"YOU'RE NOT WHAT-?!" Murdock screamed, and the official haughtily straightened his tie.
"We," the official Donathan began again, "…are not going to fund the suit against Mr. 'Bastion' with government funds. Your suit, Mr. Murdock, being a civilian, has been placed under 'independent counsel', and recent laws on the matter, due to the Clinton Affair, say you must pay your own way, so to speak. Now Mr. Bastion is entitled to a trial… and why your volunteering was even allowed is beyond me, even if you were the lawyer for the Fantastic Four. The matter remains, any funds used in research, etc. will come from whatever resources you can muster."
"That's insane!" Matt growled. "How do you expect me to fight Bastion's million-dollar lawyers without any sort of funding?! There's a thousand different channels that I need to look into, about SHIELD, about Operation: Zero Tolerance-"
"Much of which is classified," the official put in.
"Much of which, by the Law, you have to share with the Prosecution!"
"The government doesn't see it that way."
"What's with you?!" the lawyer hissed, disbelieving. "You give me a fixed deck and expect me to win-?"
Murdock's 'eyes', or to be more accurate, his fine-tuned radar, sensed the facial expression, the official's tone, his heartbeat, and then said: "Oh. I see."
"You 'see', Counselor? And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Just what you think it means," Murdock frowned, latching his briefcase closed and opening the door. "That's the idea, isn't it? The whole idea… Crystal clear."
"I don't know what you're insinuating, Murdock-"
"Yes. You do. Good day, Sir."
Murdock speedily descended the courthouse steps. Bastion. The man had his hooks so deep in everyone that they couldn't take shallow breaths without his say-so. Well, he wasn't going to let him win like that… Not without a fight, anyhow. He was going to-
"NGH!" He grunted, stopping on the bottom step. His injuries. He had to only exert himself when it was necessary. As pathetic as it sounded for a man who was a masked vigilante by night, he wasn't supposed to even run fast unless the situation truly called for it. Murdock recomposed himself and walked down the sidewalk towards Hell's Kitchen, "looking" for a taxi as he did so.
A lot had happened in the past few days… Too much. His volunteering to head Prosecution in the trial against the man behind Operation: Zero Tolerance was getting in over his head as it was, but kidnapping "government property", if that's what SHIELD wanted to call it, had put his alter-ego Daredevil in hot water as well. He was a federally-wanted criminal when he put on the costume now, the costume he used to protect innocent people from the Evil of the world. And by day? By Day he was Matt Murdock, wanted by genocidal butchers who had about fifty connections within the same government. On the whole, he had simply pissed off Washington DC, any way you looked at it. ( Washington DC, he thought. Mental Note: Reserve a flight for the trial. )
And what about Natasha? She'd betrayed her SHIELD position by helping him kidnap the mutant child. Was she alright? Was she going to be forced to flee the damned nation because of a favor to him?
Foggy wasn't exactly liking him a ton nowadays, either, although fortunately he didn't have problems there. Not the ones like he was having with Karen, anyhow. Karen! With AIDs! Which might mean he had the disease… ( Mental Note: Schedule appointment with doctor. ). And what could she say to him? Nothing more than butt out.
"Wonderful," he sniffed as he looked up, noticing that he had walked the entire way back to this apartment. "My life, make that 'lives', are down the crapper, to use a technical term."
He walked up the steps of his townhouse, yawning from the sleepiness that came with staying up all night. The wounds that lay bandaged under his shirt weren't helping either. Time for a hot bath and…
Matt stopped by the door, shocked. He had been 'called' for a meeting once by Nick Fury, brought there by SHIELD shock troopers [[[ Daredevil, The Man Without Fear #298 ]]]. And they had caught him at HOME. What if they still had Daredevil's real identity on file?? The thought chilled him, and he entered the room cautiously, despite the fact that he should have been able to hear anybody inside from the staircase.
Well, if they knew who he was, they weren't making use of the information…. Yet. His apartment was empty. He put away his brief case, began to wash up as he listened to the answering machine….
"Matt, this is Foggy. Mom wants you to represent this guy… name's Peter Sung… at his preliminary hearing. It's at two o' clock this afternoon." Click. Blast. Foggy was still pissed. Well, it could wait. Matt looked at the answering machine, noting with disappointment that there were no more messages. Nothing from Karen at all. Hmph.
Better get down to the courthouse. 2:00 was coming up, and he needed at least a tad of time with the plaintiff. He thought about taking the red suit along, decided against it, and left.
* * * *
"Yes? I'm in the middle of an important putt, Pembroke."
"My apologies, Sir… You asked to be kept up to date on the lawyer's position?"
"Ah, yes," he smiled, blowing a great cloud of smoke into the darkness of the large office. "Did you send our condolences and offer to the man?"
"Yes, Sir. Mr. Murdock should receive our offering quite soon."
"Won-derful. Out of the way, Pembroke. I'm 2 below Par as is."
* * * *
"You are my lawyer?" Peter Sung asked as Matt Murdock sat down across the table. Matt nodded, unlatched the briefcase. He didn't have to look up at his defendant to get a profile of him. He was young, a teenager, and Chinese ( or "Chinese-American", if they preferred ). His clothes were pretty cliché for a member of a gang: the leather coat, the ear rings, and Murdock had heard from an officer that his hair was colored too. He'd have to simply take the officer's word for it.
"Yep," Matt answered. "Let's see what we can do for you today, Mr. Sung."
"I have seen you on TV?" Sung asked, and Matt sighed, said: "I hope not. I never look good on the screen. Whatsay we get down to business, Mr. Sung? We don't have long before the preliminary hearing."
"…Lawyers.. help the defendants, right?"
"Not in mugging senior citizens," Matt answered, "…which, I believe, is the criminal act you're charged with. Is this your first offense? No, wait, I have your papers here. Ooh. Second offense."
"Will you help me…?" Sung was asking, and Matt "looked up" from the papers.
"I'm trying to, Mr. Sung," Matt answered impatiently, and then Sung held up an envelope. "What's that?"
"It is a letter," Sung answered. "…Whether I am convicted or not, it does not matter… But I would see that this envelope is mailed. Will you mail it for me?"
"Why can't you-"
"I need it mailed today," Sung answered sharply. "You're a lawyer, right..? You help defendants? You're sworn to confidentiality? You won't open it!"
"Fine.. and no, I won't open it…" Matt sighed, taking the letter. "Can we please move on to your Defense?"
"Yes, thank you!" Sung smiled, and Matt began to talk again. When Matt stepped out of the room, he had gotten Peter Sung to plead "Guilty" and pay a fine. The boy worried him; he didn't seem like the type who was going to learn from his mistakes, but he'd have to spend the night in jail. Maybe that would help him.
Murdock walked through the police station's main floor, his heightened senses picking up ten different conversations..
"I'm tellin' you, she's driving me nuts-!"
"Gotta watch 'X-Files' tonight! Scully and Fox switch bodies-"
"Put out the APB on Daredevil, then…"
"Hell, why don't we just put out an APB on Captain America?! I live in Hell's Kitchen-"
"Can you believe Petey Sung's getting off with some bigshot lawyer?! Damn member of the gangs that've been trafficking all that crap through Chinatown and he gets off with a slap on the wrist… We should put him under the hot lights is what we should do…."
Matt stopped at the last conversation, listening. He'd heard about the shipments coming through Chinatown, but never got a line on it. Drugs, guns… Bad things. Peter Sung was a part of it?
The letter suddenly became a little bit heavier, just enough to make him notice it. He stepped out of the police station, descending the steps and walking down the sidewalk. Lawyer's confidentiality. He'd promised he wouldn't read the letter, even if Sung was a part of something nasty…
…Something nasty that had already claimed several lives, innocent ones…
He took the envelope out of his pocket and focused completely upon his fingertips, pressing them ever-so-slightly against the envelope. The strain as he worked began to give him a headache, but he could just sense the words upon the paper inside the envelope…
Well, he never opened it, did he? He'd deliver the letter himself, though. There were a few names inside.
The Devil smiled and raced home.
8:30 PM. The Devil had been staking out the address within the envelope for the last few hours, watching, waiting. Night had since descended, and his outfit felt stuffy. Chinatown glowed with a million different lights, in a thousand different colors. The overall grandeur of it all was lost to him, however; he just believed Karen when she said it was 'spectacular'.
Karen. Where the hell are you, Karen?
He winced. He was cramping, and his wounds were feeling it, just as they had felt it when he'd climbed up to the rooftop. The shipment described in Peter Sung's letter (stupid kid for putting all that in a letter and giving it to a stranger, lawyer or no) would be arriving soon, however… Thank goodness.
Actually, he'd seen a number of tough customers already go inside. The black leather jackets. Motorcycles and black cars. The Devil waited for the shipment, though. That was the prize. The evidence he'd need if these people weren't to be re-released onto the street.
It was almost nine o' clock when he saw it. A large truck pulling up towards the warehouse, making its way to the back loading dock. He stood, groaning at the first movement in hours, and made a leap out into the light-filled air of Chinatown. His billy club fired its grappling hook, and it snapped home on the gangs' own roof. Air rushed by the Devil as he flew across the street, finally landing hard on the side of the warehouse. It hurt a bit, but he'd live with it.
He ran across the roof, got a good view of the loading dock. The driver and his co-driver stepped out of the truck, looking about nervously. Typical behaviour for those engaged in illegal behavior, Daredevil thought… and then he took a second look and noticed what the two drivers had noticed.
Where were the gang members? Why didn't they come out to start unloading the truck? Good questions, and he'd learn them once he took care of the drivers.
They were getting far too suspicious, far too nervous… The two drivers were pulling out their guns, looking about almost frantically. They'd probably start looking up any moment now. They'd spot him.
Well then, it was now or never. Daredevil leaped off the roof, sailing down through the air. The drivers looked up, their faces horrified, and the main driver aimed his gun heavenwards. Daredevil gritted his teeth as the sound of gunshots hurt his ears, and two bullets flew past him. One of them narrowly missed.
The Devil's boot slammed into the driver's jaw, and Daredevil wheeled in the air to catch the co-driver by the nose with his other foot. The scarlet vigilante landed, and sent the co-driver down for the count with a left hook. Old move, yeah. One his father used to teach him.
The drivers were down, and their guns were unloaded in seconds. Now then… Where was Sung's gang?
Only one way to find out. The Devil slowly opened the door, wincing as it creaked loudly. There were no lights on in the warehouse. This didn't affect Daredevil, but it meant something was definitely wrong, either for him or for the gang. He entered the warehouse, creeping among the crates and pipes…
He couldn't see or hear anything. Daredevil frowned and hit a metal pipe with his billy club, generating a noise that reverberated throughout the large room… and right back to him. There! A man with a gun!!!
He hurled his billy club forward, letting the club collide with the unseen attacker's hand, and then rushed forward to pin the punk down. It was over in a moment, and Daredevil's radar traced the outline of his face…
"What the-?…" he whispered… The man was already beaten, and savagely. The Devil's senses outlined a knife stuck in the man's arm, and blood running down his face, leg, and chest. The punk whimpered, shut his eyes and didn't resist. Daredevil frowned… The fight was definitely gone out of him, and now that he had more of a chance to "look" around, he saw several other members of the gang lying comatose, beaten.
"Whar hit you fellas…?" the Devil asked, and then his radar alerted him to the presence of another man. This one was quite healthy, with a very strong heartbeat, and crouching on a crate higher up. Daredevil turned towards the observer, illustrating to him that he knew he was there.
"I see you!" Daredevil hissed, holding his billy club ready in his hand. "I see you there… What the hell is this? Who are you?!"
From all that the Devil could 'see', the observer was wearing a Kung Fu artist's traditional outfit, black and white. Complete with the little bedroom slippers, the Devil thought wryly. In the artist's hand lay a pair of nunchukas, two wooden clubs connected by a chain… A deadly, quick weapon that could deliver a crushing blow in the blink of an eye, in the right hands. And although the Daredevil wasn't sure, he suspected by the look of the mand and the gang that they lay in the right hands. The mystery man was Chinese, as well…
"I am the China Man, You Who Dress in Red…" the Kung Fu artist answered icily. "Protector and Citizen of the People of Chinatown. And you had best have reason for your presence here… Who are you? I cannot see you clearly in this darkness."
"Call me Daredevil," the vigilante answered with a frown. "I'm basically located around Hell's Kitchen, and I like long, moonlit walks on the beach-"
The Devil was caught off as the one called China Man launched himself towards the crimson crimefighter. He failed to bring up his defense in time, and both of the vigilantes smashed through one of the crates. Several boxes fell around them as Daredevil struggled to regain his balance and kicked Keeper uneffectively in the ribcage. The China Man grunted, sent his nunchukas crashing down upon the Red Man's skull.
Daredevil groaned. He was disoriented, dizzy… He felt the chain of the nunchukas wrap around his neck and tighten as the lunatic crouched above him.
"YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE!" the China Man growled. "Leave me! Leave this place! This is not your place, Devil! Your place is the Kitchen!"
"I don't…urk.." the Devil strained against the chain, and he sent his fist into the C-Man's face. The nunchukas loosened, and Daredevil knocked China Man backwards. "…I don't see your name on it."
"Your place is the Kitchen, Devil!" C-Man hissed, even as his pair of nunchukas suddenly became two whirling pair of nunchukas, "…Go. Flee from here! Flee from me!"
"…Maybe I would've, as I don't even see any dead," the Devil smiled, even as he fought to stand up straight, "…but after that? Nah…"
The Devil gave a grin. "I'm far too interested. So. 'China Man'. Not very PC, eh? Well, at least that means I can just focus on your skull…"
"Your mistake is a grave one, Devil…" said China Man, and the nunchukas twirled faster. "I do not… wish to hurt you! I would loathe it!"
"KIIIII!!!" the China Man screamed, leaping forward to the attack. The Devil was ready this time, and he knew a bit of Kung Fu from various fights… He ducked, ramming his billy club into the man's side and using the loon's momentum to hurl the attacker through the wooden wall.
The China Man rolled out onto Chinatown's streets, stood. One of his sandles landed at his feet.
"That belong to you?" the Devil smiled.
The man stood, one of his legs slightly forward and off the ground. Typical Kung Fu stance. Daredevil sighed and took the challenge, running towards the little man.
He wasn't quite sure what hit him.C-Man's foot slammed into the side of the Devil's head, followed by another foot into his gut and then a punch in the forehead. The Devil raised his arm, blocking a blow and failing to block the next two. He groaned, dizzy, and gave a solid punch to C-Man's own gut, but it didn't slow the Kung Fu artist's attack down. Another three hits and Daredevil was lying on the hood of a car, exhausted and aching.
"…Nice.." Daredevil groaned as he fought to stand… "..but my name's…still better.. 'China Man'..? Come on…"
A crowd was gathering. Some tourists snapped pictures. Wonderful, DD thought as he cleared his head. With this kind of attention, it wouldn't be long before somebody came to arrest him. And he couldn't be caught, not if Bastion was going to be put away… which meant he might have to really hurt someone.
And then, of course, there was the psycho in pajamas standing in front of him.
"…Look, Mao… This is childish. Are you actually attacking me for invading your 'turf'?"
"Do not make it sound trivial!" the man answered. "I lord over the streets of Chinatown! I am the New Law alone, and I will not have you here! The Devil has his own Hell to guard!"
"You've got to be kidding me. You sound like an animal," DD said, wiping blood from his face.
"You?! You, of all people, insult me!!!"
"Oh, for the luvva…" the Devil groaned as the China Man leaped forward with a kick. He ducked and sidestepped, letting the foot crash the car's window. The China Man withdrew his foot, cried out in pain.
"MY.. MY FOOT!" he moaned, looking down at it. The glass had bloodied it tremendously… and although Daredevil knew he should probably feel a little sorry for taking advantage of the situation, he wasn't feeling very compassionate.
"My club," he huffed, striking the China Man's chest with his baton. Appropiate pressure to the correct point sent "Mao" down to the street… and he probably wouldn't be getting up, once Daredevil punched him a few more times-
Dammit! Daredevil turned, taking a few deep breaths of the cold air, and "saw" the two officers standing there. The younger of the two screamed the usual bit about Daredevil being under arrest, and Daredevil wrestled with his choices… Knock 'em both out? What about "Mao" here? COULD he knock them both out, being as exhausted as he was from the China Man's blows? On a normal day, would he knock them out?
Well, for the Scarlet Swashbuckler, it was actually a somewhat normal day, so he might as well test it. He let the billy club fly, tracking its course with his sonar as it slammed into both of the cops' guns. The officers cried out in pain, even as their guns fell and Daredevil caught his club. Time to get out and leave China Man as a little offering.
He ran up the hood of the car, jumped off its roof as he fired the billy club's grappling hook. Up, up, and away, he thought with a frown. The Man Without Fear soared through the brightly lit night of Chinatown.
As Daredevil made his escape, the two officers grudgingly retrieved their weapons and turned to the beaten Chinese vigilante…
The China Man stood, looking at the fearing audience of civilians with a menacing scowl… and then made his own escape into the night. Foolish dolts. The police were fortunate he saw fit not to harm them… much.
* * * * WASHINGTON D.C. * * *
"Mr. Bastion? Mr. Bastion?"
The office commanded a lovely view of the Washington Monument. Bastion sat behind his desk, holding a mug of coffee in one hand and tapping the keys on his keyboard with the other. "My favorite official of the government law… Donathan. Welcome. How goes the Defense for my trial? And better yet, how goes the Prosecution?"
"Murdock's been classified as independent counsel, Sir."
"We're quite confident, Sir, that we have severely cut off his Prosecution's support. The fact that much of the evidence in this case is classified works much in your favor as well, Sir."
"Won-derful," the commander of Operation: Zero Tolerance grinned, and then a knock came on the door. Bastion raised an eyebrow. It was very, very late… Who could be calling on him at such a time-?
"Prime Sentinel 105, stand-by for activation," Bastion whispered, and the official's eyes went blank. Then, he yelled "COME IN!" and waited as the door opened.
A man entered. He was around the same age as Bastion supposedly was, with grey hair and a balding head. He wore a suit and tie, and over that a trenchcoat. And upon his belt loop, he had attached a SHIELD badge. Bastion grinned.
"Ah. Good evening, Mr. Cold," Bastion said, his humor returning. "Is everything prepared?"
"Slight problems in New York City that I had to look into, so forgive my lateness," Cold said as he sat. "Another of those masked vigilantes… Daredevil.. has been causing something of a nuisance… and one of my own best agents when rogue and helped the damned man."
"As interesting as that is-"
"Don't be rude, Bastion. The 'best agent' was Black Widow."
Bastion was silent for a moment, then said: "Did you catch her?!"
"She's been found and captured, while trying to skip to Canada. We obtained the aid of Department H in taking her down. We're holding her in a private installation now," Cold said, lighting a cigar. "Figgers into yer plan big, don't she?"
"Indeed, Cold. I was just going over my trial with Donathan here-"
"Don't gimme that crap, Bastion," Cold said smugly. "He's a stinkin' Sentinel. I can smell a man, tell ya what he is, what makes him tick… heh."
"Let us simply get to it," Bastion said impatiently. "After the trial is over and I am found innocent-"
"And I'm sure ya seen to that, eh?"
"-after I am found innocent, I will rendezvous at the complex with you, the captive Black Widow, and the others… From there, we put into effect my second plan…"
Cold nodded, headed for the door. "See ya in Hell, Bastion."
"At approximately midnight in two days, yes."
As the door closed behind Cold, Bastion looked over at the still Donathan, wondering if he should reactivate the man's human side. He decided against it for the moment, since he was enjoying his solitude, and relaxed in his chair… Let mutants tremble. They knew not how in his hands they were.
Well, two days until his day in court… Heh. More comedy… The prosecution wouldn't even be able to fund their case…
… After all, where could they obtain money in such an amount?
* * * NEW YORK CITY * * *
Daredevil had been standing in the freezing cold on the rooftop for an hour now, not moving a muscle. Some would think he was frozen, others would think it was a moment of silence… but in truth, Daredevil's mind was tearing itself apart..
His hand clenched a letter he had found in his home when he returned from his foray in Chinatown. It was cold, damp. That's what you got from being outside on such an hour.
He had no money for the prosecution… Sharpe couldn't fund him what he needed, if the witch would… He needed something more.. He'd been forced to choose several times throughout his career between the Greater Good and the Immediately Good…
…Well, chalk it up as another one of those… He fired his grappling hook and swinged across the NY city sky, toward a large, ominous building… It wasn't the building he was so familiar with, but the stench was the same…
* * *
"Right away, Sir."
"You've got quite a sense there, Willie," Daredevil hissed as he leaped through the open window. Wilson Fisk, the once-and-almost-again Kingpin of Crime smiled, rising from where he sat in his chair… The Devil narrowed his unseeing eyes. The familiar gigantic frame of Fisk. The same woeful stench of evil.
"When it comes to your type, I certainly do," Fisk answered, blowing a mighty cloud of smoke. Like the dragon he was, the Devil thought.
"Is this letter some sort of a sick joke, Willie?" the Devil asked through clenched teeth, raising the soaked envelope. Fisk smiled, damn him.
"Not at all," he answered, sitting down again. "I am quite interested in funding your case against the government witch-hunter Bastion."
"Where's the string attached, Fisk?"
"There is none."
Of course there isn't, the Devil thought, and he knew it was true. He knew Wilson Fisk, knew him quite well… The Fat Man got sadistic pleasure out of the very knowledge that he would be forced to use his greatest enemy's money. Fisk appreciated such poetry… He was an artist in evil.
"…Take a moment to think it over," Fisk grinned, puffing on his cigar… The Devil frowned as the smoke assaulted his delicate sense of smell.
"You can send it to my account in the law firm," Daredevil said simply, and the large man nodded in agreement. Fisk put in: "…Any resources you are in need of, my friend… Any resources.."
Daredevil left then, but he'd have to be back as Murdock in the morning to take care of the paperwork… Something that would probably cause a scandal to further discredit his case, but he needed the money..
The Devil sells his soul to a true demon, he thought….
NEXT: TRIAL AND… BLOOD!