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Bound No More, Part 5
By Sean McDonald

    Spectreblade once again found himself at City Hall.  As he walked through the front door, he saw a colorful bunch of puzzled and frustrated characters talking among themselves.  A man with a magical sigil on his chest spoke to another, “MAGI’s closed down.  What’s going on?”
    He replied, “I have no clue.”
    A third spoke, “I hear they got broken into.”
    “Again?”
    “They always get broken into.  What, is the vault door made of pixie dust or something?”

    As the shrouded knight jostled his way through the onlookers, someone called out to him.  “Hey, you! Tin man!”
    Spectreblade turned to see a gruff-looking man with spines protruding from his arms.  He asked the thorned one, “Are you talking to me?”
    “Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you.  You see any other tin cans around here?  So, what’s going on?”  The stymied newcomer shouted in anger.  “I was supposed to talk to Azuria and get my first mission today.  Now what am I supposed to do?”
    “There was a break-in here.  It might be connected to a case I’m working on, so they sent me to investigate.”
    “Oh, so this is your fault, then?”  He asked, his impatience showing through his voice.  “So, where do I go now?”
    “Don’t worry.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Since you’re here, the streets of Atlas Park could always use a few more heroes patrolling the streets, and if you’re really that anxious for an assignment, you could go to Freedom Corps HQ in Galaxy City.  Look for a man named Gregor Richardson.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some investigating to do.”
    Spectreblade left the confused novice and went down the hall to the MAGI office.  “Typical bureaucracy,” the spiny one muttered under his breath.

    The office of the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation was closed off with crime scene tape.  The man in the black and blue armor stepped over and called out to one of the investigators.  “It’s good to see you, Detective Brogan.  I wish it didn’t have to be like this though.”
    The detective said, “Yeah.  I swear, MAGI really needs better security.  There’s a lot more weirdness here than there is back in Philly, that’s for sure.”
    “Indeed.  So, the scepter was taken?”
    “That’s right.  Azuria said it was that same nutcase who was with the Hellions at their last arson party.  The researchers didn’t even have time to give it a proper analysis.”
    “Looks like Armorbound wanted his staff back.”
    “I’ll say!” Detective Brogan told him.
    “What else do you know about this?”
    “There was one other witness.  Some newbie hero.  He’s in the hospital right now, babbling “Nerf EM”.  You got any idea what it means?”
    “Nope.”
    “Well, there’s another clue here.  He left a note.”
    “Do you have it with you?”
    “Got it right here.” Detective Brogan answered.  He handed it to the hero.  Spectreblade read the note.  It was an invitation to a showdown.  In one week, Armorbound would be at the museum from whence he came.  If Spectreblade did not show himself, he would make up for it by seeing the place go up in flames.

    At Onami Strike Force HQ, the team who drove back the Hellions planned their next move.
    “Come on, Spectreblade.  You gotta know this is a trap,” Voltech warned.
    “Even so, we’ve been given an opportunity to end this madness,” the knight answered.  “I don’t want to waste it.”
    “But he’s sure to be well-prepared,” PhoenixHawk added.
    “What if he whips out that toy of his?”  Voltech continued.  “All he needs is a few good shots and you’re toast – literally.”
    “If he brings the Fire Scepter, then we’ll be able to recover it.”
    Thauma Guard sat listening to this when a flash of inspiration hit her.  “That’s it!” she yelled.
    Voltech gave her a surprised look.  “Wow, what’d he do?”
    “I just got an idea.” She said as she stood up.  “That scepter’s got a soul trapped in it, right?”
    “That’s correct,” the shrouded knight confirmed.  “Just like my armor and Armorbound’s”
    “Then my plan should work.  It’ll take some time to set up, but if my magic is as good as I think it is, Armorbound’s as good as ours.”

    A sign hung on the door of the medieval weapons exhibit reading “CLOSED FOR RENOVATION”.  Within, the dark-skinned sorceress went to work.  Museum workers moved cases of armaments, making room for stone spires engraved with mystical runes, one at each of the four walls of the chamber.  The floor had been repainted in an intricate pattern the day before, and today, the displays were put back in place.  Now, the museum was a trap for both hero and villain alike.

    At the appointed time, the museum was deserted except for the unconscious guards.  In the dim light of the Ancient Rome exhibit stood terrible figures.  A suit of orange-rusted armor moved among the monuments, seething with power as its owner seethed with thoughts of vengeance.  Following it was living death; a patchwork of disparate body parts wrapped in black leather.  The being spoke.  “Are you sure about this?”
    The Armorbound replied, “I am certain, Cauter.  Spectreblade will be drawn to our flames like a moth.”
    “What if some other cape shows up?”
    “If anyone else arrives, I shall leave them to you and your men, but the knight is mine,” Armorbound told the black form.  Cauter was an eidolon, among Dr. Vahzilok’s proudest creations, lacking the swarm of flies that the doctor’s rank and file inevitably attracted.  The eidolons still had human intelligence, and this one, a luminous eidolon, possessed the body parts of a fallen hero, and with them, an ill-gotten power over radiation.

    The rusted hunk of metal produced a long, thin box and handed it to the eidolon.  “I trust you will be able to wield this scepter better than its last owner,” Armorbound said to the black-clad undead as it leaned against a white marble column.
    “Of course.  Anyone could do better than the Hellions,” he said with a malevolent green twinkle in his eye.
    “Those fools don’t understand what they’re dealing with.  One of these days, some demon they conjure up from some botched spell will show them first-hand just how little they know,” the metal stalker laughed.  Then his tone became deadly serious.  “Now, use that carefully.” His voice resonated.  “I was fortunate to be able to recover the wand so quickly, but even so, Mammon’s bumbling tipped our hand.  We cannot risk the Onami Strike Force or any others learning any more about the nature of the scepter, especially the one with the dark skin.  With someone that skilled in magic on their side, they may already know too much.  If she dares to play at being a warrior by showing herself here, put her in her place.”
    “Understood,” Cauter replied.
    “Excellent.”  Armorbound said as he faded into invisibility.  As he left, a statue of Venus shattered from the impact of an enchanted fist.  The stalker was soon alone with his thoughts.  “So, the witch thinks she’s a fighter, does she?  Soon she’ll regret meddling in the affairs of men such as us.  Once I deal with Spectreblade, that trifling annoyance will know her place.
   
Once he had left, Cauter considered his words as he opened the black wooden box, revealing the scepter.  “This guy has issues,” he thought to himself.  “But I suppose as long as he keeps supplying the Doc with bodies, I shouldn’t complain.”  He removed the wand from the box, gazing upon it in anticipation of the battle to come.


TO PART 6 >


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