Symka: Part 32

Copyright Sean McGinity © 2005

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Faced with the same evil, you too would cower."

Page One

Caption: Gideon is the son of the evil mage Manus Katharta. Manus was part of a long chain of sons who would kill their fathers (and therefore gain their additional power) to continue a perverted chain for the powerful being Pitawa. Pitawa was creating the ultimate power through this chain to aid in the destruction of his brother, Manapatapoo, a being who had recently been disembodied through his mystic connection to the Asemka. The broken pieces of the Asemka, 4 tablets called the Symka once assembled would bring Manapatapoo back to an earthly plane to face Pitawa's subtle evil reign on the Earth.

Initially unaware of the true machinations of his father, save that he intended to take over his son's body, Gideon fled his father. Marimus, Gideon's mother aided Gideon's escape, remaining behind to face Manus's wrath.

Gideon and Joaquin Ramirez, who would become El Tigre, an apparent Mutate with leaping abilities and instinctual fighting prowess became friends after Gideon saved Joaquin's life at the hands of some loan sharks.

Agents for two antiquarians, Bryce Falkingham and Bryan Richardson, stole two of the Symka tablets from the Winnipeg Museum of Antiquities. Gideon and Joaquin encountered the agents who were having an altercation with Hi Tech Henchmen, the security company in charge of security at the museum. As a result of this encounter, the two men found themselves in the possession of a Symka tablet.

Silver, a telepath who is able to shapechange into various types of animals and her partner Stick, a super strong fighter with telescoping staff were investigating the theft. Trying to establish themselves as heroes, Silver and Stick investigated the robbery at the Winnipeg Museum of Antiquities, which brought them into direct contact with Gideon and Joaquin. Silver trusted Gideon and Joaquin as not being the actual thieves in the robbery, as their scent she had picked up was not present at the museum.

Their uneasy alliance was followed by Dale Turcott, reporter for local news station Independent News. Independent News, recently purchased by Katharta Inc., the head company run by Manus Katharta using Dale's footage, covered the incident. Dale was let go from Independent News and was threatened by members of Katharta Inc.

Silver, Stick, Joaquin, and Gideon decided to collect the four Symka tablets, if only to keep them away from others that would use it for evil ends.

In one of their encounters, the team came across Mordo, who mystically altered Stick's staff with power. Although the staff was indeed much more powerful, it also, unbeknownst to Stick allowed Mordo to keep tabs on the group. Mordo had a particular interest in Joaquin. It was during this encounter that Dale unofficially became an ally of the keepers of the Symka, after helping them get grievously injured Silver to the hospital.

Page Two

Caption: The group acquired their second Symka tablet from Bryan and Bryce, after a heated battle on a New York City rooftop with a group of Mutates hired by the two partners.

During an attempted theft of the third Symka tablet, which was in the possession of Manus Katharta himself, with the team overwhelmed, unable to escape with the third tablet and driven to desperation, Joaquin struck the tablet with a mystical blade he had taken from Bryan and Bryce's Mutates, capable of shattering magical spells. The blade knocked Joaquin into a coma, but also put him in contact on the astral plane with the soul of Manapatapoo. Manapatapoo revealed the true nature of the Symka tablets to him, which had been unknown up to this point to the group. While most assumed joining the tablets would grant the owner untold power, this was not the truth. Rejoining the Symka back into the Asemka would return Manapatapoo to this plane, and offer a threat to Pitawa his evil brother.

Gathering their wits, and with Joaquin recovered from his coma, the team made a second attempt on Manus Katharta's Symka tablet. But Manus would see them all die to regain the tablet. Using an opening, Gideon savagely beat his father with the tablet, not stopping for fear he would just return time after time. Gideon did not let up and his father died at his hands.

Gideon's action fragmented the group, causing them to question their own loyalties to each other.

With three tablets in their custody, Pitawa made his move. Pitawa's minions, Ares, Hypnos and Link fought Silver, Joaquin, Stick, and Dale while Gideon went face to face with Pitawa. Although final victory against the minions was theirs, Stick was felled in battle. Gideon's own encounter against Pitawa also had its own revelations to it. Gideon questioned his sanity as possible remnants of his father's magics appeared to flow through him.

The keepers of the Symka decided to support one another and get the last of the Symka despite everything that had happened. Gideon however has begun to question himself. The three Symka tablets are entrusted to the mage of the government parahuman team CST, Host, while the keepers of the Symka planned their next move.

During all of this, the assassin Snapshot follows them, hired by some unknown enemy of the group.

The search for the last of the Symka creates a questionable alliance with Snapshot who offers to aid them. Snapshot flies the team to Mordo Island where they encounter Lurch. On Mordo Island, Snapshot is separated from the party who are welcomed into Lurch's temple. Snapshot encounters Mordo, the evil demon that tracked the heroes to the island via Stick's staff the team kept around after Stick's demise. He forges a deal with Snapshot, entrusting the staff to him with new powers, to help the demon gain entry to Lurch's temple, which has mystical barriers against him.

Page Three

Splash page of the heroes standing before Lurch, who is revealing a shocking truth to El Tigre. Everyone is in shock at the news, but none more so than El Tigre. His uneasiness before this man has all been explained in one moment in time.

Caption: Meanwhile, Lurch reveals the truth to Joaquin...

Lurch: That is why I entrust the tablets to you and with this task. Because I trust no one more than my son...

Lurch: JOAQUIN

Title: WHO DO YOU TRUST?

Page Four

Panel 1.

Tight 1/4 shot of El Tigre and Lurch. Others may be in the background of this panel. Lurch is looking away from El Tigre at a sound coming from the door (off-panel).

Caption: But the validity of this statement must wait as...

Fx: BANG! BANG! BANG!

Lurch: Eh? Who would dare interrupt...?

Panel 2.

Full shot. Lurch storms over to the door, angry at the break in the moment. He looks vengeful like he will flay the skin off the servant on the other side of the door.

Lurch: You should hope this is of the direst emergency to disturb me at such a time.

Fx: BANG! BANG! BANG!

Panel 3.

Tight shot of Lurch's hand on the door handle.

Lurch (thinking): Must contain my anger. I do not want to agitate Joaquin. Not at such a critical stage.

Panel 4.

Narrow panel with Lurch opening the door. The figure behind the door is only partially revealed here.

Lurch (thinking): I shall punish the intrusion away from my son. But for now...

Panel 5.

Large panel. Snapshot runs into the room, pushing Lurch aside. He has a panicked look on his face. Lurch is taken by surprise.

Snapshot: You have to help me! Quickly... before it's too late.

Page Five

Panel 1.

3/4 shot. Snapshot is pointing out past the door, a panic on his face. Lurch is looking at the man questioningly.

Snapshot: Lurch! This is your place and you know of the evil I speak of. Now quickly before it's too late!

Lurch: Calm yourself before I obliterate you where you stand! How did you gain entry to my...

Snapshot: There is no time. Mordo is coming! He's here!

Panel 2.

Close-up of Lurch's face. Fear and uncertainty run through him.

Lurch: Mordo.

Panel 3.

Snapshot is pleading with Lurch now. The others are watching them. Silver has a look of fear matched with disgust. She hates the vileness of Mordo. Gideon is hesitant, remembering the encounter with Mordo, and worried about retribution.

Snapshot: Forget who I am and why you think I came here. Please. When I recovered outside, he was there demanding entry into the temple, saying he followed you all here.

Snapshot: I ran away, and managed to get inside the temple.

Panel 4.

Lurch is trying to steel himself, putting on a brave face, explaining more for himself than for Snapshot why they are safe.

Lurch: I would strike you down where you stand right now... but you have brought me news.

Lurch: But have no fear. Mordo cannot gain entry to this temple, despite his strongest magics. It is protected against his specific evil. There is no possible entry into this place.

Panel 5.

Snapshot is calming down, listening to Mordo's words, and gauging his reaction for his next move.

Snapshot: Are you sure? Okay, okay, I believe you. He just seemed so sure of himself. He was going on about the loophole into the place, something you left open to entrap him... And he started laughing at that.

Panel 6.

Lurch his running through possible scenarios in his head, and fear creeps into his eyes.

Lurch: The loophole... the pentagram. Could he...?

Page Six

Panel 1.

Lurch runs out of the room down the hall. Snapshot and the others watch him go, not yet reacting to what is going on.

Lurch: Pray you are wrong!

Panel 2.

Lurch opens a beautiful carved door (from last issue that Snapshot was trying to get into).

Caption: Lurch has lived most of his long life in fear of a single moment. And he fears that moment is upon him.

Panel 3.

Large panel. Shot over Lurch's shoulder we see a bare room lit with a multitude of lit candles. The centerpiece of this room is a pentagram drawn up with salt against the far wall about 10 feet in diameter.

Caption: But when he enters this room, what he expects and what he sees are not the same. His heart skips a beat and his pulse races.

Lurch: No, nothing yet. He is not here. At least not yet.

Panel 4.

Lurch kneels before the pentagram, checking the lines of it. Snapshot stands next to him, his newly crafted staff in hand. His face betrays the uncertainty he feels. The others are also walking into the room, with Gideon at the forefront.

Lurch: The lines are perfect... no breaks.

Gideon: What is this place, Lurch.

Lurch: Merely a backdoor... to allow Mordo entry into my temple.

Panel 5.

1/4 shot of Snapshot.

Snapshot (thinking): What am I doing here... this is crazy!

Mordo (in a telepathic balloon): As the staff allows me to communicate with you, I also understand your plan now, Snapshot.

Gideon (off-panel): What? If you are so afraid... no wait, there's more than that going on here.

Lurch (off-panel): Of course there is. It's a containment area, meant to draw Mordo here. Once trapped inside this pentagram, he would be trapped inside the temple, unable to leave.

Panel 6.

Same shot of Snapshot, gritting his teeth.

Mordo (in a telepathic balloon): Then go forward with it and I shall reward your loyalty as promised*. Do it!

*Editor's Note: Mordo made an allegiance with Snapshot last issue in which he made some sort of unknown payment promise to him.

Page Seven

Panel 1.

Side angled 3/4 shot of Snapshot standing over Lurch. Lurch is looking up from a crouched position to Gideon.

Gideon: You are sure you can do it, Lurch. That's a mighty gamble from someone who claims to be a coward.

Lurch: Faced with the same evil, you too Gideon would cower. Watch your tongue and accusations, young mage.

Panel 2.

Close-up of Snapshot's hand clenched tightly over the staff.

Snapshot (thinking): Then you shall give me what you said? And I will have nothing more to do for you?

Mordo (in a telepathic balloon): Yes, you have my word. Quickly, before they notice!

Panel 3.

Close-up of the end of the staff, touching the ground, a foot away from the lines of the pentagram.

Snapshot (thinking): Okay...

Panel 4.

The end of the staff scratches across the floor, making a break in the edge of the salt line of the pentagram.

Snapshot (thinking): ... it's done.

Panel 5.

Large panel. Demonic fire flares up within the pentagram in a full shot. The room glows red from it. Gideon steps back for the flare. He has his eyes on Snapshot with a look of rage. Lurch rolls back slightly onto his rear a foot away from his last position. A look of unbridled fear across his eyes. Snapshot stands back from the pentagram, evaluating what he has just done and wondering if it is worth it. The others cover their eyes.

He tries to fight it and passes the staff over the line, breaking the pentagram.

Caption: And with the breaking of the pentagram, hellish energies are unleashed bathing the room in its glow.

Gideon: Snapshot? Did you... What did you do?

Snapshot: I don't know... I...

Page Eight

Panel 1.

Tight shot of Lurch's face, twisted in a scream.

Caption: As realization sets in, Lurch begins to break down...

Lurch: NOOOOOOOOO!

Panel 2.

Tight 3/4 shot. Lurch struggles to his feet, while Gideon watches on, unsure of what to do.

Caption: ...but he catches himself. There is still a chance...

Panel 3.

Lurch grabs a jar of salt in a tight close-up of the jar.

Caption: A single line of the pentagram was broken.

Panel 4.

Lurch lunges forward with the jar of salt in his hands.

Caption: If he can redraw the line of salt... reseal the pentagram...

Panel 5.

Large panel. Elemental fire flares out through the break in the pentagram, striking Lurch head on, raising him up in the air and back into the wall with resounding force. The jar of salt shatters spraying salt away from the pentagram and against the same wall.

FX: FWOOM!

Lurch: AAAAAAAAH!

Page Nine

Splash Page.

Full shot. Mordo appears in the center of the pentagram, amid flames and acrid red smoke. He is angry and confident. Lurch is unconscious against the far wall. The others, particularly El Tigre stand transfixed.

Mordo: I have arrived. Today Lurch dies.

Page Ten

Panel 1.

Large panel. Full shot of Mordo, speaking through a large "smile" (if his torn mouth and jagged teeth could ever produce such a thing). Mordo is taking a moment to take it all in, betraying an arrogance that he is in complete control as he steps out of the pentagram. The rest of them stand there. There is fear in their eyes and in their posture. They are all waiting for the worst to happen and unsure of what to do. El Tigre has not moved and watches, likely held in some kind of stasis by Mordo. The others start to recoil. Of importance is that Gideon is next to Snapshot, near the edge of the pentagram.

Mordo: Joaquin Ramirez, son of Lurch Deku. I am arrived at this time to help you embrace your destiny.

Mordo: To murder your father and take his power for your own. By taking his life you fulfill a centuries-long plan of Mordo's. If he dies at your hands, you will be rewarded with power undreamt of and a longer life than your own mortal beginnings would naturally allow.

Panel 2.

Tight shot of Gideon's face. He is looking at Mordo (off-panel) out of the corner of his eyes. Snapshot is in the background of this shot, taken back in awe of Mordo's power once again.

Snapshot (thinking): I need to get out of here. These guys are going to try and kill me if they realize I let Mordo in.

Gideon (thinking): This is it... the rematch. But unlike last time, we've all grown a lot, especially me.

Panel 3.

Large panel. Mordo stands over El Tigre, a hand on his shoulder. El Tigre shudders at the touch, but still unable to move. Silver is near El Tigre and her stomach lurches at being so near this demon.

Mordo: You will have your own mind, my Joaquin, just like your father, free to enjoy the powers I give you by heredity. Embrace what I offer you.

Silver (thinking): That foul being Mordo... here with us once again. I need to move, but he has us all stuck in place again. None of us can move. And I don't know if I'd want to. I almost died when I broke the paralysis last time and he backhanded me. *

*Editor's Note: Way back in Issue 6 the heroes first confronted Mordo after Joaquin somehow summoned him to the Earthly plane. Silver suffered the worst as she personally attacked and was struck a crushing blow from Mordo.

Panel 4.

Tight 1/4 shot of Gideon's hand rummaging through the pocket of his hoodie.

Gideon (thinking): The others are paralyzed. But for some reason I'm okay. Not sure how this paralysis works, but I suspect it has something to do with fear.

Panel 5.

Same shot, except Gideon is pulling out a Snickers bar from his pocket.

Gideon (thinking): And I am far from afraid.

Gideon (thinking): I stole this from Dale's place, in case I got hungry later. My klepto hobo ways are paying off. *

*Editor's Note: When Gideon fled from his father, he was a homeless person living on the streets of Winnipeg. Free food is a luxury and Gideon has rarely passed on the opportunity.

Page Eleven

Panel 1.

Full shot. Mordo has extended a hand towards Lurch, groggy against the far wall. El Tigre appears to have regained his mobility and is also looking at Lurch. Gideon is behind Mordo, crouching at the edges of the pentagram, Snickers in hand. He is keeping an eye on El Tigre, his best friend and feeling for him.

Mordo: Seize the moment, Joaquin and slay him before he gets his wits about him. Use the blade you carry, the one enchanted against your own father's power. It was crafted to take his life, regardless of how powerful he is.

Gideon (thinking): Hang in there, buddy. I have this all in hand.

Panel 2.

Tight shot of Snapshot.

Snapshot (thinking): What is Gideon doing?

Panel 3.

Tight shot of Mordo. He is turning his head towards Gideon (off-panel).

Caption: Still in telepathic contact with Snapshot through the staff, Mordo reacts.

Mordo: Eh?

Panel 4.

Slight worm's eye view. Gideon is crouched over the pentagram. Mordo has turned to face him. Mordo should look impressive at this angle, dwarfing Gideon. The chocolate bar is on the break in the pentagram. Gideon has a devious smile on his face. Mordo is impressed with Gideon's breaking free of the paralysis, but not at the attempt to seal the pentagram.

Mordo: How have you...? I see it now. Yes, you did fulfill your very own destiny have you not, Gideon. You have your father's evil taint in you. And it prevented my magics from working on you.

Panel 5.

Close-up shot of the Snickers on the pentagram.

Mordo (off-panel): But this... this... is laughable. I thought you knew more of binding magic. You can only seal a pentagram with one material.

Panel 6.

Same shot, except the bar has changed into salt, imperfectly sealing the break in the pentagram, but sealing it nonetheless.

Mordo: And even then, I have stepped out of it and am therefore unaffected...

Page Twelve

Panel 1.

Large panel. Full shot. A vortex of fire blows in the center of the pentagram, sucking through the pentagram at Mordo. Mordo is unbalanced, attempting to resist the pull of the vortex. Despite the power of the pull, only Mordo is affected by. Everything else in the room, including the candles are unaffected.

Mordo: NOOOOOO!

Panel 2.

Mordo is pulled into the pentagram and is down on one knee, being pulled down to the floor. He resists with all of his might, but he is losing the battle. Gideon steps forward gloating. Behind him, Lurch has regained consciousness and is getting to his feet watching the display.

Gideon: I knew that transmutation power would come in handy.

Gideon: The pentagram is sealed and from what I know of magic, those bound to a pentagram are bound to that pentagram... even if it is reformed.

Gideon: Your sorry behind is linked to here, Mordo, to this very circle because you used it to gain entry into the temple. And now you are trapped in it with nowhere to go but down.

Page Thirteen

Panel 1.

Mordo is down to two knees. El Tigre and Lurch have stepped forward to watch. Behind them are the rest except for Snapshot is looking around for the moment to make his escape from the room.

Lurch: I left this loophole open into my temple since the beginning. It was the original site of conception on the island of my father. And you had your intentions of using it as a portal from your dimension to ours.

Panel 2.

Mordo is now down to his hands and knees, still resisting, still getting nowhere. Lurch is looking down on him, garnering courage now.

Lurch: So I kept it there and build my home around it, casting spell after spell, performing ritual after ritual on the spot... containing the evil of this spot into this pentagram.

Panel 3.

1/4 shot. Lurch is relishing the moment now.

Lurch: With the pentagram whole, any portaling into it would lock you in place, casting perpetual counter spells against evil... against you. The more you resisted, the faster it would go against you until your physical body was destroyed.

Panel 4.

Close-up of Lurch's eyes, intense and driven.

Lurch: It took me over 100 years of preparation to build the counterspells into the pentagram, so they would have the power to work against even you.

Page Fourteen

Panel 1.

Mordo is starting to melt into the floor. He is in great pain but is still fighting. El Tigre has stepped forward, to listen to what Mordo has to say.

Mordo: AARGH!

Mordo: Joaquin... I... I have been... aaargh... defeated here today. But I will return and it's not too... too late to return my favor

Panel 2.

Side shot of El Tigre and Mordo. Mordo has melted further into the floor.

Mordo: Murder your father... complete the chain... take his power for your own. For I... I shall return... stronger than ever... and you can be at my side.

El Tigre: I...

Panel 3.

Standing stronger this time, facing Mordo, El Tigre stands in a 3/4 shot, over Mordo's shoulders (in a 1/4 shot). Gideon is looking at El Tigre with pride. Behind them all is Snapshot skulking past them towards the door.

El Tigre: ...I am no killer. Regardless of who he is, Mordo... my father or some stranger... I would do nothing...

El Tigre: ...NOTHING...

El Tigre: ... that would help further any cause you were part of.

Panel 4.

El Tigre is leaning in over the pentagram, with a disgusted look on his face. Mordo has melted down to his one arm and shoulder and his head.

El Tigre: You are evil and I... we oppose you. The lives you took in Winnipeg... you almost killed Silver...

El Tigre: Accept your defeat, demon, and never... NEVER return.

Page Fifteen

Panel 1.

Mordo is melting even further into the floor. Only his head and part of his arm remain. He is struggling to remain solid, struggling to get the last word in.

Mordo: I... I can never... be defeated... only delayed. But you have earned m... my wrath this day, Joaquin Ramirez. And your father... will... die this day,... if not... by your hand... by another's.

Panel 2.

Mordo is cocking his head back, trying his best to keep his mouth from melting.

Mordo: And I shall... I shall make sure your own... son... makes... you pay.

El Tigre: My son?

Mordo: Ask... your father... about him...

Panel 3.

The group is looking at the pentagram which has swallowed up Mordo, leaving nothing behind but a sludge of matter, what's left of his body, and smoke that billows up from the pile. Everyone is quiet, introspective and confused. Lurch looks completely out of place. Snapshot has made it to the door, which is closed. He is trying to quietly open it.

Panel 4.

Silver puts an arm around El Tigre, trying to comfort him. Gideon is looking at Lurch with a questioning look. Dale has caught Snapshot with his eyes and is starting to move towards him.

Page Sixteen

Splash page

El Tigre looking down at the floor, at what is left of Mordo. Silver is next to him, with an arm around him. Gideon has stepped in with a look of concern for his old friend.

Page Seventeen

Panel 1.

1/4 side shot of Snapshot. He is at the door and opening it.

Panel 2.

Same shot, except the muzzle of a gun is pointed at his head.

Voice: I'd step back from the door if I were you.

Panel 3.

Tall narrow panel. Pan out from the last shot. Dale has the gun drawn on Snapshot.

Dale: I think you're going to need to explain yourself.

Panel 4.

1/4 shot of El Tigre. Silver and Gideon are still near him. El Tigre turns his head towards Snapshot (off-panel).

Panel 5.

El Tigre striding over to Snapshot, Gideon and Silver watching him.

Panel 6.

Back 3/4 shot of El Tigre moving in on Snapshot. Dale is stepping back from Snapshot. Snapshot is facing El Tigre, unsure of what is going on.

Page Eighteen

Splash page.

Full shot. El Tigre flattens Snapshot with a right hook straight to the jaw.

Fx: POW!

Page Nineteen

Panel 1.

Snapshot is on the ground. He looks like he felt like he deserved the punch, with a guilty look on his face. El Tigre is stone-faced looking down at him, anger seething within him.

Panel 2.

A hand rests on El Tigre's shoulder in a 1/4 shot. El Tigre looks casually at the hand, with a minimal reaction. The threat is over.

Hand: Joaquin...

Panel 3.

El Tigre faces his father Lurch.

Lurch: Son.

Lurch: We need to talk, son. I need to tell you everything.

Lurch: And you need to be ready for when Mordo recovers from this, as he most surely will.

Panel 4.

Joaquin looks at the others, at Gideon, Silver, and Dale. He is thinking things over.

Panel 5.

Wide panel shot of everyone. El Tigre is talking to Lurch.

El Tigre: Whatever you have to say to me... you will say in their company. These are my friends... my only friends. No more secrets. I owe them that much.

Page Twenty

Panel 1.

El Tigre gives a sidelong glance at Snapshot. Snapshot is still lying there, not having moved at all, but nursing his jaw.

El Tigre: Everyone but him. He may have been some sort of unwitting pawn, but he is more of an idiot than anything.

Panel 2.

Full shot of El Tigre addressing the group. Snapshot is in the shot looking at El Tigre.

El Tigre: I want him brought back to pay for whatever crimes he has committed. I want him to fully confess to whatever crimes he has done. I want...

El Tigre: I want to do the right thing with him.

Panel 3.

1/4 shot of El Tigre and Lurch.

Lurch: He will be locked up until you choose to leave this place. I would kill him... but I shall defer to your own judgment, son.

Panel 4.

Silver hugs El Tigre, seeing in him things she also saw in Stick. She is proud of him and scared for him, but knows he will pull through. Gideon looks at his friend and knows he can never doubt that friendship... ever. He is a far better man than he. Lurch takes Snapshot out of the room.

Lurch: Come with me, Snapshot. Let me show you to your... room.

Page Twenty-One

Panel 1.

The group has moved into the tablet room. Lurch stands next to the tablet on its dais. He is addressing all of them, but specifically El Tigre.

Caption: And moments later, after Snapshot has been locked up in one of the temple's rooms...

Lurch: The tablet is yours, as is my aid if you so desire it in your own battle with Pitawa. I can offer you no less. You can decide yourselves on my aid once I tell my story.

Lurch: I wanted to be clear on that before I got into... other things.

Panel 2.

Outside the room, the door is closed. There is a shift of light there, as if someone were standing there... invisible.

Panel 3.

The door opens a crack and a body appears. It is a woman... Snapshot's employer.

Woman (thinking): That fool Snapshot... he will pay in due time. But I am here and inside the temple.

Lurch (off-panel and behind the door): Joaquin was born on this very island, twenty-two years ago...

Panel 4.

Front shot of the woman, a little more of her face revealed than before but her identity still not revealed.

Woman (thinking): I took the three tablets from Host with relative ease. With Mordo and Morpheus out of the picture, the last one should be easy.

Woman (thinking): But first... first let us hear the story.

Caption: Continued next issue...