(Los Angeles Police Department)
Donna Kiel sits at her desk as several other officers mill around. She doesn’t look well. Her skin is pale and she stares into the distance as if something is on her mind. A detective informs her that there have been reports of heavy automatic gunfire on Catalina Island. It could be Akihiro-related. They have a chopper ready and she’s going with him. She stays in her seat so he stops and asks if she just heard him. “Nnnnn,” she mumbles before standing up and throwing up all over her desk. Once that’s out of her system her work face returns. “Okay. Let’s go.”
Roston faces down Daken and he tells him that there are two kinds of people in this world; the weak and the strong. Everyone wants to be the strong and everyone thinks that they’re strong, but not everyone can actually be strong. They all have things that they desperately need and are all addicted to certain things. “That in itself makes us weak. Well, some of us anyway.”
He punches Daken in the mouth and blood spurts from his wound. He grins at the shirtless Daken and tells him that for everyone who’s addicted there has to be someone who can supply them. It’s the basic transaction of the capitalist system. One person in that dynamic has power and one does not. He asks Daken if he’s getting his incredibly subtle subtext. Daken responds with a growl and charges at Roston, but his opponent moves quickly and grabs him as he approaches. Roston applauds his move as it would have disemboweled 99.9% of the people on this planet. Sadly for him, though, he’s not 99.9% of people. “I’m a star.” He breaks Daken’s left arm at the elbow, snapping it in two.
Daken no longer has his healing factor to repair the injury, thanks to Roston’s Heat pills. Roston admits that he’s impressed Daken broke their hold and went cold turkey. Normally, you’d die doing that. This is how he controls people. Struggling with the pain, Daken replies that he tracked down and killed his supplier, but Roston laughs it off. The guy he killed was a Beverly Hills dealer who he hired to be a front man in case the L.A.P.D. ever came knocking. He was a good man and an honest worker. Daken tore his innards out like a mad dog. But then, that’s what he is, right? A mongrel. That’s what the other boys called him when they teased him.
Daken is surprised that he knows this, but Roston asks him not to be. He shape-shifts into Daken’s form and informs him that, aside from his other talents, being phenomenally strong, fast and quite ludicrously handsome, he can also look like anyone. He can also become invisible and is also a little bit telepathic too. He disappears and speaks directly into Daken’s mind to prove his point. Daken is at a serious disadvantage and swings wildly. Roston, still invisible, tells him that he can see inside his head at all those nasty little psychotic secrets. He reckons they are quite alike. It’s what attracted him to Daken at first. He thinks Daken should be flattered as it’s a courtship of sorts. A compliment. They both enjoy manipulating the ordinary to elevate themselves. They are both far too smart to play the games of others. They both seek the bright lights of hedonism, both fully aware that ultimately, narcissism leads to nihilism. And, he adds, they are both quite blindingly insane.
He appears behind Daken who swings around quickly, claws at the ready. “I am not insane!” he cries. He manages to thrust the claws from his right hand into Roston’s right shoulder, which surprised Roston but only momentarily. He grabs Daken by the throat and lifts him off the ground. “That hurt. Mad doggie. Bad doggie!” he replies. “And mad, bad doggies get put down.” A helicopter then appears nearby and bathes them in a bright light. Roston drops Daken as the detective orders them both to put their hands in the air. They’re under arrest. Agent Kiel looks down and is surprised to see Daken down there. Roston tells Daken that it’s his ice-cold girlfriend. “Daken and Donna, sitting in a tree. K.I.S.S.I.N.G.” He reckons Kiel thinks she has a real emotional connection with Daken. She senses the mutual intellectual superiority, the ability to feel nothing. So, at least he knows she’ll try and protect him.
On board the helicopter, Agent Kiel orders the sniper to shoot the cop-killing sonofabitch. The sniper begins shooting and Daken has to take evasive action. “Wow,” grins Roston. “She’s a fickle one, eh?” The sniper keeps firing at the lone target, wondering where the other one went. Kiel goes a bit nuts, shouting at him to kill the @%*$. The detective orders her to pull herself together.
On the rooftops, Daken heads towards the roof edge. Invisible and now using his telepathy once again, Roston asks if he wants to jump in his condition. Is he sure he can make it? Daken leaps from the roof as a bullet slices through his left thigh. Daken tumbles down the slanted roof and falls a long way down over the cliff edge into the water below. Roston reminds Daken that he came to Los Angeles wanting to creates something… something tangible that he could be proud of. Something that would distinguish him. How’s that working out? Up above, the helicopter is joined by a second but despite using searchlights, they are unable to locate Daken’s body. They reckon he must have sunk like a stone.
Around the coast, an elderly couple is relaxing on board their yacht. A shadow crosses the husband and he looks up to see Daken silhouetted before him. “Get off this boat,” he demands. “Immediately. For your own good.” He tells them they wouldn’t believe how badly he needs to bully someone right now. The couple isn’t stupid and they leap into the water. Daken groans in pain as he slumps onto the lounger with his right arm giving him severe problems.
The LAPD detective and Donna Kiel are at a crime scene. One officer hurls into a trash can as everyone looks at the carnage before them. The bodies of several Los Angeles crime bosses sit around a large table but their severed heads sit on plates where the food should be. Kiel recognizes some of the faces and reckons it looks like Daken’s been cleaning house. A night of the long knives for L.A.’s crime scene. The detective guesses her stomach problem from earlier has cleared up, and Kiel replies that it has.
Daken, meanwhile, gets off the boat and makes his way to the shore with his arm in a sling. With no home, no power base, no resources and no healing factor, he thanks goodness he is still alive. He wonders if Roston knows this. He thinks he probably does. It’s no fun in a game when you’re the only one playing it. The thought hovers that he could head back to Madripoor and regroup and return to L.A. in strength. He could run. The word alone makes his bile rise and bubble with self-loathing. He feels Roston’s girlish giggle suck on repeat in his head. He heads to a seedy locale and robs a dealer of some of his Heat pills. He thinks about what kind of man Roston is. He is a shape-shifter so he could be anyone. He created the Heat drug in order to control people, so through Heat he will control Roston.
Daken heads to the home of a young chemist named Alan Tweedy and presents him with the drug. Alan checks it out and asks what it is. Daken informs him that it’s a party drug. He wants to know everything about it or he will hurt him quite badly. Alan tells him he’s a bit testy with hired help and asks how he found him anyway. He left S.H.I.E.L.D. when Norman Osborn ran his little coup and he’s kept clear of the scene ever since. Daken replies that he has contacts and asked for a brilliant spook chemist in Los Angeles. He wasn’t told that the spook chemist would not legally be able to purchase alcohol. Alan replies that he’s 29. He just looks younger. “29 and living with your mother,” replies Daken as she appears carrying a washing basket. She warns Daken that if he threatens Alan again she’ll call the police. Alan, embarrassed, shouts at her that she doesn’t control him and orders her to get out.
Daken tells Alan that it’s important to be respectful of your parents. It’s a personal code of his. Alan replies that he’s going to have to concentrate really hard so could Daken shut up and play Xbox or something? As Alan studies the drug, Daken hits the laptop and does a search on Roston. He discovers that he’s completely unheard of in the superhuman community, yet he seems to have the power set of a god. How is that possible? he wonders. Where has he been?
He checks on Roston’s background and determines that he was raised in Malibu by movie producer parents. He presumes this is false, of course. He went traveling in Europe for several years and got his first supporting role in a Scorcese movie just two years ago. A lead in a risible Todd Phillips comedy six months later made him a star. A shape-shifter, thinks Daken. How perfect to then become an actor. He recalls back when he was on Catalina, he overheard Roston say something about an ‘idiot family.’ Family… Los Angeles crime connections?
Eventually, Alan reports back on his findings. He explains that there is actually a lot of blood in the Heat drug. It’s largely created from blood, but it’s not human blood. So, he may have possibly kind of stolen S.H.I.E.L.D.’s superhuman database records when he left and he’ll never guess who the blood belongs to. “A member of the Pride,” replies Daken as he grabs his coat. Alan asks how he knew, but Daken simply asks him to give his mother his regards.
Daken knows things about the Pride. For a while, they were the covert rulers of the Los Angeles underworld for a quarter of a century. They included time-travelers, telepathic mutants, alien invaders, mad scientists and dark wizards and their existence went unknown for years before their apparent deaths. One of them, thinks Daken, plainly survived, or perhaps he was never part of their Californian cabal. Maybe he was traveling in Europe. When the Pride disappeared, a power vacuum was created in L.A. and Roston returned. Daken feels a little scared at just how badly he wants this @%*& dead. Unfortunately, he realizes that he currently has certain limitations and cannot achieve this alone. He needs help.
He calls Donna Kiel and informs her that he saw her in the helicopter. He assures her that he’s not the claws killer and he thinks she knows that too. He wasn’t responsible for the murders on Catalina. He tells her that he saw her in a vision he had whilst in hospital. He doesn’t know why, but he believes she’s meant to help him. He needs her. Kiel replies that Roston is strong whilst he is weak. He will rip him into bloody chunks of mongrel chunks when he tires of playing with him. She hangs up and Daken looks at the phone, surprised. Kiel then tries to hold in another barf.
Daken has a question. How does one kill a member of the Pride? He heads to Malibu and locates the house where the Pride’s children currently reside. He sneaks inside and heads into the kitchen, Unfortunately, he’s been spotted. Karolina Dean’s energies light up the room and Molly cries out that they have a creepy burglar. Before he can move, Klara Prast uses her control over plants to have shoots rip through the kitchen floor and grab his arms and leg. He manages to slash one of them with his claws, but he is punched to the floor by Molly, who kneels on him. He looks up to see Chase Stein, Nico Minoru and Victor Mancha also in the room. Nico tells ‘mohawk’ that the seventies called and want their look back. She asks who he is and what he wants with the runaways. Molly adds that they were kinda enjoying being left alone!