Dani, Sally and the mysterious old man who called himself Traumfanger were still in an uncertain situation The two women had just crashed their car after teleporting to an unknown location, where they had encountered the old man called Traumfanger. It was night, and they couldn’t see any sign of civilization, just empty grassland and trees. There was absolute silence, and the fog rising of the grassland created a surreal dream landscape. Sally broke the trancelike quality of Dani and Sally’s meeting with the old man who called himself Traumfanger.

“Wait, wait, wait…. You’re calling this monster Arkady? Caressing his cheek? What’s going on here? You’re gonna kiss him next????” Skids yelled.

Dani shot her glance that spoke of disagreement with Sally’s outburst.

“Yes, I suppose this can be quite unsettling…. Knowing him only as Omega Red…” the old man spoke softly, never letting go of Omega Red.”

This is totally freaking me out! Stop that! That’s a mass murderer there!” Skids yelled again.

“Oh, he is… I know this… But he is also Arkady Rossovich…. Do you understand that?”

“As far as I know he was a total bastard before he ever gained powers. Child-molester or serial killer, depending on whom you ask…. Me, I’m gonna go with both, so I’m gonna ask you to step away from the bastard…. NOW!” Skids said, and threw her force field between the old man and Omega Red. Dani started realizing the strangeness as well, and pointed her gun once more at the old man. The old man backed away from Omega Red, and lifted his hands.

“There was a time when both of you would never have broken out of this trance” he said.

“You’re messing with us, old man? What gives you the right? Stay the hell away from my mind!” Dani yelled.

Skids responded more aggressively, and threw her force field around the old man, lifting him a few feet of the ground, in spite of the terrible strain. “Don’t ever mess with my mind again,” she said through clenched teeth, clearly showing how enraged she had gotten.

“Who are you exactly? What do you want with Red? What gives you the right to try and control Skids and me?” Dani asked, only slightly calmer.

“Have you ever heard that all is fair in love and war? Well, Arkady represents both! Just put me down. I’ll try and explain as much as I can,” he answered.

Skids looked at Dani, as if awaiting her orders. Dani thought about the start of her own team, and nodded at Skids. Skids gently put the old man down, and Dani lowered her gun once again.

“Now, I apologize…. You girls just have no idea how long it has been since I was able to touch Arkady. Even now, his skin bleached and scarred by the violence that surrounds him, he is still so very beautiful to me…”

“You were lovers,” Dani stated bluntly

“Yes, we were…. Lovers and cold warriors…. And we both found out that you cannot be both….” The old man said in a melancholy tone, “I am not trying to gain pity…. If anyone should be pitied, it’s Arkady… His sacrifice was the greatest…”

No matter how curious Dani was, her instincts got the best of her.

“What does this have to do with what is happening today? An assault on SHIELD? Omega Red breaking free? Why do I get the feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about?” Dani asked the old man.

“Because you are an intelligent woman…. Yes, I know what is happening. I know quite a lot, actually, and I also know that this is all tied into Omega Red and the fighting taking place in Berlin this evening. My powers may have degraded considerably with old age, but with some effort and concentration I can still follow the machinations of former allies….”

“Fighting in Berlin? Are we… Are we in Germany?” Skids asked.

“Just outside Berlin… Where some people you may know are involved in the same thing you are…. And where the hideout was that you trashed in your… remarkable vehicle…”

“What are you talking about?” Dani asked, getting annoyed with the half-answers the old man was throwing out.

“Well, no need to get excited… It’s just that… Well, vehicles like that are a bit too… James Bond for my tastes… When I was young, we…” the old man said smiling.

“Seems to me like you are jealous….” Skids said, visibly more relaxed now

“Of that vehicle? Indeed not….”

“Can you help us find that commando base?” Dani interrupted the irrelevant conversation

“That is exactly what I came here to do, dear…” the old man answered

“Then take us there….” Dani said, and put away her gun.

“Do you mind if I sit in the back with Arkady?” the old man asked

“Fine by me. Just so we are clear: the minute you or that animal get out of line, either I’ll shoot you, or Skids will crush you in a force field. Is that clear, Mr. Traumfanger?”

“Very clear….” The old man answered.

*********

Vazhin looked around his new office for a while, and then picked up his phone to call another operative.

“Nicolai. Who’s this?”

“Codename: Big Boy. Is this Codename: Old Boy?”

“It is he. What is it?”

“You are to proceed to grid 16-B, 0-5-HT. Any opposition encountered there is to be dealt with, with extreme prejudice. Is that
clear?”

“What opposition can I expect.”?

“Two girls. Americans. Mutants.”

“Agents?”

“Certainly. Will you comply?”

“I will. Old Boy out”

Vazhin hung up with a great feeling of satisfaction. “It is good that there are still walking WMD’s out there that you only need to point at the right target”, Vazhin thought. He got up out of his chair and walked around his new base as it was getting built. They had arrived barely two hours ago, and already the whole place was up and running. Again, he felt pride in his team. He looked at a man in a lab coat who was working on his android, Zero. The man, Dwight Salinger, did not notice Vazhin, until he felt the Colonel put his hand on his shoulder.

“How is our prime asset?” Vazhin asked.

“Completely on line. He may not be as versatile as he was back when the MLF owned him, but he’s still a very useful piece of equipment. It’s just that it needs constant maintenance these days.”

“Keep it up…. And keep working on getting his other functions back on line” Vazhin spoke as he walked around some more.

He found a computer station, and sat down. After logging in he opened a file named ‘Codename: Old Boy’. He looked through the file, and then ordered several spy-cams to the operative’s direct vicinity. Vazhin looked intently, and finally an image appeared. Standing in the middle of the base Vazhin had just abandoned was Nikolai Keyence AKA Vanguard, the Russian superhero and mutant. Vazhin looked at the costume Vanguard was wearing, still proudly displaying the symbolism of the old Soviet Union, and the Hammer & Sickle that Vanguard used so well in combat. It took all Vazhin had to keep from laughing out loud at the costume that he thought was absolutely ridiculous. He moved the spy-camera’s around a bit, to look at the surroundings of his old abandoned base, where Vanguard was awaiting the opposition. Twelve people were waiting with sniper-rifles, to take out whoever survived the confrontation between Vanguard and his opponents.

“I’ll probably hate myself for killing this idiot…” Vazhin mumbled.

“What was that, sir?” a nearby commando asked.”

Nothing, my boy… Just contemplating the various uses of patriotism…” Vazhin answered.

**********

A crowd had gathered by the hotel in the Pfaster Strasse now that the fighting had stopped. As usual, people got more curious that frightened, and while a superhero fight may be a common occurrence in NYC, it was something truly special in Berlin. Phone cameras were flashing, and Markus’ took action as soon as he realized his face would be all over the morning news. He stood by Ilyana where she had collapsed in the middle of the street, and motioned to Kurt to come over. Kurt did so, and Markus asked him if he was okay to teleport into the room where he had found Bullseye. Kurt nodded, and Markus fired one of his Uzi’s in the air a few times. All the spectators ducked out of sight, and Kurt teleported, into the exact same spot as he had appeared in the room a short while ago.

“Okay, get her on the bed!” Kurt called out, and Markus lifted Ilyana’s body. Markus carefully put down the demon-girl who was already regaining consciousness, and then he noticed he stepped in blood. At his feet was the dead body of the former mutant known as Maverick He stepped back, and Kurt looked at what had startled Markus.

“Mein got im Himmel…. That’s Maverick…. I recognize the mask…” Kurt said, as he pointed at the mask that had been violently shoved into the dead man’s chest.

“I guess it will be up to fingerprints to know for sure. My god, somebody had fun with this… Maverick… The German mutant operative? What is he doing here…”?

Ilyana got up from the bed, and ran her finger through the blood. She then looked at Markus, betraying some emotion by the trembling in her voice, and spoke softly: “I’m sorry, Markus, but the blood always tells…. This was your father…”