Riders on the Storm: Chapter Five

The residents of Metropolis, most of whom had seen their share of strangeness over the years, gawked openly at the pair of riders as they blazed a literal fiery trail down the four lane highway, weaving in and out of traffic at break neck speeds. Their flaming motorcycles were moving so fast that most only saw the trail of fire left behind.

Johnny Blaze surged just ahead of Ghost Rider. He was only there a moment before his flaming skull riding partner pulled back ahead, but only by the slimmest margin.

This city was like no city he had ever seen before, it was so futuristic, like something out of science fiction novel, only people could have been plucked off a Manhattan street corner. It was pretty much what happened to them, and not just them, but Vengeance as well.

He hadn't seen the bruiser yet, but he could sense his presence, feel it deep in his bones.

Ghost Rider pulled to a stop, sliding sideways into an intersection, much like a skier. Johnny followed the move with practiced ease. Accounted one of the finest stunt riders ever, the motorcycle born of hellfire simply made him that much better, nearly the equal of his mystical partner.

His gaze was affixed to one of the taller buildings in the area. A metallic banner wrapped around a globe the size of a small apartment complex, proclaimed the towering skyscraper to be the Daily Planet.

With a casual indifference of people who don't care, the pair ignored the blaring horns their presence in the intersection was causing.

"What is it?" Johnny inquired as he lit up some generic brand of cigarette. He had been in such a rush he hadn't bothered to check and see what they were; just tossed a few bucks on the counter, grabbed them, and was back out the door. Heck he hadn't even gotten off his motorcycle.

Johnny didn't know why he asked. There was only one thing that made Ghost Rider go all google-eye, like a virgin in a New Orleans's Cat House. "Innocent Spirits scream out for Vengeance," he answered right on cue in that "I eat souls for breakfast" monotone. It was the sort of voice you read a Stephen King novel in, his old novels; Carrie and The Shining, Christine.

With a squeal, like a scream dredge from the pit of Hell itself, Ghost Rider roared down the road completely undeterred by the fact he was going the wrong way.

"Here we go again," John mumbled and raced off after Ghost Rider. In the back of his head Blaze wondered just how evil something had to be for Ghost Rider to feel it from so far away. He began to brace himself for the worst.

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Lois Lane opened her mouth and screamed for all she was worth as she careened with wild abandon toward the beige colored wall. She spiraled in mid air and was suddenly gazing at the ceiling, closing with it at impossible speed.

Not really impossible speed, she had flown faster in her life, but this wasn't the romantic moonlit flight over Metropolis that Superman would occasionally whisk her away on when their lives weren't quite so hectic and their schedules meshed enough for them both to get away.

This was a mad—helter-skelter, topsy-turvy—dash to escape a blood crazed psychopath as she clung, for dare life, to a girl who was probably no older then Clark's cousin Kara, and dressed in a skin tight, head to toe, red and blue form fitting costume with a stylized spider effigy across her chest.

As if guys didn't already have enough reason to look there.

She never touched the ceiling, instead utilizing a form of tactile telekinesis to push herself downward a bare fraction of a second before a sturdy steel desk embedded itself in the ceiling where they would have landed.

Lois found that too incredible. It was almost as if the girl had known it was coming and instinctively reacted to the threat.

"Gonna run out of tricks sooner or later," the sociopath, he had called himself Spike, shouted after them as they twisted in midair. The girl touched the carpet for only an instant before she bounded even further away from him shifting Lois weight mid flight giving her another good view of the man, not that she needed another.

He was definitely handsome, in a strictly devilish sort of way. His features were a little on the feminine side, yet he still managed to pull off that sharp, hard edge, British bad boy persona. What sealed the deal though was that he looked so much like Billy Idol and the secret crush she harbored for the British Punk Rocker in her pre-teen years. When all the other girls were screaming for Menudo and the New Kids on the Block, she had wanted something with more substance and she found it in the Platinum blonde sneer of Billy Idol.

Nobody had ever learnt of her deep dark secret. If anyone had, she would have been the social pariah of elementary school.

The girl snagged the wall at the end of the t-juncture with her fingertips, flipping herself around with a graceful ease. Her feet made contact with the far wall and bounded off, rocketing down the corridor toward the elevator.

As she streaked down the hall, the girl began throwing down an intricate pattern of silken lines. They wouldn't stop Spike, but they might slow him down, give him something to admire if nothing else.

They landed in front of the closed doors, her single leap having covered more then thirty feet. Lois' feet touched the floor for the first time in what felt like forever to the reporter. The girl reached out and pressed the button, then folded her arms and waited for the elevator. Her impatience began to show as her right foot took up a steady tapping.

Lois found the image to be priceless. She wished a film crew was present just to capture the moment. It would almost be as timeless as the Flash waiting for the bus or Batman checking his luggage.

"So," Lois started a little loss for words. While she sort of palled around with some of the more high profile heroes out there, she didn't often find herself at the heart of an adventure.

"So," the girl parroted her. Not mocking, just attempting to get her going.

"You do this often?"

"Wait for elevators?" She gave a small shake of her head as she answered saying, "Not very. I got a line on a quicker mode of transportation."

The amusement in her voice made Lois grind her teeth lightly. She took a calm breath, but only a small one before asking, "Putting yourself in life and death situations?"

"Oh," she began, almost sounding surprised by a sudden revelation, "you mean the deliberately antagonizing homicidal Billy Idol impersonators."

"Yes," Lois answered patiently.

"First and third Tuesdays and Thursdays of each month with alternating weekends. Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday it's paranoid schizophrenic Ozzy Osborne impersonators with delusions of grandeur, but their so hard to tell apart from the original that I've had to start doing ID checks."

Lois thought the girl was joking, but it was hard to be sure.

At the T-juncture Spike strolled into view and stopped, taking in the web lines clogging the corridor. He whistled appreciatively.

"Damn," the girl hissed.

"You didn't do all this just for me?" He sounded rather impressed, and maybe just a little too pleased with himself. The girl grabbed the doors and pried them open with nothing more then her fingertips. "Be a right shame to have to destroy such a work of Art."

"What's your name?" Lois asked as the girl leaned into the elevator shaft.

"Ma—" The girl began before cutting herself short. "What is with all the questions?" She asked as she fired another stream of her webbing down the shaft. With a grunt she heaved upward.

"I'm a reporter—"

"You're trying to do an interview? Now?" She cut her off as she jerked up again pulling the elevator up in rapid hand over hand movement.

"No time like the present," Lois answered.

She spared Lois a glance as she brought the elevator up to the opening. Holding it there with one hand, she grabbed the elevator and pulled it up a little. Sliding her fingers in-between the seam she pried the doors apart. "Get in," she grunted pushing one side open with her foot as she pulled the other open with her right hand.

Lois stared at the opening with skepticism. This slightly built girl was holding an elevator without the faintest hint of strain while standing on one leg. "You've got to be kidding me," she mumbled plaintively before squeezing her way through the opening.

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Oliver Queen, one time head of Queen Industries, but better known to the world at large as The Green Arrow, raced around the corner. The arrow he fired at the woman hadn't been rigged with explosives, yet explode it had.

He supposed it could have, under the right conditions, what those were he didn't have the slightest idea. The woman was lying on the floor in a crumpled heap a few feet away from the blackened wall and the shattered remains of his arrow.

Another arrow was nocked and leveled at the woman, just because she looked in bad shape didn't mean she was. She was a fabulous looking, exotic with her indigo skin and brilliant red hair that seemed to shimmer in the light.

A thick pool of blood was beginning to seep out under her side. A lot of blood. He still wasn't sure. Still he couldn't simply stand by and watch her bleed to death.

Moving forward Oliver grabbed her shoulder as he said, "Medical's on its way," as he began to roll her over.

She moved so suddenly, an uncoiling viper, as her hand slashed back. "You're going to need it," she snapped.

"Oww," he yelled as razor sharp steel sliced open his uniform and cut a shallow grove across his flesh. If he hadn't been moving away from her when she struck that blade would have slit his throat ear to ear. Whoever she was, she was playing for keeps.

Throwing himself away from her, Oliver gave himself a little room to fire. He came to one knee, ready to release, but was startled to find the woman was inside his guard. He threw himself back avoiding her punch, but only just.

It was all he could do to avoid taking a direct hit from the woman. She moved like a dervish, connecting almost at will while avoiding his meager counter attacks.

He just avoided her kick to the head, throwing himself down an adjoining corridor. He was really beginning to despise the fact that there were so many women who were capable of kicking his ass.

As he scrambled back to his feet, Oliver reached for another arrow and grasped air. With horror he realized his quiver was gone, it was back in the other corridor. Between him and it was the blue skin killer woman.

Heavy footsteps pounded from up the steel hall. Oliver looked up and smiled broadly at the sight of Shining Knight racing up the corridor. "Knight!"

A solid body crashed into him and drove him to the floor. They went down in a heap. He knew it had to be the woman, but the body didn't feel right. It was larger, heavier then it should be.

He rolled over, driving a hard elbow into the woman's face. She slammed a sharp knee into his hamstring. They rolled over several times, exchanging a flurry of ineffective elbows, pokes, and jabs as they came back to their feet.

Oliver spun around with a wild backhand aimed at where he thought her head should be, only it thudded into solid muscle. A moment later he understood why as he stared, gaped at himself. From the quick glance they were identical, right down to the slash across his chest with a thin stream of blood welling around the thin gash.

He wondered if he looked as stupid as his doppelganger did, with his mouth hanging open. Suddenly it snapped shut and a quick pair of jabs peppered his face snapping him out of his daze.

He shot a hard right hand at his own head and smiled with satisfaction when it landed flush and his double staggered back. He caught himself and renewed his attack with vigor.

Oliver slipped both punches while his own counter attack was true, his second was caught and he felt himself jerked forward as an elbow shot toward his head. He managed to block the elbow, twisting under and delivering a quick uppercut to his doubles ribs, but didn't move fast enough to avoid the heavy left hand that dropped onto his head. Grabbing hold of his double by their legs Oliver hefted them into the air and surged forward. A hard elbow dropped him to a knee, arms wrapped around his waist, cinched in tight, and he found himself crashing to the floor after he was flipped over. The shock of hitting the steel drove the air from his lungs.

"Hold," Shining Knight ordered the two Green Arrows.

"Knight," Oliver started as he began roll over. "Careful she's a shape shifter."

Oliver gaped at himself, it was his voice, what he was going to say, almost word for word. "She's the shape shifter," he growled surging to his feet.

The Knight's sword wavered between the two men. They looked identical, sounded alike. There was no way he could tell them apart.

"Its no use," One of the Green Arrow's said. "You'll never tell us apart. She's too good. You'll need to take both of us in, until it can all be sorted out."

The other Green Arrow looked disgusted as he growled, "You've got to be pulling my leg. That fake sprouts some lame ass, holier then thou piece of trite and you're gonna fall for it. Come on Knight, you know me better then that."

"You are correct," he said leveling the business end of his sword at the suspected imposter. The other Arrow smirked devilishly as he boldly folded his arms across his chest. "I am indeed well acquainted with The Green Arrow; Well enough to know him to be an stout and honorable ally capable of making the ultimate sacrifice to achieve his desired goal." His arm swung back with sudden violence, the hilt slammed into the Green Arrow's face with such force the man crumpled to the floor in a boneless heap. "It is a good thing I know you well enough to know you would never voluntarily give up your freedom," The Shining Knight said as he looked back over his shoulder at the fallen Arrow. "She must have a great deal of control to maintain your shape while unconscious," he noted clinically. He didn't know a great many shape shifters, but he thought most reverted back when they lost consciousness.

"As a matter of fact…" a strange, cultured voice said from behind him.

He spun around with the speed of desperation driving him faster then he ever thought possible. His sword arcing toward the voice, but the woman was beyond his reach. What an exotic beauty. Were the last thoughts to skitter through his head as the heavy energy beam blasted him into the wall.

"…I do," she said as he dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. She moved forward with dancer's grace, her form shifting with each step as she melted into a nameless, mostly featureless security agent that proliferate facilities such as this.

Mystique knelt down and checked both men; despite her reputation as a ruthless, cold bloodied killer she had no interest in seeing either of these men dead. They simply had the misfortune of being in the way of what she desired most. At the moment that was a way off this orbiting tin can without half the installation hot on her heels.

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Kennedy glanced between her two, much larger companions. The only thing any of them knew for sure was they were in St. Louis, the golden arch dominating the midnight horizon told them that. How they got there, none of them had a clue.

Five minutes ago Willow handed her the axe after completing her spell, unleashing the slayer contained within the Potentials all over the world. She had bolted out the door, raced down the hall, and then she was here, axe still in hand.

Crashing into the ground at a hundred and ninety miles an hour. Her body sore in places she didn't know could get sore, if not for her recently acquired slayer healing she would still be groaning in agony where she landed. As it was, thirty seconds later and she was back on her feet.

Her two companions hadn't even taken that long. Moments after landing they were up without the slightest hitch in their step. It annoyed her; they were so big, they made her look a toddler. On one knee, as he was now, Troy Creel could look her in the eye. Seven feet tall if an inch, three hundred and thirty pounds of solid muscle with zero percent body fat. He was older then her and Rebecca; grizzled is how Kennedy would describe him, sort of like Buffy, but with more facial hair. His gray eyes had seen a lot in twenty five years, more then someone his age should have. If she wasn't gay she would say he was drool worthy.

Draped over his sculpted shoulder, as if it were nothing more then a feather light pillow, was a massive wrecking ball attached to a fifteen foot long chain. Chain and ball looked ancient, as if they were plucked from a Greek ruin.

"Feel that?" Creel asked pressing his fingertips into the blacktop.

If Kennedy didn't know any better she would swear the tips of his fingers had taken on the texture of the pavement. Five minutes ago she would have said that was impossible, but now…

"Somebody having a bad day?" Rebecca asked flippantly.

Creel smiled at the casual comment, but still explained, "Impact tremors, big ones by the feel of them. Know a few people that can cause 'em that big. Your old man, not to mention the majority of his sparing partners included." He rose back to his full height.

For all his size and sculpted muscles, Rebecca made him look like a grey hound compared to a mastiff. She towered above him at over eight feet tall. She was literally a walking muscle whose skin just happened to be a somber jade color. She was so muscle bound that her muscles had muscles. "Guess we better cheek it out." Her voice was thick with excitement.

"What do you think small fry?" Creel asked the young slayer. Like Rebecca his voice was sharp with excitement, unlike his longtime friend, Creel's voice also held a note of apprehension.

Kennedy shrugged. What she really wanted to do was get her hand on a phone and call Giles, even Buffy, but she would much prefer getting a hold of her red headed girlfriend Willow. She tried calling already, but for some reason her cell phone wasn't working right, the system didn't recognize it which meant she was going to have to find a land line. Maybe if she could give these two the slip. "If you guys think it's a good idea, who am I to disagree?"