Author's Note: Well folks, it's been a while since the last installment of Secret Six. We've hit some snags along the way -- lack of communication, motivation, and, well, presence, from one of our authors. Irishlad has been MIA for a few weeks now, however, and even when we last saw him, he showed no real interest in the continuation of one of DC Mayhem's central stories.
As a result, Ravager4 and I are taking the story in a slightly different direction. I hope you all enjoy.
For more S6 and more Mayhem, check here.
She couldn't... couldn't be. Not so soon. Not after she had just been in his arms so recently. She couldn't have been taken from him already. It wasn't... it wasn't fair. It wasn't right. She didn't deserve it. Neither did he.
"Zannah... please...." Cole whispered as the corpse of his old flame and new lover lay draped across his knees. His distinctive, loose red mask lay across her midsection, covering the wound that had taken her from him. Sword wound. Someone had killed Zealot with a sword... nobody could kill Zealot with a sword.
"Zannah..." he whispered again, his voice shaking as rage and despair began to build in his chest, tears streaming down his uncovered face. "Zannah...." Grifter squeezed his eyes shut and turned his face upward from the white-haired alien warrior in his arms, up to the heavens, up to the black, stormy sky looming over him. Only the rain was there to console him, draining away the blood that littered the alley where Zealot had been murdered. Only the storm.
"Leave this alone, amigo," Bane said softly, laying a large hand on Grifter's shoulder and stepping beside him. "Your anger cannot bring her back."
"You don't know that... you don't know anything about her, or me," Cole seethed. The man had been distant for two days now -- no, distant was not the right word. He had been absent, unless he came by to use one of Scandal's LAN's. He was searching. Searching for who had done it, who had killed her and why. Why, so soon after she had returned to him, so soon after happiness was within his grasp? Why she had been chosen to die?
Certain conclusions were easy to draw. It was either someone with the WildC.A.T.s, someone with a grudge against Zannah, someone who wanted her out of the picture. Or... it was someone with the Secret Six. Someone who knew, somehow, that she knew the location of the new House of Secrets. Someone who thought she knew too much.
"I do know that you cannot fight this war on your own. You are no Superman. If you continue to search, you will find what you are seeking."
"Yeah, I will. And I'm gonna kill it."
Cole shrugged out from under the big man's hand and slid his mask back down over his face, laying one hand on the grip of his .45 as he moved back to the exit of the House of Secrets. He had done his "shopping" (passcodes into a somewhat cold WiFi hotspot that had been used not long before Zealot's death) and, once again, it was time for him to go. Playful concerns about the team becoming a "Secret Seven" were diminishing more by the day -- despite the team being on-call, but without an active mission, Cole was no longer a part of the group. He was driven to revenge.
Hellbent on it.
Days of endless searching passed. This LAN led to that credit trail, which led to this abandoned warehouse that had its own hotspot deep beneath it. Each new lead seemed to lead to something else unrelated, an unending chain of false leads and red herrings. It was only this evidence of infinite forethought that allowed Cole to keep searching, kept him moving forward. It couldn't be random. If it was random, it would have ended, the chain would have broken.
As Grifter's fingers clacked across the keyboard, the computer screen in front of him went out of focus. He grumbled, closing his eyes tightly for a moment and rubbing his fingers firmly against them. How long had been awake now? Thirty-six hours? Forty-eight? He couldn't remember, but he knew that he'd only had maybe five hours of sleep in the past several days. Obsession trumped self preservation every time.
His train of searching did, however, finally end. After days of anguish and mania, searching for whoever took Zannah from him, he found a location dangerously close to his own base of operations, the House of Secrets. Explained which of his theories was correct, anyway. It was deep underground, and if he hadn't been carefully mapping all of his steps he never would have even realized how the tunnels beneath the subway led beneath the Secret Six's home. An old supply route that Thomas Elliot had used to smuggle... "unethical" equipment into his old clinic.
Thomas Elliot. Could it really be him? So much evidence led to him. Too much, in fact -- anyone brilliant enough to take down Zealot in the open city was better than Thomas Elliot. Anyone who could form a team that brought down the Joker himself. Even if it wasn't Elliot, however -- wasn't Hush that was doing all of this -- on thing was for certain. The man behind Zealot's death was the man behind the Secret Six. The man he was looking for was Mockingbird.
And this... this was Mockingbird's home. His hideout. Lair. Call it what you want. This small, dark room filled with computers, weapons, tech gear, maps, file cabinets, team profiles, you name it. Of course, Mockingbird wasn't home right now. It meant Grifter had to wait even longer to come face to face with the man, to confront the person who orchestrated Zannah's death. Longer he had to wait 'til he could kill Mockingbird, tear the life from his body the way he did to Zealot. In the meantime, however, he'd gather whatever information he could off these computer files. Might as well make himself useful.
Whoever this Mockingbird was, he was overconfident. No passwords, no encryptions. Probably meant to save time, thinking no one would discover this hideout. Cocky bastard. It was a weakness, allowing Grifter unrestricted access to everything on the hard drives.
However, as he scanned through each file that he opened up, a knot began to churn tighter and tighter in his gut, a cold feeling creeping through his body. These plans... these targets. Couldn't be... it didn't make any sense. What would be the purpose? It was too large. Too magnificent for him to comprehend. Nothing he had encountered with the WildC.A.T.s had prepared him for the type of mind that created this masterpiece of preparation.
“Speaking of obsessions...” he muttered to himself, curling his lips into a slight frown. This Mockingbird had really done his research on these people. On this organization. Names, addresses, jobs, friends, family, training, daily routines, what they ate for breakfast. Endless notes, written in some sort of personalized shorthand that it would take ages to crack.
Suddenly, the screen in front of him flickered off, becoming nothing more than an empty, blackened window. A few moments later, large green letters appeared.
“What? No, come on, what did I touch?” he growled, smashing one gloved fist against the desk, beside the keyboard. "Stupid piece of crap! Give him to me!"
“You're overreacting,” a calm voice said. “ Must be the lack of sleep. How long has it been now? Forty-two hours, thirty-six minutes? A decent record. It's a shame you aren't better rested."
Grifter froze, stiffening straight. For several moments he just stood there, until finally turning around to face the figure standing in the shadows behind him. “Mockingbird....”
“That's right,” the man said, taking several steps forward. The dim, eerie glow from the computer screen just barely illuminated his face, but it was enough.
“What?” Grifter said, eyes widening. “But... this is... you?”
Mockingbird's lips formed a knowing sneer. “Me. Shocked?"
"I... I can't... but how?"
Grifter squinted his eyes shut a moment, bringing his fingers to them and shaking his head. No, no, couldn't lose focus now. As little sense as this made, he had to stay sharp. Don't get lost in the how, focus on the why.
“Then it was... it was you,” he stated, opening his eyes again. They burned and stung with exhaustion, tears wetting around the edges, but they gave a glare that could melt steel all the same. “You killed her!”
Mockingbird cocked his head to the side slightly, rubbing a hand against his stubbled chin. Very simply he said, “Yes,” as though it should be obvious.
Grifter's heart twisted in his chest. His body shook with a combination of tiredness and anger impossible to describe. He felt... like he wasn't even there. Out of body, perhaps, as though he were floating.
“Why?” he asked, through a clenched jaw. “Why did you do it?!”
“She was a loose end that needed to be tied,” the man said plainly, strong arms folding across a broad chest. “And now, so are you.”
Grifter's hand instinctively twitched, heading for his sidearm.
Before it got halfway there, however, Mockingbird drew his own pistol, pointing it straight at Cole's face. “Try it, and you'll be dead before your fingers find the trigger.”
For a long, nauseatingly quiet moment, Grifter simply stared at the barrel of the gun, frozen. So fast... too fast. He hadn't even seen the man make a grab for the weapon, let alone draw it. But what was he supposed to do? Stop? Surrender? Lie down like a dog?
No... he had to do this. For Zealot. For Zannah. For his love. A split second later he made the decision, hand flying to his gun. Everything happened in a slow motion, and for that eternity all he could hear was his heartbeat thumping madly in his chest as his fingers grazed the trigger of his gun. His eyes stared down the barrel aimed at him, stared into the oblivion of that bullet-spewing tube. He had to be fast enough. He had to have his revenge. For Zannah.