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Posted by
Jul 27, 2006

Waiting for the last cop to leave, Terrel backed out of the pillar. Loosely jogging to a stairway in the corner, he heard a strange noise, like a sink draining. Terrel turned to see the cracked drainage pipes on the wall oozing out a bluish gray oily liquid. He would have continued on his way without much of a second though if the substance hadn't been flowing upwards. Pulsing up the wall the ooze hit the ceiling and began to pool there. As Terrel stood slack jawed, it began to drip in front of him, but it didn't pool. From the ground upwards a man's figure formed, first the limbs and major features, then the facial features. Clad in gray and blue tights he smiled.

"Uhhh..." Terrel stupidly groaned.

"Mighty fancy soccer ball you got there friend, mind if I see it?"

his grin turned to a grimace as he shot at the teen.

Cringing from the assault Terrel was unaware of the orb activating again. The viscous villain stopped abruptly, his face and body curving around an invisible force field. Unamused by this display of power, the fluid foe unleashed a series of stabs and blows on the sphere surrounding Terrel. Momentarily deterred, the man resumed normal shape and stood observing the teen. He began to pace back and forth without turning, merely flowing his body to face the direction he feigned to walk towards, all the while staring intently at Terrel.

"Ah, yeah there we go, that might work," he shouted to himself, regarding Terrel as a bystander.

He shot out several streams around Terrel and, more importantly, the Core, both of which were still surrounded by a force field. Connecting the flows he formed makeshift belts around the force field, and hoisted it behind his human form.

"Heh, this'll work nicely. Buckle up kid, you're going for a ride," he laughed

"Hey, damn it let go of... this thing!" Terrel pointlessly shouted.

Sliding around in the ball, he struck at the man, only to find that he couldn't escape it as much as the other couldn't penetrate it. He also found that it hurt to punch at, and decided against that. Of course he wouldn't have to due to a rapidly approaching figure.

"Unhand that lass, Liquidator!" the unknown hero shouted with much effort, as he reduced the distance between them it revealed why.

Slowly speeding towards them was a short corpulent man in ill fitting green leather with yellow stripes. Instead of simply running to them, he chose to use a long metal pole to vault continuously forward, which was most likely slower and more strenuous.

Standing agape due to the pathetic display, Liquidator groaned as the man clinked and gasped towards them.

"Not this dou..." he attempted to say until the man interrupted.

"Silence evildoer! Your reign of terror has met its end. I mean will meet its end! By me that is," the man yelled between breaths. "For none can withstand the might of, Lad Man!" he proudly yelled, posing ridiculously.

"What the," Terrel said, stifling laughter despite his situation.

"He's the 'special' sidekick of Captain Justice, or at least was until an unfortunate accident." Liquidator answered mockingly, finding his previous company more conversable with the addition of the new figure.

"Mental retardation is no laughing matter, nor is it something I suffer vile fiend! Perhaps after a thrashing you will find this lesson beneficial! And despite the loss of a great man in Captain Justice, I can now operate outside the bounds of the Guardian Guild." Lad Man wheezed angrily, before springing into action.

Vaulting at Liquidator, he was caught unaware by a stream which wrapped around his boot and hung him upside down. Breathing heavily, he struck at liquidator with the pole, which sunk harmlessly into his frame and was subsequently shot into a wall.

"See fool, you cannot beat me, I am in every way superior," Liquidator boasted, conveniently looking away from the 'hero'.

"Wrong liquidator, dead wrong," Lad Man defiantly stated. Liquidator returned his gaze to the man, who was holding a cheap looking taser towards the villain. The prongs shot out into Liquidator, who showed visible pain in his face. The bands which held Terrel released and Liquidator was forced into a solid form, dropping Lad Man several feet onto his face, and collapsing onto the floor.

"Ow!" Lad Man yelled upon impact. "Well, once again good triumphs! And where may I transport you to safety...oh you're a boy, well regardless where may I assist you to son?"

Terrel made up a location as he lifted himself off the ground, the Core seemed to have deactivated on its own once Liquidator's assault had ended. The two walked towards the stairway, leaving the smoking and unconscious foe in the garage. As they descended, Terrel said:

"So, uh. Lad Man huh?

Posted by
Aug 3, 2006

"What did you call me?" the aging sidekick wheezed as loudly as his failing health would allow.

"Uh... Lad Man?" the urchin repeated.

"That's right! Not Lad Boy! Don't call me that! I have long since outgrown that childish moniker!" the fat fighter announced, adjusting his too-tight tights.

"Yeah, that is so much more embarrassing," quickly and quietly muttered Terrel. His gaze shifted down to the orb, still in his possession and now quiet. The haphazard hero had not yet taken notice of it. The youth thought back to some of the ramblings to which he had been subjected. He did say, thought Terrel, that he wasn't with the Guardian Guild. I don't think he knows about this... this thing. The vagrant shiftily glanced to the middle-aged disgrace, leading the pair down the stairs. I don't need him for protection; I don't need anyone. I have this. For once, I have power. But how can I get away from this freak...

Immediately, the orb emitted a vivid glow. It drew in Terrel's eyes, lost in the iridescent hues that swept over the Core's intricate surface. The teen was transfixed, lost in the swirling patterns, feeling the presence of the alien device, almost as though it were communicating with him. No, it was. He didn't understand how he could understand it, but its instructions were clear. He projected more of his thoughts to it, and surely, the orb replied. While conspiring with the Core, the youth had lagged behind the portly protector. Lad Man stopped and looked back, panting from the descent, to see the rescued hobo blankly staring at the dull, dimmed device.

I think this guy is nuts, Lad Man thought, scratching his protruding potbelly.

"Sphyx reporting to secure channels," the aged hero echoed from behind his mask into his communicator. "I've picked up on some of the target's trail. It's erratic, but there is more than enough DNA to confirm its him. I'm uploading my coordinates now. I'm getting close; if I don't report within the hour, send someone else to track him down. Sphyx out." He trained his bulbous lenses on the glowing trail before him, tracing any wall the urchin might have touched. Before he could flip his cell closed, a terrible static came over it, loud enough for the gasser to lose his grip. As it quieted, distinct coughing could be heard behind the interference. "The hell?"

"Sphyx? Sphyx, is that you?" hacked out the faint voice.

"Greaver?!" the gunman instantly recognized. "I thought you were in Guardian Manor when... well, y'know."

"Yeah, I do know," crackled the thought-lost ally. "I wers here when the place went boom. That's the good thing about being invincible."

"How come it took ya so long to contact anyone?"

"That's the bad thing about being invincible without having super-strength to boot," Greaver explained. "Musta been concussed for a good while now. Don't know whert they hit us with, but haven't found anyone else. Barely even rubble's left. Even blowed up my costume! That stuff wers pure Shieldonium!"

"I guess we're just lucky that ya had that communicator implanted inside ya for that volcano mission," reasoned Sphyx. "If it were destroyed, we might not ha' heard from you until it was too late."

"'Implanted?'" repeated the Greaver. "I friggin' swarllowed it!"

"Tomato, tornado, right?"

"That doesn't make sense!" Greaver screamed over the line, increasing the interference once more.

"You don't make any sense," slyly replied the gasser.

"Now you're just being childish."

"You're being childish," automatically responded Sphyx, busying himself more with connecting the sporadic trail than his conversation. "I'm turning on my homing frequency. Converge at my coordinates ASAP. The beacon will require that I close all open channels. Y'know, for energy and stuff."

"That's not tru-"

A distinct click ended his ally's argument, but freed the masked man to continue piecing together Terrel's tracks. Something's not right, assessed Sphyx, running a diagnostic on his mask's systems to confirm that it was not a malfunction. There is too much genetic material left behind. The trail should be faint at best. He ran his heavy, gloved hands over a particularly active region on his sensors. The dimmed view shifted into regular vision, but he could still see the urchin's leavings -- visible flakes of skin. What is happening to this kid?

Skulking about the slithy halls of the Sinister Squad base, the Sinisterium, Dr. Cursipede escaped to a far off laboratory to retrieve something to aid his new mission, cursing it all the while. A visage of pure, pallid white emerged from the shadows. Milky, protruding eyes hung over a largely featureless face, devoid of hair and expression, with a gaping, circular orifice crudely attempting to mimic human speech.

"What has he demanded of you this time, old friend?" slowly lolled out the pale man. His fingerless, slimy mitts crawled through the sleeves of a disgusting lab coat of his same complexion as he awaited response.

"Apparently, Professor Parasite, it was my fault that the Core was lost!" angrily and outspokenly protested the doctor, no longer fearing the Mind Lord's ever-present eyes. "How was I even supposed to know that thing had that kind of power? I was always told it was an alien control unit!"

"Is it true that a simple child possesses the Core?" asked the socially deprived professor.

"No, no!" defended Cursipede. "An adolescent, no, young adult! Young man! A strong, scary young man!" continued the fiend, spreading his arms further and further apart to exaggerate Terrel's size. His arms fell to his sides with a sigh. "We used to be Villainous von Vermin, the most feared group in all of Europe."

"And Russia," queued in Professor Parasite.

"Yes, and Russia, but now," he paused with a painful, confused expression, "what are we? A lackey to some guy I've never even heard of and a low-level technician that isn't even allowed to do field work because he doesn't have a 'scary image.'" He motioned his arms up and down the pudgy, legless form that poured from out the lab coat. "Joining up with the Sinister Squad was perhaps the worst move we ever made."

"What about that time we stole that volcano?" the slimy being managed to say. "We should have realized that they don't have bottoms. Besides," Parasite quickly changed the subject, "the Squad wasn't such a bad idea at first. How could we say 'no' to the Mind Lord? The Mind Lord?"

"But this new guy no one's ever heard of's taken over," responded the many-legged monstrosity. "We were supposed to be working together for the common evil, but this guy's taken over the entire operation for himself! With Mind Lord outta the way, there'll be no stopping him! Unless anyone can find his weakness."

"Perhaps," slurped the disgustingly deformed abomination, "we could ask the Guardian Guild, get their trust just long enough to defeat our self-appointed leader. They would be hard-pressed not to help up defeat the head of the Sinister Squad."

"I don't think this guy's been around long enough to attract any nemeses, and if he had," Cursipede continued, "they were surely destroyed with the Guardian Manor. Destroying that place, after all, was the sole reason such a novice was allowed to join such a prestigious group as us." A large eye panned over the drooling mass of puffy flesh beside him. "You've been locked down here for quite a while now. Are you done with that weapon Mind Lord wanted? Perhaps we could make use of it even without his talents."

"Destroyed, unfortunately," informed the pulsating blob. "The first sample was in a storage facility just outside of the city when the Star Spangled Cadaver busted in for the Core," he chuckled morbidly. "I can grow more of them, but it will take time," Professor Parasite stressed, wavering his hook-toothed maw.

"Then have a few cow stomachs and get to work," urged his evil ally. "I have a feeling that things are about to get much more interesting..."

"Sir, we have an intruder," a guard rushed in, interrupting the concealed leader. He swiveled his shadowy throne away from his personal console, verbally attacking the fool.

"What? Intruder?! I see no such warning! Where are the sirens? Where are the soldiers mobilizing? Where is the intruder?"

A smile cracked across the guard's face, visible just beneath the mirrored visor on his helm. "Why, right in front of you." The shock lasted not too long as the mysterious villain set off to squash such insolence, but upon his slightest flinch, he could hear one sound -- several, actually, but entirely in unison. Guards from all around emerged, all aiming for the throne.

"I could kill you all without a thought!" threatened the dark leader.

"But you can't kill me no matter what you do," they said in eerie chorus. "You already tried once, and here we are again."

The pupilless eyes narrowed beneath his shadowy brow. "Mind Lord."

"Did you truly believe that I would trust my true form to consort with such a superstitious and cowardly lot?" Mind Lord communed through his drones. "'Twas but one of my Mind Minions that you vanquished, and as you can clearly see, I have several more in this base alone. Anyone, anywhere could have entered my Brain-O-Mat and become my own personal puppet," they told in an ominous monotone, "and this was just a warning." The arms were lowered and finally dropped to the floor. The mental zombies stood staring blankly forward, provoking no attack out of the grim one's own curiosity. Finally, in a gruesome harmony, their heads twisted with a bone-chilling snap, filling the entire chamber with the shattering sound. And so the bodies fell, controlled by chance rather than the Mind Lord, leaving the master entirely alone.

"Did you hear that?" started up the sickly sidekick. "My highly trained ears detect dangers!" Lad Man called, waving a righteous finger into the air. "We must tread carefully!... Hey, where'd you go?" While the inept one was distracted by himself, Terrel had seized the moment to escape. Now, the former Captain Justice's former lackey was alone with the whirling shapes in the shadows. The abandoned back alley of the garage played with Lad Man's already fragile mind, sending shimmers and glints across the barren, lifeless environment.

"Show yourself, dastards!" dared the man-boy. Crawling from the shade, a troop of fem-bots emerged, locked onto the Core's last tracked location. Laser sights trained onto the one object in their way: the beaded forehead of Lad Man.

Sphyx burst onto the scene, brandishing his classic armament and seeking the same thing the robotic assassins did. And like them, he also was not anticipating the overgrown ally. "Sphyx! You've come to save me!"

The attentions were temporarily turned, but Sphyx just lowered his gun.

And backed away

Posted by
Aug 3, 2006

"Um... you wouldn't... hurt someone in my condition, would you?" mentioned the aged helper in an effort to spare himself.

"Processing database," an ominous voice tuned from one of the metal maidens. "Subject: Lad Man. Weakness: Mental condition. Probability of defeat: Highly likely. Kill on sight."

"Well, that doesn't seem nice at all," pouted the side kick, bracing his staff in a defensive pose. Cracking the stick along side one of their shelled heads, it reverberated fiercely down through his arm. "Sh-sh-shieldonium. Damn, I wish they could make weapons outta that stuff," cursed the hero with the odds continually stacking against him. "Wait, is that rescue I hear coming from yonder!" Pointing down the alley way, a cat leapt from a trash can. "It's Cat Girl!" hopefully cheered Lad Man, which only scared off the kitten. "... There is no Cat Girl, is there?"

Tracking the dermal trail left by his quarry, the veteran never lost a step of the path even as it climbed over fences and weaved around dumpsters. With as visible as it was growing, the advance mechanisms would not even be necessary to follow the youth, which should have meant only good news. However, it meant more people, unwanted people, would be able to hop on the trail as well. Turning around a corner, Sphyx jumped back behind it. He only had a moment to react. Drawing his gas gun, he emerged back into the passage with it drawn, staring directly into the barrel of some heavy artillery.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't my old friend, Sphyx," harshly greeted the weapon's wielder, a young man in a military jacket with a metallic sheen. A scarlet bandana covered the lower half of his face, muffling his voice, as well as most of his chest left exposed by the coat, while the remainder had loose locks of blonde hair over it. Various straps of munitions were coiled about his legs and waist, ready for use at a moments notice. "Still a pathetic wind bag?"

"Still a side-changing bastard?" the older of the pair answered, never flinching his aim. "So, who are you working for right now? I really don't like wasting ammo on teammates."

"Why, for the one with the biggest check book," cracked wise the gunman. Even though it could not been seen, the smile beneath the handkerchief still shone through. "Are you still pissed about that? That was years ago."

"Am I still mad about the time ya shot me in the back, literally, during an important mission just to make some more dough?" proposed the golden masked man. "Yeah, I'd say there's a bit of a grudge left there."

"Aw, now, c'mon, my man," soothed the youth, still keeping a tight grip on his rifle. "You were like a father to me-"

"More like target practice," coldly stated the senior.

"People change," the bandit stated with a shrug, "present company excluded," he added with a laugh.

"You never answered me, you know," brought up the relic. "Who are you working for now?"

"Why is everything always 'sides' with you? Good and evil, right and wrong. Who is to say what actions lie where. It is all a decision man makes in the end."

"I liked you better before you found philosophy, Silver Bullet," admitted Sphyx, bored with the lecture, "when you just shot stuff on command."

"Good times, I must say. Good times..." The two stood like statues a while longer, neither twitching.

"And you complained about all those aiming exercises," smirked the gas bomber. "Bet you're glad you weren't doin' your homework now." The comment only tensed the arm muscles more. "I don't think this is going to be getting us anywhere. Wanna settle it the old fashion way? And I mean old, before my time."

"A duel? Old timer, you're digging your grave," mocked the younger, but his opposition remained stern. "You serious? ... Alright... let's settle this. It's the student's time to shine."

"Three paces, turn, and fire," instructed the master. Fulfilling the steps, he paused and holstered his gun. He did not even have to look, already knowing that his former trainee had used the time to flee. He would let the apprentice think what he wanted to about the reasons to not tracking him down. Personally, the gasman already knew enough. "I thought I trained you better, Bullet, giving it away like that. You could have at least taken a shot to keep up appearances." He cast an eye to where the gunman had been. "You're the mole? Huh... The one most suspected would be the least suspect, I guess. That's some twisted reasoning."

"Is someone over there?" an approaching voice called out. "Don't worry. I've come to save the day!"

"Oh, thank god!" an overjoyed Lad Man gleed from his cornered position. He had been chased down by the assembled assassins for some time, finding no relief. "You hear that, you robo-bimbos? I'm being saved!" Salvation came from the sky, swooping down upon the foes, or, at least, it was thought a swoop. The endeavor was more like a drop, as it was. Crashing onto one of the tech assassins, a body exploded the target and then stiffly removed itself from the resulting crater. Slowly, he emerged with torn scraps of mismatched clothing barely hanging from his unscathed form. Squinting his tired eyes, the hero studied the distressed victim.

"Aw, crap, Lard Man?" whined the man, pulling himself fully from the concrete prison. "I thought Sphyx was down here. Dammit, I lost another ourtfit pulling off that stunt." The remaining pair of mechanical henchwoman turned about with their deadly weapons hissing. "Hey, hey, now. I don't got any beef you, doll faces," he assured, backing down the alley. "I'll just be on my way..."

"Now, is that any way to treat your fellow good doer? For shame, Greaver, I've come to expect more from you." The hero threw himself around, startled by the individual behind him, a middle aged, balding man. "Those drones are after the Core. Whether or not Lad Man is irritating, they are a threat that should be dealt with before more serious danger can come from them."

"My life isn't serious?" protested the aged sidekick but promptly kept quiet as he realized he only attracted the attention of the murderous metal witches.

"Here's your chance, while they're distracted," whispered the older gent, placing a reassuring hand upon the invincible's shoulder. "They were haughtily engineered with a weak point on the back of the neck, beneath that sheet of hair. A simple twist of the neck, even with your strength, should be able to do it." The indestructible returned a questioning glance at the stranger, but the warm smile eventually won him over. That, and the fact that, at worst, the choice could not harm him. With their backs turned, two firm grips twisted their necks. The singular, glowing eye set in each of their faces brightened intensely before burning out with a spark. The androids returned to their lifeless nature. "Bravo, good man. You did it!" applauded the elder.

"Um... thanks?"

"With that dispute settled, I come bearing news for the Guild." The hero's attention was captured. "The Sinister Squad has been met with mutiny. A brash newcomer, a volt chucker, has overthrown the Mind Lord, and now commands the group. There is still some unruliness and distrust from the power shift, weakening their focus on both the Core and holding the team together. Although your numbers are now few and scattered, an attack at the heart of the cancer would end the need to track down the Core and end all future threats from the villains."

"Uh... hurh."

The silver haired man took the response with a bit of trouble, asking, "Is something the matter?"

"... Who are you?" Greaver could not help but inquire. "I know we've never met before." His statement produced a chuckle.

"Ah, my boy, we've met more times than you could ever know," devilishly insisted the wiser, "sometimes more than once at once. However, I am a friend trying to help you now. Isn't that enough?" The unwounded stepped back from the kindly man with growing suspicion.

"Why should I trust anything you have told me?" doubted Greaver becoming ever more cautious. "How do I know this isn't some evil scheme? How do I know you aren't with the Sinister Squard?" The gentle expression worn by the civilian soured sharply, twisting a horrible guise unthought capable by the innocent enough seeming man.

"I do not ally myself with those fools anymore," he hissed foully. "It is only their destruction I desire." Greaver stammered backwards, clutching at the wall. Even though he was incapable of harm, he still was afraid.

"You... you are... you're..." stuttered the bulletproof brave, "... Mind Lord!" Static cut in on his revelation.

"Did you just say 'Mind Lord'?" chirped in a random, eavesdropping hero over the accidentally activated, internal communicator. "Get the hell out of there now!"

"Splendid, I will not have to repeat my story," delighted the villainous king. "There is no reason to worry, heroes. I mean no harm and mean what I say." He smiled sweetly. "I want to help."

"You? You want to help?" disbelieved the costumeless crusader. "The man who has caursed more suffering and death among our ranks than any other in history?"

"Yes, I was something to marvel at in my glory days," smugly agreed the dethroned master, "but those days are far past. I no longer am in command of the Sinister Squad. My powers, my influences, everything about me is fading," solemnly explained the slayer of countless.

"You're... dying?" tested the deathless. "... Good."

"Do not confuse my life for something as simple as your mortal existence," scoffed the former leader. "My... corporeal self perished long ago before the Great Wa- ... World War I," he corrected. "Without a focal point for my thoughts, my powers have been slipping since that time." The grim demeanor returned. "For all the time you have known me, you only faced a shadow of my true self." As quickly as it came about, the gentle face was worn again. "With my time left short, I planned to do the one thing that would stake my claim in history as the greatest villain throughout all time: take over the world. This was where the Core came in. I was to use it to dominate the Earth, even if just for a month, my final testament to greatness." His stature sank amidst his regaling. "But, now, some vermin, some punk kid, wants to steal my glory. No, I will not have my legacy tainted like this. Be it with my dying breath, I will see him defeated."

Pressed up against the bricks by the enraptured speech of the mental dominator, Greaver slowly squeaked, "You... get that all? ... Guys?

**** This story is still being written. You, too, can contribute to it by writing the next installment. ****

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