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SHADOWs on the horizon (Solo, IC)


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Feburary 18th, 11:20 AM

Somewhere around Lake Mackenzie

John slowed his pace as he entered the one of the small sections of storefronts that dotted this side of Lake Mackenzie. He had been through this area numerous times before, as he had decided in January that he wanted to participate in the Freedom City Marathon in May after overhearing the idea one day in the gym from some other students. In order to prepare for it, he had taken to running a circuit staring at Claremont followed by a lap or two around the lake and then returning back to campus. Well, as often as the weather permitted.

Coming up on the convenience store he had chosen as a resupply station, John pushed open the door and a made a beeline for the bottled water. “Good Morning, Mister Richter. I am getting my usual. Please ring me up.†He said as he passed the proprietor and the customer in front of him. He had met the owner a few weeks ago when he had helped him get his car out of a snow bank. As soon as John had grabbed the item in question he realized that he had not been given a response, and he looked up at the register.

Mr. Richter returned his gaze, and then back to the man in front of the register. “Of course John,†he replied with a bit of tremor in his voice “I need to help this customer first.†John looked at the customer and the rest of the store a quick once over. Three other customers were present, all who seemed to be on edge. John caught a glimpse of a shoulder holster one of them wore; containing what looked to be a large frame revolver of some kind. A robbery, then. John thought to himself as he mentally changed gears into the familiar mindset of combat and adrenaline started to course throughout his system. Assessment: Four targets, firearms present. Step one: Seize the Initiative and control the fight.

Straightening up, John moved over to the newspaper stand and took one of the papers. “On second thought, I will require one of these as well.†He opened the paper, feigning interest in it as he stood behind the man. John exhaled, steeling himself for the oncoming fracas as he delivered the disabling strike to the back of the robbers knee almost simultaneously.

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The robber collapsed with a grunt of pain as his leg gave out from the blow, followed his swift passage to unconsciousness by Myrmidon utilizing the closest source of blunt force trauma (i.e. the checkout counter) to subdue the man. With a dull-sounding THWUNK! The man collapsed bonelessly to the floor. Step two: Evade companions’ responses. He immediately dove for cover behind the nearby rack containing various brands and types of chips, a few of which promptly burst open messily due to the impacts of multiple subsonic rounds.

Using his momentum to slide further along the aisle, he was treated to one of the more bizarre sights he had seen in his short existence: what appeared to be a soccer mom pulling a cut-down shotgun out of her oversize purse. A quick kick to the shin caused her to miss wide, the round ricocheting off the tiled floor by his head with a dull thud. That caught his attention even more than the woman did; the only rounds that behaved like that were non-lethal beanbag rounds. Alarm klaxons going off in his head, he kicked it up a notch to finish this immediately and get to the bottom on this quandary.

Myrmidon kipped up off the floor and delivered a sharp blow to her solar plexus while she attempted to cycle the shotgun, leaving her gasping for breath on the floor before continuing his prowling game of cat and mice game between himself the two remaining robbers. It was perplexing however that they brought non-lethal ordinance to a robbery, not to mention that these people seemed to be well outside the normal types for committing such crimes. Odder and odder, John mused to himself.

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The squeak of sneakers on the floor signaled one of the pair approaching his position, and Myrmidon threw a blind punch at where he estimated the mans' throat would be. Surprisingly the man blocked it and threw a counter punch that John recognized immediately. As it was almost a perfect duplication of how he would deny such an attack. This man knew the basics of the SHADOW combative style, probably more. Seeing movement coming from his peripheral vision, he grabbed the mans arm and swapped their positions. A pair of shots hit his attacker in the chest, but instead of causing grievous damage he went down with a moan of pain but no blood visible. Rubber bullets. That means they are here for me. The final robber fired his revolver again, lightly clipping Myrmidon in the shoulder but he easily powered through the pain from the non-lethal round. When he attempted to fire again, a load click was all that resulted.

Easily closing the distance between him and the final attacker and taking advantage of him having to reload, Myrmidon easily brought the man down with a liver blow. That was quickly followed by a savage uppercut that connected firmly with the mans' chin, his target's eyes glazing over with pain and finally unconsciousness. John looked around for more potential threats, before approaching the counter and stepping over the unconscious bodies sprawled about. "Mister Richter? It is safe to come out now. Would you find some cable ties while I police their weapons?" The older man nodded quickly, currently at a loss for words. John surveyed the group that had attacked him, and judging by how they were dressed and what they were carrying, in addition to their tactics...he rapidly arrived that the logical conclusion. What he was looking at only could only be one possible thing: An activated SHADOW Sleeper cell. Meant to capture him.

Well this was FUBAR. He growled to no-one in particular as he grabbed the sleeper agents various accouterments and lashed both their wrists and feet together. He handed the man a number he hastily scrawled on a nearby napkin. "I need you to call this number, and tell whoever answers that a you have a sleeper cell potentially belonging to SHADOW unconscious in your store." AEGIS would handle this problem easily. Now all he had to do was inform the other proper channels of the problem. He stepped outside and fished his phone out of his backpack as the first police cruiser pulled up, no doubt from either a bystander or silent alarm. A female patrol officer stepped out of the vehicle, and John approached her."Officer? Would you keep others from going in there until AEGIS arrives to secure the instigators?" She looked at him and gave him a smile that did not reach her eyes as he felt a sharp pain coming from his torso.

Looking down, he saw her withdraw a syringe with an auto-injector from his abdomen. "I'm afraid I can't allow that, Zed-Seven." Her words and face seemed to distort as he attempted to grab her in a choke-hold but only caught her collar. The last thing he recalled before blacking out was the officers face twisted in a smug grin of accomplishment as his grip slackened and he collapsed onto the pavement.

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Sometime later…

The sensation of pain flooded his senses. He began blinking his eyes against the harsh light that flooded them when he opened them. John groggily attempted to shield them before realizing that he was restrained. As he began straining against his bonds in attempt to free at least one of his trapped appendages, only stopping when a face appeared in his vision. “Awake I see. You were always more resilient than the other subjects.â€

Johns’ eyes narrowed. “You.†The venom in that statement was almost palpable.

The woman smiled, “Oh? So you do remember me, Zed – Seven?â€

“That is no longer my designation.†He growled out while fighting against his restraints.

The woman gave a snort of disdain. “Ah yes. ‘John Smith’ was it? How patently ridiculous. Stop your useless struggling, or I will be forced to take more extreme measures.â€

“Torture? You of all people should know that will not work on me, Doctor Smythe. After all, you were the one to ensure that." He pointed out dryly.

She frowned at him, before responding. “Very well then. Durendal lies sheathed.â€

John laughed darkly as the sleep phrase did not work. “Those will not work either, Doctor.â€

She growled in frustration, and backhanded John in the face hard enough he briefly saw stars. “You are even more degraded than I suspected from viewing the field test.†She spat vehemently. “You did not kill your attackers, or even maim them."

“Mercy is the mark of a good man.†He shot back at her.

Another lightning fast backhand followed. “You are not a man. You are a weapon. A currently useless one; which I will be soon rectifying.†She left his line of sight, and judging by her receding footsteps was moving away from the table he was strapped to.

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Once his captors’ footsteps had moved far enough away to not be heard, John began to plan. That was one of the main purposes he had been created for, John darkly thought to himself as the knowledge to escape this situation came easily to mind.

SERE. Survival. Escape. Resist. Evade.

His survival was assured. The doctor needed him for some reason, and while he was curious as to that reason it was secondary to his survival at the moment. Glancing at a nearby table of surgical tools and the other medical equipment located in the room, John decided that it was something he would rather not gain firsthand knowledge of if at all possible.

Escape. He took inventory of himself. No weapons on hand, or able to be created. The only clothes that remained were his pants. The restraints were standard medical ones, confining his hands, feet, and upper chest. While made out of leather and judging by the amount of movement available to him, they were not fully tightened. The grey box strapped to his upper right arm could only be the nullification device.

First rule of escape: all bonds loosen with time. Time he hoped he had, but luckily the bonds were not entirely secure. It was almost enough to make him think it was a trap, but he would find out when and if he freed himself.

With careful and measured movements Johns’ hands moved slowly, the leather restraints biting into the softer skin of his wrists. Shifting and twisting, he looked about the medium sized room. Judging by the walls and smell was located in some sort of warehouse by the ocean. It had been around two minutes since starting before he felt wetness and give in his bonds. He had probably torn the skin open at his wrists, but that only aided in his escape. John estimated about a minute or so more before pressure, muscle movements, and his blood-stained wrists would be enough to free one or both of his hands.

The sound of footsteps returned, and John was thankful that she was wearing something that sounded easily against the concrete floor. He redoubled his efforts before he ran out of time. His left wrist popped free, the bloodied restraint falling loose. The footsteps started approaching.

Time for step three: Resist.

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The footsteps were just outside the door as he freed himself from the final restraint. Looking around for a weapon he grabbed the Patterson trocar from the surgical tray beside the desk.

Dr. Smythe rounded the corner, "Are you ready to cooperate, Zed-Seven?" She asked while looking up from a tablet computer. John jumped off the bed and crouched low in a defensive stance, the trocar held in a reverse grip. The scientist sighed. "I tire of these games."

John advanced towards the scientist, confident that he could take her in close range. Instead, she drew the syringe gun from her side and leveled at him. Responding with force, John lashed out with the impromptu weapon. A simple feint and jab lightly wounded her forearm but more importantly sent the syringe gun clattering to the floor. The not-so-good Doctor let out a hiss of pain and backed away from him as he dove for the syringe gun. The cool metal and weight of the weapon felt good in his hands and now the tables had turned as he leveled it at the former SHADOW scientist. "I am leaving. I will assist AEGIS in dismantling this facility and assure your fate in a cell. You will not be conscious for this."

He pulled the trigger but the weapon emitted a hash sound of negation. John, distracted, looked at the weapon. "So predictable." Dr. Smythe intoned, as she drew out a small remote from her labcoat and pressed a button.

The nullification unit on his arm flared to life, pulsing thousands of volts of electricity into his body. He slumped to the floor, his muscles useless against the torrent of electricity. The doctor picked herself up off the floor and retrieved her weapon. "DNA encryption, you see. Unlike Doctor Mathias, I was and am not blinded by arrogance in thinking you are harmless." She pressed the button again, causing the clone hero to grit his teeth as the device pulsed again. "It looks like I will have to find an alternate means of your willing participation."

"Never." He spat out between teeth clenched in pain.

"I would not say such things if I were you." She stated as the muzzle of the weapon was pressed to his neck. "But you will understand this soon." With a hiss from the weapon and small prick of pain in his neck, she injected him. His hateful gaze remained on her, slowly unfocusing and then fading to nothing as he collapsed to the floor.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This time when he regained consciousness he was no longer strapped to a table. Rather, he was sitting in a chair with manacles on his wrists and ankles facing at what appeared to be a mirror. With a quick glance around the room, it was easy to ascertain this was indeed a cell. Pushing his weight against the chair, it was made evident that it was a solidly fixed to the floor and of excellent construction. Chances were he could not brute strength his way out.

Dr. Smythe walked into the room as he was enumerating his resources. "Ah good. You are awake. Now then." She walked over to a pair of switches by the mirror. "You will cease your attempts to escape and willingly submit to me."

John shot a look at the woman that would etch glass. "Why would I even entertain that notion?"

Her response was to flick one of the switches, which revealed another room in the mirror. In it a young woman in her late twenties was pacing around, looking rather irritated. "Because, if you do not I will make her suffer in your place." A cold smile crept across her features.

"I will not take your word for it. This could be another trap. A plant to force my compliance." He stated evenly, not taking his eyes off the other cell.

The not-so-good doctor placed her hand on her chin in thought for a second. "Ah. I believe I can dismiss that notion." She flicked another switch, and the pacing woman apparently could now see through her side of the mirror. Well, that was not an assumption judging by her attempt to put her fist through the mirror at the doctors' head.

A dull thunk sounded, and the other woman cursed and started shaking her hand before yelling at Dr. Smythe through the mirror. "You! Let me out! I am a Freedom City Police officer! You will not get away with this!"

It all started to make sense to John. Of course Dr. Smythe could not approach him normally. So she acquired a squad car and and a uniform, and more than likely orchestrated the robbery in order to blindside him. Now there was another life at stake instead of just his. He slumped a bit in his chair as the doctor patted him on the cheek. "That's good boy. I've got to prepare for the procedures, so you can talk amongst yourselves."

She left the room. As soon as she had closed the door, he gave the woman prisoner an apologetic look. "I am sorry. You are here because of me."

Her reply was a quizzical "What?"

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"Hold on. Time out." The woman said holding her hands in a T shape. "First, start by telling me your name."

"I am known as John Smith." He answered sill testing the shackles that held him. "Yours, Officer?"

"Captain Kate Moriarty. I don't see how you think this is your fault. If anything it would make more sense that I was her target."

John laughed ruefully as he held up one of the cuffs. "You are not chained to a chair, nor shackled. I am. She used you to get to me, or rather she used your clothes and equipment."

"What." Kate did not spare the thought for a question mark at the end of that sentence.

"Dr. Smythe could not hope to get close to me since I would recognize her easily. She staged a distraction my means of a convenience store robbery and when I went to turn over the scene to the police she had disguised herself as you. She successfully drugged me and brought me here."

"But...why?!" She very nearly sputtered. "What would that woman want with you? You're just a teenager!"

Probably not going to survive. No need to obscure the truth. Was the thought that went through his head. John sighed and looked at Kate directly.

"She is one of my creators. I am a clone. As for the reason, I do not know. Eventually she will more than likely tell me, as that seems to be a major vice of genius. They want somebody to know of their supposed brilliance."

Kates' jaw hung open slightly. "But..."

John continued. "At the moment, you are being used to force my compliance. Otherwise I would be attempting escape. If I were to do that now, she would kill or at least maim you."

"So you will just submit to her, because my life is threatened?" She actually looked angry, John thought. "The hell with that! I'm a cop! I put my life on the line everyday. I certainly didn't expect to be captured by a supervillian my first week on duty in Freedom City, but you are not responsible for me!"

"I understand. There is more to it than that." She was about to interrupt him but he cut her off. "There are times when the police or even the military are out of their depth. This is one of those times. I, however, have an intimate understanding of what exactly this situation entails. So it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of others, regardless of their titles or profession." He gave her an even look.

She scoffed. "So what, you're one of those heroes running around in spandex tights?"

"Yes. But my costume is armored. I am not a neophyte." He intoned. "So with all due respect Captain, I will never place my life or well-being above yours. Period."

"Even if you die?"

"That is a possible outcome in this situation, so yes."

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"You're willing to lie down and die for a total stranger?" Kate asked incredulously.

"Yes." was the concise response.

"Why would you even do that, how can you so calm about this?!" The woman raged as she gesticulated wildly.

John was about to respond when the door opened and Dr. Smythe returned.

"Well now, you've had enough time to confirm that this is not a ploy on my part and that the good Captain here is who she says she is." She cut the audio to the cell with Kate who was probably screaming profanities judging by her body language.

"Indeed. I will comply with your demands if you agree to release her once you are done with me." He gave the doctor a flat look. "She is to be returned unharmed and untouched, and her memory unmodified. Do I make myself clear?"

"How are you in a position to make demands? Why would I even agree to those terms?" Dr. Smythe coolly responded while approaching him.

A predatory smile graced his features as he said the next words. "Self-Termination."

The not-sod-good doctor paused, blinked in amazement and then started laughing. "Holding yourself hostage?! I admit, I did not expect that from you Zed-Seven!" She said after collecting herself.

"Do we we have an accord?" John growled out to her.

She thought for a few moments, her index finger on her chin. "Very well."

Dr. Smythe escorted a compliant John out of the room to the muffled sounds of Kate pounding on the glass in her side of the room.

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He had lost track of time. Admittedly it was hard to keep track of such things while strapped to a table and being poked and prodded by a sociopathic scientist. Right now said scientist was reading a printout of information and scowling at it. Abruptly she stood up and picked up another folder. She was muttering to herself or dictating, judging by the snippets of speech. "Makes no....possibly....stroke....fits within....not wholly....outliers?....further observation."

To be honest, he was expecting more than just being subjected to a battery of tests. Johns' curiosity at the situation finally broke a bit later after being subjected to some sort of brain scan. “I do not know what you are looking for, and still cannot fathom a reason as to your motives. Your goal was my capture, but there were so many unnecessary risks taken…â€

Dr. Smythe looked up from the chart she was reading, her eyes narrowing at him. “I admit, I did not expect to lose my sleeper agents to AEGIS, but the outcome was still to my favor.â€

John scoffed. “You activated a sleeper cell, something that will undoubtedly alert their handler who will have to report that to his operator. Which means that SHADOW will investigate the incident.†John frowned at her reaction of bemusement. “If that is what you intended, then you are a fool.â€

It was her turn to frown and take a cheap jab both physically and verbally at the bound hero. “You do not have a say in the matter.â€

He exercised his now bruised jaw. “You also have kidnapped a captain of the Freedom City police department. Do you think they are going to not investigate the matter? There was video surveillance at the convenience store, not to mention any number of other cameras that could have witnessed my abduction. I recall at least 4 bystanders who are potential witnesses. This was a poorly planned and executed operation. The only reason it succeeded was by luck.â€

“Be quiet.†she hissed.

John didn’t take that advice, and instead took a page from Morgans’ book. “Striking me again will not rectify your incompetence.â€

She did anyways.

“You and I both know that if SHADOW does find this location that we are both dead. Are you planning this as some manner of buying your way back in via my capture? If that is the case, I do not think they would expect more than a failed project and its lead scientist.†He said blandly.

That set Dr. Smythe off. Well, judging by her response of grabbing one of the nearby syringes and jamming it into his upper thigh. “The only reason you are a ‘failed project’ is that the process was interrupted. If I present a completed project, well, even Wilhelm will welcome me back.â€

“We shall see.†John replied as he felt the contents of the syringe enter his bloodstream and start sapping his energy. Unnatural sleep took him once again..

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The back and forth between a cell and the operating table blurred into routine until Kate let slip that she had been in the Marines.

John laughed. Which hurt his strained muscles. The officer of the law shot him a glare that probably would be scary to a criminal. "What's so funny?"

He just gave her a gesture in response and hoped she would recognize it. When he saw the realization cross her face, he gave a small grin to her that caused his split lip to bleed a bit more. It was hard, communicating in this manner since the lexicon was limited, but the power-mad scientist undoubtedly watching the cameras in the cells could not break the code even if she wanted. After all, why would a mere scientist know anything about military hand signals? Dr. Smythe never was involved with that aspect of his training. Of course, it would have been much easier had Kate known sign language, but as the saying went beggars could not be choosers.

Since the good doctor kept on escorting him to where he needed to go, he already had a decent layout of the facility in his head. He had also knew that his cellphone was nearby, after having being for the unlock code. He told her that was why it was locked, and that correctly enter the code multiple times would wipe the phones' memory. So, it was relatively simple plan. Break Kate out of the room and get his phone, since he had already given her the code. Then call for backup. If that failed, escape the premises and get backup. Breaking her out of her cell was proving to be the sticking point until Kate had found a quarter in her pants. Then it was easy. All she had to do was score the mirror, break through, and exit out his door which was unlocked since there was no reason to lock it with John being compliant and shackled.

The plan would have to be attempted soon, as Dr. Smythe had already gotten to where he was within 'acceptable physical parameters' and John knew there was little time before she started in on his mind. There was no guarantee that he would come out of that being who he was at the moment. The door opened, a cheerful grin plastered across the face of the former SHADOW scientist. "Time to go Zed-Seven."

John looked over to Kate, meeting her gaze before turning back to the Doctor. "One moment please." She gestured that he could continue. "Kate I have a message I need to be delivered. Would you please do that for me?" Kate nodded.

"Tell my friends that I am sorry. I was not strong enough. I just hope that I was a good friend and a good man. There is a key behind the light switch in my room, and it is meant for all of them." He stood and angled towards the door. "Tell my CO 'Reindeer Flotilla'." John was escorted out of the room.

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He had started in the direction of the surgical table, but Doctor Smythe pointed further down the hall. He complied and walked into what appeared to be a workshop. In the center was a mannequin wearing a set of armor. John shot a questioning look to the scientist. She threw a large knife switch on the wall, which caused a low hum to emanate throughout the room.

"That is a prototype armor the project MYRMIDON was supposed to be fielded with. Since it never got to the deployment phase the VANGUARD armor system never entered mass production. Now. Put it on." She took off his cuffs and aimed her syringe gun at him.

John tone was a bit incredulous. "You are armoring me? Why?"

"You'll find out soon enough. Put. It. On." She gestured at the suit with her weapon. "Don't attempt anything either, there's an active null field emitter in the room." The light on the nullifier on his arm changed from green to red, which he took it to be safe to remove. The armor slid on like it was custom fitted, which it was seeing as the SHADOW clones came from the same template. John had to admit, it fit a lot better than what he usually used while have a wider range of motion. He wouldn't know its capabilities for sure until he actually used it though. He looked around for a helmet, and found none. "Helmet?"

"Not needed at the moment." She re-secured the nullifer and handcuffed his hands together again. "Now. Back to the table."

John lie down on the table as she affixed cortical electrodes to his head. "My tests indicated that you had appeared to had some sort of stroke at some point. I am going to see if I can't repair some of the damage and then we'll move on to the reprogramming." She said with a smile.

"Just get on with it." His fears confirmed, he hoped that Kate could make her escape.

The Doctor just gave him a triumphant little smirk and the first jolt of electricity slammed into his head. This continued for what seemed like hours to the clone hero. When it finally subsided he had one of the largest headaches he had ever had the displeasure of enduring. It was worse than when he got bodily thrown into the gym wall by Megastar. Doctor Smythe leaned over him. "Well now Zed-Seven, it's time I brought you to heel. Any last words?" He contemplated headbutting her and breaking her nose, but that seemed a rather juvenile response.

"Get away from him you bi--"KRANG! John was treated to the amusing sight of a bedpan smashing into the former SHADOW scientists' jaw so hard it physically bent.


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The doctor was sent reeling into her the surgical cart that held the tools, and both she and cant went tumbling onto the ground. John ripped off the electrodes and rolled off the table into a low crouch as the Kate continued to make her displeasure known to the scientist with a few precisely aimed kicks. He moved beside Kate. "You were supposed to get my phone and escape."

"Well, I couldn't very well" KICK! "leave you to die. Besides" KICK! "I figure I owe you one for busting me out." KICK! "And I don't like owing anybody anything." KICK! The final kick sent the bleeding doctor sprawling into the corner apparently unconscious. Kate turned and smiled at him. "Besides, I was never one to follow orders to the letter."

John chuckled as he gestured to the comatose scientist. "I am most grateful for your continued assistance. Could you locate the key to my cuffs?" He could free himself from the cuffs if he had time, or was willing to break his thumbs, but it was a moot point if his new accomplice could find the key.

A few moments later, the cuffs dropped free of his wrists. "So what now?" Kate asked. "Finding my cellular device is still important. I possess some contacts that can assist us. Then we can turn her over to your people or to AEGIS." He replied. "I'll watch the Doctor."

She nodded and left, the sound of doors opening and closing following her search. Retrieving the handcuffs from the floor, he moved to handcuff the scientist when he caught movement in his peripheral vision and threw himself to the floor. A trio of darts flew over his head. Kipping up, he grabbed her arm and twisted the dart gun out of her hand. With a simple toss he put it it into his other hand. "Do not press your luck again, Doctor." he growled at her. "Handcuff yourself. Now." He aimed the pilfered weapon at her.

She gave him a look and then smiled. "You can barely stand." Which was true, he was exhausted and would have liked to pass out in the nearest bunk. "And you a threatening me with a weapon you know you cannot use." John sent a dart into her leg in response. "What? How!" Asked the panicked doctor as she yanked the dart out.

He held up his hand in response, covered in blood from where he had grabbed her. "Thank you for telling me how to bypass the safety device. Handcuffs. Now."

Glaring at him, she leaned down to pick up the cuffs only to do the thing he least expected from her: making a break for the door by nearly bowling him over. He responded with a duo of darts that slammed into the door frame as the scientist made her escape, missing their marks. Scowling, John released his pent-up frustrations onto the device in hand at that point, slamming it so into the wall hard enough for bits and pieces of it to go ricocheting around the room. Now he had to hunt her down, in basically what was her territory.

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John searched for the woman, not wanting her to escape yet again. She could be attempting any number of things, from setting up this facility to be destroyed to cover her tracks or even rearming herself. His search was methodical, eliminating rooms one by one as he did a sweep and clear check. When he entered the third room however, he nearly got his skull caved in courtesy of Kate with a crowbar. "Crap! Don't surprise me like that, John!" Kate frowned at thim, giving him an appraising look before sighing. "She got away?" He nodded. She cursed.

"I suspect that she is still here. So we must remain careful. I see that you have located my phone." The device in question was in her other hand.

"No signal though. Either we're in a dead zone or there's a jammer nearby. Do you think that's important? She said pointing at a workbench." Laying haphazardly on the table was what had to be the helmet for this suit. Preffering to have head protection than not, he grabbed the headgear and put it on. A sight hiss was heard as it made a seal with the armor he had on. "Much better."

Looking around the room, he noticed a pair off shuttered air intake vents about ten feet up. They were too small for him to force his way through, but he guessed that Kate might be able to fit. "Stand on my shoulders. If we can breach those vents you should be able to get outside and call for backup."

The impromptu plan worked, Kate's crowbar easily tearing out the fans that blocked the way. He started to boost her up to give her easier access to crawl out, until what felt like fire ripped through the left side of his torso. Legs bucking slightly from out from underneath him, Kate gave an indignant squawk of surprise as her feet scrambled to find purchase on the metal walls of the building. Dr. Smythe sneered behind her revolver, and aimed at the cop half-way to freedom. "Uh-Uh. I didn't say you could leave just yet."

It was then John did something that even he himself later would say was stupidly reckless. He charged at the scientist, barehanded and injured versus a large caliber firearm. Aware of the the greater threat, Dr. Smythe adjusted her aim as the clone hero lunged towards her. 'I hope this works, Miss Etain' he thought. Drawing on of the moves that the eponymous magic-using swords-woman had used on him in training and their spars but with none of her innate grace and poise, he deflected aside the Doctors' weapon arm and then forcefully twisted it. To her credit, the the scientist managed to get two more shots off, the first of which resulted in a bit more than a graze to Johns' right leg. The second shot, went exactly where he wanted it to go before his mimicked maneuver dislocated her arm in two places. Sparks shot wildly from the nullification device on his arm, before dying down and revealing the destroyed device. The Doctor mouth gaped open in realization and horror.

John visage broke into a predatory smile underneath his helmet, despite the ringing in his ears and bloodloss making him a bit dizzy. "You should have ran." He intoned as he bodily threw the her into the wall across from him.

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He stepped down on the reover so the Doctor would not be able to retrieve it. "John, I --"

Looking up to pinpoint the source of the voice he saw Kate looking at him on the other side of the air intake vent. "Call for backup. I will ensure that she will not escape custody. Go." The cop nodded and disappeared with the sounds of footsteps on metal fading as she attempted to outrange the jammer. His attention now was solely focused on the person behind all the machinations, Dr. Smythe. He picked the firearm off the floor unloading it with practiced ease. The doctor had already made her escape, disappearing once again. Frustrated, he tossed the bullets aside before sticking the weapon in one of the pouches in his purloined armor.

Now he just had to find her. Deciding that it would take too long to do a room by room search he climbed into the steel girders that made-up the warehouse roof for a oversight view of the complex. John scanned for movement, and caught a glimpse of a labcoat moving around a corner. He crawled overhead of the position, and found the Doctor in front of a computer terminal rapidly typing and checking the sole doorway into the room with worried glances. He couldn't jump through the ceiling, as it looked to be some sort of clear material that let the overhead light in but was otherwise impenetrable. Not knowing if she had another weapon he considered his options. 'This would be not an issue if Victoria were here' he mused. The idea that followed that last line of thought brought a rueful smile to his face.

He concentrated on what he needed, and soon had the object required in hand. Sydney glanced at the door again, making sure that she would not be ambushed. 10 more seconds and she will have backed up her files on a data drive and then this place could blow up for all she cared. If she was lucky it would kill that accursed failure of a clone in the explosion. She'd have to start from scratch, but it was better than having to deal with the annoying free willed Zed-Seven. It was almost complete when she thought she heard something outside, turning her attention back to the door. She never saw the orange portal open behind her.

John jumped down into the entry portal, leg extended in a telegraphed kicking motion. He passed the event horizon of the portal only to emerge out of the other behind the unaware doctor. The dynamic entry caught her in her midsection, sending her tumbling through the doorway and down the short flight of stairs screaming profanities. The nearby terminal beeped, and the readout displayed: 'file transfer complete'. As he advanced toward the downed doctors position, he secured the data-drive from the computer. He stood over her, the portal gun dispersing as he picked the groggy scientist off the ground by the neck of her labcoat. "You are coming with me."

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Dragging the disoriented scientist behind him like a a bag of grain, he went back to the control room and looked over the security console. Searching for the door controls so that whenever Kate returned with backup they could easily access the place without resorting to breaching charges. Finding what looked to be the appropriate control switch cluster, he was rewarded with at least one large warehouse-style door opening after toggling them. A pained groan indicated that his former captor was now cognizant. Good.

She glared at him from the floor, and her indicated a nearby chair. "Sit."

Placing himself in front of her and the sole door to the room, he began the wait for reinforcements. Hopefully they would arrive soon, since he wanted nothing more at this point than to collapse on his bed back at Claremont. Four minutes passed until his captive decided to speak instead of just hatefully looking at him. "You'll pay for this, if not you then your friends--"

John grabbed her by the throat cutting off her threat, slamming her against the wall. The Doctor could fee his icy, wrathful stare through the reflective faceplate. “You will do no such thing. If I even think that you are attempting to harm any one of them my patience with you will expire.†She made a choking noise somewhere between a laugh and a cough. “You going to kill me Zed-Seven?†She knew she had angered to the clone from the angry crimson tinge that replaced the cool blue lines of the suit.

"No. I will do far worse. I will use my capabilities as your vaunted weapon to destroy everything you hold dear. I will scour every hiding place, ally, and refuge from the face of the earth until you lay standing in the ashes of what remains of your ambitions, hopes, and dreams. There will be no ground to go to, no safe haven. Then you will be tried for your crimes and thrown into a forgotten cell, the only footnote of your existence a mere number on a manifest. That will provide you ample time to genuflect on your actions and failures." Myrmidon released his grip, causing her to slide the the floor as her chest heaved in exertion. "Further attempts to goad me will not work." John cocked his head. "In fact, it is too late for that," he replied as what sounded like an approaching helicopter separated itself from the other background noises. It was followed shortly by alarm sirens. "Time to go."

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The helicopter was definitely overhead now, since the beating of the rotors nearly downed out all but the loudest sounds. He led the Doctor though the facility in a forced march, one hand firmly grasping the material of her labcoat and clothing at neck level. The duo rounded the corner, where the warehouse opened up into a large space meant for a vehicle of some type. The bay door was open, and he could see A police cruiser pulling in past a metal gate. Judging by the light it was late afternoon, and the majestic span of the Centery Bridge in the distance meant that he was correct in his guess that this was on the waterfront. Dr. Smythe stumbled, collapsing onto the nearby wall. He would have ignored it excpet that the wall depressed inward a bit with a click. "What did you do."

The doctor smiled triumphantly up at him. "Self-destruct." Well, foxtrot. He looked to see Kate walk up to the patrol cruiser that had stopped an a man stepping out to address her. Growling in frustration, he could hear the smirk in the for SHADOW scientists voice. "Them or me. I'm quite confident that you won't allow them to die, but to do that you'll have to take your attention off of me." He tossed her none to gingerly to the side, ignoring the pain from his protesting muscles as called upon the last reserves of his strength to reach outside in time.

Kate walked up to Sargent Siler, who had pulled up. "Wondered where you were for the last couple of days, Cap." She scoffed. "My first week here and I get to run into a mad scientist and a hero. Things always this exciting in this town?" The Sargent laughed while opening the trunk. "Usually," he idly stated as he handed her a riot vest. "Of course, most of --" he broke off mid-sentence "-- you know this guy, Cap?" Kate turned to face the warehouse to find John dashing straight at the pair, gesticulating wildly and yelling "Get your men clear, site is rigged to blow!"

She had time enough to barely get out the call out on her radio as the armored hero tackled her and Sargent to the ground. For his part, John hoped that he could shield them adequately with his armored body. He did not nearly have as much training in tactics of interposition as Brian did. John also did not possess his friends much more impressive physique and innate resilience. Still, he had seen his Brian do it enough times that he had some idea how to minimize the damage to his protectees. A heartbeat after he hit the ground the world became noise.

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Pain. It was the first thing John felt when he stirred.

Attempting to take in a deep breath, John hissed as he felt his side's spasm in a fresh wave of pain indicating that he was going to be having trouble breathing for a while. And that was without including how tight the bandages appeared to be wrapped around his torso courtesy of whoever was treating him. Squinting his eyes until they got used to the light, John blinked owlishly before managing to muster up enough strength to pull himself into a sitting position all the while ignoring the protests of his muscles. He barely made it halfway before a slender hand pressed down on his chest forcing him back into his previous position and sending a fresh wave of pain through his system.

"Ow." He wheezed whilst staring at the familiar face of Kate who had just forced him flat on his back again. "Where do you think you are you going?" She asked him as he looked around his surroundings.

"Where am I?" He croaked out. "Port Regal Medical Center." Was the succinct response. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the light, John saw that he was in a small private hospital room. "Other officers?" He had hoped he got there in time to prevent casualties. Kate gave him an odd look before scoffing. "The only injured person was you. Siler is bemoaning that he will have to break in a new patrol car after his got flattened, though." He sighed in relief, even though it cost him pangs of pain across his side. "The Doctor?" To her credit Kate looked angry. "No trace. Incidentally, that blast took out half a block of warehousing. Not like we could get anything forensically from the site."

He sat up, this time the officer did not stop him. He paid for it though, with the amount of effort it took to get to an upright position. "Who did you call, incidentally?" She shrugged. "Dunno. He was the first contact on your emergency call list. The number was only labeled H.S.". John felt his blood run cold. "I see. Where is my armor..." followed a short second later when he realized that her was only wearing a hospital gown "...or a change of clothes?"

"No way. I can't let you leave. You've been shot, blown up, filled with shrapnel, not to mention whatever that crazy woman did to you. That's not including your broken ribs." John looked at her. "I cannot stay here." His counter argument was interrupted by a knock at the door.

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The man at the door turned out to be Duncan Summers, Claremont's headmaster having traded in his usual black sweater and slacks for a suit and tie today. He gave John a quick look, one that might have been reassurance (as ever it was hard to tell with Summers) and took Kate aside for a few murmured words. John couldn't make them out from the bed, but the policewoman's eyes widened and she nodded her assent to Summers. Stepping outside, Kate closed the door behind her, and both men heard the lock close as Summers slowly made his way to John's bedside. Maybe it was just the hospital setting, but Summers looked older than Myrmidon remembered, and perhaps a trifle frailer as he took a seat next to John's bed.

"It's good to see you, John," he said, his voice dry and gravelly. "Why don't you tell me what happened?"

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John straightened as much as he could in the presence of the man he viewed as his superior officer. "Yes sir. I was on a jog when I ran across a burglary in progress at a convenience store. I disabled the robbers while maintaining my civilian cover, but they were SHADOW sleeper cell which was confirmed true later by the person who activated them. I had the shopkeeper call AEGIS, to collect them since this is a bit outside the Freedom City Police Department jurisdiction. Since the owner had triggered a silent alarm, I was not surprised to find a patrol car responding to the incident. I was going to give my statement to the officer, but the officer in question was not a member of the law enforcement community. She drugged me and I woke up later in her facility."

He swallowed, fighting back the itchiness of his throat. "The woman who kidnapped me is one Doctor Sydney Smythe, who was in charge of the SHADOW project that created me. She also had abducted Captain Kate Moriarty who you just spoke to. She used Captain Moriarty as a means of assuring my compliance, and while I do not know exactly what her goals were she wanted to 'complete' her project. To that end she further experimented on me, while during the down time I planned an means of escape with Captain Moriarty. The captain knows that I am a clone and a hero from overhearing the Doctor, but she does not know any specifics. That is the only sensitive information that the Captain has about me, plus whatever the hospital has on record." John paused for a second before continuing.

"She escaped and rescued me from being brainwashed, and that is when she must have contacted you after I got her to safety. I then attempted to secure the Doctor for arrest, but was unsuccessful in doing so. She triggered the self destruct of the facility, and I chose to prevent more casualties by warning the oncoming reinforcements." He wilted a bit under the gaze of the older man. "Additionally, I managed to secure a prototype set SHADOW armor and a disk-drive of data from the facilities computers, but was unable to secure the scientist herself. I do not know the location of the armor or data drive at this time, as I only woke up a few minutes ago, Sir."

John looked ashamed. "I am sorry that this happened, Sir. I put others at risk, not to mention potentially exposing secrets. Whatever punishment you wish to levy against me, I will accept as consequences for my actions."

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"I make it a policy not to hit my students when they're already down, John. You don't need to hear my remonstrations today." said Summers with a trace of a smile. He grew more serious as he faced down the injured teen. "SHADOW will not take the destruction of their cell lightly, or once again losing the asset you represent. Dr. Smythe will most likely not receive a warm welcome from her master, should she return home. You may not have captured her, but you've most likely deprived SHADOW of her research for quite some time to come." He studied John, looking down at him from his position above him as he sat. "But you've always known something like this was coming. As long as an organization like SHADOW exists, as long as Kantor exists, there will be a price on your head, and you will face retaliation from people like Smythe. If you are interested," he offered, "the school can help you find employment and training outside of Freedom City on your graduation, a place remote enough that SHADOW is unlikely to find you...at the cost of what you've worked to build here."

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He considered the Headmasters words, especially since they came from a man he respected greatly. "I readily accept the reality the burden of my identity places upon me." He gave a small rueful laugh which tugged at his bandages. "However, I think my time at Claremont has made me selfish, Sir. I do not wish to sacrifice the friends and associates that I have made at my tenure at the Academy. I will never abandon my friends and the trust they have placed in me."

Johns' gaze hardened as his hands subconsciously clenched into fists. "This situation was inevitable, but I am through with running and hiding." He looked up to the headmaster. "I will accept any training and employment that you think would benefit me, but I will not leave. This is my home, Sir. I will fight for it."

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This time, Summers did smile, though it was more a momentary slit appearing in his lined face than anything else. "You're a young man, John, and one who has lived through more than most men your age. I respect and trust your ability to make decisions about your life." As if the subject of hiding from SHADOW had never come up, he went on, "Your friend the captain will conceal what she witnessed during her time in Smythe's custody. When SHADOW reads her report, they will find that she was unconscious during most of her time there." He hmmed. "Now, the question remains of what to do with you. The Freedom League's facilities are better-equipped than Claremont's, and much more secure than this facility. In the morning, you'll be transferred to League custody where your wounds can be healed. After that, I see no reason why you can't resume your studies."

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John relaxed, judging by how his shoulders actually slumped. "I am looking forward to that, Sir. Could you inform my friends that I am okay? I am sure that they have been concerned."

Knowing Morgan and Brian they had probably been corralled by Victoria and Etain from annoying the Headmaster too much. "I have a question. Will Captain Moriarty have a mark on her record for this incident? I do not think she should be punished for being used as a means to entrap me." Finally spotting something that could help get his bearings, he noted wall calendar across the room. It had been three days after he had been abducted. "I was out for some time, I take it." the clone hero idly noted. The revelation brought forward how still physically and mentally tired he was, not to mention the cocktail of painkillers they probably had in him already.

Fighting off the siren call of sleep he fought to remain conscious until Headmaster Summers left. "Thank you for everything, Sir." He said quite honestly and groggily.

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"Captain Moriarity survived being held hostage by SHADOW, worked towards her own escape and helped a superhero defeat an entire terrorist cell. I am confident that she will invite you to her medal of valor ceremony, once you have both appropriately recovered." The old man patted Myrmidon's hand for just a moment. "Good night, John. Welcome back." John was aware of Summers by his side as medication and fatigue overcame his natural alertness, all the way until he finally slipped into a comforting darkness.

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