Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.
Note: The second arc in my Ravager series to be remastered into prose format and edited to make it better.
My Fan-Fic Archives: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/ravager4/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/87-79374/
Rose sat quietly on the small, wooden bench of the locker room, carefully wrapping her knuckles with white tape. She was currently two levels below the Orchid Lounge, a nightclub near the heart of Silverstone City, about three hundred miles away from Gotham. It had been three weeks since she left, three weeks since she went looking for a new place to stay... three weeks since she made a fool of herself trying to come on to Dick Grayson, only to be shot down.
That was all behind her, though. Now, her mind was focused only on the upcoming fight. She had heard about it shortly after arriving in Silverstone, whispers of an underground fight club with no rules, no limits, and huge cash payouts to the winners. In serious need of funds, she had decided to find the place and enter; her skills weren't much suited for anything else, after all. No way in hell was she about to go work at a Taco Bell.
According to the manager, the fight club functioned as a series of tournaments, with different brackets depending on a person's renown and skill level. One tournament took place per night, three nights a week, and in front of an audience consisting of some of the biggest criminal scumbags in the city, from small timers to mob bosses. Bets were made on each fight, with payouts taking place at the end of the night.
Tournament entries came from all different backgrounds: mafia thugs, MMA hopefuls, boxers past their prime, and then the more talented fighters looking to make themselves or their bosses heaps of cash. Since Rose was a brand new entry, with no background on her whatsoever as far as these guys were concerned, she was forced to start out on the bottom bracket, basically the fodder tournament. It consisted of only the more unskilled entries, and offered only menial entertainment. The audience wouldn't be nearly as large for these fights as it would be for the upper level brackets, where the real betting took place.
As such, Rose's payout at the end of the night wouldn't be huge, not yet, not until she earned her place and made herself known. She didn't like being around this much underworld scum--thieves, murderers, rapists, and the like--but she could put up with it for now. She wasn't here to bust them. She hadn't come to Silverstone to be the new cape in town. All she wanted was to make her own way in life, and right now that way involved beating the crap out of a bunch of nobodies and getting paid for it.
Finishing her tape job, Rose sat up straighter and looked around the small locker room. It was silent right now, save for the muffled thump-thump-thumping of the club music coming from two levels above her. The fight club itself was fairly well hidden, not to mention well guarded. The only way to get in was to know about it, and to know about it, you had to have the right kinds of connections. It had been mere chance that she overheard the manager and one of his clients talking about it a few nights ago, while visiting the club herself.
A knock on the door suddenly called her from her thoughts, followed by a man's voice on the other side. “Miss? You decent?” It was the manager.
“I'm good,” she replied. She was wearing her workout shorts and a sports bra, the only real attire other than her actual Ravager costume that would be suitable for sanctioned fights. As the door opened, she stood up from her seat and cracked her neck from side to side, loosening herself up.
The manager was a small, portly, and balding man, dressed in slick, dark clothes that really only someone taller and better proportioned should be wearing. A pair of sunglasses sat loosely atop the bridge of his nose, despite the fact that they were indoors at night, and wore a variety of jewelry, from large gold rings around his fingers to dangling chains around his neck.
“You almost ready?” he asked. “You're on in five.”
Rose punched a fist into her palm. “I'm plenty ready. Just show me to the ring and let's get this done with.”
The manager took a step forward, arms crossing over his fat chest. “You're absolutely sure you want to do this? I mean, while there aren't any rules restricting women from participating, and you are in very fine shape, these are some real tough guys we're talking about here. Would be a real shame to see a pretty thing like yourself get roughed up.”
“You set 'em up, I'll knock 'em down,” she said. “That's all you need to get through that bald head of yours, got it?”
“Sure, sure, got it,” he replied, shrugging indifferently. “Just know that we're not responsible for any injuries you may incur as a result from these bouts, nor do we cover any medical expenses you might find yourself with as a result. Capiche?”
Rose gave him a brief, sidelong glance. “I hope you gave my opponents the same speech; they're the ones who need to worry about it.”
“Right, of course, whatever you say.” The man paused a moment, taking a step closer and focusing his gaze on her eye patch. Curiously, he raised a hand towards her face, as if to touch it. “How do you expect to fight with this thing, anyway? You making some kind of fashion statement, or are you really missing an-”
Rose lashed a hand upward, taking a firm hold of his wrist and forcing his grubby fingers away from her face. “Hands to yourself, or you'll be missing one.”
“Alright, alright, sheesh,” the manager said, pulling his hand back. “Anyway, better get going. Fight starts in... two minutes now.”
He motioned for her to follow him, heading through a pair of doors into the connecting corridor that led into the fighting ring. When they finally arrived, Rose's eyebrows lifted up in surprise. The 'ring' that she was supposed to be fighting in was more like a small arena. Not quite as large or elaborate as the one she fought in during her stint with the Terror Titans, but impressive nonetheless.
The audience wrapped around the whole arena, in raised seats made of soft, padded leather, along with electronic betting devices integrated into the arms of each. As expected of her entry level bracket, the audience itself was rather small. There were far more empty seats than occupied ones, and those present didn't look to be eagerly anticipating the upcoming fights. They were likely there only to scout the up and comers, and maybe throw in a few small bets here and there.
As Rose made her way to the center of the arena, she noticed her opponent entering from the other side. He was a tall man, going by the name of Ken Burke, built broad with moderate muscle definition and dressed in boxing trunks. She calmly refrained from grinning in delight; this poor guy didn't know what he was getting himself into. If all of her opponents were as big a pushover as this one looked like, she'd be walking through these fights.
When Rose made it to the center of the ring to greet her opponent, he gave her a quick look and scoffed. “Are they serious? I gotta fight a chick?”
Rose lifted an eyebrow, hand coming to her hip. “There a problem with that?”
“I just didn't sign up to be beating on women, is all,” Ken insisted, with a shrug. “You know what you're getting yourself into?”
A few moments later, the announcer's voice boomed out over a loudspeaker. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another exciting night of the Orchid Lounge Fight Club. We have a lot of new contestants ready to show off their skill, so let's get things started, shall we? Remember, you can place your bets using the monitors located on the right arms of your seats, and there is no limit to how much you can put down. Now then, allow me to introduce to you the first fighters of the night! From our very own Midtown district, we have Ken Burke, a regular here at the Orchid Lounge, and a real rising boxer.”
This time, Rose couldn't keep the grin from forming. If this guy was trying to become a boxer, he was in the wrong place. She almost felt bad for him, having to fight against her in the first round tonight. This wasn't a boxing match, after all, and Ken would soon find himself way out of his league.
“And then we have a brand new entry tonight,” the announcer declared. “The very beautiful, and very talented Lillian Worth!”
Rose wasn't stupid; she wasn't going to give her real name in a place like this. Instead, she had chosen to use her mother's name as her alias. It fit her just fine.
“At least, I'm told she's talented,” the announcer added, with a chuckle. “We have yet to see what she can do in the ring! Is anyone out there daring enough to place a bet on an unknown? You have three minutes to decide, before the match begins, so choose wisely!
Ken hopped around on his toes to keep loose, as they waited for the match to begin. He briefly shadow boxed, throwing a few punches into the air and taking in even breaths. Rose was sure he was a plenty talented boxer, at least for the amateur that he was, but she knew this wouldn't going to end well for him.
The three minutes went by fairly quickly, all bets placed and ready to go. With preparations taken care of, the announcer started things up. “Is everyone ready? In that case, let's get started! Contestants, keep in mind that the fighting continues until someone gives up or is unable to continue. Aside from that, there are no rules. Now, begin!”
“Don't worry,” Ken said, flashing a smug grin, “I'll go easy on you; wouldn't want to mess up that pretty face of yours, after all. Maybe after this is over, I can buy you a drink upstairs. Or we can head back to my place, whatever floats your boat.”
Instead of saying anything in response, Rose dashed in quickly and delivered a hard cross to the guy's jaw. He reeled backwards, clutching his cheek and stumbling to keep his balance; the blow nearly knocked him off his feet.
“Got anything else you want to add?” she said, raising her fists.
Ken clutched a hand to his jaw, staring back at her with wide eyes. “Sh*t! What the hell?”
“This is a fight remember? Might want to keep that in mind.”
Ken glowered, shaking off the punch and countering with a couple jabs of his own. He didn't even come close to hitting her, though; by the time he finished throwing his second punch, she was already coming up from beneath him with an uppercut that snapped his head backwards, followed by a spinning roundhouse to the gut. Surprised murmurs began to travel through the audience. Clearly, not many had expected the fight to go this way.
Rose bounced up and down on her toes, taking a boxing stance and smirking. When Ken caught sight of the mockery, he frowned, eyes going cross. The blow to his pride hurt more than the physical beating he was taking. Wiping a dribble of blood from his lips, he charged in again, this time throwing all care or skill out the window and swinging wild. Rose sidestepped out of the way, keeping light on her feet, then brought in a hard punch to his side, knuckles digging in between his ribs.
When he doubled over from the stabbing pain, Rose leaped straight upwrad, raising her knee hard and exploding it straight into his face. Grunting in surprise, Ken stumbled backward, blood gushing out his nostrils. Before he could even comprehend just how badly he was losing, Rose finished things with another spinning kick, this one crashing across his face and knocking him straight to the ground. He didn't get back up, instead lying there and groaning, likely having no idea where he was anymore.
“What a shocking result!” the announcer shouted over the speakers. “And quite the impressive show from Lillian; I can't recall a more one sided fight. I hope a few of you out there took a chance on the new girl!”
Turning from the arena, Rose walked casually back towards the corridor that led to the locker room. With that win, she'd have another fight soon, whenever the rest of the round-one bouts finished up. She couldn't recall exactly how many participants were in the tournament, but she shouldn't have to fight more than maybe four times in total. What she did remember, though, was that whoever won the whole tournament got an extra bonus, in addition to the sum given for each individual victory.
As she neared the hallway, the fight club manager suddenly appeared, running up to her in a hurry. “Okay, okay! I take back every doubt I had about you! I mean, that was great! Incredible! Where did you learn how to fight like that?”
Rose shrugged. “I've been around.”
“Of course, gotta keep the mystery, I get it,” he said. “But damn, you can bet people took notice of you for that one. I mean, sure, Ken isn't the best we have to offer, but people know him. He's been a pretty prominent figure in the lower brackets for a few months, even won a couple times. But then you come in out of nowhere and beat the ever loving hell out of him! Keep this up, kid, and you'll be on your way to the upper brackets; that's where the real money is.”
“Well, that is the goal,” she said, turning her gaze to him. “I didn't come here to lose, I came here to make some cash.”
“Just keep doing what you did back there, and I'll see that you get there myself!”
It was close to three in the morning by the time she got back from the Orchid Lounge, but it was worth it. Following her bout with Ken, she beat the next three fighters, and did it just as seamlessly as she had the first time, becoming the first person in any bracket of the tournament's history to win during her debut. Even more impressive was that no one had even heard of her until several hours ago. In a single night, she'd gone from a complete unknown to a favorite. When she returned the following week for the next tournament, she'd have a lot more eyes paying attention to her.
Overall, she had won two-hundred and fifty dollars that night; nothing spectacular, but it was two-hundred and fifty dollars more than she had going into the night. She was happy just to have it, especially considering it would be the only money she made all week. Presently, she could barely afford the tiny rat-hole of an apartment that she recently set herself up with.
Just temporary, she told herself, as she stood in the middle of the living room and stared at the run down, dirty, mold infested apartment. You start getting a steady income, Rose, then you can find a place that doesn't look like it should be the scene of a murder investigation on CSI.
One month later...
“Alright, this is it, Lil,” the fight club manager stated. “You're debuting in the upper brackets tonight, so things will be a little harder than you've been used to so far. Just remember, I vouched for you to get you up here; no one's advanced this much in such a short amount of time, and you're the first to skip over the mid brackets completely. So, you know, don't go getting your ass handed to you and making me look bad, now.
Rose glanced up from her seat on the locker room bench, glaring intently at him.
“Uh, not that I think that's going to happen, of course!” he added. “Let's be real here, you're a machine. Four weeks at this and you haven't lost a match yet! I tell you, I've never seen anything like it.”
“I've had a lot of practice.”
“Right, right, I'm sure you have,” the manager said, straightening out his suit. “Either way, you're gonna turn a lot of heads tonight, I'm sure of it. You keep on winning, and you're in for a real treat, I'm telling you. You said you were in this to earn some cash? Well, the winner of these tournaments can take home up to five grand a night, if the bets are good.”
At the mention of potential earnings, Rose's eyebrows lifted in surprise. Five grand in one night? Now that was something she could live with. “Then let's get this show started; we're wasting time.”
Within the next few minutes, Rose was standing in the middle of the arena again, facing off against her newest opponent, a man named Sheamus Finnegan. The only thing she knew about him was that he apparently had ties to the Irish Mob. She knew that he wouldn't be the pushover that the others in the lower brackets had been, even if she would still win in the end. He certainly didn't look like a pushover, at least, with his body absolutely ripped with hard muscle, a body honed into a weapon.
Rose only half heard the announcer introducing the two combatants and telling the audience to place their bets. She was too busy studying Sheamus, trying to get a feel for how she should approach him. He did the same to her, remaining silent and simply staring. He wasn't taking her as lightly as Ken first did; if she had made it into the upper brackets, then he knew she was good.
“And begin!” the announcer declared.
As the bout commenced, Rose instantly came out of her thoughts and fell into a determined focus, squaring off against her opponent. The two began to attack each other, coming in with quick, precise blows. She had to admit, this Sheamus guy was fast, and he knew what was doing. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have metahuman enhancements or the kind of training that she did. Rose was on an entirely different combative level.
Even though she knew she could end the fight quickly, she instead found herself putting on a show, letting him land a few hits only to come back with counters of her own. It wasn't anything she couldn't handle, and the crowd ate it up. The audience was packed full tonight, too, here to see the real competition that this fight club had to offer. They eagerly leaned forward in their seats, hanging on each punch, each kick. Eventually, though, Rose had to bring things to a close; she had more fights to win tonight, after all.
She made sure it looked good, going for a more stylistic approach than a practical one. It wasn't something she'd try if she were fighting a person of equal skill, but this wasn't someone like Dick Grayson, or Cassandra Cain. This was a mafia goon; one with superb skill, admittedly, but not the kind of fighter she was used to dealing with. So, with a theatrical series of spinning strikes, she delivered the final blow and knocked him out cold.
The announcer's voice exploded over the loudspeaker. “And the victor, Lillian Worth! Let's give her a round of applause, folks, because that was impressive!”
The crowd responded in kind, applauding her victory. There was of course no cheering, or other vocal congratulations. These were important, dignified people, as far as the criminal underworld went, not a bunch of wild drunks at a UFC fight. With her first fight completed, she returned to the locker room to await her next opponent. As she did, a single thought ran through her head.
I could get used to this.
Weaving around her opponent's attack, Rose delivered a hard uppercut to the man's chin, then followed with a thunderous knee to his chest. As the man stumbled backward, she leaped into the air and spun, whipping her leg around and kicking him square in the side of the face. He went down hard, unmoving.
“Folks, I don't believe it,” the announcer proclaimed, “but we have our winner of the night! In her debut here in the upper brackets, Lillian Worth has come out on top! Keep in mind that she participated in her first fight just one month ago in the lower brackets, and now she is the one to beat. Simply incredible!”
Releasing a long breath, Rose placed her hands on her hips and walked out of the arena, heading toward the corridor that led back to the locker room. Right now, she planned on taking a long, hot shower to relax her sore muscles.
This really hadn't been like the lower level tournaments; she'd actually had to work for it after a while. Even though her first fight had been simple enough, the following ones had grown increasingly difficult. Sure, she had still emerged victorious with little difficulty, but this new crop of fighters was far more talented than the fodder she beat before. She made a mental note to not purposefully let her opponents land as many hits as they did tonight.
As she entered into the locker room, the fight club manager came running up to her down the hall, waving his arms at her and laughing. “Aha! I knew you wouldn't disappoint! I can't believe what you just did, that was freakin' amazing!”
“You mind?” she said, eying the grubby little man coldly. “I really just want to take a shower right now.”
“Right, right, of course, no problem,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know that you really impressed a lot of people tonight. You came in like you owned the place and tore those other guys apart! You got a real future here, kid, if you keep winning like that.
Rose shrugged, sitting down on the locker room bench and opening her locker. “Yeah, well I'm hoping I don't have to keep it up too long. Just need a bit of cash to last me a while.”
“Whatever you say, Lil. Just passing along the info.”
“Another thing,” she said, glaring up at him again. “Don't call me Lil.”
The manager cleared his throat, smoothing out the front of his shirt. “Uh... right, sorry. Lillian.”
“By the way, you can leave my earnings in my bag while I shower. I don't want to stick around here any longer than I have to.”
At that command, he shook his head firmly. “Sorry, no can do.”
Stiffening in her seat, her gaze narrowed hotly. “I just fought my ass off out there, you a**hole! Now you're not going to pay me? What the hell are you trying to pull?!”
“Whoa, no,” the manager insisted, waving his arms in a desperate defense. “You don't understand. I can't leave you your earnings because the boss wants to pay you himself, meet the new champ. He'll be waiting upstairs in his office when you're done; I can show you the way.”
“Oh...” she said, uttering a cool breath. “Alright then. Give me fifteen minutes.”
Fifteen minutes later, Rose followed the manager up to the main area of the Orchid Lounge. The pulsing music assaulted her eardrums as soon as they pushed past the doors, moving through the crowds of dancing patrons, past the bar, and around the tables. He led her up to the second level of the club, away from the noise and the people, and down a long, dimly lit hallway. A sign on the door at the end of the corridor read: Arnold Pavoni – Owner. A pair of tall, bald, and massively built men stood on either side of the doors, their eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses; no doubt the club owner's own personal security bouncers.
“Alright,” the manager said, “the boss is right through there. Just keep in mind that he runs everything around here, and he's the one paying you for tonight, so be respectful.
“Uh huh, sure,” she said, completely indifferent.
“Okay, uh... well, he's waiting, so go on in. I'll see you next week.” With that, the manager headed back down the hallway.
When Rose stepped forward, one of the big goons reached for the door handle and opened it, nodding her through. She gave him a curious look, then walked inside the office; the door slammed shut behind her.
The man sitting behind the desk was dressed in a white suit, with a black tie. He was overweight, too, his large gut squished against his desk, and though his hair still had its dark color, he had lost all but a small strip around the sides of his head.
He noticed Rose enter, but didn't address her right away. He had his finger pressed against the button of an intercom on his desk, currently engaged in a conversation. Standing behind him in the corner of the room was another one of his security goons, this one even bigger than the previous two.
“What's taking you so long, Jerry?” Pavoni said, leaning farther over his desk. “She ready yet or what?”
“Yes, just about,” the calm, smooth voice responded from the intercom. “You did want Holly this time, correct?”
“Yeah, yeah, the one with the two different colored eyes,” Pavoni affirmed. He absently reached into a small box on the corner of his desk and pulled out a cigar. “Haven't seen her in a while, we'll have some real fun.”
“In that case, I'll bring her right up.”
Rose glanced at the intercom curiously, as the voice cut out. Did this guy send his employees out to pick up prostitutes for him or something? Because it sure sounded like it... talk about sleazy. But it wasn't any of her business, so she simply wiped it from her mind and folded her arms.
“So, you wanted to see me?” she asked.
“Ah, yes, welcome,” he said, lighting the the cigar and lifting it up to his lips. “I saw your performance tonight, you know, and I have to say that you put on quite a show. I was a little skeptical when my manager came to me and urged me to put you in the top bracket, but you proved that you're one hell of a fighter. Not only that, but you kept the crowd entertained, and that's important. The more entertained they are, the more they bet; the more they bet, the more money I make.”
Rose held her hands to her hips. “Yeah, well I'm not here to make you money, just so we're clear. I'm here to make myself money.”
An amused chuckle exited Pavoni's throat. Taking a puff of his cigar, he nodded understandingly. “Of course, I expected as much. Just thought I should let you know how good you are for the business; that means I like you, and when I like you, I pay you more. Nico, the safe.”
The big guy standing in the corner move on command, walking over to the other side of the room and entering the combination of the wall safe. Once unlocked, he reached inside and pulled out a few thick stacks of hundreds, then passed them to his boss. Pavoni thumbed through the cash, placing each hundred dollar bill out in front of him one at a time, counting the total out loud.
“Five hundred per victory, that's two thousand off the bat,” he explained. “And then of course the bonus, since you won tonight's tournament; normally another two grand, but as I said, I like you. So, I'll throw in a little something extra. That brings the total to six thousand.”
Rose's breath caught abruptly in her throat, stifling any sort of response she might have made otherwise. In one night, she more than tripled the amount of money she had saved up so far. When the money had been completely counted, Pavoni stuffed it all into a large envelope and slid it across the desk to her.
Yeah, I could definitely get used to this.
“Once again, I want to tell you how much you impressed tonight, not only me, but our frequent customers, as well.” Pavoni grinned, lowering his cigar and waving it around in his hand as he spoke. “They like you; you're young, you're sexy, and you kick a whole lot of ass in the ring. That's the kind of thing that really gets them going!”
Rose nodded. “Just trying to make a living.”
“Of course, of course. Now, here, take your money and go get some rest. I'll see you back here next week, yes?”
Taking the fat envelope from him, she briefly looks inside and runs her thumb over the wads of bills. “Oh yeah, I'll be back.”
Pavoni grinned wider. “Excellent, I look forward to it!”
He briefly leaned forward over his desk and extended his hand. She very tentatively gripped it, giving a firm handshake, and couldn't help but cringe at how grimy and sweaty his palm was. Pulling her hand back quickly, she gave him a small wave and finally left the office. The dim hallway was just as quiet and empty as before, with the exception of one small change. About ten paces away, sitting in a chair up against the wall, was a young girl, no older than nine or ten years old.
Dressed in a simple white dress, the blonde haired girl swung her legs slowly back and forth, feet not even touching the floor. She raised her gaze briefly to look at Rose, then quickly turned away again. Rose paused a moment, narrowing her eye at the girl and wondering what she was doing there of all places, at a nightclub.
Must be the daughter of one of the guys who works here... she inferred. Maybe even Pavoni's.
Still, there was something strange about the girl, something that Rose couldn't quite put her finger on, even though she felt like she should know exactly what it was. Several moments later, Rose shook her head and continued on her way, now with a strange, nagging sensation in the back of her head.
Two minutes later, Rose sat outside and on her brand new motorcycle, which Dick had given to her as a parting gift when she left Gotham. She never would have accepted it, if not for the fact that her previous ride had been totaled during her crash while under the influence of Scarecrow's fear gas. With no other mode of transportation, what choice did she have?
As she sat there, though, holding her helmet up and staring at her reflection in the visor, she couldn't shake that weird feeling that something was wrong. She was missing something... and it was killing her, not being able to figure it out.
That's when it happened, a precognitive flash flickering through her mind. But this wasn't like anything she had experienced before. Normally, her precog gave her a brief look of an incoming attack, no more than a couple of seconds notice. But this... this was something else entirely. It wasn't just a couple seconds, it was near ten, and it didn't involve any attack directed at her.
Rather, it was a series of several different images, all pasted together quickly like some kind of crazy slideshow. She saw the girl that she'd just passed in the hallway. She saw Pavoni's office. Then she saw Pavoni and the young girl together. And then...
Oh my god!
Instantly, she sprang off her motorcycle and sprinted back into the club, pushing past and practically knocking over the bouncer at the front door. Rose had finally realized just what was so odd about that girl.
She had two different colored eyes.
By the time she made it halfway down the hallway leading to Pavoni's office, a half dozen security goons were chasing after her. She didn't care, though; they wouldn't reach her in time, and even when they did catch up, they'd find themselves in a world of pain. Sprinting towards the double doors at the end of the corridor, Rose plowed straight through the pair of men guarding it. Two punches, an elbow, and a knee is all it took to drop both of them to the floor.
Bursting into the office, Rose didn't slow up. She lunged straight over the desk at Pavoni, whose shirt was already mostly unbuttoned. He barely even had time to register what was going on before she landed on him, driving him down to the floor.
“You sick son of a b*tch!” she shrieked, unloading a flurry of blows on him. One punch, two punches, three, four... she was crazed, wild, swinging with everything she had. Within seconds, her hands were coated with thick streaks of blood. “You'll be lucky if I don't kill you!”
Before she could continue her assault, however, multiple pairs of hands grabbed at her, trying to get her off; security had finally caught up. Instantly, she turned from Pavoni and attacked the other men. In minutes, the half dozen goons lay motionless on the floor.
Taking in a few deep breaths, Rose glanced back down at Pavoni; the man was barely moving, face painted bright scarlet. Slowly, she began to calm herself. As much as her gut was telling her to continue pummeling the scumbag, there was something far more important to take care of first. Her eyes darted around the room, finding the young blonde girl standing in the corner. The girl trembled, watching everything with wide eyes, terrified. Swallowing a hard knot, Rose moved forward slowly, gently, not wanting to startle her.
“It's alright, I'm not here to hurt you, promise. I just wanted to stop the bad man, that's all.” When the girl didn't try to run away, Rose leaned forward and lifted the white dress up from around her ankles, putting the girl's arms into the sleeves. Rose's jaw tightened, nausea bubbling into her stomach. “Holly, was it?”
The girl didn't say anything, but nodded quickly in confirmation.
“Right, Holly,” she breathed, pulling her hands back as she finished clothing the girl. “That's a pretty name. Everything's going to be okay, Holly, I promise. No one is going to hurt you anymore. Come on, let's get you out of here.”
Unfortunately, they never got the chance to leave. Whether she wasn't paying attention or her precog just didn't feeling like kicking in at that moment, Rose didn't see the attack coming. An inhumanly powerful blow connected with the back of her head, sending her stumbling forward in a daze. The next thing she realized, a massive hand lifted her up by her neck and slammed her into the wall, putting several large cracks in the plaster.
Standing there and holding her against the wall in a grip that she couldn't break free of was the big guy from before, Nico. She wasn't not about to let him hold her, though, oh no. Winding up her fist, she threw a vicious punch directly at his face, connecting with full force... and barely even caused his chin to move. Instead, he just stared at her, emotionless.
Okay, not good.
Nico pulled his arm back, still holding onto Rose, then swung her over his head and smashed her through the office desk. She crashed against the floor, coughing up a small spray of blood and trying to blink away the bright spots forming in front of her vision.
Meanwhile, Pavoni slowly crawled back to his knees, wheezing in small, pained breaths. “You little c**t!”
He tumbled to his feet, then carefully wound up his leg and brutally kicked Rose across the face. Still dazed from being slammed through a desk, and still held down by Nico, she couldn't do anything to stop it. She uttered a sharp cry of pain, feeling her lip split wide open. Pavoni took a few steps back, wiping his bloodied face clean with his shirt.
“F**k, I need to get cleaned up,” he muttered. “Call Jerry, have him come take Holly back. And take this piece of sh*t down to the facility, tell Mordred I got another subject for him.”
Rose made one more desperate attempt to escape Nico's grasp, but his strength really was incredible, easily superhuman level and much greater than her own. Realizing that she wasn't going to get away, she slowly glared up at Pavoni, ire seething from her body.
“You will suffer for this, do you hear me?” she growled. “If it's the last thing I do.”
Pavoni smirked. “Don't worry, girl. It will be.”
The last thing Rose remembered before blacking out cold was Nico's huge fist driving straight into her face.
Rose awoke sometime later, groggy. She blinked several times, trying to clear up her vision. Everything was blurry, and a bright light shined directly into her face, practically blinding her. And ugh, her head throbbed something awful, a pounding ache directly between her ears.
Okay, that Nico guy hits way to hard to be normal.
As things slowly came into focus, Rose lifted her head and looked around, wondering where she was. The room was large, with a tall ceiling and white walls. A large variety of various medical equipment, from IV drips, to heart monitors, to tables of different sized scalpels and drills and devices that looked like they were straight out of a horror movie, surrounded her.
Releasing a pained groan, Rose blinked a couple more times and then attempted to sit up, only then realizing that she couldn't move. Glancing down at herself, she noticed that she was lying on a slanted medical table, with thick leather straps wrapping tightly around her chest, arms, waist, thighs, and ankles. Also, her clothes were gone, a revelation that sent a a disgusted shiver down her spine.
Okay, Rose, so you're bound, naked, and in some kind of operating room. This had so better not be some pervert's idea of a good time.
Just as that thought ran through her mind, a voice reached her ears. It was a calm, yet very creepy voice, sounding half deranged and half giddy. “Ah, you're awake, good. I was wondering when I'd get a chance to begin.”
Rose moved her head, spotting a thin man dressed in medical scrubs, a white doctor's jacket, latex gloves, and a stethoscope around his neck. His scraggly black hair was peppered with a bit of gray, and stood wildly on end, as if he'd never touched a comb before in his life. And those eyes... one of them was milky white, almost dead, and seemed to stare off in a completely different direction than the other. Just the sight of it made her want to throw up.
“And who the hell are you supposed to be?” she asked, narrowing her gaze.
“Ah, ah, a good question, my dear,” he stated, taking a few careful steps forward. He walked with a very clear limp. “You may call me Dr. Mordred. Pleasure to be acquainted with you.”
The doctor then took an overly theatrical bow, before standing straight again and grabbing a fool medical supplies from the nearby counter. Rose's eyes followed him carefully, not enjoying on bit the possibilities of what he would want with those tools.
“Yes, yes, you are a fine specimen, indeed,” Dr. Mordred insisted. “But I heard you won tonight's tournament; makes our meeting odd, premature. Must have done something to upset the boss, yes. Otherwise, you would not be here yet, no.”
“What are you babbling about? And why am I strapped to a table? And for that matter, where the f**k are my clothes?”
The doctor chuckled, turning a cold eye towards her. “No worries, no worries, I just needed access. I have a little bit of work to do, you see. Well, a lot of work, okay, yes. Can't do it when those pesky clothes are in the way, no.”
Rose's gaze narrowed venomously at the man. “I swear, if you even think about-”
“Oh, no! Not that!” he insisted. “Please, you insult me; I am a professional. Things are strictly business, I assure you.”
“Yeah, that doesn't reassure me at all...” Rose muttered.
Giggling like a madman, Dr. Mordred grabbed at a syringe, then poked the needle into a bottle of unknown liquid. “Don't worry, my dear, it will aaaall be over soon. You won't feel a thing, I promise.”
Dr. Mordred gently flicked the end of the needle, after pulling it out of the bottle. The syringe was now filled and ready to be put to use. Turning back to the restrained Rose, he took a few careful steps towards her. She cringed slightly at the sight of the needle; it brought back bad, vivid memories of her father drugging her with his serum.
“I don't know exactly what you plan on doing,” Rose said, swallowing a knot in her throat, “but you'd better keep that thing away from me.”
“What, this?” Mordred brought the syringe closer to her, pressing his thumb down slightly on the the back end of it and causing a small spray of the liquid inside to leak out.
Rose flinched again, her eye twitching. Her hands balled into fists, muscles tensing up. “Just... keep it away.”
“Oh, the syringe bothers you, yes? I see, I see.” Dr. Mordred nodded understandingly. “Trypanophobia, fear of needles; quite common, really. But I wonder, is it a natural fear? Were you born with it, hmm? Or maybe it was brought on by some... traumatic experience in your past? Ah, perhaps the latter, I would bet on it, yes.”
“Don't try to pretend you know anything about me,” she said, frowning.
“No, no, of course not, I don't pretend anything. I am simply here to work, you see, and that is exactly what I intend to do.” Mordred held his free hand up and pushed her head to the side, while bringing the syringe up towards her neck. “Just relax, you'll only feel a small pinch, yes. Then, you won't feel a thing.”
Rose breathed out carefully. “Let me ask you something before you stick that needle in me, Doc.”
The doctor's hand paused, as his creepy, half dead eyes glanced up at her. “Mmm, perhaps, I think. Alright, go ahead, one question.”
“Are these straps really just made of simple leather?”
“Why, I don't know if- what do you mean?” he asked, a puzzled expression coming to his face. “I fail to see the relevance of-”
“So they're not reinforced in any way against someone with enhanced strength?”
“Well, I mean, I'm not sure if- why do you ask?”
Rose grinned. “Oh, no reason.”
Clenching her fists harder, she strained her muscles, forcing her arms and legs outward. She pushed hard against the leather straps, giving it everything she had. Within seconds, the leather bindings began to tear away from the table, gradually freeing her. Soon, she burst free of the bonds and brought one of her hands forward, grabbing Dr. Mordred by the neck. With an effortless motion, she shoved him backwards.
“Oh my word!” the doctor exclaimed, stumbling against the counter. “No, not supposed to happen! Not supposed to happen!”
With a violent shout, Rose pounced off the medical table and lifted the doctor up off his feet. Swinging him around through the air, she slammed him down upon the counter with enough force to dent the metal.
“The needle,” Rose said, glare hardening. “Drop it or I crush your windpipe.”
Without hesitation, the doctor released the syringe and held his hands up in surrender.
“You're going to answer a few questions for me, got it?” Her voice was cold, commanding.
With a nervous gape, Mordred rapidly nodded his head. “Yes, yes, of course, whatever you want!”
“Good. First, what is this place?”
“Oh, this, you see, just a special facility,” he explained. “Secret, built underground. Few know about it, I just work here, do what I'm told.”
“And it's run by Pavoni?”
“Ah, yes, he owns it. Sends me his subjects, I work on them, and give him back the results.”
Rose's eyebrows lifted slightly. “What subjects? And what for?”
“Oh, just the fighters, the one from your tournaments, yes?” Mordred swallowed nervously, fidgeting beneath her grip. “You know them. The top ones he keeps, let's them fight to make him money. But the not so profitable ones, he sends them to me, has me make them better.”
“Stronger. Faster. How did you call it? Enhanced? Yes, that's a good word. Enhanced. But the success rate is very low, few successes.”
A few quick thoughts ran through Rose's head, new questions coming to the surface. “Like that guy he has with him, Nico?”
“Ah, yes!” the doctor proclaimed. “My first success, a very good one, very strong. But, not so bright. Not supposed to be.”
“Not supposed to... what do you do to their heads?”
Mordred blinked, struggling slightly. “I... nothing, no. Well, maybe. I just make them listen, that's all.”
“You mean you brainwash them, make it so Pavoni can control them,” Rose said. “That it?”
“Well... maybe a little, yes.”
“Why? What's he need with a bunch of brainwashed supes?”
“For muscle, yes, why else?” The doctor took in a short breath, clearing his throat. “He has plans, rivals, needs the firepower, so to speak.”
“What plans?” Rose questioned. “What rivals?”
“Please, I don't know,” he insisted. “He tells me little, understand? I'm just the doctor!”
Letting out an annoyed grumbled, Rose's fingers tightened slightly around the man's neck. He might be lying, but then it didn't matter what Pavoni's plans were, or why he really needed his own private meta army, because she was going to end him before that became a factor. After what he did, after what she had discovered... he would pay dearly for it.
“And the girl, where is she?”
Mordred blinked, looking genuinely confused. “I- wait, what are you-”
“The girl!” Rose shouted. “Don't play dumb!”
“What girl?! I swear, I have no idea what-”
“Her name is Holly! She has two different colored eyes, one green, one purple! Your boss is using her for- he's-” She couldn't even bring herself to say it. Just thinking about it made her eye burn hot in grief. In a brief outburst, she lifted Mordred's head upward and slammed it back against the table. “Just tell me where she is!”
“I don't know!” Mordred pleaded. “I haven't seen her in weeks, I swear, okay? They come through here, I do my work on them, and I send them back. You understand, yes?”
Rose's throat went numb, heart suddenly dropping to a cold pit in her chest. “Them? There's more?!”
Mordred swallowed again, beginning to tremble frightfully beneath her grip. “Th-there have- yes, a few, now and then. They come in, Pavoni tells me to do my work, so I just listen. He pays me, I do the job, simple.”
Rose tightly clenched her jaw, anger growing inside of her, spreading like wildfire. “What work? What the hell do you do to those kids?”
“I- I- I-”
“Spit it out!”
“I sever their vocal cords!” the doctor finally blurted out. “They make no noise that way, yes? That's all I do, no more, no more!”
Rose took in a deep, slow breath. She was quite literally a hair's breadth away from going berserk. “Why... why would you need to sever their vocal cords?”
“Because, Pavoni, he...” Mordred paused, sucking in a deep breath and closing his eyes. “...he doesn't like it when they scream.”
That did it. She snapped. Taking hold of the doctor in both hands now, Rose whirled him around, throwing him as hard as she could through the air. His body crashed over an IV stand, skidded across another table, and finally smashed into the far wall with a sickening crack, his neck twisting at an odd angle. He didn't get up, didn't even twitch a finger.
“Damn it!” Rose shouted, driving her fists down on the counter and leaving behind two large, deep dents.
Breathing in deeply, she bowed her head and squinted her eye shut. Hot tears of rage seeped out from behind her eyelid, dripping onto the table below.
What the hell is going on here? What is wrong with these people? How can... so many be in on this, seeing these children get hurt and... and doing nothing about it?
An image of Holly, frightened and alone, flashed suddenly into her head. Rose's eye snapped open again, staring a hole through the counter. Not her precog, just her own guilt at not being able to save the girl when she had the chance. But this wasn't over, not yet, not while she was still breathing. If it was the last thing she did, she would find Holly, and she would save her, along with all the other children that Pavoni had hurt.
And once I've done that, she thought, searching around the room for her clothes, I'm going to fix everything else that's wrong with this city.
It took a few minutes of looking, but she eventually found her clothing stuffed in a nearby storage locker. She dressed quickly, feeling relieved to no longer be so exposed in such a strange place. Now, it was time to get out of here. She couldn't do a thing to help those children if she was stuck in some madman's meta breeding facility. Grabbing two large scalpels form the table next to her, she hurried into the hallway.
The corridor was empty, running straight in either direction. Just as in the previous room, the walls and ceiling were pure white, with a black tiled floor, giving the whole place a rather creepy, surreal feel to it. Briefly, Rose contemplated which direction to go in, glancing back and forth. She had no idea how to get out of this facility, which meant she had to make a guess and hope for the best.
And then, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye, something that forced a quiet curse past her lips. Up near the ceiling, a sleek black security camera pointed straight at her. Whoever else was in this place, they knew that she was free. Sure enough, she soon heard the voices, shouts echoing from down the hallway to her right. She looked in that direction to see several guards running towards her.
Well, looks like I'll be taking the left path then.
Turning, she sprinted full speed down the left end of the corridor. With the distance already between her and the men chasing her, and how much faster she was than them, they wouldn't catch her any time soon, not unless she hit a dead end. No matter what, though, she couldn't let anything stop her from escaping. Too much was counting on her.
Rose arrived at the end of the hallway and quickly turned the corner, keeping an eye open for any stairs, elevator, or other exit she might come across. Instead of an exit, however, she found herself face to face with another group of armed guards. They raised their handguns, taking aim at her, but by that time she was already moving between them and delivering knockout blows to their skulls.
More guards appeared. This time, she swung her scalpels at them, aiming at tendons and ligaments, disarming and disabling them in a flurry of graceful, acrobatic strikes. With the miniscule blades, she couldn't really cut very well, so instead she thrust, stabbed, gouged. She was like a demon, constantly moving, never letting them get a clear shot at her. The few that did fire off a shot only ended up shooting a wall, or one of their comrades.
The moment that a path was clear, she continued sprinting down the hall, searching frantically for a way out. Turning another corner, she finally saw something that surged her nerves with relief: an elevator. Coming to a stop in front of it, she reached forward to hit the button, only to then notice that it was already on its way down. No doubt more security. Moving away from the elevator, she hurried through the nearby door into a stairwell.
Evidently, she was at the very bottom level of this place, because the only way to go was up. Dr. Mordred had said it was underground, and from the looks of it, she had a long way to go. She raced up the steps, taking them three at a time and hitting her top speed, or at least as fast as she could go up a flight of stairs. When she neared the third landing, a gunshot rang out. An instant later, a bullet clanged off the railing next to her and ricocheted in another direction.
Rose gazed upward, spotting several more armed men moving down the stairs from above. One of them leaned over the railing again, trying to aim at her. She never gave him the chance, whipping one of her scalpels at him with deadly accuracy. The surgical blade embedded itself in his wrist, eliciting a sharp cry of pain as he dropped his weapon down the center of the stairwell. Reaching outward, Rose snatched the pistol out of midair and kept moving.
She had never liked guns. They were too simple, too boring. Her father had always mocked her about it, saying that she wasn't any good with firearms. In reality, she handled a gun just fine; they had, quite simply, just never appealed to her. On occasion, though, such as right now, she had been forced into using them. Taking aim up the stairs, she fired off a few shots. The men above her went down, bleeding but still alive. She sprinted past them, not once looking back.
Rose sucked in deep, exhausted breaths, as she pushed through the building's exit. It was a condemned, abandoned building, good cover for an underground hideout built deep below the surface. Too bad the security sucked. She made it out, and now that she was out, nothing was going to stop her from taking down Pavoni and putting an end to him.
Couldn't be tonight, though, too many things preventing it: she was tired, beat up, a little dazed, and starving. She had just fought her way out of a heavily guarded facility with nothing more than a couple scalpels and a handgun. The Orchid Lounge would be closed by now, this late, so Pavoni wouldn't be there, and she didn't know where he lived
Too many disadvantages.
Tomorrow night, she decided, staggering down the sidewalk. That's when I'll strike. And by god, I will strike hard.
Breathing deeply again, she dropped the single scalpel and empty handgun that she had been carrying to the ground; they clattered into a puddle below. It was raining, she realized, but she barely even felt the raindrops hitting her skin. She was too numb from tonight's event to feel much of anything right now, really, except the ever growing disgust she had with the lowest piece of scum on earth, Arnold Pavoni.
“You're dead, Pavoni...” she muttered, bowing her head low and stuffing her hands into her pockets. “I swear to god, you're dead.”
Meanwhile, a man sitting in a car parked across the street carefully followed Rose with his gaze. He wore a grey business suit, round glasses, and dark, slicked back hair. Lifting up his cell phone, he made a call.
“What the f**k is it, Jerry?” It was Pavoni, his voice grating over the phone. “I'm trying to sleep!”
“She escaped,” Jerry informed, remaining stolid and calm.
A dead pause followed, before Pavoni finally spoke up again. “And how the f**k did that happen? Where's Mordred? And what happened to security?!”
“You should have checked up on her a little bit more, before sending her straight to the facility,” Jerry said, breathing out a long sigh. “She isn't normal.”
“And what the hell do you mean by that?”
Jerry rolled his eyes, already annoyed by the pig of a man. “I mean, she's a meta. She could not have escaped otherwise, with what she did tonight.”
“Goddamn sh*t!” Pavoni shouted. “Is she gone? Can you find her?”
“I'm already working on it.” Jerry reached forward into the glove compartment, pulling out a small piece of laminated plastic. “I'm disappointed, though, Arnold. You really should have done a better job checking her background before you allowed her into your tournaments.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Jerry glanced downward at the object in his hand. It was a driver's license, the name reading: Rose Wilson. “Well, for starters, her name isn't Lillian Worth. It's Rose Wilson.”
Pavoni uttered an indifferent grunt. “So, what's that got to do with anything? People lie about their names all the time in my tournaments, never makes a difference. It's their ability and performance we're after, not their names.”
“Well, you'd have found some intriguing information about her if you'd bothered to run a check on her name through my files,” Jerry stated. “I went ahead and took the liberty myself, after you sent her to Mordred.”
“Alright, humor me.”
“Ever heard of a man who calls himself Deathstroke the Terminator?”
Pavoni paused briefly, thinking over the name. “Sure, the crazy mercenary who wears the mask, right? With one eye? Some kind of super soldier or something, real cold blooded.”
“Yes, and do you know his real name?” Jerry asked. “It's Slade. Slade Wilson.”
Another long silence followd, before the wheels in Pavoni's head began turning. “Are you telling me-”
“Yes, Arnold.” Jerry sighed, tossing the driver's license back into the glove compartment. “She is his daughter, and according to my information, she's been enhanced with the same serum that gave Slade his super soldier abilities. Are you starting to realize why sending her to my facility was such a stupid move? You should have just killed her.”
“Well, sh*t,” Pavoni muttered, “if I had known, I would have-
“But you didn't know, because you were sloppy. You didn't do your homework, and now I'm cleaning up after your messes, again. I've put up with your screw ups for a long time, Pavoni. I've even allowed your disgusting habit to continue. But that's only because I need someone in your position as a figurehead to my goals. The moment you become more trouble than you're worth, you're done. Keep that in mind.”
On that note, he hung up. Jerry sat there in silence for a long few moments, trying to remain calm; he was always calm, no matter how much Pavoni ticked him off. Eventually, he turned the car on and shifted into gear. He still had work to do tonight.
The rain came down harder now, almost a full on downpour. From his car, Jerry watched the apartment building across the street closely, one window specifically. The light had gone out an hour ago, a sufficient amount of time to wait before attacking. Of course, he wouldn't be the one doing the attacking, no. He never acted directly, not if he didn't have to. Instead, that duty fell on the 'hired help'.
Holding a finger to his ear, he made contact through his wireless headset communicator. “She should be asleep now, Drasko. Do as instructed.”
On the roof of the building across the street of the target's apartment, the large, muscled man, Drasko, acknowledged the command and got to work. His expression remained emotionless, actions robotic, as though he had no real mind of his own, instead carrying out orders without a second thought. Lifting up the RPG-7 launcher, he rested it on his shoulder and took aim at the designated window. Even through the rain, it was an easy shot, being so close. When the sights were lined up correctly, he fired.
The rocket surged through the air, covering the short distance in the blink of an eye and crashing through the window's glass. A split second later, it detonated upon impact with the far wall. The subsequent explosion ripped apart everything inside the apartment with the resulting pressure wave and shrapnel. Within moments, everything was quiet, save for the other residents of the building awakening in a panic.
“You'll have approximately ten minutes before the police arrive,” Jerry informed. “Take aim again and hold for five. If you don't see a target, then you are to go in and investigate yourself. Make sure that she's dead; I want a body.”
Drasko obeyed, this time raising a specially modified sniper rifle and taking aim on the devastated apartment. He waited for any sign of the target moving within, as unlikely as it was that she survived the explosion. The minutes ticked by, but he kept track, counting in his head. Three minutes, three and a half minutes, four minutes, four and a half minutes... almost time to move.
Suddenly, a dark figure appeared in front of him, blocking his vision of the building beyond. Lowering the scope from his eye, he glanced up to see a woman standing there, a woman garbed in an odd, armored costume, and a one-eyed mask covering the upper part of her face and head, with long white hair flowing out the bottom of it. She held a sword in either hand.
“You people must think I'm pretty dumb,” Ravager said, lunging forward with a vicious growl.
She swung both blades with lethal precision at Drasko's body. He reacted quickly, however, in spite of his size, reaching forward and grabbing her wrists. Her action stopped cold, held firm by his far superior strength. Raising his foot, he kicked her away with a boot to the chest.
Recovering her balance, Ravager narrowed her gaze at him, turning her body to the side. “So, you're one of them, huh? Pavoni's metas. Guess I'm gonna have to take it up a notch.”
She moved in again, faster this time. Drasko took a swing at her, but she was already out of the way by the time his fist even began moving. A powerful kick smashed into his jaw, followed by two whirling blade strikes. He tumbled backward, grunting out with pain as blood began to spill from the deep cuts running across his arms.
Drasko didn't let the pain stop him, though, instead charging forward again. But Ravager was far too quick for him. Dancing around the side of his attack, she slashed him again, cutting the backs of both his knees. This dropped him to the roof, unable to stand. He tried to stumble back to his feet, but his legs wouldn't respond. Instead, he rocketed face first into a puddle, as a vicious blow exploded at the base of his skull.
“Strong, but slow,” Ravager muttered, glaring at the unconscious man. “And stupid. Not a good combination.”
Narrowing her gaze, she heard a muffled chatter coming in from the earpiece the man was wearing. Curiously, she reached down and took the device, holding it up to her own ear and listening.
“Drasko, where are you? It's been seven minutes, you're running out of time.”
Glancing over at the edge of the rooftop, Ravager moved forward to the ledge and carefully examined the street. Whoever was on the other end of the communication must be nearby... there. The car was parked just a short distance away, the same car that she'd seen across the street when she escaped the facility. Leaping from the roof, she landed on the hood of he car with a thunderous crash, denting the frame inward. Staring back at her through the windshield was a neatly dressed man in a business suit and glasses.
“Out of the car, now,” she said.
The man smiled back at her for a moment, as if pleasantly surprised by her presence. Casually, he grabbed his overcoat and hat, then opened the car door and stepped out into the rain. By now, the weather had lightened into a soft drizzle.
“Most impressive,” he said, taking a moment to slip into his coat and place the stylish fedora atop his head. “Your ability matches your reputation, Rose."
Ravager's gaze hardened, as she hopped down off the hood and landed on the street. “How do you know my name?”
“I have a lot of resources,” the man claimed, reaching into his pocket. “Oh, and this helped.”
Removing her driver's license from his pocket, he tossed it to her. Ravager caught the license without ever taking her eyes off the man's face. “I really don't like it when people go through my things.”
“Of course you don't.”
“So who are you, huh?” she asked. “One of Pavoni's goons?”
“Not exactly,” he said, stuffing his hands back into his pockets. “The name is Jeremiah Belmont, but you can call me Jerry.”
“Well, Jerry-” she started, lifting one of her blades to his throat, “-you have about ten seconds to come up with a reason why I shouldn't maim you for trying to kill me.”
Jerry's eyebrows lifted in mock surprise. “Ten seconds? My, we are impatient, aren't we?”
Without the slightest shift in demeanor, Ravager inched the blade's edge close to his flesh. “Five seconds.”
“Well, if you insist,” Jerry said, growing an amused grin, “I can give you Pavoni.”
Ravager's demeanor shifted, confused. “You'd sell out your boss, just like that?”
“My boss?” A brief, though sharp laugh burst from his throat. “Ha! Please. That man doesn't have half the brains to run what you've stumbled upon. He's nothing more than a front, an illusion. He would be only a marginal loss.”
“Then who's really in charge?” she asked.
“Ah, but that isn't part of the bargain I'm trying to strike,” Jerry said, wagging a finger at her.
“Well you'd better come up with something else, then,” Ravager said, gaze hardening, “because I don't need you to find Pavoni. I know where he works.”
Jerry calmly held his hands behind his back, looking her square in the eye. “Yes, but I know where he lives. There is a lot that can happen between now and whenever you decide to make your move on him. You don't want to fail because you took too long, do you? I can have you there before the sun rises.”
“I'll take my chances, thanks. What else you got?”
“My, you do know how to haggle,” Jerry said. “Very well, perhaps you'd like the location of the children he keeps?”
His words garnered a brief rise out of Ravager, her eye widening slightly behind the mask. “You know where they are? Tell me.”
Jerry shook his head. “Not before we agree on the terms. If I tell you where they are, you leave me unharmed and go on your way, and forget we ever had this conversation. Remember, the longer you take to act, the more chances that Pavoni has to harm them.”
“Give me Pavoni's residence, too.”
“Very well,” he replied, removing a small pad of paper and a pen from his pocket. He began to scribble something down. When he finished, he passed the paper over to Ravager. “That is Pavoni's address. As for the children, he keeps them locked in a sub level of The Orchid Lounge, the floor below the tournament arena. It's inaccessible by stairs, and in order for the elevator to bring you there, you must have a properly encoded key card.”
“And where am I supposed to get one of those?” she asked, breathing outward in annoyance.
Reaching into his pocket again, Jerry pulled out a blue colored card of laminated plastic, with a magnetic strip on one side of it. “It just so happens that I have one.”
Without hesitation, she snatched it from his grasp. She gave it a long look before tucking it away with her license. “Why are you so willing to help me, anyway?”
“Let's just say that Pavoni has outlived his worth,” Jerry stated, “and that I wouldn't mind one bit if he were gone. Of course, being threatened by those swords of yours is... persuasive. In any case, we're done here. You go do your business, and I'll take my leave.”
“Yeah... I don't think so,” she said, taking a firm hold on her sword again.
Jerry's eyebrows slowly lifted, giving her a curious look. “Oh? And here I thought we had a deal.”
“How else was I going to get the information out of you? But now that I have it, I can't have you warning anyone that I'm coming, can I? Don't worry, I won't kill you... but I will put you to sleep for a while.”
A soft chuckle escaped Jerry's throat, a grin forming on his face. “You are smarter than you look, Rose, I'll give you that. Too bad it won't help.”
Before Ravager could make a move, Jerry tossed something by her feet, a small round device. It went off instantly, emitting a blinding flash that held strong for several seconds. She tried to move through it, but found herself disoriented, her vision blocked. By the time the flash dissipated away, Jerry was gone.
“Damn it,” she muttered, turning back around and hurrying towards her motorcycle. Fortunately, she had remembered to pick that thing up before heading home.
From a nearby alleyway, Jerry watched carefully as Ravager sprinted out of view. Things hadn't gone quite according to plan, but this worked well enough, too. Judging from his interactions with her, Jerry estimated that only one thing currently overshadowed her hate for Pavoni: her concern for the children. That being the case, he knew where she'd go first.
Taking out his cell phone, he placed a quick call. “Nico, you still at the the Orchid Lounge? Good... get your men ready, you're about to have company.”
The Orchid Lounge was closed by now; it shut down at two in the morning, and it was currently near six, the streets still quiet and empty. In spite of that fact, Ravager wasn't expecting to just walk right in there, free the kids, and get out with no resistance. No, there was bound to be some sort of security still in the place. If she had some time to come up with a plan, she could probably go about things a little more carefully, but she wasn't about to waste any time standing there like an idiot. Instead, she went with the direct approach.
Her precog went off the second that she kicked down the front door. She managed to lunge behind a low wall for cover just as the gunfire went off, automatic weapons tearing up the club entry. Moving as fast as she could, she kept low and worked her way around the side of the nightclub, all the while hoping that they didn't get a lucky ricochet.
They were waiting for me... figures. I'll have to deal with that b**tard, Jerry, later.
Over the gunfire, she heard someone shouting out a command, and then the chaos abruptly ceased.
“Hold your fire, damn it!” one of the gunmen yelled. “We're supposed to be keeping the damage to a minimum! Spread out and find her!”
Ah, the old split up and look for me routine... I love it when they do that.
Without having to worry about jumping into random gunfire, Ravager moved swiftly behind counters, tables, and everything else that she could use for cover. A few of the gunmen caught a brief glimpse of her out of the corners of their eyes, turning with a sudden gasp only to find nothing. Within minutes, she had them jumping at shadows.
Then, once they were sufficiently spread out, she attacked. These mooks were nothing but a bunch of idiots with guns. Easy. Remaining quiet and hidden, she took them out one at a time, crippling each with vicious blows to the neck and head. Though she only intended to put them to sleep for a few hours, the current urgency of her mission caused her to strike a little harder than she should have.
The final gunman caught sight of her and fired a shot, but she dove behind the bar in plenty of time to avoid being hit. The bullets instead blasted into the wall of liquor bottles on the shelves above her, splashing a cocktail of alcohol down upon her. She waited until there came a break in the fire, then sprinted quickly away from the bar and behind another waist-high wall. This time, he couldn't get a clean shot, and he paid the price for it. Ravager lunged out from cover close to his position, kicking his gun away and then hitting two precision blows to his neck. The man collapsed instantly.
Still on guard, she gazed around carefully and listened, searching for any sign of more guards. When she was certain that they were all taken care of, she hurried towards the back of the club, beyond a door marked 'restricted access', and came to the elevator. Once inside, she found the slot to swipe the key card that Jerry had given her, but on her first few attempts, nothing happened.
“Oh come on!” she shouted, sliding the car repeatedly through the slot.
Finally, after about five more attempts, and making sure to put it through slowly the correct way, the elevator lurched into motion, bringing her down past the fight club arena to the level below it, where the children were being held. She wasn't quite fully prepared for the condition that they might be held in, but she couldn't think about that. She just had to free them.
When the elevator doors finally opened, Ravager held up her guard, ready to react to anything on the other side. To her surprise, however, there was nothing. No guards, no ambush waiting for her, just a long, empty hallway with a few doors along its sides. Glancing around carefully, she slowly walked down the corridor, checking each room behind the doors.
Playroom, kitchen, bathroom, dining area... The implications sent a disgusted ripple down her spine, while a bubble of nausea knotted into her stomach. He locks them up, but keeps them in an illusion. Treats them well, gives them nice things... but all while using them. All while... I swear, he's dead.
Finally, she came to the door at the end of the hallway. It was locked, but that didn't really stop her for long. With one hard kick, she sent it flying off its hinges and crashing to the floor. Flicking the light switch on, she swallowed down a numb lump in her throat at the sight inside. It was a small room, with two rows of beds, one against either side wall. In those beds were about a dozen young children, all dressed in their pajamas. They appeared to range in age from maybe seven to twelve years old, both girls and boys.
As she stood there, just staring at them for, some of the children began to awaken, partly because of the light and partly because of the fact she had just broken their door in. They rubbed their eyes tiredly and looked up at her, uttering silent surprise. That was when she noticed the scars on their throats, all in the same spot.
Their vocal cords... they're all mute.
The only solace she took from that was the fact that she had already dealt with the one who had done that to them, Dr. Mordred. Still, the doctor's crimes paled in comparison to Pavoni's.
“It's alright,” she announced, taking a slow step forward. “I'm here to help.”
The children stared at her with wide eyes, some trying to hide beneath their covers. She quickly realized that they were afraid of her, though considering the outfit she had on, it was no real shock. In an attempt to put them at ease, she removed her mask.
“See? I'm not scary. I'm gonna get you all out of here... the bad man won't hurt you anymore, I prom-”
A precognitive flash suddenly exploded inside her head. This time, Nico didn't get the jump on her, as she reacted instantly and rolled forward just in time to avoid his wide, swinging punch.
Sh*t, he's going to fight me here, right near the kids!
“Everyone get to the back of the room!” she said, springing back to her feet.
The children all clambered out of their beds and hurried as far back as they could, while Nico rushed in for another attack. He brought his fist downward at her this time, but she flipped away. The tile floor rumbled and cracked upon impact, clearly indicating the man's level of strength. But strength was all he had, just like Drasko from earlier. She had the speed advantage, with much greater reflexes.
She also had her swords.
“I'm ready for you this time, you big oaf.” Drawing her blades, she coiled herself into a ready position, prepared to strike. “Give me your best shot.”
Nico turned, his expression and actions completely robotic, then charged at her. This time, he brought both arms in, trying to grab hold of her. He never came close, as she jumped upwards and pushed off his shoulders, then flipped around behind him. In the same motion, she slashed her blades down and left behind two long cuts at both his elbows, rendering his arms useless. Before he could so much as register where she was, Ravager delivered a crippling blow to the back of his skull, cracking the hilt of her sword into his flesh. Finally, he went down.
Releasing a long breath, Ravager sheathed her blades and glanced back at the frightened children huddled near the back wall. “Come on! Everyone, let's go, get out of here!”
Her voice snapped them out of it; they looked back at her, blinking for a few moments before running out of the room and heading down the hall, with her at the lead. She took them up the elevator, and finally out into the main part of the nightclub. Putting her mask back on, she told them to wait at the front area, while she made a quick call. She just hoped that the response was quick.
When finished with her phone call, she rejoined the children again at the front entrance of the nightclub. Her eyes carefully scanned them, looking for someone in particular. She didn't recall seeing her down in the bedroom with the others, but that was probably because she simply been distracted by Nico. But even right now, the girl was nowhere to be seen.
“Holly... “ she breathed. “Where's Holly?”
The kids blinked at her in confusion, none of them able to utter an answer.
“You know, Holly, she's one of you, she... blonde hair, two different colored eyes? Tell me you know her.”
A young boy, maybe twelve, stepped forward and started making frantic hand motions. His lips moved, as if trying to speak, but no sound came out.
“Alright, hold on.” Ravager searched around the welcoming podium briefly, soon discovering a pad of paper and a pen. She quickly passed them to the boy. “Write it down.”
The boy quickly scribbled a response onto the paper. When she read the message, her heart plummeted deep inside her chest, growing numb. Clenching her jaw, she crumpled the paper into a ball and tightened her fist around it.
“He took her.”
It took fifteen minutes after she called them for the police to show up, and by that time the sun was beginning to poke its way over the horizon. That was fifteen minutes that Ravager could have been using to get to Pavoni's home. But she couldn't just leave the kids there with no supervision, not after what they'd gone through. Now that the cops were finally there, however, she could keep moving. The moment that the squad car rolled up and parked in front of the club, she sprinted over to her motorcycle.
“Hey, hold up!” one of the officers said, scrambling out of the squad car. “Are you the one that called this in?”
“Uh huh,” she replied, hopping on her ride. “The kids are safe, and the guys inside were the ones holding them here. Just do your job, investigate the place, and make sure they get taken care of. I still have work to do.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble, Missy, but you aren't going anywhere,” the other officer stated. “We'll need to take you in for you questioning.”
The second officer placed his hands to his hips. “Yeah, like what the hell are you doing dressed up like that?”
“And you do realize it's illegal to carry a blade over three inches in length in this city, right?”
Ravager ignored them, placing her helmet over her head. “I don't have time to answer any questions. Just take care of the children, will you?”
One of the police officers drew his weapon and pointed it at her; there were too many questions about this situation to just let her go. For all they knew, she could be the one responsible. “Ma'am, step off the bike and put your hands up. Now.”
“If you want to stop me, Officer, you're going to have to shoot me.” She revved the engine, slowly turning to look at him.
He didn't back down, holding his weapon steady. “I don't want to have to do that, Ma'am. But if you don't shut your vehicle off this instant and get off, I will.”
“Whoa, hold on,” the other officer stated, glancing at his partner with surprise. “We don't need to actually shoot her. We got tazers, don't we?”
Wasting my goddamn time.
With a lightning quick motion, Ravager kicked her leg upward and knocked the man's gun out of his hand, sending it hurtling through the air. Without so much as another second's hesitation, she gunned the throttle and raced down the street.
“Sh*t!” the officer said, running to retrieve his gun. “Call that in!”
Unfortunately for the Silverstone police, they didn't catch up to their suspect. By the time the alert went out and the other officers on duty began searching for her, Ravager was already halfway to her destination. Pavoni's home was actually located outside the city itself, in a rather secluded area of countryside. Ten minutes later, she pulled up outside the gate of the mansion, an overly elaborate residence with marble statues lining the walkway, walls of hedges, and a pair of fountains on either side of the yard. Half the money that went into this place was dirty, no doubt.
Ravager stopped her bike just outside the front gates, shutting the engine down and looking straight up at the top of the wall that wrapped its way around the property. A pair of cameras pointed right at her, and no doubt Pavoni had armed security inside to keep out intruders. Just as with her infiltration of the Orchid Lounge, this wasn't going to be subtle. Stepping off her motorcycle, she removed her helmet and walked up to the iron gate; it was locked, but not with anything she couldn't get through.
It took only two kicks to the center of the gate to break the lock, swinging the gate inward with a loud thud. Her precog went off just a second later, giving her a view of multiple assailants firing at her. She didn't need the precog to tell her that she needed to take cover, though, already moving behind one of the nearby statues. The rapid gunfire went off a split second later, sending sprays of marble chips flying into the air.
The men attacking her, however, didn't realize what they had just gotten themselves into. Ravager wasn't screwing around, she wasn't wasting time, she wasn't holding back. She was in her 'zone', so to speak, so focused on her goal that she wasn't going to give any of these untrained gunmen a chance to stop her. They didn't have any experience other than pointing and shooting. They didn't coordinate, they didn't try to flank her, they just fired on her position until their clips emptied, forcing them to reload.
Ravager made her move during that brief moment of reprieve, darting out of cover and racing across the lawn. She moved behind the fountain, behind hedges and trees, racing up to the front of the mansion. They took aim and started shooting again, but their weapons weren't built for accuracy, nor were they able to keep up with her impressive speed. Within moments, she leaped over the railing surrounding the outdoor patio and attacked the first man she saw.
Though she always kept the man she was attacking in between her and the other gunmen, they still assumed it to be a good idea to keep shooting at her, only succeeding in hitting their own comrades. Then, when she had to move to another man, she darted in and around cover, leaping up over walls, diving through surrounding bushes and hedges. Halfway through the whole attack, the men finally realized just how outclassed they were, and decided to be more careful, sticking together.
But there were only five left now, and even with them all grouped together and waiting for her, she tore them apart. Lunging up and over a low wall on the patio, she landed right in the middle of them, sending them into a panic at her sudden appearance. Before they had chance to recuperate and attack her, she dropped them to the ground with vicious blows.
“I am getting real sick and tired of people shooting at me today,” she muttered, kicking in the front door of the mansion.
The inside was about as much as she would have expected out of a mansion: large, elaborate décor, expensive furnishings, etc. A little ways past the open foyer was a second floor balcony, with two separate staircases leading up to it. She contemplated briefly where to begin searching; it was a huge residence, after all, and Pavoni was a single, slimy man.
“Pavoni!” She waited, listening for a response. Nothing. “Pavoni, get out here, you son of a bi*ch!”
Again, nothing. Well, it was worth a try. Letting out a calm breath, she walked slowly through the mansion, keeping an eye out for anything. She wasn't about to let Pavoni get away, not this time. She didn't make it very far, though, before a gunshot rang out and forced her into cover behind a display case. Another gunshot, and this time an expensive piece of pottery exploded in a shower of fragments.
“Damn it!” Pavoni yelled. “Do you have any idea how much that cost?!”
“You're the one that shot it, moron!”
Glancing around the side of the display case, Ravager spotted the man up on the second story balcony, his face still swollen and bruised from the beating she had given him earlier. He was also dressed in a loose bathrobe and silk pair of underwear, not a sight she wanted to see. Raising his pistol, he took another shot, but he missed wide. She didn't need to even duck out of the way that time, though; apparently, he had never been to a shooting range before.
Not wasting any time, Ravager raced through the foyer and headed straight up the stairs after him. He took another shot, missed again, and then his gun jammed. He hit it a few times, cursing, trying to get it to work. Realizing how fast she was covering the distance between them, however, he quickly retreated back down the hallway and through a side door. A few seconds later, Ravager burst through that same door, body-checking her way through it.
It was the master bedroom. A large, canopied bed sat near the back of the room, next to what appeared to be some kind of hot tub. A large, sliding glass door led out onto a balcony outside, overlooking the pool in the backyard below. She didn't pay attention to any of that, though; rather, her eye focused on Pavoni, and the young girl in a white dress he had wrapped in one of his arms, holding her around the neck. With his other hand, he pointed his gun at the girl's head.
“Take another step and I blow her brains out,” he said.
Ravager wasn't sure know whether or not the gun was still jammed, but she wasn't about to take any chances. As much as she hated to obey the command, she remained still, not about to put Holly's life at risk. The poor girl was in tears, her hands clawing at the much larger man's arm that had her trapped; she couldn't get away.
“Holly... it's going to be alright, you hear me?” she said, attempting to console the terrified girl. “I'll get you out of this, I promise.”
Pavoni scowled, moving the gun and pointing it at Ravager. “Shouldn't make promises you can't keep, lousy bi*ch. Do you know how much trouble you've caused, huh? How much you've cost me?! By the time I'm through with you, you'll wish you'd never been born!”
His mistake was ever thinking that turning the gun on Ravager herself was a good idea. It was the worst thing he could have done, as he immediately lost his leverage. The moment that Holly was no longer the target, Ravager sprinted straight forward, catching the man off guard with her speed.
Pavoni's eyes went wide, his throat emitting a gasp of surprise. In a panic, he got off two quick shots; one of them sailed past her head, missing wide, but the second ripped into her shoulder. In her current state of mind, though, she didn't even feel it, closing the rest of the distance and cracking her fist across the man's face. At the same time, she disarmed him of his weapon and wrenched his grasp away from the young girl, putting her in the clear. Before Pavoni could comprehend what was going on, Ravager delivered hard shots to his body, precision strikes meant to cause as much pain as possible, while making sure he retained consciousness.
“No! F**k!” he shrieked, as a vicious palm strike shattered his nose.
A following jab to the throat brought the man to his knees, coughing and sputtering, as he struggled to breathe. With a kick to the jaw, Ravager knocked him flat on his back. Taking a small step forward, she loomed over him, hands clenching to fists.
“I told you I'd make you suffer, Pavoni,” she said, gritting her teeth with an anger she hadn't known in a long, long time. “Time to make good on that.”
A figure garbed in a long coat and fedora hat moved casually up the walkway of Pavoni's property, taking careful notice of all the bodies littering the yard. Some were unconscious and some were dead, most of those being shot up by each other, the careless idiots that they were. Even still, Ravager certainly had done a number on them, and from the sounds of it, she had finally found Pavoni. The man didn't stand a chance.
Pushing his glasses farther up on his nose, Jerry stopped momentarily, glancing up towards the second story of the house. He wondered just how much time she'd take with Pavoni, whether she would make it quick or drag it out. Either way, he had to hurry; while he had no doubt that Ravager would end Pavoni, her still being alive would leave a loose end, one that he couldn't have lying around. He had to be certain that neither she nor Pavoni left this house alive.
With a furious shout, Ravager threw Pavoni as hard as she could through the air. He crashed through the door on the far side of the room, landing inside the bathroom beyond. He tried to get up, but a sharp bolt of pain kept him on the ground, writhing. A large, red stain grew rapidly at his groin, soaking through his underwear and spilling out across the floor.
“You... you're insane...” he uttered, lifting his head to see her approaching. “F**king psycho!”
“You don't know anything about me, Pavoni.” Walking into the bathroom with him, she delivered a malicious kick to his already bleeding face. She felt his jaw snap beneath her boot. “But allow me to explain a few things.”
Driving the point of her sword down, she stabbed the man's thigh, eliciting a horrid scream of agony. “I hate killing, you know, I really do. Mostly, it has to do with my father; he's a real cold blooded b**tard, and for the longest time I tried my hardest to be the complete opposite of him.”
Removing the blade, she lifted Pavoni up by the neck and smashed his face against the edge of the sink. “I did my best to never kill, to show everyone around me that I was nothing like him. It was difficult, especially when killing came as a second nature to me at that point.”
Gripping the man's arm tightly, she twisted and yanked it backwards at an odd ankle, breaking it with a loud snap. A horrid screech of pain burst from his lips in response.
“My old team had a large part in keeping me in check, though, making sure I never crossed that line,” she said, slowly lifting him back up from the floor. “For a while, it worked. I didn't kill anyone, no matter who I thought deserved it. Thing is, I came to realize over time that I wouldn't be able to abide by that policy forever, especially not when I was on my own.”
Ravager shoved him forward through the plexiglass door of the shower. He crashed over the side of the tub, landing in a broken heap. “ I tried so hard to be as different from my father as possible that I realized I wasn't being true to myself; I wasn't being my own person. My experiences, everything that I've been through in my life, have shaped me.”
Reaching out to grab the collar of his bathrobe, she once again lifted the beaten man upright, holding her at eye level with her. He couldn't even look back at her, his head dropping off to the side, eyes swollen shut. He was weak, defenseless, and near death; she still hit him again, driving him back to the floor with a wild punch.
“Through those experiences, I've built up my own moral code, a code that I choose to follow.” Ravager sucked in a deep breath, steadying her rapidly beating heart. “See, it isn't the act of killing itself that's difficult. No, it's what comes after, knowing that I have to live with the consequences of taking a life. It's all a matter of asking myself if I can deal with it, if I can cope with that decision. That's why, in most cases, I don't kill. Yet, sometimes...”
She grabbed the back of Pavoni's head again, this time dragging him over to the toilet. “Sometimes, there are some people that just flat out don't deserve to live.” She forced his head down, sending him face first into the toilet water. He tried to struggle away, tried to resist, but her powerful grip was firm, unyielding.
“The list of people that I allow myself to kill is very small,” she explained. “I'll kill if I have to, for example, if my life depends on it. You know, survival of the fittest, me or the other guy. But then, there are people like you... people who take advantage of children, hurt them, rob them of their innocence... you're the lowest kind of scum on this earth, Pavoni.”
Pavoni's struggles grew fiercer, more desperate. The air in his lungs had depleted, having no way of refilling with anything but water.
“A lot of my fellow heroes would call this murder. But you know something?” Ravager's eye slowly shifted downard, watching as the man's frantic struggles became weaker and weaker. “I don't care what they'd think, not one bit. I'm on my own now, and I'm doing things my way. To me, this is the first step in righting all of your disgusting wrongs. To me... this is justice.”
Eventually, Pavoni's actions became nothing more than small twitches and spasms, until he finally ceased moving altogether. Ravager stood there a few moments longer, just staring down at the lifeless man in her grasp. A nauseous sensation churned somewhere deep in her gut, but she ignored it. It didn't matter what anyone else would think; in her mind, she had done the right thing.
Releasing Pavoni, she turned from the bathroom and walked back into the bedroom. “Holly? Holly, you there? It's alright, you can come out now... he won't be hurting you anymore.”
A few moments later, the little blonde girl poked her head around the side of the bed. She paused a second, then cautiously walked into the open; poor thing was in tears, terrified, and clutching at a teddy bear for comfort. Taking a knee, Ravager removed her mask and gave the girl a small smile.
“You're safe now,” she said, with an assuring nod. “I promise.”
After a brief moment of dumbfounded staring, Holly ran across the room and dove into Ravager's arms, hugging tightly. Though she sobbed nearly uncontrollably, nary a sound escaped her lips, the result of her surgically removed vocal cords. At first, Ravager just knelt there, allowing the girl to hold onto her but not reciprocating. Eventually, though, not even she could resist returning the hug, wrapping her arms warmly around the girl's shoulders.
“It's okay,” she uttered, taking in a soft breath. “Everything's okay now.”
By now, Ravager was finally beginning to feel the pain from the gunshot wound, her shoulder growing stiff as a result. Still, she did her best to ignore it and push on. After all, she still needed to get Holly out of there, to a safer place, back to her family. Rising back to her feet, she lifted the crying girl into her arms and held her close.
“Come on, let's get you out of here.”
As she turned to exit the bedroom, however, a precognitive flash stopped her cold. It was different again, not like normal. She saw more than just one brief image, instead witnessing a whole series of events: a leaking gas pipe, a man in Pavoni's kitchen, the man placing a newspaper in a toaster, setting the timer, and then...
“Sh*t! Hold on!” she exclaimed, turning and sprinting straight at the glass door dividing the bedroom and the balcony.
Lowering her shoulder, she charging straight through the glass wall, making sure to cover Holly as best she could with her arms so the girl wouldn't get shredded by broken shards. Without slowing down, she sprinted across the balcony and leaped through the air, aiming for the pool. About midway through the fall-
-the mansion behind her erupted in a massive explosion, scorching fireballs bursting through the windows. Ravager felt the heat on her back as she plummeted into the pool water. The shock wave from the explosion left her dazed below the surface, but she held onto Holly tightly, protectively. When at last she managed to swim back to the surface, she hoisted the utterly horrified girl onto the edge of the pool and then pulled herself up.
Ravager just barely crawled her way out of the pool. The gunshot wound was throbbing harder now, and her entire body felt as though it had just been run over by a truck. No, scratch that. By a train. Gasping for breath, she collapsed on her backside and stared straight up at the morning sky. Holly moved next to her, gently shaking her shoulder in attempts to get her up.
“Just... a second...” she wheezed sucking in deep breaths. “Just... need a breather.”
But she never got that breather, as she suddenly realized they weren't alone. Bolting straight upright, she turned and leaped up to her feet, putting herself between Holly and the new enemy. Jerry walked slowly forward, the burning mansion in his background. Slowly, he brought his hands together in a rhythmic, mocking applause.
“Once again, Rose, you don't fail to impress,” he stated, flashing a pleased grin.
Glaring at him, Ravager drew a sword with her good arm, while holding her other over Holly. “Stay behind me, Holly.”
“You know, killing you is proving to be quite the challenge,” Jerry said. “You're like a cockroach... and cockroaches need to be squashed.”
“Well what are you waiting for, huh?” Ravager took another step forward, holding her blade at the ready. “Give it your best shot.”
Jerry chuckled softly. “Oh, but I won't be doing anything. I loathe getting my hands dirty, you see, so on the off chance that the explosion didn't kill you, I brought backup.”
As if on cue, a thunderous crash erupted near the side of the pool area. A portion of the wall surrounding the yard suddenly exploded inwards, bits of brick and mortar flying in all directions. Standing there in the newly created hole was a hulking behemoth of a man; no, it couldn't even be called a man, not really. It was more monster, a towering mountain of muscle with a brutish face. The monster slowly moved its gaze, eventually focusing on Ravager.
“You like him?” Jerry asked. “One of my newest metas, fresh out of the facility. The formula we used on him was a little... unstable, though. He wasn't exactly supposed to mutate like that, but beggars can't be choosers. He's still far more advanced than any of the others, and he listens to his commands just fine, in spite of his... limited intelligence. I call him Blockbuster, after those other brutes that were created in a similar fashion.”
Ravager swallowed, staring up at the beast. Things had just become a whole lot more complicated.
Jerry grinned. “Blockbuster... kill her.”
The hulking beast known as Blockbuster took a few steps forward, glaring and grinning at Ravager. He growled a real, bestial growl, then full out roared as he charged, swinging his massive arm like a club. Ravager reacted instantly, grabbing Holly and pulling the girl out of the way while dodging the incoming strike. Blockbuster was a lot faster and a lot stronger than the previous metas she had fought, but fortunately she still had a speed advantage, if only a marginal one. Her precog and reflexes really had to work on overdrive if she wanted to get out of this alive.
“Holly, run,” she urged, taking a few careful steps to the side. “Get as far away from here as you can.”
The girl looked up at her in a panic, pulling at her arm.
“I can't go with you right now, just go!” she said, running away from Holly. Blockbuster rushed her again, roaring loudly. “Holly, just run!”
Finally, the little girl managed to sprint around the pool and across the lawn. With her arms still clutching onto her teddy bear in a death grip, she raced through the newly made hole in the wall and disappeared.
Ravager flipped backward to evade another attack by Blockbuster, but her landing was unsteady, causing her to tumble backward to the ground. In top form, she'd have a much greater chance against this beast, but she was currently suffering from a gunshot wound and a body battered by an explosive shock wave. She could feel her balance thrown off, legs throbbing.
Running at the downed Ravager, Blockbuster raised both fists above his head and brought them crashing down at her. She rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the incoming strike. Reacting quickly, Ravager drew one of her blades and slashed it at the monster's arm, an attack that barely left a scratch behind. She drew blood, yes, but what would have normally been a limb-removing blow on a normal person was about the equivalent of a paper cut to him.
“Well sh*t,” she muttered, ducking below another wild attack.
Taking her blade in both hands, Ravager hacked at the brute's kneecap, trying to go for the more vulnerable points on his body now. However, the attack again barely had an effect him, drawing only a small trickle of blood. As she attempted a followup attack, a sudden kick caught her off guard. Blockbuster's leg swung upward hard, smashing into her injured shoulder and rocketing her through the air. She crashed into a nearby gazebo, coming to an abrupt stop.
F**k, that's a broken arm.
Rolling out of the collapsed wooden structure, Ravager forced herself back to her feet, holding her limp arm and gritting her teeth. Fortunately, the broken arm was the one already weakened by the gunshot; if it had been her only good arm, then she'd really be trouble. Still, things weren't looking good and they were only getting worse.
Blockbuster leaped at her this time, threatening to land right on top of her and flatten her against the ground. Ravager moved fast, rolling forward and narrowly avoiding the impact, as the beast crashed back to earth. He followed through with another couple of smashing fists that Ravager's enhanced reflexes and precognition could only barely evade. She knew she couldn't keep this up forever. Her body was starting to feel sluggish, and the pain grew stronger by the minute. If she didn't figure out a way to end this soon, she'd be a goner.
Ravager dove out away from another attack, then lurched backwards to avoid another. In the process, her feet slipped out from beneath her, causing her to fall suddenly to her backside. Blockbuster didn't miss the opportunity, reaching down with both hands and scooping her up into his grasp. With a chuckling growl, he began squeezing harder and harder, holding her up close to his face so he can watch her pained reaction.
A scream erupted from Ravager's throat, as she felt her bones caving beneath the pressure. A few more moments and they'd likely shatter, with Blockbuster mushing her into a bloody paste. But she couldn't let that happen, wouldn't let it happen. Just managing to wriggle her good arm free from the monster's clutches, she reached back over her shoulder and drew her other sword. What she had in mind was pure conjecture, but she didn't have a whole lot of options remaining.
Clenching her jaw tightly, she thrust the blade forward at the monster's face, driving the point straight through his right eye socket. While most of his body was highly durable, some parts of him still had be squishy, and his eyes proved to be one of them. With a howl of sudden pain, Blockbuster dropped his victim and held one of his massive hands up to his face. He fell to a knee, shaking his head and beating his other fist against the ground in frustration.
Ravager took a moment to catch her breath, flipping the blade around in her grasp. “I have had... just about... enough of this.”
Moving around his thrashing arm, she lunged straight at his chest and stabbed her sword at where his heart should be. The blade pierced his hard flesh, but sank in only a few inches, likely not reaching anything vital. Still, it caused Blockbuster pain. The beast howled again, lifting a hand to grasp the weapon lodged in his chest. That's the moment Ravager was waiting for; the second that his big palm raised up in front of the sword's handle, she threw herself against the back of his hand as hard as she could.
The abrupt force caused Blockbuster's palm to lurch against his chest, driving the blade straight through his body and out the other side. The monster blinked a couple times in shock, staggering backwards and falling to the ground. He opened his mouth as if to growl or utter some other sound of agony, but nothing comes out except a blood-filled gurgle. Several long, teetering moments later, Blockbuster toppled back to the ground, lying motionless.
“Asshole,” Ravager muttered, falling to her knees.
She sucked in deep, tired breaths, the adrenaline from battle beginning to drain from her body. Her broken arm screamed in agony, while the rest of her body practically shut down with exhaustion; she could barely even hold herself upright. But at least now, she could finally catch that break she so desperately needed...
Jerry suddenly appeared in her vision, walking up in front of her and pointing a simple handgun at her forehead. Under normal circumstances, she'd be able to disarm him and have him begging for mercy in a matter of seconds, but right now she could barely raise her head to look at him, never mind jump up and attack.
“It would be so easy to kill you right now,” he mused, “and after all the trouble you've caused, I really should.
Ravager swallowed a hard lump in her throat, clenching her jaw tight. “So what... the hell are you waiting for?”
Jerry stared at her a moment longer, firelight from the burning mansion glinting off his glasses. Eventually, he lifted the gun away from her and took a step back.
“The hell are you doing?” she said, eying him curiously.
“Letting you live.”
Ravager narrowed her gaze, posture slackening further. “Not that I'm complaining... but why?”
“Killing you now would be in poor taste,” he explained. “You're a worthy adversary, Rose; I won't dishonor you by putting you down like a dog.”
“Says the man who tried to blow me up.”
A pleased smirk spread across Jerry's face. “Yes, and you survived it. Then, even weakened, you triumphed over Blockbuster, as well. You're impressive, very impressive. Putting a bullet in your head while you can't even stand would just be a waste. Consider this a reward for your feats this past night.”
Ravager lifted an eyebrow a him. “You realize I'll still bring you down if I ever see you again.”
“Of course I do, Rose, and I wouldn't have it any other way,” he said. “Now, you may want to gather your strength and get out of here; this is a secluded location, yes, but home explosions don't exactly go unnoticed for long. The authorities will be arriving shortly.”
“Sh*t,” she grunted, slowly pushing herself up to her feet. She staggered there for a few moments before finally able to walk again.
“Oh, and that girl, Holly?” Jerry gestured towards the hole in the perimeter wall. “I do believe you should go find her before she gets lost in the woods. You went through all this trouble to save her, after all.”
Ravager grit her teeth, glancing back at where Holly had run off to. “We'll meet again, Jeremiah... count on it.”
With those parting words, she hobbled away from the burning property. In her weakened state she could barely keep her balance, half running and half tripping over herself. But she pushed on. Holly was counting on her.
“Oh, I am, Rose,” Jerry whispered quietly to himself. “Believe me, I am.”
“Holly!” Ravager called, stumbling through the wild terrain of the forest. “Holly!”
She took deep, slow breaths, forcing herself to move onward, despite the crippling pain racking her body. She tripped over fallen trees, slid down hills, even trudged through a small swamp in her search for the missing girl. It had been nearly half an hour since she entered the woods, wandering aimlessly to find her. Still, she wasn't going to give up. She couldn't, no matter what.
Still nothing. Even if Holly could hear the calls, she couldn't answer. The best that Ravager could hope for was that they stumbled across each other, or that she spotted the girl somewhere through the trees. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she began crawling her way up another hill, her breaths growing quicker and raspier. Suddenly, her legs gave out, plunging her face first against the ground. A surprised groan burst from her lungs, as she slid back down to the bottom of the hill.
“Holly...” she uttered, rolling over onto her back and staring straight up at the sky. Everything was spinning.
Get up, Rose, come on. She tried to move, but her body refused, remaining motionless. Goddamn it, get up, you lazy b*tch! She's counting on you!
But she couldn't, her body simply did not obey her mental commands. She had finally pushed herself well beyond what she could, and her muscles decided to shut down on her. All she could do now was lie there, gazing emptily up at the spinning sky, while consciousness gradually left her.
As the world went dark, she could have sworn that she saw something out of the corner of her eye, a small figure approaching from the nearby trees. Before she can even begin to wonder if something was really there or if she was just seeing things, though, she passed out cold.
Several hours later...
Ravager blinked her eye open, slowly awakening. Her vision blurred, drifting in and out of focus, until finally things became clear. With a weak groan, she went to sit up straight, only to elicit a a sharp gasp as her body seized up with a paralyzing pain. Dropping her head back to the ground, she took in deep breaths, allowing her body some more time to recover before making another attempt. She finally made it into a seated position on her next attempt, though she was not without an explosive pain ripping through her ribcage.
Sh*t, I feel like I just went ten rounds with Superman.
She soon became aware that she wasn't alone. Turning her gaze to her side, she noticed a small young girl with blond hair nestled against her, fast asleep. Her heart immediately skipped about three beats in pure relief.
“Holly...” she breathed. “You found me. Good girl.”
She uttered out a small laugh of disbelief and then collapsed back against the ground. She had found Holly, but there were still a few problems with the current situation. One, she could barely move. Two, they were lost somewhere in the middle of a thick forest. Three, as the day went on and the sun began to fall, the temperature would go down, and neither of them were really dressed to survive a cold night lying there in the woods. Realizing the severity of the circumstances, she knew she had no other option.
Really, really never wanted to have to use this.
Carefully, she reached into one of the small compartments on her belt. She didn't have nearly as versatile a utility belt as, say, Batman, but she did keep a few things of importance in there for when the occasion arose. Pulling out a small, round communicator, she flipped it open and clicked the call button. Dick had given it to her when she left, telling her to call him if she ever needed anything. She really had planned on never using it, not wanting to go running to Dick whenever she had a problem but right now she didn't have much of a choice.
“Come on, come on...” she muttered, waiting for someone to pick up. “Work you piece of-”
Her words cut off when the communicator began hissing with static, followed by a familiar voice.
“Rose, is that you?”
“Ha... what do you know, it still works.” Ravager dropped her head against the ground, sucking in a deep breath. “You sure build them to last, Dick.”
“What do you need?” he asked. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh, you could say that... listen, I'm gonna need, well... a favor. How fast can you get that Bat-Jet of yours here for a pickup?”
A brief silence followed before she received a response. “According to your coordinates, it says you're almost 300 miles away from here.”
“Yeah, so sue me,” she groaned. “Just answer the damn question.
“A couple hours at the most, shorter if I hurry. Why, what's wrong?”
“Look, I'll explain when you're on your way, if you really want me to. Just hurry up, okay?” Ravager held a hand to her forehead, closing her eyes. “I... really need some help right now.”
“Alright, I'll be there as soon as I can,” he assured. “Just hold on.”
It took an hour and a half from when Rose first called Dick to come get her before he finally arrived, and another hour after that to get her in a change of clothes, come up with a story, and then transport both her and Holly to the hospital to get looked at. Only when Rose knew that the young girl was being taken care of did she allow herself to be treated, pumped up so full of pain medication that she passed out for about six hours.
When she finally awoke, Rose breathed in deeply and slowly opened her eye. The hospital room was dark, yet strangely inviting; then again, after lying for several hours in a forest, even her old apartment would be inviting right about now. Letting out a long yawn, she raised up her unbroken arm and held it to her forehead, trying to fight the dull throbbing between her ears.
Still yawning, Rose looked to the corner of the room, where Dick sat calmly in a chair. “You're still here? Figured you'd have been back to Gotham ages ago.”
“I wanted to make sure things went smoothly, no complications or anything,” he said. “I've been answering police questioning all day.”
“They bought that I found Holly in a back alley, being assaulted by some random street thugs?”
He nodded. “And that they roughed you up when you tried to help her. Explains the broken arm and the gunshot, as well as the internal bleeding.”
“And then you showed up and ran the goons off,” Rose muttered, sighing deeply. “Huh, almost didn't think that would work. So, how's the girl, anyway?”
“Just fine,” said. “Her injuries were pretty minor, just some scrapes and cuts... well, and the internal scarring.”
A long breath escaped her lips, eye closing for a moment. She forced down the numb lump forming in her throat. “That poor kid's been through more than any child should have to. I hope that b**tard Pavoni rots in hell for what he did to her.”
“About that... you weren't the one that blew up his house, right?”
Rose narrowed her eyes at him. “That's what I said, isn't it?”
“Yes, and I believe you.” Dick shifted his posture, leaning back in the seat. “Just double checking; turns out that explosion completely destroyed his body. It makes determining the cause of death nearly impossible... well, if it wasn't, of course.”
“Huh, imagine that.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Dick's eyes slowly narrowed at her. “Yeah... imagine that.”
“So, if Holly's alright now, did her family come by to pick her up yet?” Rose asked, changing the subject. “They were probably worried sick about her.”
A brief pause lingered in the air, as Dick hesitated to respond.
Rose lifted an eyebrow. “Something wrong?”
“The girl, Holly...” he explained. “...she doesn't have a family.”
“What?” Rose said, suddenly bolting upright in her bed. “You're telling me she has no family? No parents, cousins, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles.... nothing?”
He nodded again, bowing his head. “That's exactly what I'm saying. Her full name is Holly Anne Sanders; her parents died in a car crash four years ago, and she was an only child. Most of her extended family passed on before she was even born, and those that are left are either in prison or in no way fit to take care of a child. She was in the foster system before her disappearance.”
“Wait, so... so she was a foster kid?” Rose held a hand to her forehead, trying to make sense of the situation. “Well, who was looking after her, huh? Shouldn't they be here?”
“The couple that was taking care of Holly before isn't... available anymore,” he informed. “Somewhere along the road, their life took a downward spiral. Drugs, alcohol, domestic disputes, things like that. They didn't even report Holly as missing until a week after it happened. Right now, they're being held up on a laundry list of charges, not the least of which includes negligent endangerment of a child.”
Dropping her head back to the pillow, Rose closed her eye for a uttered a small groan. Her headache was getting worse. “Then, what now? What's going to happen to her?”
“Well, she's in court custody at the moment. I imagine they'll insert her back into the foster system soon.”
“What? So she can end up in another sh*t hole like the last one?” She sat upright again, glaring at Dick. “No, no way! After what she's been through, she deserves better!”
Dick straightened himself, clearing his throat. “Rose, I wish there was something else we could do for her, but that's the way things work. She has no place else to go.”
A long pause followed. Rose took a deep breath, carefully thinking over the situation. She couldn't just let them throw Holly back into foster care, not after how it had treated her before. But what could do? How could she help?
Suddenly, she came to a wild, snap decision. It was a long shot, but to her, it made perfect sense. “What if I looked after her? Doesn't have to be permanent, just temporary, at least until something else can be done.”
Dick gave her a funny look, lifting an eyebrow. “Rose, I don't really think that-”
“No, quiet, just hear me out on this, alright?” She straightened herself, steadying her breath. “I know I can be a real b*tch at times, and I know I don't have a great track record as a 'people person'. But there are some things I'm serious about, and right now, I'm serious about that girl. She's been through too much for her life to be left up to chance now, and I know I can help her. I... I can do something good for once that doesn't involve punching someone in the face.”
“Listen, Rose... I can understand your wanting to help her,” Dick said, “but becoming someone's legal guardian isn't something that's accomplished with a snap of your fingers. There's a process, petitions to fill out, court proceedings, they have to determine if you're fit to take care of her, and-”
“What, you don't think I'd make a good caretaker?” she snapped, folding her arms.
Dick cleared his throat briefly, shifting in his seat. “It's just... you don't have a job, you don't have any money, you don't have a home, and then there's the dark stuff they'd dig up on you when running a background check... Your current identity and position doesn't exactly fit the right profile.”
“Yeah, well... okay, so all that could be a problem,” she groaned, lowering her gaze. “But, maybe you could help me out with that? I mean, you do have the resources to make it happen, and... please, Dick, let me do this. For Holly.”
Looking back at her carefully, Dick sucked in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Eventually, he gave a small shrug and held a hand to his head. “I know I'm going to regret this, but alright, fine. I'll see what I can do.”
A small, satisfied smile forms across her face. “Thanks, Dick, really. You're... a good friend.”
“You're welcome, Rose,” he said, nodding at her again. Then, he stood up from his seat and walked over to the door. Before leaving, though, he stopped and glanced back at her. “Rose, another thing... about how we left things between us last time, I didn't mean to-”
“Let me stop your right there.” She held a hand up to silence him, shaking her head. “Listen, you were right; I did some thinking on it, and yeah, it never would have worked. I just... I don't know, guess I was feeling emotionally open at the time, and you were being good to me, and... just don't worry about it, alright? It's in the past, case closed.”
Dick smiled, uttering a soft. “You'll find someone eventually, you know.”
“Ha! Right,” she said, chuckling. “You find someone who can put up with this personality, have them give me a call.”
Pausing briefly, Dick nodded to her again. “Get some rest, Rose, you've earned it.”
Three weeks later...
“So, this is the place, huh?” Rose said, planting her hands firmly on her hips.
“Yup, everything's set up and ready to go for you,” Dick replied. “Fully furnished, best home security system known to alien and man alike, and all expenses paid for by Wayne Enterprises.”
“Not bad, Grayson, not bad. I could get used to this.”
They were currently on the top floor of the Silverstone Residential Towers building, which consisted of some of the most expensive apartments in the city. When Rose had mentioned that she needed a new place to live, this wasn't what she had been referring to, but she certainly wasn't going to start complaining now.
Rose glanced behind her at the front door. “Holly, come see this, you're gonna love it.”
The young blonde haired girl with two different colored eyes poked her head into the doorway curiously, gazing around in wonder. She was dressed in proper clothes now, a nice blouse and jeans, and real sneakers. Though she couldn't speak, her wide eyes said it all; she was impressed.
Clutching her teddy bear to her chest, Holly came farther inside to investigate, eventually hopping up onto the leather sofa and smiling. A few moments later, she found the remote and turned on the large, flat screen television across from her. With a large smile, she settled back against the couch and watched some cartoons.
“I think she likes it,” Dick said, folding his arms.
Rose smirked. “Certainly seems that way.”
It had been a long process going through court and filing petitions to become Holly's legal guardian. The whole thing had really been a pain, but Rose never once considered giving up on it. Dick had really been the one who made it happen, though, setting her up with a completely new, squeaky clean identity, providing everything from birth certificates, a social security number, driver's license, a new bank account, a job, health insurance, the works.
Once all that was in order, she had been able to start the court proceedings, which involved everything from paperwork to private interviews with both her and Holly, making sure that this was something they both wanted. Though Holly hadn't known her new caretaker for very long, Rose did more good for her than anyone else had in a long time. Rather than face the unknown of foster care again, the girl had gladly accepted Rose's offer to become her legal guardian.
“That's not all, though,” Dick said, waving her along. “Follow me.”
Giving him a curious look, Rose followed him into the master bedroom. Her eyebrows lifted, a small smirk crossing her face. “And here I thought we put that behind us. But now isn't the best time to change your mind, Dick, there's a kid in the other room.”
Heading to the far wall, Dick entered a numbered code on a small security panel, causing a section to swing around. On the other side of the wall, now facing them, was Rose's Ravager gear, everything from her full costume, including a backup, to various swords, masks, and a few other unknown gadgets. Eye going wide, Rose's lips curled into a pleasant grin.
“Grayson, you really know how to make a girl all tingly.”
“I'll keep that in mind. Go ahead and take a look, though, I've gone and given your stuff a few upgrades.”
Acknowledging his suggestion, she took a walk over to the equipment wall and closely examined her new armor and weapons. “What kinds of upgrades?
“Well, for starters,” he explained, “I took the liberty of finally outfitting your armor with some Kevlar materials, or a mix really. Some Kevlar, some Promethium mesh. Point is, you're now as bulletproof as Batman.”
“These swords look sharper, too,” she said, bending down to get a closer look.”
Dick nodded. “They are, about 500% sharper, to be exact. Filed them down with some of WayneTech's top laser sharpening tools; they'll cut through things like steel, concrete, stone... well, most normal materials really. Still won't help against the really tough stuff, but at least they're more effective than your average blades. Just be careful with them; we don't want any accidents.”
Smirking, Rose gently ran her thumb against one of the blades; her skin barely even touched the edge before feeling the sting, followed by a trickle of blood. “You know there's no way I can pay you back for all of this, right?”
“Don't worry about it. You just do what you do best, stop the bad guys.”
She gave him a firm nod. “You can count on that. If anything good came out of my run in with Pavoni, it's that I learned just what kind of crap goes on in this city. Well, now they have someone who's going to clean it up.”
“I'll hold you to it,” he said, giving her a confident smile.
Reaching forward, Dick extended his hand. She returned the gesture in kind, shaking it and taking in a deep breath.
I hope you're ready, Silverstone City. There's a new hero in town, and her name is Rose Wilson.