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Issue Twenty-seven, Weirdness at the Wander-No-More House

Jim had been working at the Wander-no-More House for a couple of weeks now, serving as handyman/super/janitor. In that time, he'd seen the Wanderer twice, but only for a moment each time. He'd thought about trying to speak to him but realized he didn't know what to say. Still, it was comforting to see the older hero around.

Jim was the only man living at the House, and his room was isolated from the women's quarters by the storage and administrative suites. The women's rooms were in a wing which was locked at night and Jim had no key, although the floor monitors could let him in if his services were needed. There were a few other men working at the House, though: Sarge, Dr. Carlson who ran the clinic, a social worker named Bob something-or-other, and Dave Rickets who did much the same kinds of work as Jim, but only during regular working hours.

That was why Jim was suprised one night to see Dave coming out of the clinic at about 7:30 with a file folder of papers and a small styrofoam cooler. Jim instinctively stepped into the shadows and Dave didn't see him. Behind Dave, Dr. Carlson closed the door, but not before directing a look of venom at Dave's back. Dave went to the elevator and left the building.

As soon as the coast was clear Jim shifted into Flex and moved to the nearest window. Opening the window carefully, so as not to make any noise, Flex felt the chill of the cold night air. He saw Dave heading across the road moving quickly. "This is all very strange", Flex thought, "Am I being too suspicious?" But at the same time something had told him to hide only moments ago. "Something is not right here! What was Dave doing with those papers and the cooler? Why was he here so late? And what is Dr Carlson's part in all this? So many questions and one nosy superhero, wanting to find out more."

Flex moving as carefully as he could, leaping to the nearest roof. He began to discreetly follow Dave, bounding from rooftop to rooftop. "I sure hope I don't slip", he thought. "The last thing I need is to be mothered if Granny Maude finds out", he said, smiling as he reached the next rooftop.

Dave headed to the PortRail station and went underground, Flex followed and watched him get on the train headed toward the 'Parts.

As Dave disappeared onto the train Flex returned to the street level. "If I am going to keep up with Dave, I need to change!" He thought hurriedly. Finding a darkened doorway, Flex allowed his skin to flow taking on the features of an older man he seen moments before. Moments later in disguise Flex bordered the same train and sat near Dave. Getting comfortable Flex thought "OK Dave, what are you up to?"

A few stops later, Dave got off the train and headed for the end of the platform. There was no exit at that end of the platform, and the few other people on the platform were toward the middle, near the turnstiles. Dave turned back to watch the people on the platform.

Moving slowly so as to take time to think, Flex moved off the platform with the other passengers. Since most of the people where not waiting around he was soon the last. As he entered the exit and out of Dave's sight, Flex stopped and pretending to fix himself. Then when the coast was clear Flex moved quickly back to the entrance to the platform. Flattening himself against the wall he allowed his eyeball to extend like a tentacle around the bend so he could discretely spy on Dave without being spotted. At least he hoped he would not be spotted.

Dave was gone! In the few moments that Flex was out of sight, Dave had vanished from the platform.

"What the...?" Flex said, as he realised that in a flash Dave had seemingly disappeared. Flex moved carefully but quickly back to where he last saw Dave. As he looked about, Flex spoke to himself in a frustrated tone of voice, "Unless Dave is some sort of Super teleporter, then he has to be here somewhere!"

Flex gave the area a thorough once over looking for places Dave could have gone. There was a door labelled "204-C" that looked like it was reserved for PortRail employees that Dave might have gone through. He could also have taken off down the tracks, of course.

Flex looked hard at he grimy door marked 204-C PortRail employees only as he lent back and considered his options. "Either Dave went through here<85>" Flex said to himself pointing to the door, "<85>or he is in the tunnel! Boy! This is tricky." Flex moved to the door looking about for people or the next train and tried to see if the door easily came away. "Assuming Dave didn't have a key, Flex mused, "then he must of got in another way or used the only other exit- the tunnel!"

The lock was small enough that the amount of squishing and squeezing he could do was limited. It took him a few minutes to work his eye through to the point where he could get any glimpse of what was on the other side. Unfortunately, even when he started to focus it became clear that the space on the other side of the door was dark.

Seeing that the PortRail door was an unlikely candidate as Dave's choice of escape Flex turned to the tunnel. Listening carefully to make sure that no trains were coming he moved into the black underpass. He moved carefully, aware of the dangers a place like this carried. "Kind of reminds me of those times when we would sneak aboard freight trains, to see if we could steal beer. Or anything else that we could find!" Flex said, as he remembered how his life had changed.

Carefully stopping to listen and look as he also Flex extended his hands to probe the walls of the tunnel for a clue as to where Dave may have gone.

Travelling down the tunnel, Flex quickly realized that if this was where Dave had gone, he could be almost anywhere. There were small maintainence tunnels and other train tunnels crossing this line every thiry or forty feet it seemed.

Seeing that he had clearly lost his prey, Flex decided to just to stop and listen at the entrances of tunnels he had passed. "There is no way I can find him down here, especially if he does not want to be found." Flex mumbled quietly to himself. This was not turning out as he had expected.

Eventually, and after flattening himself against the wall to avoid a couple of trains, Flex decided that he had, this time, lost his target.

Flex left the PortRail station the way he had come, and slipped back into his Jim guise, then slipped back into a bar to think. Sitting by himself, Sly Jim looked around the smoke filled seedy bar. Patrons in various states of inebriation gathered in clumps around the room. The background noise of the bar receded as Jim began to think over the evenings events.

"What I need..." Jim thought as he replayed the events up to Dave's mysterious departure, " some sort of tracking device. And who do I know, who could help me with such a thing?" Jim snapped his fingers as the answer came to him in an excited rush. "Defender! I know he is busy, but if I explain what is going on...then perhaps I can get him to rig something up."

Knowing that he had to sit out tonight, before he could make a move, Jim settled back. A renewed sense of confidence came to him as he now felt that he might have a plan to keep tabs on Dave.

	*		*		*		*
Flex was able to slip into the clinic after hours with little difficulty. He flipped through some medical files on the women and found about what he suspected; pretty high percentages of STDs and drug abuse, many were admitted with minor injuries like black eyes and that sort of thing. All exactly what one would expect at a clinic being run for prostitutes trying to get off the streets. He remembered being given a physical when he were hired, so he decided to see if there was a file on Dave and, surprisingly, there wasn't. Either he hadn't had a physical, or the file was elsewhere.

He poked around some more and found a lab book open by some test equipment. He looked at it, and didn't follow it too well, but it looked like the doctor was running some sophisticated tests on some unknown substance.

He checked the list of recent admissions and discharges. A couple of things looked a little odd, some of the discharges were pretty fast -- women who were pronounced healthy and psychologically sound after just a few weeks. He know that with that kind of a report, a patient would be moved out of the Wander-No-More-House pretty quickly. Double-checking the records of those women, he find that for some reason they all had blood drawn for blood tests, which was pretty obvious, but it looked like they had blood drawn for two sets, which was a little odd. In fact, when he checked, all the new arrivals in the last few weeks were having double blood drawn.

Puzzled Flex looked over the records again. Although some of this made sense, how and why the Doctor was involved was still no clearer. Nor for that matter what Dave was up to and why his record was not here with the rest.

Flex put things back away as he had found them. But then on a hunch, paused he decided to photocopy some of the files and the Doctor's notes. "Maybe I can get some idea of what this substance is," Flex thought, as he wondered who he could show it to.

Once he had photocopied all he thought he might need and packed things away, Flex quietly moved everything back to his room. "First thing tomorrow I will need to get these to some sort of strong box. After all it won't do to be caught with this info in my room," Flex thought, as he allowed his skin to change to that of his normal persona.

Jim sat on the bed stairing at the ceiling turning over all this in his mind and wondering what his next move was going to be. "Following Dave led me down a bling alley. So why don't I follow the Doctor," Flex thought, "maybe I can find out what he is testing on these girls."

Suddenly sitting in the darkness it occured to Jim that he had a more direct means of contacting Defender and the Wanderer. Quickly getting up and searching through his cupboard for what he needed did not take him long. He sat on the bed stairing at his communicator device. "Now, lets try the Bat Phone" Jim Said as he smiled at the reference. Then Jim changed into Flex and punched throught the code to get to the base.

PC took the call as usual, and patched it through to The Wanderer who was at the Fortress at the time.

The Wanderer was busy experimenting with a new technique and cursed himself for being distracted by the communicator buzz. Rubbing his tender side he teleported over to the comm unit, "Hello," he said upset at himself.

Of all the the people to come on line having the Wanderer around seemed the least appropriate at this moment. Flex licked his dry lips as he sought to relax and sound unconcerned before speaking. "Hi Wanderer long time no see!"

"I don't have time for games," he said curtly and then composed himself. This training was starting to get on his nerves, "But I do like to play them," he said in his usual spirit guessing wildly before wishing Flex a good evening.

"Dumb, dumb, what is a matter with me," Flex thought before he continued quickly so as not to draw attention to his awkwardness. "I have a problem and I really could do with some technical help on this one".

"I'm not the resident gearhead. But I'll try," he replied. "This isn't to track down some poor lass instead of getting her phone number the old fashioned way, is it?" he joked.

"You may or may not have heard that there is something going on underground. And I mean literally underground. Anyway I was following a promising lead when I lost the guy in the Subway Tunnels. Sooo I thought to myself, 'what I need is some sort of tracking device. Some way by which, if I lose the guy again, I can still keep up with him. And hope he leads my to his base'. Which is why I am trying to get ahold of Defender and see if he can help me out."

Flex waited wanting to say more. He wanted to explain how inadequate he felt and yet he did not dare. To expose more of himself than was necessary might cause complications with him staying at the house. If the Wanderer found out who he was he would be sure to suggest a different vocation. Its not like the house was villain proof.

"Hmm," said the Wanderer eliciting visions of him stroking his chin in deep thought. "I'll see what I can scrounge up. Do you prefer six-legged or eight-legged bugs," he asked comically. Continuing, the Wanderer proposed the following idea "I'll get back with you if I can locate what you need."

Flex breathed a sigh of relief, "That's all I am asking. OK, well get back to me when you can. Flex out." Making sure the come device was securely stowed Flex decided that it was time to turn in and see what would turn up.

	*		*		*		*
The Wanderer punched up Flex's number and waited for an answer as he scribbled some notes onto a map of Port Alexander. The Wander-No-More house had shown some success and he was doodling out some plans for expansion city block by city block.

The line was opened and the Wanderer greeted the new hero, "Good morning young Flex, hope I didn't get you at a bad time."

"Unfortunately, there are no bugs to be had here at the Fortress, we have a stupendous extermination service. It seems Defender has those on his Christmas list and he has been a good boy this year so we are keeping our fingers crossed. This underground thingy, what exactly can you tell me about it?"

Flex thought quickly. What a prediciment to be caught in! "Oh hi Wanderer," Flex tried to sound more confident than he felt. "That's a shame about the bugs. Well I heard something on the grapevine and found someone who I think is acting as some sort of courier or informant. Anyway following this fella led me to the underground station where I lost him.

"Although I have some information from a confidential source I don't have enough to pull together any more just yet. I need to track this fella, before I can be more confident of what it is they are up to. Then call in the calvery. I don't know much else." Flex hated the thought of lying, especially to the Wanderer, "But what choice do I have?" he thought.

"Hmm," voiced the Wanderer. "It sounds to me like you're going to have to do it the old fashioned way -- be sneaky. There's a bit of a crisis here and the Protectors are a little preoccupied so we may not be able to give you much help right now." The Wanderer wondered if the Krai would be classied as a 'little' anything, but added "Keep me informed if you find out anything concrete, I'll let you know if I hear anything about the underground."

"OK, thanks for the call back." Flex put down the phone lost in thought. His small room receded into the background, as went over the conversation again in his mind. "Be sneaky," Flex said aloud. "If only he knew. But if the boss says be sneaky, then the boss says be sneaky." A smile appeared on Flex's face as he allowed his masked features to melt away and he became Jim again. "I think I have a plan," he suddenly said aloud.

	*		*		*		*
Flex watched as Dave left Dr. Carlson's office with the by now familiar envelope and cooler. He fell in behind Dave and slowly his features flowed and changed until he was the image of Dr. Carlson.

He followed Dave out of the building and caught up with him half a block down the road. Dave spun around as Flex came up behind him. "Carlson," he said. "What do you want?"

Flex/Carlson looked nervous and turned up the mack coller that he was already fidling nervously, "There is a problem, but this is to open, lets go over there." He indicated a small alley not more than 20 feet away. And moved toward with Dave.

"What is it, Carlson," Dave asked impatiently.

Flex looked nervous as he spoke adding a tremor to further confuse his imitation of Carlson, "Look I am not happy. The risks of being caught are getting worse. Have you seen that new fella hanging around - Jim. I' don't like it. If I get caught my career will be over - I need more..." The question hung there between them and Flex hoped that he had said enough to get Dave talking but not enough to give away that he was not Carlson.

Dave barked a short laugh, "If you get caught, more than your career will be over. If you go behind bars, the Doc will cut off the antidote and there's no one else who can make it. So don't get caught." He made as if to brush past Flex.

Flex stopped Dave and pulled him around. "Why you arrogant Son of a... I ought to smack you one. Don't get caught! If I get caught so will all of us. You know who owns this house, don't you? Would you like him and his friends to rain on our parade. I am not happy about security and I think the safety of this operation might be compromised. I think the Doc will want to know about that. And I don't think he'll want to get the message second hand. If I have to take more risks so be it. But, I am not getting my orders from the Doc's errand boy!"

Flex stood breathing hard he leaned over Dave looking threatening. This bluff was not easy but he felt genuingly outraged at what seeemed to be going on. "It won't be hard to loose my temper with this creep" Flex thought as he waited for Dave to answer.

Dave smiled an unpleasant smile. "Doc, you've got no bargaining power and you are not irreplaceable. The same way we got you, we can get any other doctor in your place. You can like it or lump it. You want to kick, see how you like a few days without the antidote. You'll crawl to me begging to take orders from Saruva's errand boy. You'll like my boots begging for the antidote. Or you'll die. Your choice. Now go home like a good boy." Dave walked out past Flex.

Saruva! That name! Dr Saruva was the man responsible for Flex gaining his powers in the first place. If he had not used Jim as a guinea pig and combined him with the plastic substance he found in that object, Flex would not have existed.

A sudden thought came to Flex's mind, now he knew who he was dealing with. HIs powers gave him an ace up his sleeve. Turning to the rapidly departing Dave he said out loud, "Mind your could be wrong and I might still be right!"

Allowing Dave to depart Flex changed back into his familier skin tight costumed appearance and thought, "If only I can get to that station where Dave goes I can meet him as his precius Dr Saruva." With that, he lept into action. As he ran to the train station he leapt down and waited near the platform he from which he knew Dave's train would leave. He would have to time this just right if it was going to work.

Flex flattened against the wall and Dave did not appear to see him as he went down to his usual spot. When the train arrived Flex clambered quickly onto the roof and worked his way down the train to the front.

When the train pulled into Dave's station, Flex slithered down the side and flattened against the wall. After it had pulled out, his features shifted again into what his memory told him was Dr. Armand Saruva.

A few moments later, he saw Dave slip down into the tunnel and start toward him.

As Flex shifted into position and saw Dave come toward him he remembered not only how he had last seen the Doctor but also how he was dressed. It was the work of a moment to shift his malleable body and clothes into the new identity. Stepping out of the side he coughed to get Dave's attention.

"Ahh our esteemed friend returns with tonight's delivery. Did you have any problems, were you careful to make sure you were not followed?"

"No, no problems. Carlson's getting frisky, though, I had to put him in his place," said Dave. "Is there a problem?"

"I had a tip off from the good Doctor he seemed panicked. You'll understand that I took it upon myself to make sure we did not have a spy among us." At this last comment the Doc indicated that he seemed to be holding a gun in his pocket. "I know it is the oldest trick in the book," Flex thought as he'd positioned his hand to resemble a gun in his coat pocket, "but hopefully Dave will be none the wiser."

Turning back up the tunnel Flex indicated generally the way forward and said, "Shall we." As Dave moved he fell in behind him and said conversationally, "Tell me how long have you been working for us now?" The questions was posed in that innocent way with a subtle sub text. A sub text that indicated Flex was asking, not because he was interested in the answer, but so that Dave felt like he may be under question. "I want Dave off guard, distracted so he will not notice the inconsistencies." Flex thought as they walked on.

"Easy, Doc. There's no need for any of this," Dave seemed genuinely scared. "You know I'd never do anything to cross you." Dave stopped in front of one of the many little archways in the subway tunnel wall. He reached up and pressed a brick and a concealed doorway opened to reveal a short tunnel and a flight of steps down.

Noting Dave's reaction Flex was pleased, then as Dave pushed the brick he thought to himself, "Well here we go." And then to Dave he said in the same tone he had just used, "No of course not...but one cannot be too careful. You...understand." Flex said with a smile that would have lit up the tunnel.

Allowing Dave to step in and lead the way, Flex followed after.

"Since I do not know where this leads, I'd better be on my guard" Thought Flex as he stepped into the stairs a nervous chill of excitement made its way down his spine, as he felt close to some real answers. "At last." He thought.

The pair went down the stairs and stopped before a large and obviously new steel door. Dave opened it and stepped in, then stopped cold. The room behind the door was a spacious and well-equipped laboratory. Along one wall were a series of large glass tubes filled with some green liquid. About half the tubes contained a woman in some stage of pregnancy with a mask and breathing harness over her face; the women all appeared to be asleep. Several lab tables and a great deal of equipment, most of it unknown to Flex, although some looked familiar from his previous encounter with Saruva, took up most of the rest of the space. On the far wall was another door. Standing at a table about 12 meters away was Dr. Saruva, a man of middle years with a striking head of black hair above a hatchet face. On hearing the door open, he turned, "Dave, you have the latest samples? Ah. Interesting." He looked at Flex.

"What?" said Dave looking at the two Saruvas. "What's going on."

Flex spun around and grew larger, slamming a fist into Dave as he did so. ""You should have listened to the Doctor," he quipped as the man slumped to the ground.

He moved toward Saruva, thumbing on the police channel on his communit as he did so.

"Jackal! Cheetah!" shouted Saruva, "Deal with this, but I want him alive. Or alive enough for me to save him."

From behind the table where they had been apparently curled up on the floor, two figures rose. Both looked as much animal as man, one was dark furred and canine looking the other spotted and more feline, but both sported wicked looking claws. Cheetah arrived first, moving with the speed of his namesake.

Seeing the situation Flex did not hesitate as he changed direction and headed towards the tanks filled with liquid. As he went, he tried to deflect the incoming Cheetah and managed to block him out to one side.

Just a step behind Cheetah was Jackal, but Flex'es avoidance of Cheetah had moved him out of Jackal's way. Now, though, Flex was surrounded and the bestial men began to attack with tooth and claw. They slashed at Flex, drawing blood.

Flex looked around the lab, trying to hide the fear he felt as the snarling predators swung around him. Seeing Saruva at the other side of the Lab Flex held up his Protectors com unit as he said, "You know, of course, that the police are on their way. I have been tracking your courier for some time. I took the liberty of sending a recorded message to the police when I arrived. They will be here soon. And incase you think you are safe because of your hidden lab, don't be! I gave them specific details and they can track me via this com unit. So call the vermin of Saruva, the game is up.

"I know about the Doctor and the Wander-No-More House. I know about Dave here," Flex gestured back to the unconscious Dave behind him, "And I have the evidence to back it up." Flex waited for some response, knowing that he could only bank on a short pause, as his opponents sized him up.

Knowing he had given Saruva something to think about Flex readied himself to leap at Saruva. "Need to time this right so I can wrong foot these wee beasts," Flex thought as he moved slowly to mask his intent.

"You have compromised a very promising research facility. I am very angry," said Saruva. "I shall have to soothe myself by experimenting on you. A dissection might prove interesting. Jackal, Cheetah - subdue him quickly. We may need to evacuate."

As the creatures sought to tear at Flex, he allowed his malleable body to help stave off the worst damage. "Hey, the doctor ought to have you two house trained," Flex retorted.

As the combat swung back to him Flex looked to ready himself for the beasts attack. "Come on now play nice or no doggy chews," Flex said. "Don't know if they understand but I need to keep the homeside morale up," Flex thought as he readied himself for their next attack.

The creatures tore at Flex again and again. Flex knew as the beasts came at him from both sides that he would only be able to defend one flank before he could leap away. As the beast came in he readied himself and tried to remain loose, fear would could cost him dearly.

Flex saw an opening and moved quickly, leaping over to where Saruva was watching the fight. He grabbed for the doctor who tried to back away and got a hand on him.

Baying madly the two creatures charged after Flex.

As Saruva's beasts slashed wildly at Flex, Flex madly tried to fend their deadly blows off. "It'll be sleeping in the kennel for you two tonight if you don't behave," Flex chided, feeling less confident than sounded. He kicked out as Jackal came in close and deflected the beast's charge.

As the beasts paused Flex dashed madly at the doctor grabing him with his outstretched arm and then pulling him around as the beasts followed him seeking to charge him down.

"Call them off Doc or I will place you in front of their claws next - do you fancy their version of plastic surgery?" Flex shouted losing his calm in the rapidly worsening situation.

Cheetah veered off and growled.

"Cheetah," said the Doctor calmly. "Kill the woman in the near tank." As Cheetah turned to obey, Saruva continued, "If you don't surrender now, whoever you are, all those women will die."

Flex allowed his fingers of his free hand to slip back to where his Protectors Com unit was stored and switched it on to the emergency channel. "Please be there PC I need you to track this signal quickly." Flex thought, whilst he weighed his options. As he did Cheetah with slow determination toward the pregnant women.

"Doc Seruva I knew you had no respect for other people, but I am surprised you care so little about yourself. Or this little operation you have going here. Imagine taking vulnerable girls from the Wander No More House, right under the nose of everyone. Just so you can experiment on them. And here we are [insert name of station etc - sorry can't remember name] in a secret base on [platform number] located behind a secret door. Now that is going to quite some trouble and now I have you. You see I might dress up in a bright costume but who is to say I'll act like a hero! Especially if Cheetah lays one paw on that girl. Stop now Doctor Surava this is the end of the line. I and my friends have a thing about damsels in distress especially the Wanderer. Is your life so worthless that you'd push us? Beside whatever stupid power trip you are on will come to nothing and you'll be another has been. You never know you may end up being a question in one of those Bar trivia quiz, but it ends here."

As he said this Flex moved,"Guys I hope you got this and know where I am because I feel in over my head." Flex thought. "Note to self, must check in on some Night School Super Hero lessons sometime."

"Simple logic, dear boy," said Saruva. "If you have no respect for human life, then I'm doomed regardless. If you do, then this will stop you. Cheetah, the easiest way will be to sever the air hose on the left."

Cheetah bounded to the tube and raised a clawed hand. Flex moved. He shoved Saruva forward into the lab table and leapt toward the door behind him, passing through and slamming it shut. Behind him in the room he could hear Saruva laughing, "Cheetah, stop. Jackal, hunt him down and bring him to me."

Flex looked around. He was in a long hall running left and right, that looked like it might be a converted subway tunnel. To his right, the tunnel ended in a brick wall, to his left in what appeared to be solid rock. On the opposite wall, just to to his right and working to his left were four doors. At the end of the tunnel to his right there were two doors one on each side of the tunnel, and there was one more door, on his side of the tunnel, between where he was standing now and the end of the tunnel.

"Man I have got to keep those things from getting me, or getting the women." Flex said as he looked down both ways of the tunnel assessing his chances. He moved quickly to the opposite door and thumbed his Protector communicator to open channel.

As he tried the door he heard the sounds of Cheetah and Jackal behind the door he just shut. "PC this is Flex do you read me? I am trapped in an underground base, used by a Dr Seruva. He has sent his nasties after me. But listen, what is important is Seruva's experimenting or impregnating women. I am leading Seruva's beasts away from the women, but I can't tell what Seruva will do whilst I am gone. He thinks his base's cover is shot, so he will be looking to close down shop quickly. Can you get me any assistance?" Flex waited for PC to reply...

There was only silence on the communicator, either they were too far underground or the base was shielded. Flex looked through the door he had opened. It was someone's room, and judging by the clutter, either Cheetah's or Jackal's. There was a bathroom in the back with the door open. "House trained at least," Flex thought. There were no other doors in that room.

Assuming that the other doors would be the same Flex moved quickly down the tunnel. He looked at the doors as he passed for any other information that could indicate information that might help. "Obviously this base does not come with a , 'you are here' map. Must talk to the planners about that sometime. How is the average hero to find his way about." Flex said to himself as he moved quickly to find some way out.

Flex reached the first door and flicked it open, inside was what was clearly the power plant for the small facility. It was humming away and cables ran into the walls. Just as he looked in, he heard the door from the lab open.

Closing the door Flex looked around for something to block the door and to give him some more time before the beasts came for him again. "Now I am no general or tactician, but there has got to be a way out of this situation." Flex thought, as he sought some answer. Casting his eyes about he looked to survey the content of the room.

Flex spotted some heavy equipment lyaing to one side of the door. "Hmm this looks like it'll do" Flex thought. as he elongated his arm and dragged the equipment to the door. Satisfied that it was at least safe to leave the door for a moment, Flex begun to look around. Looking up at the vents he elongated his head to look through. As he streteched his head he altered it shape to slip through. On the other side he allowed his head to reshape itself in order to look carefully around the shaft he was in.

Flex slithered his body up into the shaft and oozed over towards where he thought the lab should be. His guess was correct and he was able to look into the lab, now empty except for the women in tubes. A quick check revealed that Cheetah had been called off before killing the first woman.

As Flex slithered up to the Lab grate he looked around. "Wouldn't do, to be discovered before I get what I need." Flex thought to himself. Moving carefully he performed a quick look around the lab, checking to make sure the room was clear.

Except for the unconscious Dave, he was alone.

Flex grabbed the door and locked it, then dragged some heavy furniture across to further block the door. He then started looking around the room for evidence to pin on the Doctor and his cronies. "I have to make sure that I keep the house and the girls safe. And it would;t hurt to know how far this goes." Flex mumbled to himself, as he thought aloud. "When this is over how am I going to explain this to the Wanderer? ...Oh well cross that bridge when I come to it." Flex continued as he rubbed his chin. "Now if I was a mad genius where would I lock my notes away?"

He grabbed the folder that Dave had been carrying then jogged quickly to the bookcase on the side of the lab. He began to grab anything that looked like evidence and soon he had a fair sized pile. Luck was with him and the search had not yet returned to the lab. So he turned to look at the girls. The equipment was complicated and he had no idea what would happen if he just tried to get them out. Looking closely, he realized that he recognized one of the women - she had been discharged only a week ago from the Wander-No-More House.

Placing the bundle of evidence back outside the door he first came through Flex moved back to the glass tube in which the pregnant women lay suspended.

"Hmm" Said Flex to himself as he rested a hand on his chin and looked for a way to get the women out. "This is not my speciality." Flex mumbled to himself, "I should have taken more interest in science, when I was at school."

Flex looked at the tube from all sides and sought to find out how the women normally got in and out and to see if there were any control mechanism that would release her with the minimum fuss. He did not want to alert the Doctor to the fact he had left the power room before he had got the women out.

"Man this is complicated. Well when subtlety won't work, there's always brute force," Flex said, as he moved to open the cylynder.

Flex pushed at the top of the cylinder but it didn't give. Out in the hall he heard the doctor's voice. He couldn't make it out clearly, but it definately sounded like they were coming back.

Hearing the sound of the Doctors voice outside Flex swore under his breath. "OK here goes nothing." He said as he allowed his body to swell in size and swung with all his might at the glass case. As he saw it shatter he reached in to the tube to grab the girls and sought to extricate her from the tube as quickly as possible.

As the glass shattered, an alarm sounded from one control console and Flex saw a red light on the panel begin to flash. The liquid from the tube washed over Flex'es lower body as he reached in. The woman in the tube began to suddenly choke and spasm, eyes still closed. A horrible grating sound came from her throat. Her limbs began to twitch like some horrid marionette.

At the door behind him he could hear the hurried shouts of the doctor as he realised where Flex was. The door shifted in a few inches and Flex saw a clawed hand thrust through the gap. "Hurry," said the Doctor out in the hall. "One of the subjects is in distress, the life support alarm is blaring."

Flex realised as soon as the alarm sounded that things were not going well. The women who had sought refuge, as he had, at the Wander No More Home - continued to spasm. "Blast, this infernal contraption," Flex thought, as he heard the woman's laboured gasps.

In the corridor Flex heard the Doctor, "Hurry,one of the subjects is in distress, the life support alarm is blaring."

"Could it be", Flex thought, "Does the Doctor actually care about what happens to this woman?" Flex did not have time to ponder what the Doctor had said. Hating the sense of frustration and impotence he felt, he turned from the glass case, "I will be back Doctor and next time I am bringing reinforcements." Flex said, as he stole a last look at the lab and the dying girl.

He changed size quickly and moved to the door as he made to leave he changed direction and grabbed an inert Dave. Stopping once more only to grab the evidence he had collected, Flex moved swiftly and silently to the tunnel again. He stopped to catch his breath and listen out for any trains that might be coming then, bounded into the tunnel and back onto the platform. Surprised commuters gazed in fascination at the sight of Flex, as he leaped over their heads and tore up the exit tunnel.

Once on the surface, he flipped open his Protector comm and made a quick call to the Lieutenant Jackson and his men. Once he explained where to meet him, he also called the Protectors and gave PC, a hurried explanation as to what he had walked in on and where he presently was.

Finally, using what little energy he felt he had Flex checked Dave and sat down with the pile of evidence. He meant to look through it, but the weight of what he had been through tore over him. "It would not do, to have a hero crying, but boy do I feel miserable." Flex thought. His first couple of weeks at the house and he could not even protect one of the girls who had got into Seruva's hands. Flex sank to the floor unable to look at the evidence as a black cloud of guilt swept over him as he waited...

Before the police arrived, an alarm sounded in the tunnel. Smoke began to billow up the tunnel from the direction Flex had come. A train that had just started to pull out of the station stopped and a voice came on the PA announcing that service was being suspended temporarily due to a track fire.

"Heck! Can this day get any worse?" Flex said as the tunnel around him began to fill with smoke. Gathering the evidence and Dave he bundled them up and stopped a train guard as he rushed by to help people, "Have you anywhere secure around here, I need to keep this man and this evidence for the police before I go back and help?" Flex said, the dangerous note in his voice gaining the mans attention quickly.

The guard apparently recognized Flex, "He had something to do with the fire, huh? I'll take care of him. You go ahead." The transit cop grabbed his handcufss and cuffed Dave, then took the package of evidence. Flex watched then turned to help.

The next minutes seemed like hours as Flex, first alone, and then with the transit emergency crews tried to quell the fire. The smoke was acrid and time and again the firefighters were chased back by the semi-toxic fumes.

Soon after that, Ka-Sador arrived responding to PCs call. The winged alien made his way to the platform and assisted with evacuation of personnel. Ka-sador recoiled at the stench from the smoke but nevertheless tried to locate any people still left underground.

Shortly after that, Sting made an appearance, drawn by the name Saruva. He leapt into action, fighting the flames as best he could and moving people to safety.

After settling things down and getting the fire under control, Flex motioned to the other heroes. "Boy am I glad you guys could make it. It has been one Hell of a night." And with that he sat down and said, "I am exhausted, but let me fill you in. You need to know what has been going on."

"I can't reveal how I found out, but one of my sources came across this guy here..."Flex said pointing to the handcuffed and now conscious Dave. "Anyway he was working with a Doctor at the Wanderer's refuge house. They had been testing girls, who came in off the street. They then sent the stuff to Saruva, via Dave here, to Saruva's base inside the tunnel." Flex gestured with a wave vaguely in the direction of the tunnel. Exhaustion and emotional fatigue began to catch up with him, as the adrenaline wore off.

"Anyway, I managed to trick Dave here into revealing where the base was and found Saruva experimenting on a woman. A woman who had been housed at the refuge. I found her floating in a tube, connected to all sorts of devices. I tried to break her out but an alarm went off. I heard Saruva say, it was something to do with life support." Flex had to stop. He choked back tears, thinking about what might have happened to that woman. Not to mention others like her. He continued hesitantly, the sense of failure still fresh, "I...I could not get her out. God knows what he has done to her. She was pregnant with who knows what! Saruva had help, two of his beast men with him. I could not take them alone. I...I could not free the girl," Flex's voice turned to a hollow mocking sound, as he let his frustration poor out. "So I got what I could, huh, hope it's of some use. I tried to contact you, but..but the BLOODY COM UNIT WOULD' NT WORK." Flex stopped, he fought to control his frustration.

He was still new to the hero game and he found the freedom and purpose he had gained with his powers a heady mix. Now he had to deal with the downside of his chosen path, failure was not easy. Especially when he felt he owed so much to those who took him in. Not to mention, what the women Saruva was using, were going through.

Sting listened grimly. "Apparently he's been busy...when I ran into him, he was experimenting on athletes and he only had Jackal as a subject. Now apparently he's branching out. In any event, this is something we need to keep a closer eye on, he's apparently building his way towards an army of these things."

As Sting asked if he could be shown the lab Flex nodded. Glad for something to do rather than talk, he got up and motioned for the other heroes to follow him to where Saruva had his hidden base.

The three heroes made their way toward the tunnel after making sure that Dave and the files were secure with the police.

"Where the Hell do you think you're going?"

The heroes turned to find a police lieutenant watching them. Ka-Sador and Flex recognized him as Lt. Jackson from the 74th Precint in the 'Parts. The heroes filled him in quickly. Jackson nodded and said, "Allright, leaed on." He gestured for two of his men to join him and followed the heroes down into the tunnel.

Flex led them through the tunnel which was relatively undamaged; there had been a lot of smoke but little fire. Flex found the dummy door in the tunnel but couldn't work the locking mechanism. The heroes were able to force the door and found themselves in the tunnel leading down to the lab. The air here was hotter and when the approached the door into the lab itself and touched it, it was dangerously hot.

[DANGRROUS TO OPEN] whispered Ka-sador in reference to the intense heat. Knowing that whatever was behind the door was quickly being consumed by flames, Ka-sador feared opening the portal could engulf them as well. He suggested they exit back into the tunnel and maybe Sting with his speed could open the door in relative safety and escape.

"We could open it, but I don't think we'll find much. This is Saruva's modus operandi...he destroyed his last lab when I infiltrated it through very much the same fashion. This is even more dangerous because the area is more enclosed. But in case someone might still be in there...I'd clear back."

Sting waited for everyone to retreat a safe distance, then fired off a sting while simulataneously running away from the blast at top speed to hopefully clear any explosions.

Sting raced up the stairs and turned sharply left. Bare feet behind him, an expanding cloud of flame shot out the doorway and splashed off the far wall.

"Merry Christmas!" shrieked one of the cops with Jackson.

The flames died down quickly, and the heroes risked a look down the stairs. The lab beyond the steel door at the bottom was a raging inferno, with the occasional oddly colored flame visible through the haze when some odd chemical or compound burst into flame.

"Sellers, go get the firefighters," snapped Jackson and the cop who had shrieked ran back down the tunnel.

Ka-sador looked to Flex and Sting asking them if this Saruva had died in the fire, and if not then he must have escaped some other way. The alien hunter ventured a few steps toward the laboratory, [MUST BE OTHER WAYU OWWT]

Flex looked at KA Sador and nodded. "The Doctor had another area across the other side of this room. I only saw part of it. There was a long corridor with rooms for accommodation off of it. The tunnel ran on but I did not see where it went." Flex said in a weary voice. He continued slowly, "I reckon Sting is right. This fire was his diversion. His escape plan, to stop any back up capturing him. And so Saruva is free to carry on. To carry on experimenting on those women as he likes. Man that guy gets to me..." Flex did not want to continue. His anger and frustration would only make him say something he might regret. And he had collected enough regrets for one night.

Looking across the smouldering room Flex brightend up with a sudden thought. Looking at Ka Sador and Sting he said, "Once we can get in here it might be worth checking out those other rooms. They may be untouched and the guys may not have got everything out. It'll be worth looking for some clues."

Then turning back up to the tunnel he shouted to the Police officer, "Where are those fireman? Tell them to hurry it up will ya. We need this fire undercontrol, so that we can then check out the rest of the base." Flex turned back to the others rubbing his hands with replenished energy, as he thought that this night might not have been a total waste after all.

Sting might have saved the firemen the effort; the goo Saruva had used before was almost impossible to extinguish and this was more of the same. The heroes had to wait in frustration while it burned itself out to the point they could enter.

Eagerly they pushed in, avoiding the still burning pockets of whatever greek fire or napalm like substance the doctor had used. The lab was a wreck. Almost everything inside had been utterly consumed, even the metal objects, and the stone walls themselves had been gone molten in places. The few things that had not been burned away were now no more than pools of still liquid metal. The heat was uncomfortable, but the heroes could still press on.

The rest of the compound was much the same, tunnels and rooms seared clean by some hyperflammable compound. In one room they found the escape route - some kind of tunnel dropping down into the sewer system. The entire dropshaft had melted and was now a sort of funnel of fused rock leading into the sewer below. Presumably some vehicle or something had been waiting below to carry away Saruva, Jacka, Cheetah and whatever or whoever else they took with them.

They were gone and there was nothing left. All they had were Dave and the documents that Flex had escaped with. When they returned to the subway station, Mr. Watkins was waiting for them. "Good evening, gentlemen." He nodded amiably to Sting, the only one of the three he had met before. "Anything for my boys?" he asked, indicating the small IPAC team hanging about unobtrusively.

Sting and Ka-Sador exchanged a look, and Sting indicated for Flex to follow his lead. "This one is yours," he pointed at Dave. "We'd like a report on his interrogation. This is ours, though." He scooped up the documents. "You might also want to pick up a Doctor named ..."

"Carlson," Flex provided. "At the Wander-No-More House."

Wilkins nodded. "Allright. See you around. Flex, we need to talk." He drew Flex aside as Sting and Ka-Sador exchanged knowing looks. IPAC was always the same.

Issue 28: There's Smoke in Them Thar Hills
Interlude 27.1: IPAC and PC Go to Work
Interlude 27.1: PsycFlex Reading

Last Updated 9 October 2002