This was it, thought Jessie. She poised for attack and started to change.
"Do you really think you can challenge me?" said Descharme, laughing. His two henchmen started to react, but he raised his hand. He likewise poised for an attack. "Let's do this." She said. Win or lose, she would go down fighting. Descharme, likewise, was more than anxious to put down this troublesome upstart.
"STOP!" said Debbie, rushing between the two. She stood firm, blocking Jessie, arms extended. All concerned were dumfounded by this sudden development.
"Cub" whispered Jessie. "What are you doing?"
"Child…" said Descharme, who, despite his terrifying posture, managed a gentle smile. "Please step aside. This has nothing to do with you."
Debbie stood firm. Tears forming in her eyes. "Please Mr. Descharme! Don't hurt her!"
"Jean…" said a soft voice nearby. It was Valerie. "This young one has told me that Blood Claw had rescued one of my brood from certain death. Under the laws of the brood of the Blood Moon, we are obliged to offer protection."
Descharme stared at her, her eyes full of remorse and determination. He then glanced toward Blood Claw, who retained her challenging stare. Then Little Cub, who looked at him pleading. He lowered his head and started to revert.
At that moment, a pair of security guards approached them. "Mr. Descharme! The police reported that the situation is all clear. They would like to speak with you!"
With that, he relented his challenge. He indicated to Trev and Slate, "Work with Valerie on this. I'll deal with them later!" he said, following the guards. Valerie gave a satisfied smile, as he walked away.
"Cub, that was VERY foolish." Said Jessie.
"Let us go to one of the conference areas. We will get this sorted out." Said Valerie as she started instructing Descharme's men.
ON THE FLOOR, AT A ROPED OFF AREA
"Hello Mr. Descharmes, Brad Stewart UCPD Detective squad. We will have another one joining us via satellite in just a moment." He indicated towards a makeshift display, modified to receive transmissions from the officer's datapad. The person on the other end identified himself as a Major, but due to the poor connection, he didn't get his full name.
"Mr. Descharmes, I represent CAST, the Central Authority Superhuman Taskforce. My department deals with affairs of this nature. First, my condolences on this entire affair. Also, it is to my understanding, that during this unfortunate incident, certain procedures which could have lessened the damage on your business were NOT followed. You have my word I will personally investigate this and hold those responsible accountable.
"Thank you Major."
"Having said that, certain points concerning the attackers have come to our attention, which I would like to discuss." The screen then showed a still of the attackers. "We have identified these perpetrators. They are part of an organization that in recent weeks, have been trying to gain inroads into this city's criminal underworld. Mr. Descharmes, are you involved with anything that would be of interest to such people?"
There was a brief pause as he pondered this question. Of course. Those people who had approached him earlier in the week.
"I am afraid I must direct such inquiries to my attorneys. I will inform them of your concerns and instruct them to be cooperative in this affair." He continued. "Do you require anything further?"
"I may have further questions when I return. For now, the UCPD will take charge of this investigation."
"Thank you Major." With that the screen went blank. Descharme and Detective Stewart then proceeded to access the damage, when they were approached by Jill Hooper and her crew.
"Mr. Descharme! Is it true that this was an organized attack against your operations?"
"Miss Hooper, I have no comment at this time." He said, gesturing to his bodyguards, who blocked the reporter. They then proceeded to the floor.
Seamlessly, Jill and her crew continued their broadcast. "For those just joining us, The Wolves Lair Casino was attacked by super powered individuals. We have learned that a junior super team had confronted them resulting in one serious casualty. Windy of the In-Crowd."
UNION MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Striker and Bianca waited outside while medical personnel rushed back and forth from the surgical area.
It was bad.
As soon as they arrived, she was rushed to the ninth floor. A section of the hospital reserved for superhuman injuries. According to the doctors, her heart was still beating, but they could detect no brain activity.
That was fifteen minutes ago.
Striker put his hands to his forehead. He was responsible for his team's well-being, and he screwed up.
Moments later, medical crew left the surgical area. A few went to the nurses' station to give instructions. One orderly approached Striker and Bianca.
"Hello. I'm Doctor Goldman. Your teammate is stable. We were able to detect some brain activity, but it's very faint. All we can do is wait."
Striker grabbed her hands. "Thank you Doctor." He said, tears streaking from his face. "Can we see her?"
"Not yet, we're getting her room ready."
"I see. Thank you doctor."
He immediately sat down and put his hands to his face. Bianca, in a sympathetic gesture, put her hand on his shoulder. After a few silent moments, he spoke.
"They trusted me. I had a chance to prove myself, and… Windy's…"
"You did nothing wrong. You did your…"
"I FUCKED UP! I…" he sobbed. He then noticed Bianca was taken aback by his outburst. I… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…"
"Its… It's okay." She smiled.
"We were together since training. Her, me and Metro. Now she's…"
"Striker, I… I know how you feel." She said. Indeed, she remembered the sorrow she felt when she lost Deidre. With that, they continued waiting. Moments later, the rest of the team arrived. They then filled them in on Windy's condition.
"Maria…" said Striker. "I… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave you as I did, but Windy needed help!"
Maria's helmet retracted, revealing a sympathetic face. "I understand."
"What the hell happened?" asked Neuro.
"It was the Citadel. Someone must have screwed up something."
As they talked, Maria pondered. She wasn't concerned that Striker abandoned her. He had a good reason. She knew that he and Windy were close. It would only make sense that he would look after her. Indeed, she had handled herself well against the attackers without their help.
Until she saw that girl at the casino. Debbie.
Who was she?
THE WOLVES LAIR, THE COUNCIL AREA. LATER IN THE EVENING
"…with this selfless gesture, we of the Brood of the Chat Noir defend the lupine Blood Claw, and ask, in the name of our alliance with the Lupin Rouge, that all transgressions against her be absolved." With that, Valerie concluded her defense, and joined her brood.
Descharme pondered Valerie's statements, eloquent as they were. He looked at Blood Claw, standing across from her, defiant as ever. She stood apart from her brothers and sisters of the Lupine Rouge, save for Little Cub. Despite not being held accountable for anything, she refused to abandon her friend.
Such loyalty, he pondered.
He stood up and gave his statement. "As head of the Lupin Rouge, I absolve all transgressions in the name of our alliance with The Brood of the Chat Noir." The results were predictable. Valerie, of course gave a look of approval. Most of his clan appeared likewise, with the notable exceptions of Slate and Trev. Blood Claw, however, gave a look of defiance, along with a slight grin. He returned her gaze. This was far from over.
Minutes later, he the council dissipated, the matter closed. Descharme likely prepared to leave.
"Mister Descharme?" said a young voice. Of course, it was Little Cub.
"I… I just want to thank you. I know Jessie must have done something wrong to make you angry. I don't even know what she did!" She said humbly.
At this, Descharme raised an eyebrow. After a few moments, he replied. "For weeks, she has been… stealing from me. I was not happy with that."
"I see. I didn't know that."
"Sometimes she can be… difficult. You probably know that."
"She's kind of strange, but she's been very nice to me."
"I see, but the rules are rules. If they're broken, it must be… taken care of. Do you understand this?"
"Yes Mr. Descharme…"
"Please, just Descharme." He said softly.
"That's alright." He said. It was then that he noticed the outline of her tattoo through a torn sleeve. "You should hide that. It's starting to show." He said, pointing to it.
"Oh sorry, my shirt must of ripped during the confusion. They told me how to hide it back at the shop but I forgot for how long."
"No problem." He said smiling.
"Would you like to see it?"
He was taken aback, not expecting this. "Sure. I… always like to examine my… investments." He gently held he upper arm, and examined the work. "Chronos does great work." It was then that he noticed two light scars above the mark. "What are those?"
Debbie explained how the Academy placed a tracking device under her skin, and how one of Bianca's friends removed it.
"I… see. I must confess I was unaware of this."
"They found us, and they were going to take me back. Then Jessie and her friends arrived."
"Yes. I was there of course." Although, admittedly, he never knew the full story.
"Mister De… I mean, Descharme, I know that what Jessie did was wrong, but she's very nice. She… she taught me not to be afraid of what I am." She said, tears forming in her eyes. "She's my only real friend."
He was silent. Moments later, he gently placed his mighty hand on her shoulder. "I understand Little Cub." Moments later, Trey arrived. "Boss, we need you upstairs." He said.
"I have work to do Little Cub, but I will keep that in mind."
"Thank you." Debbie said, smiling.