as narrated by Milo “Groundstrike” Jones
I woke up from a nightmare to feel the earth surrounding me. That wouldn’t have been a pleasant feeling for most people but for me it was a little slice of heaven. The only thing better would have been if Eric, my partner, was anywhere nearby.
I forced my eyes open to discover that I was resting on the floor of one of the cisterns in the city’s storm tunnels. By my side, Doctor Nightshade was stirring from unconsciousness too and in front of us both, Moonbow stood looking up at the underside of a floating platform.
Clearly a lot had happened while I was out.
I struggled up to a seated position and reached out to the earth around me for strength. The power armor that Eric had given me helped there too. My body was sluggish after the nightmare I’d fought my way out of but the armor helped me move where my muscles lacked the strength to get the job done on their own.
By the time I felt well enough to stand, several others had joined Moonbow, Nightshade and I. Of the newcomers, Helios was hard to mistake for anyone else. There aren’t many other stars walking around in the shape of a man. The rest included the snake girl, Alil, who I recognized from our rescue of the people Doctor Wyrd had kidnapped. Behind her (and towering over her) was a dog lady who I did not recognize and two other girls, one apparently human and the other not. Rounding out the little ensemble was an unconscious man who the dog lady was holding by the back of the neck.
“Thanks for finding us.” Moonbow said when the others reached us.
“Looks like you had everything in hand. What happened here?” Helios asked.
“I don’t know. We took out the force field generator and then I felt like there were a thousand voices in my head.” Moonbow said.
“Same thing here. I don’t remember how we got here, but it didn’t feel like I was unconscious either. More like I was wrapped up in a nightmare.” I said. I checked the message queue on my armor’s communication gear. I hadn’t been out long enough for Eric to notice. That was good. I sent him a text letting him know we’d hit some trouble but that I was fine. I sent a snapshot along with it showing the group I was with to reassure him.
“You were attacked by Psi-Lords.” the dog lady said.
“They’re mental entities. They were trying to overwrite your mind.” the alien girl explained.
“Why?” I asked. “Are we being invaded again?”
The horde of animal/human hybrids that were assaulting the town were bad enough. Add an alien invasion to the mix and we’d be in real trouble.
“We’ll have to ask Doctor Wyrd here once we get him to a secure holding facility.” Helios said.
“Wait, that’s Doctor Wyrd? How did you catch him?” I asked. Getting attacked by mind creatures would have been well worth it if it meant that the rest of them were able to capture the mastermind behind the cities current problems.
“They cheated!” Wyrd drawled as he slurred his way back to consciousness.
“I hit him in the head with a pipe.” the human girl said.
“It’s ridiculous!”, the evil doctor complained, “The one time I try to have some fun, the one time it’s clearly safe for me to show my face in person and enjoy my triumph, the one time I’m vulnerable in any way and this happens? I had all the heroes locked down! I was surrounded by a force field that prevented anyone from getting into the room! I was in complete control and then out of nowhere three girls appear and break my precious crown? It’s criminal!” Doctor Wyrd wailed.
“I can silence him.” the dog lady offered.
“Not yet. First we need to find out how we get out of the force field. We have injured people waiting for us back in the tunnels.” the human girl said.
“What are their injuries like?” Helios asked.
“Cut, bites, slashes. There’s a doctor with them but we didn’t have enough supplies for her to patch them up.” the human girl said.
“Can you take me to them. I have some healing gifts from Apollo.” Helios said.
“Oh, yes!” Alil, the snake girl said.
“Moonbow, Groundstrike. How are you doing? We can go as a group if you want to stay together?” Helios asked. As a humanoid form composed of star fire, he didn’t exactly have the easiest to read facial expressions, but it wasn’t hard to see that he was concerned about his teammate.
“I’m fine. The Psi-Lords that attacked me weren’t that hard to beat.” Moonbow said.
“What did you do with them?” the dog lady asked.
“Shot them. A lot.” Moonbow replied.
The dog lady nodded, apparently pleased with the answer.
“Of course they weren’t hard to defeat! Those were the failures!” Doctor Wyrd complained. “None of you could defeat my Chimera though! I honed them, forged them like a blacksmith. They were proper abominations!”
“Now they’re sonic dust.” the human girl said.
“Yes. I recognize that attack. I knew I should have stuck with the power armor. But then the psionic balance would have been offset and I simply didn’t…” Doctor Wyrd began to ramble. The dog lady cut him off by squeezing his neck more tightly. It wasn’t enough to prevent him from speaking but he got the point. Helios and Moonbow were heroes. They wouldn’t kill him while he was defenseless. I was an ex-villain, maybe hero now, so I wouldn’t kill him either. The dog lady though? She might be a hero. Or she might be more animal than human still. For someone in Doctor Wyrd’s position that was not a good thing to be gambling on.
“You go help the injured. I’ll take the rest back to the weak spot we made in the forcefield and get them out. I can wait there till your injured can be moved or until Ghost Step can help us out.” Moonbow said.
“You want to go back to the streets? I suppose that makes sense. Die like a hero and all that.” Doctor Wyrd grumbled.
“What do you mean?” Moonbow asked him.
“He means that whatever the next phase of his plan was, it is soon to be upon us.” Doctor Nightshade said. It had taken him a little bit longer to recover than the rest of us.
Based on the nightmare realm I’d fought my way out of I could guess why. Moonbow had blasted free of her nightmares first for a two reasons. To begin with, she had fantastic internal strength. I’d never met her before but being friends with Lux meant Eric and I had heard the kind of stories that didn’t appear in the celebrity gossip magazines. Lux spoke well of most people but Moonbeam had his respect. That was only part of the reason she’d had an easy time though. It also helped that she was a genuinely good person.
When the Psi-Lords had swarmed us and dragged us down into nightmares, they’d had a lot more to work with in me than they had with Moonbow. I’d tried to do some bad things in my life. The Psi-Lords had hooked into that. The dreamscape we’d fought in was a world where I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do. Where I’d gone as bad as I could.
Lux had rescued me from that, and it had been a while ago. I’d grown past the stupid, angry kid I was then. The Psi-Lords had an “in” to attack my psyche with but thanks to Lux and Eric, it wasn’t the deep, yawning chasm that it had once been.
Doctor Nightshade looked like he hadn’t been quite as lucky as I had been. He was paler than he’d been. He looked older than his years, and for someone of his age that wasn’t a good sign. Fighting his demons had taken a lot out of him.
“We have to hurry.” Alil said. Her family had to be some of the people who were injured. After how they looked when we rescued them from Doctor Wyrd’s facility, I couldn’t picture them having the stamina to survive any serious wounds for long.
“Oh course. I’ll leave the comm channel open though in case either of us run into anything” Helios said to Moonbow. He then grasped Alil’s hand and lifted her into the air. She pointed to one of the sluice gates that would normally empty into the cistern and a moment later they were lost to our sight behind the bends the tunnel took.
“So do you know how to get out of here?” Moonbow asked, looking at the dog lady and Doctor Wyrd.
“I prefer to perish here thank you very much.” Doctor Wyrd.
It was a bad choice of words. The dog lady squeezed his neck tighter and his face turned a bright red followed by purple. Before Moonbow or I could tell her to stop though, the dog lady released Doctor Wyrd, letting him fall into an unconscious heap on the ground.
“We can talk freely.” she said.
“Thank you Princess! That was insightful.” Doctor Nightshade said.
“Also, I know the way out.” Princess, the dog lady, said.
“That’s helpful. I think I know where we are but I don’t know if we’ll be able to make another weak spot to get through the force fields without finding another generator.” Moonbow said.
“I believe I have a better suggestion to make.” Doctor Nightshade. “If we can find another generator, I believe we can invert the force field.”
“What do you mean?” Moonbow asked.
“He means we can set it to keep out only the Muta-Morphs and let the rest of us through.” I said, following Doctor Nightshade’s train of thought.
“Is that possible?” Moonbow asked, looking at me.
I thought about it. It would take intimate knowledge of the force field generators but from the discussion Nightshade and I had when we’d found the first one I had no reason to doubt that he was their inventor.
I called up one of the calculation functions of the armor I wore and saw a virtual chalkboard appear before me and started sketching out quick notes.
“Give me a second.” I told the others who were watching me flail around in empty air.
I smiled. In my armor, people couldn’t see what I really look like. From how they were watching me, I think even Doctor Nightshade was convinced that I was the world’s biggest nerd. It felt good.
I could have been a stupid kid, lord knows that’s what my friends wanted me to be. I could have been a tough and ugly super powered thug. I had the super power for it and no one had ever mistaken me for pretty. I’d worked hard to be an egghead though. I liked using my brain. I worked out because I believed in being as healthy as I could, but the big sexy body part I was most proud of was my brain. With my muscles I could move a boulder, with my powers I could move a mountain, with my brain I could move the whole wide world.
“He’s right. It’s doable. Probably.” I said, finishing the quick equations I’d setup. “Won’t know for sure until we get to one of the generators and we can see how Doctor Wyrd has modified them.”
“I doubt he modified anything important at all.” Doctor Nightshade said. “He’s a hack. I recognize half the equipment he has here and half of that is stuff I invented! I wouldn’t be surprised if everything he uses is stolen technology.”
“That will trap Princess in here though won’t it?” Moonbeam asked.
“I will leave before they change the force field.” Princess said.
“Should we find out what his plan was first?” the human girl asked, pointing at Doctor Wyrd who was rousing again.
“My plan? My plan is quite thoroughly ruined now thanks to you! And soon the city will be as well!” Doctor Wyrd snarled and he pushed himself up to sit on the ground.
From the distance a deep rumbling sound came.
“Right on schedule.” Doctor Wyrd laughed bitterly.
The rumbling grew louder. I could feel the Earth compressing and expanding. The seismic waves pointed back to the shoreline.
“What is this? Did you create an Earthquake machine?” Doctor Nightshade asked him.
“No. This isn’t an Earthquake. This isn’t anything natural at all.” I said, feeling the earth around me moving in ways I never had before.
“What have you done?” Moonbow asked. Her eyes were set in hard lines. She could sense that this was wrong too.
Before he had time to answer another titanic rumble came. This one right on top of us. The walls of cistern buckled and shattered inwards sending tons of rock and debris down on us. By reflex, I reached out with my power and caught hold of it.
I couldn’t sense the force field cutting through it anymore. Whatever it was that had made the rumbling was powerful enough to destroy a force field that our best attacks hadn’t been able to penetrate!
The weight of the rock and earth began to wear on me so I turned to the others.
“We’re going up now!” I told them and began to lift the entirety of the floor up towards the surface as fast as I could.
The tunnels around the cistern were still in fine shape – Brassport’s mad genius had designed them well impossibly well. The empty cistern had represented an unnatural weak point in his design though, hence the collapse.
For me that meant that only the earth above us had been shattered, so I was able to bring us directly up and out onto street level. As we reached the surface and the side of the cistern fell away to reveal the city, I wished that I’d dug us in the other direction.
Above us towered a monster bigger than anything I’d ever seen and it was destroying Brassport!