The tracer led Victoria to an apartment complex a few miles north of Jade’s Night Club. The neighborhood was one of those sketchy parts of town where you were just as likely to find a missionary collecting for the church as you were a pack of hookers turning tricks. The apartments were a renovated hotel, part of Mayor Killings “make Stone City beautiful again” project. For the most part the movement had been a failure. The mayor had managed to open a few parks and take places like the Old Victorian Hotel and transform it from an eyesore abandoned hotel into an eyesore slum apartment complex but at least the mayor was trying. Still, being in this part of town didn’t set well with Victoria. She made a point to turn every anti-theft device and alarm her motorcycle had on before leaving it in the alleyway behind the apartments. If she was lucky, it might still be there when she got finished upstairs.
She followed the tracer’s signal up to the third floor where the detector went absolutely crazy outside apartment 339. Her purse was most definitely inside. Putting a listening device up to the door she could clearly hear two, maybe three, male voices inside. She would be outnumbered but that was the norm. Still, in times like these she truly missed Tony running with her. Blue Bird could take down a room of eight all by himself. It was one of the things she admired about him. It had drawn her to him when they had first started running as a duo. It was sad to admit, but her first crush on him came from the fact that he was such a good fighter. She guessed every super-hero romance had to start somewhere.
Since she was alone, she decided to approach the situation cautiously. She attached a remote control door knocker to the entrance of apartment 339 and, using the hallway window, entered the ledge just outside the apartment. Looking down, the people on the street looked like ants. The sight of it made her a bit queasy. You would think by now she’d have grown used to the heights. After all, ninety percent of her patrols were spent on top of buildings and swinging from one fire escape to another but she still got butterflies staring down at the ground below.
Inching very cautiously down the ledge, she positioned herself just by room 339’s window. Of course the damn thing was closed and locked. She would have to enter the room the hard way. Placing a suction cup just above the middle of the window, she released just enough rope to give her the proper angle to burst through the glass. If she didn’t manage to cut herself to pieces it would make for one epic entrance and sometimes that’s all you needed to make the room back down. Of course, most of the time it just really pissed off everyone inside, but that was the chance you took in being flashy in your super-hero work.
With everything ready, she hit the switch which made the door knocker bang on the door with three very loud thuds. She heard the men inside scramble, probably hiding their swag and pulling their guns, but their attention was on the door, which was exactly what Victoria wanted. As she heard one of the men open the door and say, “Nobody’s here.” that was her cue. Holding onto the rope, she kicked off the building and let momentum do the rest. She smashed through the plate-glass window with only a few scratches and landed in the living room with a wicked smile upon her face.
Slowly standing up, she said, “Hello, boys! Mind if I join the party?”
A sickly looking skinny fellow, sitting at the table, nearly tipped himself over as he witnessed Victoria swing into the room. Pointing a trembling finger, his voice cracked as he screamed, “The Raven!” God, it feels good to still be recognized!
She didn’t have much time to enjoy her notoriety. A second man, still dressed in his valet costume from the nightclub, pulled a low caliber firearm and put two into Victoria’s side before she could react. She may have been wearing bullet proof spider-silk armor, but it still felt like getting smacked with a hammer in her ribs. A year ago, he never would have been able to hit her. She was definitely still rusty from her time off. Either that or she was underestimating her foes. She wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
Bounding over the table, she kicked the skinny chap who recognized her in the head as she flew towards the valet parking attendant. He managed to get off two more rounds, both which Victoria dodged, before she brought the back of her elbow down against his temple. He spun around three times before landing prone on the floor. That was two down with just one move. Victoria was starting to feel like she was getting back into the groove again. That’s when she noticed the chap by the door.
He was well over six feet tall and pulling a pair of katanas out from the holsters on his back. Oh great! There’s always some asshole with a pair of swords who thinks he’s a God damned ninja! Pointing the sword in his left hand straight at Victoria, he growled in some kind of Eastern European accent. “You have no clue who you’re fucking with here, lady.”
Always prepared for the inevitable sword fight, Victoria pulled from her hips a pair of retractable police batons. Flicking her wrists, the batons snapped open with a metallic ‘schwing’ sound. “Oh I don’t, do I? How about you let me know, that way I know what to put on your tombstone.”
Apparently her words were enough to send the wannabe ninja into a frenzy. He came at her with his blades like a blender set on the highest setting. He was agile and quick. Way too quick to be just a human. He was a super-human, no doubt about it, so she was going to have to be careful.
His first few attacks came incredibly close. Victoria wasn’t sure but she thought she saw a lock of her hair fall to the floor just out of the corner of her eye. This guy meant business and Victoria smiled maniacally at the thought of a real challenge.
Throwing her steel batons in the way, she managed to parry a handful of his attacks before he managed to sneak a thrust kick to her chest in. The blow sent her flying backwards and into a pile of dirty dishes stacked up by the sink. As the sound of breaking china hitting the floor echoed throughout the room, he was already bringing the sword in his right hand down in a vicious chopping motion. Luckily, Victoria had seen the move coming a mile away, ducked beneath it, and used a leg sweep to knock the fellow to the kitchen floor.
She thought she had the upper hand until the man kipped up to his feet and began performing a whirlwind series of kicks straight out of a Jackie Chan movie. She dodged the first and blocked the second, but the third caught her flush in the jaw. For a moment the entire world started to spin.
Coming to her senses just as the man thrust his blades for her heart, Victoria managed to deflect the blow with her batons and regrouped in the corner of the kitchen. Seizing the opportunity, she smashed the heel of her boot down as hard as she could onto the arch of the man’s right foot. As he hopped off in the opposite direction, Victoria closed in.
Swinging both batons as one, she connected with the man’s right wrist, disarming the sword from that hand. Twirling three hundred and sixty degrees, her next attack cracked the man’s ribs as they landed just beneath his right armpit. Victoria was starting to have fun and that’s when she fucked up. As the man turned his back to her, she was completely confused. Was he surrendering? Was he preparing to run? When he forcibly stabbed the blade in his left hand backwards, Victoria never saw it coming. As she staggered backwards, she felt the cold steel slice into her left shoulder. Her entire arm went numb and the baton she was carrying fell haplessly to the floor.
Turning to face her, the swordsman had a wicked grin upon his face. “Looks like we’re both down a weapon. Seems like I may be killing a Raven tonight.”
His words only fired up her resolve. “Don’t count on it, buddy! Better than you have tried and failed.”
“Not tonight. Tonight you die, little birdy, and I’ll be fucking famous for doing it.”
Getting in his fighting stance, sword held forward, ready to strike, Victoria dropped her last baton and smiled. The swordsman couldn’t believe his eyes. “Giving up, little birdy?”
Victoria let out a little giggle. “No, comrade, just changing the rules. You’re good with swords, I’ll give you that, but me… I’m good with throwing knives.” Before the swordsman could move, Victoria had pulled and thrown three knives in his direction. The first struck his wrist, forcing him to drop his last sword. The second buried deep in his left thigh, limiting his movement, and the third barely missed his face but pinned his shirt collar to the cabinet behind him. “No little birdy for you tonight, asshole!” Victoria screamed as she rushed forward.
With her one good hand she delivered punch after punch to the swordsman’s face. Teeth flew and blood splattered as Victoria rearranged the man’s nose until it was unrecognizable. Pausing to catch her breath, she demanded to know, “Who do you work for?!”
The man’s response was to spit blood directly into Victoria’s face. Wiping his insult away, Victoria started up with the punching again. She hit him so hard at one point she thought she had broke her hand. Once again, she demanded to know, “WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?! WHO RUNS JADE’S NIGHT CLUB?!”
Laughing, the bloody mess of a man smiled in response. “Bitch, you’ll have to kill me before I’d tell you a damned thing!”
To this notion, Victoria smiled through her pain. “Is that so?” Yanking down the swordsman’s pants and underwear, Victoria pulled another throwing knife from her belt and placed the blade squarely against the man’s scrotum.
The panic in the man’s eyes became hysterical. “Hey! What are you doing?! Stop that!”
“The way I look at it,” Victoria bellowed, “we both want something. You want to walk out of here with your balls attached and I want some information. Now either both of us get what we want, or neither of us get what we want. Understand me?!”
“But—but you’re a hero! You don’t play by those rules!”
Pressing the blade a little harder against his family jewels, Victoria hissed, “There’s a new set of rules in town, pal. So what’s it gonna be?”
With sweat beading up on his brow, the swordsman screamed out the answer. “Frost! I work for Frost! He’s the one that’s sponsoring the nightclub! It’s fucking Frost!”
“Frost? From Magic City? What the hell is he doing here?!”
“I don’t know! I swear to God I don’t know but he’s branching out! This is his first move and he’s planning more! Now please, please, Raven! Don’t cut off my balls!”
Stunned by what she had heard, Raven slowly stepped away. The Crime Lords have a nonaggression pact. If Frost is moving into town there’s going to be a gang-war the likes this town has never seen. This isn’t good. This isn’t fucking good at all.