“You brought a copy of the video?” Shockwave asked Ichabod. The horseman towered over him from the back of his steed. They stood in the middle of the street outside the morgue at four in the morning.
As soon as Isaac had finished viewing the footage of the villains robbing the morgue, he made the calls. Shockwave had grumbled at first, having only gotten about an hour of shut eye, but woke in a hurry as soon as Isaac began explaining. Not like he had anything planned for the day. The visit with Morrigan had been sedentary. Aside from the circumstances, it felt good to move now.
"And Pulse?” Shockwave asked.
“Unhappy to be awakened,” the horseman replied, “but heading for the base.”
Shockwave nodded. “Right. At least we’ll have somebody minding the store.” He faced the morgue. The building was still, quiet. Just like a morgue should be. “Any sign of forced entry?”
Ichabod stood as still as an ebon statue. Not for the first time, Shockwave wished the other Guardian had a face, just something to make interactions seem less inhuman. “None.”
There was a considerable problem. If the morgue was locked up tight, there was no way for the Guardians to enter without damaging private property. Not to mention being baldly illegal. Add to that dilemma the fact that there was no telling if the video had been genuine or part of some elaborate trap. Then, if the footage had been for real, there remained a possibility Hellion, Bloodhawk, and Reaver were still around. While Shockwave had no doubts Ichabod would hold his own, even against those three, it was still just the horseman and himself on-site. If the video was truthful, there was a strong probability those three were working with at least one other.
Shockwave scratched at the left side of his mask. Too many variables. “Do we chance going in? If they teleported in, like we suspect, we run the risk of breaking the law ourselves.”
Ichabod remained silent.
A sigh escaped Shockwave’s lips. No help was forthcoming from the horseman. No easy solution presented itself. He mulled over their options a few moments longer before coming to a decision.
“All right,” he said. “Wait here. I’m going back to the van. Gonna call the authorities in on this one, make sure a crime has been committed. If not, we just turn over the video. If so, we still turn over the video, but at least we’ll be on-site to handle those jokers if they’re still around. In the meantime, you holler if you see anything suspicious.”
Ichabod remained frozen in place. Even the demonic steed was motionless, not even a crackle of flame from the steed’s nostrils. Shockwave was just about to repeat himself when Ichabod at last said, “Agreed.”
Would it kill the guy with no head to give me some sign he was listening, Shockwave wondered. With a shake of his own head, he trotted back toward the Guardians’ van. Behind him, the horseman focused on the building.
There was more here than they could see. Ichabod’s senses could detect beings and energies from other planes of existence, but there was nothing extraordinary here. Yet something was making the demon half of his soul writhe.
The air was charged. Ichabod held no doubts that what he had seen on the computer was accurate. He knew video, especially this type of media and in this day and age, could be faked. That didn’t ring true, not in this case. When they entered that morgue, whoever it was, they would not find a single corpse inside. Every slab, every locker would be empty. Nothing else would be missing.
But why? That was the part which disturbed him the most. The villains he had witnessed were killers, not interested in the remains of their perverse victories. Except maybe Bloodhawk, and then only as a snack. The sheer amount of flesh being stolen was more than even a voracious cannibal could consume before it spoiled. From what Ichabod knew of that maniac, Bloodhawk preferred his meals alive and kicking at time of consumption. That line of thinking was a dead end, no pun intended.
Why corpses? The gut of the man and the intuition of the demon knew the key to it all lay with that secret. It did not fit that group.
Until they entered the morgue, they would remain in the dark. Even then, unless they were able to capture one of the perpetrators of the strange grave robbing, they may not have any of the answers they needed. The horseman dealt with something he rarely felt—frustration.
Shockwave returned a few minutes later.
“They’re sending a car and notifying the owners,” he said. “We’re to remain here until things get straightened out.”
Ichabod continued to watch the morgue. What were they missing? Hellion and Bloodhawk. Reaver. Killers stealing corpses. Flashes of light.
“Pulse just got in. Says nothing has popped up on the scanners.” Shockwave’s tone suggested that something was annoying him. “I take it nothing new happened while I was gone?”
Ichabod ignored the note of irritation and continued to stare at the morgue.
Things had been eventful of late. Buildings exploding. Supervillains teaming up for purposes which ran contrary to their usual methods. Bodies disappearing.
Wait. . .
“The bodies from the explosions,” Ichabod said, cutting off whatever Shockwave had begun to say. “They were brought here?” It came out as a question, but he already knew the answer.
“Yes.” The gruff tone faded as Shockwave’s brain started puzzling things out along the same lines as Ichabod’s. “So, you’re thinking those three are responsible for the blasts?”
Ichabod did not respond at first, but he did move. The terrible steed wheeled toward Shockwave, snorting a gout of hellfire from its nostrils. “Valkyrie is away, helping to investigate murders with no bodies.”
“Yeah, she should be in Seattle by now. What—?”
Shockwave’s hands balled into fists. “Oh, shit.”
Not so far away, flashing lights of red and blue were approaching.
“They are ready.”
Sawbones loped to the head of his ‘children’, patting and caressing his creations with those odd, perfectly manicured hands as he passed them. The strange affection the disgraced surgeon showed for each of his creations was something Hellion could not quite fathom; Sawbones fawned over the specimens with a mixture of attention a child would give a prize science experiment and the pride of a father holding his newborn baby. Hellion had hated the former, those smug little brats lording their fancy projects and A’s over him as a kid, and as an adult, he had killed a few of the latter.
“That mean we can kill them all now?” From Hellion’s right, Bloodhawk lounged on a divan he had taken from one of the department stores. Its blue-colored upholstery was marred with dark streaks of dried blood. He used a claw to pick errant bits of skin from between his teeth.
“Not all, you fool,” Anchor chided from the opposite side of the cavern. One gloved hand sat on her hip as she leaned to the left. “The Boss told us who was fair game and who needed to survive. Maybe if you opened you ears and listened instead of cramming things down your gullet all the time, you’d do something right for a change.”
“Why don’t you bring that ugly mug you try to hide behind that silly mask of yours over here.” Bloodhawk grinned, rows of sharpened teeth glistened at Anchor. “We’ll see what I cram where.”
She snarled behind her emotionless faceplate in return.
Next to Hellion, Reaver towered over him. He craned his neck upward and asked, “Want to lend a hand? Keep those two from wrecking up the place?”
Hellion shrugged and held up his hands. “OK, big guy. Fine, I’ll do it.”
With a thought, each hand filled with a baseball sized ball of flame. Hellion tossed one each at Anchor’s and Bloodhawk’s feet. The fireballs flared as they hit the stone floor, dissipating as quickly as they had been created. Faint scorch marks marred the surface of the stone. “All right, kiddies. Let’s settle down.”
Bloodhawk resumed his lounging, an amused expression on his face as he returned to picking at his teeth. Anchor, on the other hand, was glaring daggers at everyone.
“I believe the Doc was speaking.” Hellion turned to Sawbones. “Doc?”
The deformed surgeon blinked as if he hadn’t heard the question. One of his creations captured his attention and he stroked the thing’s flesh once before a lucidity returned.
“Ah, yes. The Flesh-Kin are ready for deployment. Two-thousand bodies. I’ve removed the imperfections of the earlier attempts, those which caused a brittleness to the skeletal structures. It was a matter of enhancing the density of the flesh itself to compensate.” The traces of madness were gone. Aside from the self-inflicted physical deformities, there was no difference between Sawbones and one of his former medical colleagues.
“Given a time, perhaps as little as a week, I’m confidant even this problem can be resolved, and improved upon. However, we have a timetable to keep. The Flesh-Kin here are ready.” Sawbones turned to regard his creations and that look of pride and unconditional love returned. “They shall perform as necessary.”
Hellion clapped his hands together once. “OK, people. You heard the Doc.” He faced Reaver, Bloodhawk, and Anchor, yet remaining far out of reach of Sawbones as he shifted focus.
“We open some veins tomorrow. Manhattan, here we come!”