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|I blinked once�.twice��the world at first fuzzy, then sharpening bit by bit�.OW, my HEAD�..I reached up involuntarily, only to cry out as sharp metal edges bit into my wrists�.handcuffs�..in the dusty dimness, a chain shining dully, wrapped around a thick metal warehouse post�.what in the �
�Ah, so you�re waking up,� came a liquid, haughty voice from off to my side. The owner walked into view; fiftyish, a thick shock of silver hair, tanned, whipcord-slim, a dark Armani suit � and the lean hungry look of a weasel eyeing a piece of meat. His eyes sparkled with a predatory gleam in the brownish haze � the picture-perfect Hollywood rendition of a gigolo fallen on hard times.
I gagged and spat, the bile heavy in my throat. �I don�t know who you are, but you just made one hell of a mistake.�
�Big words from a man in shackles,� he sneered, circling me, his heels clicking on the concrete floor. �I assure you, this is no mistake � when I go hunting, I always use the finest bait to lure my quarry.�
�Bait? Quarry? What on earth are you talking about?�
�Think of it as a game,� he said, looking me up and down. �It started when I found out there was a trophy. An object of incredible power, and it by rights belongs to me. But it was given away by someone who was out of their mind, and its current possessor doesn�t want to give it up. So this has been the game � to draw him out, to study him, to discover his weaknesses. It�s been a hard slog, staging accidents, crimes, anything to get his attention�.but I have finally found the perfect way to get what is mine back. You.�
Wait a minute�.staging accidents�.�You�.you didn�t�.you COULDN�T��
�Crash a Muni bus? Oh, that was easy,� he said, almost gleefully. �One quick-acting mickey in a Big Gulp, and it was all over from there. The hard part was timing it so that it would crash in the Castro. You won�t believe how many times I had to experiment on people to get the dosage down correctly � and how some people just can�t handle a few chemicals. Puts them into terrible comas, I tell you. Fortunately, you just dump them in the Bay and��
�You � you -- BASTARD,� I groaned, yanking futilely at the cuffs. �You put innocent lives at risk and KILL people � and you call it a GAME? What could you possibly want so badly that you would --�
�Don�t play the innocent with me, pervert,� he snarled, grabbing me by the jacket front, yanking me to my feet, his eyes blazing with hate. �You know full well what I want and who has it, and it�s ��
�Me,� came a rumbling from the shadows, a massive form moving into the wan light coming through the filthy windows, fabric rustling as his cape rippled. Superbear!
He stared at the man in disgust, his fists clenched. �Why did you take him?�
�Leverage, �Superbear�, leverage,� the man smiled��and I felt cold round metal up against the base of my skull. �Now, we can do this very simply�.� he shoved the gun barrel into my neck�.�or we can do it in a very messy fashion. You have something that belongs to me, and I want it.�
Superbear�s face creased as he saw the gun. �Who are you? What do you want?�
�The name is Milan, �Superbear��..Caldwell Milan.� His voice hardened. �And I want the ring.�
Superbear flinched. �I�.I don�t know what you�re talking about.�
�Too late to bluff, faggot,� Milan growled. I gasped as he shoved the barrel deeper into my flesh, smiling evilly at Superbear�s reaction. �I know everything about that ring � where it came from, how you got it, and what it can do. It�s an easy choice; give it to me or pick this �cub�s brains up off the floor and try to stick them back in what�s left of his head. Granted, you�ll permanently lose your powers in the process, but I think that�s a small price to pay for a cub, don�t you?�
Powers�.no�.�Superbear, don�t,� I gasped, wincing as Milan ground the gun barrel against my skin. �He�s lying � he�ll kill us both. Don�t worry about me � get rid of him before he hurts someone else. He�s the one who crashed that Muni bus�AGGGGHH,� I screamed, as a blackjack cracked against the side of my head�.feeling a warm liquid start to run down my ear, the world going into, out of focus as I fought to stay conscious.
�Shut up, �cub�,� Milan said coldly, �or I�ll give you worse � and I�ll make him watch.� He turned towards Superbear. �Well? What will it be? Your powers or your cub?�
Superbear stared at him with a gaze of pure hatred��..then, with a sweeping gesture, held up his right hand�..suddenly, in a dazzle of light, a golden ring appeared on his finger.
Milan smiled. �Excellent, Superbear. I knew you�d see reason eventually. Now�� his smile became a predatory sneer�.�take it off�.
�Superbear�.no,� I croaked, gritting my teeth against the pain in my head. �You can�t � think of all the people you�ve helped, you can save --�
He shot me a look that was strangely tender and filled with longing�.then back at Milan�s leer�.and squared his shoulders�..�Sorry cub�.I have to.�
He reached up��.and pulled the ring off his finger. Suddenly the room was filled with a blinding flash�.obscuring his form for a second...then back to the dusty haze. My eyes adjusted back�staring at where Superbear was standing�..oh my God�it�it can�t be��
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