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Nemesis 3: When the Sun Sets

"All right 'Kickers, you all know why Jack and I called this meeting here. I understand that you're all concerned about Noc's recent.... behavior," said Hyp.

A few months ago Nocturnal Sun came back to the base from a mission in a Circle of Thorns cave and seemed dazed. The next few weeks she seemed even more out of focus and would only come into the base when she was taking something from her room or worse, at least in JV's opinion, half the food in the fridge.

"We had BB run some rituals and there's no ghostly possession from her Circle of Thorns mission so we're looking for other reasons why she'd be like this," said Jack.

"Maybe she's being controlled psionically? I had to fight some Family that the Circle was controlling."

"That still would fall under my possession detection spell. I searched her mind and body for anything that shouldn't be there and I couldn't find a thing," said Brawler.

Brawler felt something touch the back of his mind and opened himself to it. He heard the familiar voice of Cosmic in his head asking, Were there any fantasies about me in there?

Only about beating you for that time you tried to fly down her shirt he replied and tried not to laugh at the disappointment he felt emanating from Cosmic as he broke their link.

"Well I think we should perform an interven-" Chris started to say but stopped when Noc entered through the base portal.

"Hi guys! Why's everybody staring at me like that? Are you guys throwing a party or something?" Noc asked.

"No we were just discussing a new look for the base is all," said Hyp.

"Oh well... I won't be much help for that..." she replied.

"Why's that Noc?" asked Jack.

"Well... I'm um... I'm leaving..."

"WHAT?!" They all said in unison.

"Wait if this has anything to do with-" Cosmic started but she quickly cut him off.

"No it's not that it's just... well I just feel like it's time I moved on."

She hurriedly walked to her room to grab what was left of her things.

"Noc's leaving? I can't believe it..." said Vi.

"This makes no sense, I didn't know her very well but I could tell she's not one who'd leave just because she felt like it," said Obsidian.

"Maybe there's more to it but she feels like we don't need to know," said Java.

“.... Guys.... did she seem.... I dunno.... different?" asked Brawler

"Maybe it's just because that's the first time we've heard her speak in a while," said Jack.

"Hold on maybe we can convince her to stay, c'mon everyone," said Hyp.

They ran to Noc's room, knocked, and opened the door, but no one was in there.

"Did any of you see her leave?" asked Cosmic.

They all shook their heads and turned around walking away, upset that they didn't give her a proper good-bye.

The only one left was Cosmic whose eyes were beginning to form tears. He walked into Noc's room with all her posters and trophies and costumes gone. He bent down and picked something up off the floor, it was Noc's 'Kicker Emergency Alert beacon. He sniffed and turned it around in his hands.

He started to pocket it but stopped when he noticed something on the back. He stared hard at it and then dropped the beacon in shock and ran out of the room to gather the others. On the back deep scratches made the words: Help Me.


 "Johnny, have you found anything?" JV looked at the communicator on his wrist and skidded to a stop. "Sorry Hyp nothing. I've been to every base portal and no one says they ever saw her walk out of one. How's BB's scrying going?"

"Not good. Every time he tries to get it to focus the water turns completely black. I'm attempting to locate her with the tracer installed in her medi-porter but I keep getting some interference."

Another voice joined the conversation that JV and Hyp both recognized as Super Shard's. "For something to interfere with a medi-porter's signal it'd have to be deep underground and there'd have to be a ton of electric interference."

Hyper thought about Shard's words and quickly said, "JV I need you to meet me down at the tram in Talos. I'll be there soon. Shard meet me in the control room."

JV wasn't sure what was in Talos but didn't question Hyp.

Inside the 'Kickers control room..."

"Ok people, we've tried tracking Noc but we can't get a signal. Shard suggested that wherever she was had to be underground and there'd have to be a lot of interference. That's why I have reason to believe she's in one of the underground cave networks. Since there are so many we'll have to beat down on every cave-dwelling villain, looking for information.

"JV and I are hitting Talos to look into Circle of Thorns. Jack and Chris, you'll be hitting the Tsoo." Jack groaned. "I'm kidding! You guys will take care of Trolls while Brawler and Shard attack the Tsoo. Java, I want you to lead Phantom, Violet, Cosmic, and Arrow against the Council."

Each group took their turns running through the base portal and teleporters and each had the same fear haunting their thoughts.

What if they couldn't find her in time?  


 Johnny Velocity was literally running on the water; Hyper-man was flying just a little bit behind. The Circle of Thorn's isle was nearing view and soon they had reached their destination.

"Alright JV, we just need to take out their lead mages, they're the ones who will have the information we need."

JV nodded and quickly sped around the island, once, twice, three times and each time there were more colors added to the blur. On the fourth time around JV dropped ten mages on the floor, each looking like they were about to hurl.

"Release.... ugh.. us you... *burp* imbeciles!" cried one bold Soul Mage.

"We'll let you go, right after you tell us everything you know about recent kidnappings," said Hyp as he attached wires from his arm to the necks of each mage. He interrogated each one but they all said that they didn't know about any kidnappings, even worse the lie detector said they were telling the truth.

"Alright JV lets get some teleporter cuffs on these guys."

"But you said you'd... *gag*... let us go!" protested the Soul Mage.

"We said we'd let you go just not where to," replied JV.

In the caverns under the Hollows...

"God it stinks down here! Do these Trolls ever take a bath?” Jack complained.

"Better than Tsoo isn't it?" Chris replied.

"Yeah I guess," said Jack as he mashed another Gardvord into the dust.

They were talking casually but they had a good 100 Trolls on them. Normally the Trolls would have been all taken care of by now but they had to stop to figure out which ones to just cuff now and which to leave in the pile they had growing in the corner for interrogation.

"You getting tired of these guys Chris?" replied Jack as he smashed his hands together creating a wave of pain for the Trolls that were futilely trying to smash him with sledges."

A Caliban hit Chris in the stomach but all he felt was a tickle. "Yeah these guys aren't giving up anytime soon."

They both lifted one foot up and the more human trolls realized what they were about to do and began to make a break for... to late. They stomped down with enough force to cave in part of the caverns and knock the Trolls that weren't crushed by rocks senseless.

"Alright we have a lot of work to do on these. There's a good sixty Trolls that we can interrogate. You take the pile in the corner and I'll get these scattered ones," said Jack.

The next two hours was spent questioning and cuffing Trolls but not one had heard about some heroine getting kidnapped.

In a cave under Steel Canyon..."

"Ow! Careful that thing's in there deep," yelled Burning Brawler.

"I'm doing the best I can, now hold still; this arrow is in really deep."

Brawler was sitting against the cave wall with an arrow completely through his left arm. Every time Shard tried to take it out sent a wave of agony up and down his entire body.

"Hold on, wait," said Brawler. He grabbed the arrowhead and snapped it off. "Ok now.... pull on three... one... two..." Brawler shut his eyes tight, bracing himself for the pain, "three-AAGGHHHH!"

"Here put this bandage on it and let's keep moving."

Brawler nodded and tied on the piece of cloth Shard offered him. "I can start to see why Jack can't stand these Tsoo..."

They walked slowly, careful not to step in one of the many puddles on the cave floor. The last thing they wanted was to lose their element of surprise.

They continued until they found an exceptionally large cavern and in it's center was one of the large statues that the Tsoo seemed to use to make the ink that gave a few their powers. But it wasn't the statue they were concentrating on; it was the twenty Lightning Blades and Death Moons kowtowing to it.

"Ok Shard, what's the plan?"

"Why do I have to come up with the plan?!"

"Because I think I just crapped myself...."

Shard took a small step away from Brawler and began to think. "Alright I have a plan.... we'll go invisible and you go around to the back of the statue while I stand in front of it. I want you to super-heat it, then I'll break it so the hot pieces hit the Tsoo-"

"And the panic and giant pieces of hot rock will scatter them!"

"Yep, and we'll be able to pick 'em off one by one."

They each turned themselves invisible and began to carry out the plan. Brawler placed his hands on the statue's back and let the heat in his hands flow into the statue. One Death Moon screamed in joy at the sight of the statue turning red thinking it to be a sign that their god was hearing them. Man could they have been more wrong. Shard appeared and smashed the statue to bits, sending ink spraying everywhere along with the super-heated rubble.

The Tsoo that weren't squashed completely were badly burnt, on the ground crying out in pain. Brawler and Shard gathered up the few who were uninjured and froze them in a corner. The ones that were.... unable to be arrested were cuffed and sent to the hospital ward in the Zig.

Brawler thawed out the villains they froze in the corner and began they began their interrogation using their ability to create extreme temperatures to persuade the villains to talk.

They spent a good hour on their interrogation but none of the Tsoo had even heard of a "Nocturnal Sun."

In a Council base under Independence Port...

Java Juggernaut, Cosmic Energy, Violet Tigress, Phantom, and the Obsidian Arrow all wandered through the Council base, expecting a fight. Strange enough, the base seemed completely deserted.

"I don't like this, it feels like a trap," said Java.

"Now how could it be a trap if they don't know we're coming? C'mon there's a computer over there. Arrow will hack it, we'll search their database, and we'll be outta here," said Phantom.

The five of them stepped up on the platform and walked to the gigantic computer against the back wall. Obsidian walked up to the keyboard and began his search. He loaded the prisoner files and was asked for a password. "These prisoners are normally under Arankh's dominion," Cosmic shuddered at the name, "I'm sure I know her password." He typed in a simple sentence 'Death to the Peacebringers' and heard the computer say "Access Granted."

Arrow smiled and began searching the files. Violet started to feel a little bored and looked around. She saw a small mouse in the corner and tried to look away but she could feel those cat instincts urging her to pounce. She went into a crouch and stalked over to the mouse hungrily licking her lips. Java turned around and saw her and said, "Vi know is not a good time," but was too late. Vi pounced on the mouse and her leg hit a trip-wire that sounded a blaring alarm through the base.

They heard a whirring sound as parts of the wall turned to reveal turrets; as if that wasn't bad enough, Mek-Men and giant MKs began falling to the floor from hidden ceiling panels.

They all turned around in alarm and Phantom and Vi quickly placed decoys and a Phantasm to slow the robots. Java lept into the robots midst to try to blow a few apart while Obsidian quickly sent an arrow at the small turrets. Cosmic was in his "crab form" trying to wrestle some of the MKs off of him.

The Phantasms and Decoys didn't have a heat signature and therefore were invisible to the robots, however Java was very visible.

They all turned on him not seeing or feeling any rocks thrown or energy blasts from the Decoys and the two Phantasms were invisible to them. The Phantasm attacks, their logic program assumed, must be coming from the man in the middle scrunched up like he's constipated.

They each aimed an arm that was morphing into a blaster at him. Vi quickly laid radiation on them trying to cause a distraction while Obsidian, having finished the last turret, sent a rain of arrows at the robots. The radiation messed with their targeting and they ended up blasting each other while the arrows slid in between the plating and hit vital devices such as energy packs and AI units. Cosmic had had enough and burst from the MKs in a bright light turning the robots into projectiles that dented and shredded some of the little Mek-Men. Phantom was quickly buffing Java realizing what he was about to do to finish this fight.

Java released a blast of intense energy that not only broke the remaining robots but also knocked all the "spare parts" up against the walls, out of the heroes' way.

Vi looked down a little embarrassed she triggered the trap but no one mentioned it. They just watched Arrow type quickly on the keyboard looking for prisoner files.

"Uh guys.... I found something."

They all leaned over his shoulder and looked at the screen in shock, then ran for the base door in a hurry to return to the 'Kickers base.

This would not be easy to tell the others.


 Java's team rushed into the base each hoping what they found was some other lady who could take a lot of damage and land a good hit. They had to have found something, anything!

"You guys find anything?" asked Cosmic, his voice hopeful.

The other teams were standing around the meeting room all looking disappointed until the others walked in and seeing the other team looking so troubled they thought that they hadn't found anything either.

They're news was much worse.

"No, did you?" asked Hyper.

Java, Vi, Cosmic, and Phantom all went silent, Obsidian Arrow looked over at them hoping one of the others would give them the bad news but they stayed silent and eerily still, practically mourning. Arrow gulped and looked Hyp straight in the eyes, or where he assumed they were anyway. "This.... um this isn't easy to.... to tell you guys but.... Java?"

Java looked at Obsidian and was not happy with having the buck passed like that. "Well she's... she was captured by.... by he Council and-"

"The Council? Of course! Those bases are pumping so much juice that it could fry almost any signal," Shard said.

"So she's in a cell then? Where?" said Jack beginning to look hopeful, so much so that Java could not bear to tell him the rest.

So he nudged Vi.

Vi was going to leave a dead mouse in under his pillow for that. "Well we also kinda found out why she was acting... strange. She was, um, well she's not herself she's... she's a Nictus."

This caused so much confusion in the room between asking if this was some kind of horrible joke, if they were sure, or just sounds of complete disbelief until everyone just went silent trying to wrap their minds around the idea that one of their best friends was being controlled in such an awful way.

Finally Cosmic broke the silence. "Her files said they had been targeting her for months... First they... " Cosmic had to fight down the urge to throw up, "they drugged her to make her more... easily possessed. The Nictus was controlling her.... how didn't I sense it?! Anyway the Nictus was ordered very clearly by Arakhn and the Center not to make direct contact with us."

"And what I used was to detect any ectoplasm on her! Kheldian energy signatures would be invisible to that kind spell," said Burning, feeling very stupid.

"Alright so where is she now?" asked Jack.

Phantom created an illusory map of Founder's Falls and marked the spot where the cave entrance was located.

"Ok 'Kickers we have a location, is everyone ready to go now?" asked Hyp.

"But... what'll we do about the Nictus in her?" asked Chris

"Leave that to me," said Cosmic.

They weren't entirely sure what that meant but they sincerely hoped Cosmic's human half said that and not the Peacebringer.


 "There's the entrance everybody ready?" asked Hyper.

"Wait, there are guards at the door," said Cosmic.

"Guards? I don't see any-"

BAM! Cosmic launched a burst of light and two Nictus fell to the ground, dead.

"Oh, ok then. Alright 'Kickers let's move."

They all walked into the base: Hyp, Jack, Vi, Chris, Java, Phantom, Cosmic, Brawler, Shard, JV, and Arrow. The sliding rock door slammed behind them creating an echo that would work just as well as an alarm.

They hurried and met little resistance as they made their way into the heart of the base. There were sometimes a few soldiers on patrol but were no match for a team of eleven well-trained heroes.

When they hit a dead end they felt along the walls looking for another door but couldn't find one. "Hold on a sec," said Hyp and he began tapping on the floor while looking at the readings flashing across his helmet. He nodded to himself and raised a fist that was pulsing with red energy. He smashed it into the floor creating a hole to the next level.

Hyp shrugged and jumped into the hole with the other 'Kickers right behind him. They looked at the room they had entered with wide eyes. Metal coffins, hundreds of them, filled the room.

They all formed a tight back-to-back circle eyeing the coffins warily. "Brawler, Java, Arrow, do you guys think if we snipe them the rest won't open?" Hyp asked nervously, already aiming his arm at the largest coffin.

"I see a pipe up there, I think I can pierce it with an arrow and it may shut them all down," replied Obsidian.

Hyp nodded and Obsidian took aim. The arrow he shot pulsed with electric energy and hit it's target perfectly.

To bad the plan didn't work the same way.

The coffin doors opened with a cloud of smoke and out of each stepped a Vampyr in their goggles and green leather pants.

Once they became aware of their surroundings they quickly assaulted the 'Kickers with a blast of mental force too strong for any of them to take. They all fell to their knees holding their heads in agony.

Then they all suddenly lost consciousness.


 'BB? Brawler wake up!' a loud voice said inside Burning's head. He looked around the tiny room and realized he was once again in a Council holding cell.

'Is that you Cos?' he asked as he got up off the disgusting floor.

'He's got us all mentally linked. The walls here are soundproof,' "said" Hyp.

'Hold on guys I'm gonna break down my door,' said Chris. From three cells over he heard what sounded like steel hitting steel, then he heard Chris cursing to himself, forgetting the mental link. He apologized, embarrassed, and said, 'We've been given nullifiers. I put a small dent in the door so it must be wearing off but it may be another half hour.'

Just as Chris completed his sentence the doors unlocked themselves and slid open to reveal a large stone maze.

They not only saw that it was a maze, but they were all separated into two teams. With the space between the twenty-foot walls and the ceiling there was no need for the mental link. The teammates: Hyp and Shard, Vi and Java, BB and Cosmic, Arrow and Phantom, and Chris and JV, looked around and noticed they were missing someone.

"Anyone see Jack?" Hyp asked. Everyone said that he wasn't with them and Hyp worried. "Ok, hold on while I teleport everyone to me." Hyp pressed a button on his wrist but nothing happened. "BB, port us to you?"

Brawler searched his mind for the spell, knew it was there, even knew the words, but as soon as he tried to say them his brain lost them. "Something's messed with my mind I can't get the incantation. Here, I'll just fly everyone to you."

Brawler lept into the air and began to... fall. On his face. Hard.

Muttering to himself he heard the familiar sound of JV about to run at super speeds and heard him trip over himself. Some of the others tried to leap but only were able to rise a few more inches than normal people.

"Ok the nullifiers seem to be keeping all of our travel powers down," Hyp fired an explosive blast at the ceiling causing dust to rain down on the others, "but our attacks seem fine now. Ok 'Kickers meet at the center of the maze, and keep a sharp eye out for anything suspicious."

The teams set out, many trying their travel powers to see if they were working yet, a half hour of going in what seemed like circles and still nothing.

At a four-way intersection, Arrow and Phantom kept moving until they saw Chris and JV walking up towards them. "Over here guys!" called Phantom, waving. Then Chris lunged at Phantom and smashed him to the ground. Obsidian stabbed him with an electric arrow that sent him to the ground in convulsions. He pulled out a second to aim at JV but for some reason the Scrapper's super speed was working and in the blink of an eye JV had taken out his claws and plunged them deep into Obsidian's chest. As Arrow began to fall JV yanked out the claws, retracted them, and helped Chris to his feet.

Vi and Java ran into the intersection, Java launched a quick bolt of energy at JV that knocked him into a wall; when he made contact he vanished in a puff of purple smoke. Vi ran up to revive Arrow and try to heal Phantom's head wound. Java raised energy fists and smashed the still twitching "Chris" and he to vanished just like JV when smashed.

"What happened?!" asked Arrow.

"We're not sure," said Vi looking around to be sure it was safe. "A few minutes ago some... things that looked like Hyp and Shard attacked us. We just barely got away."

Ahead of them they heard someone scream in agony. They ran in the direction of the sound and saw Cosmic leaning over a Brawler that was clutching his chest rocking on the floor in pain. The "Cosmic" raised gleaming fists high in the air and came down. The fists would have contacted, except that the fake was frozen in ice. Once encased the imposter disappeared in a puff of the strange purple smoke just like the others. Shard and Hyper walked up their arms pointed at Vi and Java suspiciously and vice-versa.

"Don't worry, it's actually them," said Phantom as he ran over to heal Brawler. Once he was healed Hyp asked him, "Where's the real Cosmic?" Brawler pointed behind him saying, "Some clown that's dressed up like me attacked him. He tried to draw... me... away so I didn't... hurt... my... self?"

"Told you he was slow," said Shard. Brawler angrily said, "This is pretty confusing okay?"

Shard laughed and walked over to where Brawler said Cosmic was and saw the ending of the fight. Crab-form Cosmic had the fake Brawler by the neck and had his fist pulled back. Like a cannon, his arm shot forward snapping the fake Brawler's neck back and making it.... not disappear. It fell to the ground and Cosmic grinned at Shard... hungrily.

Cosmic lept forward and grabbed Shard's neck and ankles before he could react. Cosmic went into a kneel position with Shard still high above his head. Shard tried to breath ice onto Cosmic but the tight grip on his throat was making it impossible. Cosmic brought Shard down onto his knee making a snapping sound like a gunshot that sent the other 'Kickers over, except one who was on the ground.

Shard was on the ground coughing blood while Cosmic had his giant foot on his head, slowly applying pressure. Shard screamed and Hyper and Java sent bolts flying into Cosmic knocking him up into the air to hit the floor with that eerie smoke. Phantom and Violet hurried to Shard, if they could work fast enough he wouldn't be paralyzed. He may be unable to walk for a day or two though.

Java looked over at the body in the corner and gasped. He ran over and called Phantom to come help. Shard was starting to get to his feet but was having a hard time of it. Phantom went to work fixing Brawler's neck when a thought occurred to him. "If that's Brawler there then who's...?" Java turned around to see the actual fake with his hands rose above his head, covered in white-hot flames, but before he brought them down a rock hit Brawler's back. Looking through the smoke he saw Chris and JV go over to the other 'Kickers.

All of them were finally back together. After everyone was sure that everyone was themselves they moved forward through the maze.

They found the center and were staring in disbelief at this newest sight.


 Inside the cavern were clones, hundreds of them of all the 'Kickers present.

"Ok don't panic everyone... these things can only take one or two hits, we can take them. I want us to fight our own clones, that way we're not killing each other," said Hyp.

They each felt fear well up inside them. Phantom turned them all invisible and they ran out to begin.

Hyper ran to his clone group and quickly buffed up for a Nova. He exploded and sent Hyper-Mans flying everywhere to burst into those purple clouds. Some of them flew up at the last second and turned to launch powerful bursts. The real Hyp flew into the air and the blasts hit the clones opposite the ones that fired, turning a large group of them into smoke. Hyper threw an explosive blast into the middle of the remaining ten and watched with satisfaction as they too disappeared.

Vi was happy to see that her clones were currently acting more cat than human, playing with thread from their costumes, cleaning themselves, and rolling around with each other. She quickly called some Phantasms to take them out while they weren't paying attention. She infected one of the Violet's that was playing with stray threads on her costume. The Vi fell over and began to throw up while infecting the other clones and making them do the same. The Phantasms quickly took care of the vomiting Violets without a problem.

Chris snuck into the center of his clone group, laughing, and stomped as hard as he could, sending clones up into the air. Some landed on their backs and burst but many landed on their feet. Some ripped up the floor and threw the boulder at him while others stomped and smashed. He jumped into the air making the smashers hit each other on the head to make them burst while the stompers launched shockwaves to burst the boulder-throwers, the boulders launched hit stompers in the back and made them vanish. Chris surveyed his work and thought it was a pretty good job.

Java started out the same as Hyp, gathering his strength and knocking the clones of himself clear across the room with a Nova. Same as before some of them halted their progress through the air before they hit a wall and flew back at Java. The ones that remained lifted their hands, crackling with electricity, high into the air. Java rolled out of the center of the group as the hands came down. When the hands all connected they created an electrical force so great it destroyed all the clones, not just the ones in the circle.

Phantom ran in and saw his group was anxiously waiting for him. He formed his decoys and Phantasm and buffed the Phantasm for the fight. He threw a horror into the group causing many to hold their heads in agony at the horrible wailing while others froze in terror at the sight. Some Phantom clones saw the terror for what it was and turned began to make their own wall of protective pets. They were just a little too slow as the Phantasm threw large boulders at them, making the clones and their pets dissipate. The decoys and Phantasm quickly cleaned up the terrorized Phantoms without a problem.

Cosmic ran in front of his group and tried to decide which side to attack first. On the left were human form clones, the center was the squids, and the right was the crab-forms. He decided to try to take out the humans and squids at once. He, still invisible, stood in the center of the two groups and launched a searing white light that made all the squids and most of the humans and crabs turn into smoke. The remaining humans lobbed blasts at him as he turned into his crab form. The other crabs ran in and began to pummel him with fists of light and energy. Cosmic gathered his strength and, with a burst of force, sent them all flying off of him and into the walls. All that remained were the human-forms who stayed at range. He lept at them and tore through them like toilet paper in this form. Cosmic reverted to his human form and sat down to rest, weary from the strain the fight had put on him.

Burning Brawler saw his clones and began his assault. He created a rain of fire that pelted the clones and put their costumes in flames. As they struggled to get out of the rain the real Brawler appeared. He launched a fireball into the center that exploded on contact with a clone. He then blew a line of flame that turned purple smoke into steam. To finish off the last of the confused clones, he leapt into their center and built the anger inside of him, unleashing it as a fiery inferno turning the last of the clones into vapor.

Shard looked at his own clones and started to consider a new costume. He quickly threw at an ice storm that was shredding the clones and already making some vanish. He then began freezing many of them so that the pressure from the ice would make those also disappear. The remaining group he quickly smashed, bashed, and tossed into others making them go poof like the others. He found one last clone preparing to freeze him. He quickly threw an ice bolt that impaled the clone through its stomach, making it dissipate, the icicle falling to the floor.

JV saw his group was sitting down and had somehow gotten their hands on some pizza. He stared hungrily at the food suddenly remembering he hadn't eaten in the last twelve hours, maybe longer. He licked his lips and almost forgot about the clones. Hearing the sounds of lightning from somewhere behind him quickly brought him back to reality. He concentrated and sped all around the outside of the group, arm out, claws extended. He ran in a vicious circle that shredded the clones, taking JV right down to the gooey center. When the clones had all vanished he saw the pizza. He hungrily ran over to it and took a slice. He began to bite down on it but as soon as his teeth connected the slice turned into smoke. Practically crying JV kicked the pizza box in frustration.

Arrow looked around at the other 'Kickers finishing up their clones. He knew he had to prove he was able to keep up with them, that he was ready to leave the KiT. He saw his enemies and cloaked himself, feeling Phantom's invisibility wearing off. He flew into the air and launched a rain of arrows down at the group that pierced and dissipated many clones. He grabbed another handful of arrows and launched it down at a group that was preparing to super-speed out of the confusion. They fell to the ground and vanished as arrow reached in his belt and pulled out a trip mine. He dropped down and placed several of these before speeding out of there. Some tried to follow but hit the trip mines and were sent flipping into a wall to disappear. Arrow saw the other 'Kickers gathering at the other side of the room and hurried over to them.

"Ok Brawler, is everyone here themselves?" asked Hyper.

Brawler shut his eyes and felt that everyone was who they were supposed to be. He nodded then grunted as something smashed his head. He got up from the floor and looked at a grinning Shard. "Just makin' sure you're you," he said.

Brawler would just have to pay him back later. The others were already on their way to a portal in the center, obviously the maze exit. As they each stepped through and appeared in a large stone cavern similar to the one they had found the hundred clones. But the center was raised and on that altar made the 'Kickers eyes go wide.  


 On top of the altar was Nocturnal Sun, meditating. Her closed eyes gave her a calm appearance that made it seem like she was perfectly alright.

"This is obviously a trap," said Hyper. Shard pulled out a scanner and waved it around the room.

"There's no one here besides us and Noc," Shard said.

"Hold on, she doesn't seem... right," Cosmic said.

"You feel it to?" asked Brawler.

"Yeah, it's weird. Whatever it is, it feels-,"


Cosmic looked at Brawler, curious. "Yeah."

"Look! Back there! Up against the wall... is that... Jack?!" said Chris.

"Cosmic grab Noc, I'll get Jack while you guys keep your eyes open for the ambush," Hyp said.

Just as Hyp began to run towards Jack but as soon as he took his first step, Noc's eyes opened. Her sockets emitted a purple essence that everyone was sure was bad news. "Noc?" asked Cosmic, arm out, as if to take her hand.

Suddenly she was on her feet and blasted Cosmic back into the 'Kickers.

Cosmic rubbed his head and got to his feet. His Peacebringer side took control and he morphed into the crab-man. He lept at her, knocking her off the altar and pinning her to the ground. Growling, he raised a glowing fist to smash her before any of the other 'Kickers could calm him, but they weren't needed.

Noc turned into the same creature Cosmic had become, only an inky purple that seemed to absorb all light. In fact, that's exactly what she began to do. She gripped Cosmic's arm and throat and began to strangle him as the light emanating from his body was slowly sucked into Noc's crab-form.

"She's... she's killing him! 'Kickers, move! Try to subdue her!" yelled Hyper as he ran to grab Jack.

The others leapt at Noc and Chris managed to break her hold on Cosmic, who fell to the ground as he returned to his human form, his energy too drained for him to continue.

They tried to hold her down with icy cold and stunning blasts. Sun and Chris were fighting hand to hand with each blow sapping Chris's strength like Cosmic. Hyper was almost at Jack until Nocturnal turned away from Chris and threw a purple shadow-ball towards him. He was hit in the back and instantly lost all control over his arms and legs. He fell to the ground, suddenly unable to breathe. Gasping, he fought to keep consciousness until the darkness claimed his vision.

She turned back to Chris in time to get a fist in the face, snapping her head back. She gripped Chris's throat and screamed an unearthly roar. Chris's concentration suddenly left him as Noc's fist tightened around his neck. He saw her raise an open palm and was confused, then he was unconscious.

The other 'Kickers kept up their assault on Nocturnal, still unable to subdue her. Brawler backed up and pulled out a scroll he had brought just in case this happened.

He read the incantation, the words disappearing as he said them. A red smoke circled Nocturnal Sun and as it dissipated she reverted to her human form. If she was surprised, she didn't show it. The other 'Kickers ran up to hold her down as she got in a crouch. As they grabbed her arms, a large blast of Nicti energy sapped their strength and knocked them out.

Brawler looked around the room and saw he was the only one still standing. The scroll wore off and she quickly turned into the squid-like creature her kind was infamous for. She rushed him and in the blink of an eye, her tentacles were gripping his arms.

A blinding light engulfed his vision as a memory surfaced through the pain and shock of Nocturnal's ferocious assault...  


 Almost two years ago...

A depressed hero walked through the street, filled with despairing citizens. The heroes tried their best, but some areas of the city seemed almost beyond saving. Faultline and the Boomtown were the first to come to mind.

A flash of images of that last mission swept through the heroes mind. Nemesis was trying to steal plans from an office to improve his Warhulks. There were so many people to save, and time was limited. Nemesis had rigged the office to explode and the hero had assumed he had gotten all of the bombs.

He was in the process of escorting out the workers when he heard an explosion upstairs. He flew up into the smoking window and saw the damage. One small red bomb, hidden in the dirt of a plant, had caused all this.

He was about to leave when he heard a cry. A woman was cradling her child in her arms, sobbing. He rushed to help her and her child but it was quickly obvious the boy was beyond help. He tried to help the woman to her feet but she wouldn't move from the spot. He tried to convince her to go before the roof collapsed, but she was in no condition to listen to reason.

All of a sudden she handed the dead child to the hero and lept out the window...

Days like this, when the smallest mistake causes the largest tragedies, where days that made the hero wonder why he let himself enter these situations.

Through the distortion from his anger at himself and his inability to save those two people he saw a sewer entrance. He ran inside and began making a journey deep into the sewers center.

He burned all of the enemies in the Heart of the Sewers, leaving to witnesses to what was about to happen. He raised a flaming hand into the air, ready to incinerate himself in a grief-induced suicide attempt.

Burning Brawler was going to kill himself...

He began to bring the hand down but someone... something, stopped him. He looked up and saw a purple.... thing. It was some sort of squid with tentacles on its back. A tentacle was what was restraining his arm, and a voice began to speak to him inside his head.

It spoke of power, of the ability to save everyone, every time. Of how, by merging with this creature, Burning Brawler could become the ultimate champion of justice.

Burning Brawler agreed to this merging, thinking of the boy and the woman. The alien's tentacles gripped all of Burning's arms and began to bring itself into Brawler. Its body entered the hero and all Brawler saw was darkness.

He woke up in the hospital three days later, and the green of his costume died purple. He left the hospital and went to inform his contact of the last mission's failure, but the contact said he had no idea who he was.

Confused, Brawler ran to the nearest enemy and attempted to throw a fireball, instead he threw some sort of purple energy that seemed more to weaken the villains than hurt them. He went to the Representative and she said he was registered as a Nictus Brawler.

Then he remembered the sewers.

Weeks of successful missions bolstered his confidence. He felt like he could take Statesman down in a duel. A duel to the death! "What?" said Nictus Brawler, his alien side had never spoken since the merging and this outburst was not a good sign of the alien's reasons for the merge.

We work well together, I feared I would have to take full control and consume you. Now that we have practiced on these pathetic lowlifes, it is time we concentrate our efforts on controlling this city.

Painful flashbacks of the last time Brawler had fought against the city's heroes flew through his mind. A valiant effort, but not good enough. With you and I fighting side by side, however, the heroes will be glad to sacrifice themselves for our cause.

"There's no way I'm doing this, this partnership is over!" Brawler concentrated all his will-power to force the being out of his mind but the creature was rooted deep, it had been busy as well over the last few weeks. He pushed as hard as he could but the alien's defenses were resisting, then retaliating. It felt like his entire head was on fire.

A pity, but it seems you aren't destined for greatness. I hope the fact that you held on to your pathetic morals keeps you comforted in oblivion. The Nictus used its full power, attempting to annihilate the hero's mind. Brawler could feel his consciousness and his sanity, slipping. Suddenly, he learned a new tactic. He let his portion of his mind drop. The Nictus sent an unearthly howl through Brawler's mind as all of it still pushed, right until it all literally fell out of his head.

There was the squid-like creature from the sewers, it's eyes filled with hatred. The tentacles came back again, attempting a re-entry. Without the Nictus inside him, his old abilities returned. He launched a massive blaze that made the Nictus disappear on contact.


"YOU!" Brawler yelled in rage. As he saw Nocturnal Sun fall away from the squid that was hungrily reaching for its old host. Brawler covered his arms in flames that burnt the tentacles, making the Nictus flinch. This time, Brawler grabbed the creature. His hand tightened on the alien's skull, making its eyes bulge. He made a patch of flame at his feet, and willed it to travel up his body so the Nictus could see its doom approach.

It let out a howl of terror that shook the cave walls violently as the fire reached the hero's shoulders. The hero willed the flame to stop there and the Nictus stopped its cry and began to breathe rapidly. "You shouldn't have come back, you should have stayed in your hole." In the blink of an eye, the fire had grabbed the Nictus. It thrashed in the hero's hand uttering that horrible wail.

Brawler squeezed harder and heard the pop as the thing's skull exploded.

He fell to the ground, weary, and remembered Noc. She was still breathing. With a sigh of relief he fell asleep.

A few hours later...

With the Nictus gone Jack was able to regain consciousness. He looked at the shackles on his arms. "Chains? Now that's just insulting." With a shrug he ripped them out of the wall and noticed the 'Kickers scattered around the room. He hurried to activate their base medi-porters. He saw Noc and Burning in the corner. He activated Brawler's and stopped when he remembered why he woke up in chains. He picked her up and slung Noc over his shoulder as he activated his porter taking them both to the base.

Everyone was revived, including Noc who was sitting in what looked like a dentist chair that was covered with equipment with the 'Kickers gathered around. As they ran tests and scans and rituals they asked Noc about what happened to her.

She said she met the Nictus right before she entered her mission. It said it would help her complete the mission as a proof of its power and intent. Noc accepted and they merged. The mission was completed easily but still left human Noc weary. Taking advantage of this, the Nictus gained control of her mind. The odd way she was acting was because of the continuing struggle of their wills and she had been taking things from her room because the Nictus wanted to keep their room in the Council base furnished.

"Okay, just one more question," said JV. "Why did you take my food?!"

"Girl's gotta eat, and Nictus have big appetites."

Hyp looked at the monitor screens behind them. "No traces of abnormalities in her thought patterns."

"All the energy inside her system is hers," said Brawler.

"I don't sense a Nictus for miles," said Cosmic.

Everyone cheered and helped Noc out of the chair. "Her Noc, you dropped this." Cosmic held out her base medi-porter but she didn't take it.

"I know you guys say it's gone but... after what it did to you, I, did to you... I can't trust myself right now to be around anyone. That thing could still be controlling me in a way that the scanners aren't showing... I'm not coming back until I'm sure that it's gone."

With that she left the base. The 'Kickers hoped that whenever she was sure was soon.

The End...  

When Blight Begins >

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