The Skull started at Rufruf. He'd barely taken a step when another bolt erupted from Rufruf's bony hands and crackled into the pavement at the Skull's feet. He lurched backwards, the tips of his boots smoking.
The stream of lightning retracted to Rufruf's arms, spreading across his body until he was encased in sparking electricity. A gasp came from the civilians still spread across the street.
"Bones, you escort these folks out of here. I'll deal with the Commander Surge wannabe," said the Skull.
He dove at Rufruf, swinging his arms at the frail body – only to feel his skin blister and sizzle, his fists bouncing harmlessly from the electric field swelling beneath them. There was a crack, and the mass of energy surged from Rufruf's body towards the Skull.
The Skull darted from foot to foot, dodging the growing pillar of light as it swung back and forth. Rufruf's eyes were shut, his arms extended as rings of electricity rolled down them.
"Hey, sparky!" shouted Bones. "Blackout!"
The boy was still in the air, one leg raised and a fist held triumphantly above his head, when Rufruf's eyes burst open. His arm shot towards Bones, a vortex of light already forming in his palm. There was an air rupturing crack, and Bones hurtled to the ground across the street, sparks showering the crowd. Finally they began to run and scream.
Rufruf turned back towards the Skull, a split-second too late. The black fist rocketed into Rufruf's face, sending him crashing to his knees.
Rufruf spat dark blood and grinned. "The book closes. Lucrum est poena; prosperitas est letum."
His thin lips had barely spat the words out when they began to disappear. His features unravelled into arcs of energy, twirling and fading until they were no longer there at all. In seconds, he was gone.
Bones sprinted back to the Skull's side, his clothes charred and smoking. The street was clear now, the pair the only figures in sight. Both stared incredulously at the spot Rufruf had vanished from before the Skull grabbed Bones' shoulder, a scowl across his painted face.
"What the hell was that? I told you to take care of civilians."
"I saw an opportunity. He was just a Surge wannabe anyway, right?" said Bones with a shrug.
The Skull glared down at Bones. The boy was tall for his age – muscular, too. But the Skull was huge, broad and towering. Bones swallowed and stared back.
"If I quip on the battlefield, it's because we have to. The suits have to think we're heroes, and the masks have to think we don't even need to try. But my orders are never a joke. You do what I goddamn say."
"Hey, I'm the one who got zapped here. I'm fine, by the way."
"You'll always be fine – your adult self is standing in front of you, right here. You're the only person in this city who knows for a fact he's going to make it through tomorrow. And the next day, and the next fifty years. But that means you have a responsibility to all those other people. The ones who can die."
Bones dropped his head. "I'll do better."
"I know you do."
"There's nobody like that in Society records," said Blink, his face blurring on the bunker's monitor. "'Rufruf', huh? Doesn't sound like your usual mask name."
"He knew I'd be at that station. Whoever he is, I think he knows something about Boomerang," said the Skull as he leaned back in his office chair. Bones whirled past in another one, manilla folders spilling from his lap.
Blink threw his hands to the air. "Don't you have bigger fish to fry than the guy who tosses bits of wood around? What's the big deal with Boomerang Kid?"
"The big deal is he's out there with technology that hasn't even been invented yet," replied the Skull. "We have no idea what he could do with that stuff. And if something goes down, it'll be on us."
"Look, Don, I roped the hell out of that guy. I don't know a non-power got out of there in the first place."
"You underestimated him. That's not a mistake I'm going to make," said the Skull as he reached for the dashboard spread in front of him. "Skull out."
"Uh, Skull?" Bones called from the radio desk. "I've got something."
"Give me good news, kid." The Skull stood to cross the room. The communications lobby was the largest room in the bunker, but the amount of equipment crammed into it managed to make it feel cramped anyway. A small fortune had gone into making this the most connected place in Metro City.
"Didn't you say there was no such thing in this business?" Bones said, hooking a radio receiver back into place. " You were right. Coastguard thinks he's out of the country. Probably run back home."
"You're not going to believe this," Bones said, holding up a sheet of paper. "It's Boomerang. Boomerang, Western Australia."
"Then it looks like we're going down under," said the Skull as he turned towards the door.
Bones sprang to his feet. "Oh boy! Really? Do you have a plane? A Skull-Plane? A Bone-Wing?"
"Do you see a plane in here?"
"Batman has a plane."
"Batman is a fictional millionaire."
"So... how are we getting to Australia?"
The Skull turned to the boy with a grin. "Never heard of Pan Am?"