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Bound No More, Part 6

By Sean McDonald

 

            The heroes made their way into the museum, Spectreblade taking point.  News Flash followed behind him in his brown suit and fedora.  PhoenixHawk and Voltech kept their eyes open, ready to unleash their power at a moment’s notice.  Thauma Guard began to weave her power into force fields around her allies.  Soon, the spirit of the armor’s ancient nemesis would be upon them.  The five champions walked among the ruins of Rome, where statues seemed alive in the moon’s glow, shining down through a skylight.  The cast of the victim of Pompeii lay on the floor of its display as it always had, frozen in a silent scream.  Once again, it had reason to cry out.  Just moments before, it had seen disgusting figures take to the shadows.

 

            Those shadows shifted in the corners of the room.  “Something’s moving over there!” Voltech shouted.

           

They came into the light.  Things that were half one person, half another shambled forth.  Men in stained medical scrubs and surgeon’s masks watched their handiwork with pride.  Behind them all, the black-clad Cauter stood, the scepter he had been given stored in a bag on his back.

 

            “Armorbound will see you now, Mr. Spectreblade.”

            “I’ve come, like you said.  Now, where is he?”

            “He’s waiting in the chamber behind me.  Oh, and don’t worry about your friends.  My henchmen aren’t as charming as some of the things you see in Newsweek, but I assure you, they won’t be bored in this waiting room.”

            “I was always a Sports Illustrated guy myself.” Voltech quipped.  The cadavers let out guttural laughs, but a leer from their master quickly silenced them.

 

            The shrouded knight thought to himself.  His nemesis awaited, but his teammates would need him to deal with the zombies.  Suddenly, Voltech launched a bolt of electricity in Spectreblade’s direction.  It struck an unseen form next to him, Armorbound’s cover was blown as the voltage surged though him.

            “You thought that was gonna work again?” Voltech said.

“So, it begins…” Armorbound echoed as he picked himself off the floor.  He charged at the blaster, his fists glowing with power.  The metal stalker landed a blow to Voltech’s head, stunning him.  As he staggered about, dazed, his attacker turned his attention elsewhere.  “Now, where was I?”

 

“Get the interlopers!” Cauter shouted to the hordes.  The creations of Dr. Vahzilok descended upon the remaining heroes.  Thauma Guard prepared for the onslaught by creating a force bubble around her and her allies to keep them at a safe firing distance.  With the zombies unable to close in, News Flash took this time to use his empathic powers to bolster the others and hinder the swarm, rendering them still.  PhoenixHawk launched a torrent of energy, scattering them like lined-up bowling pins.

 

Meanwhile, Spectreblade and Armorbound faced off.  The knight’s armor responded to the threat by shrouding itself in insulating shadow.  The vengeful stalker lunged at him, but Spectreblade deftly parried his charged attack, his sword shining through the darkness that surrounded him.  The shrouded knight retaliated with a hack that was deflected to Armorbound’s side by his aura of energy as he simply stood still.

“That was rather pointless.” He scoffed.  “If that’s the best you can do, whelp, then my vengeance shall be all too easy.”  He aimed another energy punch at his foe, hitting him in the chest.  The shroud absorbed much of the impact, but Spectreblade still felt a solid hit.

 

Voltech came back to his senses, and Cauter was quick to notice.  The first thing he saw was the eidolon’s eyes sparkling green. They fired twin beams at the hero, hitting him in the shoulder.  He followed up with a wave of radiation, knocking Voltech into one of the stone pillars on either side of the door out of the exhibit.  Cauter moved in, and Voltech hit him with a taser-like punch to the stomach.

“You really need to work on your bedside manner,” Voltech taunted.

The black-clad form leapt back.  “You’re mostly in good physical condition, but this exam isn’t over yet,” he replied as he formed a sphere of atomic power above him.  “Now, turn your head and cough!” he yelled as he hurled it at the electrical blaster.  Voltech dodged just in time, as the pillar crumbled in a small-scale mushroom cloud, and quickly nailed Cauter with a bolt from his hands.

“Okay, now you’re starting to get creepy,” Voltech said.

 

A patchwork cadaver lumbered toward Spectreblade as the duel between him and his nemesis continued, with each completely focused on the other, and vomited on him.  Spectreblade turned dispatched the monster with a single swing of his sword.  “Great, now I need to take another trip to get this suit cleaned after this is over.”  He turned back toward Armorbound to continue the fight, but he had disappeared.  “Ok, now where did you run off to, coward?” Spectreblade quietly said.  “Two can play that game.”  His form faded into a vague shadow, integrating his mind with that of the armor.  In this state, not only was he more difficult to see, but he could more easily see what others cannot.  Spectreblade scanned his surroundings for signs of his enemy.

 

Thauma Guard’s force bubble continued to keep Cauter’s henchman at bay.  With the horde limited to its long-range projectiles, the patchwork men could not make use of their brute strength.  An occasional dart fired from the crossbows of the Reapers penetrated the force fields, but only for their damage to be quickly undone by News Flash’s empathic healing abilities.  Only the plaster cast eternally watching showed any fear.  Suddenly, the force bubble burst with the sound of a mighty blow striking home.  Spectreblade turned toward his companions just in time to see Thauma Guard fall to the floor as Armorbound struck her down from behind.  The metal stalker spoke.

 

“Thought she was safe, did she?  How typical of her,” he echoed.  “Her force bubble means nothing to me!”

“Let’s see what this means to you!” PhoenixHawk shouted at him as he fired a massive blast of energy.  A blast which Armorbound’s aura easily diverted, sending it up through the skylight, shattering it and raining down shards of glass onto the combatants.  News Flash attempted to telekinetically push Armorbound away so he could aid the unconscious Thauma Guard, but to no avail.  He just kept coming toward him.  The stalker laughed, “I’ve become stronger since we last met.  Your powers are useless.”

 

A group of cadavers swarmed around Voltech before he could make a move.  “Man, I didn’t even get a chance to have my attack shrugged off!”  He let loose a blast of voltage to incapacitate them, but there were still many more zombies waiting to take their place.  Cauter shouted at the mob to move in for the kill.

 

Spectreblade leapt into the mass of artificial undead, his sword swinging.  “We’ll distract them.  You tend to Thauma Guard,” he said to News Flash.

“Got it” he replied.

“I’m afraid it’s not going to be that easy, my friends.” Cauter patronizingly said.  You’re vastly outnumbered, and your team’s lost its primary defense.”

“We’ve seen worse!” Voltech yelled.

“Enough talk!  Get them, my minions!”

The vile mob descended upon the heroes.  While News Flash worked to restore Thauma Guard to consciousness, the others fought off the cadavers with bolts of power, volts of electricity, and cold, dark steel as the battle raged and the numbers of Dr. Vahzilok’s abominations dwindled.  Spectreblade spotted his nemesis, unseen by the others, sneaking up on News Flash.  He swung at Armorbound, hitting precisely enough that his aura could not deflect it.

 

“Your energy aura’s impressive, but it’s not perfect, Armorbound.”

“You were lucky, Spectreblade.  I assure you, I will not allow that to happen again.” He shouted as he moved toward the arch with the broken support.

Voltech said to Spectreblade, “Go ahead after him.  I think we can handle the rest of these goons.”

Spectreblade took his advice, and followed the metal stalker through the arch to the medieval weapons exhibit where their trap had been laid.

 

“Now, Cauter!” Armorbound shouted once they were both inside.  With that order, the eidolon reached into the satchel he wore and produced the Fire Scepter.  He pointed it toward the arch’s remaining pillar, causing it to crumble into a mass of flaming debris.  Soon, the wall above the opening came crashing down, sealing the passage.  On the other side, Spectreblade was alone with the one who sought to end his life.






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