Authors Note: This authors note may be long. If you don't care who we are and what we're doing then by all means scroll down and start reading. This is just backstory for anyone who might be interested in exactly what we have planned for this fic.
'We' being myself and my partner in crime, Luna Tiger. We've been in this fandom for longer than either of us care to admit to, and naturally we eventually started to question the series itself. What made it good? What made it bad? What would make it better? And eventually this questioning gave birth to a monster of a project to answer, What if we could rewrite it ourselves? And so, after much brainstorming and discussion and procrastination, we decided to give it a shot.
So this fic is our own twisted version of events with much more in the way of character development and plot twists (we hope) and much less in the way of terrible puns and overused catch phrases. For anyone who remembers the cartoon, there should be plenty of familiar elements – the same characters, simmilar events – but with a bit more flesh to it. At other times we will completely deaviate and try and make up for what the series was lacking (such as people of the female gender, for a start), or put an entirely new twist on things you weren't expecting. For anyone who doesn't remember the series then never fear, you don't need to. We're starting from scratch with everyone and everything, and we're going for the looong haul on this.
For anyone interested in what lies down the track, all the characters from the series will eventually make an appearance (Yes, even the obscure ones like El Swords and Shrimp Louie) and we will be including both the future arc and the Dinovengers crossover (with the characters that eventually went off to make 'Extreme Dinosaurs') although both of those plotlines are a while off still. Feedback is greatly appreciated! Particularly if you have ideas to share, or comments on what you think we're doing right/wrong.
And if you've managed to sit through that little speil then kudos to you, and on with the show!
Legal Disclaimer: The Street Sharks series is the property of DiC Entertainment. No insult is intended by this remake. We loved the original for all its faults, we swear.
Chapter 1 – Down the Rabbit Hole She Fell…
Bends walked the corridors of Fission City University with a spring in his step, whistling an off-key version of the current charts-topping hit he'd heard on the radio that morning. It was one of those uncharacteristically good days, when the majority of the student body seemed like decent human beings instead of over-worked, under-fed wraiths, and for a change all technology on the campus seemed to be running smoothly. Or perhaps the other faculties had decided to stop abusing their positions and were fixing their own fax machines instead of bothering him. Either way it left him unexpectedly at a loose end, and there was a pretty lady down in the biology department who could use an excuse to get out of her claustrophobically stuffy office.
He strolled in just as Lena was putting down the phone and – taking note of her deep sigh and worried frown – attuned his grin to the appropriate intensity.
"Hey lovely Lena," he greeted brightly. "You free for lunch? My treat."
She gave him a wane smile. "Sorry Bends, but I've got more classes to reschedule."
"Doctor B still hasn't shown up, huh?"
"No." She reorganised the clutter on her desk, sifting through the papers. "I've been trying his cell all day but either he's out of range or his battery died."
"Again," Bends added. "Have you tried home base?"
"Of course. Bobby said he left there last night with plans of not being back until morning. Something important came up apparently."
Bends smirked. "Bet someone was itching to play hookie."
"He knows better. Or at least he should." She sighed. "Doctor Bolton's never missed a class before. You don't think something might have happened, do you?"
The blond shook his head. "This is the Doctor Bolton we're talking about. The current leading geneticist in the country? He probably just found a new lead on the cure for cancer, or something."
"I know, but…" Her lips pursed in thought and finally she stood, straightening the creases in her labcoat. "I really didn't want to bother Doctor Paradigm about this, but I'm a bit worried."
"So ask him," Bends said, leaning nonchalantly on the edge of her desk. "I'll wait here. That guy gives me the willies."
She glanced sideways at him. "Are you sure that isn't just because of the mess you made in his office when you tried to fix the heating ducts?"
Bends feigned a look of offense. "Hey, that was an honest mistake!" But it was good to see her smiling honestly again, even if she tried to hide it behind her hand. "And those ducts needed cleaning anyway. Now go." He shooed her away with one hand. "The sooner you ask, the sooner you can come back and have lunch with me."
"We'll see," she said, hesitating for a moment. "Can you-?"
"Watch the phone in case someone calls?" he interjected. "Sure. But When Doctor B walks though the door with that cancer cure under his arm, you'll see there was nothing to worry about."
All she had left to give him was a roll of her eyes, directed over her shoulder as she began weaving her way around mechanical clutter. Paradigm's office rested adjacent to Bolton's, a door unlocked to its brother's insistence of no one being allowed to step foot into it. Lena rapped a polite knock against the one ready to yield her entrance. "Doctor? May I talk with you?"
"It's open," came the muffled response.
Indeed it was, and Lena stepped through, leaving the door ajar behind her. "Doctor Paradigm? Dr. Bolton hasn't clocked in and we can't get ahold of him."
The bald man across the room didn't even look up in formal greeting, the pen in hand scritching over the small pile of papers in from of him. "No matter how many times I tell the students frantically asking where Robert has hid himself away when he isn't in his office, or how many times that one obstinate secretary rings me with inquiries about his eventual return from his trips, they have yet to understand I am not their beloved professor's keeper. I've noticed his absense, Lena."
"No one expects you to be, Doctor, but aren't you worried?"
"But he never pulls a vanishing act without leaving a message."
"He sent one to me early this morning." Paradigm plucked a scrap of paper off his note-sticker and held it out for Lena to take, all without looking. " I'm not sure what he's doing, but he wanted me to tell the staff he'll be back on the clock tomorrow. Oh, and can you call his boys for him? He mentioned wanted to see them at the Environmental Research Center, 3pm sharp."
Lena took the scrap and read Paradigm's neat scrawl carefully. She frowned. "Why couldn't he tell them himself?"
Paradigm snorted, a cross between amusement and disgust. "Dying phone battery. And his eldest was out of range at the time."
"Well, if you say so." She had no reason to disbelieve his words, but Lena did spare the professor a last glance before closing the door behind her. Regardless, it was back to playing phonetag with the Boltons. At least telling the right one spared her the pain of getting ahold of all four.
Hilary was awake promptly at 8am every single day, and even if she was just a small gray rat trapped in the maze of tubes that made up her house, she could be terribly insistent around breakfast time. Her tiny claws scratched loudly against the colorful plastic, ruining any chance John had of a proper sleep in.
"It's my day off," he protested, but as with all pets who knew they had their owners well trained, she didn't care. With a reluctant sigh, he pulled on his clothes and staggered towards the kitchen, making his coffee entirely on automatic as he prepared her food.
Hilary tracked his progress, following the tunnels that lead to her feeding area. Her little maze was long enough to stretch through just about every room in the house, giving her plenty of room to roam and keep tabs on what he was doing, offering her quiet company and giving her the ability to remind him when he was missing meal times. She was better than an alarm clock, but a lot more difficult to ignore.
In any case, the loss of an extra hours' sleep was a small price to pay. While he didn't have any legitimate work there was a special project that had been awaiting his attention all week, and with an anticipatory grin he finished his drink and made his way to the garage. While he enjoyed the challenge of his thick college workload, sometimes he just wanted to get his hands dirty, and the new bike he was working on was going to be a beautiful thing when she was finished.
At the moment, however, she was a wreck. An anorexic frame of bare metal and twisted pipes. He'd had to strip her down to the bare essentials, carefully pulling away her flawed attachments with the promise of making her better than ever. He already had a bike, but this one was going to be special, born from his own hands with a few intriguing elements of his own design. He stripped off his shirt and made himself at home under her chassis. It took less than a minute to have his arms stained up to the elbows in grease, and about half that time to completely lose track of anything except the metal under his hands.
Shortly before Hilary would have been scrabbling for his attention again, the phone rang. John always kept it in arms reach for exactly moments like this; when his position was awkward enough to make getting up a bother. He grasped expertly for the source of the noise, catching it halfway through the second ring.
"Speak to me."
"Well you don't sound busy," Lena's wry, familiar voice filtered down the line.
John grinned, resting the phone in the crook of his neck so he could use both hands for his work. "What can I say? It's my day off."
"You might need to reroute some of your time then," she said, sounding a bit more serious. "Your father left a message with Dr. Paradigm. He wants you all at the downtown ERC by 3pm today. "
John paused, brow furrowed in consideration. "Well that's weird," he muttered softly to himself, trying to remember if his Dad had ever mentioned the place before. Raising his voice for Lena's benefit he asked, "Do you know why?"
She sounded apologetic. "Sorry John, you know how second-hand information is. You know what I know."
John suppressed a sigh. It always seemed like second-hand information these days. His dad had so many responsibilities that even finding time to take to his sons practically had to be written into his schedule a week in advance, but that was hardly her fault. "Thanks Lena." More lightly he added, "So does this mean I was nominated to pass around the message?"
"It is your day off," she observed pointedly. "All that free time..."
John rolled his eyes, knowing she'd be able to hear the action in his voice. "Joy. Talk to you later."
He ended the call, tilting his wrist to check his watch. Still early, but by the time he managed to get ahold of his brothers and get himself cleaned up he'd probably have just long enough to get across the town in peak hour traffic without being late.
John patted the underside of the skeletal bike resignedly, pushing himself out from under her. Looks like she wasn't going to get herself roadworthy just yet. So much for the day off.
Bobby elegantly navigated the muddy slopes, with only experience and skill keeping him from skidding wildly out of control. His near-misses with disaster were all very deliberate ploys to keep his adoring crowd awed at his prowess, and he crested the last hill with a cocky air-vault just to make sure they all still remembered who was the undisputed champion of the Motocross racers.
Of course not all of them enjoyed the reminder, but the same people who muttered behind his back were also first to congratulate him for another brilliant run. Their unofficial sport had taken on a more competitive edge when Bobby had joined, and these days it was more than just another way to blow off an afternoon of school. The few people with a genuine interest in taking their little hobby further finally felt like they were doing something with it.
Of course, it was also an excellent opportunity to impress the girls, and Bobby would be the first to admit that was his primary reason for joining. The few who had been tempted along at the promise of excitement stood well back at the fence line. He slid to a neat stop in front of them, dousing the other competitors with a small spray of dirt that was traditional more than mean spirited. It hardly mattered at this point. They were all filthy from reckless revving and the deep puddles that littered the course, but Bobby fancied that he made a dashing figure in spite of it.
"What do you think ladies? Isn't this better than Mr. Harrington's algebra?"
"That was amazing," the closest girl, a pretty brunette with clear blue eyes, gushed.
"You're so good at this, Bobby," another said with a wicked smile. "You sure you don't wanna try out for the competition next month?"
Bobby groaned long-sufferingly. Carla already knew very well why he couldn't, tempting as it was. "You know how my dad feels about that. Unless I'm pulling straight A's, it's all study, study, study."
Of course, that had never stopped Clint, and it probably wouldn't have stopped Bobby if he was really that determined, but he was after a good time, not a career.
A cheerful chime sounded from the inside of his jacket. He checked the caller ID before offering the girls an apologetic look. "Excuse me ladies, duty calls."
He leisurely walked his bike over to the sidelines, making sure to turn of the motor before answering the call. "Bobby here."
"What took you so long? " John grumbled.
"What can I say? I'm a busy guy, upholding the family honor, all that jazz."
"Uh huh. Then why do I hear engines in the background?"
Damn. Bobby hadn't thought the noise of the others would carry so far, but if there was one thing his bother could recognize it was the sound of bikes. "Er…shop class?" he tried, but the coop was blown.
"I thought you said you were giving up on dirt racing? " John sounded aggravated. "Remember that F you got in science? "
"This is the last time, I swear." But neither of them believed it, and there was a strong impression of disapproval from his older brother. At least John never told their dad, but the secret was only grudging kept, and one of these days Bobby would run out of luck. He affected a lighter tone. "Anyway, what do I hold the honor of your wonderfully dashing call?"
John sighed, but let it drop. "Dad wants to meet us at the old Research Center. You know, the one downtown?"
Bobby frowned, leaning back against his bike. "Why there? Didn't they close that place down, like, years ago?"
"Dunno, but that's what Lena said so pass it on. I'll see you there." John was obviously still a bit peevish, because he hung up before Bobby could say another word.
He glared at the phone. "Not if I see you first," he muttered before mechanically typing in the number for Cooper's phone. Afterwards, maybe he'd try his luck with the brunette for Saturday night. He needed something to look forward to besides another lecture from his brother.
Cooper gleefully made his opponent eat dirt in a spray of mud just short of the goals, and the ball was sent flying away from its intended destination. There was a whoop from the rest of his teammates as the coach called the time up, and a moment later he found himself in an exuberant dog-pile of back slapping and playful punches.
"Good job, boys," the coach called, looking far cleaner than his students. It had been raining on and off for the past week, making the football field a sloppy, unpleasant mess for playing in, but no one had complained, probably for fear of being dunked in it by teammate and opposition alike.
The player Cooper had taken down was slightly more sour about the whole thing. "It's not fair. He's actually on the team."
"So?" one of Coop's own team shot back quickly. "You had Josh, and he would have been on Varsity if he'd bothered to show up for tryouts."
Likely true. Josh was broader than Cooper, and not too bad with the ball either. The game had been a pretty close one with both sides giving their all, and personally Cooper didn't think there was anything to be ashamed of in losing that last goal. Playing the game was more important than the outcome.
However, he was less skilled in word play than he was with the ball, so he simply offered the fallen player his widest, most earnest grin and offered a hand to get him out of the mud. "Hey, I just got lucky. It was a good game."
After a moment of deliberation the player evidently decided not to argue, and offered a small smile of his own. "Yeah it was." He took Cooper's hand and allowed the taller boy to pull him to his feet.
The coach nodded approvingly. "Alright, to the lockers everyone, and no lagging. Remember, you've all got another period after this."
The division of the teams was healed with a shared groan, and with the exhilaration of the game wearing off with the reminder of class, they began trudging back to the buildings. On the sidelines, Cooper's bag was making a muffled, beeping noise, and he hastily dug through it to answer the phone before the PE teacher heard it. He was supposed to have it turned off during classes, but somehow he always forgot.
"Aw Coop, don't tell me you wasted another goal post," Bobby's voice chimed before Coop could speak.
"That only happened that one time," Cooper protested, indignant but smiling. The foundation of that post had been shaky anyway. Anyone could have knocked it over. "So what's up?"
"New orders from the chain of command," Bobby answered with mock seriousness. "So listen up, little brother, because last one there does the dishes for a week."
The phone was still ringing despite every attempt to will it to stop. The pillow over his head did practically nothing to drown it out at all, and so with a reluctant heave he unburied the offending object from the mess beside his bed and brought it to his ear without bothering to open his eyes.
"This better be good," he muttered, stretching out luxuriously.
"Dad wants to meet us at the old ERC downtown,"Cooper said, sounding far too happy and functional for this obscene hour. "You've got thirty-six minutes and counting. Bobby says it's a race."
"A race?" That brought a drowsy smile to his lips. "Cool."
He dropped the phone back in some approximation of where the receiver should be, pulling the covers back over his head to get in a few more minutes of sleep and ignoring the tinny voice speaking in the background.
"Clint? Are you still there? Clint?"
With his bike safely hidden in an old shed at the back of the school grounds, and little reguard for the fact that he was skipping out on his last class of the day, Bobby was free to make his way downtown. It wasn't exactly a short distance even on his roller blades, but at least it was mostly downhill and better than facing the terrible traffic that was Fission City's hallmark. Whoever had designed their roadways had obviously been a bit unhinged, and there were certain intersections and side streets that probably only made sense to their original architect.
He met Cooper halfway down the main street, still wearing his pants from football training and looking dirty but cheerful. Bobby had been sure to take a change of clothes, and was proud to say he still looked his usual impeccably groomed self.
"Thought you'd have gone ahead," Coop said, giving himself a few more pushes so his skateboard didn't lose momentum and charitably matching Bobby's pace.
"Had to break away from my fanclub," Bobby said with an expansive shrug. It wasn't a sore point between them. Bobby had most of the upper class girls wrapped around his finger but Cooper was popular in his own circles, especially with anyone connected to the sports teams. Neither of them were exactly following in their father's academic footsteps like John was, and it was often a something they could both relate to.
Coop did work at it, but he didn't really have the right mindset for schoolwork, and Bobby had never tried hard enough to figure out if he did or not. There was always something better he could be doing with his time.
While they didn't compete in school, however, everything else was fair game. While he may have been youngest, Cooper was more than able to keep up with his brothers. With a football player's build, and a few inches of height over Bobby, he was faster on the hills and pride insisted that Bobby not accede victory so easily. Besides, he knew a shortcut.
He gifted his brother with a smirk and cuffed him teasingly on the shoulder. "Catch you later, bro."
He turned sharply down a crack between two buildings before his brother could even blink, racing past beer bottles and graffiti walls. There weren't any people back here, giving him free reign to go as fast as he wanted, and this way he didn't have to cross the bridge which was always a risky bet when you were in a hurry.
There was one thing he'd forgotten though. The stairs. It was treacherous enough going down them on foot let alone on his skates, but that didn't deter him for a moment, and with a feral grin he simply jumped down to the next landing. The impact was hard, but he didn't have time to think as the moment he touched down he had to jump again, like a strange game of leap frog. It was dangerous and fun as all hell. He laughed and he made it to the bottom without a single mangling crash, and only finely honed reflexes kept him from crashing with the insane speed he now pushed.
If there was one thing he could be proud of, it was this. He was a natural on roller blades – couldn't even imagine how other people could find it challenging to keep their balance. Before he'd discovered motocross it had been his greatest rush, and even now he still enjoyed the thrill. He didn't bother with safety pads anymore, and there was a whole lot less to protect him if he slipped up. Good thing he never did.
By the time he emerged back onto the main streets he was nearly there, and the few people wandering were smart enough to dive out of his way. A few people shouted insults at his back, their voices lost to the wind rushing past his ears, and he laughed…until he realized that on the opposite side of the street there was a figure matching him for speed. Either Cooper was faster than Bobby had calculated, or he'd taken a shortcut of his own. Damn.
"Might as well stop now bro, I've totally got this," he called, struggling to put on more speed. The chain link fence surrounding the ERC loomed before them. Bobby distractedly noted the large 'For Sale' sign had been plastered over with an equally formidable 'Sold' sticker, but barely paid it any heed as he and Cooper raced neck and neck, though the gate.
The end of the parking lot was wordlessly declared the finishing line, but just before they reached it there was the roar of a motor behind them, and instead of two people skidding to a halt, it was three.
John leaned idly on the handlebars of his motorbike while his younger brothers panted. "How come I never get clued in on the races?" he complained.
"Because you're first in the chain," Bobby grumbled, trying to ignore the stitch in his side to he could straighten up. "So who won?"
"I did," a lazy voice remarked, and they turned to see Clint sitting with his back to a sign pole, looking perfectly relaxed. He yawned widely. "What took you guys so long?"
Cooper stared. "No way. How did you get here so fast?"
"Hitched a ride," Clint smirked enigmatically. "So we're supposed to be meeting Dad here, right?"
"Guess so," John said, looking up at the pristine white archway into the main building.
The Environmental Research Center had been the last battalion against Fission City's growing pollution problems…until the city had relocated the funding elsewhere and the place had been driven under, falling into disrepair. Now it looked almost brand new again, with a fresh coat of paint and the rust scraped off. It was possible someone had taken an interest in continuing the research there, maybe even using Doctor Bolton's influence to do it. John wasn't quite sure why the four of them had been called, however, but it was probably important.
"So are we going in or what?" Bobby asked, tapping his foot impatiently.
"I dunno," Cooper said, eying the impressive doors warily. "They don't look like they're open to me."
"Never know until you try I suppose," John said cautiously, approaching the building. There was no handle or intercom, so he shrugged slightly to himself and knocked on it. It made a hollow booming noise. "Hey, anyone in there? We're here to see our dad, Doctor Bolton."
He couldn't have been more surprised when it actually opened, leaving his hand to strike at empty air. The four of them stared.
"Okay," Bobby said slowly. "That was freaky."
Clint snorted and shoved him. "Wuss. It's just a door. There must be someone inside." He strode in fearlessly, seeming to be swallowed by the darkness in the building. It was like the afternoon light refused to cross the barrier of the doorway, and despite its pale, clean cut exterior, there was something odd about the place.
John followed his brother in more hesitantly, nearly blinded by the abrupt change in lighting as he crossed the threshold. Blinking to clear his vision he found it wasn't actually that dark inside. Small, artificial lights lined the sides of a room that was just as modern looking as the exterior, and just as empty. It looked like a reception room of some kind. Clint was already leaning over the main desk, but after a moment he looked up with a frown.
"There's nothing here. The computer isn't even on."
John looked from side to side, but there were no clues. Only a distinctly out of place looking 'No Smoking' sign. "Should we keep going?"
There was a single corridor leading further inward. John wasn't too keen on wandering around without an invitation, but their dad had to be here somewhere, right? Clint pushed away from the desk. "Guess so."
He heard Bobby and Cooper coming up behind him, the latter sneezing at the strong scent of dust in the air. "What? No hot reception chick? I'm disappointed."
Thankfully Cooper saved John the trouble of smacking the resident loudmouth.
The indignant whine echoed eerily as they trooped down the only available path. At least it didn't look like they could easily get lost in this place, even without markers. The walls were disturbingly featureless. John noticed there weren't even any scuff marks in the floors, and couldn't help remarking, "It doesn't even look like anyone works here."
"Maybe they're all on lunch break?" Bobby said lightly, taking a more meandering stride than his brothers and seeming oblivious to the tension. His voice seemed overly loud in the empty building, and John almost wanted to urge him to keep it down, but then again he wanted to be found. He wanted some kind of proof that this place wasn't as dead as his instincts were telling him it was. "Or if you're Clint, it would be breakfast."
"And isn't this about the time you're usually cutting school?" Clint sniped back, but not quite as venomously as usual. He'd taken the lead of their little expedition, and had finally noticed a chance in the scenery. He ignored Bobby's muttering as he pointed. "Is that a door?"
It was one of the high-tech sealing kind, designed exactly like the ones at the University Science Building. The familiarity comforted John a little, and he tapped the release button in a practiced motion. It slid upward soundlessly, revealing a narrow staircase leading down into a large room that the eldest of the Bolton's could immediately identify as some kind of research laboratory.
"Dad must be in here," he said with certainty, making his way down the steep incline with as much speed as he could manage safely. Every step felt like he would fall into nothing, and he kept a solid grip on the railing while wondering why anyone would design it that way. He felt better with the solid ground at the bottom back under his feet.
"Dad?" he called out. His disembodied voice resonated off the walls, but there was no answer except the muted sound of machinery and the bubbling of heated water. At least this place seemed more alive, beating like the heart of a building should. There were a half dozen benches in there, each long enough to support three or four scientists with plenty of breathing room between. A whole team could work in there. The center of the room was starkly lit, but away from the tables it was dark, with indistinct shapes looming uncertainly in the gloom.
Clint forewent the stairs and simple skidded down the railing, landing with a thump at the bottom. "Well this looks like his kind of place."
"Maybe he's working," Cooper offered. "You know what he's like when he gets caught up in something."
John surveyed the area. "Alright. Let's have a look around. Just don't go too far."
"Yes Mom," Bobby said, rolling his eyes.
"And don't touch anything," John added warningly. That was the first lesson he'd learned in school about messing around in a lab. You never knew what might be dangerous. As he drifted over to the closest bench though, he found it hard to heed his own warning. There were dozens of open books, computer printouts, scraps of formulas on coffee-stained papers…genetic formulas he realized, picking out the sequence, and unconsciously he reached out to the nearest sheet so he could scrutinize it more closely.
It was brilliant. He couldn't quite grasp all of it, but the parts he could were groundbreaking. This was something entirely different from what his lecturers had been teaching. This was advanced! This was…not quite right. He pursed his lips, trying to follow the leaps of what was obviously a very educated mind as it twisted chemical formulas in an astounding fashion, but if he was right then something like this would….
A surprised yelp followed by the piercing sound of breaking glass pulled him abruptly out of his contemplation. He worriedly jogged towards the source of the noise, but all he found was Bobby glaring accusingly at a smashed beaker on the floor. Clint arrived a moment later, looking concerned, but it quickly melted into irritation.
"I thought I said don't touch anything," John growled before belatedly remembering the paper still in his hand. He shoved it quickly in his pocket.
"I just brushed it by accident. They shouldn't have left it sitting on the edge like that anyway," Bobby objected loudly.
A quiet hiss caught the attention of all three. They looked down to find the green substance in the beaker was sizzling acidicly, leaving a large, pock-marked sear on the ground before evaporating in a cloud of foul smelling smoke. The brothers shared a guilty look.
"Maybe they won't notice," Bobby said uncertainly.
"Maybe it's coming out of your allowance," Clint told him. "Their fault for leaving the door open though. Any old klutz could just walk in."
Bobby scowled. "Hey…"
"Guys! Come look at this!" There was an excitement in Cooper's voice that bordered on disbelief. Ignoring the short tussle between the middle siblings, John traced Cooper to the back of the room where the light cast only a dim glow. He was standing next to a huge square object that John couldn't quite figure out.
"Take a look in here," Cooper said, looking wide eyed. John obliging steeped forward and squinted hard. After a moment he realized it was some kind of tank, bordered by thick panes of reinforced glass, and if he looked hard he could just make out a reflection of light inside, like water.
A dark shape sliced across his vision and he jumped in surprise. "What-?"
But the profile of the creature was easy to recognize. The shape of the dorsal fin was distinctive, and a longer look even let him identify the breed. "Carcharodon Carcharias"
"Great White Shark," Cooper supplied for the other two, proving that a semester of marine biology hadn't been completely wasted on falling asleep in class. He put a hand against the tank. "They don't survive in captivity though. I wonder what it's doing in here?"
John stared into the eyes of the ocean's most fearsome killer and shivered softly. "I don't know. Let's ask Dad when we find him."
Clint looked around. "Er…I hate to be the one to say it guys, but I don't think Dad's here. This place is deserted."
"Except for the sharks," Bobby said, wandering over to another large tank and peering in. Another shadowy form could be seen circling inside it, and Bobby whistled softly. "You should check out the stripes on this one."
Large, dangerous, predatory species. Suddenly John decided maybe leaving would be a very good idea. The problem wasn't that the place was empty. Actually he was all too certain that there was someone here, and he really didn't want to risk meeting them. "Come on guys, Let's g-"
The lights went out. Every single one of them. His breath froze inside his lungs, but only for a second as he immediately reached for the last places Cooper and Clint had been, finding them both after a moment of blind groping. "You guys okay?"
"Uh huh." There was an edge in Cooper's voice, and John sincerely hoped that neither Clint nor Bobby brought up the fact that their youngest brother had been afraid of the dark up to age eight.
Clint squeezed his arm reassuringly. "Still here bro."
"We're trapped in a dark room with killer sharks and beakers of acid. Oh god this bites."
"Shut it Bobby," John snapped, uncharacteristically sharp. He could have sworn he heard something like footsteps, too heavy to be any of them. "Are you moving?"
"I ain't budging an inch until somebody finds a flashlight. Why?"
John flinched. He could definitely hear it. Loud, steady footfalls, coming closer, accompanied by a strange, stuttering hissing noise. It almost sounded like laughter.
Two days later…
The rotors of the helicopter blades spun uselessly as Guy waited impatiently for his takeoff to clear. This was the biggest story of the century, and if they thought they could keep him ground bound while the Manhunt was on, then they weren't giving him enough credit. He'd take his chances with the police if it meant getting his name in the city's celebrity books.
A loud pounding on the side of his craft startled him. He hit the release button, expecting to see a messenger with his long awaited clearance only to gape in surprise at the red-haired bombshell climbing aboard, cameraman in tow. "Hey, hey lady! You aren't allowed in here!"
Especially not if she was going to steal his story. He recognized her as one of the local news reporters. She shoved a bunch of papers in his face. "My boss made a deal with your boss. We're coming too, so you can drop us off at the scene. Now you've been given the go-ahead from air control, so get this thing in the sky already."
He gave the papers a disgusted look before tossing them on the copilot's seat without reading. Bloody bureaucracy. "Strap yourselves in then."
The helicopter took flight with the grace of a turkey. So what if he was making it a little bumpier than usual; it's not like the interlopers could complain seeing how he was getting them over the action. The redhead took it surprisingly well, clinging to her seat for life but looking otherwise composed, while her companion muttered something about barf bags.
"Throw up in my baby and I'm kicking you out," he growled, angling the craft to head towards the industrial district where the center of the action was going down. The police had been setting up roadblocks all over the place, so it was very likely they were going to be the only ones with decent footage by the time the night was through.
He turned on his mic, taking a few deep breaths to prepare for his performance. The thought of half the city breathlessly hanging on his every word made him giddy.
"Good evening Fiss-ners, and welcome to our special evening edition. Guy-in-the-Sky is here to give you all the gruesome details behind the frequent monster sightings we've been having. Stay inside and bolt your doors folks, because this isn't fairy tales and fantasies we have for you tonight. Oh no, a terrible tragedy has taken place right here in the heart of our city. A truth worse than fiction, and we have been given the inside scoop on these events by our special source from inside the Mayor's office itself."
For all the poetic he was placing on the disaster, he couldn't manage to sound anything but pleased as punch. You didn't get scandal like this every day.
Of course, in the back of the helicopter, he could hear the redhead beginning her own exposition for the television screens while he reported over the radio.
"In a shocking turn of events, one of Fission City's most respected citizens has turned on his own children," she was saying, her voice muffled by his earphones. "Doctor Robert Bolton, leading geneticist and researcher endorsed by Fission City University, has reportedly performed horrific experiments on his four sons, turning them into savagely mutated monsters.
"These creatures have attacked several innocent bystanders on their mindless rampage through the city, and have now been cornered in the industrial district by armed personnel. Very shortly we will be descending on the scene to interview those involved in the hunt for these Shark-like beings-"
She was completely throwing off his groove. He couldn't wait to get her out of his helicopter so he could concentrate again. He spoke loudly over the top of her, not caring how his voice carried. "Tonight we will be following the massive manhunt for these creatures, overseen by the Mayor herself! Hopefully this is the beginning and the end of the threat that we reporters are calling the 'Street Sharks'."
The redhead glared at him, momentarily off the air. "Since when are we calling them that?"
He grinned breezily. "Since right now Miss. I think it's catchy, don't you?"
She scowled at him, then lurched as the helicopter suddenly descended at his practiced command. "Anyway, just relax. I'm taking you down now. You go get your interviews, and I'll keep an eye on the action, and we'll both be famous by tomorrow."
Her cameraman whimpered at the movement, but the twist of the red head's mouth was determined. "Fine."
The small TV screen on top of the counter offered only a very fuzzy view of the reporter at the scene, but Gerald Cunningworth still regarded it with interest. It was fair to say that, between the management of his hotel and the various duties it entailed, he didn't get out very much. It was with a kind of terrible fascination that he watched this new disaster unfolding from the safety of his chair.
Monsters on the streets? Children mutated by science? Father of four gone mad? The world really was a horrible place, and at times like this he was glad he only had to deal with a small trickle of people passing through from the outside. Better to stay where he was, inside the pride and joy that was his hotel. As limiting as that was, at least it was safe.
And on the slow nights, he had the TV to keep him informed of exactly why he was better off. He turned the volume knob up, listening determinedly though the hiss of static.
The Mayor straightened her hair absently as the reporter approached, mentally preparing her statement in her head. "How do I look?"
"Just fine, Mayor Marino," her current assistant, Mr. Rogaz smiled in a way that didn't quite reach is eyes. Given the stress of the situation, she could forgive him for that. "Remember, none of this will reflect badly on you."
It would, she suspected. It always did. Who knew they'd been harboring a maniac like Bolton in their midst? But by the time the reporter had approached she was wearing a controlled expression of neutrality. Hysteria was the last thing she wanted to promote.
"Mayor Marino, can you please tell us what the city council is doing to take care of this menace?"
The dark skinned woman drew herself up. "I would like to assure all citizens of Fission City that they have nothing to fear. First of all, the mutants have been contained in this small industrial district and the area has been fully evacuated by all but experienced personnel. No one is in any danger unless they deliberately cross police lines." She paused to stare imposingly at the camera, enforcing her statement.
"Of course Mayor. Now what of the task force you have assigned here?"
"Only the very best," Marino assured. "Our pursuit of these criminals is to be as humane as possible. The task force is currently being headed by Doctor Luther Pardigm, an experienced scientist who has prepared our experienced team with the means to take the Boltons down without undue harm. It is our strongest hope that perhaps they can be cured of their affliction and reintroduced back into society."
The reporter looked intrigued. "Isn't it true that Doctor Bolton and Doctor Paradigm were close partners before this incident?"
"Yes, and I can assure you that no one is more shocked by Bolton's horrific crimes against both the community and his family." Marino looked squarely at the camera. "This is a difficult time for all of us, and while our hearts go out to those poor boys we must not forget that they are extremely dangerous. We encourage people to stay in their homes and away from restricted zones-"
Of course, there were a great number of people ignoring this sound advice already. A small gathering had come to watch, and maybe catch a glimpse of the monsters that had everyone so worried. Thrill seekers mostly, but mixed into the crowd were a few holding a more solemn vigil over the events unfolding. Bends and Jets milled in the back behind the camera crew, huddling against the wall, away from the sharp glare of the police that guarded the barricade.
"This isn't right," Jets muttered, shifting uncomfortably. "Isn't anyone going to stop this?"
Bends shook his head. "They've got witnesses to swear they've gone crazy. Nothing's going to stop them now."
Jets gave his friend a probing, sideways glance. Bends had been mysteriously absent during the last few days while the Bolton brothers had been missing. He half wondered if maybe Bends himself was one of the mysterious 'witnesses', but the thought of asking made his mouth go dry, so he didn't. Instead he chose to focus his attention on the imposing line of black armored hunters. "Look at what they're sending though. It feels like the guys should be given a warning, you know? Maybe they'd just give themselves up."
"They wouldn't," Bends said with iron certainty, but after a moment he dropped back into the nervous, jittery act he'd been in all night. "Look man, I've, uh, gotta go. There's some stuff I need to take care of."
Jets stared. "Now? Are you kidding?"
"Just go home Jets," Bends said softly. "This'll be over soon."
And he disappeared into the crowd, leaving Jets staring stunned at his back feeling more lost than before.
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