The horns of taxis sound as the citizens walk through the city.
Like sheep... all of them... shuffling along to their deaths. Or their families... but I don't see the difference. Bank City's got nothing on any other city in the world. Besides the fact that John Davison started his empire here, and that the dude who died on Mars lived here. But my target here is not for money, not for any relics. It's for the vengeance. Melvyn Graves, the man I'm here for. Graves is my second stop on my rampage across the world looking for The Russian, the man who had my wife killed. I came close to him looking for Lao, but I never got the chance to strike. Never even saw his face. But that voice. I'll never forget it. That deep Russian accent. If only my recorder still worked. I could have The Russian's real name in minutes. But I have to do this the hard way. My way.
Marcus steps out of an alley and onto the sidewalk, with a duffle bag slung across his shoulder. A man bumps Marcus on the shoulder and sneers. Marcus presses his fingers to his temple, and the man runs in front of a bus. The crowd of people on the sidewalk run into the road to check on the man while Marcus enters a hotel.
"Welcome. Do you have a room reserved?" asks the clerk.
"Yes, I do. The name is Lao. Shang Lao," says Marcus, sliding Shang Lao's ID across the counter. The clerk takes the ID and scans it.
"Welcome back, Mr. Lao," smiles the clerk as he hands Marcus a key.
"Just so you know, I fired my guards, so if they come in, call the police please. Thank you," Marcus informs. He waves at the clerk, and steps onto the elevator. He presses the button on the elevator reading "Penthouse" and slides the key into its slot. The elevator starts up, and begins rising to the top floor of the hotel. The elevator dings, and the doors open to a large atrium. The penthouse is decorated with contemporary furniture, a large TV is mounted on the wall. There is a bar in the corner of the room, and paintings on the wall. Marcus drops the bag on the couch and walks to the bar where he fixes himself a drink.
Why would a man need all of this space? If you have the money, use it to greater your life, not the size of your house.
Marcus turns on the TV and sits on the couch.
"Repeating today's top story, the reconstruction of the Davison Labs building in downtown Bank City will begin next month, and a relief fund for all of the victims of the explosion has been started by Loren Petrov." the newscaster announces.
"We are very sorry for the tragic events that have happened here in Bank City. I was in Russia when it happened, but I can only imagine the fright and pain the city felt when they saw this beacon of the skyline rain down fire onto the city," says a familiar voice.
Wait. That voice. I know that voice.
"I have started the Explosion Relief Fund here in Bank City to help those affected by my colleague John Davison's terrible accident," continues the voice.
That accent. I'd recognize it anywhere.
Marcus looks up to the TV and sees Loren Petrov, an old man with thinning gray hair and a scar going down the side of his wrinkly face, speaking into a microphone about helping the people. Marcus grips the TV remote harder, knowing who this man is.
Marcus knows Loren Petrov's true identity.
He knows who The Russian truly is.
Later that night, Marcus stands atop a building opposite Loren Petrov's penthouse. He presses his fingers to his mask.
No security. What's wrong with you, Petrov?
Marcus launches his grappling hook at the building and zips to the roof of Petrov's home. Marcus removes the grate from a ventilation shaft and slides down through the metal tunnel. He reaches the bottom of the drop, and enters the maze of vents winding through the apartment.
Petrov is in the living room, so if I could just...
Marcus takes a shuriken out of his belt and throws it through the vent, only this is not a regular shuriken. This shuriken has a remote control, allowing Marcus to navigate the star through the vents, looking for a grate above Petrov.
The shuriken dives down and sticks into the metal of the shaft with an audible PING! Marcus shuffles through the vent, following his throwing star. He turns a corner, and then another, and then finally, he sees the star. Marcus pulls the shuriken from the metal and pockets it, then kicks in the grate, dropping into the living room, but what he sees in there shocks him.
Instead of seeing a man sitting on his couch, he sees a mannequin with a screen attached to its head. The screen begins to play a video.
"Hello, Neurothought. How nice to see you in your craft. Breaking and entering into an poor old man's home. I just want to let you know that I am not home right now, and that the cops are on their way. So if you'd like to try to come after me, I am heading to the airport. My private hangar. Here are the coordinates. Hope to see you soon." Petrov sneers as the video ends. Just then, he hears the door kick open downstairs. Marcus leaps up onto the couch and into the vents, going out the way he came in. He reaches the drop in which he entered and begins to climb up.
Once out of the vent, Marcus plugs the coordinates into his gauntlet. A map shows up on his HUD inside his helmet, and he takes off running. He dives off the side of the building, and launches his grappling hook onto the building he leapt off of originally. He swings down onto a fire escape in the alley next to the building, and jumps off of there. He lands on the ground crouching, then stands up and walks to the dumpster. He presses a button on the side of the dumpster, and it opens up revealing a motorcycle. Marcus pulls the sleek black bike out of its hiding place and turns it on, zooming off into traffic.
Marcus bobs and weaves through the cars, racing towards the airport where he could finally confront Loren Petrov, until he sees something rather... unordinary. A gray blur rushing past him. And Marcus could have sworn he saw a man running in front of the streak. The blur turns around and heads back towards Marcus. Now he can clearly see a man in a gray and silver suit running towards him quickly.
Marcus swerves to the right of the blur, which rushes past him. Marcus sees a sign reading Bank City Airport Next Exit. Marcus speeds up, continuously driving through the traffic. The gray blur catches up, and he can hear a voice in his head.
"Hey, man. You know you can't drive this fast down the highway. It's kinda against the law," says the voice.
If you knew the kinda stuff I've done, you'd realize that this is the least immoral thing I've ever done.
"So, just by going through your memories, you're an assassin. That's cool. A month into this whole superhero thing and I get to fight an assassin?" the voice says happily.
I don't know who you are, but-
"Oh, yeah! I'm Quick-Fire. The Hero of Bank City. Or, at least that's what I hope to be called," says Quick-Fire.
Alright, look. If you're a superhero, then you can help me with something. I'm hunting down a man. Calls himself The Russian. He lives here in Bank City, and I'm chasing down a lead as to who it is. If you want, you can help me. If you get in my way, I'm gonna have to kill you.
"Yeah, I'll help. Who's the lead?" Quick-Fire asks.
His name is Loren Petrov. He's my lead suspect. He's on his way to the airport right now. I'm gonna cut him off before he can get away.
"Why do you wanna get Petrov?"
If my suspicions are correct, then he is The Russian, the man who orchestrated the murder of my wife.
"Ouch. I'm sorry, Marcus."
Can you get out of my head?
"Can you not be a predictable dude with predictable reasons for becoming an assassin?"
Touché. But can you just not be in my mind until I need you to.
"How will I know?"
Because I'll be in your mind.
"Alrighty, Mr. Telepath."
The name's Neurothought, by the way.
The two heroes race to the airport to confront Petrov. Quick-Fire lifts Neurothought's bike over the fence as he phases through. Neurothought hits the ground and speeds over to Petrov's hangar, where a sleek black jet stands with its engines running. A limousine stops next to the hangar, and out steps Petrov. Neurothought brakes in front of Petrov's plane, stopping him in the process. Quick-Fire stops next to him.
"Loren Petrov. You have some questions to answer," Neurothought shouts as he unsheathes his sword.
"And who's asking the questions?" Petrov asks. "I obviously know Quick-Fire, but who, may I ask, are you?"
"You can call me Neurothought, or your reckoning. Tell me, do you know Shang Lao?" he asks.
"Shang Lao? The crime boss from Shanghai? Of course I don't! Not personally at least!" Petrov explains.
"He isn't lying," Quick-Fire says. Neurothought steps towards Petrov and grips his neck.
"Where were you last week?" Neurothought asks.
"I was in Russia! Visiting family!" Petrov shrieks.
"Neurothought! Let him go!" Quick-Fire shouts.
"Hold on! I need to know!" Neurothought shouts back. He turns his head towards Petrov, takes down his hood, and removes his mask. "Do you remember me?!"
Petrov's eyes widen for a brief moment of shock, but then squint, scrutinizing Marcus's exposed face.
"Should I know you? Have you worked for me, or have I met you at a charity event?" Petrov asks.
"You had my wife murdered," Marcus sneers.
"Neurothought, I'm telling you, he doesn't know anything!" Quick-Fire shouts. Neurothought throws a shuriken at Quick-Fire, who catches it.
"Tell the truth! Tell me you are The Russian!" Marcus shouts.
"I am not The Russian! I am Russian, I agree, but I am not THE Russian!" Petrov shouts back. "As for your wife, I am sorry for your loss, but I must be going now. So long, Mister Grimm." Petrov slaps Marcus's hands off of his coat, and boards his plane. His guards follow, closing the door and pulling the plane out onto the tarmac. Marcus reaches down and picks up his helmet.
"What is wrong with you?" Quick-Fire asks, stepping towards Marcus as he puts on his helmet.
"That man was lying. Loren Petrov is The Russian, the man who had my wife killed," Marcus explains.
"I read his mind, he isn't The Russian. You're a telepath too, you should have read his mind. Seen the fear, read the memories to go with it," Quick-Fire explains.
"Maybe you weren't looking where you should have." Marcus says.
"What is wrong with you?" Quick-Fire asks.
"You read my mind, you know what's up," Marcus replies.
"I know what's wrong. I want you to tell me," Quick-Fire says.
"I'll tell you when you tell me who you are," Marcus says.
Quick-Fire looks around, then back at Marcus. He reaches his hands up to his neck, and pulls his cowl over his head, revealing his true face, and a serious case of cowl hair.
"My name is Professor John Davison, CEO of Davison Labs. A month ago, I was in an accident that destroyed my building and altered my DNA. That night, I discovered that I had superpowers. The next night, I started my crusade, took the first step on my journey to become who I am today. I became Quick-Fire," John explains. Marcus looks at John for a moment, then shrugs.
"Alright, Professor. What's wrong with me? I'm a psychotic telepath hell bent on taking down the man who killed my wife down with me to Hell. I know I'm not a good person. I know I can't redeem myself. What I do know is that I can do whatever it takes to finish my crusade, and put an end to this insufferable life of mine," Marcus explains.
"Wait... you're saying that you know that if you finish this crusade, you're gonna die to do it?" John asks.
"I know that this crusade is leading me down a path of self-destruction. I'm a ticking time bomb. And at the end of my mission, I'm gonna explode, and take down whoever's standing in my way. No matter if it's an ally or enemy," Marcus explains.
"Damn... that's dark. But if you need any help, I'm just a call away," John says as he presses his fingers to his temple.
"Did you just plant your contact info in my mind?" Marcus asks.
"Yeah. Sick trick, right?" John smiles. He pulls his cowl over his head, and turns to rush out.
"Before you go... thanks for the help, Quick-Fire." Marcus smiles. Quick-Fire looks back.
"Any time, Neurothought," Quick-Fire says. He turns his head back and rushes out, leaving Marcus standing alone in the hangar.
Today, I started with no one. I was alone on my mission. I was certain I would have no one helping me, and I was fine with that. But I ended the night with a new ally. And something tells me... we're gonna be helping each other a lot.