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Nemesis 2: Burning Hate

March 13th, 1989

A young boy walked down the sidewalk. He couldnt've been more than 12 or 13. An old building came into sight, made of brick and mortar.

The boy ran up and eagerly opened the door. The inside of the small building was dark with many bookcases and shelves of odd items. Jewels and animal body parts, to name a few.

The only lighting in the shop was 7 candles. Three on each side and one large candle in the front behind the desk.

"Oh good, James your here. I need a little help, can you grab that box over there in the corner?" said the old owner, Roger Dags.
"Sure," James Warrens ran over and picked up the box. "What's in it?" he said as he started to open the box. "NO!!!" the old man looked furious that James would open the box, and suddenly the boy was very scared.

"Sorry. I overreacted. It's just that what is in that box it VERY dangerous."
James gulped and nodded, then gave the old man the box. He put it in the cabinet behind his desk and locked it. "Now, what I DO have is," he pulled out a handkerchief that laid flat on his palm, "this!" he said and he removed the handkerchief, revealing a small Statesman figure. "Here you go James."

"Oh wow!" the boy exclaimed. He couldn't believe how real the figure looked, almost like someone made a copy of Statesman and shrunk it. "How much is it?"
"No charge," the old man said as he smiled. "Wow thanks! I gotta get home though. I'll see you tomorrow Mr. Dags!"

He left the store staring at the figure. Looking at it made him feel good.
It was the last time he'd feel "good" for a long time.

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Continued...

He was almost home, he could see it right from where he was standing. Then, his home, and all of his neighbor's homes, exploded.

James screamed as a loud roar came closer, a fleet of small hovering turrets flew overhead, blasting at the different buildings. Once the fleet passed he heard a different sound and recognized it, just before he saw them. It was a marching army. A thousand soldiers, wearing red and black, with gas masks, and rifles on their shoulders marched towards the city.

He didn't understand why they were attacking his home. They had enough robots to take out the handful of heroes in Paragon City, so what is with the extra troops?

He soon realized though, they weren't an invading force, they were an entourage. James ducked back into an alley and watched the troops march past, some firing rifles at the terrified people, just because they didn't like how loud they were being. He was so terrified he almost didn't notice the litter, and who it was they were holding up.

He couldn't see the man very well but he could hear the conversation, it's a shame he didn't understand much German. He heard the soldier say the name "Reichsman" a lot and was confused until he heard a few words he recognized: late, fight, and one name in English. That name was The Freedom Phalanx.

James couldn't believe it. It's all the heroes fault that his friends and family were murdered! They called out this army and now he had nothing! No one!

As his rage grew he heard a new sound, the sound of metal being smashed to the ground. The heroes had arrived. They made short work of the robots it seemed because the soldiers were firing their rifles soon after the sounds of battle had begun.

It wasn't long before he actually saw the heroes themselves. They attacked the soldiers fiercely and took many down in a matter of seconds. It wasn't long before James saw one hero he actually recognized. Statesman.

Statesman yelled for the Reichsman to stop hiding behind his foot soldiers and he heard the Reichsman yell back, this time in English, "Who's hiding?"

He then saw the leader, looking similar, but still very different, from the hero, fly straight at Statesman. They clashed for many minutes before a mis-thrown flash-bang grenade knocked the boy out.

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Continued...

March 14th 1989

James woke up dazed and didn't remember where he was but only for a moment. When it all came back to him he tried his best to hold back the tears.

He couldn't.

He limped out of the alley and saw the destruction. Everything was ruined. He saw where his house used to be. Everything was in flames.

He turned back to where the old magic shop was. He hurried. "No, no, no. They can't oh God please no."

He got worried. He should have seen the roof of the shop by now. He kept running then saw all that was left was the foundation. The explosions had cracked the support beams and knocked key bricks loose.

He ran onto the shop's remains and began to dig. He didn't know why, but he felt like if he dug everything would be ok. Then he found it.

It was the box Mr. Dags told him not to look into. He tried to resist it but something forced his hand to rip it open. He looked inside and saw a book. But not just any book. This was special. He could feel it.

He reached into the box to take out the book. When his hands touched it the box caught fire and was burnt away in the blink of an eye.

James tried to pull his hands away but they seemed glued to the tome. The insignia of flame on the cover glowed, and from the insignia an orange energy surged from the cover of the book, up to James' arms. He felt a heat so intense he felt like he was about to be consumed, same as the box was. The insignia began to fade, then disappeared, and when it did, a final surge of power from the book knocked him back 10 feet.

When he got up his grief was gone. All he felt... was anger. But not at the Reichsman and the 5th Column, but at another who was at the fight. He pulled the figurine out of his pocket. The legs were broken and the head was hanging on by a splinter.

This is what Warrens wanted to see, but real. This anger and hate welled up inside of him and a burst of flame flew from his hands. He jumped back in shock. Then a grin spread across his face. He threw another forty bursts of fire into the air.

Now he had a way to kill the one responsible for the loss of his family and friends. He just needed some assistance. But before he killed Statesman, he wanted him to feel loss as well. He would make sure the Freedom Phalanx paid first. But if he was going to destroy them, he would need his own army.

In Paragon City, it shouldn't be too hard to find some thugs to take down heroes.

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May 22nd, 2002

"We shall deal a crippling blow today my friends. The Freedom Phalanx will buckle under the pressure of our blazing assault!" yelled the super-villain. His costume was black with red flames leaping up the arms and legs, and one fireball on the chest. His cape blowing behind him and the fire in his eyes made him an inspiring site for his minions who were cheering loudly as their leader prepared them for the fight.

"The heroes cannot stand against us, the Legion of the Black Flame, for all of us each possess the power, the hunger, the hate, for those heroes. They shall know pain! They shall know fear! And above all..." he paused until the crowds cheers dimmed. "Above all... they will know what it is like to lose what they care about. Their friends! Their comrades! And then finally... themselves!" This brought a deafening cheer.

The super-villain left the balcony letting his minions continue their cheering. As he passed under the archway one of his lieutenants walked up beside him.

"Inspiring speech, my lord," he said.

"It's not to difficult for an occasion such as this. They have been waiting for the final assault for a long time. The day the Freedom Phalanx falls. Not just them either Heat Stroke, I also have been waiting for this day. For me, this isn't just about conquest, if it were I'd have attacked a city that wasn't full of super-powered heroes. No. This is all about revenge."

Heat Stroke almost asked why their master wanted revenge but he had soon far too many friends incinerated for asking questions about their leader's past.

As they neared the master's quarters Heat Stroke wisely turned to the right, towards the lieutenant's rooms. They both had a lot of final planning to do.

The villainous leader stepped through the doorway and felt the wards pass his skin. He walked up to a large, black book that was open on a stand. He turned the pages making sure he had memorized all the spells he needed to for the assault.

When he was satisfied he closed the book revealing the flame on the cover that returned ten years after it infused the villain with its power. Then it hit him. Tonight was the night he got his revenge. Tonight was the night that the Freedom Phalanx would pay.

Burning Brawler was ready for that.

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As the night deepened the Legion of the Black Flame marched towards Atlas Park, preparing to take City Hall's government officials as hostages. The residents in the surrounding apartment were woken by what sounded like thunder, but was the force making their steady approach.

They stopped 100 yards from the Atlas statue, and all stepped out and to the side leaving a large hole in the center. A dark figure rose from that hole and flew to the top of the globe. "My minions!" he shouted, once he got their attention he turned to City Hall. "Kill them!" he yelled pointing straight at the building.

The army rushed forwards and those who could set their hands aflame. Once they got in range the Corrupters launched their fiery assault softening up the outer walls. Then the Brutes made it up to the walls and as one, smashed through the already damaged walls.

The building would have collapsed. Should have collapsed. Except there was someone holding up the roof.

Statesman, with an army of heroes below him.

"CHAAAARRRRGGGGEEEE!!!!!" the heroic leader yelled, and all the heroes rushed at the Legion. All except one force-fielder who set up an invisible wall to keep the roof of City Hall up so Statesman could join the fray.

The forces clashed and many died in the first few seconds. Some of the Legion used an inferno to burn the heroes to death, until a Blaster used a Nova to knock them clear into the sky.

Burning Brawler watched the battle from on top of the globe, arms crossed, savoring every moment.

At least he was, until a red-gloved fist knocked him off.

Brawler recovered and menacingly hovered back up to the top of the globe. There was Statesman, challenging him to a fight.

Brawler smirked and touched a hand to the globe, then infused it with heat. When he phase shifted Statesman realized what we was doing, but was too late. The globe exploded sending shrapnel that skewered Legionnaire and hero, including Statesman.

He was cut and bleeding everywhere. As Brawler un-shifted Statesman threw a lightning bolt his way. Brawler ducked and smelt burning ozone right by his ear. He laughed at Statesman's poor shot and threw a small metallic device at the hero.

Statesman caught it and was confused until he saw a blinking red light.

It was a bomb.

He turned and threw it into the air where it exploded somewhere in the Stratosphere. He turned around and got a fireball in the face.

Statesman angrily rushed in to sock Burning in the face. Brawler got a good three or four shots in before dodging at the last second. Every couple times Statesman would land the punch or hit Brawler with a lightning bolt. The battle went on like this till the sun rose and everyone, super-villain, hero, and henchman, were exhausted.

Then one particularly loud henchman said, "Ey! What the hell is this? There be stars in the sky in the mornin'!" "Those aren't stars... In fact I think they-" the hero tried to finish but she was vaporized, not by a villain's fire, but by a laser beam.

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As the hero went from bone to ashes panic ensued. All of the minions and heroes ran in panic unsure of what to do. Brawler made his escape at this point and let Statesman get the masses under control.

Statesman tried but even he was in shock as hundreds of green lines came down. Some were more vaporizing lasers but others... they were different.

These different lines, they all soon saw, were teleportation beams. Alien soldiers in black armor came down and fired energy rifles stunning some, killing many.

Statesman forced his will upon the Freedom Phalanx, to calm them, make them more attentive to the situation, and to give them the boost in power they'd need if they were to survive the day.

They fought back against the aliens but for every one they killed two more teleported down. Statesman did his best to control the Phalanx but they were worried about the Legion, wondering how long until they switched from fighting the aliens to fighting the heroes.

The fight only got worse as the day went on. The amount of Rikti in the area seemed endless and the hero feared all was lost. Then he noticed something. Those stars were the source of all these Rikti. He flew up until he saw a large amount of clear round shapes. Thousands of them.

"Oh God we're doomed..."

Statesman didn't notice the invisible villain behind him. Brawler saw his chance. He could kill Statesman now and take his revenge before the aliens did it for him.

But he didn't want it to end like this. He wanted a fair fight. He was about to fly away when he noticed something odd about one of the ships. It was shaped differently and the other ships seemed to move with it. It had to be the mother ship.

He flew up to the hull and burnt a hole through. Aliens flew out of the hole in a line and as soon as it ended Brawler went in. The ship didn't seem to be loosing altitude from the hole so if he was to destroy it, Brawler would have to take out the engines.

He snuck through the corridors of the ship looking for what had to be the engine room. The aliens didn't see him when he walked by; he liked this kind of enemy.

He spent at least an hour walking around before he found the engine room. He walked in and closed the door.

He heard a loud vwooooooom and saw a couple dozen green lights turn on. It was a bunch of drones. Good thing these can't see me, he thought.

He was wrong.

They launched energy bolts at once that he barely dodged. He ran to the back of the room and tried to fight them off but there were too many, and he was cornered.

He couldn't believe it. He was going to die. He should've killed Statesman when he had the chance, now he won't be able to. This made him angry. Furious even. This rage built inside him, it was a familiar feeling, from back when he got his abilities. But this was more powerful. This energy wasn't released from his hands. It was from every inch of his body. A powerful explosion annihilated the robots, blew up the engine making the heat worse, and knocking the engine room off of the ship itself.

A lone hero saw a small figure fall from an exploding ship. She hit sped towards the figure and caught the man a few feet from the ground.

"Oh God," she said. His skin was burnt horribly. It was blacker than coal. She had to get him to the hospital but she didn't have time to run him there, so she attached her medi-porter to him. She hit the button and watched him disappear, saving Burning Brawler's life.

At least her death was quick when the engine room debri flattened her.

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"Uuuuughhhh my head. Where am I?" Brawler sat up groggily and it didn't take him long to realize he was in a hospital.

As the day’s events came rushing back to him he jumped out of the bed, or tried to. He was in restraints.

"OK no problem..." he heated his arms and the metal turned red but never melted.
"Yeah I'm screwed..."

"From the way you're talking now it seems that ordeal has knocked a bit of humor into you," said a voice in the corner. It was Statesman.

Now Brawler panicked. Here we was, unable to move a muscle, and there was Statesman who could take his sweet time beating him into a pulp. "I know what you're thinking and don't worry I'm not going to kill you. I saw what you did, it was not something a villain would do."

"Why did you let the Reichsman kill my family?" he asked, glaring at the hero.

"Oh no. I'm so sorry. But what you must understand is that the Reichsman, that was the first time he appeared. In fact it took months before we finally cryogenically froze him under the Zig."

"But he said something... something about you being late."

"Well, he was urged to come to us by a time traveler who I suppose gave him a slightly inaccurate time."

It all made sense. And worse that meant that all the years Brawler had spent plotting Statesman's death.... he had been trying to save everyone and just couldn't get there in time.

"I.... I'm not sure what...."

"Considering that your blowing up that mother ship is what gave us many important pieces of the Rikti tech, that's what the aliens are called, we were able to build a portal. It should be operational in a couple of days and we'll be sending in an elite team of heroes to close off the Rikti side of the portal, ending this invasion."

"What about the team going in?"

Statesman bowed his head.

"Oh. Sorry."

When Statesman lifted his head he said, "Anyway, because of what you did we're going to place you on a sort of parole. If you become a hero and leave the ways of villainy, we'll be happy to pardon you of today's events. Even you're assault on Atlas Park."

Brawler stared open-mouthed. Become a hero? But why not? He has gifts and he has no more grudge against the Phalanx so why be a villain anymore?

Statesman watched him patiently and Burning Brawler accepted.

Statesman shook his hand and said, "Good to have you aboard. Now, there is a small issue of the fact that others won't be so quick to trust and forgive you as I. Be ready for the many to still accuse you of being a villain. I really don't want to tell it to you like this but... well you already have a disguise on you."

Brawler was confused. A disguise? Statesman showed him a hand mirror and he saw what the hero meant. He saw his skin was darker than night most likely because of the engine's explosion.

"Well I... I guess that means all I have to do is change my costume and they won't recognize me..."

"And your name?"

Brawler thought it over for a little bit. "I'll keep it. And I'll prove to the whole city I'm on the right side from now on."

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BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! "Uuuuugggggghhhhh" Burning Brawler reached over to hit the snooze button on his alarm and ended up melting it. That was the sixth one this week.

He lay there for a while before getting up. When Java turned on his Deluxe Coffee Maker XG he couldn't get back to sleep. The smell was too enticing. He wasn't a caffeine fiend like Java but he liked a cup in the morning.

He walked out of the hallway and was almost run over by JV. "Don't you know what time it is?" Brawler said, almost too soft to be heard. Almost. JV came back and said "Yeah it's 3, what were you doing last night?"

"Nothing I just had a dream. It wasn't something I like to remember but I just couldn’t wake myself out of it."

"Oh ok. Well I need to go find Jack. He walked into a convention hall full of Tsoo fans. He's out by the arena in Peregrine sucking his thumb in the feeble position." Johnny shook his head and sped off.

Brawler went back into his room to change into his costume. The hood did a nice job covering the scars he got 3 years ago.

When he came back out he decided he'd go straight out into the streets for some warm-ups before teaching Ice Minstrel how ice turns to steam.

He took his time toying with Hellions and then eventually working some Malta titans.

He felt pretty secure so he headed down to a boat that would take him into the Rogue Isles and drop him off not far from where Minstrel was making a deal with Ghost Widow to stop the Fortunatas and the Mu Mystics from attacking each other. The hottest women in Arachnos and Brawler was the one who got to take em down. Now if only Silver Mantis was there, then we could have a party! Maybe Brawler should have brought back up, but he figured he could make it seem like a betrayal and have the two, or hopefully three, fight each other than take em out when they're weak.

He ran into the warehouse and was surprised that there were no henchman to stop him. He flew to the back of the warehouse expecting to find the arch-villains but there was no one there. This warehouse was completely deserted.

"Don't tell me I'm in the wrong place! That's the last time I ask directions from a guy I just gave 3rd degree burns..."

"Oh you're in the right place. I'm just not who you're expecting," said an unknown person. It wasn't a girl either.

Brawler whirled around and saw a face that, if Brawler's hadn't been burnt like it was, could have turned his own a ghostly white.

He didn't see a "face" though. It was a mask. A mask he knew all too well.

"Heat Seeker! But you were nothing but ashes!"

"Correction, all you saw was ashes. And in the hero, or even villain, business: 'They aren't really dead if you don't see a body.'"

"Well I guess I'll just have to finish what you started!" he yelled as he launched a bolt of fire, the same one that killed, or he thought killed, Project Heat Seeker.

The villain held up his hand, palm out, and absorbed the bolt, the heat didn't even make him flinch.

"What the-" BAM the villain threw the bolt back at him like a spear. It cut through Brawler searing him with a power he'd only felt once before. He screamed in rage and pain as he fell to the floor. He struggled to get to his belt. He pressed two buttons, one was his medi-porter, the other was the 'Kickers High Alert.

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Burning Brawler materialized in the med-lab of the 'Kickers base and began to collapse on the floor except Java caught him. "BB what happened to-" he saw the wound that could let you, literally, look right through Brawler. Java ran him over to the regeneration tank, a holding place for the mortally wounded that Brawler had designed. It used arcane rays to heal and dull the pain from the potentially fatal wounds.

When the tank released Brawler felt well enough that he was able to make his way to the teleportation room to explain the situation.

They all came in one group after another. Hyp, Noc, and Jack all looked like they'd been practicing in the arena while Vi and Chris came in from the store where Vi was buying more yarn for the ball she was trying to recreate from her fantasy given by The Ruby Blade almost three months ago. JV, Phantom, and Shard all came in holding money in their hands cheering.

When they realized they'd been teleported and recovered from the dizziness of having your particles taken apart and reassembled in another location, they waited for an explanation.

"We heard the alarm go off BB. What happened?" Jack asked.

"We have a problem, a very bad problem. See the burn marks on my costume? Look closely Hyp."

Hyper leaned close and saw the scorch marks on the costume, "Char? I thought we took care of him last week."

"Not Char. Look closer at the burns.

He stared for a few seconds then said, "These look much more focused. Definitely more powerful than the burns on Shard. This can't be good."

"It isn't. There was something I never told you guys.... I used to be an... an Arch-Villain."

Some apparently knew but how Brawler didn't know, most were shocked, the rest were wary.

"BB I think we'd all feel better if you explained a little," Jack said.

"Well.... during the Rikti War something... happened. I thought Statesman was the cause of a great wrong in my life, but it was all a misunderstanding. A horrible mistake that Statesman thought I might be able to rectify if given a second chance. Some of you may have heard of the battle called 'Flaming Rage'?"

A few nodded and others looked completely confused. "Well I was the leader of that attack...."

"No! I looked at your records and saw your record but I never thought...." Hyper was a little worried by this revelation and BB was worried that he might be put in restraints.

"The thing is, I helped turn a battle in the War and because of it Statesman thought I had a chance for redemption."

"What does this have to do with the alert though?" Shard asked.

"Well... a little more than a year ago Crey Industries was under a lot of scrutiny and they needed a way to convince the public they were on the right side. Some people still thought I was a villain and I had messed with Crey's plans recently so I was the perfect target for their plan. They made this... robot, called Project Heat Seeker. It was created using some of my genetic tissue and it was programmed for a single objective. Kill me."

"What happened to the robot?" Noc asked, already guessing where this was going.

"He found me after I was leaving a Family smuggling warehouse. We fought for hours and he was destroying everything around him trying to kill me. His assault finally hurt a civilian. A small boy who reminded me of myself during the Reichsman's attack on my neighborhood, alone and scared. Seeing the kid afraid like that made me so.... angry I... I burnt him to ashes. Or so I thought. That warehouse was a trap, and he's much more powerful. I doubt that any emotional burst in strength will help me this time."

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The 'Kickers split into three teams, Noc, Jack, and Chris would search Independence Port, Striga Isle, and Talos Island. Brawler, Shard, and Hyp would search Brickstown, Eden, and Crey's Folly. Java, Vi, JV, and Phantom would all search Kings Row, Atlas Park, Galaxy City, and Perez Park.

As JV's team beat down Hellions in every area and were told that lately, many of their gang's Damned left the gang without even telling a higher official.

As Jack's team jumped through their assigned areas they began questioning, against Jack's wishes, Tsoo. They spent hours pounding on them until they found one with some information on a place where recently many different thugs had been seen to gather at.

Hyp's team attacked the Crey since they were the ones who had created Heat Seeker. Apparently the Countess assumed him dead to because none of the scientists they interrogated knew anything about the robot. During it's first fight against Burning Brawler it must have taken off its GPS locater because Crey claimed that's all they found.

When they all regrouped back at the base they discussed what they discovered.

"Well the most of the Damned are deserting the Hellions and I don't think it's a moral issue," Java said.

"From rumors I heard my followers either joined with the Hellions or left the country," Brawler replied.

"Our team found a potential meeting area and this better be it because that was a lot of Tsoo," said Jack.

"All right, we found out that Crey doesn't seem to have any knowledge of Seeker even still being alive. If that warehouse is where Heat is remaking the Legion we can attack fast and end it before it gets too bad," Hyp said.

Then Brawler said, "We'll head out tomorrow night when they should be having a meeting, that way we can get the majority of them fast and easy. Spend tonight getting ready because tomorrow will be hell."

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Nine men and women wearing black jeans and full-sleeve shirts with red flames and low hanging hoods walked up to the warehouse. The security guard looked them over and let them inside.

When the figures entered they walked to the back of the room waiting for this meeting to begin. They looked at the unbelievably large amount of people in the room and noticed that when a robotic villain took the stage everything went silent.

"Friends, allies, and stranger. We have all come together tonight to put in place the final steps of revenge against the one who abandoned us, left us all to die and became what we all despised. We come here tonight to finalize our plans of revenge against Burning Brawler."

Eight of the figures looked to the one standing in their center and swear they heard him chuckle.

"As you remember from our last meeting I said that our enemy and his comrades would deliver themselves to us. I was right."

Suddenly Seeker disappeared and the 'Kickers prepared for a fight. When they looked to Brawler to make sure he had started reading the scroll that would send most of the thugs in the room to jail they noticed he had disappeared as well.

"Where'd they go?" Vi asked as she deactivated her holo-disguise, realizing there was no point in it now.

"Not sure but before we can figure that out we have a problem of our own," said Jack deactivating his disguise as well.

The rest of the 'Kickers present: Hyper, Noc, Phantom, Java, Chris, and Shard deactivated their disguises and prepared for the fight.

"Ok, I'll Nova in the center, Java you take the back. Shard make an ice storm in front and Jack, you, Noc, Chris, and Vi and Phant's illusions keep them busy and try to keep them off their feet," said Hyp. This would have been much easier if Brawler was here with his scroll but they'd just have to do their best.

The enemies ran forward eagerly and were suddenly chilled to the bone. In the back massive explosions were heard and Legionnaires went flying. The tanks and pets ran in to make sure the villains' focus wasn't on the recovering Blasters.

As Jack stomped the tiles on the warehouse floor rose into the air knocking all of the Legion members in a twenty foot radius off their feet and making the rest sick to their stomach.

Noc was quickly smashing the enemies' skulls in and doing her best to keep them occupied while Chris did the same.

Phantom's decoys were made to look like Hyper and Java and confused their enemies greatly when the should-be-dying Blasters weren't even flinching.

When Vi saw some of the villains had seen through the trick she hurriedly covered them in such intense radiation all their hair fell out. She quickly sent out some phantasms to mop up the vomiting villains.

Once Hyp and Java had recovered they lept back into the fray. The villains were mopped up in a matter of minutes. Most of the ones who could wield fire in the days before the organization's crumble were either killed in the Rikti War or didn't think this organization's resurrection would work.

Elsewhere...

"Ugghhhh where am I?" Brawler struggled to get up and noticed his holo-disguise was gone. He thought hard but didn't remember how he got there and that worried him greatly. He seemed to be in an old building with tan brick walls and.... then it hit him. He was inside the old Legion of the Black Flame main base.

He jumped to his feet and wildly looked around expecting to be ambushed but nothing happened. He looked around and decided if he was going to get out of here he'd have to... then he remembered. He remembered Project Heat Seeker delivering a speech and then revealing he knew the 'Kickers were there and... and he teleported Brawler to this base. The only question was: how on earth did he even know where it was?

He started walking and saw the security corridor. "I'm sure the defenses' magic has expired by now." He figured better safe than sorry though and turned himself invisible and flew into the air. The runes were placed on the ground and the weapons were only able to see visible objects. They were enchanted to attack anyone who walked by them except Burning Brawler but he didn't want to take any chances.

He flew past the corridor and looked at his old room. It was larger than the Meeting Hall in the 'Kickers base. Brawler almost smiled seeing his old possessions, except that he remembered some of the horrible things they contained. When he became a hero he returned to the Legion base to recover some of his old items but some of them were so dark he couldn't bear to touch them. He was about to leave and search somewhere else until he noticed a room that was very important to Brawler as a villain.

Large stone doors blocked off a room with a seal on it that, to be opened, required intense temperatures only a master fire wielder would be able to unleash. Brawler was, and still is, powerful enough to open the seal to this most important room. He concentrated and breathed a powerful flame hot enough to melt off certain areas of even Hyper's armor.

The doors turned bright red and slowly opened revealing a long, narrow hallway lined with pillars. At the end of this hallway on a raised dais sat a ball. This was no ordinary ball though. It was covered with eldritch runes of power and rage and emanated a dark power that you could feel invading your very thoughts.

Brawler squinted and saw something near the item. He flew ahead and realized the thing was actually the last person he wanted near the item.

There was Project Heat Seeker, his hand on the item, the item's energy infusing into the villain, and Seeker laughed maniacally at his assumed triumph.

Brawler knew that that item was powerful. He also knew that it was a dangerous thing. Finally, he knew that he was in for the fight of his life.

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"Oh good you're awake. I considered killing you in your sleep but watching your pain is so much more satisfying," taunted the villain.

"Step away from that; it's too powerful for anyone to use like that. I can't do it without my essence-"

"Separating itself from the rest of my form?" said the villain as his skin began to melt away revealing an evil malice exactly like what was emanating from the orb. It moved like flame but was much more sinister and much more powerful. "But that's exactly what I wanted it to do!"

"But you're not human! How could you have-"

"Oh I am, was, very human. Now I'm something more! I used to be your lackey now I will be your destroyer!"

"Lackey? What do you mean my... Heat Stroke?!"

"I see you remember. Yes it is I. After you abandoned me and all of your other loyal followers how could you not be expecting something like this to happen."

"But Crey said they-"

"They said they found a way to deal with you and they were right. When I heard they were looking for a way to look good in the public eye I was all too eager to offer my services."

"You aren't getting out of here one way or another. Incorporeal forms can't pass through this base. The wards I placed here will last hundreds of years."

"Oh I'm quite corporeal," he said as he threw a blaze of fury at Brawler.

He barely dodged it and launched his own fiery bolt, but when it hit Heat Stroke his spirit form absorbed it.

"You can't hurt me hero. Your attack will only strengthen me, and once I've killed you I'll come and kill each and every one of your friends. I think I'll kill them slowly, make them suffer, feel the heat slowly melt their skin away."

Brawler's glowing eyes flared into flames at that and charged forward his hands enveloped in flames. He punched and kicked and clawed at the essence but to no avail. The spirit just mocked him. Until one of Burning's fists turned blue and touched the spirit's form, freezing him in place.

Brawler smirked and said, "The fire may make you more powerful but ice is handy for making a spirit prison."

As he turned to walk away he heard a rumbling. He turned back to the ice block and saw it shaking violently. When the spirit moved he tried to fly away but couldn't get far enough away. The crystal exploded sending shards everywhere and one large icicle, which impaled Burning Brawler in the chest.

Brawler looked at the point through his chest in shock and fell to the ground. As blackness clouded his vision he saw a gooey red liquid pool around him.

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Groggily, the prisoner looked at his surroundings.

"Oh good you're awake," said a cold, cruel voice. A voice the prisoner recognized and immediately set him on the alert.

"Stroke! Get me out of.... wherever I am!"

"You are in the torture room of the base," said the villain and Burning tried to throw a blast of fire at him but as soon as he summoned it, it dissipated, "complete with nullifying runes," he said chuckling.

"Why are you doing this? I was dying, why put me in here?"

"So I can bring you to the brink of death, then heal you, then do it all again, giving me the satisfying pleasure of listening to you scream for mercy and death. Then I will give you an offer, the offer to become my second-in-command in the Black Phoenix, a new organization rising from the ashes of your pathetic gang."

"No torture will make me fall. You might as well kill me now."

"You'll be very surprised how differently you see things when in agony."

In the 'Kickers base...

"Hyper do you have a location on him?" said a woman who was pacing nervously.

"Not yet Danica, don't worry I'm sure he'll be fine. For all we know he's trying to find a way back to us."

Danica wanted to believe him but she felt like there was something very wrong with her husband at the moment.

She had no idea how right she was.

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There was a knock on the door and Danica hurried over and opened it. Hyp was standing in the doorway and said, "We have his location, are you ready to leave right now?"

"Yes I just need to grab a few things."

She ran to the back of the apartment and heard a boy say, "They found dad?"

She looked over at him and nodded.

"Then I'm coming with you," he said. The boy was 14 and wore a costume that seemed a mix between his father's and a Void Hunter Mercenary. It was all black except for the pure white flames leaping from the boots and gloves. He had a cowl over his mouth and black sunglasses to hide his identity.

"It's too dangerous," she said as Danica left her room in a plain, brown leather costume with a red cloth belt.

"But-" then Danica left to follow Hyper back to the base.

Inside the 'Kicker Control Room...

"Ok we have BB's location. It's an underground area that used to be part of Orenbega," several groaned at this.

"I swear he knew this would happen and chose Orenbega for his base just to tick me off," said Shard.

"I've configured the teleporter so it'll take us right to the center of the base where we'll all stick together, yes I said stick together, and search for any signs of BB or Heat Seeker," said Hyp.

After he typed the coordinates on the mission computer they all walked to the teleporter, and didn't notice an extra sneaking in behind Jack.

The center of the Legion of the Black Flame base...

Once they were all inside: Jack, Hyp, Danica, Java, Vi, Chris, Noc, JV, Phantom, and Shard, they began debating which way to go until finally Jack picked up most of them and started carrying them left. With two-thirds of the group now going one way the rest had no choice but to follow.

They walked down a long hallway and didn't stop until they saw blood.

"That's not-" Noc began to say.

Danica bent down and rubbed her fingers on it. "No it's dry, but that's just as bad."
They all realized what she meant by this but moved on without comment.

When they saw a large stone door with iron bars across it's front they stopped. "Ok I can break this in," said Jack. He pulled his fist far back and launched it like a bullet at the iron. Everyone heard a loud crack but it was from Jack's knuckles not the door.

"Tough stuff," he said massaging his hand.

"Here, let me try," said Danica and she began feeling along the door.

"I dunno that you can-" Jack began to say but Danica found the spot she was looking for and side-kicked it, breaking the door in half and causing the halves and the iron bars to fall to the ground.

"Never mind...."

They looked at the large room that was filled with jars of organs and body parts and bloody swords and other devices. As they came to the racks and thumbscrews they saw a person chained to the wall high enough that his feet dangled.

"James!" Danica yelled and she ran forward. There was Burning Brawler, hanging there, limp, seeming lifeless. Danica began to panic until she noticed his chest moving faintly. "He's still breathing. Chris can you help me get these shackles off?" She looked up at Brawler's face and he was staring back, but it wasn't a kind expression. "Why-" then Brawler ripped the shackles out of the wall.

Danica backed up suddenly fearful, something was very wrong here. Brawler grabbed her and threw her back towards the 'Kickers.

"What the hell's wrong with you man?" said Shard and dodged a bolt of fire aimed his way.

"Everybody get ready to fire...." Hyp said almost choking on the words. The Blasters raised their arms to aim and some of the Tanks focused, ready to launch lasers, and Phantom and Vi were ready to assault with Nightmares. The only one not preparing to attack was Danica who was hurt badly behind the 'Kickers line.

"Three.... two..."

"WAAAIIT!" yelled a voice and they all turned to look. There they saw Void Brawler who sped through the line and stood between them and Brawler.

"Dad... it's me. C'mon snap out of it.... Dad?" Burning's eyes began to flare with heat and Void tried to run but wouldn't be able to in time. Void turned and closed his eyes. He felt a searing heat but didn't feel it on him. He opened his eyes and looked down. There was Jack on the floor, smoking, motionless.

"NO!" Noc lept forward and pinned down Burning while Chris ran up to help. Hyp and Java ran up and aimed their arms at Burning's head. The rest were still in shock.

Brawler didn't try to struggle at all. He just lay there calmly. Then they all felt a boiling heat under their feet and Hyper quick-thinkingly activated his flight pack, lifting the whole group up from the floor. When that failed Brawler snarled and began thrashing. An unearthly voice came out of his mouth with words like "Treason and Betrayal"

All of the 'Kickers holding him down flew backwards from the inferno that came and saw not one, but two bodies in the mass of flames.

The first they recognized as Burning Brawler but the other was new. He looked like one of the Legion but he had a black cape with red flames and a golden comet brooch.

"What have you done? Why am I back like this?!" he yelled almost spitting the last word.

Brawler didn't answer. Instead he grabbed the other and pushed down with all his might until the second was on his knees. Then Brawler's hands lit with white fire. He squeezed the second man's shoulders and he to caught fire, but his fire was not a pure white. It was black, blacker than shadows. The black fire grew as Burning squeezed harder. Arms popped out of their sockets, eyes began to bulge. Then the black-fire rose into the air in the shape of a skull, mouth opened wide. The skull came down and consumed the screaming man, and the villain was no more.

While the 'Kickers ran to Jack and tried to find his medi-porter for the base Danica and Void ran to see Burning.

"Mom is he okay?"

Danica put her ear to Burning's chest. "He's breathing... but it's very faint. I need you to do a transfer."

"Mom that could kill you!"

"I'll be fine just do it!" she yelled afraid there may not be enough time.

Void grabbed his mother and father's hand and felt their life forces. He took some from his mother but mostly from himself to give Burning just enough that he could survive.

Burning coughed and looked up at the two of them. "He's gone?" they both nodded. "Everyone is safe?" The two looked back and watched Jack fade to the base's med-lab and nodded again. "Good," he said and fell unconscious.

Three days later...

Brawler explained to them how the second man was his former lackey Heat Stroke who was also Seeker and how he had turned into an essence of hate. He then told them how through torture Heat was unable to convince him to join him willingly so he possessed him and when Stroke tried to turn the floor to magma he had concentrated too hard on the feat and gave Brawler the opening to regain control and force him out. As to why he came back in his human form is still unknown.

"What about the white and black flames? And the skull?" asked Void.

"They represented good and evil, how when there is good evil always shows. The skulls was the evil manifesting itself, and then consuming the one who had stayed so close to it."

"So is he gone?" asked Danica, the question all of the 'Kickers were wanting to ask.

Brawler concentrated very hard before he spoke. "Yeah.... he's gone."

The End...


TO
Nemesis 3 >



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