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~:: Endgame ::~
Chapter III

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He awoke with the setting sun, as was his custom. As the shadows deepened with the falling of dusk he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stretched. He still felt strangely drained, as if the cunning demoness had ripped out a tiny piece of his soul. He still shuddered as he remembered the bizarre events of the previous day. He was convinced that she'd used some kind of demonic power over him. He made a mental note not to underestimate her guile again.

He showered and dressed quickly in the cool of the night air. He couldn't seem to shake the unsettled feeling that had haunted him since Naimah's departure. Perhaps a good, stiff drink would help to ease his mind. With that thought, he headed out the door and made his way to the discreet entrance that led to the interdimensional nightclub known as Pocket D.

The club was nearly empty at this time of the evening. The thumping sound of the mindless music was a familiar and comforting sound. He found himself spending a lot of time there since he'd fallen into the company of the Doctor and his strange coven of females. Perhaps it was a need for an occasional drink of alcohol to numb his conscience. Perhaps it was a growing fear of the strange powers they held over him that haunted him every moment he spent alone. Whatever it was, this place had become a frequent refuge.

The usual scantily clad dancers plied their trade inside various cages mounted atop pillars or hanging from the tall rafters. In one corner, a patron who obviously didn't know his limitations was paying the price as he groaned loudly with each painful retching. The silent stalker turned up his nose in disgust and sought a different seat that would be out of earshot of this fool's misery.

He ordered himself a drink and scanned the room for a quiet place where he could enjoy his libation undisturbed.

He'd never been much of a social creature, preferring solitude over the often inept and indiscreet company of others. In his line of work, it was often best to have no witnesses. He'd only worked with the demoness at the urging of the Doctor. In a sudden epiphany, he wondered if that situation were not a set up for his becoming involved in her sordid little plot. He chastised himself for not suspecting her motives from the outset.

Finding a table in a quiet corner he blended into the shadows to sit back and watch the deeds of those around him who would remain oblivious to the fact they were being observed.

The minute the couple left the apartment the girl was out of her bed. She dressed quietly and in the dim light of the bathroom night light she applied a bit of makeup to make herself look older in case anyone questioned her. She had long ago learned from her mother's friend Danitra where to acquire an altered ID card that would show she was of legal age to consume alcohol in any jurisdiction and had quickly made use of this information.

She crept quietly down the hall and up the stairs. Sneaking through her mother's bedroom, she silently unlatched the French doors and snuck out onto the balcony. Her brother remained blissfully unaware of her egress as he sat in the den studiously poring over his favorite textbooks. Silently she launched herself into the night air, carefully flying straight to the door that would lead her into the interdimensional nightclub she'd heard so much about.

She tried to act casual as she waltzed down the hallway to the elevator. The hostess gave a cursory glance at the well made ID card, and bade her to enjoy herself. With a smile, she stepped into the elevator and pushed the button that would take her to the source of the muffled, throbbing sound that surrounded her.

She stepped out into the spacious club and caught her breath. The glass floor offered a phenomenal view of the surrounding eerie panorama, as did the enormous windows flanking both sides of the huge main room. Tentatively, she edged up to the nearest bar. "What can I get for you?" the bartender asked politely.

Unsure of what to order, she masked her ignorance by asking if there were any house specialties. The bartender smiled as she suggested a rather fruity concoction, which she quickly prepared. Just as Sheken was reaching for her purse, a deep voice behind her said "I will get that." A tall young man stood behind her and held out a fistful of cash to the smiling bartender. His shoulder-length hair framed a wide, confident smile. She guessed from the grayish-blue tint to his skin that he was not a normal human.

"I am Androus, of Khandavihr," he said, with a wide smile. "Who might you be?"

"My name is Sheken," she answered softly.

"Is this your first time here?" he asked, keenly aware of her apparent discomfort.

"Yes," she nodded. "I normally stick to the local clubs. I wasn't aware such a place existed but found the door quite by accident," she lied, in an effort to cover up her naivete.

"Would you like to join me and my friends?" He motioned towards a group of five others seated around a small table across the room.

"That would be nice," she said with a smile.

The all welcomed her warmly, introducing themselves in turn. She felt vaguely uncomfortable, as their eyes seemed to be riveted upon her as they stared like hungry lions watching a crippled antelope stumbling in front of them.

She sipped very slowly at her drink, which was thankfully rather weak. Despite the proportions, the minute amount of alcohol entered her unprepared system and made her slightly lightheaded. She excused herself on the grounds of visiting the little heroines room to splash cold water on her face in an attempt maintain her composure. Her mother made drinking look so fun and easy. She was seriously considering making up some excuse to be called away back to her home as she left the safety of the bathroom to return to the table. Before she could think up some convincing fable, a fresh drink was proffered. She felt it would be rude to walk off after they'd been so kind as to buy her another drink, so she silently sat down back down and sipped the fresh libation.

Before the glass was half-empty, she realized something was terribly wrong. The room began to spin as her vision narrowed. She lurched sideways trying to stand up from her seat as the cold floor rose slowly up to meet her.

He'd watched with detached interest as the petite redhead strolled into nearly vacant the club. She looked young and nervous and out of place, he noted. A lifetime of watching from the solitude of the shadows gave him the skill to see through her attempted facade. He already guessed that she probably entered with a faked identification card. Kids, he thought as he shook his head with a wry smile.

Watching the young male hero approach her he found the little drama a pleasant diversion from his own troubled thoughts. His gaze followed them back to join the little party at a far table. Silently, he moved to a closer location so that he could soothe his voyeuristic curiousity by eavesdropping on their conversation. One never knew when a tidbit of conversation might turn into valuable information, after all. Their idle chatter was almost laughable as the males verbally jockeyed for her attention. When he heard her quietly ask to be excused to 'powder her nose' he'd almost laughed out loud. As soon as she'd rounded the corner towards ladies' room, however, the scene took a definitely less amusing turn.

He watched as one of the group pulled a small bit of cellophane from his pocket and rolled it between his fingertips, effectively crushing the contents into a fine powder. The one who'd first approached her had acquired a fresh drink, and they huddled around in an attempt to conceal their actions as the powder was poured into the glass and stirred vigorously.

A numb shock came over him as he watched the girl return from the bathroom a few minutes later, to sip the now drug-laced libation. Silently he stole unseen behind her and with the skill only a consummate stalker could possess, he quickly relieved her of possession of the tiny purse she'd laid on the seat beside her. Settling unseen into a darkened corner, he quickly rifled through her belongings until he found what he was seeking.

When he saw her tumble to the floor, he tucked her purse under his coat, and walked slowly back towards the group. The males had wasted no time in hoisting her to her feet. To a casual observer it might appear that they were merely helping a drunken comrade. They began to lead her towards the elevator that would take them to the exit to Kings Row, where one of them had an apartment not far from the club's entrance.

Six jaws dropped simultaneously in startled amazement as he stepped out of the shadows to appear directly in front of them just as they reached the elevator.

"Sheken! I have been looking all over for you! Have you been drinking again?"

"Uh, hello, mister," the apparent ring leader stammered.

"Hello. I see you found my sister. I was sent to look for her. Thank you for keeping her safe. I will take care of her from here."

The boys glanced at each other, each of them mentally assessing the situation. He called her by name, so he must be telling the truth, they assumed. Shrugging in resignation, they handed off the barely conscious girl to the dark stranger, and made their way into the elevator.

"Damn," his acute hearing heard one of them mutter as the doors began to close, "that sucked. We wasted that and now she's gone."

"Shut up," the tall one hissed. "I just hope her brother doesn't figure out what she's on, or suspect that we did it. We could all be in a lot of trouble. Let's get the hell out of here."

He laughed softly to himself. There was no love lost between him and the Paragon City Police Department but he considered phoning them with an anonymous tip that would lead them to question the group of lads as they left the nightclub. Shaking his head, he looked at the catatonic girl and sighed, as he decided they'd already had enough of a scare.

It wasn't that he was averse to the idea of taking forceful advantage of an attractive female. He'd been known to do so himself on occasion when the opportunity presented itself. He had no idea why he'd felt compelled to intervene on this unfortunate girl's behalf. Perhaps it was her apparent youth and naivete that made her seem so helpless and in need of his protection.

He led her slowly to a nearby booth and let her slump backwards onto the bench seat as he pondered what to do next. It would be rather pointless to abandon her here after going to the trouble of rescuing her. The only option he could possibly foresee was taking her back to his own abode. The possibility seemed unlikely at best, if not downright risky but it appeared he had few other options.

He lifted her to her feet, and slung her arm over his shoulder. With her weight draped over him he shuffled her towards the elevator that would lead them back to the Rogue Isles, and his dwelling. He paused for a moment as they approached the elevator guard. It was his job to prevent heroes from accessing the doorways to that led to the seedier neighborhoods of St. Martial, Port Oaks, and Sharkhead Isle.

It was not that this presented any insurmountable obstacle. He made his living circumventing some of the best security measures known to mankind. This was merely a challenge. Propping his incoherent companion gently in a dark corner, he stole unseen next to the guard. He pulled a tiny vial from his pocket. Silently he uncapped the vial, and closing his own eyes, he exhaled gently towards the face of the oblivious guard. Within seconds, a minute amount of the powder wafted through the air and drifted beneath the Arachnos issued helmet, settling in the unfortunate victims eyes and nasal passages. A full dose of the substance could effectively blind his target. A minute amount, however, proved just enough of an irritant to effectively obscure his vision.

Quickly, he retrieved the girl from her temporary resting place, and once again shouldering her staggering form, he guided her stumbling steps towards the elevator. "Evening." He greeted the guard in a flat tone.

The guard lifted his helmet and wiped at his bleary eyes with the back of a gloved hand. "Excuse me. I don't know what's come over me. It must be some kind of seasonal allergy. Heading back to the Rogue Isles?"

The stalker adjusted the girl's stance and reached into his pocket to produce both their ID cards, having removed hers from her purse prior to accosting her would be attackers. "Mmhmm. It appears she found the drinks here a bit too tasty." He nodded towards the barely conscious female at his side. "I am going to pay dearly for this when she comes around in a few hours with a throbbing skull and an attitude like a rabid wolverine," he stated, sounding rather exasperated.

The guard brought the cards near his face, and made a pretense of examining them though the stalker knew full well he could barely see, let alone read them properly. "Be careful then. You don't want to stumble upon any overzealous Longbow patrols with her in that condition," he warned as he handed the cards back and waved them towards the elevator.

Nodding his agreement, the stalker replied, "I hope you find something to clear up those allergies. Sounds quite uncomfortable." The elevator doors opened with a quiet swish. A triumphant grin broke across his features as he propped her against the wall for the quick ride to the exit corridors.

The barely clad succubus who served as a hostess to the club smiled wickedly at him. He returned her farewell with a grin and a knowing wink. The bored looking bouncer never even looked up from the copy of the Rogue Isle Protector he was reading to acknowledge their passage as he carefully led her stumbling through the doors.

The air was decidedly cool as a stiff breeze blew in from the harbor and cut across the building on the hillside where they emerged from the club. It smelled of salt and fish and heavy oils. He looked around to make sure the streets were fairly empty before quietly creeping towards his abode. The darkened streets would have proved strange and terrifying to her if she had been cognizant of her surroundings. He hoped she'd remain sedated for the duration of the journey to his dwelling. The last thing he needed was a bout of histrionics to draw the unwelcome attentions of either those who sought to dispense what they perceived to be justice, or those who were looking for an easy opportunity for some misdeed.

He knew her staggering gait would be less than quiet. He decided that it would probably be better to try to carry her and maintain his own silent footfall than to have her tripping and stumbling all along the way. He maneuvered in front of her and hoisted her upon his shoulders, as he concluded that this would probably be the most mechanically sound method. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, he whispered quietly, "Hold on. We are almost there. Just hold on." The command registered in the autonomous part of her brain as she murmured her agreement and clamped her arms around his shoulders in a death grip. He stifled a quiet laugh as he stooped under her and then stood to raise her feet off the pavement.

As he began the cautious trek towards his domicile, he was thankful that she was fine boned and lithe. He was careful to stay in the darkest of shadows being acutely aware that he was much more conspicuous with the creamy skinned female clinging to him. He slowly crept along darkened alleys and paths until he reached the darkened doorway to his abode.

Once he made it inside, he heaved a sigh of relief as he laid her gently on his bed. She moaned quietly as her head hit the pillow. She bore a peacefully oblivious expression as she drifted back and forth between a drug-induced stupor and sleep. The thought of what might have been transpiring at this moment had he not interceded crossed his mind and caused him to shudder involuntarily.

She was a pretty girl in spite of the thick horns that adorned her head. Another being of some demonic origin, he mused as he shook his head. Her fiery red hair hung to just below her shoulders. Wisps of it clung to her face, framing her delicate features. She was slight built, with a narrow waist, trim hips and pert breasts, hidden beneath skimpy vest she'd chosen for her night out. A very short skirt showed off most of her long, fit legs and as she shifted on the bed, her soft white panties. She shivered lightly in the darkness. He bent over her and gently pulled the bed clothes around her. A lump formed in his throat as he began to feel a familiar stirring in his loins.

He closed his eyes and swallowed hard as he tried to dismiss the urges this obviously young female was arousing in him. He knew that looks could prove deceiving. But he did have standards, and they normally included adulthood as one of the criteria for a female becoming the target of his physical attentions. He consoled himself with the thought that he'd inquire of her age when she came to. If he found that she was indeed of a reasonable age, then perhaps he'd take his fill of her before returning her to a somewhat more safe location. After all, he told himself, if it weren't for him, she'd have suffered a worse fate at the hands of half a dozen attackers. It was only reasonable to expect her to owe him at least a little bit of enjoyment for the inconveniences he'd endured in rescuing her from her would-be assailants.

To Chapter IV