(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you happen to spot them, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks in advance!!)
“Are you 100% sure that Jack is in there?”
Min-jung’s voice was strained slightly as she asked Taylor sitting next to her in the SUV.
The two of them peered over the electrified fence and at the tall white tower that stretched its way into the heavens. The view as seen past the car’s windshield was passable. The car itself was parked off the slightly beaten path and on a grassland surrounded by thick enough vegetation which, coincidentally, hid the bulky body of Min-jung’s vehicle. At least that’s what she hoped for, anyways.
Taylor stiffly nodded, her eyes were bloodshot and the complexion rather pale, having exerted a lot of effort in using her powers just now. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath while leaning back on her seat.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jack’s inside. It’s hard to sense his life signature because of the distance and the weird material of the tower but he’s definitely in there. I felt him.”
Taylor replied slowly before opening her eyes. There was a spark of determination burning in her eyes, the fire lit from the desire to keep the promise she made the day before.
She had to focus her powers to the utmost narrowest possible range in order to increase the detection distance and was able to barely grasp Jack’s unique life signature within the tower, despite the obstructions in her way. As feared, the deed took a lot out of her. It was at times like these she really hated the limitations imposed on her powers. If she was just a bit stronger, then she’d be more of a help… But she got the result, so on that point alone, she was feeling good about it.
Min-jung looked on at the tower’s imposing figure, her expression remaining gravely cold. Her worst fears were now confirmed – her son was indeed in the grips of the crazed man. No, that wasn’t quite correct; Mylorne Akkad was not crazed but obsessed, instead.
Obsessed over the legends of Gilgamesh, obsessed over the resurrection of the Lord of Darkness, obsessed over the matters of her son’s growth and perhaps, obsessed over the matters of fatality and immortality. Compared to all of those obsessions, his desire to make money seemed like a hobby practiced every now and then so he could have something to stave off the encroaching boredom between his more intense undertakings.
However, things had taken a turn, rather dramatically, for the worse. Mylorne Akkad somehow had conspired his way into attaining the very thing, her son, that he was so obsessed over. Who could possibly tell what he’d do now, with almost all the chess pieces gathered in front of him?
But one thing was sure; Min-jung had no doubt what needed to be done. The final confirmation this young Super provided was enough.
She had to move right now and save her child from the madness of Mylorne Akkad, before Jack was irreversibly affected by the silky, sophisticated but still potent poison. For that purpose, she even brought along the handgun for it.
She bought this gun secretly, meaning illegally, unbeknownst even to her husband. No one knew that she obtained it. Normally, Min-jung kept it pretty well hidden but it would definitely see some action today.
Fortunately, she paid a visit to a firing range to practice wielding a firearm not too long ago. She had a handle on how to use the gun, more or less.
Back then, Min-jung was afraid that the day she needed to pull the trigger was almost upon her. Well, that day arrived with a bang.
Gripping the steering wheel tightly, she walked through the steps she’d have to go through to face Mylorne Akkad. It wouldn’t be easy as the billionaire must have built a series of thorough and tough security measures. But she was prepared to do just about anything to get her son back safe and sound, and nothing was going to stand in her way.
“So, what now, Mrs. Mercer?”
Taylor asked softly.
Min-jung snapped out of her grim thoughts and turned to look at the teen. Then she realized there was a problem here. And that problem was Taylor. Or, more correctly, her presence here, with her, right this moment.
Min-jung was unwilling to have the teen girl become an accessory if something untoward happened between Akkad and her gun. It was because she couldn’t guarantee the two of them finding a peaceful resolution to their strong disagreement.
It was Taylor who offered her services voluntarily. She wanted to locate and rescue Jack as much as she did. But that didn’t mean Min-jung would let the girl cross a certain line that shouldn’t be crossed, no matter what. Also didn’t matter how willing she was, either.
But what options did Min-jung have, right now?
Take Taylor back home, and waste more time that way when she didn’t have much, to begin with?
Well, things wouldn’t have been delayed like this, if she wasn’t trapped in that godawful underground military base for hours and hours in the end. What an ordeal that proved to be, what with everyone inside that base running around absolutely everywhere like a flock of headless chickens, further adding to the high level of uncertainty and confusion there already were mired in.
And since it was a high-alert situation, not one single personnel could take the time to refresh themselves. Meaning, there were a lot of sweaty, smelly bodies trapped in a relatively confined space, Min-jung included. On top of that, the outside air could not be circulated freely, due to the fear of infiltration by the trio of escaped Supers by the opened air ducts so, the terrible, smelly air could only become fouler as the hours ticked on.
Things became incomparably tenser still when the news of the trio attacking and then abducting a civilian reached the command center set up within the underground base. General Williams ordered for the doubling of the security measures, thinking that an attack was imminent – only for the things to go quiet. Not a peep from the three escaped Supers, not a trace of where they had gone off to. They had vanished into the thin air.
And then, the belated arrival of the news regarding the horrible massacre at the JFK airport made things much more complicated, timing-wise. The talks of deploying the combat-ready Dead Kings operatives went back and forth between Washington and the command center until finally, the green light was given.
Meanwhile, the common sense prevailed and all the nonessential personnel was finally allowed to leave. This was only after the threat of three escaped Supers attacking the underground base subsided a great deal. Of course, Min-jung vociferously campaigned for it, arguing that she and the others like her would be no good in a fight anyway.
So, she got the okay to go home, provided that she stay in touch in case of an emergency, according to Major Podolsky’s stern words.
Min-jung thought Major’s gazes were rather sharp, making her think that she was under an intense scrutiny for her strange nervousness. Nothing went by unnoticed in Major’s observation, it seemed.
Min-jung did her best to hide her frenetic mind after receiving the call from her daughter, Dana, of Jack’s abduction but something must have shown on the surface. The suspicions in Major’s eyes were barely masked, but since Min-jung brushed off the questions to her state of mind with a resolute “I’m fine,” no one chose to pursue the matter anymore, what with bigger matters that needed more urgent attention and all.
Even now, sitting here in the car, Min-jung couldn’t quite understand how General Williams nor Major Podolsky failed to learn that her son was the victim of the kidnapping. If they found out, then the consequences would have been catastrophic.
So how did this crucial information fall through the cracks, seemingly lost in transit from one agency to the next one? Maybe Mylorne Akkad had something to do with it, but she had no proof. She could only suspect him.
Whatever, General Williams nor Major Podolsky, not even Professor Evans or the rest of the team, must never become aware of what Jack was. What Min-jung did was enough to get her thrown in a jail for a long time, never mind her son’s own life becoming a total wreck.
She would never allow that. Not in this lifetime.
After leaving the base, things moved pretty quickly. Min-jung made her way home, mentally and physically exhausted, welcomed by the worried faces of Bob and Dana. Of course, there was no time to relax.
Bob was adamant that he was going with her to find Jack but then, the question of who’d look after Dana in the meantime arose. A short discussion, a heated one at that, ensued between the two, and Min-jung won the debate in the end. Bob had to stay and wait for the news.
With that solved, Min-jung then made a quick inquiry and found most of what she needed to know; that her son and a girl from the same school went for a biking trip to the nearby park, only to run into a convenience store robbery on their way back.
The store clerk got shot, but otherwise, the children were fine. A Super named Alpha Man was called to the scene, and after Jack and his friend’s statements were taken, the two were heading home with the friend’s father driving them.
Then, the three Supers appeared, assaulted them, and the end result was that Jack willingly went with them in order to stop the rampage. In other words, the three of them came specifically to find her son.
If that didn’t smell of conspiracy cooked up by Mylorne Akkad, then she didn’t know what it was.
All these information, courtesy of Taylor Finn. The teen willingly spilled everything out. And it was massively helpful in deducting the current situation more clearly.
Taylor’s testimonial was also greatly helpful in deducing the reason for the kidnapping – her son had manifested his abilities. Taylor described, to the best of her vocabulary but frankly, it was simply beyond Min-jung’s expectations.
An ability to endlessly grow, as long as there was a steady supply of this so-called red soul which no one could see but him? If true, then it was totally understandable why Akkad would be interested in such a power. Min-jung could see the value in researching the genetics of such a Super, and perhaps even find out what those red souls were supposed to be, going so far as to figure out a way to commercialize them. It’d be an incredible way to make money. No, it’d be akin to a license to print money.
No wonder the man was so damn obsessed with all this Gilgamesh related topics. He must have found something, a clue, regarding the powers of the ancient God-King somewhere. Otherwise, why would he tempt Min-jung all those years ago and end up investing millions upon millions to helping her conceive a child?
Remembering those days, she felt her heart ache deeply. She had made a mistake in relying on Mylorne Akkad. She was sure of that. Too late for regrets now, though.
“Look, Taylor. Thank you for all your help, but from here on, I must to this alone. I want you to stay in the car and if something bad happens, you must run away. Okay?”
Min-jung spoke to Taylor in no uncertain tone. She was already starting the car, to steer it towards one of the gates here.
“That’s not going to work, Mrs. Mercer. I mean, where could I possibly run off to, in the first place? I can’t drive, you know. And look how hugely wide this compound is!!
“Plus, I’ve come this far. I need to see the whole thing to the end. I made a promise with Jack. I plan to keep it.”
“That won’t do,” Min-jung shook her head. “I’ve already asked you to do too much. This is getting a lot more dangerous than you think it is. Mylorne Akkad is an unpredictable and very dangerous man. It’s best that he never becomes aware of you and your powers, Taylor. Trust me, he’s a bad person.”
“But it’s too late to turn around now, isn’t it?”
“True, but still, there is no need for you to get involved any deeper than already is. Oh, right. Get in the back seat and hide down there in the footwell before we get to the entrance. There should be cameras recording the faces of all who visit this place. You should avoid getting captured if you can help it.”
Taylor groaned softly but didn’t voice out her current feelings. Min-jung stopped the car so the girl could get out of the front passenger seat, then climb into the back and crawl into the rear footwell, thereby remaining hidden from the CCTV cameras’ point of view.
But that was all for naught – because as soon as Taylor climbed out of the car, she suddenly raised her head towards the skies above the white tower and shouted angrily.
“Oh, really now? What the hell?!”
Following that outcry, Min-jung was drawn to the source of the girl’s ire. And she saw a futuristic white aircraft with an unusual design lifting off vertically from the roof of the tower. Even at a distance, she recognized the craft, thanks to its unique, eye-catching shape.
It belonged to Mylorne Akkad, his private mode of transport and designed by his own hands to be the most advanced, awe-inspiring and memorable as possible. It certainly achieved this brief quite easily.
Min-jung had this inexplicable feeling that she was being conceited until now, especially after witnessing that craft fly away from the tower. She hurriedly asked Taylor, hoping against her surging tide of trepidation.
“What was that about, Taylor? Who was in that aircraft?”
Taylor made a grim face before sighing with a sagging shoulder.
“I sensed Jack riding in that thing. He’s gone now. We’re too late.”
Jack was staring outside the reinforced glass of the aircraft but failed to notice his mother’s car on the ground. He was sitting on the other side of the craft, after all. As for the other passengers – Erik, Lei, and Cleo – they were too tense to pay heed to what was out there observing them take off.
Mylorne Akkad was in the pilot’s seat, commandeering the craft like this was an everyday thing for him, flying in the hot seat. No one sat shotgun, though.
After Jack’s explosive burst in the dining room, their plans were quickly set in stone. The aircraft would take them to a nearby airfield where a separate plane would take Erik and his gang to New York.
Meanwhile, Jack would head off to somewhere else, where he could, ostensibly. get stronger quickly. Then maybe, join up later before things get really bad.
Jack found it funny in a not-funny way that neither Erik nor Lei asked aloud how anyone could get “stronger” in such a short period of time. Might as well, since he didn’t know where to begin the explanation anyway. And besides, Mylorne Akkad withheld the method of that quick power up even to him, other than a passing remark that the process might get dangerous, so Jack was in the dark just as much as the others were.
There was only one way to make Jack stronger, though, and Akkad did promise to aid him the night before, so Jack had to sit tight and do as told, for now.
But it was still hard to figure out how he got roped into this.
Sure, he did say that guy with the golden skull needed to be stopped, but he never said he’d be the one to do it. So how the hell did he get talked into becoming stronger, for the sake of stopping that augmented Super from abroad? He could recall the basic flow of the conversation but to point out the exact moment where he ended up volunteering his abilities, he was at a complete loss.
The harder he thought about it, it became clear that Mylorne Akkad had steered the conversation towards that conclusion. Jack felt like he got suckered into doing something against his personality.
Oh, well. Okay, let’s look at the positives. Being stronger is all good and stuff, since I still want to kill Falcon and Master Evil. Yeah, that is what I wanted from the beginning. But, uh….
Jack was not a warrior; that much, he knew better than anyone. Didn’t matter what his origin was, as his upbringing taught him to think twice about hitting someone. His troubles at finishing off a coyote was a proof enough. And now, he was supposed to go up against a genocidal Super that could turn people into sandbags?
Could he even win? Mylorne Akkad believed so, but was Jack conceited enough to believe that notion?
En-men-lu-ana was a fearsome monster, a detestable villain of the highest caliber. The recollected memories from his dreams were fragmented at best but as far as Jack knew, this En-men-lu-ana character would have no qualms about slaying an entire city full of innocent people if such an act took his fancy.
And as usual, when it rained, it poured. So was the case with En-men-lu-ana, as he was an immortal just like Mylorne Akkad. No, he had surpassed being a mere immortal. Oh no.
He had half-stepped into the path of the so-called divinity back in Gilgamesh’s era, having lived thousands of years before the founding of the city of Uruk, the God-King’s nation.
The details were hazy, but Gilgamesh fought against En-men-lu-ana and barely won back in the day. Why did they fight? Jack had no idea, but the enmity between the two was as real and serious as it could possibly get.
Instead of getting his ass killed in that battle, En-men-lu-ana was imprisoned deep within the depths of the earth by Gilgamesh. A perk of being an Immortal was apparently being as hard to kill as a cockroach, it seemed.
Now, En-men-lu-ana’s vassal, carrying his actual golden skull, had shown up in the modern world, somehow. Exactly at the same time as Gilgamesh’s revival too. A coincidence, or something infinitely more sinister at play? And just what did En-men-lu-ana want in New York?
No one had any answers, not even someone as well informed and experienced as Mylorne Akkad. Whatever turmoil the future held, at least Cleo knew what she wanted and she was resolutely heading towards it.
And technically speaking, Jack was the only one alive who knew how to defeat En-men-lu-ana. The argument was that he had to be there. Unfortunately, even Akkad didn’t know how Gilgamesh defeated and imprisoned the Mad King “underground.”
But by getting stronger, the belief was that he’d be able to remember. A long shot, as long as they came, but Jack had no rebuttal.
Before all that, Jack had to be stronger. Stronger than Cleo was, at any rate. A tall order, if there ever was. He wanted to ask just whose genes she was augmented with, but as she herself was unaware of her origins, it’d be a stretch to imagine getting a satisfactory answer from her.
Strange, then, to avoid telling them that Jack was not the same as the trio of teens, something Erik, Cleo and Lei were probably believing in. A misunderstanding that would remain as so.
Jack glanced at Cleo and her friends. Their glum faces were a bit hard to read, especially that of Erik. His frown was bitter and deep as if he was carrying the weight of the entire world’s guilt over his slender shoulders. But there was a resolute glint trapped in his eyes, as if he had made a resolute vow in secret.
Lei was Lei, still gazing at the battered iPod, showing an intense concentration. Her fingers swiftly moved over the screen like an eagle pecking away at a dead prey.
Cleo was chewing on her fingernails. She mumbled softly to no one in particular. “Can’t we go faster?!”
It was obvious she was chomping at the bits, wanting to get there even if it was a minute sooner. Jack thought it’d be useless to talk to her when she was like that.
And seeing the intense frown on Erik’s face, it wasn’t a good idea to talk to him either. So Jack fixed his gaze on Lei and tapped on her shoulder.
“Hey, so, uh, what’ll you three do when you get there?”
Lei shrugged her shoulders. “I guess, we go and find Cleo’s family. I did a quick search, and they are still living in the same place, so that’s that. Then well, we’ll probably try to get the hell out of Dodge.”
She then showed the screen of her iPod to Jack,
“Look, this is the map of New York, and the search area is superimposed on it. Here’s where Cleo’s parents are.”
It was true; the screen that should only show a limited amount of color and pixels were showing a full, modern 3D map of New York from the bird’s eye view, and Jack could see clearly the green boundaries laid over it. There was a small red dot over the Queens, blinking softly. Jack tilted his head slightly, thinking that this iPod was not an ordinary item at all.
She noticed the confusion on Jack’s face so she moved to clarify that.
“I’ve done some modification on it. It was getting old and busted, so…”
“Oh, okay,” said Jack. “You could’ve gotten a new iPod or whatever, though. Wouldn’t it be simpler that way?”
She shrugged her shoulders again.
“Well, I like this shape. Plus, it was a gift from my mom.”
Jack suddenly got a feeling that he was stepping on a landmine. He needed to be tactful here or else, he’d be a KIA.
“Oh, that’s why. Okay, I understand. Hopefully, your parents aren’t in New York, though. It might get dicey later on, there.”
Lei pursed her lips and took the iPod back.
“Nope. They all died ten years ago in a car crash.”
Oh crap, now you’ve done it, Jack Mercer!! Jack cried out in his heart.
Instead of expertly extricating himself out of a tricky situation, he got mired in even deeper. Now there was a thick, thick layer of impenetrable awkwardness permeating in the air.
And to make matters worse, because the cabin of the craft was so quiet, others could hear the conversation in full, all in its ignominious glory. Cleo and Erik shot Jack very weird gazes, obviously admonishing him for his tactless faux pas.
Unable to think of a way to salvage the mood, Jack sighed and kept his mouth shut for the remainder of the journey.
About ten minutes later, the local airfield was finally in sight. Mylorne smoothly landed the craft on the designated spot next to a large hangar.
“We’re here, guys.”
He told his passengers, prompting them to disembark via the side entrance. Out in front of the hangar, a man wearing a pilot’s uniform and a couple of flight attendants were waiting for them. Behind them, a gleaming Learjet with Mylorne Akkad’s company logo painted on the side.
Mylorne quickly introduced his group to the other and urged them onwards as the time itself was in short supply.
As the six of them climbed aboard the Learjet, Jack hesitated slightly before catching up to Lei, Erik, and Cleo. “Hey, you be careful, alright? If it gets dangerous, just bale out, okay? And, uh, I’m sorry about earlier, Lei.”
Cleo and Lei nodded together in appreciation but Erik snorted. “Well, that goes without saying. Although, I’m surprised to find that we’ve become pretty close so quickly, Jack. Thanks for the worries.”
With that, they left the airfield, heading for the city of New York. As for Jack and Mylorne, they got back on the futuristic craft and also took off towards their destination, the craft making a whooshing noise on take-off from its twin encased rotors on the sides.
“Now that we’re by ourselves, can you tell me just where we are headed off to?”
Jack asked as he settled down on the co-pilot’s seat. The view out was extremely cool but he was in no mood to enjoy it.
“The Rockies. There is a certain artifact that you need to see and conquer. I’ve long secured the site where it’s been found but alas, couldn’t move the artifact to a more accessible location. The technology for such an undertaking has not caught up to where I’d like it to be, unfortunately.”
“Will that artifact make me stronger? Help me gather more of that red soul thingy?”
“Definitely, yes. But before we arrive, there is something else you need to start training on, first.”
Jack frowned slightly, not understanding Akkad’s words.
“What is it that I need to start on first?”
“Gilgamesh once told me this – that when he was young, he could only interact with red souls when he was within the Soul Sphere while asleep. Only through constant training and experimentation did he find a way to manipulate the souls without entering the Sphere. Tell me, Mister Mercer. Can you interact with the souls as you are, right now, without falling asleep?”
Jack shook his head. This was something he was thinking about as well. “No, I can’t. So that red place is called the Soul Sphere, huh. Didn’t even know that. Or should that be I couldn’t even remember that?”
“Well, whatever the case may be, you need to consciously control red souls without entering the Soul Sphere first. Making a tangible progress in that task should take the foremost priority for you.”
Jack leaned back in his seat, contemplating. It’d be wonderful if he could ‘improve’ his stats without going to sleep. But how? There was no clue in the fragmented memories. There was nothing in the records either – not that Jack had time to thoroughly study them anyhow.
“How should I start doing that? Is there some kind of secret that I need to know? What am I missing?”
Akkad put the autopilot on and stroked his chin in a contemplating manner.
“Hmm. Gilgamesh never explained the process to me – we met when he was already a renowned warrior under the heavens, in full control of all his abilities. So the topic was never discussed in detail. But if I were allowed to make one conjecture, then perhaps you need to train your own soul, somehow. That could very well be the key.”
“How do I do that?!”
Jack frowned. He didn’t quite get it. What was a soul, anyway? He was never a spiritually-minded person to begin with, nor was he really all that religious, so he had no idea. All he could think of was that a soul was something that turned into a vengeful ghost when a person died under suspicious circumstances, just like how it was in a horror movie. Obviously, that was not a great point of reference. His base of knowledge was too threadbare to be of any help.
Then a lightbulb lit atop his head. Not literally, of course.
Hey, wait a sec. Maybe… yeah, just maybe I could enhance my soul or whatever with the remaining red souls inside the Soul Sphere. That should work, right?
And with my soul strengthened that way, then there won’t be a need to access the Sphere anymore. Yeah, that might work.
Jack nodded as he decided on what to do next. Whether it would work or not, he had no idea, but nevertheless, it was worth a try. In order to access the Sphere, he had to go to sleep right now. Might as well, since there was still some time left before arriving at their destination somewhere in the state of Montana. The problem was that it was still early in the day, and he was not at all sleepy.
Damn it, this isn’t going to work, is it?
Jack groaned inwardly after trying to fall asleep for a few minutes in the co-pilot’s seat. Akkad noticed the boy’s troubles and asked.
“Is there a problem, Mister Mercer? You seem to have found yourself in a jam of sorts.”
“Yeah, well. I’m kinda in a bind.”
Jack then explained his situation and his idea. Akkad listened attentively and when Jack was done, he offered up an assistance.
“We should have suitable medication in the place we are going to. Let us try your method when we get there.”
Meanwhile, somewhere in East New York….
A Latin man in his early thirties wearing a pair of thin, stylish glasses and sitting in a black wheelchair was busy typing on a wireless keyboard, his eyes darting between half a dozen monitors mounted on a brick wall.
Half of those monitors showed the maps of the five boroughs of the city, while the other half, things such as constant reports and updates made by the federal agents and Guild of Heroes members continued to flash by.
The wheelchair-bound man’s inputs were shown on the middle screen. He was creating a new algorithm on the fly to find out more info on the new term he had come across just now.
“What is this Project Dead Kings….? What kind of secrets have you been keeping away from the world, Mister President, eh?”
The room was shrouded in darkness, the only light source the screens and a lit desktop lamp above a simple notepad. The windows were boarded up, keeping out the prying eyes and the warmth of early morning sunlight.
He was so absorbed in his work that he had failed to notice a new presence silently slipping in through the shadows.
It was the same masked man from the night before. He still had that indiscernible aura of darkness blanketing him, shielding him from the light, oozing danger from every pore, even without the dagger that Nico Gavalas had stolen earlier.
The masked vigilante called out softly.
Startled, Ramirez the wheelchair-bound man nearly dropped his wireless keyboard on the floor.
“Jesus Christ on meth, didn’t I tell you never to do that?!”
“You were too deep into whatever you were doing. But my apologies.”
The masked man replied humorlessly and walked in closer, his eyes surveying the screens showing the map of the city.
“What are you doing here at this time of the day, Abyss? You usually operate during the nighttime.”
“A special case. I ran into an unwelcome visitor during my interrogation and couldn’t prise out the information in the end. Can you help me with that? Also, that unwelcome guest took my dagger. I need to track him ASAP.”
Ramirez fixed the position of the thin glass. “Huh. Is that right? Sounds like something big has happened to you if you’re willing to rush like this. But I doubt it’s as big as what had happened in JFK, though.”
“Yeah, I heard about that on my over here. I also hear a crowd has shown up to deal with the mess.” The masked vigilante, Abyss, chuckled without mirth.
“It’s a serious thing. No one has an accurate count but it seems like thousands of people died within minutes, so yeah, it’s a big deal, alright. But well, I guess the crowd will take care of it, right?”
“Right. They will take care of that. For now, focus on the girl first. I asked around, and Max was seen talking to a Serbian expat named Wilhelm Milosevic who deals in guns and drugs. Maybe there’s something, maybe not. It’s just a hunch, but check into the man’s records. He owns a shipping company if I remember correctly. I’m guessing that he owns a warehouse somewhere.”
Ramirez clicked on the mouse and one of the screen changed, showing an almost-blank one. Here, he typed certain parameters to bring out private companies and corporations registered under IRS. It went without saying, this was hacking. And it was very much illegal in all 50 States.
While that was being done, Abyss glanced over at other screens and caught the sight of the words “Project Dead Kings.”
Abyss pointed at the screen and asked.
“That? Oh, it’s just something I found interesting. One of the crowds coming over to the city is from the Department of Defense, under the project title of the Dead Kings. Never heard of them before, so I was trying to dig up some dirt on them.”
“And? Anything to worry about?”
“So far…. well, other than being a very well-funded project, not much. The clearance level required to access even the most basic data is pretty ridiculous, so I was in the middle of crafting a new baby of mine to sneak in but then you showed up.”
Abyss shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.
“My bad. So, you know nothing?”
“Well, looks like they won’t be playing ball with other kids on the block. No other agencies seem to know they are coming, other than some real bigwigs. But you know what, those goody two shoes in the Guild of Heroes wouldn’t appreciate someone unrelated to their little choir group coming in to rain on their parade so, might as well, right?
“Anyway, all I could find out from the chatter is that they are an elite force built up to deal with threats like the one from the JFK incident.”
Abyss nodded, fast losing what little interest he had.
His mind was far too occupied with the case of the girl as well as the fate of the dagger to give a crap about some military hard-asses prancing around. They do their thing, and leave him alone to do his, then he’d not get in their way. That was one of Abyss’ mottos.
His priority, the obligation, was to find the girl first. He’d see the matter to the end before moving on to the mysterious Super who came to steal that accursed dagger.
Ramirez continued on. “You thinking of doing something about the perp responsible for JFK?”
Abyss shook his head. “No. I work in the dark, while matters like that need men in the light.”
“Well, didn’t hurt to ask. Oh, here. Milosevic’s indeed got himself a dozen warehouses or so. Here are the GPS coordinates. So, what do you wanna do? Check out all of them?”
“No, isolate the ones that are located in quiet neighborhoods with good access to sea, land and air traffic, taxes and fees all fully paid up with the feds, and the size of the warehouse around 25000 square feet.”
Ramirez typed in the new search parameters and soon got a hit.
“There’s one. Hah, that narrows things down somewhat. Okay, let’s see. I got a video feed. Wanna take a look?”
Abyss nodded and leaned in closer. “Bring it up. Let’s check out the lay of the land.”
The screen’s image changed from the list to a security camera footage showing an innocuous building near the docks. Judging by the view, the camera must have been located in an adjacent building.
There was a little, if any, activity showing up on screen. But there were expensive cars parked out front, and one or two well-armed Eastern European men walking around, looking alert.
“What about the interior? Can you gain an access?” asked Abyss as he studied the building.
“No can do. Looks like no cameras. And the military satellites capable of peering through the ceiling are all being used by, well, the military, so I can’t even borrow one at the moment.” Ramirez sighed helplessly.
Abyss was unsatisfied, but he had no choice. He decided to go there and see if the girl was inside this warehouse. Again, he was operating only on his gut feelings, but they usually proved useful.
He was about to ask for Ramirez’s help in finding the dagger-stealing Super next when his eyes caught something strange, and perhaps shocking, on the screen.
“Someone is coming,” said Ramirez as he also spotted it. A man was approaching the warehouse while frequently checking an item in his hand. This person didn’t seem like one of the thugs hired to guard the place, as he was lugging around a heavy-looking gym bag over his shoulder.
Ramirez frowned as he thought that this guy looked kind of familiar. Abyss was thinking that the bastard he was looking for was right there, in front of him. Was this fate?
“Hey, Ramirez, this feed is in real time, right?”
“Yeah, it is. But that guy…. I’ve seen him before….. No, wait a freaking minute. That guy can’t be…. right?”
Abyss was taken back when he heard that. “You know that man? How?”
“No, I don’t know him, per se, but I’ve seen him. From here. Check it out. Because you ain’t going to believe your eyes, dude.”
One of the screens then blacked out for a second, before showing a grainy footage of an interior of a building. On a closer inspection, it was from an airport. More accurately, that of JFK, minutes before the massacre.
The quality of the recording was not as precise as what Akkad had shown to his guests but it was pretty good nevertheless, affording a clear enough image of the man responsible for all that death.
It was at this moment Abyss sucked in his breath and swore loudly.
“Son of a bi*ch.”
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