Commissario Donatello Fanucci shook his coat lightly before folding it over the back of his chair, and looked briefly around his new office on the third floor of the Venice Questura (police station). His window opened up to catch a glimpse of the Rio de San Lorenzo as it lapped against the moored boats and made its circuitous journey back into the laguna. He'd been
raised west of the questura in Castello, the sestiere known for its working-class roots and its place as the least desirable of the neighborhood in the eyes of tourists and wealthy
individuals looking for prize real estate in the world's most beautiful city. Of course, that didn't stop the unprecedented skyrocketing price of rents and Fanucci winced at the price he was paying for an apartment thirty metres from the place where he had grown up. At
forty, he was the younger of the two commissarios, or detectives, in Venice; with four more across the Ponte della Liberta in Mestre. He had spent the past seven years earning that position in Naples, as well as placating his bitter wife and her family who were traditional Neapolitans and not to be trusted, especially with sharp blades and a turned back.
The door to his office opened after a short tap, and Fanucci turned to smile at Signorina Elletra Zorzi who seemingly worked for Fanucci's superior, the Vice-Questore, who was a political beast, quite capable of turning on his own men in pursuit of prestige and position. Fanucci had only been back in Venice for a week and a half, but had already fallen on the wrong side of Patta, fully expecting a second transfer out of Venice. But Patta had a short attention span and Fanucci had managed to settle into his office.
"Buona sera, Signorina Elletra," Fanucci said, marvelling at her simple dark brown dress, tied expertly with a sash of cream silk and which seemed to draw his eyes down to her long legs. He blinked away his diversion and smiled at the signorina.
She dismissed his greeting with a wave of her hand and a generous smile.
"It has been one of those mornings, I'm afraid, commissario," she apologised. "The Vice-Questore has been invited to three separate lunches, which normally wouldn't have been any problem at all, but one of them is at Bartalozzi's in Santa Marta, which makes his reservation at Ruberti's absolutely impossible."
She smiled and Fanucci could merely shake his head, wondering how such a disaster could have occurred.
"Unless he could borrow that ragazzo di velocita from the Dawnstars," she added, setting down a folder of information on Fanucci's desk.
Fanucci unconsciously looked out of the window towards the lagoon, which was hidden; towards the ominous shape of the Dawnstars' base of operations. It had been one of the most unusual experiences of his life to see the enormous aircraft carrier in the lagoon as his plane made for the airport. It was moored a fair distance beyond Lido, but dwarfed the oil tankers which were, at least, a common enough sight in the area. Its deck had an emblazoned logo of the super-hero team: a starburst with eight points relating to the eight members of its team. Before coming back to Venice he had heard about the super-team, heard about its reformation at least, under the banner of the Ziani Group. The media spent months on the issue, but by January things had settled and the aircraft carrier had seemingly become just another industrial blot on the horizon. They had Mestre, of course; and the smoke stacks of Marghera, so a floating grey hulk in the lagoon wasn't all that difficult to overlook, especially as the island of Lido seemed to hide it from the hard-working Venetians.
"Ah, the paperwork," Fanucci commented, looking down at the folders but unable to take any steps towards opening them.
"All the information we have on the Dawnstars," Elletra replied. "Everything from Interpol all the way down to Il Gazzettino's coverage of the top
uberhumans of 2004. Personally, I'd have ranked Solar Centurion far above
She-Wolf, but the votes came from all over and we all know the way Rome fawns over their
little Dog Girl. They have more population than sense, if you ask me, which you haven't by the way." She smiled weakly. "If that's all for now, I have to put a call in to SIP about a line tap uniform division needed last Wednesday."
She shook her head, gave Fanucci another disarming smile and then left the office.
"Grazie," Fanucci managed to say, but she had already left. He sat heavily down at his desk and moved his fingers across the folder, flipping it open, even as he caught sight of a picture frame on his desk. His two children smiled back at him: Galilea and Pietro, nine and seven years old, and currently living down south with his green-eyed estranged wife, Romana. The children had inherited their mother's eyes: pale green, and a sign of their Neapolitan heritage. The Normans had spent a large period of history conquering the area around Naples and had left some physical characteristics in the local gene pool. Fanucci forced his eyes back to the folder in front of him, while his left hand reached for a pen.
The first page listed the current team, including secret identities where the Polizia had been informed. He smiled as he scanned the names, marvelling at how mundane the Vice-Questore had made this assignment seem. 'Just keep an eye on them and make sure they don't embarrass the city,' Patta had remarked. Simple, Fanucci thought, but then that was before he realised he was dealing with a
Neanderthal, among other things. The kids would be loving this assignment, he mused; just as soon as he found time to call them and fill them in.
First on the list was Erich Doles, known also as Forrestal. Fanucci was impressed to note Doles' involvement with Interpol, as well as a string of successful cases across several countries. A keen investigative mind coupled with the uncanny ability to communicate and control plant life. Fanucci grinned, imagining what kind of life the Austrian was experiencing over on the aircraft carrier.
Adrian Jakmanni. Slipknot. Something of a local celebrity, especially among certain groups of artists and musicians in Venice, despite his Czech heritage. Fanucci knew him as one of the original Dawnstars and had some sympathy for what the man had to have been through. Jakmanni's
uberhuman talent lay in his prehensile hair, a luminescent green which contrasted with his pale albino complexion. Fanucci was confident Jakmanni would be no trouble in avoiding 'sensitive' situations among Venice's cultural elite, although he also noted that Patta was something of a bigot and as soon as Jakmanni's social life came to the fore it would set the Vice-Questore on a
belligerent tirade. Il Gazzettino had published many stories on Jakmanni in recent years, but nothing in the past six months which would be why Patti was currently sedate - not that the Vice-Questore would read the tabloids.
The next file was on Gabriella Rossiello, and Fanucci groaned; also known as Vertigrine or Vertigo, using the English translation. Fanucci knew of her, or more correctly her father. Rossiello was directly recruited by the Ziani Group, which made Fanucci wonder at his first impression of the woman. Astorre Ziani was a man who was well known for his ability to judge people's character, which was enough for Fanucci to turn the page, noting momentarily Rossiello's ability to... warp minds? This would prove an interesting assignment, dodging Patta's bigotry and the Italian community's ability to take one and one and make three. He was lucky the media were in something of a hibernation period over winter. As the sun rose, so too would the gutter-reporters.
Suleyman the Magnificent jumped out at him as the next page came into view. It was a circus flier, but the grinning giant was easy to identify as one of the new generation of Dawnstars. He was a Turkish national, known across the south-east of Europe as a strongman. He had several cross-linked files with the Red Brigades, most notably an incident in Verona; and Fanucci also noted a reference to an associate: Thornapple, who appeared to be something of a magnet for trouble. With a wry smile, Fanucci turned the page again.
Grak. A simple name, but one which echoed through history - especially re-written history. Grak was known as the Nordkapp Man, and Fanucci remembered reading about his discovery as a much younger man. Grak was the oldest
uberhuman on the planet, and the oldest being. He was known among academics and superheroes and had been an important advisor to the original Dawnstars, being drawn into their troubles at the end of their first official run and then again during the recent assassinations. He was a
Neanderthal with the ability to create intense cold. He was possessed of a quick temper and an almost alien intelligence, in that he perceived modern society in a way which few others could conceive (apparently). Fanucci flicked the page.
Scorpia. Some kind of vigilante who had popped up recently and been adopted into Ziani's new team of Dawnstars. Identity was obscured by a suit she never took off, but there were some reports from Rome about her activities before joining the Dawnstars. If it became important Scopria's identity wouldn't remain secret for long.
Kid Zoom. Not much information on this one, apart from his apparent nationality as being dagli Stati Uniti. American, he thought, wondering what would bring an American teenager across the Atlantic, and wondering why the Polizia hadn't managed to track down his identity yet. It wouldn't have been that difficult, surely. This was the ragazzo Signorina Elletra had commented on earlier, a boy capable of running on water. There were several complaints from gondoliers and boat owners attached to the file mentioning the destructive path of the boy over the Christmas break. Groans mostly, but it may be something to raise when the boy crossed paths with Fanucci.
He flipped the page, his eyes scanning schematics for the Miranda. His eyebrows arched at the size of the thing but he followed the reaction with a shrug and turned the page. He wasn't interested in the technology or hardware at the moment. No, he was more interested in the human side of things. In a city like Venice, with less than 80,000 citizens in constant battle against the elements it really mattered little whether someone had access to something this side of miraculous. When the waters rose, as they did every year with acqua alta, the technology crashed and everyone was back on the streets in the rain and sloshing through calf-high water in rubber boots.
The next few pages detailed the legal implications of several Dawnstar-related activities, dating back to the first incarnation of the team, momentarily pausing with the destruction of the base in Giudecca, and resurfacing last November when the team seemed to reform after a spate of assassination attempts. Fanucci sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin, looking at the photographs of the corpses, the caught, and the convicted. There was little information on the people alleged to be involved, especially a man dubbed Remus.
Fanucci shook his head. Remus. There wasn't much on him, apart from some rumours circulating around the Mediterranean, but going nowhere. He didn't seem that surprised, and turned the page again. If Remus turned up again that was something, but if it was all smoke and mirrors, well, that was simpler and Fanucci wasn't much of a conspiracy nut, although all Italians were predisposed to such theories, especially given the constant reinvention of the legal system and so-called reformation of governments.
Rounding out the file was a brief listing of former members, including deceased, retired and missing. Most recent was Paladin, who had returned to London, apparently, to take up a small scale hero role. Before Paladin's departure there had been Choir, missing in action since the Dawnstars uncovered
uberhuman laboratories in Spain, and Valkyrie who was convalescing in Holland having shown no interest in resuming her role as leader of the Dawnstars.
Leadership seemed to be in a state of flux, Fanucci noted. The Ziani Group financed the Dawnstars in the name of National Security and Positive Role Models (all in capitals, drawing attention to their important social role), including the hulk of metal in the lagoon known as the Miranda. Ziani often requested assistance with security in top-level museum exhibits, usually in the delivery and temporary storage of priceless goods; but otherwise the Dawnstars were left to their own devices. There had been some high profile disaster-relief work over December, as well as a highly-publicised battle with
Ruin across northern Italy. Standard super-hero practice, he thought.
With Fanucci newly assigned to the Venice Polizia, and especially anything to do with the Dawnstars, he hoped that he would get a chance to work on regular cases as well. There would be burglaries, of course, and assault cases coupled with art theft. It would be better than Naples, he knew. The more north you got the less likely things were tied up with southern gentlemen, usually linked to Palermo and codes of omerta. Fanucci leaned back on his chair and smiled.
Yes, he thought, it would be an interesting