Black Ops
Chapter 10: Ground Zero

By John Westcott

"Good evening."

Brad MacQuarrie whirled his chair around and instinctively reached for his SIG P-228. He no sooner felt the reassuring grip of the gun with its sixteen round magazine in his hand than three bat shaped darts lodged themselves in his forearm, causing him to drop the weapon to the floor. From the darkness, all he could see was a shadow coming alive, white eyes boring, not at him, but rather through him. The shadow also seemed to fly across the room rather than walk or run. Strong hands gripped both MacQuarrie's wrists and spun him around toward his desk full of laptops. He craned his neck around to get a good look at the shadow that had attacked him and so easily disarmed him. His eyes caught a quick glimpse of a yellow oval encircling a bat and a fearsome cowl that covered all of his attackers face with the exception of a small portion around his mouth. MacQuarrie had never seen a picture of him, but given his current allies on this mission, he immediately knew the man who had immobilized him. This was no mere shadow or childhood nightmare come to life. Batman had finally arrived.

Batman grabbed MacQuarrie's right arm and twisted it up and around until it was almost between his shoulder blades. Impact Squadron's computer expert felt fire shoot up his spine as Batman leaned into the man and put his weight on the man's arm. "I will only ask you this question once. Where is he?"

MacQuarrie gasped with pain as his arm was pushed further up his back by impossibly strong hands. "Jesus Christ!!!!!! My arm!!!"

"I guarantee you I will break it if you don't cooperate. Don't make me ask the question again." The rough voice reminded MacQuarrie of someone who had swallowed sandpaper. There was no doubt in his mind that this man was very angry and very capable of breaking his arm if he so desired.

"You're looking for Nightwing right?" MacQuarrie felt even more pain shoot through his body as Batman jabbed the young man in the kidneys. "You just answered a question with a question. Now, I've come a long way to find Nightwing and I am not in the best of moods. This is your last chance, where....... is....... he?"

MacQuarrie pointed at the laptop in the center of his desk which was flanked by two others, two more computers lay off to the side monitoring life signs. There were several applications open on the main screen, one window displayed a list of names he did not recognize, each name was followed by two 6 digit numbers which he did recognize as Global Positioning coordinates. Another screen showed a group of armed men lying in wait, weapons at the ready.

"He's out there."

Batman immediately memorized the GPS coordinates and threw another punch into MacQuarrie's kidney area. The computer expert fell to his knees as The Caped Crusader turned on his heel and started for the door. Through clenched teeth and biting pain MacQuarrie turned to address the departing vigilante. "Wait!!"

Batman immediately stopped in his tracks, not even bothering to turn and face MacQuarrie. "If you're going out there, there's a few things you need to know."

"Such as?" Batman replied.

"You need to know what Nightwing is doing out there. You need to know what he's up against, and exactly why he's helping us. If you go bumbling out there without listening to what I have to say, he's as good as dead."

With a rustle of his cape Batman finally turned back to face MacQuarrie and lowered his face down to within inches of the younger mans.

"Talk to me."

Nightwing ducked his head around the corner of a hallway, Summers by his side with her weapon at the ready. So far, he had managed to take the lead and no one had been killed. He had a sinking feeling in his gut that before this operation was over lives would be lost. He was determined to do everything in his power to keep it from happening but in his soul he knew that the only way to deal with Kane may be to kill him. Nightwing never thought that he would be put in a situation that made him remember trying to make his way through the twisted web of corruption and crime that was Bludhaven as a relatively simple task. Nevertheless, here he was, in a biosphere in The Great Sandy Desert of Australia, a stunningly beautiful government operative by his side, hunting down a cache of biological weapons and a genetically engineered killer who in every way deserved the title of Homo Superior.

"Stay alert Stacy, I have a feeling that we're about to hit the mother load." He whispered as he edged closer to a series of black and yellow double wide bay doors, a 'caution' symbol painted across them and the same skull and cross bones symbol beneath it that they found on the virus containers in Crete. A control panel of some sort was fixed to the wall to the right of the doors, no doubt a lock down mechanism of some kind.

"We might have to blow these doors open. That's gonna bring guards by the bucketful." He said as he stepped closer. To Nightwing's surprise, the doors whisked open as he approached, no doubt due to some unseen motion sensor. Peering inside, Nightwing could see that this was indeed their goal. Cold air rushed out from the parting doors, Nightwing remembered that the air in the storage areas in Crete was also below normal. No doubt a coolant of some kind was also being used here to keep the virus inert. In the center of the room they could see the same virus containers as they had before in Crete, only far more. Rows of containers could be seen inside, each with its own skull and crossbones symbol, certainly enough to help Kane achieve his goal. Each vial, placed strategically through the busiest areas of Australia during the Summer Olympics, would effectively carry the Ebola Omega virus to all corners of the Earth. Along each wall they could see rows of computer banks and monitoring stations, above that a second floor composed of metal grating could be seen along the outside walls of the makeshift laboratory with even more computers, monitoring stations and an unobstructed view of the virus stores below. Nightwing found it odd that with all these rows of computers, there was not a single soul in sight. Over the years, he had developed a sixth sense for danger, formed in Gotham and honed to a razorsharp edge in Bludhaven, the acute awareness of nearby danger rarely failed him, and he was feeling it now.

"Come on, let's go." Summers whispered as she strode past him and into the cool storage area.

"Something's wrong. I'm not sure about this."

"The clock is ticking," Stacy said as she entered, her voice filled with urgency, "let's do this before those guards are discovered missing. We still have to find the Colonel."

Nightwing started after her, his eyes scanning the area wearily. Why was there no one here? Surely Kane would want this virus of his monitored at all times. What was it Stacy had said? 'Let's do this before those guards are discovered missing." Then it hit him, he felt the weight of of the realization almost as if it were a physical blow, they were expected, it was a trap. "Stacy wait!!!"

Before Summers could turn to address Nightwing strong hands reached out from behind a monitoring station and gripped her by the wrists. Summers felt her VP 70 knocked from her hand as she was pulled up into the air and slammed back to the floor with a loud, sickening thud. At the same time, over a dozen men leaped out from concealed positions behind the monitoring stations along the elevated monitoring area above them, automatic weapons trained on Nightwing and Summers. In the space of three seconds Nightwing realized that Angelica had disarmed Stacy and over a dozen men had their sights trained on him. Angelica produced a revolver and settled it against Summers' temple. At that moment, Kane stepped out from behind the same monitoring station Angelica was hiding behind, a smile etched on his perfect face. Nightwing regarded the genetically engineered man, he was clad in a bright red silk robe adorned with Japanese icons, he wore no shirt, his broad chest openly displayed. A pair of loose fitting jogging pants and a pair of sandals completed his ensemble. Angelica wore a camouflage outfit similar to those worn by Kane's henchman. Summers immediately noticed the medals pinned to Angelica's uniform and recognized them as belonging to General Walker.

"I have to hand it to you Nightwing, and to your beautiful friend here. You are both credits to the human race. How you managed to survive our encounter in Crete I'm not sure, but obviously you are made of sterner stuff than most of your race. You have cost me money, time, and personnel. I am afraid however, that it will stop here. I have you completely covered from an elevated position, I would advise you to remain perfectly still." To help Kane make his point, Angelica pulled back the hammer on her revolver. There was nothing he could do, no action he could take that would not result in their deaths. Even Nightwing would not be able to move fast enough to avoid all the bullets that would come his way. He had to buy them some time, outsmart Kane as well as draw his henchman from the area. There was only one option left, he had to bluff. Nightwing raised his hands in the air to indicate his surrender.

Kane circled Summers and regarded her with a wary eye, he then turned to address Nightwing. "Is this all you have? Yourself and a woman?" Summers snorted in disgust at his remark, she also noticed that Angelica noticeably stiffened at his comment.

"I don't think you're quite the big bad wolf you make yourself out to be Kane. The two of us are all that's needed to kick your tail. That....." he paused as he removed his belt and flipped it over to reveal the black box that housed the laser beacon, "and this." All eyes converged on the laser beacon, to the untrained eye the unit was basically a rectangular black box made of a molded plastic with a webbed belt strap, a singular red button was positioned in the exact center of the box. To activate the beacon, Nightwing need only depress the button in the center, identifying the location of the target and bringing Impact Squadron down around Kane's ears.

Kane arched an eyebrow as he regarded the unit. "What is that?"

"It's a bomb, Kane." he immediately noticed the guards on the level above stiffen at his announcement, "This thing is packed with a powerful explosive that would cause a blast big enough to be seen from space." It was a lie of course, a bluff intended to buy them time, one that immediately set everyone in the room on edge. Upon his announcement that it was a bomb Nightwing noticed that every guard above him had released the safeties on the weapons, a small group of laser dots gathered both on his chest and on his forehead. Sweat began to bead on the foreheads of some of the guards, despite the chilled air.

"It doesn't look like any kind of bomb or weapon I've ever seen."

"I guarantee you that's what it is. If this goes off they'll find pieces of all of us spread over a one hundred mile radius. Shoot me. Go right ahead. This thing is armed, the smallest impact and it could go off. Are you fast enough to get over here and catch it before my dead body hits the ground? Even with your genetically engineered body I seriously doubt it. So go ahead and shoot me. I may die Kane, but you can guarantee I'll be saving you a seat in Hell."

Kane calmy held out his hand. "Give it to me. Give it to me or I will see to it that your girlfriend here is raped repeatedly by my men before she dies."

The bluff was all that was keeping Nightwing alive and he knew it. "So her choices are get killed quickly now or slowly and painfully later? You'll have to give me a better choice than that."

There was a moment of silence as Kane regarded Nightwing, trying to ascertain his mettle perhaps? Trying to judge if Nightwing had what it took to kill them all. In reality only forty seconds of silence had passed but to everyone in the room it felt like an eternity. When Kane spoke again, it was in a soft, almost soothing tone.

"You're not going to do it Nightwing. We both know you won't. You don't have it in you. You're a hero, born and bred. You won't commit suicide and take all these lives with you. You could have done that in Crete if you wanted to but you didn't. Especially not with your delightful girlfriend here, not when there's a chance you can live to fight again later. Not when there is a chance you can still get out of this alive. Tell me I'm wrong."

Feigning defeat, Nightwing lowered his head. "You're right."

"Now end this. Give me the bomb. I may be many things Nightwing but I am a man of my word, if you give me the bomb you're female companion will be treated well and given a quick, painless death, as will you. I am not a barbarian."

Nightwing began to cross the distance between himself and Kane, his boots echoing on the tiled floor. The room was excruciatingly still as Nightwing approached him. All eyes watched the exchange between the two men, including Summers who was giving him a confused look. No one dared to even draw a breath while Nightwing held what they believed to be a bomb.

Nightwing stopped an arms's length from Kane. Everyone in the room stiffened, including Kane. Gripping the unit with his right hand, his thumb on the activation button in the center, Nightwing extended his arm, apparently ready and willing to hand it over to Kane.

"You made the right choice." Kane reached out and took hold of the unit. Nightwing released his grip and felt the activation button under his thumb depress. The laser beacon had been activated. To Kane's surprise, Nightwing actually chuckled, his face broadening into a smile.

"I don't see the humor here."

"Oh you will. Congratulations Kane."

"What do you mean?"

"Things may become a little," he paused for effect, ".....intense. You've just been painted with a laser beacon. I suggest you run for cover right now. You have just become ground zero."

"That's the signal." Cortez yelled to the rest of Impact Squadron. "Francis, make a hole!!"

Francis acknowledged the order and immediately lined up the sights of his APILAS light anti-tank rocket launcher on the nearest wall of Kane's biosphere. Seconds later, he fired the weapon and a devastating rocket launched itself across the desert floor towards its target. The resultant explosion as the rocket hit the foundation of the biosphere shook the entire basement area and caused the power to blink out momentarily.

"Impact Squadron!!! Move in!!!"

Kane stumbled as the impact of the rocket came close to knocking them all off of their feet. Nightwing, who had been expecting the concussion, lashed out at Kane with a spinning kick to the side of his head. The impact of the kick sent Kane reeling backwards, the laser beacon still in his hand. Nightwing had barely landed on the tips of his toes before he launched himself fluidly into the air and landed with both feet against Angelica's chest, driving her backward and skidding across the floor, freeing Summers.

"Get out there and destroy the intruders!!!" Kane howled even before he had stopped skidding across the floor, "Angelica and I will take care of these two!!!" Responding with military efficiency, the guards broke into a run for the exits along the upper level, ignoring Nightwing and Summers. Kane rose to his feet as did Angelica. Kane's eyes were devoid of all emotion other than barely suppressed hatred, all of it directed at the black clad hero standing before him. When he spoke, his voice was poison itself.

"I'm finally going to get the enjoyment of rendering you limb from limb Nightwing."

"Why don't you shut up already Kane? You've tried that remember? There's a long line of people who want to kill me, take a number and head to the back of the line because as far as I can see, you're no better than any of the other psychos who've tried and failed. How does failure taste to a genetic superman like yourself? We both know I bitch slapped you once and I'll do it again."

Kane growled deep in his throat and assumed an attack position from a school of fighting Dick was unfamiliar with. Nightwing knew from experience how dangerous this man was and pressed his attack, leaping at Kane. Nightwing's outstretched arms grabbed Kane by the neck and forced him back to the floor with Nightwing's body pinning his arms down. At the same time Angelica attacked Summers with a flurry of kicks and punches, forcing Summers out through the main doors, driving her and Nightwing apart.

Nightwing landed several hard punches to Kane's jaw, which only managed to daze his opponent for a few seconds. Fueled by rage, Kane smashed his forehead into Nightwing's face, sending him sprawling across the room. Kane and Nightwing both leaped to their feet as if they were mirror images of one another. Both men momentarily froze as they saw the look on each others faces. Kane looked into Nightwing's face as another explosion rocked the building and sparks flew from a nearby console, showering them both. His eyes hidden behind the one way lenses of his mask, Kane contented himself to reading Nightwing's face, he was adept enough at psychology to see that the young man was tensed, but not nervous. He seemed fully confident in his own abilities and completely prepared to defeat Kane. Kane realized that this vigilante turned government operative was quite used to facing superior odds and managing to overcome them every time. Although he stood completely still and belied little emotion, Kane was impressed. Nightwing had the odds against him once again and he knew it, nonetheless he was standing his ground, completely oblivious to the possibility of failure. Nightwing would not allow it, through sheer will if need be.

On the opposite side there was Nightwing, who enjoyed a complete view of Kane's face. Ever since the moment Nightwing had handed him the activated laser beacon, Kane's eyes were pure malevolence personified. Nightwing knew that given the chance, this genetically engineered superhuman would do everything in his power to bring him to the most painful, tortured, lingering death possible. Kane was not used to failure and he had failed in killing Nightwing and Summers back in Crete. It was readily apparent that he would do anything it took to rectify the mistakes he had made. Nightwing had forced Kane's back into a corner, and like any predatory animal, that was when he was most lethal.

The power was constantly kicking in and out with the force of Impact Squadron's attack, bathing the two combatants first in light, then darkness. Sparks continued to illuminate the darkness as they flew from overloading consoles. With no preamble, Nightwing launched his attack. Whipping himself through the air at his opponent and snapping out punches almost faster than the eye could follow. Reacting with enhanced reflexes, Kane managed to avoid the blows and countered with his own punch combination. Nightwing was fast, but not as fast as Kane, yet he had managed to block the punches rather than duck them completely. Neither man had yet to do any damage to the other. The two continued a lethal dance with neither combatant doing any real damage to the other.

This could take forever, Nightwing thought to himself. Whatever Kane's thoughts on the encounter, he was keeping his own council.

Again the basement area shook from another explosion and Nightwing saw his opportunity as Kane stumbled for barely a second from the impact. Coiling the muscles in his legs and releasing, Nightwing launched himself forward and through the split second drop in Kane's defenses. Kane had barely blinked with the momentary distraction of the missile impact when he suddenly felt pain shoot through his chest as Nightwing's fist rained down upon his upper torso. Nightwing landed the punches and immediately broke into another manoeuver, spinning on his heel and bringing his right foot up against the back of Kane's head, landing on his right foot the masked hero continued with his momentum and let his left leg fly in a perfectly executed spin kick to the exact same spot behind Kane's right ear. Kane found himself momentarily dazed by the spin kicks, Nightwing was a whirling dervish in those few seconds and even Kane's superior eyesight saw nothing but a blur of movement before the pain shot through his well muscled neck. Kane felt himself grow momentarily dizzy from the blows to his head and without actually seeing it, he felt Nightwing take advantage of the situation and push him back to the floor.

Kane landed awkwardly in a heap and hit the back of his head on the tiled floor. He had been bred for moments like this. Moments when would be assassins would try to take his life during some covert operation. His DNA had been engineered to serve him in times like this. Glands pumped out adrenaline into the man's bloodstream faster than a normal humans. Brain synapses fired more quickly than any other mortal man could possibly dream of. Instantly, Kane's blurred vision cleared and his brain instantly registered the threat of Nightwing's devastating martial arts kicks coming towards him. Superior reflexes shot Kane's hand out like a coiled snake attacking its prey and rock hard muscles grabbed Nightwing's ankles and with a quick throw, Nightwing found himself dumped to the ground just as he had done to Kane.

Kane leaped across the room at his foe, fully intending to choke the life from Nightwing, who actually managed to roll aside at the last minute and, taking hold of Kane by his ponytail, instead rammed Kane's face repeatedly into a nearby console that continued to shower both of them with sparks. After four consecutive impacts with the console at Nightwing's hands, Kane managed to lash out with an elbow to Nightwing's stomach, driving his foe backward, driving the air from his lungs. By now the two had become oblivious to the sounds of distant gunfire and the more prominent rumblings of explosions. They both knew that only one man would walk away alive from this confrontation.

Neil Anderson swore as he replaced the clip in his Keckler & Koch MP5K and sprayed the horizon with more bullets. Despite the best efforts of Anderson and his men, Impact Squadron continued to advance on the biosphere with weapons blazing. He had watched, almost with awe, as the men of Impact Squadron appeared over the horizon in specially converted jeeps with CETME MG42 belt fed automatic assault weapons mounted on a raised platform on the back of each vehicle, spraying death in the form of .223 caliber shells at 850 rounds a minute. Emerging first as tiny specks and growing larger as they approached their goal, some of Anderson's hand picked men had decided that discretion was the better part of valor, dropping their weapons and running in the opposite direction into the desert night.

In the distance, Anderson noticed the brief flash and immediately recognized it as yet another anti-tank rocket coming their way. He dropped behind the barricade he had erected out of Kane's very expensive furniture and waited until the blast hit. It didn't take long, the entire foundation rocked once more. Impact Squadron was finding out that the transparent material used in the construction of the biosphere was not glass, but a type of Armor-Lite three inch thick blast plate that could take severe beatings from concussion missiles. Anderson knew however, that if his enemies continued their assault with such heavy weaponry, they would soon weaken the material enough to punch a hole straight through it. He had only one chance. Reaching into his pocket Anderson pulled out a small device that looked like a remote control unit. He entered a number combination into the unit and watched with a smirk as remote operated machine gun nests emerged from the sand in front of the biosphere and began unleashing a hail of bullets at the incoming Squadron. One jeep exploded and rolled several times before coming to a stop under the punishing rain of destruction. Anderson smirked as he witnessed the event.

On the sand dunes below, Captain Emilio Cortez barely had time to react as he witnessed the mechanized machine gun nests emerge from beneath the sand and begin spilling out death. Sitting in the front passenger seat of his jeep, he heard the windshield crack as bullets tore through it and ripped into Murrant, who was driving the vehicle. The jeep shuddered under the impact of the bullets and left the ground, rolling across the dunes. Cortez managed to leap from the vehicle and noticed that Johnson, who had been firing the machine gun on the rear platform of the jeep, had also fallen from his perch to the desert floor. He helped his comrade to his feet and the two ran for the only cover available to them, the overturned jeep. The two other jeeps that had been following Cortez's lead both swerved to a stop and the members of Impact Squadron poured out of their vehicles and jumped behind them for cover. The gas tanks had been enclosed in a special bullet proof casing that would protect them from ruptured gas tank explosions for the time being. However, they were trapped and they knew it. Unable to go forward into the lethal spray of bullets, unable to go back beyond the horizon without being shot, there was nowhere to go. Cortez desperately wanted to climb into the jeep and see if Murrant was still alive, but the hail of bullets made that impossible and his guts turned to water thinking of his friend trapped in the vehicle, possibly riddled with bullet holes. Trapped behind a very precarious cover that was slowly being ripped to shreds by the machine guns. That was when he heard MacQuarrie's voice over the open comm line. He turned up the volume on his earpiece and shouted for their computer expert to repeat his message.

"HANG ON CAPTAIN!! BACKUP IS ON THE WAY!!!! Were MacQuarrie's exact words. Backup? What backup? They were disavowed. No one would be coming to their rescue. He yelled into the tiny microphone on his collar, demanding to know the identity of their backup.

"TRUST ME!! WHEN HE GET'S THERE, YOU'LL KNOW WHO IT IS!!!" Was MacQuarrie's only reply. Over the din of the combat, Cortez looked back over the horizon from which they had come. The distinctive roar of a Typhoon 313 B began to fill their ears.

Batman had set the plane on automatic pilot as he donned the 'Hunting Gear' Alfred had loaded on the plane for him. He opened the equipment locker to reveal a modified version of his own Batman uniform. Instead of being manufactured from a triple weave nomex fabric, the cowl, which still retained its trademark bat visage, was made of a space age metal, more a helmet than a cowl. The eyepieces revealed the users entire surroundings in infrared, radar / sonar, and digital readouts as well, whatever he desired. This enabled him to target enemies from a great distance with pinpoint accuracy. The computer in the helmet was linked to a special launcher attached to his right gauntlet that fired limpet mines. Originally designed for knocking out the reinforced doors to crack houses, he knew it would be useful on this mission as well. Batman also attached a special device to his belt that sent out multiple 'ghost' images to any device trying to get a read on his position. A special body armor molded to his physical specifications completed the modified uniform. He found the outfit too heavy and bulky for his everyday operations in Gotham City, not to mention that it reminded him too much of Jean Paul Valley's modified Batman uniform, but he knew it would come in handy with people such as this.

The computer inside his helmet counted down the seconds before Batman should make his jump. The plane would set itself down two miles to the south, leaving the Caped Crusader to attend to Nightwing without worrying about his transportation. The display in his head piece counted down to zero and Batman launched himself through the main hatch, his modified cape acting as a glider and catching the air currents, allowing him to descend at a regulated pace.

Peering into the sky overhead, the assembled members of Impact Squadron stopped firing their weapons and felt their collective jaws drop as, silhouetted by the moonlight, Batman descended toward them. Seconds later, The Dark Knight landed silently on the desert sand.

"I believe you people are in need of assistance." Without waiting for a reply, Batman ran past them and towards the machine gun nests. The computer display in his helmet showed him a digital readout of the scene before him and the exact distance to the automatic weapons that pinned down Impact Squadron. The computer tracking system locked on to their targets and Batman raised his right gauntlet, two limpet mines leaped forth from the wrist mounted launcher and attached themselves to the gun emplacements. The automatic targeting systems on the weapons momentarily confused by Batman's devices, fired indiscriminately, but in the wrong direction. Pushing a button on his utility belt, the limpet mines exploded, destroying the weapons. Without waiting for Impact Squadron, Batman broke into a run for the biosphere.

"Impact Squadron!!! Move up!!!" Cortez yelled to his troops as he broke into a run after The Dark Knight.

Stacy Summers spun around from a right cross to her jaw from Angelica. The two women had battled fiercely along the now abandoned hallways of Kane's basement levels. They had long since left behind Kane and Nightwing, who were involved in a pitched battle of their own. Angelica was a deadly warrior, every bit as dangerous as Kane himself. Summers blocked a knife edge chop form her opponent and executed a perfectly placed kick in Angelica's mid section, knocking her backward. Summers realized she was lost, she didn't recognize the hallway their battle had taken them to nor did she know of how to get back to an area she was familiar with.

Angelica rose to her feet once more and charged Summers, who sidestepped the attack and brought her knee up into Angelica's stomach. The air exploded out of Angelica's lungs as she impaled herself on Summers' knee. Summers then grabbed the woman by her long hair and put all her weight behind her, shoving Angelica toward what she thought was a wall. However, the wall was another of the translucent doors that dotted the hallway. Angelica crashed through the door in a brittle symphony of sound and skidded on her stomach along the floor.

Summers leaped into the room after her and instantly came to a halt. The sight that greeted her eyes stopped her in her tracks. Twenty five bodies, encased in individual cigar shaped cryogenic chambers. Twelve males, all exact replicas of Kane, lay side by side. Each body had slightly misshapen bone structure, Summers assumed that these clones were not yet fully developed. Summers also noticed that the thirteen females in their casings looked exactly like Angelica, the thirteen female bodies also appeared as if they were not fully formed.

The real Angelica leaped to her feet and began a charge toward Summers.

"STOP!!!!" She yelled.

Angelica did indeed come to a halt. Her entire body on edge, ready to attack at a moment's notice.

"Haven't you noticed something strange Angelica?"

Her foe raised an inquiring eyebrow, "What the hell are you talking about?"

Summers spread her arms out, indicating the entire room and its contents. "There are twelve replicas of Kane in this room. He told us he was creating more individuals like himself, but there are thirteen replicas of you. Why do you figure that is Angelica? One for each replica of Kane, and one more? Who do you think that's for Angelica? Could it be Kane is making you as obsolete as the rest of the human race? An enhanced replica of you for when he kills you with the Ebola Omega virus? Maybe he's planning on killing you along with the rest of us."

Angelica shook her head, as if she were trying to keep the truth of the situation from entering her mind. Summers waited for Angelica to attack her again, but no attack came. She considered pressing her advantage and attacking the young woman, but she rejected it. Better to have her stop fighting on her own.

Suddenly, Angelica turned and looked at the contents of the room, her body began shaking, Summers thought the young girl may actually have been crying.

"It looks like Kane is a threat to us all Angelica," Summers said in a soothing tone, "Even you."

Angelica turned back toward Summers, tears streaming down her face, she walked up to, and past the dark haired woman, through the now shattered door. When she was in the hallway, Angelica turned to Summers, "Come with me."

"Where are we going?"

"My lover has a friend of yours in the operating room. I'll take you to him before this place blows up."

"You're doing the right thing." Summers assured her as she placed a hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Then why do I feel dead inside?" Angelica responded as her lips trembled with repressed sorrow.

Kane reeled as another blow rained down upon his chest. Nightwing had proven himself to be a worthy foe indeed. The first he had ever encountered. He felt something he had never felt before, challenged. In his short lifetime Kane realized that he would be a slave to boredom for most of his life. He was a genius and he had a perfect physique, there was little he could not do if he put his mind to it. Until the creation of his family was complete, he resigned himself to the fact that he would never find an equal to challenge his abilities. Yet here was this man, this Nightwing, a masked vigilante recruited by the late General Douglas Walker in a futile attempt to stop him from eradicating the human race and starting over with his genetically engineered family. This young man actually had him reeling from attack after attack.

Kane actually felt excited as Nightwing again landed a blow on Kane's stomach, feeling something crack within him. Nightwing had challenged all his assumptions as to what the human race was capable of. There was nothing more Kane wanted than to continue this fight until he could find an opening in Nightwing's defenses and beat him into submission. Realistically, he knew he could not wait until that moment. Nightwing was a formidable foe to be sure, but there were more factors to consider than his joy at finding a challenge in Nightwing. Impact Squadron was practically on his doorstep, threatening his stores of Ebola Omega. The keen analytical side of Kane's mind kicked in and told him that finishing this fight by any means necessary was in his best long term interest. To that end, Kane turned on his heel and began running from Nightwing.

"Who gave you permission to leave?" Nightwing yelled as Kane ran from the virus storage room and down the hallway. Of course, Nightwing knew that this was Kane's way of giving himself time to recuperate and perhaps lead him into a trap of some sort. Nightwing broke into a sprint with all possible speed and gave chase. Kane was extremely fast despite the beating Nightwing had handed out, by the time Nightwing had spotted Kane he was opening a door which appeared to lead to a stairwell. Nightwing immediately ran down the hallway and into the stairwell, he spotted Kane, already several floors up, darting up the stairs. Taking the stairs three at a time, Bludhaven's avenging angel continued to chase. Nightwing heard a door opening ahead of him, Kane had left the stairwell. Bounding up the stairs Nightwing saw a door slowly sliding shut and followed the trail. He emerged in a hallway that lead to what he recognized as the entrance to the arboretum, summoning his energy reserves, he ran through the entrance and skidded to a halt.

Immediately the translucent door behind him slid shut, followed by another metal door that looked like a blast shield. Kane was nowhere in sight. Nightwing noticed that the stars in the sky and the emerging dawn were slowly being blacked out. The panes of glass were becoming opaque. The lights went out completely. From an unseen sound system strains of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata began to fill the air. Nightwing knew instantly that the advantage had just shifted back to Kane. He had music to cover the sound of his movements in the darkness of this man made jungle which he no doubt knew his way around far better than Nightwing. Somewhere in the darkness, Nightwing heard the distant sound of a sword being removed from its sheath. Finally, Kane's disembodied voice addressed him:

"Now Nightwing, you will feel the wrath of a truly superior man."

Continue To Chapter Eleven

Back To The Main Story Page