex.
"Care for some chai?" he asked through a smirk.
Grateful for the sudden change in the Russian. Flex caught his his lighter mood and shifted his form into that of a English Gentlemen, from the turn of the century. "Top ho! Old chum lets go..." Realising he may have been a bit over the top, he quickly shifted back, eager to get on leaping forward toward the intended destination.
Not sure what to do, information was kind of scarce, Siberian Star figured that a bolder confrontation might help stir up the hornet's nest. He soared above the city making his way to the Odessa Tearoom, landing nearby on a rooftop. The hour was late, which meant that anyone still inside was probably affiliated with Frolov or his kind. This would be good, just in case there was any trouble. Shortly thereafter Flex was by his side.
"The Odessa Tearoom," he said by way of introduction. "Inside will be a Mr. Frolov, who is our firestarter's employer," offered Siberian Star.
"Hmm, Ok do we case the joint, or wait till we reach a ripe old age." Flex moved forward cupping his chin as he paused to consider the building, its layout and anything he could glean from its appearance. "I could take a look around, silent like. You know peep in through the odd lite window. Unless of course you had another idea up your sleeve?" Turning to the Russian again, Flex waited to find out what he had in mind.
Siberian Star considered the options afforded to them. Unsure whether Frolov was even inside, he decided that making an appearance would undoubtedly find its way to the crime boss' ear; and hopefully produce the break they needed. "See if you can get in from the back and keep an eye out, I'm going to pay our guest a visit. We haven't much to go on, so let's see if we can spook him."
Flex nodded, moving swiftly off he arrived around the back of the hotel. "I wonder what we'll find in here." He thought to himself. He waited for a short time- watching to see who came in and out. Before entering taking the shape and appearance of an off duty staff member who was leaving for the night. Flex in disguise strode up to the back door and made his way inside, hoping to quickly find a clue to the whereabouts of this potential lead.
As Flex headed out into the night, Siberian Star gave him enough time to get in place and stepped off the roof allowing his bootjets to guide him softly to the front door. If Frolov was there, then he expected resistance in the form of hired goons working the door.
Siberian Star entered the restaurant and conversations stopped around the room. Several tables were filled with old-style Russian mobsters that much was clear - the goons surrounding them were evidence of that.
From the description he had of Anatole Frolov, he could be one of two men. One near the front of the restaurant, the other with a nicer table toward the rear. Across the room, hands moved toward armpits but no further as Siberian Star looked around the room.
"Dobry vecher," he began wishing them a good evening. Continuing in Russian he attempted to calm some fears and stoke others. "Relax, the time has not come for you...most of you." Siberian Star paced around a bit positioning himself with a good view of the two men who could be Frolov.
Whilst the Siberian Star was provoking some of the Russian Mafia, Flex, in disguise attempted to slip unnoticed into the room. He had heard the silence from the corridor outside. The sudden silence that comes over a room, like the sudden stillness before the storm. His gut feeling was to get in where as quick as he could. "So typically bloody Russian!" He mumbled as he looked in, grabbing a tray, before moving quickly in. He sought to carry on disguised as a waiter, as if nothing was wrong.
"Anatole Frolov, I come for you. Answers are needed," Siberian Star stated coldly hoping to invoke memories of Soviet interrogations. He paused trying to get a reading on where the eyes went so that he might have a better idea of just who his target might be, and readied himself for trouble.
"Am I to be frightened?" said the man at the rear table. "I have nothing to hide, and nothing to say to you."
Siberian Star focused on the man, "Am I to be convinced by the words of a man who is a liar?" Slowly he approached the table, "Pure as the wind driven snow in Mother Russia you are not. Fire is more your style, isn't it?"
The man whispered something quickly to his companions, who laughed, then he rose, his square features blank. He came forward to meet the young hero. "You are the hothead, not I."
Behind him, the three bodyguards rose as well, one slipping off toward the kitchen and the rear door.
Siberian Star smiled. "Tolya Frolovich," using a term of familiarity which disrepected a man of his age and status. "You may be able to intimidate these people," he gestured to the other patrons, "but I am much different than any you have ever dealt with before."
The young Russian clenched his fists and relaxed, shooting an icy stare over the man's shoulder at his bodyguards. "Call off your dogs, before they get hurt. I would hate for you to be embarassed so close to your last dessert," he offered with a condescending pat on the man's shoulder.
Turning, Siberian Star started to walk out and offered a "I have my eye on you."
As Flex looked on, he might not have apprecaited all of what was going on but he knew that Siberian Star was playing a deft game of bating Frolov. "Question is," Thought Flex, "Will it work? Or is this guy to sure to be rattled by the bluff. Truth is we don't have much on him."
Waiting around to make sure that Siberian Star got out ok, Flex continued to hang around, although he doubted he would get much since he did not speak Russian.
Once it was convienent Flex slipped out the way he came in. Dumping the tray and cups, he changed mid pace to young women, he'd seen earlier at the bar that night. "This is so weird," Flex said to himself as he adjusted to his new form. Nothing felt so weird to him as when he changed into a women. Others might use such a gift for abuse but somehow, Flex could not use amuse or abuse himself in that way.
Once outside, he again changed as he leapt around the building jumping over the intervening distance and landing back on the building opposite.
"Well that went well....after a fashion...assuming Frolov takes the bait. I am glad you spoke in English anyway. My Russian is so rusty." Flex said tongue in cheek, a rogish grin peeping out from beneath his mask as the final part of his transformation completed itself. "SO...err, what now hotshot?"
Siberian Star glared at Flex and spoke succinctly, "Don't ever call me 'hotshot' again. You've been warned."
Unsure as to why such a remark should make for a hostile impression on the Russain, Flex nodded calmly, not wanting to damage relations any further, whilst fileing he information away.
The young Russian approached the edge of the roof and looked down over the parking lot. "We wait. Did you happen to see where his bodyguard went when he left the dining room?"
"No not much. I stuck around after you left. His bodyguard left through the back door." Flex turned away from the rooftop edge, looking around at the great city that was Port Alexander - his home. He found it strange how the city had became a melting pot for others like him. Flex being American born, but with Bristish parents. Proud British parents - who made him always feel as if he was born British, no matter where the actual event took place. Like him, Siberian Star and his Russian country men had found some sort of life here. Flex could not help but wonder at the way his life had changed and perhaps in some small way the lives of others as a result. Here he was again trying to fit in where he was not sure if he belonged. His parents had brought him up to be British in America, how odd that felt now. Here he was a ex con - trying to find his place with powers he did not really understand.
Turning back from his brooding Flex asked Siberian Star how long he would be in the city, more to focus his mind away from where his dark thoughts were begining to lead him. The question hung between them. Flex intended no disrespect, but was curious to find out what he could about the firey Russian, whilst he had the chance.
"And...?" the cold hero asked. He looked at Flex and sighed, "And where did they go? did they call someone, light a fire, shoot someone, do a funny little Russian dance? You don't know do you? you didn't follow them, did you?" Siberian Star kicked at the rooftop in disgust.
"It looks like waiting isn't going to do any good, we're going to have to look around." He took to the air to scour the city.
At this, Flex began to feel something on the inside begin to boil. He knew he had to get a grip, but a deeper resentment began to grow. "Got to keep a grip on this situation." He spoke slowly to himself, letting out long gasps of air, whilst trying to take in cold night air to some how soothe the raging heat that was building inside. He felt guilty for the anger but also part of him began to justify it. "After all," he told himself, "this guy is hardly mister prepared and ready with a master plan." Flex started to cool down again. He realised he had made a mistake - in trying to make sure Siberian Star got out safely. He'd failed to follow the Frolov's bodyguards and missed a vital lead.
He leapt of after the Russian, hoping by some measure of cosmic justice that they may yet be able to find some vital clue.
Luck was with them; they found the bodyguard almost immediately. Since he had to leave the limo for his employer, he had set off on foot and by chance it was the same direction Flex and Siberian Star had started their search. They were able to shadow him to an apartment building a few blocks away. He let himself in with a key and dissappeared into the interior.
Siberian Star pointed to the apartment building and gestured for Flex to follow. Hovering away from the structure Siberian Star gave the man ample time to enter hoping that a telltale light would soon flicker on to give away his location.
Nodding to indicate he understood Flex followed, thankful that things had swung in their favour for once.
Several lights were already on in the building so they were unable to tell where the man had gone, precisely. They waited for a few more minutes, then the man came back out the way he had entered, looked around and headed off east.
Siberian Star decided to follow at a safe distance. His initial inclination was to confront the man immediately, but decided against such a direct approach. This time, hopefully, patience would pay off and he would lead them to something more substantial. Besides, there was always time to intimidate and interrogate the man. It wouldn't be too hard, he reasoned, to extract needed information and return to the apartment later.
Flex joined the pursuit.
The man went two blocks east to a major road and hailed a cab. Siberian Star glanced over to Flex and pointed to the cab. Figuring that the two heroes ought to be able to keep up with the quarry, even in the night traffic of Port Alexander, he continued to track the man.
The pair followed the man a few miles, to a neighborhood near Resky Park that was favoured by those who were coming up in the world. As such, some of the younger mobsters favoured it as well. The man got out, walked to one of the small houses, went around to the side and got into a car. He pulled out of the driveway and headed back toward the seedier part of the district.
Flex noted the address, not knowing if the house had any further significance beyond it being a holding place for the car the man had got into.
After a bit, the man pulled over in a place which had a good view down a street filled with warehouses and parked.
Flex hunkered down, stopping to look about for anything obvious that he should take note of. Signalling to the Siberian Star, Flex waited for him to descend. Once on the ground, he noted the impatient manner of the Russian's body language. Undeterred, Flex spoke quickly. "Do you think he is here to wait for someone one or is he waiting for something to happen? I'm thinking that maybe we need to do some recon. See if there is anything else we need to be aware of. What do you think - did you have any immediate thoughts?"
Flex waited for the Russian to consider what he said, glancing back to see if anything else had occurred whilst they had talked.
"He could be waiting for someone, or something." The Russian looked out over the warehouses, "One of those could be the next target. We should look around the area just in case he is awaiting our firebug. Let's look around, but keep an eye on our friend just in case he wants to run." Siberian Star took to the air to get a good vantage point of the district and began to fly overhead to look for anything unusual.
He didn't have to look for long. He was halfway down the block, when fire erupted from a warehouse near him. The car had been parked to get a clear view of that building and now that the fire had started, the man started his car as well.
The massive crash of fire and energy that suddenly took the warehouse up in it destructive grip, lit the far end of the road Flex was travelling alongside. Even from this distance the heart and then the force nearly knocked him back. Even so he had the presence of mind to see that the bodyguard was starting his car to leave the scene. "Time to take a more direct hand." It was a risk, if they caught the guy and he had nothing to say, Flex really had little he could do to make him talk. Their only other lead was the house they'd seen him stop at earlier and that was probably slim pickings. But this was their only lead what to do? Flex looked across to see what the Siberian Star was up to - he thought it best to still take his lead from him, especially if it went wrong.
Siberian Star was jetting towards the warehouse, there were windows set high in the walls and he was apparently making for them. Seeing as Siberian Star was going one way, Flex felt important to try and cover the other. Jumping ahead he made for the bodyguard's vehicle.
Flex leapt toward the car containing Frolov's bodyguard. He reached it and landed on the hood, suprising the man inside and blocking his view of the road.
SS hovered by a high window and looked into the building. Inside, an inferno raged. In the middle of the room stood a girl wearing a suit of armour that for some reason reminded SS of his own. As he watched she gestured and a gout of fire splashed against one wall.
Although the girl was the thing that caught his immediate attention, he spared a glance for the rest of the room. It was obviously a lab, probably drugs. Glassware and equipment was scattered around the room, and canisters of gas and chemicals were stacked against the walls. As he watched, one exploded. The girl was not alone in the room. A few men ran around, several armed with guns several more unarmed and looking like lab technicians. One man, armed, was lying still on the ground. One of the guard was trying to get the rest of the men out through a door in the back.
SS crashed through the window and fired a blast of cold at the girl. Without waiting to see the result, he dropped down to the downed man.
Flex, meanwhile, smashed through the windshield of the car and then punched the shocked bodyguard into unconsciousness before stopping the car.
Flex quickly searched the bodyguard, finding his identification papers and gun, which he stashed out of sight in the back of the vehicle and then he turned to join SS.
SS grabbed the fallen man and jetted for safety back up and out through the window, noting as he did that the man was in very bad shape with serious burns all over his body.
Behind him, he heard a lilting voice, "I was told you might drop in."
He landed on the sidewalk and put the man down. From inside he heard a laugh, a whoosh, and then screams.
SS looked up and saw Flex leaping in toward him.
Standing as he was, some distance from the warehouse, Flex couldn't help wishing he to could fly. But since he could not with a deep sigh, he grew in size and leaped as fast as he could. Hoping to get to Siberian Star before the Russian got into too much trouble.
Siberian Star pointed to the man and called out to Flex, "He's pretty bad, can you call for an ambulance?" Looking down a fine mist of cooling ice fell upon the man, in hopes that it would lend comfort as well as help cleanse his wounds. Then he turned his attention back to the warehouse and the challenge within. He jetted up to the window to review the situation.
Flex nodded as he pulled out the special cell the IPAC had given him, dialling in the appropriate number he explained the situation to the operator before checking on the man. Satisfied that he'd done all he could and that the man was comfortable, Flex made his way to the warehouse. His gut instinct told him that whatever had drawn Siberian Star back to the place, was worth Flex's attention also. "No telling what trouble he'll get himself into." Flex mumbled as he leapt toward the smoking warehouse.
From his vantage point, Siberian Star could see the room was full of flames, the girl in the middle of them laughing. The back door had been blocked by the fire, trapping several people in the warehouse. Another man was down, one was trapped by the lab layout, and three more, including the remaining guard in a different corner.
Siberian Star concluded that trying to save the men one at a time was a pointless exercise. The fire must have already been seen and he was sure that the fire department would arrive soon. His target had to be the girl.
He jetted toward her, firing a blast of cold as he came, and crashed into the girl, who stumbled back a step.
Rage contorted her features. "Welcome to my party!" she cried. Flame exploded out from her in all directions.
As the flames jetted toward him, Siberian Star pivoted to the side and leaped backwards into a handspring to reposition himself and escape the fiery blast. He ended up six or seven meters away where the flames petered out.
The man by the lab table was not so lucky. He screamed as the flames licked around him, but the screams were cut off short as the chemicals exploded.
Ignoring the fire, the girl pointed a hand at Siberian Star, "I was expecting you, Siberian Star. I am ... Arson!" Flames jetted at the Soviet Superhero, who jumped lithely out of the way.
"Much obliged, " he offered up. "The police will need your name for processing." Siberian Star dove from her next outburst, landing in a roll and coming to a knee. "I've never heard of you, what does that say? Frolov needs to hire more famous mules."
Then all thoughts of their fight were put on hold, from out of the fire and chemical miasma came a creature that had once been human, but was no more. Siberian Star and Arson could see bits of glassware and metal from the exploding lab equipment embedded in what looked like a flaming mass of napalm. The creature ran across the floor and slammed into the then through the wall out to the street.
Flex reached the building and was looking for a way in, when one was made for him. A miniature inferno smashed through the wall and out into the street. Where it stepped, it left pools of flaming goo. Looking to the left and right, it started down the street away from Flex.
Unsure for a moment of what was happening where, Flex had to do a double take. Above him he could see gouts of flame shot out of the building. But below was what seemed to be some form correlation of flame. Jumping from the wall Flex made for the creature, shouting to get its attention, seeking to minimise whatever damage it had in mind.
The creature turned at Flex's shout and bumped into a parked car. With a shout of anger, it turned back to the car and slammed its fists into the vehicle. By the third blow, the car was burning merrily and the creature seemed satisfied. It continued down the street.
In the warehouse, Arson raised a hand and fired (heh) at Siberian Star. The hero bounced clear and returned ice for fire. The villianess replied with an explosion of flame which melted most of the incoming ice. Enough got through to wipe some of the smile off her face.
The heat in the building was growing, though, and Siberian Star was starting to sweat.
Grabbing his IPAC phone again, Flex thumbed the speedial button leaving a message with a speechless opperator about what was going on. Then as the creature stomped of Flex jumped and ran to get in front of the flaming man thing.
"Hey, Stop slow down." He implored.
"Look, I am not here to hurt you. I want to get you some help. Please stop so we can see what we can do to reverse your condition." Unsure that this line of attack would work, Flex felt certain that his options after this, should it fail, were scarce indeed.
The thing shrieked an inarticlate cry. Flex felt sure there was no reason left in the creature.
"Ho boy! 'Plan B' here we come." Flex didn't much like it but what choice did he have. The creature seemed beyond reason, yet it clearly posed a danger. Looking around he sought for a fire hydrent. "If I can cool it down maybe I can get a chance to knock it out and restraint it till IPAC arrive." The hero mused silently whilst looking for something to use.
The creature continued to move. It stumbled down the block, running a hand along the wall of the warehouse as it did so, leaving a trail of fire.
Siberian Star wiped his brow, the heat was becoming unbearable were it not for the condensors in his suit he would have passed out long ago. He knew that he could not stay in the warehouse much longer, he was already risking an overload.
"Your sidekick had the right idea," he told Arson. "He knows you are going to be put on ice soon." The pun was bad, he knew, but she was his key to breaking Frolov's grip on Resky Park.
"My sidekick?" gasped the woman. "He's no friend of mine." She turned and ran into the center of the conflagration. The flames obscured her form as the heat in the building continued to grow.
Siberiand Star flew over to where the three men were pinned in the corner and blasted a hole in the wall to allow them, and himself, to exit the doomed building.
Once free he took to the air to review the situation. On the other side of the warehouse, he saw Flex retreating from the flaming creature that had escaped the warehouse. A line of fire marked the creatures trail, and the warehouse he had touched was beginning to smolder on its own.
Seeing the creature flee from him did not worry Flex as his gaze swept about for a fire hydrant. Seeing one some distance in front of the creature he began to move toward it, seeking to overcome the flaming humanoid before it got there first.
As he moved as fast as he could Flex chanced a look back. "Good!" He thought, "It's still following."
Ahead of him the hydrant drew closer. Flex took in his immediate surroundings, checking to make sure there was no one who might get caught in any cross fire. As he chanced another look back, Flex altered his pace. He could see that the creature showed little by way of reasoning, but Flex didn't want the creature to realise what he was up to until it was too late. He slowed down so that he did not reach the hydrant too quickly, thus giving the creature time to realise, even on an instinctive level that it was heading into a trap.
Behind him the creature slowed for a moment, it's rage drawn by another parked car. With a few hammer blows, the car crumpled and where each fist landed a fire burned. The first car the creature had smashed chose that moment to explode, showering burning gasoline onto the two nearest warehouses. One was already so far gone in flames that it didn't matter, the other was just starting to burn and the gas accelerated it's combustion.
Above, Siberian Star kept an eye peeled for Arson in case she tried to escape.
The time had come! Flex chopped the nut off the front of the fire-hydrant and molded an arm into a tube to function as a hose. The jet washed over the creature and for a moment the figure of the man he once had been was visible, then the flames burned bright again and the creature gave a cry of rage and charged.
Flex managed to roll with the blow, but was still left with a smear of flaming goo on his flesh.
"Sorry about this pal! But this is for your own good." Flex leapt forward recovering from his near miss with the creature. In went his now enlarged fists seeking a weak spot past the creatures defence.
The blast from the explosion rocked Siberian Star, he turned and cursed to himself. The newly burning warehouse might be salvaged if he could act now. He gave a quick glance back to the main warehouse, hoping the appearance of Arson would convince him otherwise. His attention focused on the new fire and a wave of ice blanketed the predominant fires.
Satisfied with his actions, he returned to his post above the first blazing warehouse.
Seeing that he had his opponent off guard, Flex continued to press the attack against his foe.
"Man, this thing has some stamina!" Flex mumbled through gritted teeth, as another punch landed upon the beast. As he pulled away, more of the hot substance that both consumed and enveloped the beast came away with Flex's fist. As the beast came into to attack, Flex sought to remain outside of its reach -dodging and bending his flexible form as best he could to roll with the punches where possible. "No sense in letting it get a bead on me. No telling what those flaming fists might do, if they connect too often." He thought.
Flex was not sure if he ought to be worried about the hot burning substance the thing was splashing about, his main goal was containment. So when he saw his opportunity he took it again launching further oversized punches with all his might.
Siberian Star's watch was rewarded, Arson broke from the burning building on the far side and ran down the street. Ducking behind a car for cover, she fired a gout of flame at Siberian Star, which went wide.
The nimble hero swung around to get a better aim and unleashed a blast of cold at the villainess. A blast of fire rose to meet it. Although much of the icy blast was melted, ice was stronger than fire and the remainder struck home. The villainess flipped over backwards and was still.
"Victory," he whispered in Russian as he landed near Arson. Siberian Star hoisted her still form to a sitting position and she groaned, effortlessly he applied a Sambo choke hold causing her to drift into unconsciousness. Dragging her to a safe position away from the burning warehouse he took a moment to reflect. Then took to the air, "Now for the other one."
From his high position he could see Flex, who appeared to be on fire in several places, fighting with the creature near a ruptured fire hydrant.
Flex began to get weary. He could feel the effects of the burning goo, now that the initial surge of adrenaline had begun to wear off. But what else could he do? If he allowed the creature to continue in its maddened state untold damage might result.
In the past he had excused his responsibilities. Fear, lack of any real breaks or a lack of courage - whatever the excuse, now he had none! Fate, the universe, maybe God had given him these powers and with them a second chance and he was not going to walk away. Not this time!
A thought occurred to him, something he tried a while back. Since close quarters was proving too close Flex leapt out of the way. He then leapt suddenly forward, extending his foot out to connect with the creature.
As Siberian Star closed, he watched as Flex'es foot extended out nearly twenty feet to strike the Inferno in the side. The Moldable Man was visibly tiring, though.
Siberian Star emptied his batteries firing a blast of frost at Inferno, missing as the monstrosity started to close on Flex. The blast got its attention, though, just as the young hero slammed into him in a full out power dive.
A few meters away, Flex batted at the fires burning on his body, then staggered and fell, just as the flames petered out.
Siberian Star danced around Inferno, smashing him with kicks and punches, and getting battered a bit himself in the process. Soon he had small fires burning on his armour.
Flex watched as Siberian Star took on the creature. He admired his style, but not his accuracy. Still Flex had, had the chance to gather a breather, for which he was grateful. He watched closely, waiting for the right moment to relaunch another attack himself.
Inferno continued to batter at Siberian Star who dodged left and right as best he could.
As the hydrant continued to spray soothing cool water over Flex's body, hot from the burning substances that had be deposited upon him, it began to make the pain recede. Flex felt himself gain some semblance of equilibrium, his head cleared and he felt less dizzy from the beating he had sustained.
He moved to rejoin the fight - looking to once again leap at the creature. But knowing that he had to finish this he choose to leap from above, using the available terrain to greater advantage.
Siberian Star saw Flex move and shifted his bob and weave to draw the creature into the correct position. Leaning in, he lured Inferno into a wild strike. The man-monster was off-balance and Flex struck!
Flex couldn't help but feel a great sense of elation as he saw Siberian Star distract the creature giving him the perfect opportunity to strike. "How much more can this thing, soak up?" He mumbled to himself in amazement. His blows would have felled a normal super villain by now, not to mention Siberian Star's attacks.
The blow was solid and Inferno stumbled forward, but did not quite fall. As Siberian Star took a moment to wipe the flaming goo off his armour, Flex recovered his balance and then hit the creature again.
The blow was solid and Inferno stumbled forward, but did not quite fall. As Siberian Star took a moment to wipe the flaming goo off his armour, Flex recovered his balance and then hit the creature again.
Inferno turned to face the new annoyance and closed back in on Flex.
Despite the blow Flex had landed, he realised that the creature was more than ready to retaliate. As he saw its blows coming toward him Flex dodged, not wanting the creatures hot discharge to make a connection with him if he could help it. Even so he tried to dodge in such as way as to bring him within the soothing spray of the Hydrant again.
The water washed the small amount of goo that Inferno had splattered Flex with, and the hero was able to keep up his attack.
Siberian Star took advantage of the creature's attention being focused on Flex to lash out with a blast of ice. The blast slammed into the monster who roared with rage and spun in a circle.
A second, smaller, blast of ice followed the first.
Inferno moved with inhuman speed to Siberian Star and rained blows at the Ukranian Ubermensch, who dodged as best he could.
As the inhuman inferno tore into Siberian Star, Flex made good his opportunity seeking to again take advantage of the opportunity fate had delt him. Leaping for all he was worth in his enlarged state he flew, foot first into the back of the inhuman fireball. Then leaping out he leapt in a second time seeking to compound his advantage.
That gave Siberian Star and opening to send another frosty bolt at the foe. Inferno took the bolt in the back and whirled back and forth between the two heroes who had him hedged in.
Inferno swung wildly at Siberian Star then stepped over to swing at Flex. Flex tried to move clear but was caught a ringing blow and was so stunned his counterpunch went wide.
Siberian Star wobbled slightly, the blows from Inferno were taking their toll. He stumbled, catching himself before he hit the pavement. The splash of water from the flooding hydrant snapped him out of the stagger long enough to lash out with a snap kick to the midsection. The kick spun him to one knee where he followed up with a reverse punch.
Inferno turned woozily to face Siberian Star. In the distance, ther heroes heard the sounds of sirens.
Still on one knee Siberian Star heard the sirens and felt a resurgance of strength. He leapt up with a headbutt under the chin of Inferno, hoping that his helmet would protect him from the impact. Once upright he threw two quick chops and hoped that he could stay on his feet.
Flex could not focus, his gaze was blurred but even so the creature burned bright trough his hazy vision. He was unsure if he would connect but he had to try. If he ducked out now, so might the creature. With the sirens coming closer he had to try and finish this thing off. If he didn't the creature could hurt someone else. "Must...stop...it!" Lunging forward he put everything he had into what he had left to give the thing.
Inferno took a step back, then slowly toppled to the ground. Flames still danced about his form as the heroes looked back and forth at one another.
With a heavy sigh SIberian Star lowered his leaden arms out of pure exhaustion.
A fire truck careened around the corner and screamed to a halt near the burning warehouse. Ignoring the heroes and with hardly a glance for the burning form on the ground near them, Port Alexander's Bravest hurled themselves into the task of fighting the fire that consumed one warehouse and threatened several more.
More sirens could be heard closing in on the site.
Siberian Star looked over to Flex. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah, yeah. Give me a moment to catch my breath." Flex sat down, making himself more comfortable and allowing the cool hydrant water to bring him back to his senses, after what seemed like the fight of his short career so far.
Siberian Star straightened himself and allowed the boot jets to lift him skyward. Soon, he recovered the limp body of Arson and brought her over to where Inferno lay. Soon the police would arrive to ask questions, and then the media.
"The police are not going to be able to contain him," he said to Flex.
"You maybe right but I put a call through to some people I know. They tell me they specialise in containment like this." Flex gestured toward the slumbering inferno near his feet. "I put a call out a while back...I can only hope they considered it a priority call and will be here soon." Flex felt he ought to get up, maybe give the fireman a hand. But right now he couldn't think of anything better than resting a while longer. As he did he thought back to how this little scenario had begun. It seemed he had his answer for IPAC. Siberian Star was on the up and up, the in fighting was at least halted with the capture of these two super villains. But there was still so much unanswered.
Turning to Siberian Star Flex asked, "So what now? Is this case closed as far as you are concerned?"
Before the police arrived, a plain black van arrived, pulling up next to the heroes and their prey. Four men stepped out and toward the heroes. Flex recognized the one in the lead as Mr. Watkins, who spoke, "Flex. Well done on all points! This is our firebug, I assume?" He indicated the still burning Inferno. While waiting for an answer he waved his men forward and they began to pull restraints and protective gear out of the van.
Flex simply nodded, although he began to feel a whole lot better, he was not quite himself just yet.
Siberian Star stepped forward. "Wait a minute, who are you?"
Nodding toward Siberian Star, Flex finally spoke up. "Mr Watkins let me introduce Siberian Star. Without his help we wouldn't have been able to capture these two." The turning back to Siberian Star Flex introduced him to Watkins, "This is my associate I spoke off. They are...containment specialists."
The young Russian looked on skeptically. He wasn't sure about these strangers taking the villains away, but they did look official. "That one," he indicated to Inferno, "he fell into some chemicals when the fire hit." Toward Arson he walked, "This one is the arsonist, called herself Arson. Are you the police?"
"Not exactly," said Watkins. "We are the International Paranormal Activities Comittee, IPAC. We coordinate the activities of Paranormal operatives and independants and arrange incarceration for criminals who cannot be adequately contained in conventional prisoners. Such as these two. Could Joliet hold that one?" He pointed at Inferno, "Even unconscious he's melting through the asphalt. We've been wanting to talk to you, Siberian Star."
"Makes sense," he consented. "So do we talk now, or after things get cleaned up here?"
"After, I think," said Watkins. "I should go talk to them," he started to walk toward the police car which had just pulled up. Siberian Star noticed that the first reporter had arrived too, a girl he recognized as Jenny Peters, who made a bee-line toward the heroes.
Siberian Star stepped up to meet her. "You wish a word?" he asked confidently.
Indeed," said Jenny whipping out her notebook.
He couldn't say why at the time, but afterwoulds Flex knew how he felt about the attention of the press. So far he had largely avoided them and they him. Reporting more on what he had done rather than having questioned him personally. He had given a hasty statement after escaping Saruva's labs a while back. But now when it came to it he wasn't sure why he felt so awkward.
Was he embarressed, feeling somewhat undeserving of the opportunities fate had brought him? After all if people really knew who and what he was, that might change everything. Or was there some other area that rattled him. He remembered the way his father's dept had once been reported in the papers back in England.
The British press were scathing. One minute they couldn't get enough of you, the next it had all changed. Instead of being respected and popular you were 'draconian and out of date'. Flex remembered those words being used of his father in particular. He was never sure why his fathers dept should come in for such public scrutiny, but even so Flex didn't like the way his father was treated.
Now at the thought of being interviewed and pressed for answers did not fill him with much joy either. Stepping to one side, he quickly assumed the guise of an IPAC field agent. Moving about he watched them get Inferno and Arson stowed away and he snuck into the back of the van with them. Once inside he changed back, noting with some chagrin the look on the faces of the other agents.
"I don't much like the press." He said quickly as if by way of explanation.