Authors: Nick Kelly
The repetition of punches against his face and body was a whirlwind, the clang of metal fists against metal armor repeated so quickly that it caused a ringing in his ears. He felt himself growing in rage with every blow that struck him. Finally giving in to the anger, he drew his legs upward and kicked the pugilist in the chest.
The attacking Siren landed on its back on the far side of the street. As it shook itself to awareness, Cat was on it, slamming the baton repeatedly against its skull. Cracks appeared in the metallic sheen. Liquid followed. Soon, the Siren’s skull was concave, its body motionless against the ground.
Feeling the last attacker approach, Cat reached into his fallen enemy’s helmet, gaining a solid grip on its skull. With a howl, he swung wide, the dead Siren’s body acting as a bat as he rolled. The unsuspecting assailant tried to pull back, instead catching the brunt of its dead colleague full force. The two Sirens slammed into the pavement.
With the weight of its dead colleague trapping it, the last Siren struggled for freedom. Cat approached angrily, stopping only briefly to pick up his pistol. The Siren mumbled something resembling a plea in a language the hitman didn’t comprehend. Cat pressed his thumb above the clip handle, catching the emptied ammo clip in his free hand. Tired of the useless voicing of the Siren, he slammed the empty clip into its mouth.
Standing above the last of the gangers, Cat reloaded the 11mm. The Siren’s eyes grew wide, and its vocalization switched to outright begging. Scowling, the hitman emptied the fresh clip into the Siren’s face.
With a crushing blow indicative of his namesake, Midas swung a fist, shattering the one-piece mirror that ran the length of his bedroom. Glass shards rained through the room like a plague of locusts. He roared. The anger of Nitro City’s Golden King shook the walls.
The hired whores who’d earlier been writhing in his satin sheets fled in any direction they could find, praying that his violence found only inanimate victims. His golden eyes stared at a few hundred of his own reflection, varying in shape and size, each occupying a fractured portion of the mirror. The shards of his image fell to the carpeted floor. Midas waited a few breaths, regaining his posture. He brushed a few flecks of broken glass from his shoulder.
Watching his assassins overcome so easily demanded a reaction. Had he thought it through, he’d have simply choked one of the whores in his bed. Each of them was chump change compared to the value of the mirror.
He turned his eyes to the nearest woman. She didn’t even realize what a lucky little cunt she was tonight. He beckoned a gold finger, and she approached, unaware of the glass cutting into her feet. She disrobed and moved to the bed as he gestured.
Midas reached a hand to the nightstand, his metallic fingers gripping the bottle of Courvoisier. Shrugging off etiquette, he took a swig of the cognac directly from the bottle. He barked into the table-mounted comm. “Get me a line to this assassin. He’ll be one of mine soon.” The pimp took another deep gulp, staring at the frozen image of yellow eyes on the video feed.
“He’ll be mine, alright, or he’ll be dead.”
It was all wrong.
Cat blew out a quick breath. Sweat rolled down his temples and the nape of his neck. He shook off a chill, impossible for how hot it was outside. He squeezed his eyes and shook his head, careful not to lose control of the motorcycle in the process. He stared at the wavy horizon, focusing on his breath. Finally, the feverish symptoms began to wane. His head cleared enough to process the attacks.
Cat knew it before he even got close to the confines of familiar territory. Someone had tried long and hard to make sure he was a corpse, and that the Sirens got credit. Only whoever had organized this missed on two key definitive areas. First, Cat had new armor, armor that only he and Delambre knew about, which meant his newfound acquaintance had been trustworthy after all.
Secondly, the real Sirens were equipped with sonic weapons surgically implanted to imitate the mythical creatures of the same name. Several also opted for cybernetic controls for their intercostals and diaphragm. Popular rumors circulated that a coordinated attack by two Sirens in harmony caused more damage than an earthquake registering 6.0 on the Richter scale.
The four beings who’d attacked him had anything but vocal attacks. Two were martial artists, the other two a cleanup crew. That composition was far more conventional, common to hostile takeovers, assassin teams, or even his old cop squad in DC. This team could have made up a small infantry band in the last territory war, or a Fixer’s eraser squad. Cat let the logic play in multiple directions.
First of all, he had to thank Delambre, or rather, his daughter, for the design of the composite armor. Without it, he’d have been punctured like balsa wood in a hailstorm, left to bleed alone in the desert outside of Nitro City. Second, someone had just sent a squad after him. Midas was the obvious candidate, since Cat had converted the pimp’s sidekick from Original to Extra Crispy. If Midas had shown a willingness to kill him, it meant either an escalation in his enemies’ talent level or the pimp’s tenacity. Sooner or later, Cat was going to need to eliminate the power broker. It was a scenario he’d wished to sidestep, but one he knew was coming when he offed the crippled pederast.
Third, there was the matter of Delilah. The simple thought of her brought a scent to his nose and a taste to his lips. He wanted to protect her, if only for the absolute selfishness of having her skin pressed against him. He wanted her mouth at his mercy, her body his to conduct like an orchestra. He could certainly overlook the fact that she was married, since her dinosaur husband had been declared missing Off-World for well over ten months.
He’d love the chance to tap into her brain and to see if she was willing to put her morals on hold. Cat was thirty years closer to her own age than the fashion tycoon, Raul Dupree. The old stiff might as well be dead, and Delilah should be on the back of the motorcycle, nervous arms wrapped around her new rescuer, or better, legs wrapped around his waist. At the moment, she was just plain gone. She’d fled his presence as quickly as that of the vampires. There was some rebuilding to perform with her.
If he was lucky, he’d find the chance.
If he was a lottery winner, she’d find him first.
The scientist struck the keyboard again and again, sending letters into the air like rain. He screamed a torrent of syllables, if not complete sentences. Trailing a stream of vandalism in the air, he gritted his teeth. He could not allow the symbiotic relationship of the pimp and the hitman to come to pass. Midas had made an uncharacteristic switch in his plans. Instead of doubling his forces to kill Catwalk, he planned on offering the yellow-eyed ex-cop a job. The thought of Midas and Catwalk working together drove the scientist to a point beyond reason, causing fire around his temples, blindness in his eyes, and lightning in his brain. The two simply would not be allowed to align against him.
When the pulsating brightness against his temples subsided, he leveled his gaze. The anticipating eyes of his finest subject met his own.
“Ah, my dearest Angelyka,” he stated, as a trickle of blood dribbled from his lips, “ the time has come, at last, for you to do away with our former ally. At last we shall claim power for our own, and Nitro City, the embodiment of Sin it has become, shall taste the wrath of its new Messiah.”
“Go. Make me proud.”
A smile crossed Angelyka’s black lips. “I will fulfill your desire, Master.”
The deep crack of leathery wings split the night sky as his Dark Angel left the lab, heading skyward. As her humanoid form lifted into the darkness, the scientist sneered. The cybernetic enhancements that made her something far beyond human would serve as an alert to anyone close enough to bear witness. With Midas and Catwalk brushed aside, he would continue to develop the next generation of MetaHumans. Though his creations had been imperfect in the past, Angelyka was different. She symbolized the new dawn in human cyber-genetic evolution, and her superiority over his enemies would prove that.
He pictured her dark claws ripping Midas’ heart from his body, and he began to laugh. The scientist thought of his enemies’ death, careful to depict every satisfying detail. Soon, but not soon enough, he would eliminate the few obstacles that had dared to obstruct his path to glory.
“He’s a reckless, careless idiot.”
“That is quite enough!” Delambre’s tone was enough to send his daughter spinning on her heel out of the lab. From Cat’s position, strapped to the cold, steel slab, he couldn’t judge her reaction.
“I’m sure she took that well.”
Delambre frowned, “Don’t be an ass, Catwalk. My job is to enable your success, not facilitate your suicidal tendencies.”
Cat smirked. He wasn’t certain if the geneticist or his daughter was the one with most expertise, or greatest interest, in his health. He coughed to one side as an exercise, receiving no reaction from Delambre. “Sorry, Doc. I’ll take blame for the vamps, not this whole bout with the Sirens. I didn’t go callin’ fer that.”
Concentrating on the diagnostics, Delambre offered only a grunt. Cat’s grin drew broader as he realized that just as the geneticist’s daughter had designed his new armor. She was the one who maintained a watchful eye on its functionality. Eventually, she could be an outlet for some serious education, or a great deal of fun.
Without intent, his mind brought up another woman he’d met recently, and forced him to ask why he hadn’t tried to track down the fashion model. He wanted her near. He had developed a desire for her from the first glimpse of her on the vid screen. It had only grown more intense when he met her in person at the Paradigm. There was more to it, though. Something kept him from chasing after the redheaded off-world goddess. He couldn’t put his finger on it.
“How soon til I’m up an’ about?”
Delambre scanned the diagnostics he had been running for the better part of an hour. “The damage you’ve sustained is minimal. We’re almost done here.”
“Good, I could use a smoke.”
“Smoke any more and I can’t promise you’ll be able to avoid heat-seeking missiles.”
“Hmm, so I’m guessin’ you don’t have a light?”
Delambre leveled a wordless gaze. Cat shrugged, deciding against asking if the geneticist’s daughter had any interest in lighting his fire. He wanted to get out of the sterile and stuffy lab, hit the open road and do a little wrenching of his own. Last night’s inventory of upcoming conflicts hadn’t lessened any. It had only inched closer to the inevitable deadline. He’d been fortunate that two of the Sirens had records, and that meant a little bonus money. It also meant more money that Midas would be putting on his tab. Half of the hitman wanted to smash Midas’ shiny dome into the pavement. The other half tried to make a rational assumption of the extent of Midas’ power. The rational half usually came out on the losing end.
The cleaner watched Delambre scour the diagnostics. “You two are close, then, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“You an’ your daughter. Seems like even when you hate each other, you ain’t so far apart.”
Delambre stopped for a moment before responding. “We don’t have anyone else, Catwalk. We have only each other.”
Cat nodded with a smirk. “So, she has ta put up with you…and me?”
The elder man chuckled.
Cat swung to a seated position, then dropped soundlessly on the lab floor, still grinning. “I dunno, doc. You ask me…she’s gotta be some kinda angel.”
By nightfall, Cat had put a few hundred more kilometers on the H-S, tweaked and tuned it for a few hours, and snagged a short but deep period of meditation before cleaning up and hitting the streets again. Midas loved metal, both visual and aural, and he had a few familiar hot spots. Liquid Chrome was one, but his sphere of influence there was limited. The owners had spent plenty of time and money cleaning up. If they were dealing with crime lords, they were very, very good at keeping it a secret.
Instead, Cat headed slightly uptown from Chrome, to a district called The Cell Block. The Block housed three separate industrial factories, closed down almost twelve years ago when the majority of chipset manufacturing had been moved Off-World. Purchased by a music mogul and sports agent called DJX-Machina, the factories were overhauled, walkways were built between them, and the buildings were fit with enough bars and speakers for the party to be heard kilometers away.
The exterior looked like some twisted version of a storybook castle. The old smokestacks reached skyward, begging the past to return to the earth. Walkways crisscrossed, some open to the air, others enclosed. Silhouettes moved and overlapped stories above the ground. Lights pulsated in perfect synchronicity with the punishing guitars and synthesizers. The Block itself seemed to beat with the music, feeding the lust and thrill of its inhabitants.
Cat ran a series of scans around the exterior of the factory. The results were as expected. Snipers occupied each corner. A few other warm bodies found their way to the assumed privacy of outside for some mutual satisfaction. He knew his decision to play bait would draw out some attention at The Block. It was virtual suicide to walk into the spider’s web, but he was tired of looking over his shoulder. If Midas was going to come after him, it might as well be head-on, instead of sending half-a-dozen amateur goons every few days.
The first factory was a perfect marriage of wreckage and treasure. The interior had been shelled out, an arson job started on the inside by workers furious at rumored layoffs. Most of the machinery and the foundation were impervious to the intense heat, but the flames had charred the majority of the walls and the flooring, and left a faint hint of smoke that clung to the inhabitants’ clothes, hair and throats. It was a dance party inside an ashtray.
The factory-turned-concert hall was three floors high, with the ground floor a tsunami of writhing bodies. While the DJX commanded the tones in the next building, this was ruled by a psychotic-themed live band. A stage extended out from the second floor, making the band three dimensional, with fans both above and below them. The front man had a commanding presence. He was several kilograms overweight, evidenced by his heavy breathing and profuse sweating between belting out murderous lyrics. Cat caught himself staring for a moment at the gyrating vocalist. Cop nostalgia nibbled at him. He scanned the singer’s face and ran it against a database of high profile cases. It took only seconds for a hit.