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Nightbringer looked behind himself as he, LiveWire, Liquid Chill and Lady Athena streaked through the vertical slalom course that was Skyway City.  Prismatic had just mysteriously fallen, and  an enigmatic voice had told them she would be safe.

He hated leaving a person behind, something he never did as a hero, but even when he ran with the Skulls, it was something he was loathe to do.  But the voice seemed to speak to more than their minds; it seemed to touch deep down into their being, reassuring them that their companion would be safe.

So the four flew on, heading towards Talos Island, where the ferry known as The Melody had just been hit by the sudden materialization of a ghost ship.  No doubt several other heroes would be at the scene, but Nightbringer always preferred to take care of his own.  He felt that as the group’s leader, he should be leading the charge, no matter what they were called upon to do.

Bright flashes could be seen from their bird’s eye view; people, and things were changing or appearing out of thin air.  A dilapidated building, battle-blasted, vandalized and otherwise abused, suddenly transformed into a completely restored version of itself.  A horse and buggy suddenly appeared in the middle of the street, panic evident on the driver’s face at suddenly being thrown into such a strange environment.

Nightbringer promised himself to try and get to the bottom of things as quickly as possible once they had retrieved Beguiler and his son.

A shrill beeping went off from his comm device. What now, he growled to himself as he managed to remove the small pager from his belt.  A cursory glance told him it was Psirene, who had been in absentia all day.   Originally, she said she had some business to take care of in Kings Row, and would be back later that afternoon, but a later message told him that she would be helping Fixit and his group.

In that simple message, Nightbringer knew who it was that Fixit had been referring to earlier. Well, the blonde hero thought, that’s one situation that they can sort out for themselves.

Seeing the glimmer of water, Nightbringer sped up his flight, the others right behind him.

Xandria looked at the gathered  heroes.  She had filled in once before as leader when Nightbringer had fallen ill, and had proved herself more than capable of directing things.  However, she was no less grateful when he had recovered; leadership was something she would only do when absolutely necessary.  Like now.

“Perhaps we should start with our most pressing news,” she started, and all eyes turned to BlueDragon.   The black-skinned, formerly dead hero looked at the others with puzzled innocence.

“I don’t feel dead,”  he said, in his usual light-hearted way.  “Are you sure I died?”

“Yes, Diego, we’re positive.  Sara and I saw it happen.”

BlueDragon furrowed his brow, thinking hard as to what had happened to him.  “The last thing I can recall is being on a case with you guys.  Some museum robbery that the Tsoo had done.  We had just finished fighting them when this bright flash hit me.  It didn’t hurt me or anything, I just assumed it teleported me.”

“Eyewitnesses have reported bright flashes around town, and then people or things appear that aren’t from this timeline, Xandria.”  commented Flora.

“At least it’s not the Rikti,” muttered Sara. 

“But something’s causing it, right?  Where would we even begin to look?”  asked Evan, still somewhat freaked out by the sudden appearance of someone they knew was dead.

“I wish I knew, Evan.  Maybe Beguiler can provide some insights when he gets back here.”

“Or perhaps I can help,” came a new voice.

The Nameless all turned in unison to face the speaker; he was a tallish man, dressed in the red and black body armor of  those called the Rogue Isle Protectors.

Xandria’s features became more icy, and she regarded this intruder with calculating interest.  She held up a warning hand to Evan, who tensed up in his chair, ready to leap at the man with a spiny fury.

The Protector could detect the apprehension as well as the general mood of uneasiness his presence was causing, and he wasn’t even psychic.  With a smug grin under his helmet, he reached into a spot under his armor’s breastplate, and produced a small disk, which he casually tossed onto the table before taking a seat alongside Solanum.  With a slight, disdainful sneer, she shifted her position, turning herself away from him.

    “Play that,” instructed the Protector.  “It will tell you what you how these things are happening.”

    Xandria, with a thought, lifted the disc off the table and into her hand.   The Protector shifted slightly, as if he realized she wouldn’t have to use her psychic abilities on his mind if she chose to attack.  Putting the disc into the player, she darkened the conference room. 

    The TV came to life, and security footage, always grainy, always in black and white, began to run.

    The Nameless strained forward to get a better look.  Within seconds they realized who may have been responsible.

    “Looks like Gamester is back,” commented Solanum.  “When did this happen?”

    “A couple of days ago, Solanum,” answered the Protector.  “I was able to obtain it after it occurred.  I knew it would be useful, but I didn’t know to whom.”

    “Any ideas as to where they went to afterwards?”  asked Stingray, who had his largest spine barely protruding.  He was ready to  leap across the table and use it on the intruder if he needed to. 

    “I had been tracking them, but it appears they may have gone back to the Rogue Isles,”  he stated flatly. 

    “Why are you giving us this information?”  Xandria asked.  “It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing a Protector would do.”  She hoped the statement would lure him into taking the bait and giving out a little more information.

    It worked, or at least, he let them think it worked.  “We would like these people caught just as much as you would.  I have particular interest in the little one.”

    “Toyster?  She’s a little young for you, isn’t she?”  asked Stingray.

“I have my own reasons for my interest, none of which concern you,”  Norman sneered under his helmet.  He could detect the formation of spines in Stingray’s body, as well as the tension building up in the young man.  While he knew he could very easily defeat the young hero in a fight, the Protector also knew that in close quarters, Stingray had a clear advantage; intelligence indicated speed that only Synapse could rival, and Norman wondered if he could maneuver away from him in time. 

“It still doesn’t answer why they did this,”  Solanum commented, eyes returning to the screen.  The footage showed the group tossing a device into an active portal.  “Are they still in contact with Dr. Webb?”

“Remember, Gamester is all about distraction,”  Medusa cautioned.  “He had everyone chasing after those presents as well as mind-controlled the kids from Sussex Academy, all to hide his true objective.”

Those present nodded, except BlueDragon, who looked confused.

“So, this may be part of something bigger,”  said Xandria, jaw clenched.  “But what?”

Beneath his helmet, Norman smirked.  “I have a theory.”

Beguiler was busy trying to keep the shipwrecked passengers calm when the water around them suddenly became brilliantly illuminated.  A field of light about 150 meters wide flashed in the deep waters of the channel.  Immediately, Edward could sense another mind far below them.
We’re a floating buffet, he realized.  Through the clouds of panic and worry coming from the survivors of the wrecked Widow Star, the empath could detect something else, something dark and sinister.  Something, he realized, swimming in the cold blue water beneath them.  While his abilities focussed primarily on the human mind, Edward knew they also worked on animals, whose primal thoughts were more emotional than rational.

    Whatever lurked beneath them was large, curious, and from what he could sense, hungry.  Edward cast the equivalent of a net over the minds of the people splashing around in the water.  Trying to get them calmed down, he reassured them help was on the way.  Not at all wanting the people to know about what was beneath them, he boosted feelings of courage and hope.

    “Everyone get together!”  he called out.  “The heroes will have an easier time getting us out.”

    “Dad?  What’s wrong?”  Tristan whispered.  “Is something wrong?  You look worried.”

    Not sure if his son would be able to respond, Edward told him mentally something was swimming far below them.  Tristan took the news wide-eyed, but said nothing.  The boy had an amazing ability to keep calm in a crisis; but perhaps it was all those years of living among the undead that gave him such steeled nerves.

    Someone suddenly screamed and disappeared under the waves;  Beguiler knew it was too late to do anything about it.  Another person vanished but tried to grab onto a fellow passenger, and dragged her down with him.  The air became thick with panic once more, as people tried to make their way towards the shore.  Screams about sharks filled the air, but Beguiler knew they were wrong.  Sharks would have been much more preferable to deal with, and much easier.

    A giant tentacle, easily two hundred feet long, broke through the water surface.  Panic gave way to fear, and overwhelmed Beguiler for a couple of seconds.  He had heard stories of a creature that lived deep in the ocean, far larger and more dangerous than anything known before.  He dismissed it as just wild tales, something to amuse children with, but as the titanic body broke the surface and regarded the people with baleful eyes, he found himself fighting back his own fear.

Somehow, the Kraken had been brought from myth to reality.

He grabbed  his son, who seemed startled by the move.  He had two teleportation tags on his person, and now, he felt, was the time to use them.  Activating the tags, he sent himself and his son to Chiron Medical, in Atlas Park.  While the tags were to be used for medical emergencies and arrests, they could, on occasion, be used for emergency escapes.  Of course, Beguiler knew there would be a mandatory review of his actions, that most likely he would be fined for improper usage of the ETS, and that he would probably get censured in some way  for failing to help others.  He would deal with all of that, including the twinge of guilt he felt for not helping anyone, at a later time. 

Wake up my child, came the voice inside Prismatic’s mind.

The opalescent heroine woke with a start.  She found herself in an enclosed section beside a stone wall, surrounded by can-filled shopping carts.   The area was dimly illuminated with a bluish-green glow; and Prismatic was surprised to see the source.

Can Man’s eyes glowed a brilliant shade of aqua, making the surrounding hovel seem as if it were under water.  It did more than provide light; it told Prismatic that Can Man, for all his appearances, was somehow, much, much more.

She sighed deeply; it wasn’t the Can Man that she recognized, it was the being that resided within him she knew.  Prismatic struggled to sit up, and faced her host, who sat at the far end of his shelter, watching her.  Stories abounded about this man, she had heard how PhoenixHawk and the rest of the Onami had been able to set back Crey’s Protector program with information provided by him.  The Trolls feared him, as did The Lost and practically any other villain group that strayed into his domain.  Even heroes gave him a wide berth, although no one could give a satisfactory answer as to why.

Prismatic could tell from the moment she saw him before losing consciousness; it was like a flood of repressed memories that came flooding through her.  He was of her race, or rather, he held the essence of one of her people.  She began to remember who she was, where she had come from, and why she was here.

Were the dreams sent by you?

Yes, child.  It was the only way we could assuredly reach you.  The urge you felt to come to this place-

I remember.  I said that the Universe wanted me here.

A funny way to put it, but, you were more or less correct.  We are Children of the Universe, wanderers, teachers, and scholars.  Somehow, you had gotten lost and spent more time among the humans than what is customary.  Your involvement is quite unorthodox.

Prismatic scowled.  She was not expecting to be lectured, especially since she had helped people.

The mental voice continued.  However, that can all be discussed later.  For now, it is important for you to return home.  One of the humans has ripped the fabric of space-time, and it will soon consume this planet.  Eventually, this world will be destroyed by it, consumed by the void.

Shouldn’t we try to mend the rift?  The lives of billions of people will be lost!

The voice became impassive.  We are scholars, not warriors, and not saviors.  Your interference has been more than enough.  Let this world pass, my child.  They are a doomed race, anyway.

Prismatic stood up, angered at the sheer callousness of this being.  “To you, perhaps, but as long as I am on this world, I am  part of it, and I shall fight for it.”

Without looking behind her, she left the shelter and flew as fast as she could towards Talos.


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