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Issue Fourteen, Bungle in the Concrete Jungle, Part Three

Ka-sador flew off while Defender and Wanderer looked at the map and decided on a basic plan of attack. Ka-Sador returned without a word, and the three men began to walk toward the office building indicated on their map.

As the three heroes traveled to the villain's hideout, the Wanderer filled them in on what transpired earlier with the strange robed man. "Before we met at the warehouse," he began, "I did some reconnaissance of the building and remembered going inside." The Wanderer told of seeing nothing of interest in the office building, but upon entering the second time he was struck with deja vu. Only then did he remember seeing the chairs and the man before, he recalled telling the man about himself and the others, but he didn't know why or how he was compelled to do so. Obviously, the earlier meeting was somehow wiped from his mind but partially came back when he revisited the area. Regardless of how, the Wanderer stated the obvious -- this man was powerful, and they had to be careful of him.

For the first time since taking up this new life style, Defender felt an icy fear in his heart. Someone with that sort of power was dangerous. Not just to Defender, but to Alden. And to Mara. He had to stop and found himself starting to shake. Closing his eyes, he regained control, hoping that his new compatriots would not ask. With a nervous head shake, he pushed the fears from his mind. Like it or not, he had been gifted with abilities beyond the normal. With that came a responsibility.

Focusing on the issue at hand, he thought aloud. "So, this guy is an enigma. He's powerful, has all the trappings of someone who flaunts the law, yet wants us to go take down four known villians. He's got an agenda that worries me."

"Competition is a nasty side effect of a successful business," observed the Wanderer. As he craned his neck around for a view of the hideout, "and we get to be the cure for his problem -- this time." The Wanderer looked at the two newbies, they were young at least by his standards, but had great potential. He looked to Defender and asked, "Think we should go see if they are home?"

"Probably wouldn't hurt," Defender answered. "Although, I'd like to get a basic layout of the exterior first."

He looked around, taking in as many details as possible. AS he did, he spoke about the mystery man again. "I don't mind taking out his competition, per se. I'm just concerned that he might try to use us as a disposable asset."

"Oh....I'm counting on it," the Wanderer said with a smile before disappearing from view. Defender looked around quickly and saw the black clad man waving him over from the corner of the hideout.

Defender started at the sudden appearance of the Wanderer. He shook his head. "Where do they get those wonderful powers."

Ka-sador took to the air and circled the building from above looking at the roof.

Defender shrugged. He was not going to get the heck kicked out of him by waiting here. He leapt to rejoin Wanderer and Ka-sador.

At this hour of night, the eight story office building they were regarding was not being heavily used. A few lights burned here and there, including on the fifth floor where their information indicated that the villians were headquartered.

Defender pondered for a moment. "I can probably get to the window fairly easily. Might be able to see if anyone is home. I'm thinking that the more outside we can move the fight, the less likely we will have of running afoul of traps."

The Wanderer thought aloud, "We may be able to catch them by surprise." He glanced around the exterior of the building, "doesn't look exactly high security to me. And if they owned the building, I'd expect them to occupy the penthouse," he offered.

Ka-sador chimed in, [ME GO IN FROM TOP] as he pointed a long finger skyward.

The Wanderer looked amused. "Three heroes, three entrances?" he asked.

"'We should split up. We can do more damage that way,'" Defender quoted. "I'm not so sure we want to split out efforts, but it would prefent a bottle neck in the door."

The Wanderer thought for a second, which was terribly long for him, and said "Perhaps we should see if our friends are home before we storm the castle. Defender, why don't you do a little peeping tomism and see if there are any signs of life?"

"I shall do my best. Do you have a radio or some such so I can keep in contact while snooping?" came the reply.

The Wanderer patted himself down and produced his beeperphone. "We can synch the frequencies if you have anything to report," he offered. "If you see anything on the fifth floor on your voyeuristic mission, then we can decide to enter on the fourth or sixth."

Defender took a moment to get the frequencies matched. He nodded to the Wanderer, then gave his new partner, Ka-sador, a thumbs-up. "Wish me luck."

With that, he leapt off into the night, heading for the villians' lair.

Ka-sador felt uneasy left there with the stranger. He had grown accustomed to the smell of earthlanders but The Wanderer's scent was foreign to him, as such he decided to fade away into the night shadows to wait and watch.

The Wanderer watched Defender leap onto the building and turned to Ka-sador only to be gripped by the feeling of loneliness. He resisted the urge to whistle, and instead spotted an alleyway across the street that seemed inviting, in an espionage sort of way. The Wanderer shuffled off to the alley and tuned in to Defender's reports.

Defender's voice came over the beeperphone. "Okay, there's a relatively dark alley behind the building. I'm currently on the fourth floor. There are no windows back here. I'm going to crawl around the front and see what I can see."

The Wanderer leaned against the brick and focused on the building, looking for any signs which may cause a problem. A light coming on or going out, a figure at a window, a car on the street -- all events which could cause trouble for the three -- and especially for Defender.

After a minute, Defender spoke again. "The fourth floor is dark and seems clear. I'm going up to check the sixth now."

Some time passed as he worked his away around the fifth floor windows.

"Sixth floor is the same. Both floors seem deserted. Moving into position to check the fifth floor now."

A couple of grunts were the only indication that Defender was moving. "Okay, I can see two security guards. Probably normal humans. They look really board. They are sitting at a desk in the foyer of the fifth floor. The layout is almost identical to the drawing our benefactor gave us.

"I count five doors in the lobby and an elevator. I can't see down the hall, but I would guess it matches the drawing as well. I'm going to check the windows at the corner."

A few moments passed as Defender repositioned himself. This time his voice was softer. He was monitoring the volume. "Okay. The near corner windows are covered with some decent industrial strength blinds. I can see movement on the other side. Can't make out who or what. Going to check the other window."

Again there was a delay as the wall-crawler inched his way along the outside of the building. "Same situation on the far side. Window blinds are closed and I can see movement."

A pause then Defender's voice came through a little louder. "Okay, someone's home. You gentlemen want me to knock or come back down?"

The Wanderer's voice came through the communicator "Come on down so we can discuss the best way to tackle this problem." He stepped out of the alley way and waited for Defender to scurry down the building. Upon his arrival, Ka-sador seemed to materialize out of the shadows and the trio were once again reunited.

"We could go for the frontal assault tactic," the Wanderer offered, "but surprise will be fleeting and we know we are outnumbered." He looked up at the building, "Or we could try to separate them by splitting up and try to take them out one at a time."

"That's not a bad idea. Do we want to lure them out of the building or fight them within?"

The Wanderer thought for a second, and replied "Inside, definitely. If we bring them out here, then they can escape too easily not to mention causing greater damage to the community. We need to minimize the chances for an innocent to be harmed." The Wanderer looked up at the building and then toward the front door. "Luring their hired lackeys away and dispatching them shouldn't be too hard at all. A 'blown fuse' will handle that," he smiled.

"Do you two want to start from the top, I from the bottom and we meet in the middle?" The Wanderer asked.

Defender smoothed his hair, giving some thought to other possibilities.

"Too many places to bottleneck inside for three. Hm... Sounds like the best plan, assuming..." Turning towards his partner, he asked, "How are you at fighting in close quarters?"

Ka-sador crouched slightly and croaked out an [I WEEL MANYGE].

The Wanderer rubbed his hands together in good spirits, "Superb! I'll do my best to create enough mischief to make tonight memorable. Give me some time and we'll see how many I can separate from the fold. Then whammo!" This, he enunciated with a wild punch into the air. Satisfied with the plan the Wanderer slid to the front of the office building, peered into the window and disappeared with a pop only to materialize inside on the ground floor.

Ka-sador perked up at thought of seeing some action, [YESSS, TOO ROOF THEN FYGHT WAY DOWN?] Shortly thereafter, the winged alien took flight and was on his way to the roof.

"I've got to find him a new hobby," Defender thought to himself as he headed for the roof.

Inside the office building was much like any other. A little investigation revealed that there seemed to be a fuse box on each floor, but that the main power for the whole building was presumably located in the basement.

On the roof, there was a small hutch covering the stairwell, as well as a forest of heating and cooling ducts and vents.

The Wanderer headed off toward the basement to find the main power box for the office building. 'A few flickers before killing the power should cause some stirrings,' he thought. He fully expected there to be emergency lighting that would kick in, but even that should cause some investigation to ensue.

On the roof, Ka-Sador and The Defender waited for a few moments, then they saw the lights in the building below them flicker. Then again. One more flicker ensued, then the building was plunged into darkness.

A moment, later and they saw the dim glow of emergency lights spring on on every floor.

Defender moved to the door on the stairs. "It looks like Wanderer has invited us to a party. Shall we get ready?"

With that, Defender tried the door.

Ka-sador sent his long coal-black tongue gliding over his lips and took the point. The dim glow within the stairwell masked him well and his senses were fine tuned to begin the descent. He crouched down and proceeded, cautioning Defender at the slightest scent or sound.

Defender and Ka-Sador moved quickly and quietly down to seventh floor landing and waited. A few moments passed and then the door to the stairs opened and they heard the sounds of a person or person heading quickly down stairs.

The Wanderer headed for the stairwell and laid in wait for whomever would come to investigate. He positioned himself roughly at floor three and a half, waiting on the upward flight midway so he could catch a glimpse of anyone coming down from the fourth floor. He figured a simple grab at an unsuspecting ankle would cause a nasty tumble and leave whomever none the wiser, especially since he could easily mop up any loose ends in the dim emergency lighting.

A few long moments passed. Then he heard noises above him. In the dimness he could barely make out what looked like two figures coming down the stairs.

The Wanderer waited patiently for the sounds to get closer and readied himself to cause the first man down to fall.

As the foot passed him by, he grabbed it and the man fell down, hitting the wall at the bottom of the flight heavily and lying still.

He heard a cry in Russian, and as he got a better look at the second man, he realized that it was SpeeDemon -- albeit, out of costume for the most part. The man wore a long coat and was unbelting it to reveal his suit and belt.

The Wanderer stayed as quiet as possible. Hopefully, he figured, the fall would be thought of as clumsiness in the dim lighting. All he needed was a few moments to increase SpeeDemon's mass.

SpeeDemon grunted a little above him in the darkness as his mass doubled. The Wanderer saw him reach his belt and manipulate something there. The coat ballooned around SpeeDemon, and the Wanderer could see that it was floating a few cms off his body. He kept up his concentration. With a gasp, SpeeDemon slumped to the floor his mass raised to the point where he could no longer bear it.

The Wanderer continued to concentration on the fallen SpeeDemon for several more seconds to make sure he was out. Then he approached the fallen villain.

He looked at the villian, then flexed his muscles. Grabbing hold of either side of the man's torso, he began to squeeze. Gradually he increased the pressure hoping to overload the forcefield before the man recovered. He was straining nearly to the limit when the force field popped with a fizzing sound. He recovered quickly and avoided crushing SpeeDemon's ribs. Then he carefully delivered a coup de grace on the man and repeated the process on the thug crumpled at the bottom of the flight of stairs.

The Wanderer stooped to unbuckle the belt around SpeeDemon's waist, then continued to climb.

A few moments passed, then Defender and Ka-Sador they heard a single set of feet climbing up the stairs. Ka-Sador identified the approaching man, [ISS WANDRER].

"Seems he's taken care of the normals. Let's get ready for the heavy hitters." Defender whispered, then took a moment to stretch his shoulders and neck. "If you are ready, let's head down." He punctuated this by making a fist and slapping it into his other hand.

Soon the footsteps became more noticable as The Wanderer cautiously made it to the landing to join his compatriots. Quietly he whispered, "Two down. SpeeDemon gives his regards."

Never known for his poker-face, Defender looked relieved. "You have all the fun. Who's left?"

The Wanderer patted him on the back and whispered, "For you? Everybody else."

"Gee, thanks." Defender smirked. "Is the plan still to jump MindSlasher all out, or do you want me to play tag with Powerfist?"

The Wanderer thought for an instant then said, "You play tag with PowerFist, we'll go after MindSlasher and join you in the fun as soon as we can." He stood straighter and reached for the door handle. "Think we should knock first?"

Defender straightened his shoulders and prepared himself mentally.

"Actually," he started. "I believe the invitation said let yourself in." His mind drifted for a moment to the last meeting, and beating, he took at the hands of the foursome, er... threesome he was about to face. "I wonder if I'm becoming a masochist," he muttered as they moved to the stairwell door.

Ka-sador stopped and sniffed the air around the door. He gestured that there were three, maybe six men in the next room. Ka-sador thrust his fist into the air to indicate that PowerFist was among them, as he nodded to Defender.

Defender slipped quietly through the door, and immediately looked for Powerfist. He really wanted to get the drop on the armor-wearing villian, but suspected it would be impossible to sneak into a room full of people successfully.

Right behind him came the Wanderer and Ka-Sador. In the dim light, they could make out four figures. Immediately to their left, in front of the window and looking out it, was PowerFist. Next to him stood a man the heroes pegged as simple hired muscle. Two more goons were a few meters ahead to the right, leaning on the receptionist's desk.

Defender took several soft steps toward PowerFist and then, as the villian turned, hurled himself forward in a flying tackle. The impact drove both men out the window and they began to fall toward the street below.

The Wanderer charged the man assumed to be a paid thug lashing out with a combination of punches. The man dropped to the floor unconscious.

Ka-sador made a beeline for the two at the receptionist's desk launching himself as a missile striking with foot, fist, and wing. The two goons were dealt with in mere seconds.

The door at the end of the hall opened, and the costumed form of Moleculon stepped out, saying, "What's going on here?" In the dimness he could not really make out the form of Ka-Sador, crouching over the two unconscious thugs, and the Wanderer was out of sight around the corner by the now-broken window.

Outside the window and plunging to the ground, PowerFist grinned into Defender's face. "Glad you came back!" He chopped at the Defender who squirmed away, then he kicked out trying to free himself.

Defender took PowerFist's kick in the gut, then tried to tie up PowerFist's arms as much as he could and keep the armoured man underneath him as they fell. PowerFist landed another solid punch before both men slammed into the street six stories below.

Ka-sador grabbed for a bolo attached to his belt breaking the silence with this whisper of it spinning. He let it fly toward Moleculon as he dashed into the shadows moving toward him.

The bolo struck Moleculon and wrapped around his legs.

The Wanderer stepped casually into the open with a hearty "Surprise!" The man in black stood still in deep concentration on Moleculon with his arms folded across his chest.

The distraction allowed Ka-Sador to close in through the shadows and he launched a leaping kick at the villian, snapping his target's head around.

Moleculon ducked and snapped the cable on the bolo as the doors to either side of him were thrust open and a handful of thugs spilled into the room.

Moleculon stood upright and concentrated, his nearly invisibile truncheon appeared in his hand. Over his shoulder, Ka-Sador saw MindSlasher enter the room from which Moleculon had entered.

"Get off me!" shouted PowerFist shoving Defender clear. Clear in this case being a good 10 meters away.

"Whee!" *Thud* "Ouch. Smeg." Defender flew backwards and landed in the street. He hopped up and took a single leap back over to where PowerFist was starting to rise. He laid into the villian with his full strength, knowing that PowerFist could take a lot of punishment.

PowerFist rolled clear and got to his feet. "My turn," he said, firing a straight jab at Defender.

The Wanderer jumped slightly at the onrush of hired ne'er-do-wells and perked up at the appearance of MindSlasher. In an instant the space occupied by his presence was remarkably vacant, as he appeared just behind MindSlasher and spun him around a gloved fist to the jaw. MindSlasher tried to roll with the punch, but was taken too much by surprise. He flew back into the wall, sending plaster spraying. He punched back with surpising skill, but missed the Wanderer.

Meanwhile Ka-sador rekindled his earlier tete-a-tete with Moleculon by leaping into a back kick to the midsection and followed it by a sidestep rake with his armoured wing. Moleculon ducked where he could and blocked other blows with his truncheon, before snapping back a blow of his own.

The thugs seemed unsure of what to do, especially in the darkness. Several pulled out guns, and two of the boldest fired at the patch of darkness that was Ka-Sador. Their bullets went wide, digging into the walls.

Defender tried to back clear of PowerFist's punch, but failed and went sailing back about 4 meters before landing on his butt. PowerFist gave a war whoop and charged him, missing as Defender rolled clear and to his feet.

The Wanderer turned slightly to the left of MindSlashers punch and followed with a short left to the ribcage and then an uppercut to the head. MindSlasher blocked the first punch, and was surprised when the Wanderer's superstrong fist blew throuh his block. He tried to dodge clear of the follow up but failed and slumped to the floor.

Ka-Sador interposed his armoured wings between his body and Moleculon's truncheon, but felt the blow naetheless. Ka-sador, hearing the gunfire and near misses, dove into the cover of darkness.

Defender shook out the cobwebs and tried to clear his head. He had done his job and taken Powerfist out of the fight. Granted, he was still mobile, but he was some six stories below the rest of the fight. With an impish smile, Defender gave a modified salute: index finger and thumb forming an 'O', touching middle finger to brow then pulling it away. "Be seein' ya."

He then leapt high onto the building wall, landing on the window frame. Below him, he could hear PowerFist cursing.

With a swift backhand to MindSlasher's slumping body, The Wanderer turned to the hired muscle. Through a smile he exclaimed, "Anybody want to dance? -- I'll lead." And he rushed into the mass of bone and flesh.

Moleculon looked about in the low light, and turned toward a rustle behind him. Ka-sador launched himself into a double thrust to the head, and a knee smash to the solar plexus. Moleculon ducked the head shot and deflected the knee with his truncheon. His countershot rattled off Ka-Sador's armoured wings.

Defender stepped into the room and away from the window. He took a moment to catch his breath. Hunched over, hands on knees, he tried to shake off the effects of his battle with Powerfist. He announced to the room, "Man. Powerfist is ticked off. Should I have stayed to play with him?"

What he saw was a shadow in the darkness involved in a furious battle with Moleculon, and the Wanderer in a pile of thugs, who were dropping around him like flies. As Defender watched one thug fired into the melee and dropped one of his own cohorts.

Frustration was setting in on Moleculon as he couldn't seem to lay a stick on Ka-Sador. Ka-sador wheeled with a furious kick to the outer thigh of Moleculon, and then delivered an overhand right to the right collarbone. With his height, Ka-sador's punch looked like a sledgehammer swung at the carnival trying to make the bell ring.

The Wanderer dropped one more thug with a quick jab, then turned to focus on Moleculon.

Defender didn't want to get in the Wanderer and K-Sador's way, and furthermore was situated nicely to stop the flight of the remaining pair of thugs. A couple of quick jabs sent them to join their comrades in dreamland.

Ka-Sador continued with a whirlwind of blows, most of which Moleculon parried.

The Wanderer sighed and called out, "Defender, how long do you think it takes an angry PowerFist to climb five flights of stairs?" The alien then shoved aside another thug and left a void where he had been standing.

The Wanderer reappeared behind Moleculon and swung a quick punch. Moleculon heard the rush of air and managed to swing around and parry the punch. The Wanderer was stronger, though, and the blow still rocked Moleculon's world. The Wanderer faked left and punched right. Moleculon tried to block it in slow motion. Needless to say, he failed. He sailed back and halfway through the sheetrock wall and lay still.

Ka-sador hung his head in shame. Requiring assistance in the arena meant certain death, he stalked off dejected and disappeared in the darkness of the room.

The Wanderer checked on Moleculon and made sure he wouldn't arise for quite some time and looked to Defender. "Any sights or sounds of our playmate?"

Defender looked out the window. "Sorry. I was sure he'd follow me back up. He can't have gotten far."

There was no sign of PowerFist visible from the windows.

The feeling of movement in the room fell upon the Wanderer and Defender as the stairwell door opened and presumably Ka-sador entered the dim area. The winged alien listened intently and sniffed the staircase for any intruder.

Even the Orionid's hunter's senses detected nothing nearby in the stairwell.

The Wanderer looked somewhat disappointed that the fun appeared to be over. He pulled out his IPAC Beeperphone and maneuvered the necessary channels to find a secure place for their playmates.

IPAC replied and said they would send out a team. Based on the address, they estimated a twenty minute arrival time.

The Wanderer relayed the information to Defender and said, "Looks like we have a little time to sing campfire songs...or we can snoop around this suite." He didn't want for an answer, as he headed off toward the room from which MindSlasher appeared.

The offices had been set up as sleeping quarters; the villians had "gone to the mattresses" for their campaign. There were a few sets of clothes as well as a tablefull of money. A small armoury was also present, presumably for the thugs. One room also contained a supply of electronic equipment in various stages of construction or analysis.

The Wanderer rummaged around for any papers or official looking documents, and left the gizmos for Defender to explore.

Disappointed that he had let Powerfist get away, Defender slipped off to the outside of the building and climbed to the roof. He knew it was a longshot, but did not want to give up just yet. From the roof, he hoped to get a good view of the area.

The view wasn't bad, but neither did it have the fleeing villians. They were wisely undercover, Defender assumed.

Ka-sador returned to the now deserted room and began to pile up the defeated villains into some odd ceremonial configuration.

Shortly afterwards, Defender slipped back in through the broken window. "Just checked from the roof. No signs of Powerfist and what are you doing?"

Ka-sador looked at Defender strangely as if how could he not recognize the Traliex Cross, [DEESTROI ENEMIES, MUST BURN FORE WARRIER TRIUMFF]

"Ah. Well, that makes sense... Wait! Did you say 'burn?'"

Shortly thereafter, the Wanderer came back "Defender, you may want to check out the electronic goodies back there....whoa! a Traliex Cross."

"I am so out of the loop, it's not funny." Walking over to Wanderer, Defender spoke softly. "Since you know what it is, you might have a better chance of talking our winged friend out of burning it. I'll go check out the toys. Gizmos are more my bag anyway."

As Defender left the room, he activated the record on his wrist comp. "Note to self. Learn more about this Traliex Cross thingie."

"As a matter of Predator Supreme privilege," began the Wanderer as Defender left the room. The Wanderer called upon his sparse knowledge of warrior lore garnered through centuries of galactic travel and tried to prevent a major conflagration. Due to his prowess in this battle and finishing off Moleculon he gambled with Ka-sador and exercised his right -- that of claim to the spoils of war for himself. In exchange, the Wanderer offered the belt he had taken from SpeeDemon as a token of shared success in the arena.

The gear was not up Defender's usual alley, but some of the test equipment was. The setup looked like a pretty advanced physics rig; EMF at a guess, although there were some esoteric bits and pieces that didn't fit that analysis too well.

After much debate and ritualistic exchanges, the Wanderer and Ka-sador joined Defender in the other room. [DEFENDRR, LOOK WHAT WANDRR RWARDED KA-SADOR WITH FOR BATTLE!] he exclaimed holding the belt as a trophy.

"Is that SpeeDemon's flying belt?" Ideas started whirring through Defender's mind. "May I see it for a second?"

Ka-sador proudly handed the belt over, he felt sorry that the Wanderer hadn't rewarded Defender but that was his peroggative as Predator Supreme. The Wanderer piped up, "Oh yes, we had a delightful discussion in the stairwell on my way up...which reminds me, I better go get him."

The Wanderer turned to leave but Ka-sador's long arm caught him by the shoulder, [ALL GONE, NOBODEE INN STAIRS. SOMBODEE TAYKE HIM.]

"Ah, it seems PowerFist didn't like being left alone. Either that or the fellow's metabolism caused him to recover faster than I though. Nevertheless, did you find anything useful? anything which sheds some light on our friend Mr. Big?" he asked of Defender.

Defender took a few minutes to look over the belt. He examined the construction and the control systems. He then compared it to the miscellaneous pile of electronic and gizmo components on the workbench. He was looking for any similarities. At the same time, his natural scientific curiousity was piqued. If he could establish that the manufacturer of the device was also the one working with this gear, he would be that much closer to cracking it's secret. Defender handed the belt back to his partner.

It seemed pretty clear that the manufacturer of the device and whoever was working on the bench were at least working along similar lines, and it was entirely possible they were one and the same.

"Ka-Sador. I've got an idea or two about that new toy of yours. When we are clear of this mess, we should discuss it." Defender turned his attention back to the matter at hand.

"I think we are talking one researcher here. I could be wrong. If so, they were both working along similar lines. I've got an inventory of all the stuff I recognize, so I might be able to duplicate some of this technology. Not sure, however how successful I will be."

"I'd love to take my time looking over this gear, but I don't want to remove evidence." Defender picked through the gear cautiously. "Some of it is beyond my normal fields of research, but I do recognize a majority of the testing equipment. I'm afraid I don't have enough time to fully comprehend what was being built.

"This is a very complex physics set up, however. Some specialized equipment here. Stuff you don't pick up off the shelf at Radio Shack. I'm thinking we can probably trace some of the gizmos through the various supply houses in town. I'll get the vital info. Did anyone count the number of beds? Be nice to know if anyone extra, maybe our Uber-boss, was staying here. Ka-Sador. Could you tell if any unaccounted for folks were here?"

Ka-Sador was able to do a quick sniff-check and confirm that the whole crew was, to the best of his knowledge, accounted for -- although SpeeDemon, PowerFist and one thug were not in custody.

The Wanderer thought aloud, "Hmm, I wonder if the White Knight could shed some light on the device's purpose." He took a few steps over toward the pile of hoohickeys and thingamabobs and offered the following, "It doesn't look illegal to me for a boy to play with gadgets, therefore it couldn't be evidence. Besides, we've recovered the ill-gotten money and confiscated all these weapons; I think we would be justified to secure the electronics as expert analysts." He then smiled as he withdrew his communication device and called the White Knight.

	*		*		*		*
The Wanderer's beeperphone buzzed. At the other end was Wilkins, wanting to know if he should turn the power back on to the building. Receiving an affirmative, a moment later the lights came back on. The Wanderer could see the now familiar unmarked IPAC vans by the loading dock, although the others were a bit bemused by all this having had no experience with IPAC.

A police car was pulled up by one of the vans, and a jumpsuited IPAC agent was talking to the cop. A moment later, the elevator dinged and Wilkins and an IPAC Strike Team. Wilkins assessed the situation and started the processing. He flipped out a small walkie-talkie and down in the street the man talking to the cop responded, "Foxtrot, we've got eleven up here that are Normal, we'll remand them to police custody directly. Out." He turned to the heroes, "Wanderer. Want to introduce me to your friends and tell me what's going on?"

The Wanderer strode to the forefront and began introductions. He then recounted the warehouse skirmish and subsequent battle here in the very room which they stood. Complete with punches and yelps, the Wanderer gave a pretty good reenactment of the evening's festivities. "The one called Moleculon has an interdimensional baton of sorts that allows him to alter the molecular structure of solids, you may want to keep him sedated. MindSlasher is a psi of extraordinary power and needs to be kept under appropriate guard," he offered.

The baton the Wanderer spoke of was nowhere to be seen.

Ka-sador was at first frightened by all the hustle and bustle, but grew more comfortable at the efficiency of the IPAC agents. He remained quiet and observed all of the proceedings.

The Wanderer filled Wilkens in on PowerFist and SpeeDemon as well, seeing as how they operated as a unit. Then as an afterthought, "Has there been any other crime related paranormal activity lately?"

"Nothing unusual and nothing too local," said Wilkins. "Got these loaded?" he asked one of the men. "Good, I'd like to arrange a time to debrief each of you and get your estimations of these men's powers and capabilities."

Defender had never dealt with IPAC. But he could judge by the Wanderer's interactions that they were mostly safe. So he spent a majority of the conversation between Wilkins and Wanderer just observing. He also watched Ka-Sador, keeping in mind how skiddish the alien could be. When Wilkins turned his attention to the group of heroes, Defender chimed in.

"Not a lot to add to his assessment, really," Defender stated. "More than happy to take the time to talk about it, though."

"Fine," said Wilkins. "We've got an office in the city." He handed Defender a card. "Tomorrow? What time?"

"How's lunch time?" Defender inquired.

"Fine. Wanderer? And you, Ka-Sador?" asked the IPAC man.

"Why I believe I could squeeze you in," answered the Wanderer.

Ka-sador looked first to Defender and then to Wanderer, [YESSSSSS] his hissed. Things were happening so fast for Ka-sador, but after witnessing the fighting prowess of Defender and the Wanderer he felt safe agreeing to a meeting with this strange man.

"Good," Wilkins rapidly scheduled times for debriefing with the heroes, then looked out the window. "I'm done here. Golf, finish the CSI." With that Wilkins headed back out to the elevator and departed, leaving behind a few Crime Scene Investigators.

Defender motioned the Wanderer over. "What can you tell me about these IPAC guys?"

As the CSI milled about Ka-sador watched them closely even getting in their way a couple of times. The Wanderer walked Defender over to the side and explained that IPAC was some top secret organization that specialized in paranormal disturbances. He explained that IPAC housed some of the most dangerous villains imaginable but also possessed the ugly side of government bureacracy. Wilkens, the man they spoke to earlier and would meet with again, was no stranger to the Guardians and he had proven a worthy adversary on several occassions. The Wanderer warned Defender to watch himself around Wilkens, for the alien was suspcious of any man who went by only one name. "Oops, well I don't count Defender since that is more of an occupation than a name," he said to end the conversation.

"Occupation. Way of life. Obsession." Defender rubbed has hand over his eyes. Between his life as Defender and his busy work schedule, he wondered when he would have time to be just Alden now.

"Thanks for the info on the IPAC guys. I'll be careful." About then, Ka-Sador had gotten under foot of a rather short-tempered forensics expert. "I'd better get our large friend out of here before he makes anymore friends."

Defender walked back over and placed a hand on the alien's back. "Come on, my friend. I think they can handle it from here. Besides, I promised to stop and get ice cream for the kids after the battle. They get so mad when I don't bring them ice cream after a supervillian battle."

Before Defender and Ka-sador left the Wanderer called out to them, "Wait. You forgot something." They turned around to see him holding all the electronic equipment they had found in the other room. With a nasty look to an IPAC CSI, the Wanderer explained "we brought these ourselves, honest."

Defender slapped himself on the forehead. "Right. What were you telling me before? 'Worst thing a new hero can do is leave all his crime busting equipment unattended.' Told you I would need looking after for a while." Defender tried to collect the gear, sure the IPAC guys would stop him.

The IPAC CSI team looked at each other and the damage done to the room, then returned to their work. One, bolder than the rest, muttered, "Wilkins isn't going to like this."

"Exactly," responded the Wanderer with a wink.

Defender gathered the parts of the gizmo that was being built. "Don't worry too much. We'll share what info we get. Besides, which is better? Let us follow this lead or have this gear gathering dust in an evidence locker somewhere?

"Wanderer. You called White Knight about some of this gear right before our friends here arrived. Can I assume he has some scientific knowledge that would come in handy here?"

"Most definitely," perked up the Wanderer. "The White Knight is a genius when it comes to doofloppies and dials and stuff. I've even seen him program a VCR!," he offered with pride.

At that momemt the Wanderers beeperphone statred to Chirp... WhiteKnight was diplayed on the LCD screen as the caller ID. The White Knight and the Wanderer had a short discussion, in which the White Knight suggested that the gear be taken to the Nest for analysis.

"Right-o," answered the Wanderer as he turned to Defender. "I do believe those are my toys, yours were left in the sandbox," said with enough volume to irritate the IPAC CSI.

Defender waited patiently while the two heroes talked. When The Wanderer finished and suggested the device be taken to the Eagles Nest, Defender agreed.

"I'd like first crack at it. Give me a couple of days to see what I can get out of it. Afterwards, I'll happily bring it by for White Knight to get his gauntlets dirty. We can make arrangements tomorrow."

The Wanderer retrieved the equipment from Defender and pocketed the smaller items in the pockets of his overcoat. "The White Knight would be very upset with me if I loaned any of his equipment out."

"As you wish," Defender responded. "I'll go ahead and look into the serial numbers and see what I can come up with."

"Well, Ka-Sador. Are you ready for that ice cream run?" Defender asked as he moved toward the window.

Ka-sador scrunched his face at the thought of consuming anything from such a horrid beast. But, he enjoyed seeing the town whenever he could, and there was that can of pears back at the house that he had been eyeing.

Interlude 14.1: Defender Investigates
Interlude 14.2: Chatting on the Phone

Issue 15: Con and Consquence

Last Updated 2 May 2001