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A STITCH IN TIME
PART 6


Shadows from the Netherworld held the group fast in its dark, inescapable gloom.  While the negative energy slowly leeched away their lives, the heroes were tormented with the howls and screams coming from the very depths of their souls, promising every horror imaginable and eternal twilight.

Beguiler was trying desperately to shield his mind, as well as the others from this dark assault led by Nightbringer, who had now turned back into Deathbringer, the name he had gone by when he ran with the Skulls.  Their leader still hovered over them, his eyes reflecting an unholy joy at what he was doing.

The empath tried to get Jon to stop, but what he found in the man’s mind was neither human nor humane.  The man before them wasn’t the Jon they knew, but rather, an alternate version of him.  Quickly, he tied his mind to Xandria’s.

He’s not responding to mental attacks,  Beguiler told her, or at least mine.  I cannot attack him and keep us healed up at the same time. Besides, it’s not really Jon.

I trust you’ll explain it later.Let’s see if this works, then, replied White Diamond. 

With the strength of her mind, she grabbed hold of Jon, who seemed unaware of what was about to happen.  Suddenly,  Deathbringer flew against the wall, and then was roughly jerked to the other side of the corridor.  He was thrown back to the opposite side a third time, his head smacking against a large piece of ductwork, but White Diamond did not relent, she slammed him a few more times against the walls and sent him flying away from them.  Jon stared stupidly at the group for a few moments and then collapsed to the floor unconscious.

The strange inky mist that had surrounded the group began to dissipate, the howls subsiding.  As  The Nameless stood up, and Beguiler could sense their confusion over what had just happened, overcoming their minds just as Deathbringer’s deadly gloom had their bodies.  With a thought, he got them all to refocus on why they were here, and what they needed to do.

“We need to restrain him.  If we teleport him to the hospital like this, he could start attacking, or even killing, innocent people.  Any heroes that stop him would only send him to the Zig,” stated Xandria.

“I got it, darlin’,” announced LiveWire, who produced a pair of handcuffs from a pocket inside his vest.

Xandria narrowed her eyes and shook her head at her husband.  “Do I even want to know why you brought those with you?”

LiveWire chuckled and expertly handcuffed Jon, making sure the pipe he had their leader’s hands around were solid so he could neither break out or slip the cuffs off of the pipe.  Beguiler reached into Jon’s mind and triggered the desire for sleep to feed back onto itself; it would keep Jon unconscious indefinitely until they could return him back to normal.

“Will he be alright?”  asked Medusa, the worry apparent on her face.

“I’m sure he will be.  He’s a fighter, Medusa,” reassured Beguiler, putting his hand on her shoulder.  “Remember when Adamastor had almost broken out of Moth Cemetery?  He used his last bit of strength to banish him from this world, and if he had been anyone else, he would have died.”  Everyone nodded in agreement; Jon’s dedication to his team and to fighting the forces of evil he knew so well were becoming the stuff of legend.

Norman coughed impatiently.  “We  need to go,” he said brusquely.  “This is why the city is so overrun with petty criminals; all you do is sit around and talk.”

Turning on his heels, he led the way down the corridor.   The Rogue Isle Protector went back into his introspective silence, confident that neither of the psychics could “hear” him.  Soon, very soon, he kept telling himself.


“Well, is it time?”  asked Gamester, who loomed over Kirk.  He seemed to eye the flashes of light with eager anticipation, but Vision could tell absolutely nothing about the enigmatic supervillain.

 Kirk could sense all the rips in space-time forming around them; he could even tell how far ahead or behind in time they would be.  Why Gamester would want to know which rip was the right one was beyond him.

He looked over at the children; Delilah, Psirene’s daughter, was unconscious, as was Carlito.  No doubt their powers made such sedation necessary for their capture.  JT, son of LiveWire and White Diamond, had been both bound and gagged to keep him quiet.  Kirk smiled at the boy, who looked like his father, but had a quiet, almost shy, manner.  How Gamester’s minions managed to get into their base and capture the kids still mystified him.

“So, why are you doing this?”  Kirk asked.  A brief flash in his mind showed him a fight, likely future, of  The Nameless battling in this room. He shook his head to clear his mind of the foresight; he was not receiving them as rapidly now, something he was grateful for.  The quick succession of alternate presents, futures and pasts had almost torn his mind apart, but oddly enough, here at the heart of the time storm, his powers worked like they always did.

“It’s a present to myself,” explained the Gamester, who managed to keep his face hidden despite his proximity to Kirk.  “The future me contacted me and sent a device to disrupt time itself.  Bad?  Perhaps, but you gotta admit some of the stuff that’s been happening is pretty cool.  Besides, it was necessary.”

“For what?”

“Mind your own business!  I just need you to tell me when a flash 20 years from now appears!” snapped the Gamester, and turned away from his captive.

Every step the Gamester took made a shuffling noise, and Kirk noticed that he walked rather strangely, almost unnaturally.  “What are you, some kind of robot?”  he suddenly asked.

    Gamester whirled around as if he’d been stung by a hornet.  From the depth of his flowing red robes, he produced a gun and pointed it at JT’s head.

    “Keep it up, funny man!  I’ll blow his head off!”

    Just in time, Kirk could sense the portal Gamester wanted.  Scenes of a future twenty years away began to show themselves to him; so enraptured by what he saw, the hero called The Vision almost forgot to tell his captor the portal he sought had materialized.

    Eagerly, Gamester jumped into the plane of light.  Kirk struggled slightly against his bonds.   He still felt too groggy to attempt teleporting himself  ahead  a few seconds.  Besides, he reasoned, the swarms of temporal rifts made such a thing a very risky move.  He watched Gamester’s minions; they seemed to be too focussed on the portals to pay much attention to him or the children.  Cautiously, he struggled against his bonds; he felt it move slightly.  Stealing another glance at his captors, he tried again, feeling the ropes moving slightly as he did.

     He felt the familiar touch of Beguiler’s mind; the empath was searching for him.  Mentally responding to the psychic beacon, Kirk felt reassured this ordeal would be over soon.


    “Kirk’s here.  Along with Delilah, Carlito, and JT,”  answered Beguiler as he gathered his mind back into himself.  He paused for a moment, as if aware of something, but then continued,   “Gamester apparently took them as well to ensure Kirk’s assistance.”

    “Assistance?  Why would Kirk help Gamestuh?” asked LiveWire.  Crackles of electricity could be seen forming on his fists and Beguiler could sense all the anger building up in him.  “An’ how in the hell did he get our kids?”

    “The how, LiveWire, is irrelevant.  Right now, we need to rescue our loved ones.”  Beguiler replied, grateful his twin wasn’t here.  Her abilities could be more brutal in their execution, and she wouldn’t hesitate to do serious harm to anyone who threatened her child.

    “Where are they?”  asked Solanum, who hadn’t withdrawn her claws.  Her fiance could tell she was itching for a fight.

    “The main portal is through those doors, and that’s where our targets are,”  stated Norman flatly. “However,” he added, looking over at Tristan, “It will be no place for children.”

    “You can’t tell me what to do!  I’m go-“  the teenager began to protest, but was cut off by his father.

    “He’s right.  You can’t go in.  Your mother would kill me if she knew what’s happened so far.  If I allowed you into a fight, I’d probably never get a chance to see you again until you were an adult.”  Edward told his son very gently, but in a tone that left no room for debate. 

    Tristan sighed in disgust.  “You suck!” he declared and stalked off to a nearby lobby area to sulk, flinging himself into one of the chairs. His sullen glare could be felt almost as much as seen.

    Stingray chuckled.  “Sounds like me when Sara and I would go on assignments.  He’ll get over it.”

    “Tick, tock, people,” reminded the Rogue Isle Protector in an impatient tone.   “We have fifteen minutes before the two timelines converge.  Likely the rip will get worse, and any hope we might have of  fixing it will be gone.”  He took off towards the doors, the rest of the Nameless in tow, except for Prismatic, who seemed to stall for a moment.

    “The world will be doomed,”  muttered Prismatic, repeating what Can Man’s guest had told her.  Ever since arriving in Peregrine, she had heard the song again and again, calling to her, beseeching her to come home.  She was suddenly overcome with great tiredness, tiredness of spirit.

    Come home, daughter.  Let go of the burdens of your travels, and come home, called the voice to her mind once more.  It seemed gentle, almost like the voice of a mother to her child.  Prismatic felt overwhelmed by the sense of safety and security the voice provided.  She felt herself starting to slip away.

    She heard the loud clanging of a large door closing.  The sound brought her back to what was going on.

    I cannot, she mentally answered, shaking her mind free of the drowsiness.  She noticed how the voice now speaking to her was different in tone from the one emanating from the Can Man.  I need to help this city, perhaps the world.

    Laughter, gentle and patient, echoed in her head.  Dear child, do you think this world will cease to be if you are no longer upon it?  The world will keep turning; people shall be born, they will love, fight, live and die.  They will continue to be whether you are here or not.

    Someone has damaged time itself, she interrupted the voice.  Soon the anomalies that flood this city shall overrun the world, and after that, I can only assume this world will pass through the tear in the Universe, and then it will cease to be.

    For a few moments, Prismatic heard nothing, but she could tell her people were still present, as if discussing the matter among themselves.

    Very well, child.  To mend the tear, this is what you must do…


   
    The portal between times seemed like a highly polished corridor of light and shadow; details were blurred by either.  Motion seemed strange, almost like slow motion, but somehow exaggerated.  Jack couldn’t help but be excited and scared.  He knew if he could pull this off, he would go from being a small-time crook to true supervillain.

    He could hear footsteps coming down the corridor.  Quickening his pace, he rushed to meet the person.  A tall, broad-shouldered man was approaching.  He was dressed oddly, like a nobleman from several centuries ago; red jacket, white ruffled shirt, black pants tucked into his boots.  A black mask covered his face, but Jack knew who he was.

    “I always wondered what I would say to myself if I ever went back in time,”  remarked the older Jack.

    “Do you have the item?”  the boy asked impatiently.

    “Of course.”  The older Gamester gave the younger one a box.  “Crey Labs developed them, Freakshow stole them, and I recovered them for the Countess.”  He smiled.  “Believe me, she is one person to definitely make your ally.  The rewards were…innumerable.”

    “Yeah, great,”  Jack said as he opened the box.  A pair of innocuous bracers sat in the box. 

    “Uhm, how do they work?” he asked as the boy-villain put them on his forearms.

    The adult version of himself drew back his sleeves, revealing the same weaponry.  “Just click,” he started, and pressed down on a large green button.  The sparking of electricity could be heard and seen along the man’s hands and arms.  “And point!”  he shouted, and with an emphatic gesture, he extended his arm outward; a large bolt of electricity rocketed out of his fingertips.

  Jack’s eyes lit up with delight.  Now he could be on par with that snot-nosed brat Delilah and the freak Tristan. 

“That is merely the beginning,” hinted his future self.

    “What else can they do?” he asked.

      Gamester laughed.  “Let me show you.”


    Gamester’s minions heard a pounding at the door; they knew someone might attempt to stop them, but they never had seriously expected it.  They knew what was coming, and Gamester had prepared them for this moment.  Each of them pressed a button on their belts, and they each blinked out of sight.

    Kirk concentrated, trying to focus on the future, but with all the timelines converging on each other, he couldn’t tell whether the future he saw was the one that would be coming true.  All he could do, like anyone else, was wait.

    The large, circular door opened, parting down the center.  The eight entered cautiously; and just as White Diamond noticed Prismatic was still out in the corridor, the massive doors whisked themselves closed, sealing the seven in the room.

    Immediately, Beguiler was reaching out with his mind.  “We are not alone,” he cautioned.

    Norman scanned the room, dimly lit by the milky-white glow of the activated portal,.   The massive cables and pipes that fed into the gigantic room created innumerable shadowy hiding places, but thanks to his helmet’s visor, he could detect a hidden body.

    He slowly scanned the room, not at all letting on to the seven heroes he had spotted Gamester’s minions already.  Norman could see that one of them was slowly moving in behind White Diamond, who seemed to also be reaching out with her mind.

    “BEHIND YOU!” He yelled, suddenly.

    The telepath suddenly screamed out; the group caught a flash of Jongleur stabbing her in the back before he blinked out of sight.

    Enraged, LiveWire suddenly sent a massive charge of electricity to the spot he had been, creating a field that would hold the knife-wielding villain in place. The blue electricity sparked and crackled, but slowly faded, telling him he had missed his target.

    Beguiler was immediately working on healing White Diamond; his ability to absorb the pain of others was extraordinary, but it came at a considerable cost to himself.   He clenched his teeth as he experienced  the agonizing wounds she felt.  The rest of the group surrounded them, keeping watch in all directions for unseen attackers.

    Solanum gave the Protector an evil look.  “If you can see them, you should point them out to us.”

    “I don’t want the little one hurt,” he said stiffly.

    “At this point, I don’t think I can guarantee her safety,” countered Solanum.  She found the Protector’s interest in Toyster unsettling at best, if not downright creepy.

    As a precaution, she began to wrap herself in the dark, shadowy mist she referred to as her death shroud.  Becoming a focal point of negative energy, it swirled around her in a wide radius.  Any enemies caught within it would begin to have their life energies drained away; it was a tactic the clawed heroine made frequent use of, considering it to be a secondary weapon when she fought more than one villain.

    She heard a sudden gasp, and knew someone was caught in the field.  With a wicked slash, she lunged forward, feeling her claws strike flesh.  A scream, a woman’s scream, echoed throughout the room. 
   
    Fortuneteller materialized and threw a card at Solanum, who tried to swat it away from herself.  The card  touched the tip of her nails and detonated, and the red head took the brunt of the blast.  The force of the explosion sent her flying over the others, tumbling head over heels.

    “SARA!”  yelled Beguiler and BlueDragon at the same time, as both men rushed to her side, leaving the rest of the team.

    The Nameless were now more nervous; they were being attacked on all sides, with no clue as to when or where the assaults would come from.  Gamester’s minions had gotten very good at hit-and-run tactics, but now that they were caged in for a fight, the heroes began to feel doubt about any chance of success.

    Faberge was suddenly picked up and tossed aside, crashing into a set of metal piping that fed into the heavy framework surrounding the portal.  The crystalline girl’s ultra-dense flesh perforated the tubing, causing a small plume of smoke to jet out of it.  The pipe itself began to frost up as the supercoolant leaked out at a prodigious rate.

    An alarm began to sound; the urgency of the leak was accentuated by the computerized voice now announcing pending disaster.

    “Warning:  Coolant leak.  Warning:  Coolant leak.  Evacuate facilities immediately.  Evacuate facilities immediately.”

    Beguiler looked at Bluedragon as they both hovered over Solanum.  The empath could tell the other hero had strong feelings for Solanum, and the feeling was mutual.  He brushed aside the jealousy for a moment and concentrated on Sara; the flesh on her hands had been blown off in the explosion.  Bracing himself for the absolute pain he would soon inflict on himself, he took a deep breath.

    “Bluedragon, I need you to put a force field around us.  What I’m about to do will take a little time and a good deal of my energy.    Keep an eye on the others, and whatever you do,” he looked over at the leaking coolant, and then back at Bluedragon, “do not summon fire.”

    Bluedragon smirked and brought up a shimmering force field around the three of them.  Confident he was  safe, Beguiler reached into Sara’s mind and concentrated on healing her hand.  The pain was intense, much more than what had just happened to Xandria.  His nerves seemed to be catching fire from his fingertips all the way into his brain, making his mind feel like it would explode.  Fighting past the initial shock, he went to work, accelerating Sara’s own healing abilities, repairing flesh and tissues.  As Solanum regained consciousness, Beguiler gasped loudly, mentally exhausted and visibly shaking by his efforts.

    Solanum looked around the room angrily.  She wanted to tear Fortuneteller apart.  The Protector knew each of their locations, but wouldn’t disclose them.  She thought quickly, and sent a mental message to Edward, confident that the Rogue Island Protector, so intently stalking Toyster, wouldn’t detect their conversation.

    Can you and Xandria sense the Gamester’s minions?

    Yes.  They all seem to be waiting for something, he paused.  What did you have in mind?

    Between the two of you, could you knock them all out?

    Piece of cake,  replied her fiance, and he quickly withdrew from her mind.  Edward usually linked minds with his sister, making their attacks twice as powerful on their enemies.  However, he could join his mind with other psychics in his sister’s absence. 

    After explaining what they were to do, the pair went into action, releasing a psionic salvo against enemies they could sense, but not see.

    The Gamester’s minions cried out in unison as twin psychic attacks began to tear into their minds and cause them to lose their focus.  One by one, each of the supervillains dropped out of invisibility.  All of them were clutching their heads, writhing on the floor.

    Working quickly, The Nameless began to put teleportation tags on them.  They were about to slap one on Toyster when the Rogue Isle Protector erupted into action.

    Standing over the unconscious child villain like a bizarre guardian angel, he began to radiate intense heat.

    “I told you not to harm the little one,”  he warned.

    Before any of the heroes could answer, a deep rumble shook the building.  They all turned to face the portal, which had diminished in brightness.  However it flared up with blinding intensity, and a noise sounding like a small explosion came from it’s depths.

    Travelling a fast speed, a shock wave came out from the portal, knocking everyone onto their feet.


    “What’s goin’ on?”  asked Jack to his older self.

    “Hmm.  The temporal rifts are beginning to collapse.  You’d better get out of here.  I’m sure the capes are swarming the place,”  the man cautioned.

    Jack snorted.  “Please, all any of them clowns care about is getting their names in the paper.”

    “True, but nonetheless, you should get going.”  He handed his younger self another small device. “It’s a teleportation tag, like what the capes use, only programmable,”  he answered the boy’s wordless question.

    The pair felt the rumble of the building, and suddenly noticed the light surrounding them begin to fade.

    “See ya later, dude!”  Jack smirked, and activated the device.

    “No!”  Gamester screamed, but it was too late; the boy had vanished.  Teleporting within a temporal rift caused the gateway to suddenly become unstable and collapse,  unceremoniously dumping the supervillain into the large main room.

    Quickly, he took in his surroundings, and saw eight heroes glaring at him.  He knew who they were; The Nameless.  He knew they had all disbanded by his time, but another group had risen up to take their parents’ place.

    “IIIIIIIIIT’S  PLAYTIME!!!!”  Gamester yelled enthusiastically in a sing-song voice.  “And the name of the game is…Catch!”  he quickly added, hurling twin bolts of lightning at the group.

    The Nameless all jumped out of the way of the lightning bolts, finding safety behind the pipes and ducts around the cavernous room.

    “So that’s Gamestuh?”  asked LiveWire.  “If he’s playin’ with ‘lectricitay, bettah let me handle this.”  His fists began to charge up; he was confident he could handle anything Gamester could dish out.

    JD, please be careful,  cautioned his wife.  The Southerner chuckled as he ran towards the villain, fists glowing blue-white, electricity arcing off of them. 

    With a loud cry, LiveWire attempted to deliver a wicked overhead punch, which would have leveled most villains.  Gamester, however, was no garden-variety crook.  He reached out and grabbed JD’s wrists, and everyone could see the electric nimbus vanish from the hero and transfer to the villain’s fists.  The electrically charge punch intended for Gamester was redirected towards JD, delivered in a nasty uppercut.  The blow sent LiveWire sailing backwards and crashing onto the ground. 

    The young hero looked dazed; no one had ever resisted what he called his Electro-Punch.  He stole a brief glance at the rest of the team.

    Xandria sent a wall of psychic energy which would throw it’s target into the air, much like what she had done to Nightbringer.  The attack seemed to only bounce off of Gamester, who laughed as the remaining members of the Nameless got pushed back with great speed and force by the deflected energy.

    “What the hell is going on?”  demanded Beguiler.

    “Reverb gloves, Beguiler.  Reverb gloves.  I’m rubber, you’re glue.  Whatever you throw, bounces off me and sticks to you!”  Gamester taunted, and then hurled another massive bolt of electricity at them.  The electricity harmlessly peeled away from them, repelled by a shimmering green force field.

    Undeterred, Gamester fired again, the bolts of lightning shattering the force field and racing between the heroes, violently arcing among them.  The steady stream of electricity flowed out of the supervillain, who cackled maniacally as one by one, The Nameless began to fall.

    Satisfied they would no longer be a threat, Gamester returned his attention to the portal, which had gone dim.  With a few punches on the console, the great door between worlds re-opened, lighting the room once more. 

    He was about to step into it when a glint of metal caught his eye.  Looking down, he saw one of Jongleur’s throwing blades.  Picking it up, a wicked thought crossed Gamester’s mind.  He knew what role The Nameless would take in the years to come, as well as the threat their children posed to him.  Looking at the unconscious supergroup, as well as the bound and gagged children, he made his resolution.

    Gamester crossed the cavernous room towards the adults; right now, they were the biggest threat.  He stood over the one known as Madam Medusa, and absentmindedly twirled the blade in his hand.  With his back to the room’s entrance, he didn’t realize the growing light levels outside the room.  He knelt down beside Medusa, and brought the knife crashing down towards her heart.

    “Not that one,”  someone said, stopping him inches away from his target.

    Gamester looked at the speaker, a man in red and black armor who had suddenly materialized.  “And why not?” he asked.

    “She has been sought by Lord Recluse for some time now.  Leave her alone, and you can do what you want with the others,”  Norman offered.

    “I don’t think you’re in any position to make a deal.”

    Norman gave a short chuckle as he moved away from the still-unconscious Toyster and towards Gamester.  “I know who you are, and I know where you live, Jack.  I could very easily report you to Lord Recluse, and he could deal with you himself.”  The Protector spoke matter-of-factly, as if Gamester’s destruction was as good as done.

    Gamester smiled.  “Very well.  Do with her as you will.”  He moved over towards Stingray, whose protruding spines were leaking out a yellowish fluid.

    Poised again to strike a sleeping victim, Gamester never got a chance to bring the blade down.  The great metal door isolating the gigantic room was blasted open, and a blinding white light came in.

    Shielding his eyes, he could barely make out a figure as the source of the light.  Bands of plasma rippled across her body as power of incredible intensity radiated out of her.

    Prismatic, whose powers derived from sunlight, had been infused with the energy of her native sun, a star greater in brightness and energy than Sol.  Her powers greatly expanded, she slammed Gamester against the far wall with absolutely no effort.

    With a scornful look at the villain, as well as at the awestruck Rogue Isle Protector, Prismatic entered the re-activated portal.

    Come home, child,  began the song.  Come home.

    Ignoring the plea of the voice, she followed the instructions given her.  The rip in space-time had become too great to simply mend, she had been told.  It would be more like filling a hole in a wall, applying more matter to the material universe itself.

    To produce the matter, she needed energy, and for that, she would need to sacrifice herself.

    The Universe formed in a great flash of energy and light, she thought, and began to build up the energy within herself.  If she could hold onto it long enough, it would no longer be contained within herself, and she would, as some energy wielders termed it, “go nova.”

    The energy within herself began to pound in her brain.  Holding her breath, she concentrated harder, condensing the energy further and allowing room for more to build up.   She could feel herself shaking violently, as if she would no longer be able to hold on much longer.  Prismatic knew she needed to  keep pushing farther, tapping deeper and deeper into herself if this was going to work.

     Come home, daughter, come home, the song called to her.  Return to those who love you, come home, come home, come home….

    Sensing she had reached her limits,  Prismatic let herself go, feeling her consciousness expand across multiple planes of existence in a sudden, super-energized rush.


    Outside the portal, the Nameless were shaking off the effects of Gamester’s electrical attack.  Angered, they turned to face the supervillain, who charged up his gloves again.

    The expected battle never came; out of the portal, a massive shockwave of sound and plasma erupted, flattening everything in its path and rendering all in the room unconscious again.

   
    Norman was the first to wake up; he saw Gamester was missing, but Toyster was still in the room.  He looked the child over; she was still alive, but barely.  Angered his little one had been so injured, he scooped her up and teleported away, promising to keep her safe from all harm.  As for Medusa, he would notify Lord Recluse about her.  The Arachnos network could easily keep tabs on the heroine.


    Beguiler woke with a start; quickly, he scanned the minds of his teammates.  Sensing they were alright, he cast a greenish healing aura over all of them.  The Nameless groaned as they woke up.

    “What the hell happened?”  asked White Diamond, who ran over to her child.  He was rattled, but otherwise ok.

    Beguiler concentrated.  “Prismatic.  She’s…gone.”  He looked at the others, a sadness in his eyes his teammates had never seen before.  “She self-destructed to save everyone.”
   
    “What?”  asked Kirk, who had been closest to her.  He seemed to be reaching out with his mind as well.  “I can still sense her!  She  can’t be gone!”
   
    Edward shook his head.  “It’s a death trauma, Kirk.  It’s not really her.  Her last thoughts and feelings remain for a moment,” explained the empath.  “Then they fade away.”

    “I guess everything would be back to normal, then?”  asked Stingray as he helped Faberge up.

    All eyes turned to Kirk, who closed his eyes.  Already he could sense Prismatic’s consciousness fading away. Beyond that, he sensed the timelines seemed to be normalized, but he could still detect little holes in the dimensional fabric.  “Yes and no,” he replied.

    “But, I’m still here.  I guess I’m no longer dead!”  exclaimed Bluedragon.

    Beguiler sighed slightly.  “Lucky us.  I suppose Jon would be back to normal as well.”

    As they left the room, they noticed several people were missing; Gamester was gone, the Protector was gone, Toyster was gone.  It was assumed that the Protector had taken the child with him, but the team didn’t care; now was the time to take care of their own.

    The lobby area where Tristan had been waiting was empty; a quick scan by Beguiler told them nothing, he couldn’t detect his son.  He recalled he had detected someone familiar when he had first arrived at Portal Corp, someone who had been watching them surreptitiously from the shadows.

    “Death Adder,” he cursed silently.

    “Who?”  asked Solanum.  She had stayed behind with her fiancé while the others had gone on ahead to check on Jon.

    Edward shook his head in disbelief; of course Alyssa would have him followed.  She trusted no one, not even her husband.

    “Death Adder.  He’s Alyssa’s right-hand man.  Officially, he’s her major-domo.  Unofficially, he’s her assassin,”  he quietly explained.  “I thought I detected him earlier, but we had more pressing issues.”

    A sudden scream from the entrance grabbed their attention.  Running at breakneck speed, the pair ran towards the rest of the team.

    “He’s gone!!!”  screamed Medusa, now in hysterics.  Already upset by her husband’s transformation into an evil version of himself, the sight awaiting them sent her over the edge.  The green-skinned heroine, normally as stoic and as calm as a stone, fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably.  No one could have been prepared for the sight awaiting them. 

    The handcuffs that had restrained Jon were now broken and lying on the floor.  A piece of cloth was alongside it.  Edward picked it up, and caught the whiff of decay.

    “Nocturne has him,” was all he said. 



    Gamester came to, and found himself seated at an exquisitely decorated table.  Not even his mother possessed the fine china and silverware spread out before him.

    To his surprise, he found that his hands were not bound, nor was he in any sort of prison.  Rather, he sat opposite an extremely beautiful woman with night-blue skin, who regarded him quietly with garnet-red eyes.
   
    “I’m glad to see  you are awake, Gamester.  I am Nocturne,” she said in rich tones.  “Welcome to my home.”

    “Thanks for getting me away from all those capes.  I’m much too pretty for prison!” he joked.

    Nocturne smiled politely at his statement.  “My reasons for rescuing you are my own.”

    Gamester noticed a second man at the table; he recognized him as Nightbringer, the leader of The Nameless.  The villain shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

    “You may relax, Gamester.  Deathbringer is my new royal consort, completely under my control, and will not act against you unless I wish him to.”  She nodded graciously to the zombie servant who poured wine for the three.

    “So, why did you save me, Lady Nocturne?”  he asked.

    She smiled, flattered he bestowed a title upon her.  “I was given a vision of things that may yet be.  I was told what was needed to prevent a horrible future for all.”  She nodded again at the zombie servant who scooped bright green beans upon each of their plates.

    “And saving me was the key?”  Gamester asked, but paid no attention to her enigmatic smile. He hungrily took a taste of the beans and sipped the wine.  “By the way, what are these?  Fava  beans and chianti?”

    “You’re very perceptive, Lord Gamester.”  Nocturne twirled the wine around in her glass, as if waiting for something.

    “Didn’t Lecter have this stuff with some guy’s liver?”  Gamester asked suddenly.

    “Did he?” asked Nocturne.  Something in her voice terrified him as he realized what was about to happen.

    Cold, undead hands grabbed Gamester and dragged him, kicking and screaming, down a dark shadowy corridor.


    TO EPILOGUE >



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