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Nemesis 4: Recurring Nightmares and Vengeance 2: Fiend or Foe?

"As you all know," began Hyper-Man, addressing the 'Kickers, "one of our own was recently taken. We have been waiting for some more Intel before we take revenge for this horrible act. I'm happy to tell you that we have more than enough information to send every last one of those villains to a maximum security section of the Zig!"

The 'Kickers, Kids, and Trainees cheered at this, even though most of them knew that the maximum security section was where many of the villains had been broken out of.

"I've gained access to their new base coordinates and have been sending in micro-drones to examine the base to formulate an attack plan."

"And we wanted to thank you for your interest personally." The heroes turned and saw the Masters of Mayhem, smugly standing behind their leader, Elitist.

The one named Techno-Tyrant spoke next, "My sensors found your pathetic drones, and I placed tracers on them."

"Wait, where’s that one fella with the goofy grin," said Jack."

"And I have made my own attack plan," said Elitist. The 'Kickers heard loud cackling, then an explosion, and then the lights went out. "Everyone, turn on your IR goggles."

"Brawler, lights!!" yelled Hyper. Burning quickly followed the order and lit the emergency torches while asking himself when they would just switch to arcane power sources. Destroying those would have knocked that brute miles away.

"Not bad, Elitist should have taken your fiery friend into account while creating this 'master attack plan,'" said Blightlord, very eager to make his teammates seem like the idiots he considered them to be.

"Nice face, couldn't afford a new helmet?" said Danica, the one who had destroyed his last one. His rotting face and the ventilator he now depended on exposed, Blightlord was unable to express the rage this comment created in him. The only indication that the heroes had that this comment bothered him was that suddenly a group of undead enemies fell into their midst.

The other villains followed the attack. More henchmen appeared while the others quickly assaulted the heroes. Hidden enemies appeared with brutal slashes while other opponents who preferred to get up close smashed at the nearest target. From a safe distance the rest did their best to contain the heroes while firing powerful blasts and aiding their allies.

Hyper-Man quickly flipped a hatch on his arm and entered a quick command. Suddenly all the heroes were at the other end of the room. "Vi, heal!" as she sent out a soothing blast of radiation Hyper-Man yelled, "Scatter!"

Not questioning his judgment, the heroes split up into small groups running to a room they could defend.

Yelling in rage Elitist ordered, "After them!" sending the villains in hot pursuit. "Kill anyone you find, except their leader! Leave him to me!"

Those who preferred stealth snuck off after the heroes who had gone into the power rooms, hoping the noise would cover their approach, while the bigger more confrontational villains went after the ones who ran in the direction of the base defense network. Those who had others to do their bidding went towards the heroes bedrooms, expecting there to be many attempting to seal themselves safely away until they were given new orders.

Violet, Java, and Shard led a small group of Trainees into the energy control room in an attempt to fix and guard the energy units. Brawler had only lit the meeting room. As Shard quickly opened up the bashed unit he saw the circuitry was toast. "No way am I gonna be able to fix this thing, not without some spare parts." Vi looked around with a guilty look on her face. "I kinda took these during one of my... less resistant moments. I liked the way they jingled..." She handed Shard a bag filled with spare parts, which he hurriedly used to replace anything damaged beyond repair. With a few quick adjustments the lights quickly returned, just in time for them to see the last Trainee medi-port to the hospital.

"It seems they finally saw us," said Aphex. With a wave of their hands the Stalker Unit pacified the heroes. Unable to focus on the villains the 'Kickers were forced to run until the effects of... whatever they did wore off.

As the lights returned to the base, so did power return to the control room's defense network. Hyper-Man typed in quick commands and activated the turrets, sending some of the villains back to their base where they belonged. Cosmic ran over to a communicator, quickly giving Hyper's new order saying, "All Trainees and Kids return to your own bases and shut off all teleportation networks immediately! You will be contacted when it is safe."

The instruments in the control room showed that the order had been followed. Jack heard a pounding on the door and viewed the security camera screens. "That big guy wants to talk to us Hyp." Johnny pulled out his claws as he saw the grinning villain walk up to the rest of the group in front of that door. "He has my pizza! Why does every villain always go for the pizza?!"

Jack just barely stopped JV from opening the door when Smashing pulled out a slice to eat.

The hall was crowded with henchman as doors were broken down and rooms were searched. A group of mercenaries ran into one room and didn't return when Cobalt Commander ordered their return. Grumbling he looked into the room and watched the unconscious men disappear. "What the-" "Surprise!" yelled a hero, Branch, as he kicked the villain in his face.

He peeked his head outside the door and saw a greasy-haired guy order some robots into Super Shard's room, apparently to steal the gadgets he had been working on. Seeing his chance, Branch did a flying kick to the back of the villain's skull. When the villain faded to the hospital Branch watched his minions disappear as well.

"Man these guys can't fight if their lives depended on it!"

"I hope you can," said a voice behind Branch, who was suddenly frozen in place by a paralytic toxin. "Because those are the stakes I like to play for." Blightlord walked in front of the hero, allowing him to see the man who had rendered him helpless.

Branch wished he could see the smirk disappear from the villains face when he quickly broke free of the poison to drop kick the fiend. The hit to his head was enough to trigger the medi-porter and cancel the order for an undead soldier to cut Branch in half. Whistling, Branch left the corridor to find his friends.

The Obsidian Arrow followed Burning Brawler and Danica as they ran down the hallway to the recreational room where Burning had left a spell book he had been viewing earlier that may expel the villains.

They had almost reached the room when they heard a woman laugh behind them. “That’s the clown. You two keep going, I’ll take her down,” said Danica. “Hold on,” said Arrow. “You can guard Brawler against one of the bigger guys better than I can while he casts the spell. I’ll set up some traps and wait for her; she won’t get past me.

Danica nodded and followed Brawler as he ran down the hallway. Arrow turned to the floor and began placing mines, laying caltrops, and finally rendering himself to near perfect invisibility. The mad woman ran down the hall laughing at the sight of heroes on the run. She thought they were fleeing from her and didn’t think to look down at the trap set for her.

As her foot neared them, the mines exploded, making her fly through the air and attempt to dodge the spiky objects that were being flung by the blast. She landed on her feet and felt an arrow press against her back. Her spine stiffened as she turned to him with a frown. Something about the way her eyes looked, that sad expression, made Obsidian drop the arrow. Harlequin merrily skipped the rest of the way to the other heroes as Obsidian Arrow stood there in his daze.

Super Shard, Java, and Violet ran quickly with a group of ‘Kickers they had found evading the exact same unit the three had been looking for. Suddenly they appeared. Swords, claws, spines, and energy-wrapped fists launched taking down many without warning.

As Violet radiated one, making him violently ill, Java quickly blasted the comrades that were slowly being infected. Shard lept at the one with the energy hands and bashed his head with his own. As Java blasted the last fleeing member of the Stalker Unit they rushed off to find anyone remaining in the base.

The control room door began to buckle under the assault of the brutish Elitist. “Hey Hyp, why don’t we just let him in? Not like they’re gonna win or anything,” Jack said.

“I think I’m ready now,” said Hyp as he pressed the release button. The door flew off its hinges as Elitist, Smashing Pumpkin, Editor, and other members of the Brute Squad charged into the room. Jack stomped on the floor, knocking a few off their feet. He lept into the middle and pummeled the ones who fell, causing their medi-porters to activate.

Johnny saw the one who dared to eat his pizza. He charged furiously at him, slashing away at his abdomen, ignoring the searing heat of the villain’s shielding flames. He just laughed and grabbed Johnny by the throat. “You’re gonna fry, hope you like it extra-crispy,” he laughed again. At least, until an energy blast knocked the wind out of him. Smashing dropped Johnny as he fell to the floor, unconscious.

Elitist ran at Hyper-Man at full force as Jack and Johnny did their best to clean up the remaining villains in the room. Elitist smashed at Hyper-Man and missed by a hair. Hyper turned and launched a powerful blast that stunned Elitist while Hyp ran up with an energy fist blow that knocked him into a wall. Shaking off the effects of the punch, the villain leapt at Hyper and pinned him to the ground. He raised a fist to smash his helmet in, and was about to until Jack forcefully ripped him off.

Jack grabbed him by the throat and threw him into a wall. Before activating his medi-porter, the villain whispered, “This isn’t over.” As he disappeared Hyper-Man viewed the monitors and saw the only remaining threat was a single villain that was skipping down the hall towards the recreation room. Hyp said, “Let’s move,” and they hurried to catch her.

Burning Brawler found his spell book. He flipped through the pages frantically trying to find the spell. Danica heard the voice of Harlequin and readied herself to fight. Harley peaked her head into the door and almost lost it as Danica snapped her palm at it.

“That’s no way to treat a guest,” said Harley as she mentally lifted the heroine off her feet and threw her into a wall. Brawler began reading the spell as Danica leapt back towards the villain. Harley just laughed and played tricks with her head, making her think there were ten of her and things like that. As Brawler picked up the speed in his incantation Harley lost interest in the game and sent Danica into a deep sleep.

She walked forward, reaching to grab the hero’s head to see what exactly he was muttering about. She almost reached him until a speeding hero, Obsidian Arrow, ran between them. He nocked an arrow causing her to pause. She was about to comment on rudeness when suddenly she felt it. That wave of madness that just wouldn’t, couldn’t, leave her alone. As it came over her, she fell onto Burning Brawler right as he finished the incantation. A blinding light appeared as the remaining ‘Kickers ran into the room.

They saw something most of them had believed was impossible, yet there they were. They thought maybe the light was playing tricks on them but the spots had cleared, they couldn’t convince themselves of it anymore.

It wasn’t the fainted Harlequin they were staring at. It was The Ruby Blade, Project Heat Seeker, Nictus Brawler, and the helmeted Blightlord…

"That's impossible... those two are dead!" said Brawler.

"Yeah but Ruby isn't," said Obsidian. He whipped out an arrow and aimed it quickly at the villain's head. Ruby Blade noticed Harlequin reaching for her medi-porter and quickly grabbed her hand. All of the newly appeared villains grabbed Harley as she disappeared, leaving with her.

"They're... they're dead though... I.... I saw them die," Brawler said again, still unable to understand how two of his greatest enemies could come back from the dead right in front of his very own eyes.

"Why did Blightlord appear? And he had a costume change," said Danica. "Something's not right here."

"Are the three of you all right?" asked Hyper.

"Yeah, she didn't get a chance to do anything before you guys came," said Brawler.

"You guys gonna get the kid off the roof? I don't want to have to start giving mop duty for the ceiling to," Jack said.

The three were confused until they looked up and saw Void Brawler hiding up above.

"You were supposed to leave with the other Kids, Void," said Danica.

"That reminds me, I need to send them the message that it's safe," Hyp said as he ran back towards the control room.

The others followed him as Void apologized as he ran to the teleporter room to go back to the base.

Danica, Burning Brawler, and Obsidian Arrow all stood together trying to figure out why the villains appeared, where they would be, and one of the most important things, how.

"They didn't teleport in because we saw two of them die, well you both saw one," said Brawler.

"Blade didn't have any teleportation powers, unless he recently acquired something," said Arrow, thinking of his own experience in the Terra Volta Reactor where his flight mysteriously disappeared and was replaced with incredible speed.

"Well, Blightlord has used teleportation spells before hasn't he? But it still doesn't explain the new costume," said Danica.

"Wait, we're forgetting one of the villains," said Brawler.

"What, the clown? Remember, she was there before they appeared," Danica said.

"No, that's not what I mean."

"You think she had something to do with what happened?" asked Arrow.

"Yes, remember how she always gets that weird look, like she's trying to fight something off, then all of a sudden she hits us with something huge."

"So what are we going to do? Capture her and tell her to give us answers?" asked Danica.

"That's exactly what we're gonna do."

Harley appeared inside the base, along with four passengers.

"Hey, Blightlord, you got your old suit fixed. After it got trashed by those heroes," said Smashing. Even in defeat he couldn't resist a chance to remind him of that failed attempt.

This Blightlord said nothing; he just stared into the room across the hall. There was a man with a rotted face, a ventilator he required to live, and a suit revealing the dark green veins that contained the poison that coursed through his body and soul.

The real Blightlord turned and saw his "clone." He came up to the slightly dazed Harley and asked, "Who is this?" he asked.

Harley, barely able to stand, wearily looked at the helmeted Blightlord. An insane grin spread on her face as she said, "Why he's you," she said. Suddenly she collapsed, unable to stand anymore.

Their eyes met and the real Blightlord's narrowed. He snapped and a Grave Knight descended, cutting the clone in half. "I do not care for imposters," he said as he walked to his room.

"What does he mean 'imposter'?" asked Project Heat Seeker.

"I'm not sure. This energy signature is my own, and I am me, therefore I cannot be another," replied Nictus Brawler.

"You Kheldians can never speak English correctly without being confusing can you,” said Heat Seeker. "Hey, where'd that guy with the sword go? He was right next to me a second ago."

It was simple enough. I wanted to understand what that villain meant by "imposter." Ruby Blade did a little researching and found that first he had supposedly died, but his sword, which had been taken as a trophy, mysteriously disappeared not too long after. There had been nothing on him after that so Ruby assumed he must be in hiding. So he asked himself, where would he go if he was trying to disappear for a while?

That is what brought him to this small cave network. In here was the ideal place to hide. The clone Ruby Blade became invisible, and quietly searched the entrance. Seeing to traps he continued. He noticed that this cave was not bare. There was a little furniture and some machinery, apparently to keep the place lit and for information gathering.

He continued to the heart of the network. There was nothing to stop- FWAM! Poison darts shot from the walls. Ruby bent backwards far enough that it would impress a limbo champion.

Well there are the traps I would lay, he thought. He heard someone typing on a keyboard ahead. He hurried forward and saw a large chair in front of a huge screen.

The clone stalked up to the figure and seeing the black and red glove resting on the keyboard proved to him it was... well himself.

He drew his blade. His eyes narrowed and he walked deathly silent to the figure. He crouched down behind the chair. He stabbed through the back if the seat but didn't feel any resistance beyond that. Confused he peered around it and saw there was no one sitting in it! He had been tricked, the gloves were filled with... he picked them up. Cotton balls?! But if he wasn't here then...

"I'm right behind you," said the original as he stabbed out. The clone leapt to the side just barely dodging the strike. He turned to view himself. Their eyes narrowed as they circled each other. Suddenly, the clone struck but the original quickly deflected the strike.

They jumped back from each other, once again watching each other, waiting to see who would make the next move.

This time the original attacked, thrusting at the clone’s abdomen. The clone jumped back, sucking his stomach in. The blade nearly connected. The clone swept the sword aside with his own and quickly countered. His opponent dodged the thrust but fell to the ground in the process.

The clone rushed forward and placed his foot on the original's neck. He kicked away his sword and put the tip of his own on the original's forehead.

As fear welled up in the unarmed villain the clone said, "There can be only one." He pushed the sword through killing the man instantly. As liquids oozed from the wound creating a puddle around the dead man's head, the now one and only Ruby Blade left the cave. If memory served, he had one more enemy that he wanted to die, but before he formulated a new plan it may be wise to ally himself with these "Masters of Mayhem."

Three heroes stood outside a warehouse in St. Martial. If Super Shard hadn't put together more cloaking devices for Burning Brawler and Danica they would have been caught by now for sure, and have the entire Arachnos force on them.

Arrow checked his watch; "She'll be out any minute now."

Brawler nodded and got ready to jump her. Danica flew up into the air, putting herself in the perfect position for a tackle.

The door opened and Harlequin emerged, humming a happy tune about her latest mission success. Brawler yelled, "NOW!" and as Harley leapt in surprise the others leapt at her. Brawler grabbed her waist as Arrow got her feet. Danica dropped down, putting a sack over her head. Arrow pulled open his watch and yelled, "Go!" Suddenly the heroes, and villain, disappeared in a flash of light.

They reappeared in the base prison. They quickly threw Harley into a suppression cell. When the bag was removed from her head, Harley looked at her surroundings. It wasn't as dirty as her prison cell and there was even a nicer cot.

Before she could comment on it Brawler asked, "How did you make those four appear?" She looked at him, more than a little confused, until she realized who he was talking about.

"Them? Not a clue. For all I know you could have called them in."

Arrow had been wondering this a while and decided to ask, "Why do you always get that weird look in your eyes?"

She looked at him and her pleasantly smiling face grew dark. "Why would I tell you how I use my powers?"

"For one thing your in a cell, for another, you have no choice," said Danica.

"I don't know why that sometimes happens. I just throw my emotions at whatever is bothering me."

"This helping at all Brawler?" asked Arrow.

"I... I think I'm starting to get it," he said as he flipped through one of his spell books. "If I'm right, this isn't really her fault at all, except that she was helping what made me use the spell in the first place. See this rune here? The one with the curved top and wavy bottom?"

Arrow and Danica looked over Brawler's shoulder. Harley tried to but the other two were in the way.

"That's a... a mental symbol, not physical like I should have used. And this with the straight line and the curves horizontal from it? That's a symbol for projection. What I can't understand is, if I think I'm right, I don't have the kind of power to make those four corporeal."

"What do you think you did?" asked Danica.

"I... I think this spell takes something from your head, and puts it out for all to see. You were both really close, maybe touching me when I cast the spell so it must have done the same with you."

"Why would it make... them?" asked Arrow.

Brawler scanned the pages of the book while Harley sat there, more than a little annoyed that she was being ignored. Suddenly a "hole" opened up in the cell. Harley saw Retro Bot's waiting hand. She took it and was sucked into the portal without the heroes even hearing, or seeing, a thing.

"Aha! Here it is. This skull-like rune means fear. All these runes basically mean, 'Mind's greatest fears to be revealed for all to see.' Our greatest fears are our greatest enemies. I have to admit Heat Seeker and Nictus can really worry me. And I suppose Ruby is your fear Arrow, but Danica, I didn't know you were afraid of Blightlord."

"I'm not though. Wait a minute... Void was there to! He was hiding above us."

"That's right... but we still don't know how those four are corporeal."

"Wait a minute... the clown... she fell on you! Maybe as she attacked it boosted the power of your spell and-"

They turned to the villain's cell and saw that she had disappeared. "Where is she? Did either of you see her disappear?"

Danica and Arrow shook their heads, but she wasn't important anymore for this. They had their how and why, now they just needed to know where to find them and take them out.

Three villains kneeled before the man known as Elitist. They had never submitted to another before and some of them were already plotting revenge for being forced to do so.

The thoughts of vengeance did not show through their masks though as Elitist gave them a test of strength. "Anyone who wishes to join us must prove themselves. Anyone who will object to my orders and command will not be tolerated and most likely eliminated."

Nictus Brawler had scanned both Blightlord’s' thoughts and almost told of the plots he had made to overthrow the villainous leader but decided to save that black-mail for later.

"To prove your worth I will give you a small task. Our enemies are many and our allies are few that can be trusted. That is why I want you to thin the numbers of our foes, especially the Buttkickers of the Fantastic."

The three looked up from the floor remembering the last time they had each encountered the group.

It was a painful and infuriating memory.

"I don't care who it is you kill, just bring me their group communicator as proof of the deed."

They rose and nodded.

"One named Danica is in Bloody Bay," said Elitist. Heat Seeker took the tracking device from Elitist and, grinning fiendishly under his helmet, ran to catch her. "We managed to get a lock on Obsidian Arrow inside Siren's Call." Ruby Blade took the tracker and disappeared. "Burning Brawler will be in Warburg. You can normally find him close to the villain base and in the WEB network." Nictus Brawler took the tracker and left the room.

As he walked down the long hallway a hand grabbed his shoulder. He turned ready to blast the foe until he saw it was the villain from earlier, Blightlord.

"I know you don't understand all the words I'm saying but I know you can sense my intentions. Burning Brawler is investigating the Warburg Rocket and I want to know why. Also if you do rob me the pleasure of ripping that hero limb from limb I will make sure you are locked away in a dimension from which you cannot escape."

Nictus obviously understood as he left in a hurry. From behind Blightlord, Smashing Pumpkin spoke, "Can you really do that?"

"Not really but it does make a good threat."

Danica saw it, the last meteor she needed to take a sample from. She flew in close then darted up quickly. She knew some of the Shivans would rise to protect the meteor. She dropped down, impaling one immediately. She did a spin kick, cutting the one behind her in half. She leapt on top of the meteor and quickly took a sample. The remaining Shivans launched radioactive blasts. She leapt over them and flew away to one of the many firebases in the area.

She was told the turrets had to be disabled before she could use the computer to change the samples into something useful. The firebase turrets saw her before she saw them and she was quickly knocked out of the sky. The gas one of the turrets had launched had taken her ability to fly away and she was stuck running to them.

She pulled herself up onto the wall and quickly hammered the turret that had made her temporarily unable to fly. The armor was thick and at first she only made dents. When she finally broke through the armor she was able to use its gas bombs on the other turrets. She chucked them one by one at the weaker turrets, the minor explosion doing just enough damage to take them offline. She kicked the gas launcher one last time to fully take it out. She ran into the firebase and began following the instructions the scientist had given her on how to convert the samples.

She placed the shards of the meteors in a tray and quickly typed in the commands. She thought to herself, I don't know why James thinks this'll help us find them but he says he needs these shards.

She watched the shards as they melted into a light green liquid. She placed them in a special thermos and left the firebase. She saw the turrets were almost finished repairing themselves and quickly flew up to a nearby rooftop.

As she placed the thermos on her belt she pulled out her communicator to call Brawler and tell him she had the melted shards. Suddenly it was taken from her hand. She saw it floating in the middle of the air and realized it was an invisible enemy. She concentrated and was able to see a thin outline of the man who had taken it. "Heat Seeker!" she yelled. She jumped up and grabbed at his ankles as he attempted to flee. She climbed up his legs attempting to smash his head and knock him out of the air.

He tried to choke her with a cloud of ash but the rush of air as they flew along kept it from working. He saw a large cluster of buildings up ahead and had an idea.

He flew through the middle of the buildings shaking his legs wildly in an attempt to make Danica lose balance. As she focused on clinging on tight she didn't see Heat Seeker slam his legs into a building until she was hit.

She heard a loud crack and wasn't sure if it was her spine or the villain's legs. Either way the pain of the impact caused her to lose her hold. As she fell to the ground she did her best to shield the melted shards. She hit the street and was instantly teleported to the hospital while Project Heat Seeker quickly flew away with her communicator, the assumed proof of her death.

Inside Siren's Call Obsidian Arrow waited in an alley. There was a battle raging between Arachnos and Longbow on the street in front of him but that wasn't why he was here. He saw his target land in the middle of the fray. This villain had gained his powers through a mutation in his genetics and Arrow's assignment was to get a blood sample.

He nocked an arrow and aimed it at the villain who was oblivious to the hero as he smashed Longbow agents effortlessly. As the villain raised his arms to bash a warden's skull he let the arrow fly and watched it pierce the mutants side, maybe between his ribs.

The villain fell, gasping in pain. Just before he medi-ported away Obsidian quickly ripped the arrow out. He took a sterile cloth and wiped the blood off the tip. He placed the cloth in a bag and quickly sped away from the Arachnos agents.

He stopped under a bridge near one of the war walls to rest. He didn't hear and definitely could not see the approach of the Ruby Blade. The villain stood behind the hero, blade drawn, ready to fall. Unlike Heat Seeker who was content to just steal the communicator, Blade had a score to settle even if he wasn't the Ruby Blade that received the beating he had the memories of the experience.

As he turned his blade to aim the point down onto the hero's skull, the sword made a humming sound as it cut through the air. Obsidian leapt to the side and quickly let an arrow fly. Ruby became visible as he deflected it with his sword. His eyes filled with hatred he sped forward, sword extended.

Arrow threw caltrops at the villain's face, shredding his mask and cutting his skin as he sped into them. His face and chest bleeding from the sharp objects, Ruby became even angrier. He caught a handful of arrows that were released almost effortlessly. He broke them in half and continued chasing Obsidian Arrow, determined to kill him.

Suddenly he realized that this chase wasn't necessary. He teleported himself in front of the hero, getting him to make eye contact. With a wave of his hand he caused Obsidian Arrow to forget why he was running, and so he stopped.

Grinning, Ruby Blade walked up to the dazed hero. He ripped off the communicator and stood behind Arrow. He put his sword tip on the small of the hero's back and paused to remember this moment.

He was about to push the weapon through until he was bashed by an oversized hero. The big man yelled in triumph as Ruby Blade's medi-porter activated. The big man yelled, "WOOHOO!!! That guy was worth enough for me to afford another one of those enhancements!" The big man jumped away as Arrow regained control of his actions. He glanced around in confusion. When he saw he was no longer in danger he reached for his belt to tell the others he had been attacked. When he couldn't find it he knew who was to blame. He would have gone after Blade but he had to get the blood sample back to the base for Burning.

In the Siren's Call villain base Ruby Blade stepped out of the recclaimator. What ever happened to one on one duels of honor?, he asked himself. He would have gone after Arrow but he knew he would seem him soon. And besides, he had the communicator. Elitist would not know the hero was still alive before Ruby killed one of them.

Burning Brawler grabbed the scientist's hand and led her to the nearby Arachnos bunker. "This is the place," he said. "Good, here's part of the code, get-" "I already have the other two parts but thanks for the info," he said.

"So you can launch the rocket? Well wherever you send it I hope it is not near me," she said.

"You don't have to worry about that. I'm not using it on a Longbow holding cell."

The scientist looked at him confused until he cuffed her. "You bas-" she was cut off as the cuffs sent her to her new place of residence for the next few years.

Brawler quickly made his way to the launching computer. He had to be extra careful here, some of the heroes were paranoid about what the rocket would be used for. He found the computer and quickly entered his codes.

"Now to launch this thing. With the payload and the others ingredients I'll be able to bring the villains to us."

You already have said a menacing, familiar mental voice. He turned and saw a squid-like creature hovering in the air. It fired a blast of Nicti energy that knocked Burning over the keyboard. As he felled his leg hit the red launch button sending the missile into the air. Nictus flew above him and sent blast after blast of furious energy.

Burning finally managed to roll away from the assault and sent his own fiery revenge. Nictus tried to dodge but his tentacles flew out behind him and fell victim to the heat of the blasts. The squid howled in fury and quickly transformed into its crab-like form.

It kicked Burning back onto the ground as he tried to rise. He placed a foot on the hero's chest and raised his arms to strike. Suddenly, he remembered Blightlord's threat and paused momentarily. That pause was just long enough for the hero to say the incantation that made him suddenly intangible.

The creature's foot fell through as Brawler rolled away. He willed himself back to normal and quickly launched blast after blast of melting heat.

The blasts hit Nictus hard and fast, causing him to stagger. He fell to the ground and reverted to the human form he had appeared in at the base, the copy of Burning Brawler's costume with the green died purple.

Burning was about to finish him off when he was hit in the back with an icy cold blast. It froze him in place, allowing Nictus to steal the communicator from his wrist and teleport away to safety. He searched the other two's minds and saw he was not the only one to cheat their new leader. Almost smiling the villain made his way back to the base as he thought of the reaction Elitist would have when he saw those three were still alive after all.

Burning Brawler thawed out enough to look behind him and see the hero's energy wrapped fist smash his face in. He reappeared in the hospital and said to himself, "Stupid Twilight Avengers. Can't see when I'm in the middle of something important. They gave him a chance to escape now who knows what he might be up to?" He pressed where a button should be on his wrist so he could send a message through his communicator warning the others to stick together when coming to Warburg. Single heroes can have trouble fighting against full groups. When he realized the communicator was gone it didn't take him long to realize who took it.

He looked up at the sky and saw the rocket disappear into the clouds. "At least I finished what I came to do here first."

Burning Brawler walked into his room and saw the other two were already waiting for him. He noticed the looks on their faces and asked, "You were attacked to?"

They nodded. Danica said, "Hyper-Man will give us new communicators but we have to change frequencies so we aren't spied on. If the villains had killed us..."

"I'm starting to think this Elitist person isn't as dumb as most of his type," Arrow said.

"We'll have to worry about him later as a group. Ok we have all three components I was missing." Burning Brawler walked into his closet at the base and pulled out some jars and vials. "The three ingredients we collected will help sharpen the search."

He grabbed a basin filled with steaming water and began adding the ingredients. He threw in the items from the jars and the liquids from the vials first. Last he added the three special ingredients. The meteor liquid made the water turn violet and hiss and bubble. He dropped in the rag covered in the villain's mutant blood, calming the mixture. Last he dropped in the payload making the water turn an angry red and rise like a geyser.

Arrow and Danica scooted back, afraid of what the potion might do if it sprayed on them. From the top of the geyser an image appeared, almost like a hologram. The three were kneeling in front of Elitist. Even though the image was faded you could see the rage submitting like this filled them with.

"So its what we were worried about. They're joining with the Masters of Mayhem," said Danica.

"We knew they would. Question is, how long before someone tries to overthrow Elitist," asked Arrow.
"They won't. They know if they do the others won't follow them. They're either loyal enough to him they'll hunt them down for it or they'll try to take the position before the others can."

"So now that we know, what are we gonna do about them?" asked Danica.

"Well, we can either have Hyper organize a raid or we can track them down ourselves," said Brawler.

The three nodded and left the room. They had some hunting to do.

Ruby Blade, Project Heat Seeker, and Nictus Brawler knelt before Elitist. Words cannot describe the rage within them at this but they held their anger in check, knowing that this alliance could be very profitable.

"Blightlord!" Elitist barked. "Have they stopped watching us yet?"

The villain emerged from the shadows and nodded.

"Good. They're going to try to find and kill you before you can become of any real use to us. You are to find them first and eliminate them. The less heroes opposing us the better."

Nictus Brawler looked at Blightlord and saw the warning in his eyes. He returned his focus to Elitist as he outlined a plan to leave obvious clues to lead the heroes into a trap.

"Before you can take them out you'll need to learn what happened that caused your death. It's one thing to die and lose, another to die the same way twice. Heroes aren't as smart as most assume. Trust me, they will try the same tactics again."

The three nodded and stood to leave. "One last thing." They turned back to face him. "Once you leave, you are not to set foot in this base until all three heroes are dead."

In the Rogue Isles everything was deathly quiet. The heroes could practically feel the evil around them. Whispering they decided on a plan to track the villains they had been seeking and remain unnoticed.

Burning Brawler pointed at a sewer entrance and the others nodded, though a little unhappy that no matter where they went it always involved sewage. They hopped down the manhole; Burning Brawler and Danica hovered above the water as Obsidian Arrow swung to the wall, avoiding the disgusting green liquid.

Covering their noses with the neck of their suits they ran through the network. After a while they saw St. Martial written in big white letters above one of the entrances. They climbed through and found themselves in the restroom of a very large casino.

Hearing the slot machines Burning said, "Well this place is interesting. Never knew villains liked to gamble so much."

"Whatever way they can get their greedy hands on some money," said Danica.

"Anyone notice that we aren't under attack yet?" said Obsidian as they exited the restroom. Looking behind them and seeing the Gigantic sign they were relieved no one had been in there while they were.

"That's because I'll be the only one necessary to take care of you."

They looked down the hallway and saw Ice Minstral, her hands wrapped in ice while frozen shards danced around her arms.

"Sorry lady, fire melts ice. Leave us alone and we'll just have your memory erased for the last few minutes," said Brawler.

"We'll see," she said. Minstral launched the shards at the three. They fell down on the floor, the shards narrowly avoiding them. The heroes jumped up and ran to get a little closer.

Obsidian kneeled as he nocked an arrow. Burning turned just long enough to light the tip. Nodding his thanks Arrow took aim as Brawler stopped to launch a concentrated bolt of fire. Danica saw the two attacks whiz by her, the heat reddening her cheeks, as she reached the screaming woman. Danica leapt into the air and placed a solid kick onto the woman's chest. She fell to the floor gasping in pain.

They gathered around her and Brawler reached for a spell book when he remembered. "Damn! That was the book the clown stole!"

Ice Minstral glared at them as she said, "Scirroco will have your heads for this. Be afraid little heroes." She faded to the hospital.

"We'll get her for what she did to Void but... I can't believe I'm saying this but we have something we need to take care of first," said Danica.

Arrow remembered what happened and it chilled him to think the entire base had been manipulated so easily.

Trying to refocus on the task at hand the party moved on. They found a way out of the casino. They wondered where to go next when they saw a villain pass by them. The froze as he wandered by, oblivious to their presence.

"Wasn't that-"

"Yeah I think that was Scirocco. Let's go before he comes back this way. Any higher on the Arachnos radar and Recluse may come after us," said Brawler. They shuddered at the thought but moved on.

They found the woman they had been looking for. "Isabel the Knife?" asked Brawler.

"Ah some fresh villains. Ok kiddies, here's the scoop there's a-"

She was quickly silenced as Danica slammed her against the wall. She held her by the throat and had another fist pulled back, ready for the punch. "We're not villains, and we're not going to kill you. Just tell us where," she almost said Harlequin, "Ruby Blade, Project Heat Seeker, and Nictus Brawler are."

The broker's eye gleamed as she told them, "I sent them to a warehouse down the street to steal a gem from the Circle of Thorns. They should be done by now though. You had better hurry."

Danica released her and the three ran to confront their enemies.

A ring came from Heat Seekers wrist. He flipped up a panel and saw Isabel's face on the vid-phone. "They're going to the warehouse now." He nodded and shut the screen. He informed his two companions then walked back to where he had been trying to figure out how Elitist knew they were lying. Did he keep vital scans on these heroes or something? It confused him until he thought of the one called Blightlord. He must keep tabs on those heroes and then he tells Elitist. But why? What benefit would he have from keeping us outside of the group? Does he want revenge on them? He must if a copy of him was created when we were. Or maybe he's just doing it for fun the smug little ba-

"They're here," said Ruby Blade. It was almost shocking to hear him speak. Seeker was beginning to think he was mute.

He readied himself and saw the forms of the heroes as well. The villains had set up an ambush at the door but the heroes didn't use it. Instead they landed on the roof. The villains waited in confused silence until it suddenly became clear. A piece of melted roof fell and they narrowly avoided being hit. The heroes fell through ready to strike.

Obsidian saw Blade and quickly launched a stream of arrows at the dodging villain. Burning Brawler ran at Nictus and began throwing flame after flame at the dodging squid. That left Danica with Heat Seeker. He charged at him but was quickly stopped with a cloud of ashes.

She choked and was nearing helplessness as the villain began encasing her in flames. "I think I may have found the right sacrifice," he said. Danica had no idea why he needed a sacrifice but she knew that he wasn't going to get one. She broke through the ashes and used her arms to cover his face. She leapt through the flames to tackle the villain.

Obsidian launched a few more arrows but he knew it was useless. The villain had disappeared again. He threw down some caltrops around him and grabbed a metal cube from a pouch on his belt. He pressed the lens and it expanded. Electricity crackling, it rose into the air and sent a thin red beam to held Arrow aim.

When that beam didn't go as far then... there! He knocked an arrow and let go it fly. The head pierced the villain’s arm and he hissed in pain. He broke the shaft and pulled the head out from the back of his arm. This wasn't good, he thought. His arm went limp. If he lands another shot like that... he didn't want to continue this train of thought.

Brawler finally landed a large blaze at the creature. It screamed a horrible wail that turned into a roar when it became that massive crab creature. Burning found himself pinned to the floor, a massive hand on his chest, and unable to fight back. The weight of the creature began to suffocate him and the more he struggled the harder it was to breathe. Nictus placed his other hand over the hero's face and began to press.

Danica threw Heat Seeker into a wall and turned as she heard her husband yell in pain. She leapt across the room and tried to kick the oversized crab over but a ring of fire around her feet kept her from moving. "I'm not out of this fight yet," said the villain behind her. She turned in time to get a fiery fist in her face. The punch was weak but the heat... her face burned as she broke through the ring to smash Seeker's helmet.

The shards from the visor scratched his face and eyes. He fell to the ground, yelling in pain, then yelling harder as the heroine ripped his helmet from his head revealing his bloody face. "Under all that armor you're just a wannabe," she said. "You could never get to the top on your own so you use this suit to hide it."

The rage was clear on Seeker's face but he did not move to stop her as she planted her heel on his chest. "This is the second time you've tried to kill us, and once your gone there will be no way for you to come back." All the rage at Harlequin was being focused at this one. Danica had always been aggressive but this was starting to turn to something deeper. Seeker wondered why he had to be the one she was letting this all out on.

She lifted her foot to use the stiletto heel to impale the villain when she heard Burning yell again. She cursed and turned to free her husband.

Not questioning his good fortune, Heat Seeker medi-ported away from this fight. His companions could handle this.

Ruby Blade distracted Arrow with a quick thought manipulation. As Arrow's eyes glazed over Blade ran in to strike. He kicked the hero to the ground and raised his blood-red sword high. He let the blade fall. The sword stopped but he didn't feel the familiar connection with flesh. He looked to see the hero had stopped the sword, holding it with his palms. Ruby pushed harder but without his right arm he wasn't strong enough. Arrow knocked him over and suddenly the hero was the one on top.

Arrow pulled the sword down, setting it over the villain's throat. Fear welled up inside Ruby as Arrow pressed, letting it cut a thin line on his neck. He had to get out of here before the hero decapitated him. He grasped his sword firmly as he medi-ported to safety.

Arrow saw Danica as she leapt to tackle the crab formed Nictus. She hit him forcefully and set him off balance but not enough to fully knock him over. Obsidian set a grenade tipped arrow and yelled for Danica to back away. He let it loose and the explosion from the grenade toppled the creature over.

Brawler shakily got to his feet as arrows flew by, striking the villain. He couldn't think straight. The lack of oxygen and the pressure on his head... he fell to the ground and saw Danica's face as he slowly slipped into unconsciousness.

Burning Brawler woke up on a bed in the 'Kicker medical room back at their base. Danica was standing by his bed while Void was getting the back of his head looked at from earlier.

The medical droid gave the ok for Void to go to his father. Hyp and Shard did a good job building that thing.

Danica asked, "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine. How are you two?" Brawler asked.

"The droid says Matt will be fine and I'm ok as well."

Brawler sat up on the bed. "Where's Arrow?"

"Void aren't you late for something?" asked Danica.

"I was supposed to go see Danny!" He ran out the room leaving his parents alone for a moment.

"Nictus took him," said Danica, looking at something on the floor. "I tried to stop him but... he clubbed me in the back of the head and it knocked me out. When I woke up I was here but there was no sign of Arrow. Hyp said he hadn't seen him today."

Brawler couldn't believe it. They had actually lost. And even more confusing, why did Nictus let Danica and he live?

Burning attempted to get out of the bed but was quickly forced down by the droid. "Let go of me you stupid machine!" but the robot held him down. He decided to take back his earlier comment.

Danica pressed one of the many buttons underneath the lid of the droid's head, making it release her husband and return to its corner by the medicine cabinets.

"Hyp's preparing a raid. We're getting Arrow back and we're going to destroy those three when we do."

Nictus Brawler knelt before Elitist, listening to the congratulatory words on his live capture of one of the heroes. Elitist ended the conversation by giving him Obsidian Arrow's modified communicator; now set to respond to the Masters of Mayhem. "Retro Bot made the adjustments last week," he explained.

Nictus attached it to his belt and left the room, happy with his achievement. Now that they had a live 'Kicker they could interrogate him... maybe through torture. He continued down the hallway until three forms grabbed his shoulders and ankles to hold him against the wall. He recognized them instantly as Blightlord's undead servants which was confirmed when their master also came out of the shadows.

"I interrogated the prisoner," he said. The twinkle in Blightlord's dead eyes made Nictus wonder if Arrow still lived. "He said you did try to kill Burning Brawler. But that is impossible isn't it? You told me you would not touch him or I would destroy you." Blightlord found it difficult to speak to this one. The resemblance to Burning Brawler's costume and the eerie silence of Nictus made it hard for Blightlord not to just kill him then.

An invading force in his mind suddenly said, I do not fear you, and I will destroy you.

Suddenly Blightlord's head burned with a pain so intense he found himself having trouble breathing. He felt the Nictus probing his mind, seeing his deepest secrets and thoughts. Watching memories of the time before the Muck had taken control, when he was pathetic... weak. "NO!" he shouted. He forced the other villain out and the pain receded.

Nictus launched a blast of energy that destroyed the zombies and smashed Blightlord against the wall. He tried to stand but felt the force of the blow cause everything to disappear as he fell into unconsciousness.

An armored figure snuck into the base as the villains slept.

He knew he had to act fast to copy what he needed and get out without Elitist knowing he had come in the first place.

Project Heat Seeker wasn't allowed in the base until he killed the heroes after all.

He saw the many doors of the Masters of Mayhem's bedrooms and quickly switched the view on his new helmet to infrared. It was difficult but he found the form of a woman lying on what must be a bed.

He crept up to the door and gently pushed it open, wincing at the creaking noise from the hinges. The room was... indescribable. When he switched back to normal vision he almost fell over at the sight of her room.

He looked at the peculiar nightstand and saw what he was looking for. He snuck around the softly snoring clown and opened a large tome she had "borrowed." Suddenly a hand slammed on his own and he looked to see she had been faking her sleep all along.

"You are not allowed in here, M'sieu Seeker," she said. "And you most definitely should not be touching my book."

"I'm not here to take anything. I just need to copy down a spell or two then I was never here."

She titled her head, deciding whether or not to let him get what he needed.

He said, "It may help me kill Danica and Burning Brawler."

That convinced her. She withdrew her hand and let him turn the pages. "What are you going to do?"

"Memory spell... then a sort of resurrection."

Even more curious she watched as he laid the book flat and pressed a button on his wrist. There was a clicking noise as the camera on Seeker's visor took pictures of the spell. He quickly flipped through towards the back of the book, the more dangerous and darker spells.

He took a few more pictures of the spell he needed then shut the book and walked away, ignoring Harlequin like she was still asleep.

He shut the door and ran for the exit. He was turning down the hallway leading to the portal when he heard footsteps from that direction. Cursing, he headed backs towards then past the living quarters.

As he progressed the building seemed to get... older somehow. Finally he realized where he was: the prison.

Shackled and in a cell was a very familiar hero who was looking very helpless right about then.

Obsidian Arrow was dazed, between being held up only by the shackles on his wrists and the torture he had endured, he thought it was a miracle he was still breathing. Blightlord had done... something. Injected him with some foul smelling ooze that made him fell weaker than he already had. He didn't want to think of the possible things it could be.

Suddenly the hero heard footsteps. Someone was coming this way. Arrow's head fell when he thought of the possibility of more torture, or worse, execution.

He was able to see just enough to tell that it was either a robot or a man in armor. He squinted and thought it was Retro Bot until he saw the figure light the torches.

Heat Seeker.

As the villain approached him he knew whatever he was planning wasn't good. "I didn't think I'd find a sacrifice here. This is a most fortunate coincidence wouldn't you saw?"

Arrow did his best to kick out at the villain but his legs wouldn't respond.

Seeker felt something in his mind... a warning that someone was coming. But from who?

Heeding the warning Seeker quickly melted the shackle locks and slung the hero over his shoulders. He saw an alternate route to the exit and took it. As he exited the alarm began to sound, but they were too late. Seeker had escaped, taking their prisoner with him.

All was quiet in Warburg. The Rogue Arachnos patrols not disturbing the tranquility of the moment.

The sounds of fighting erupted fast and hard. Without warning the heroes had attacked, taking the villains completely by surprise. Or so they had thought.

Defenses had been prepared. Techno Tyrant grabbed a remote and activated a series of turrets that rapidly fired at the rushing heroes.

"Group A go left, B head right," ordered Hyper-Man. The heroes quickly split up, attacking their targets head on.

Hyper-Man turned to direct A's assault when he got a firm fist against his helmet. His head spun and injured his neck. He looked back in time to see a second punch coming from Elitist. Hyper ducked low and fired an energy blast into the villain's stomach, knocking him back.

Jack saw his target. A strange man in a top hat called Editor. Jack swung a left hook at the other man's face and received a blow to the ribs in return. In response he grabbed the villain's arm to swing him but he wouldn't budge. Instead Jack himself was flipped over.

Harlequin watched as two headed for her. The one with cat ears placed a greenish glow around here. "Zis is not Christmas time 'zilly girl," she said and suddenly realized what it was as she began to feel ill. Anger showed in her eyes and she mentally flung the approaching heroine back.

Java launched a burst of energy that was quickly intercepted by Smashing Pumpkin. He took the blast with an insane smile on his face. He leapt at the hero and knocking him to the ground raising a shadowy fist.

"Oh no ya don't!" yelled a red blur the knocked the grinning villain off. Johnny drew his claws and attacked, cutting hard and fast. The blows didn't seem to affect the villain as he grabbed both of the hero's wrists and head-butted him.

As Violet rushed back in her Phantasm and fake heroes running in front of her, Harlequin saw Blightlord as he began attacking Burning Brawler. The hero threw flaming blasts that he quickly snuffed out with a concoction. He saw her wink at him and was confused long enough to get a heel in the face. Staggering back he saw Danica in time for a palm to the face. Scowling, he called in his undead minions to hold them off while he grabbed the potions.

Super Shard dodged the laser blasts of robots, then quickly froze two of the smaller ones. With an energetic fist he launched the third into one of the bigger ones. The last robot seemed to 'malfunction' as he approached and quickly returned to the base. He saw the villain fumble with a remote. Shard threw an ice bolt at it, deactivating the turrets. "C'mon, where's the challenge?" A refrigerator fell from the sky. No, not a refrigerator. It unfolded into a large robot. "Ah... there it is."

Java was about to help Violet when he saw something in the corner of his eye. "What..." he leapt in the air in time to avoid the strikes of two villains. AphexTwin and Knave of Spades looked up in surprise that he had escaped. Java set down on the ground and fell into a crouch. Knave's eyes went wide and he jumped backward to avoid the blast of energy. Aphex was sent flying into a wall, teleported back to the base.

Phantom and Phantom, their names suiting them but for different reasons. The hero sent a Phantasm to attack the hiding villain. It quickly found him and attacked. The villain dodged nimbly and quickly struck. The Phantasm wasn't wounded but it appeared to be. Suddenly the villain saw himself surrounded by three more heroes... not heroes. Something was wrong with them. They each threw fire and he realized it didn't really hurt... he just thought it did. He walked through the wall of 'ghosts' to get at their controller.

Hyper-Man threw another blast which Elitist took as he ran forward. The villain raised both hand over his head to smash the hero. Hyper blocked it with his forearm, his armor giving him the necessary strength. Elitist looked down in surprise as a glowing hand sent him flying against a nearby building.

Jack jumped off of the ground with an uppercut the snapped the villain's head back. Grabbing his sore jaw Editor returned with a kick to stomach and received another blow to the face. The two combatants hands locked, the two testing each other's strength.

Suddenly they broke apart as Johnny crashed between them. Rubbing his head, he quickly picked himself up and ran at Pumpkin at incredible speeds. The bigger man reached out to grab him but was caught surprised when the hero slid under him, slashing at the back of his legs. The villain fell in pain and Johnny quickly attempted to place handcuffs on him when he suddenly vanished, the medi-porter taking him away.

Chris caught Violet as another psychic blast sent her backwards. "You ok?" She nodded and quickly commanded her Phantasm to blast her. She sent a few more waves of radiation to weaken her but they didn't seem to do as much as they had been. Chris rushed forward to hold her down. "Two against one? 'Zis is hardly fair," said Harley, pouting. She shot a mental blast at Chris that made him fall, clutching his head in pain.

Knave watched Java carefully. The hero was looking hard for any signs of movement. As the hero turned his back Knave struck. Java fell and was instantly teleported. Violet saw him fall and gave the Phantasm a new target. Knave was too busy celebrating his new victory to see the blast of energy that sent him into a wall. He too teleported like the hero.

Zombies rushed in first just to be turned to ashes by a ball of flame. Danica grabbed one Grave Knight's sword as it came down and ripped off the rotting arm. Not feeling pain, the warrior sent a blast of shadow that weakened Danica long enough for his counterpart to take a swing. She turned and kicked, sending the thing's head flying and its body to slump to the ground. She quickly turned and did the same with an open palm strike to the other. One of the heads his Blightlord who was working furiously on a potion. Brawler yelled "GOAL!" as he threw blast after blast at the Lich. It seemed to suck the life out of the hero and feed itself and Brawler thought he was getting nowhere.

Danica turned and saw Harlequin. She began to make a move for her until Brawler yelled "STOP!" But he was too late. Blightlord threw the potion and Danica fell to the ground, twitching as if in a seizure. Rage filled Brawler as he threw a blast through the Lich's middle. The undead wizard fell leaving Brawler a clear path to Blightlord. Brawler readied a massive blast. The villain held up a hand and in his other he waved a vial. "This is an antidote," he said. "I'll leave here and it will be all yours, providing you don't blast me as I do." Brawler nodded, the anger clear in his glowing eyes. Blightlord smiled and set the antidote down, then threw a potion at the ground. Then he was gone. Brawler quickly gave the antidote to his wife, praying it wasn't a trick. Danica quickly recovered and she looked around for her target.

As the groups fought some of the heroes cornered Harlequin, the only obvious leader left. "Where is Obsidian Arrow?" He asked. Harley wondered whether she should tell them or make him take a much-needed nap. She decided the first was more in her interests. "We do not 'ave him."

"What?" said Hyper. "He was taken by zat Seeker. If you want to find 'im I can help for a price."

"Fine," said Hyper, although it killed him to agree to bargain with her. Harley imprinted the directions on his mind and suddenly all the villains were gone.

As the spells scrolled down his visor Project Heat Seeker read the incantations. Suddenly a flush of memories, his memories, came to him. He saw himself, his real self exposed. And a flashing of light, a battle of wills. He watched as he was killed... no not killed. He searched through the pictures of resurrection spells. He had planned on resurrecting himself then stealing the power of the original. Then again, who said he still couldn't do that? He might even become stronger this way!

But this was different. He wasn't killed he was... banished. He scrolled down the spells. He found one that looked promising. "Looks like we have what I need," he said, turning to a figure strapped onto an altar. Obsidian Arrow struggled against the thick ropes binding his wrists and ankles. The harder he pulled the tighter the knots seemed to get. If only I had an arrowhead, he thought. A wave of nausea passed over him and he thought he might faint.

"Hmmm this is interesting," said Seeker. "This spell doesn't require me to kill you, just draw blood. But I will anyways. That way, even if this plan fails I can still join the Masters of Mayhem."

Seeker chanted and drew a long, slender knife. He approached the hero who was now struggling more fiercely, fear in his eyes. His voice began to grow louder and he raised the sacrificial blade. His volume reached its peak and he plunged the dagger.

Blood spilled from the wound and touched the altar. A hissing noise began and smoky tendrils came from the ground. The seemed to reach, no they did reach towards Seeker. He began to walk back, fearing what he had done. He was about to flee when they stopped, then rose. And slowly they formed into what was recognizable as human, yet something more.

This person was more shadow than man, and he seemed to steal the energy around him. The tentacles remained, flowing around his body and spreading from his feet. "H-heat Seeker?" asked its summoner.

The man looked at the one who had freed it. In a rough voice it said, "No. No longer am I so weak. So power took me, so I use it to take those who destroyed me. I am no longer man. I am the Consumed."

Almost confused by the change it... he had from his banishment to the abyss, Heat Seeker found it difficult to speak. "I-I have summoned you and I c-c-control you. You are bound by-"

"Bound by what mortal? There is no binding circle, no pentagram to hold me. You have no power here. I could tear you limb from limb with little effort. No, I do not serve you. You are my servant."

Heat Seeker found himself without words. This... this can't be happening, he thought. All my best laid plans, gone in an instant. He looked around in panic. There's no way out of this. I can't kill him by myself.

I'm... I'm doomed.

The heroes, regrouped, moved quickly. They followed Hyper's directions, following the route Harlequin had set in his mind left a line, only visible to him, leading them to their destination. Suddenly that line split in two.

"What the-"

"Something wrong Hyp?" asked Jack.

"There's a fork in the path."

"As in she double-crossed us?"

"Or they lead to two important things we need to take care of."

Hyper flew up into the air and pressed a button on the side of his helmet. His view extended to one of the destinations. He landed next to Jack and said, "Ok I'm going to give you the directions to one point and we'll all split up into two groups."

Jack nodded and went down the path Hyper pointed out with Burning, Danica, Chris, and Shard. Hyper took Violet, Java, and JV. The rest of the 'Kickers were told to watch the base to make sure they weren't attacked and be ready in case the others were seriously injured.

Hyper's group rushed forward with JV scouting ahead for an ambush. They then saw the Arena in front of them. "Why would she send us here..." wondered Hyper.

They walked in and he saw the line continued to one of the dusty terminals. He activated it and saw the line highlight a match that contained two participants. He entered his and his teammate's names into the list and they were instantly transported to a virtual recreation of the area around City Hall.

"So why are we in a match?" asked JV.

"I guess we're here to fight some heroes," said Hyper.

"Not quite," said Ruby Blade, striking at Violet.

Java turned and threw a blast at the villain but he was gone. He quickly ran up to Violet who was clutching her bleeding leg. "Are you alright?" he asked. She nodded and placed her open palm on her leg, sending a wave of healing radiation to close the wound.

"Well there's one of them, but where's the second?" JV asked.

They were answered by a sudden assault of Nicti energy. Hyper and Java quickly blasted the shadowy balls to disperse them. The villain transformed into the crab-like form and grabbed Hyper-Man's head. With energetic fists Hyper grabbed the villain's arms and threw him into the statue of Atlas.

As the other hurried to take down Nictus JV saw a shimmer behind him. He extended his claws and caught the sword. "Gotta be faster than that," he said, locking the blade between both. He swung his arms around and flung the sword from the villain's grasp.

Ruby scowled and threw a flurry of punches with JV, who was caught off guard by the attack. He frantically tried to block them and still received a few blows. Blade reached into a pouch on his belt and threw a ball on the ground, setting off a puff of smoke. When it cleared he and the sword had disappeared.

Nictus quickly ran up to the City Hall door and ran inside. "Um, does it do that?" said JV as he walked up beside the others.

"No," Hyp responded as he followed.

"This seems like a trap," said Java.

"I know, but we still need to catch them."

They entered the door and found themselves in the control room of a laboratory. "What's going on? I thought we went in City Hall?" asked Vi.

"The Arena Server must be malfunctioning."

"Or it's being hacked to make this more interesting for the observer," Java said.

They walked forward, watching for signs of either villain. Silently, they crept along the walls and watched the ceiling.

Suddenly a loud roar echoed through the building as Nictus teleported in their midst. He pulled in the energy of his foes, strengthening himself as he smashed at them. Hyper and Java leapt back while blasting, ignoring the affects of the energy drain. Violet threw a circle of radiation around him, making the villain feel the same weakness. JV ran around him in circles, slashing out as he passed.

Violet saw the radiation cover and invisible object and yelled a warning to Johnny. As he turned to look at her and arm knocked him to his back and sent him sliding into a wall.

Violet tried to reach him but an angry Nictus swung at her, forcing Violet to back away. She summoned decoy heroes to distract the villains but they were not fooled. As the dodged swinging arms and sword slashes Hyper and Java prepared to attack.

They stood side-by-side and put their hands together. A massive blast that rocked the building sent the villains flying through a wall.

The three conscious heroes chased after them and saw they were in a section of Perez Park. "Hurry, cuff them," ordered Hyper. The two placed special teleportation cuffs on the villains and watched them fade.

Violet ran back to help JV who was sitting up rubbing his head. "Anybody get the license on that truck?"

"There's no reason either of us should be a slave. We could be partners! Me and myself! We must still think alike. How much can banishment change a person?" said a panicking Heat Seeker.

"You'd be surprised," responded his more powerful self.

With an energy-wrapped fist he launched the lesser villain into a wall and conjured shackles to hold him there. He then noticed the hero on the altar. "Interesting... this one seems... familiar."

"He should, he's one of the ones who helped kill you last time!"

Consumed turned, his eyes filled with rage. "Err me! I meant me...," he paused to swallow the bile, "master." It looked like it almost killed Seeker to say the word.

Consumed's angry glare turned to what could have been mistaken as a smile as he turned to the hero. "So, this is one of the mortals who helped that fool Burning Brawler destroy me. His death shall be most painful."

"Erm... I already killed him to-to free you."

"Not true. If you had paid closer attention you would see he is still breathing." The villain touched a hand to the hero's chest and dark energy surged into him. Obsidian Arrow woke up and jerked in surprised at the sight of this foe.

Consumed took the sacrificial knife and cut the ropes binding the hero. "Where is his bow?" asked the villain.

Heat Seeker managed to point in the direction of the weapon lying in the corner. The villain picked it and the quiver up and threw it to Arrow. "My revenge will start with you, archer. Prepare yourself for death."

Not entirely sure what had transpired in his unconsciousness, Obsidian slowly nocked an arrow.

The shadows around Consumed's feet grew longer and moved quickly. The villain rushed at Obsidian with his fists of energy. The hero let an arrow fly that should have hit the villain, did hit him, but seemed just to pass through. In his confusion he didn't have a chance to block the hand that sent him into a wall.

Wiping the blood off his mouth, Obsidian took a handful of arrows and let them fly. Again they passed through and he was hit fiercely.

His head began to hurt to his limit. He clutched his bleeding skull in agony.

"Pathetic," said the villain, bringing both hands together for the killing blow.

"No, what's pathetic is you didn't see us right behind ya'" said Jack as he smashed the villain against the altar. Chris quickly helped Arrow to his feet and gave him something to stop the headache and slow the bleeding.

Danica leapt into the air with a heel kick and passed through the villain, the shadowy mass chilling her to the bone. As she hit the wall she flipped back and spun with another kick, this time connecting. She leapt back to her husband who was quickly casting a spell. "I don't get it, I miss him one time then the next hits. He's not even dodging!"

Shard threw icy bolts and watched as Jack attacked Consumed. "I think I get it. He can only be hit when he's attacking! Wait for the fists to glow." Shard demonstrated by connecting an icy blast.

Brawler finished casting his spell and the room glowed green. "That should weaken him. I think Shard's right, Seeker must not have summoned him correctly so he's not fully here, just when he's attacking."

"Oh sure it's always gotta be when they CAN hit you that you can be hit back. It's never you who's watching blows pass straight through yourself," Danica said, waiting for the villain to attack again. She saw the glow and leapt again as Brawler and Shard threw blasts at the villain.

Jack kept the villain's attention as Chris came up behind with a powerful swing.

Consumed growled in frustration and yelled for Seeker to assist him. Everyone in the room turned for a second to where the villain had called but Seeker was gone, the shackles melted. Arrow rejoined the fight as Consumed hit Chris with a powerful blow to the stomach.

"Arrow, find Seeker!" yelled Jack as he grabbed the villain for another blow.

He nodded and ran out of the room.

Consumed was angry now. "I will not be defeated again! You all will pay for your insolence! I am The Consumed! No one can destroy me now!"

As he yelled in rage he didn't see Brawler casting more spells on him. Shard slowed down the villain, making him an easier target. Jack and Chris grunted as the blows became more intense and more frequent.

Consumed saw his anger increased the strength of his blows but felt himself tiring. It showed as the shadows around his form began to slow and draw back until finally they disappeared. No longer was he partially in a realm of darkness, he was fully corporeal now.

And completely touchable.

"What is this?!" yelled the villain in rage.

Brawler just smiled as he joined Shard in throwing powerful blasts at Consumed. With new strength Jack and Chris attacked the weakened villain. Danica leapt over the villain while reaching out with her palms and legs to deal powerful head blows.

His rage was intense but he could not get more than a few blows in the forceful attack the heroes let loose. He felt himself fall but no longer felt the pain. He simply hit the floor then vanished.

Heat Seeker thought in his mind, how could this happen? How did they find me?!

'Ello, monsieur, said a voice in his head. "You!" He yelled, turning around expecting to see her hiding in the shadows.

It was a very good plan. Thank you for showing me more of what zhat book can do!

"You planned on this?!" He found it unbelievable that the clown could pull something like this off.

Well, ze 'ero is coming so, goodluck Monsieur 'Eat Seekair!

"Talking to yourself?" said a voice behind the villain. Already enraged the villain threw a blast of flame at Obsidian. He hadn't expected the attack already and was hit fully by it. Arrow was more surprised than Heat Seeker when he showed no signs of injury. His mind raced for a reason why. "The injection!" he yelled. "Is that what Blightlord was testing?"

The anger that Seeker felt was shown as he furiously launched blast after blast at the hero. Not wishing to test the potion's limits, Obsidian made an effort to dodge as many as he could. He pulled an arrow with a blue box tip and set it. As he let it fly it opened and clamped onto the villain's face and sent electric waves along Seeker's body.

Seeker shook as the energy coursed through him and fell to the ground, smoke rising from his body.

Arrow ran up and placed the cuffs on him, then watched with satisfaction as the villain teleported to prison.

He medi-ported back to the base for some still much needed medical attention where the rest of the 'Kickers had already returned. They filled each other in on what had happened and their successes.

"It looks like we won't need to worry about those four for a long time," said JV.

The room looked at him and even though they nodded, they definitely didn't believe it.

Techno Tyrant quickly covered the evidence of his hacking the Arena Server. "That good enough for you?" he asked the figure behind him, Blightlord. He nodded and placed a suitcase of money, identical to the one Harlequin received, in his lap. "Perfect."

The next day at the Zig the prisoners received their mail. Three received a single note stamped with a green smoke behind an undead shadow. They opened their notes and each said the same thing: "There can be only one."



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