New Guardians

Issue 38 - Once More, With Feeling

(If you haven’t yet, read the last issue. We’re picking right up where we left off!)

Bored with having nothing to do, Sid (Vapor) decides to head to the store for groceries, while Dark Witch excuses herself so that her alter ego can get some court prep done.

The interrogation of the captured insectoid continues but with a different tack: the team decides that if Baron creates the illusion of the robot, which seemed to be in command of the whole thing, they might get more info.

It seems to work. Baron, enveloped in his conjured illusion, is walked in by Fortress and placed in a cell directly across from the captive soldier. Among other things they learn that the Command Robots are controlled remotely from the ship, and each ship has more than one.

Through careful questioning they learn that a second strike team is on Earth and is likely meeting up with the one that fought the team. It won’t be long before the aliens are back with twice the numbers.

“Won’t be long” is right: the group spends a few moments trying to come up with a plan so they’re ready for the next attack before the next attack happens. What feels like an earthquake rocks the basement floor. Something above them has exploded with deafening force.

They make their way up to the ground floor (most via the stairs, Baron Mind in the elevator) and see that the front half of the HQ building is gone, including the second floor. It looks as if a giant came along and bit right through it like it was an oversized cupcake. Concrete, wood, and plaster debris litters the floor. Water spouts from broken plumbing.

In a semi-circle between what’s left of the building and the fountain in the front driveway are the aliens.
The team can see two robots, which are each flanked by what appear to be two German Shepherd-sized ants wearing glowing collars; five insectoids with rifles in the air; and four A.P. ground soldiers, the rolling black pseudopod-sprouting orbs. Hovering several hundred feet above all of this is the same ship that burst from the lake (last issue), two large cannons projecting from its belly.

“Turn over the abomination and your captive and we’ll leave in peace,” utters one of the robots. The Guardians respond, of course, by attacking!

The battle ensues. Debris makes it difficult to move around but the heroes still manage.

Baron stays by the elevator, just back from the ragged edge of the 2nd floor, and begins picking off the air support with brain blasts.

Kid immediately whiplashes the nearest Command Robot, which knocks it back near the driveway fountain. Torrent and Bantam decide they don’t like the collars on those giant ants, so they each destroy one. The collars spit sparks and stop glowing. Their wearers suddenly appear confused and angry.

With maser rifle blasts crisscrossing the battlefield, Fortress and Kid focus on one Robot. Torrent takes out a third collar, Bantam a fourth. Three of the ants go wandering away in confusion.

The rolling A.P.s are flinging grenades but they don’t have a lot of effect, especially on Kid Green. At one point two of them stretch out pseudopods and each grab one of Kid’s arms, briefly holding him at bay. That small victory is short-lived, though, as he simply claps his hands together and makes them swing around and slam into each other.


…but the Reader’s Digest version is that Fortress was nearly sliced in half by one of the Command Robots before the Guardians drove most of them away. The team has offered asylum to two of the Aqua-Pura when they discovered that their species is effectively enslaved by the Hylen. The HQ building was levelled by the alien ship, all that remains is the basement. They turned over the Kahlecent soldiers and the War Ants to Admiral Alexander who showed up personally to oversee their transfer.

Torrent acted quickly to help Fortress, putting pressure on her massive wound after sending Bantam to fetch the few vials of serum Fortress had left and pouring it into her body. She remains in the hospital.

Issue 37 - Water Water Everywhere
A splashin' safari

The team locks up the captured villains (Blight, two Nebulas, and ten Graviguards) along with the two members of The Protectorate they already had in custody (Gigantor and Ram) and Dr. Anagal.

Only a few hours later, the doorbell rings. Admiral Keith Alexander, National Security Agency Secretary, shows up with a contingent of troops, helicopters, and modified, mobile Stronghold cells. He’s accompanied by two social workers from the Department of Child Services to take the Anagal children.

“I’m taking custody of the villains you captured,” he tells Sid (Vapor), who’s the only team member at home. As the villains are being rounded up, the other-dimensional Nebula protests. “I asked for immunity! I was coerced! I’m a good guy!”

Despite his anxiety dealing with authority figures, Sid confirms this to Alexander. “And exactly what kind of expertise do you have in extra-dimensional beings?” he asks Sid. “More than you!” “As far as you know,” Alexander replies. “He’s coming with me. We’ll sort it out.”

Sid walks away shaking his head. “There’s a lot of pressure living at HQ!”


During the following week, life goes on. Everybody has dates!

Jack (Baron Mind) and his girlfriend Sally wind up at the same restaurant as Dallas (Bantam) and his co-worker Felicity. Dallas recognizes Baron, but Baron has never seen Bantam without his mask.

Just after their meal has been served, three nattily-dressed men approach Jack’s table. One sits. “Mr. Jones, my name is ”/characters/dominic-parisi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Dominic Parisi. We have an acquaintance in common, Mr. Scarpelli. He’d like to meet with you in three days in Chicago. Here’s train fare." Parisi peels off a few hundreds and hands them to Jack (which Dallas notices).

Only a few minutes after the mobsters leave, shouts and breaking glass are heard from the kitchen. Suddenly the swinging double-doors burst open and two men in gang colors run through. A green beam of light splits the air between them. One of them lifts a weird-looking pistol and fires a green beam right back, blowing a hole in the swinging doors. They both eschew the front door and instead crash headfirst through the large front window, tumbling out onto the street.

Dallas tells Felicity to get out. “No, Dallas, we both need to go!” "Just get out of here, " Dallas yells. Felicity huffs at him, “Fine! I will get out of here!” and heads toward the door with several other patrons.

A similar exchange occurs between Jack and Sally, but rather than insist on Jack coming with her, Sally simply freezes, eyes wide with fear as three more thugs burst through the kitchen doors, two armed with energy pistols.

Dallas ducks under his table and shrinks to become Bantam. He speaks into his comm device: “Baron, I’m at the restaurant.” “Good,” Baron replies quietly behind his hand, “I can’t really act right now, I’ve got a…problem.” Looking at Sally.

“Can you use your TK to grab one of those pistols?” Bantam asks. Baron fakes a headache and puts his hands to his temples. One thug is surprised when his pistol is invisibly yanked from his hand. It skitters across the floor.

Bantam then dashes into the center of the room. “Hey guys! Down here!” he shouts at the three. As soon as they look down at him he hits them with a Bantam Flash, temporarily blinding them.

Well, two of them. The one who’d been formerly holding a pistol is still staring at his hands, unaffected by the flash. He now dives for the gun. He grabs it but Baron still has a mental hold on it. Smiling, Baron pulls at the gun and drags the hapless criminal around and around a table.

The guy finally gives up on the gun, stands, and flees the restaurant. Sally finally snaps out of her paralysis and bolts for the front door.

One of the two blinded thugs fires his pistol wildly, scorching the floor next to the tiny Bantam. He screams and fires again, this time hitting his friend’s foot. Bantam touches the leg of the injured one shoots volts through him, at the same time that Baron gives the other one a brain blast. The gang members drop, unconscious.

Bantam darts back under the table to retrieve his clothes and sneak out of the building. Baron stays to give an account to the police. The responding officers mention that gang violence is heating up in the city and they’re seeing more of these energy pistols.


Across town, Darlene (Dark Witch) is dining with the new District Attorney, Benito Martinez. Their conversation again turns to paranormals and justice. Martinez again talks of his contempt for all paranormals, and relates how his aunt and uncle were killed by Maelstrom‘s tornado ten years ago. Darlene takes offense, even calling him a bigot at one point. He responds by labelling her a collaborator who isn’t really interested in justice.

Just then he receives a call that a body has been found. Preliminary evidence and eyewitness accounts indicates it was a paranormal. “See you in court,” they say in unison as Martinez leaves.


Also across town, Lani (Torrent) is picked up by her former co-worker, Mark Taylor, for a tour of his new robotics facility. He’s laid a towel on the passenger seat in what he thought was a sensitive gesture, but Lani informs him that she has trouble with absorptive material. “Towels are bad.” Instead she retrieves her ‘travel bucket’ so his seats don’t get wet.

They arrive at what looks like a typical warehouse if you ignore the chain-link fence around the property and the seemingly ubiquitous surveillance cameras. A numbered keypad and a badge reader get them in the front door.

They pass through two similar security apparatus and Mark announces, “This is the heart of the operation, the tech labs.”

The main lab room is filled with tables and monitors and snaking cables. Cabinets line the walls. Lani happens to notice on one table is a pistol which looks like the energy pistol the team confiscated last issue. “Where did you get that?” she asks.

“My investor brought it to me, wants me to incorporate it into my next design. I guess he has a military contract. He’s been so generous, I don’t ask questions.”

“But you could be working for a nasty person! You’ve got to ask questions!”

“He’s an angel investor, he’s very secretive. I haven’t even met him face-to-face yet. But I can’t risk losing this funding. This is the only way I can continue the work I started at Raytheon.

The tour continues, but Mark’s mood is decidedly less upbeat. He bypasses several doors and when Lani asks what’s behind them, he demurs. “That’s just storage.”

Finally she asks about the job Mark keeps offering her. “As I said before, I’m interested in your engine designs. Specifically, how we can miniaturize them for my robots.”

Lani is wary, but doesn’t let it show. She agrees to nothing.


Kid Green has been dealing with his mother’s increasing depression, since her husband was sent to Stronghold to care for her previously unknown son, Sam (see Issue 25). He writes to her frequently but she simply drops them on a table, where they’re piling up, unopened.

“Mom, you’ve got to get out of the house, you’ve been couped up in here for days.”


During the week, Ernest has been working on upgrades to the HQ’s security system. He’s enlisted the help of the building’s only permanent resident, Sid. They spent two days working along the perimeter of the property, burying sensors and placing cameras in trees.

“Sid, can I ask you a question? You were married to ”/characters/stiletto-3" class=“wiki-content-link”>Stiletto, right? How was that?"
“A continual nightmare.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. Do you remember when I first came to you guys, that she was after me?”
“She had sought me out for maintenance to her armor. Said she was having trouble with some Chicago mobsters. I guess it didn’t go well for her because the next thing I know she’s blowing down my front door, the armor sparking and smoking. Her exact words were, ’I’m going to kill you for this but I’ll let you live long enough to fix this piece of crap!’”
“That checks out.”
“So I ran, and managed to find you guys just as she caught up with me. I still can’t thank you all enough for saving my life.”

Just an hour or so before the meeting, Ernest is ready to test everything. He and Sid sit in the HQ control room as Ernest flips a switch. Instantly, klaxons sound and a red light springs to life. “Motion sensors are tripping all around the north end of the property, near the lake. I must have the sensitivity too high, this can’t be right.”

At that instant, on the north edge of the property near the lake, Lani is approaching the HQ in her car. Suddenly the front of her car is hit by a glowing energy beam from above. The car flips end-over-end and comes to rest top-down in the middle of the road. Unharmed, Lani gets out and sees a gigantic metallic-looking being standing yards away, holding a very large sword. She hears a whirring noise above her and glances up to see more strange creatures, these appearing to be six-limbed beings in armor but with huge dragonfly-like wings, hovering above her, each holding a rifle. She hits her signal device as she soaks bits of debris from her wrecked car into her body, readying for a fight.

The metallic being utters a string of gibberish, quickly followed by a computerized translation. “You’re under arrest! Get down on the ground!”
“What did I do?” Lani asks.
“You’re a stain on nature that must be erased!”

Fortunately, everyone else was also on the way to the meeting when their signal devices lit up. Fortress and Sid arrive at the same time. They see the large figure on the ground and the two hovering armored types in the air. Behind them is a small open-air lake house, which itself is bookended by picnic tables; at each is a couple enjoying the unusually warm late January air.

Baron has taken an Uber which also arrives at the same time. The driver’s monologue about his cats is interrupted when he rounds the curve. “What’s going on here?”
“Costume party,” Baron says. “Here’s an extra fifty bucks.”

Kid Green decided to leap his way across town and he slams down near the lakehouse. Dark Witch flies in trailing smoke.

Bantam skids his car to a stop near the metallic figure. He jumps out and shrinks just as the sword is brought down on his car, nearly bisecting it. He responds by firing an electrical bolt at one of the dragonflies which sends it spinning backwards through the air.

Fortress flings herself at the big guy and slams into him with tremendous force, but he doesn’t budge. More gibberish is translated as, “This is not your concern, human. Why do you defend it?”
“She is our friend!”

Out of the lake come two large black orbs. They roll across the snow-dusted ground toward the melee. A small window seems to open on each, in which the team can see water. The water seems to coalesce into a pair of eyes inside the orb. “Apprehend it!” the large one orders them. Another insectoid shoots out of the water and flies toward them.

One of the insectoids fires its rifle at Kid but misses. The second one opens up on Fortress and hits her. She stands her ground, but it hurts.

The big one’s arm points toward Torrent and a rocket launcher appears. It tries to fire but something goes wrong; an explosion blows the arm clean off and reveals it’s a robot! Stupid thing rolled an 18 – GM Tony Its two-handed sword drops to the ground.

Dark Witch entangles one of the insectoids which sends it thudding to the ground. She and Bantam then both fire at a second one but miss.

Fortress and Kid Green look at each other and nod. Fortress wraps her arms around the robot’s waist while Kid grips its remaining arm and pulls. It doesn’t come off but sparks spit from the shoulder as metal bends and wiring tears. The robot tries to wrench itself free but the two of them are too strong.

A tendril morphs out of one of the black balls and flings what appears to be a grenade at Kid Green. The explosion tears a hole in the ground but doesn’t affect him much. It also nearly tears Fotress away from the robot but she hangs on.

Another orb lobs a grenade at Dark Witch. She swings her broom around and swats it right back. The explosion sends the orb spinning right back into the lake.

Vapor gets out of Ernest’s car and despite the fact that the insectoids doffed their helmets once they were out the water, he’s pretty sure they have some kind of life support, which would render his powers largely useless. He scans the area for Bantam, hoping to coordinate with his propane attack.

Fortress is grabbed from behind by tendrils from another black ball and pulled away from the robot. Kid still clutches its remaining arm.

Torrent shoots debris from her body at one of the insectoids and hits it squarely; it spins out of control.

Bantam fires at the ball that grabbed Fortress. A bolt of electricity strikes it just as Vapor creates a cloud of propane around it. The resulting explosion tears the ball apart; black shreds fly everywhere as water bursts forth from it and puddles in the snow.

The robot stops and utters urgent gibberish. The translater squawks: “Soldier down! These barbarians! Retreat!”

Baron Mind engages the Mind Gem and telepathically reaches out to the entangled insectoid. To his own surprise, he finds he’s conversing in its native language. “A human who can speak Hyland?” it asks back. “Doesn’t everyone?”

Bantam shocks an insectoid, sending it careening into the nearby forest. Dark Witch clobbers another one, sending it splashing into the lake.

Figuring the robot is the leader, Fortress grabs it again. She and Kid pull in opposite directions. Already damaged, the other arm comes off in Kid’s hands. Sparks fly, smoke spews. Gibberish is heard, then the translator: “This isn’t over! You will be cleansed!”

The robot then stands rigid and seems to power down. Fortress and Kid hear a faint beeping from somewhere inside of it. “Self-destruct!” someone yells.

Quickly, Dark Witch englobes the robot in her eldritch tendrils. Kid Green re-grabs him and leaps far out into the lake. The ’bot is deposited at the bottom and Kid leaps back out.

The expected explosion never happens. Instead, seconds later a large ship rises out of the water and jets into the sky.

With one insectoid missing (a cursory search of the woods turns up broken branches but no other sign of the one blasted by the Witch) and one captured, Torrent then searches the bottom of the lake. She finds the area where the ship had rested.

The bits of the robot that were left topside have melted into sludge.


Back at HQ, Fortress takes advantage of Baron Mind’s ability to understand the insectoid language to interrogate their prisoner. At first he gives up only his name, rank, and serial number, but then Vapor hits him with laughing gas which lowers his resistance to questioning.

“Where are you from?”
“The planet Lyr.”
“Why are you here?”
“A holy mission to seek and apprehend treasonous A.P.s and their progeny.”

Further questioning reveals that A.P.s are Aqua-Puras, a native oceanic race of Lyr who are essentially colonies of sentient water molecules. They cannot survive long outside of water and they can’t assume humanoid form, they mainly appear as nebulous areas of discolored water. They can mimic facial features to facilitate communication, but that’s it.

The insectoid’s race is called the Kahleccent, also native to Lyr.

Fortress decides the best way to get more info is to have Baron Mind use his powers of illusion to make himself appear as another insectoid. They leave the cell, Baron massages the alien’s mind, and he re-enters.

The captive asks, “So the other strike team was defeated too?”
“What other team?”
“The only other one on this planet.”
“Shouldn’t they be leaving?”
“No, the mission isn’t accomplished yet. The abomination is still free and breathing.”
“Are there other A.P.s here?”
“According to the broadcast transmissions we’ve been monitoring, the only known creature here is the one we failed to capture today, the thing they call Torrent.”

Issue 36 - Twisted Christmas Part 2
The team is doppleganged up on

Upon hearing from Dr. Anagal that the fight at the Eagle's Nest (see last issue) was a distraction, and that her children were being held hostage by the Nebula from the twisted dimension, the team makes haste to the familiar cyclotron facility outside of Bloomington. They call on T.F. Washington to fire up the chopper and head southeast; Kid Green and Bounder following on foot (leaping).

Deciding that stealth is irrelevant since the bad guys have to know the Guardians are onto them, the team gathers at the front doors of the building. Baron Mind carefully attempts to pick the lock, to no avail. Losing patience, Fortress punches the doors open and they enter. They follow the now-familiar route downstairs to the cyclotron room.

Fortress peeks through the door that opens onto a walkway that's halfway up the wall of the the two-story chamber. The first thing she sees are three towering emitters surrounding and aimed at a circular platform in the middle of the floor. She can also see several men dressed in black with "strange rifles": that she's never seen before.

"We should go in and say hello," Vapor offers. Kid agrees: "Yeah, with my fists." Fortress is hesitant to attack without knowing who these people are, despite what Dr. Anagal said.

As the discussion continues, Baron Mind is mentally scanning the building for Dr. Anagal's children. He locates them; they're on the floor above them, toward the other end of the building. The entire team them heads up to the next floor.

Fortress steps through the door into a hallway. Immediately they hear a low hum and she's trapped in a gravity field. Baron spots a metal disc on the floor beneath her that's emitting the field and uses his TK to crush it. As they all file through the door they see more of the devices up and down the hallway. Brushing the mines aside with his TK, Baron and the team move toward the location of the kids. As they go, Baron reaches out and speaks to the children telepathically. "The Guardians are here to save you, hang tight." The children warn him there are armed guards inside the room with them.

Suddenly, just as Baron Mind is telekenetically grabbing a gravity mine to use later, a section of the floor beneath the heroes disappears. Baron floats. Bantam quickly shrinks and leaps, sticking to the wall. The Witch hops her broom. Fortress, Kid, Vapor, and Torrent fall two stories to the floor below: the cyclotron chamber floor.

Nebula and Queen Cranium stride around the corner of the hallway, which now contains only Bantam, Dark Witch, and Baron Mind. "Did you really think I wasn't expecting you?" At the same time, down on the chamber floor, Fortress, Kid Green, Vapor, and Torrent are faced with another Nebula, this one accompanied by Blight, Spacebot, and the man-sized cloud of purple gas that is Miasma. Also, several of the black-clad soldiers, wearing the same insignia: a central circle, hovering over an updside-down arc and topped with a dot.

The fights are on.

Bantam skitters down the wall toward the floor but Queen Cranium is faster; she hits him with a mind blast, hard. Stunned, he drops off the wall and returns to normal size as he falls. The only person close enough to react, Vapor attempts to catch him but instead serves as a cushion as the fully-grown Bantam slams into him and they both sprawl on the floor.

Dark Witch responds by entangling Cranium in a cocoon of dark magic. "Well, that's hardly fair."

Fortress, over her indecisiveness, sprints across the floor and slams headlong into Blight. Splinters fly everywhere as he's sent flailing backwards. Kid Green figures to make quick work of the soldiers. As he leaps toward two of them they both fire the weird rilfes at him. Coruscating black waves emanate from each, but they miss. His reply is a foot stomp which topples three soldiers.

Two others shoot at Fortress but only one misses; the other beam slams into her like a locomotive and sends her flying backwards into the wall. No, really: into the wall. She's stuck halfway into the concrete.

Miasma glides over to her and surrounds her, forcing gas (himself!) into her airways. She starts to choke.

Spacebot targets the flying Witch with his laser eyes, which hits her nearly hard enough to knock her out of the air. As it is she's left spinning in place, momentarily out of control.

Blight stands and, seeing Fortress being taken care of by Miasma, turns his attention to this world's version of him: Kid Green. The villain stretches his arms out and root-like tendrils shoot out to surround Kid. The ends dig into his skin; he feels his power begin to drain away. "You're going to die," Blight croaks.

The downstairs Nebula turns from the battle and dashes past four soldiers to a control panel. His hands fly across it, sliding slides and pushing buttons. Lights that run up each emitter come to life.

Torrent, having absorbed a collection of items from the floor and a nearby desktop, shoots a stapler at Nebula but misses. Vapor pitches in with some support: the air around each of his nearby allies becomes rich with oxygen. A second wind.

Fortress takes advantage of it. She extricates herself from the wall, passing through Miasma and coughing him from her lungs, then again flings herself at Blight. The girl knows what she likes. Again there is an explosion of splinters and it's Blight's turn to be smashed into a wall; the roots and branches he was using to grasp Kid Green splinter apart.

Leaving the entangled Queen Cranium, the upstairs Nebula turns and runs back down the hallway and around the corner. Baron follows and hears a door slam. Rounding the corner, he grabs the nearest door handle with his TK, knowing the children are on the other side. He flings open the door. The two children are sitting on a small sofa in an office. Between them and the door are two armed soldiers. Again using his TK, Baron floats the gravity mine into the air, and sideways, between them, hoping to immobilize them both. The mine activates but the field projects only from the top (in this case, the side) and catches just one. The other trains his rifle on Baron.

A low thrum has now started in the floor. The lights running along the emitters glow brighter; dings and other noises can be heard from the control panel. Nebula continues to play it like an organ with a manic intensity.

Fortress shouts, "Destroy the machines!"

Miasma starts to move toward Fortress then stops and shifts direction toward Vapor. "You…are me…" he whispers.
"Who are you?" Vapor replies.
"I am beyond…names, but…they call me Miasma."
"You asthma?" Fortress chimes in.
Sparks flow through the cloud and coalesce into a streak of lightning that blasts the table next to her.

Bantam takes out another soldier with an electrical bolt of his own. Kid Green decides against destroying the machines, instead trying to destroy Nebula. He whips out a stalk, grabs the villain, and performs the ol' Whiplash (patent pending) . Nebula, whose dark matter makeup absorbs the kinetic energy of physical blows, grows larger as he sails across the floor and slams into the hole in the wall that Fortress made.

Despite this effort, the cyclotron is clearly powering up. A shimmer can be seen in the air above the platform, at the center of the emitter array. The portal is opening.

Blight pulls himself out of his hole in the wall and glares at Fortress. "Bring it," she smirks.

Spacebot stretches his robot arm up toward the hovering Witch and grabs her wand. He yanks it from her hand but instantly (magically even!) it's back. She cackles and flies over his head, soaring into the room. Circling the emitter array, she sends a dark blast at one of them. It dents slightly but doesn't budge.

Downstairs Nebula, getting to his feet, tries talking to Kid. "We don't have to kill you. All I want is my son, Anti-Matter Lad. I want him out of Stronghold and brought to me."
"Oh hell no," Kid snorts. "And Microwave is gonna fry too!"
"I don't care about him. I just want my son."
Kid's retort is interrupted by a tapping on his shoulder. He turns around to see Queen Cranium, freshly teleported out of the magic cocoon. She smiles and smacks his brain with an ego blast, making him wince in pain.

Vapor turns away from Miasma and converts the air surrounding the burgeoning portal into propane. Miasma will not be ignored! More lightning flashes from the purpleness, but the bolt misses wildly and instead strikes at the newly-formed propane cloud. (The bad guy rolled an 18, is what happened.) A tremendous explosion rocks the center of the room. When the flames clear, half of the control panel is blackened and sparking, but the emitters are only smudged. The cyclotron continues to power up; the portal continues to grow.

Baron drops the remaining guard with a mental jolt. "It's okay, kids. I'm going to get you out of here." But before they can reply, the wall behind him disappears. There stands upstairs Nebula. "Who are you, King Brainpan?"

"Baron Mind."
"That's clever. Much better than 'Queen Cranium'."
"Thank you."
Baron conjures an image of the wall, restored.

Fortress, aiming to go 3 for 3, again takes a couple of strides and throws herself at Blight. This time he's ready for her; just as she gets there he swings a massive branch and clubs her like a fastball. She arcs across the room and deftly pivots her body so she lands in a crouch, sliding another few feet before coming to rest near Bantam.

Kid swipes at Queen Cranium and grabs her in his huge fist. "We can talk about this," she stammers. "No, we can't." He flings her at the platform and she disappears into the ever-growing portal.

Bantam and the Witch exchange a wink and both target downstairs Nebula, who is now about ten feet tall. He's struck simultaneously by a Bantam Bolt and a blast of dark magic. Again he tumbles backwards onto the floor. "Dr. Anagal has failed us," he shouts. "Tell them to kill both children!"

Miasma continues to try to talk to Vapor. "I would prefer to study you rather than kill you." He doesn't get the chance to do either, as Torrent runs over and 'into' Miasma. She is surrounded by his gaseous form, and then her watery body begins to absorb him. Miasma lets loose with a curdling scream; sparks flare throughout his form. The cloud pales from deep purple to a wan lavender, the sparking increases and suddenly he explodes in electrical violence. Torrent appears to be torn apart; reduced to a large puddle against the far wall.

The cloud hovers, its color returning. "I will…kill…all of you" it hisses. More lightning licks at Vapor, causing his muscles to seize: he can't move.

Having dispatched QC through the portal, Kid Green turns his sights on Spacebot. Another Whiplash later and the alien is sailing across the room, to tumble onto the floor. He pops right back up. "That would've reduced a robot to pieces. Good thing I'm human!"

A few yards away, Nebula rises to his feet for the second time. Fortress sees this (hard to miss, he's ten feet tall now) and dashes over to wrap him in a bear hug. Well, she leaps at his waist and holds on, hoping her sheer weight (~500 pounds) will keep him from moving.

Dark Witch, still zooming around the room on her broom, flings a dark blast at Nebula, hitting him and causing him to shrink back to normal size. A split-second later Blight stretches out and grabs the Witch in mid-air. She feels his branches digging into her skin, draining her strength away, and she swoons.

Below, Kid Green mops up another three soldiers with a well-placed foot stomp.

Fortress, now with a better grip on a normalized Nebula, and her feet now touching the floor, runs with him toward the emitters, intending to pitch him through the portal.

Speaking of which, the portal is now ten feet across: fully formed and open.

Suddenly the almost sub-sonic hum that's filled the room since the cyclotron was activated now deepens into throbbing pulses of sound. Everyone in the room is surrounded by an undulating black field except Dark Witch, who's still circling in the air.

"I can't move," Kid Green announces. "Too…heavy…"

Gliding slowly through the portal just a few feet off the ground is a man who looks just like Steve "Graviton" McNally. Granted, the black body suit, gleaming eye patch, and goatee give this one a more regal bearing, but he still looks just like Grav. In his arms reclines Queen Cranium, still wearing that smirk. She kisses him on the mouth and he sets her down.

"Well, they certainly don't look like us, do they?"
"No, My Lord Graviticus," QC replies, "they do not."
"Well. What did their Nebula tell our Nebula? That they were opposites?" He glances at each Guardian. "That explains all the ugly."

The following was played at a later date (02/23/2019) but since it concludes the evil twin storyline, I've included it here. ==========

On the floor of the cyclotron chamber, none of the Guardians can move, but Kid Green still manages a laugh at the name "Lord Graviticus". Spacebot gets to his feet and backs away.

Graviticus sees the immobilized Fortress, who's still holding Nebula. "Are you my Nebula? Bah. Doesn't matter. Get yourself free and get over here."

Nebula replies, "I'm trying, sir, but…the gravity field has me too…" In fact, it's taking a toll on the villain to maintain that gravity field. The heroes each notice they can move a bit.

Kid Green with some effort is able to open his palm and stretch out a stalk. Graviticus is entangled in cornstalk goodness.

"Ugh! How strong is that one?" he asks, although it's muffled.

"He's very strong," Queen Cranium yells back.

Dark Witch manages to stay free of the gravity field, hovering above it. Blight spies her and smacks her with an oustretched branch, sending her spinning out of control.

Baron Mind mind-zaps the guard who was immobilized by the gravity mine, still maintaining the illusory wall between him and upstairs Nebula.

Bantam manages to move his arm enough to target Spacebot; more specifically, the floor at the alien's feet. An electrical explosion goes off right in his face. Spacebot grunts as he's flung backwards and into a wall (again). Sparks dance over his body.

"Humans don't do that," Bantam laughs.

"Th-this human d-d-d-did!"

Fortress takes advantage of her increased weight: she squeezes Nebula harder and tips them both over, falling on him. He grows larger, of course.

The remaining soldiers are firing at the heroes. One adds insult to injury and blasts the spinning Dark Witch in the air, who is slammed upwards into the ceiling and is not happy.

Miasma, noticeably slower and wispier (?) since his encounter with Torrent, moves on Kid Green. The cloud attempts the same thing he did to Fortress, to force his essence into Kid's airways, but Vapor constantly refreshes the air with oxygen, cancelling out the effects.

"How can you be immune to Miasma?" the cloud whispers.

"I don't have asthma," Kid Green says, "what are you talking about?"

Seeing this, Spacebot gets shakily to his feet, glaring at Kid Green. "Your strength is abnormal. Now I see you don't breathe either. You…you're a goddamn robot!" Twin lasers lance from the alien's eyes but miss the big green hero. Somehow.

From inside the mass of cornstalks Graviticus can be heard: "Could somebody get me out of here please?"

Through all of this, Fortress is watching Nebula at the machine console. A black tendril whips out and punches a button an the hum of the machine increases.

On the other side of his illusory wall, Baron hears that Nebula plead, “You’ve got to help me, please! These people are crazy!”
“What are you talking about? Didn’t you help them?”
“I was forced to help them! I was just searching for a dimension where my wife is still alive, but Graviticus learned of my work and abducted me. He wants to conquer other dimensions!”
“So how would you suggest we defeat them?”
“Get them back through that portal and then destroy the machine!”
After a moment: “Can you tell me: is my wife alive here?”
Remembering what he knows of his world’s Nebula, Baron replies, “No, she’s not.” He then brain-blasts the remaining guard who slumps to the floor whimpering in pain.

Kid wants to snake out a stalk and fling Spacebot through the portal but the gravity field hampers his movement.

Queen Cranium puts fingers to temples, mind-scanning. “Our Nebula is upstairs dealing with Baron Mind. Stupid name.”

Fortress struggles mightily, pitting all of her massive strength against the gravity field. She finally manages to free herself and immediately launches at Graviticus. She slams into the mass of stalks, obliterating his prison, but also sending him flying backwards right through the portal. “NOOOOOOO,” he screams as he disappears.

The gravity fields around the heroes dissipate. Bantam immediately sends an electrical blast at Queen Cranium. Anticipating this, Vapor creates a cloud of propane just in front of her. The charge hits it and explodes, sending her spinning through the air and back through the portal.

Because of the damage to the machine, the portal begins to waver and shrink. “We have to get Lord Graviticus back,” Miasma breathes.

Dark Witch and Blight continue to tussle. She whips spears of darkness at him, while he attempts to stretch up and grab her with his branches. Her spears win; the creature is hit hard and knocked back into the wall.

Spacebot nails Kid Green with his laser eyes and the big guy is improbably knocked back several feet. Still prone, Kid sends a stalk toward Spacebot. It wraps around him, picks him up, and flings him through the portal.

While Bantam takes out two Graviguards with an explosive blast, another one tosses a gravity mine directly underneath Dark Witch. The powerful gravity field pulls her down to the floor. The guard, seeing her close-up, recoils with disgust.

Miasma floats to the console and electrical sparks shoot from his incorporeal body, touching buttons and switches on the console. Nevertheless, the portal suddenly spasms and then closes. “We need time to charge it back up!” he says.

Fortress has other ideas. She raises both fists and crushes the console, cleaving it nearly in two.

While Baron decides what to do with Dr. Anagal’s children, Nebula speaks again from the other side of the illusory wall. “I request asylum! You must protect me from them!”
“I don’t know if I have the power to grant interdimensional asylum. We’ll talk about it.”

Kid throws himself at Nebula but the villain sidesteps him.

Bantam and Vapor again coordinate; this time the target is Miasma. The propane-and-spark move produces another explosion. A weird keening is heard as Miasma appears to be literally torn apart.

Dark Witch blasts apart the gravity mine and then hits the gravity guard with another dark bolt.

Nebula rails at the heroes. “You idiots! You’ve destroyed everything!” He swings a fist at Fortress and connects, but she stands her ground. Remembering that he uses kinetic energy to grow physically larger and stronger, she wraps her arms around him and squeezes. “Cease and desist!”

Kid uses the communicator to ask Baron how he’s doing. “I’m fine. I took out the two guards up here and the kids are safe. I also have a Nebula but he’s not real combative.”

With the portal closed and the generator destroyed, the fight is over. The Guardians managed to capture both Nebulas, Blight, and ten Graviguards. Dark Witch attempts to detect magic in the room, trying to locate her counterpart, the fairy, but she can find no trace of her.

Issue 35 - Twisted Christmas
Happy Kringlemas


Having no villains in custody at HQ (see last issue), the heroes enjoy a few weeks respite from supervillains and crazy relatives. Ernest completes the upgrades to the security system that Baron had suggested, including a state-of-the-art retinal scanner at both entrances to the building. Each team member in turn stares into the camera eye mounted next to the door so their retinal patterns can be logged.

Jack Jones (Baron Mind) continues to have disturbing dreams of Sri Lanka. One of them recurs several times: He's stumbling through thick, humid jungle, clutching to his chest an object wrapped in fabric. Arrows whiz past his ears and thump into trees on either side of him as he tears through the foliage. Finally he emerges onto a beach. A small boat sits in the surf, just a few dozen feet away. His escape! But as he dashes across the sand, more arrows find their mark. Jack is hammered to the ground, his back pierced by three shafts. The precious bundles tumbles to the sand. A large red jewel, his "Mind Gem":, rolls away. He watches it come to rest near a pair of feet.

The Mistress of Gaia, Sophia Beaulieu, newly-recognized ruler of Sri Lanka, picks up the gem. In her other hand, a staff tipped with a sparkling stone of its own, glowing a brilliant white. "Thank you for locating the "Karma Gem": as well," she says casually, staring into Baron's eyes (see Issue 33). "Now when I come to kill you, I'll have three of the four Stones. And when I finally gather the Heart Gem with the others, I can rule the cosmos!" Each time, Jack shoots awake sweaty and breathless.

He does get some good news: the hearing ordered by the State Department to review Sri Lanka's claim to his Mind Gem as a culturally-significant artifact has been postponed until the new year.

******* Lani Kaimana (Torrent) is at work in her engine design lab when the door bursts open. In the doorway is a man she doesn't recognize at first: dressed in an immaculate, tailored suit topped with a rakish scarf and a fedora, stands Mark Taylor, beaming. She hasn't seen him in weeks, ever since she caught him breaking into his old lab (see last issue). "Lani! Grab a coat, I'm taking you to lunch!"

"Mark! What happened to you?"

"You won't believe it! Come on, we'll talk while we eat."

She follows Mark out the door. "I would run us somewhere in the Maserati, but she's got leather seats and I don't want to…you know…get 'em wet."

Mark pays and they find a table. "So…things have been moving fast, Lani. I'm starting my own robotics company. I want to offer you a job."

"Slow down, Mark. How in the world did you get the money to start your own lab?"

"I got a call a few days ago. Someone who knows about my work with Raytheon, an industry insider. He offered to bankroll my research. He even found me a place!"

"What's his name?"

"He's anonymous. An angel investor."

"You don't worry about who's giving you the money? He could be up to something shady."

"Yeah, of course I wondered…until I saw my bank balance jump by ten million dollars! And got the keys to a building!"

"Okay, I guess…well, I design and build jet engines, Mark. Why do you need me for your robots?"

"I want to revolutionize propulsion. Use micro-engines. I've heard you talk about them before, and I figure you've had enough of working for Corporate America like I have. I'm offering you a chance to use your genius to make your own life better, not make a bunch of rich idiots even richer. Think it over. I'll call you in a few days."

Dallas Damon (Bantam) has been sharing a lab with his colleague, Felicity Hoffman, ever since one of her experiments destroyed hers (see Issue 33). It's not been easy: she's an intuitive researcher, but also the most disorganized person he's ever met. "Felicity, you really need to slow down," he told her more than once.

"I can't, Dallas. "Dr. Marsh": is breathing down my neck. Which he was doing already, but since my little accident it's been exponentially worse. I've got to produce results and I've got to do it fast."

"But that's why the accident happened, because you're in a rush…you're mislabelling things, you're skipping procedural steps…"

"All right, all right. Then you have to help me get organized, Dallas. Please? I'll buy you dinner tonight and you can get started fixing me."

He agrees. They leave the building together around 6:30. It's early December, so it's nearly full dark already. As they near Dallas' car in the parking lot, they hear footsteps behind them. "Stop!" When they turn they see five teenagers. Three appear to be unarmed. One aims a gun at them. The last one holds a large pistol in both hands. Dallas recognizes it as one of the "weird energy pistols": they brought back from Chicago (again, see Issue 33 – you missed a lot, huh?).

"Where did you get that?"

"None of your business. Give us all your shit, right now!"

Dallas sighs. To Felicity, he whispers, "Close your eyes, tight, and keep them closed until I tell you."

"W-what? Dallas, what are you going to do? You'll get us both killed, please Dallas!"

"Just do it. Everything's going to be okay."

She squeezes her eyes shut, muttering, "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod…"

Thankful that he's taken to wearing his Bantam costume beneath his clothes, Dallas shrinks. He dashes from his discarded suit and runs to the thug wielding the energy weapon. Touching the man's foot, Bantam sends a few thousand volts through him. The energy weapon drops to the ground as the man's body seizes up. He screeches as sparks flow over his body. Smoke sprouts from his hair as he falls over, unconscious.

With lightning speed, Bantam grows to full height and grabs the pistol. He points it at the mugger with the conventional gun. "I know what this will do. You won't be here."

The four remaining teens glance at each other. One of them turns and flees. "Oh yeah, and I can dodge your bullet anyway." Still they stand there.

Bantam fires the energy weapon at the armed thug. A green beam lances out and suddenly the boy is surrounded in a glowing bubble of energy. The bubble POPS and he is flung two dozen feet through the air. That's enough for the remaining two, who turn tail and run.

Bantam retrieves his clothes and tells Felicity to open her eyes. "W-what happened? What did you do?"


Alyssia Masters (Fortress) receives a lunch appointment with her new boss, Dr. Ilyana Rasputin. She's a middle-aged woman, born in Moscow, who most recently was head of the Cancer Research department at the University of St. Louis.

The lunch is cordial, but it's clear that Dr. Rasputin has done her homework on Alyssia. She questions Alyssia's patent on the osteoperosis drug, the development of which was done while Alyssia worked at Lilly, but in her own home lab. Dr. Rasputin reiterates the company's policy on that: any new drugs created by Lilly employees are company property. She makes it clear that whatever lapses Alyssia's former boss may have made, Ilyana was going to run a tighter ship.

Jake Jensen (Kid Green) fixes his Mom's garbage disposal. For the third time. She's also called him to wind up the garden hose, replace her toilet, and caulk the shower. It becomes clear that she's just been lonely after her husband was convicted and then transferred to Stronghold (see this issues) and is creating excuses to call him for help.

He also has a run-in with his father's boss, "Dr. Stewart":, at the IU Bio Lab, where kid has been allowed to use the equipment after-hours ever since his father started working there.

"I can't allow you to continue here. You're not a student, your father is disgraced…the board simply wouldn't stand for it."

Kid convinces Stewart to give him a chance. "Here's what I'll do: you can take the same test I give to prospective lab interns. Pass it and I'll hire you."

********************************** MID-DECEMBER WEEKLY TEAM MEETING

Team benefactor Arthur Donaldson walztes into the meeting about halfway through.

"I've got something for everybody…hey, where's the Witch and that gas guy?"

"I heard "Sid": got a little gassy so he couldn't make it," Kid Green snickers.

"Whatever. I'm docking their pay. For the rest of you, I have invitations to the company Christmas Party. Next Saturday, at the Eagle's Nest restaurant. You can bring a plus one."

The team all look at each other and in unison, shake their heads.

"Also, the FOX producers "Sam and Terry":, and a camera crew will be there. The "Guardians" TV show is doing gangbusters and they want a Christmas special."


Most of the team arrives at the downtown Hyatt Regency at the same time (of course). Baron Mind, Kid Green, Fortress, Torrent, and Bantam step out of the elevator on the 22nd floor.

Donaldson has reserved the entire restaurant, and it's been decorated in festive Christmas lights. A long dinner table dominates the room. Along the far wall two Christmas trees flank a DJ table, behind which two energetic young men bob their heads and fiddle with controls. David Bowie's and Bing Crosby's "Little Drummer Boy" is the current selection. A large table filled with desserts sits nearby.

Already seated at the table are Donaldson and his date for the evening,Dr. Anagal (see last issue. Surely you've read it by now.). Next to them, smiling and waving, are Sam and Terry, the FOX producers. TF Washington, the team's pilot and mechanic, and Ernest the erstwhile villain turned techie round out the seating. John (cameraman) and Mike (boom mike) stand nearby filming for the planned Guardians Christmas Special.

Bounder rolls in, complaining about having to use the service elevator. With him is a woman he introduces as Destiny, who is obviously a prostitute, errr, escort.

Once everyone is seated, Donaldson proposes a toast to a successful year for Guardians, Inc. and announces a special bonus. In everyone's envelope is a signed 8×10 of Donaldson and a $25 iTunes gift card. After much haranguing, Donaldson assures everyone they'll also receive a bonus check.

Dinner and small talk commence. Mike and John slowly circle the table, recording. Just as dessert is done, Ernest's watch starts beeping at him.

He says, “Something's setting off the motion alarm at HQ.”

He activates the watch's viewscreen to see a yellow-skinned woman in a frilly dress, sporting huge butterfly wings. Next to her floats a writhing purple cloud. The woman puts her eye to the retinal scanner and a second later Ernest sees, “Dark Witch – Access Granted” pop up on his watch. She and the purple cloud enter the building.

Before anyone can react to that, one of the restaurant windows is smashed in by a gargantuan fist. It withdraws and through the window come the villains. First, a completely naked man. Next in is a tall woman with ram's horns and hooves. Next is what appears to be a tall, thin ambulatory tree trunk. Finally a bald woman in sunglasses and a leather duster steps into the restaurant.

“Happy Kringlemas, Guardians! We already know who you are so I'll get our introductions out of the way. The naked guy is Spacebot; the 'lady' is Ram; woody there prefers to be called Blight; and the very large fist that gained us access belongs to Gigantor. And I am Queen Cranium!”

Baron, by now loitering at the dessert table, uses his TK to send a slice of apple pie flying at QC. The slice stops suddenly just in front of her face. She eyes it for a second, then takes a bite out the end. The rest drops to the floor.

“Mmm, thanks! Nice to know this world has some hospitality!”

Gigantor, now back to normal size, hops through the window to stand with his team.

Baron ducks behind the dessert table and whips up an exact Image of himself. They both stand.

Torrent feels a weird sensation, and she instantly knows that Queen Cranium is reading her mind. She says to Spacebot, “Interesting…as far as she knows, she's human.”

“That can't be!” Spacebot replies. “I'm clearly and irrefutably human and they're supposed to be opposites!”

Fortress moves from the table to stand in front of QC and prepares a Haymaker. Bantam shrinks and dashes to a nearby wall, zipping up to the ceiling. From there he sends an explosive electrical charge into the midst of the bad guys. Blight staggers a bit and Ram drops to the floor.

Kid Green leaps from the dessert table and over the dinner table to the other side. In mid-air he shoots out a stalk and grabs Bounder. As he lands the stalk whips Bounder through the air and he slams into Blight. Bounder bounces off of the villain and rolls away toward the elevator. Blight sails backwards back out of the smashed window, but immediately stretches out wooden limbs and grabs the ledge to keep from falling.

Gigantor begins to move into the room, and begins to grow. From a height of about five-and-a-half feet his body seems to inflate; almost immediately his head crashes through the ceiling. He finally stops growing, chest-deep through the ceiling tiles and lights. A muffled “Huh” can be heard.

Torrent absorbs as many dinner utensils from the table as she can, then turns and spurts a butter knife at Spacebot. He watches it whizz past his head. She gets a better look at him now; despite the fact that he appears to be a very naked and very anatomically correct human male, she sees what look like seams at his joints. Just as she realizes he's a robot, he confirms it by snaking out an arm to the ceiling and swinging closer to her.

“Put down the cutlery!” he says, but doesn't give her time to respond before firing red beams at her from his eyes. She pivots slightly and the attack scorches the wall behind her.

Ram regains her feet … make that hooves and yells at Fortress, who's readying to punch Queen Cranium. “Get away from her!” The horned villain charges at her, striking her squarely with a headbutt. The impact sends her flying backwards but she's able to right herself as she hits the floor and skids, backwards, stopping only a few feet away from colliding with Mike and John, who are still rolling.

“Thank you, Alyssia,” QC says to Ram.

Just then the tinkly Christmas music (“Jingle Bells”) still pouring from the DJ stand screeches to a halt. The drum intro to Sweet's “Ballroom Blitz” starts up, and it's on.

Destiny, now standing next to two Baron Minds (Barons Mind?) asks one or both if this is the typical Guardians party. Baron's image assures her that he'll keep her safe.

Bantam, from high up on the wall, targets Ram but his sapping power misses.

The threat of Fortress less immediate, Queen Cranium turns her attention and telepathy to Kid Green. He can feel her presence in his head and he doesn't like it. A stalk extends, grabs QC, and yanks her back into his other fist. This sends her careening halfway across the room to land in a heap.

“You hit me in the face…” she mumbles.

Torrent misses Spacebot, her fork sticking into a support column.

Baron shatters the window behind him and TKs the shards toward Spacebot, but he's out of range.

At this point the FOX producers snap out of their shock and scramble toward the back end of the restaurant. Dr. Anagal remains seated, looking terrified. Mike and John continue filming, trying to catch as much of the action as possible.

Fortress does her own rush at Ram but runs right by her, skidding out the smashed window and coming to a stop on the ledge. She peers 22 stories down at the ground. Behind her, Blight reaches out and his root-like arms grow out and envelop her. In a second she's nearly entombed in a wooden cocoon. Thorns sprout and prick her skin, all over body. From the wounds, blackish veins creep across her skin. She can feel her energy, her very life essence, slowly leaking from her body.

Spacebot again attacks Torrent, and this time she can't avoid the laser eyes. The energy strikes her watery body and she's flung backwards into a wall, stunned.

Bounder whacks Ram with a refrigerator-sized fist at the end of a roundhouse, sending her smacking into (but not through) a window across the room.

Suddenly Kid's ex-girlfriend Amy floats into the room in a crimson bubble, in costume as her alter-ego, Scarlet. “What are you doing here?” he asks.

“Helping these fine people beat your ass, that's what.”

Kid pleads. “Amy, we had nothing to do with your father's death.”

QC snorts. “Wow, you killed her father?”

Kid doesn't like this either. He snatches up QC and flings her at Blight. They both tumble backwards and smash through a window.

Blight is forced to release Fortress as he sails outside and over the ledge. QC comes to a stop just at the precipice. Amy disappears, as if she were never there.

Baron attempts to squeeze Spacebot's brain with an Ego attack but finds there's no brain there to squeeze. When he mentions this, Spacebot again insists that he's human, gesturing to his genatalia.

Bantam fires an electrical blast at the confused robot, missing again. Kid Green shows them how it's done, catching Spacebot with a stalk and pulling him into a fist. Kid angles his punch so that the knockback sends Spacebot right into Gigantor, still twenty-five feet tall with twelve of it buried in the ceiling. Spacebot falls to the floor at his feet.

Gigantor then decides to move, tearing through the ceiling in the process. He finally smashes both fists down through the tiles, tearing out an entire gaping section. He can finally see the room again.

Torrent picks that moment to shoot a spoon at Gigantor. The mundane utensil strikes him right on the kneecap with such force that he yelps and stumbles backwards. Losing his balance he turns, stumbles, and finally falls onto his rear, cushioned only by Spacebot's body.

The FOX producers and Ernest finally get untangled from chair legs and dash from the room. TF pulls a pistol, looking for a good shot at somebody. Dr. Anagal, glancing around at the battle, gets up clutching her purse and moves toward the exit.

QC sits up, rubbing her head. “Idiots,” she mutters, “you're all idiots,” and she disappears with a flash of light.

Gigantor, feeling Spacebot beneath his bulk, begins an apology. Baron interrupts him with a blast to the cerebral cortex and topples over. Unconscious, his body shrinks back to normal size.

Spacebot, now freed, starts to get up but Bantam finally lands an electrical blast. The robot twitches as sparks dance over his body.

Fortress steps over to Ram. “Stay down.” She does not. But just as she gets to her hooves, Fortress punches her midsection and Kid Green brings both fists over his head and pounds her into the floor.

Spacebot stands and uses his laser beam eyes to deflect another projectile from Torrent and another bolt of electricity from Bantam. That's when Baron telekinetically hefts one of the nine-foot Christmas tress at the end of the DJ booth and drops a Tanenbaum on Spacebot's ass.

“He is now covered in the holiday spirit.” Fortress walks over and lifts the tree, only to find a hole in the floor and Spacebot gone.

Kid Green had noticed Dr. Anagal acting strangely all through dinner. Then, she didn't try to flee when everyone else did, she sat and watched, a harried look on her face. Maybe she'd been paralyzed by fear, but he thought not. Now he spies her trying to surreptitiously find the elevator.

“Hey Donaldson, stop her!”

The team benefactor was just about to launch into a tirade about not paying for any of the damages. “What? Why? What's wrong with you?” Baron Mind stops her with a blast to her brain.

It's agreed that Kid and Bantam should head back to HQ right away to check on the intruders. The rest of the team stay to talk to police and secure the captured villains, Gigantor and Ram.

Finally together again back at HQ, Kid reports that he finds nothing missing, but Ernest's secure room had been broken into. Gigantor and Ram are placed into cells.

They want to put Dr. Anagal in one of her own but Donaldson objects. After a heated exchange they agree to allow him to question her. Bantam slips into the room with them, the size of a flea.

At first she denies anything, but finally her college friend gets her to admit that she's been working with the supervillain Nebula. Just after the collider accident (see last issue), Nebula had approached her one night at the ruined lab. He kidnapped her twin sons and forced her to help him rebuild the collider into a portal. Over the next two weeks his hired crew rebuilt the lab and he began testing his theories. Her children are at the lab in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, Ernest reports that their computer's been hacked. He doesn't know what data was taken, but it could be anything. Or everything.

Issue 34 - Jurassic Quark

The team returns from Chicago (see last issue) with three villains in tow: Bobby Lucese, his right-hand man Carmine Infantino, and one of the Brotherhood of Senghala, Kasun Samaraweera. They’re tossed into holding cells. Also in their possession is one of the weird energy pistols that Marcone’s men were using. Baron Mind hands it over to Ernest, who takes it down to his workshop to dissect it.

Over the next few days, everyone enjoys his or her civilian life. Well, mostly…

Lani works late all week, tracing a wiring problem in her latest engine prototype. On one of those evenings she hears a racket in the lab down the hall, which formerly belonged to Mark Taylor, who’d been working on the Top Secret SENTINEL program until it was recently shut down (see back issues).

She quitely slips down the hallway and sees the door, usually locked, is ajar. As she eases the door open she sees the back of a hooded figure, using a flashlight and rifling through the drawers of a filing cabinet.

She casually flicks on the lights. The figure turns quickly, yelps in surprise, and heaves the flashlight toward the door. It splashes into and through Lani’s liquid body to clatter across the hallway floor.

Mark Taylor doffs his hood, saying, “Lani! You scared me to death!”

“Mark, why are you sneaking around in the dark?”

“They transferred me to another building, working on somebody else’s project. They wouldn’t let me back in here, even after the federal goons took everything. I had some hand-written notes in here, I didn’t have a chance to enter them into my database. I was hoping against hope that somehow the feds had missed them, but I guess not…”

Dejected, Mark retrieves his flashlight and slowly heads toward the exit. “Sorry to disturb you, Lani.”


Darlene receives a check-in call from the firm’s PI, Hugh O’Donohugh. She has him tracking the Wellington Special Needs Center (see back issues). He’s currently in Kansas City, having tracked the owner of Wellington’s listed address (which turned out to be a parking lot), Bell Realty. He says the Realty offices are open by appointment only, and the building has some top-notch security. He plans to pose as a real estate investor, but he needs more cash to work with. He also reports that someone might be following him, so he thinks he’s on to something.

O’Donohugh then calls Sid, asking for more time to find answers to Graviton’s disappearance. He says he’s going to look into the background of Grav’s brother, the villain known as Magnus, as soon as Hugh is finished in KC.

The next day, Darlene is called into an impromptu meeting with her fellow partners. There she finds a contingent of suits, all wearing American flag lapel pins. One steps forward and shakes her hand. The senior partner introduces him as AUSA Benito Martinez, newly-assigned to the Southern District of Indiana which is headquarted in Indianapolis.

“Your reputation precedes you, Ms. Weiss,” Martinez says.

“I believe in my job, AUSA Martinez, and I do it well.”

“I always enjoy a challenge. Of course these ‘paranormals’ deserve the same legal protection as anyone else, but I can tell you that I take particular satisfaction in locking them up. They’re dangerous, and the people who fight them, such as the Guardians, aren’t much better.”

“I’m looking forward to the challenge as well.”


Baron Mind returns from Seattle (see back issues). He flies commercially to Indianapolis, during which he finds it impossible to sleep thanks to a squawling infant. The thought drifts into his head that it would be quite easy to make the little monster’s head explode.

Exhausted, he’s picked up at the airport by T.F. Washington in the team helicopter. As they head across the city back to HQ, the hum of the rotors lull him to sleep in just a few minutes.

He dreams of the team’s trek to Sri Lanka, to face Sophia Beaulieau, aka the Mistress of Gaea (see back issues). As they approached the island nation a missile exploded next to their borrowed C-jet, but instead of blowing it apart, the plane was disassembled in mid-air, the parts all separating themselves in mid-air before everything plummeted. In the dream he begins to fall…

He awakes suddenly, immediately aware of a wind on his face that wasn’t there before. Looking around he sees himself and T.F., still in their seats, floating two thousand feet about the East side. The helicopter’s parts float around them, perfectly separated from each other, motionless. T.F.’s eyes are rolled up in his head.

Baron then realizes that his own telekinesis is what’s holding everthing in place. And with that realization, everything begins to shudder and drop. He tries to at least hold everything together, to no avail, there are just too many parts. He and T.F. also begin to plummet, so he changes his focus to keeping their seats aloft. Metal parts, wires, and hydraulic fluid rain around them as Baron flies them both to the ground. On the way down he manages to spot the ‘black box’ and grabs it.

Once again on terra firma, T.F. wakes from his trance, and stares at the remains of his chopper on the ground around them. “What the hell happened to my bird?”

Baron holds up the black box. “I saved this part.”


Alyssia and Reggie have a date night. They see “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” downtown at the Circle Center Mall. Arm in arm walking back to Reggie’s truck, they pass an alley. Suddenly a figure darts out and grabs Reggie’s arm, at the same time sticking a gun to his temple. “All your money, right now! Wallet, jewelry, car keys!”

Reggie, between Alyssia and the assailant, gulps. Alyssia easily wrests her boyfriend from the mugger’s grip, sending Reggie sprawling onto the sidewalk behind her. Beyond the mugger she sees two more dark-clad figures further down the alley, both pointing guns.

In one smooth motion she grabs the mugger with both hands, lifts him above her head, and flings him at one of the other two. He manages to twist out of the way, and the human missile slams into the side of a dumpster. Several loud snaps followed by a brief shriek of pain are heard, then silence.

“Reggie,” Alyssia says over her shoulder, “leave.” Then she strides into the alley. The two remaining muggers, still pointing guns at her, hesitate, glancing at each other, confused.

She moves on one of them, grabbing for his gun with the intent of crushing it around his hand. Instead he twists it away, so that it ends up pointing at her forehead at point-blank range, and pulls the trigger.

The report echoes loudly in the alleyway, followed immediately by the ‘ping’ of a ricocheting bullet. Alyssia glares at the gunman, unharmed.

“Aw hell no, she’s bulletproof!” Both men turn and run the other way, quickly swallowed by shadows.

Alyssia kneels next to the unconscious attacker. He’s hurt badly, bleeding from the nose and mouth, with at least one compound fracture.

“Wow,” she hears behind her. Reggie is there, offering her a hand up. She stands and says, “Better call 9-1-1.” Then, under her breath, “I really hate bullies.”

“What, uh…what do I tell them, exactly? I mean, I can’t tell them the truth.”

Until that moment she hadn’t been certain if Reggie really knew that she was Fortress, or if his hinting around about it was just a little game he played. There was no doubt now.

“Tell them…we just came upon him, heard him groaning in the alley.” Reggie frowns, then nods.

After the ambulance arrives and the police take their statements, they drive home in an uncomfortable silence. Reggie finally speaks up. "When I wasn’t completely sure, when it was just a titillating idea, that I was dating a superhero…the thought excited me, I’ll admit it. I mean, I know that you’re a lot stronger than I am, and a lot tougher. That you could take on a whole gang of muggers and I would be lucky to survive one, and that sounds pretty cool.

“But to actually see it, to experience it? I don’t…I just don’t know how to think about it now.”

“I get it. It’s also changed how I think about it. You’re in danger now, Reggie.”

“Seems like being close to an indestructable woman is the safest place in the world.”

“No, because I’m a Guardian, and Guardians seem to attract trouble. Paranormal trouble. The fact that you know who I am means you can be used against me.”

They both sigh and ride in silence. Reggie drops her off at her house and gives her a peck goodbye. “Call me tomorrow?” she asks. After a second he says, “I’ve got a lot to process.”


Wednesday rolls back around and it’s weekly team meeting night at Guardians HQ. Baron finds a letter waiting for him from the Sri Lankan embassy. On state letterhead he’s notified of a hearing in three weeks in front of the State Department’s Cultural Advisement Committee to determine rightful ownership of the Mind Gem. Sir Lanka claims the gem is a cultural artifact that was illegally removed from the country decades ago, and they want it back.

At the team meeting, Ernest reports on the pistol the team brought back from Chicago, that Marcone’s men had been using. “I recognize parts of the design because they’re mine! Somebody appropriated my ideas for this thing, and I think I know who. Back in my Stronghold days I had some contact with Simon LeBaron, aka Obliterator. He’s the guy who double-crossed Maelstrom during the Tornado Incident.”

Team benefactor Arthur Donaldson arrives a few minutes into the meeting, with AUSA Martinez in tow. Introductions are made. Martinez updates the team on Bobby Lucese and Carmine Infanto; both were extradited to Chicago, transported by DHS. The Brotherhood of Senghala member they’d also brought back was freed thanks to diplomatic immunity.

Donaldson then asks a favor of Fortress. “I actually wanted the green kid but he’s not here. Look, I have a college pal who needs some heavy lifting done tonight. Anya…I mean, Dr. Anagal…is firing up a cyclotron down in Bloomington tonight. Big important experiment. They’ve had a crane conk out on on them and they need something heavy moved. T.F. can take you down there in the chopper, won’t take but an hour or so. Thanks!”

After Donaldson and the AUSA leave, Baron stands. “On a minor note, I have to appear before Congress or something. But I’m not going to. I’m going on the lamb.”

Shocked, everybody rushes to talk at once. Baron quiets them with an explanation. “This stone in my turban…I stole it. Apparently from somebody who first stole it from the Sri Lankan government, I don’t know. They’re claiming it’s a historical, culturally-significant artifact and they want it back.”

“I luv it, mate!” Bounder grins. “Who knew the Guardians was a thieve’s guild?”
“I…I can’t believe it,” Fortress gasps.
“I know. I was selfish in the past. I’m a different person now.”
“Screw it, let’s invade ’em!” Sid pipes up.

The Dark Witch’s eerie voice cuts throught the noise. “No. I know a good lawyer. I’ll talk to her about your case and have her get in touch.”

The meeting adjourns. Fortress meets T.F. on the helipad and the two take off for Bloomington.


The Indiana University Cyclotron is one of the smallest, and yet most powerful, in the country. It sits in its own building just north of Bloomington, surrounded by forest. Fortress meets Dr. Anagal there, who introduces her two assistants, Drs. Trevor Moore and Yao Liang. She explains that they’re attempting a new method to create a microscopic black hole in the lab.

“We had to make some last-minute adjustments to some of the equipment, but when we were moving it back into place our crane conked out on us. We’re on a very tight schedule here and my first thought was that Arthur knew someone who could help. Thank you so much for coming, you’re saving the entire project!”

They enter the main accelerator lab, a multi-storied room filled with massive pipes and wires and monitoring equipment. Thirty or so people in lab coats bustled about. A huge projector emerged from one wall and pointed to the center of the room. There, a platform stood about four feet high, in the center of which was a smaller pedestal stuck up another three feet.

It was the conical end of the projector that had to be lifted into place and then secured. “Then we’ll place a strip of berrylium on that pedestal and bombard it with high-energy particles. Hopefully our monitors will be able to pick up a microscopic black hole, and our energy field will be able to keep it from winking out of existence.”

Fortress hefts the projector into place, signs a few autographs, and departs.


Two nights later, Sid takes his girlfriend Vicky to dinner. “Sid, it feels so good to be open about our relationship! Dinner in public!”
“I’m just glad I’m not on parole anymore.”
“And since you’re not, I was thinking…I think we should take this to the next level.”
Sid actually says the word, “Gulp.”
“We should move in together.”
“There’s plenty of room at Guardians Headquarters! You’ll love it there, I sure do!”
“No, Sid, we need something to call our own. I don’t want to move into a frat house.”

As they eat, Sid continues to resist the idea of getting their own place, and Vicky’s eagerness slowly fades. On their way out of the restaurant both admit to feeling a bit woozy. Maybe that’s what causes Sid to finally concede that he’ll think about it. It’s certainly what causes both of them to pass out just after they get into his car.

Sid comes to lying on his side, on a cold cement floor. He feels his hands bound behind him. Vicky lays a few feet away, wrists and ankles wrapped in duct tape. He takes in as much of the room as he can, seeing a dangling light and a workbench against one wall.

A door opens somewhere behind him and someone stomp down stairs. “She didn’t tell you about me, did she?” A man moves into Sid’s field of vision, and he recognizes their waiter from the restaurant.

“D-Darin?” Vicky mumbles.

“In the flesh, baby! No thanks to you. Did you know,” he turns to Sid, "that

she’s the shittiest parole officer on Earth?"

“Because you’re just another stupid ex-con who can’t stay out of trouble!” Vicky

tries to sound angry; it comes out as a series of gasps.

“A guy can’t be expected to go without having a little fun, Officer McVicker! But

you had to rat me out!"

“A coke-fueled bender with hookers isn’t ‘a little fun’, Darin! I couldn’t just

overlook the drug test!"

Sid tries to buy some time until his head clears. "Say, do you have super-powers?

Control over duct tape or something?"

“Yeah, I control the duct tape, asshole.” Darin rips off another strip and smacks

it across Sid’s mouth. Feeling better, and taking advantage of Darin’s proximity,

Sid unleashes a cloud of knockout gas in his face. Darin coughs and stumbles

backwards, tripping over Vicky and slamming backwards onto the floor.

Sid crawls over to Vicky and revives her with a puff of smelling salts. She comes

to and they manage to extricate each other from the tape.

“Oh Sid! If you hadn’t been with me…this is just another sign that we should be

together always."

His Guardian’s signal device picks that moment to start beeping. "Sid, there’s

been an explosion in Bloomington," Fortress tells him. "We’re on our way to pick

you up in the chopper."

Vicky, still trembling and terrified, stares at him. "You can’t just leave me

here, after all of this!"

“Sorry, baby. Give the cops a call. Here are the car keys. I’ll call you!”


On their approach to the cyclotron building the team sees police cars surrounding it. Most of the building’s lights are out, but still a pale bluish glow coruscates from somewhere inside.

The team disembarks and approaches a group of police behind a barricade, where they also find Dr. Anagal, looking disheveled and upset. “Trevor and Yao are still in there!”

She explains that a power surge blew relays just as the charged stream of particles began impacting the berrylium. An explosion followed, and when she came to moments later she couldn’t believe here eyes. “A hole appeared, a portal, in mid-air! On the other side I saw these…creatures…like humanoid dinosaurs…I panicked, some of us who were still able ran outside. But they’re still in there, with those…things!”

The team decides to walk in the front door. Main power is out. They follow the doctor’s directions and descend three levels via the stairs, to the projector room. Everyone breaks out their IR goggles.

Taking the lead, Fortress carefully opens the stairwell door. It opens onto the main floor of the room. A catwalk rings the room a floor above her, another one a floor above that.

The center of the room is the source of the strange, flickering light: the portal Dr. Anagala described, floating in mid-air where the berrylium pedestal had been. On the other side they see a room that looks exactly like this one, but peering back at them are two sets of creatures: lab-coated figures with smooth greenish skin and elongated necks with reptilian faces; and another group that resembled the velociraptors from “Jurassic Park”, but these wore helmets and armor and weilded large rifles.

The soldier-saurs were forming into lines on the other side, and two-by-two, leaping through the portal. Surveying the rest of the room, the heroes see several groups of them already on this side, fanning out across the lab.

Fortress emerges about halfway from the door and sees one of the soldiers heading toward her. Baron believes his gem will allow him to communicate with them, so he steps out and says, “Greetings! Welcome to Earth!”

The soldier stops, and in mostly-understandable English says, “We thought you were all gone.”

The whole team moves into the room now, behind Baron. “Why are you armed?”

“It’s an invasion. Shut up and stand over there.”

“An invasion? We’re the Guardians, you idiot —” At that last word the soldier squawks and fires his rifle at Baron.

With lightning speed, Dark Witch leaps onto her broom and swings the bristled end around to swat the glowing white energy right back at the soldier-saur. The impact knocks a grunt out of him and he tumbles across the floor. “All units! Under attack!” He screeches.

Fortress immediately leaps to the center of the room, passing some incoming soldiers, landing at the foot of the humming portal. The small berrylium pedestal has been blown to bits; the dimensional hole floats where it once stood, atop the raised floor. She glances around for a second and then begins pummeling some of the large cables connected to the base, hoping that disrupting the power flow will close the portal.

Vapor causes much of the room to fill with gray smoke. At the same time, the felled soldier rolls to his side and flings a black orb toward the heroes. This time it’s Baron Mind, with his telekinesis, who swats the grenade back at the soldier. It hits the floor just behind him and erupts, spewing an oily, gooey substance. Again the soldier-saur yells, “Under attack!”

Torrent moves toward the center of the room, sucking up debris through the bottom of her feet. She moves a twisted metal bolt up through her body and into her arm. “Cease and desist!” she yells, then squirts the bolt out of her hand at a soldier. It strikes his armor like a bullet, knocking him onto the floor.

Dark Witch flies toward the portal, blasting the edge of it with her wand, to no apparent effect.

Having fogged the room, Vapor now targets another soldier with a burst of tear gas. “Gas! Gas!” it yelps before collapsing in a coughing fit.

Baron turns away from the entangled soldier, toward the portal. He projects an illusion at the center of it, making it waver and appear unstable. “The portal is closing!”

In response to this they all hear a transmission coming from each soldier’s receivers. “Form that beachhead and don’t let it go!”

Soldiers continue to leap through into the room. Fortress grabs one and throws it back. She watches it fly past the long-necked lab coats and more soldiers, and hit the far wall. There she sees one soldier wearing an officious look and a lot more medals than the rest of them.

A group of four soldier-saurs coordinate an attack on Dark Witch. Still, only one of them manage to hit her with a rifle blast, but that’s enough to hurt. She wobbles on her broom but stays aloft and in control.

Another group of four target Torrent. This time all four beams meet at her midsection. Water sprays from her body as she sails backwards and slams into the wall.

Baron with his Ego Blast and Vapor with his tear gas continue to pick off individual soldiers. Bounder enlarges a hand and swipes at an entire group of them, making them scatter.

Fortress throws caution to the wind and leaps through the portal. She sticks a superhero landing on the other side, slamming into the floor with such force she knocks all the dinos down.

Pointing at the General, she says, “Stop this now!”

Reptilian eyes look her up and down for a moment. To one of the dino-scientists he says, “How do we close this?”

“I don’t know, sir,” he replies. “We were just trying to create a miniature black hole! This was an accident.”

Meanwhile, a squad of soldiers turns on Vapor. Four more rifles fire, two beams hit him. That’s enough to drop him.

A few yards away Baron Mind is hit with a tar grenade, covering him in goo up to his chin. Another lone soldier fires a rifle at Bounder, who puffs up his chest and deflects the beam. “Shoot me, will ya?” he grunts, and slaps a giant hand down on his attacker.

“Fortress, I’m on my way!” Dark Witch yells, turning toward the portal. “No!” Fortress calls back. “I’ve got this!” So instead, the Witch points her wand and wraps a soldier in black magic.

On the other side, the General continues to stare at Fortress. “What manner of creature are you? Is everyone like you, over there?”

Trying to whisper, the scientist leans toward the General and says, “If I could dissect it we could learn a lot about these things.”

“No,” Fortress replies. “No dissecting. And no invasion. We’re going to say there, you’re going to stay here, and we’re going to close this portal.”

“Close the portal? But there’s so much to learn!” The scientist protests.

“You lie,” the General says. “I can’t trust an alien, not one with your power.”

Meanwhile— Torrent and Vapor have both recovered and are again picking off individual soldiers. Bounder is taking out three or four at a time. Dark Witch blasts the sticky prison from around Baron Mind, and he targets another soldier.

“Sir,” one of the remaining soldiers radios frantically, “we no longer have numerical superiority! The aliens are driving us back!”

Fortress says to the Guardians, “Hold!” The General glares for a second, assessing the situation. He finally utters a resigned, “Cesae fire.”

Everyone freezes in place.

“There is no reason we can’t have peace between our worlds,” Fortress says.

“No. There can be no peace,” replies the General. The Guardians and the soldiers brace to resume combat. "And that’s why this portal must be closed.

“Company, pull back!”

Fortress asks the heroes to help the injured soldiers back through the portal. They overhear two discussing how the Witch with her green skin and hairy mole is pretty good-looking, for an alien mammal.

Fortress brings in Dr. Anagala. “How do we shut this down?”

“Well, I…I think if we recreated the experiment, but recalibrated the particle charge in the stream…that might do it. But our containment chamber is gone, there’s no way to hold the berrylium in place.”

“I can help with that,” Baron replies with a smile. Using his TK to keep the target in place in the center of the portal, Dr. Anagala makes her adjustments and fires up the cyclotron. They watch the dinos watching them back as the particle stream starts. The portal flickers and wavers and then with a loud POP it implodes, and is gone.

The heroes help the wounded out of the bulding to waiting EMTs, promise a statement to the police, and bid Dr. Anagala goodbye.

As they climb back into the chopper for the ride back to Indy, Baron fingers the tar grenade in his pocket.

Issue 33 - Chicago FIRE!


After Lightning Bolt was abducted by Maelstrom and his Revengers (see Issue #32), the team agrees to meet the next evening to discuss what to do next.

Fortress is feeling terrible. Since she accidentally absorbed the boiling contents of two of her vials directly into her system (again, see last issue), she’s been feverish, nauseated, and generally weak. Since he’s the only one who knows her secret identity, Bantam gives her a ride home and helps her into the house, where she collapses in bed.

Back at HQ, Baron has a talk with Ernest. “Ernest, we have to upgrade our security. We can’t have people just waltzing in and breaking supervillains out.” [Vulcan and Microwave were both freed from custody last issue. — Ed.]

“Well sir, I’ve been trying to figure a way to defend against mental illusions projected directly into one’s brain. Funny thing, I’m coming up bupkis so far.”

Baron rubs his eyes. “Yes, of course, but we can at least tighten up access to the front door. Maybe a retinal scanner, tied to an alarm. So even if you’re mind controlled and let some villain in while we’re gone, we’ll be alerted. At least something slightly better than a deadbolt, yes?”

“Sure thing, I’ll get right on it.”

The next morning, Baron receives another call from Anthony Scarpelli. “You said you had some friends who could handle a certain flaming demon problem? Well, the matter has gained some urgency. Two more attacks last night, one at one of my joints, another at a warehouse on the docks.”

“Yes, we can be there this evening.”

“Good. Call me when you get close and I’ll tell you where we can meet.”

Kid Green spends much of the next day on the phone with his mother. Since her husband and her eldest son had both been taken to Stronghold, she’d been lonely and depressed.

As Lani gets to work the next day she sees workmen hauling out boxes of equipment and several computers. Her colleague from down the hall, Mark Taylor, stands outside of his lab door, dejected. “Mark, what’s going on?”
“Oh hi, Lani. They’re shutting down my project.”
“Funding was pulled. It was DARPA-sponsored robotics research, part of some program called SENTINEL. Something happened and the money has dried up. I’m finished.”
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know. Two years of work, gone!” Mark calms himself. “They haven’t decided if they’re going to reassign me or let me go.”
“You can work in my lab.”
“Oh sure, have you got robotic jet engines now? Want me to build a Transfomer?”
Lani just stares. “I’m sorry, Lani. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just…lost right now.”

A similar scene plays out at the biology labs at IUPUI. Dallas Damon arrives at his office to find an excited Felicity Hoffman, his sometime-lab parter. Hers was the experiment that went awry, causing Bantam to have to subdue a shambling mass of meat-eating flesh (see last issue…but you’ve already read that by now, haven’t you?) “Hi, Felicity. You’re in a good mood this morning.”
“Oh yes! You would think, with Dr. March screaming at me first thing about the destruction of two labs, that I’d be upset. But no!
“Dallas, you know how some of history’s greatest scientific breakthroughs have been due to accidents? Penicillin was discovered because Fleming didn’t clean his Petri dishes! I think something similar may have happened to me! My work with stimulating the growth of stem cells may have just taken a huge leap!
“Imagine, growing replacement organs, even limbs, in a matter of seconds!”
Dallas muses, “Sounds like you’re playing God.”
“What? I’m not growing clones, I’m saving lives! How many people die, every day, waiting for organ transplants? I think I can make those waiting lists obsolete! I can make rejection obsolete! It’s the dawn of a new medical age!”

Just then their department head, Dr. Keith March, bellows from the hallway. “HOFFMAN!” Felicity jumps. “Gotta go, Dallas. See you!”

After a night of vomiting and fitful sleep, Fortress spends the day in her basement lab, examining blood samples to try to figure out what’s going on. She sees her cells duplicating rapidly, but the resultant cells are different. A bit denser than normal, and more energetic.

Towards late afternoon she’s feeling a bit better, but when she attempts to draw another blood sample, the needle breaks against her skin. It was as if she had injected her serum, but she didn’t really feel the accompanying weight gain. When her serum was active she weighed around 12 tons.

She heads to HQ a bit ahead of the scheduled meeting time, so she can test herself in the team’s workout room. After beating on a practice dummy for a few minutes, the readings indicate her strength is about 40% of what it would be when she’s juiced.

Still a bit light-headed, she showers and then meets the rest of the team in the meeting room. “We need to go after Lightning Bolt.”

Bantam replies, “They teleported away from the Circle, there’s no way to tell where they went. We had tracked Doctor Liefeldt and Kid’s girlfriend ”/characters/amy-matsuzaka" class=“wiki-content-link”>Amy to a Wilmington Special Needs Center in Fort Wayne. So we can assume that’s Maelstrom’s front. But the address was a parking lot. "

[What the team doesn’t yet know is that Darlene “Dark Witch” Weiss has her investigator, Hugh O’Donohugh, still digging into it. — Ed.]

“Actually,” Baron says, “I think there’s a more pressing matter in Chicago. There’s this fiery demon-guy tearing up the city and killing people.”

“Yeah, I saw that on the news,” Kid Green snorts. “He’s hitting mob places. So what?”

“Well, there’s the killing people thing…”

“Yeah, killing mobsters. Big deal.”

Baron hesitates. “There’s also the matter of an amulet with a big glowing gem in it. I think that’s what gave this mob guy his demon powers. We’ve got to stop him and get that away from him.”

[Baron also suspects this gem is related to the Mind Gem that he wears, as he saw an inscription on the amulet in Sinhala script, the native language of Sri Lanka. — ED]

Eventually everyone decides to head to Chicago except Vapor and Bounder. “Did, um…did you say this gem was magic?” Bounder stammers. “Not a big fan of magic. A magic curse is how I ended up a big rubber ball. No thank you.”

It’s decided that Kid Green will head to Chicago under his own power (gargantuan leaps) with Bantam in his pocket. The rest – Baron, Fortress, and Torrent – will travel via the team helicopter. They summon their pilot, T.F. Washington, who preps the chopper, and soon they’re off.

On the way, Kid’s cell phone rings. It’s his mother. “Honey, I need your help right away!”
“What is it, Mom?”
“Well, the garbage disposal isn’t working. I need you to fix it.”
“I can’t, Mom, I’m busy.”
“But it’s full of salad and sausage, I can’t just leave it like this.”
“Mom, I’m on my way to Chicago.”
“Chicago! Oh no, Jake, it’s dangerous up there! It’s all over the news, the Mafia is at war!”
“Mom, I’ll be fine, I’m going up there with some friends. I’ll fix the disposal as soon as I get back.”
“But it’s full of food, it’s going to start to stink.”
“I’ll be back in a few hours, it won’t have time to stink.”

Baron calls Scarpelli as they near the city. “I’ll meet you at the airport helipad when you land.”

Sure enough, just as Kid lands and the Guardians chopper touches down, a sleek limosine pulls around a hangar and onto the tarmac. The team gathers outside the helicopter and watches one of the car’s rear windows roll down. “Jones,” says Scarpelli, indicating Baron Mind. “Get in.” He does.

“Good to see you, my friend,” the mob boss says. “If only the circumstances were more pleasant.” Scarpelli hands Baron a manila envelope. Inside is a list of addresses and several photos of a rather simple-looking middle-aged man.

“That’s ”/characters/bobby-lucese" class=“wiki-content-link”>Bobby Lucese. He’s the idiot causing all the trouble. I need you to find him and bring him to me. The addresses on that list are the joints he runs for Marcone. He’s always at one of them. I’ve sent my guys to stake ‘em out, they’ve even managed to corner him a couple of times. But each time, either he barely manages to get away or he transforms into some giant monster and wipes my guys out."

Baron recalled the name: that’s what the late Vinnie Pestano had called the flaming demon who took the amulet from him and then killed him.

“Call me when you got ‘im. I’m countin’ on you, Jones. There are also room keys in that envelope for suites at the Chicago Hilton, for you and your friends. In case this takes some time.”

Baron gets out and the limo pulls away. He relays the instructions to the team. “Hotel tickets!” Kid scoffs. “How long is this supposed to take? I’ve got a garbage disposal to fix!”

“Well, we have five places to check out. Two nightclubs, the Spybar and the Drumbar. Two strip clubs, The Blue Oyster and Vip’s Gentlemen’s Club, and a casino, The Lucky Horseshoe Club.” All of the addresses are on the near Northside, just blocks West of the Navy Pier. They decide to stay together and start at the casino.

“He wants us to bring Bobby back to him?” Bantam asks. “Yes,” Baron replies, “but we’re not going to. We’ll turn Bobby over to the police, and we’re taking the gem…I mean, the amulet…back with us.”


Arriving at the casino, the team enters the wide entrance as one. As they stop and grow accustomed to the flashing lights and the cacophony of bells and whoops, those gamblers near the entrance stop and turn their heads.

The Guardians make their way through the main concourse over to the bar, eliciting stares and cell phone pictures. “Hey, nice costumes!” the bartender says. “The talent usually comes in through the back, though. I didn’t know we were having impersonators tonight.”
“We’re looking for Bobby Lucese,” Baron tells the bartender.
“Who’s looking?”
“I’m Jack Jones. These are the Guardians.”
“Guys in Guardians costumes, okay. Still, if there’s some kind of problem with your contract, you’ll need to see the manager.”
“We aren’t impersonators and these aren’t costumes. These are the real Guardians. I need to talk to Bobby.”
The barkeep stares hard at each hero for a moment. “Sure thing, Jack. Just a sec.” He moves to the middle of the bar and picks up a phone.

Moments later a distinguished, white-haired gentleman approaches from the rear of the casino. “Paulie here tells me the Guardians are paying us a visit! I’m Tony Capullo, manager of the Lucky Horseshoe. Please, if you’ll accompany me to my office I’ll see what I can do for you.”

They follow him to a back office. Capullo moves behind his desk, offering seating to the team. Kid stands, of course. When Fortress goes to sit down she miscalculates and smashes right through the chair. Embarrassed, she says, “I’ll just stand right here.”

Baron gets right to the point. “We’re looking for Bobby Lucese.”

“Bobby? Well, he does stop by every now and then. Can’t say that I know where he is, but I’d be happy to get a message to him. In the meantime, why don’t you all enjoy some gaming, eh? On the house!”

Baron declines, thanks Capullo for his hospitality, and they leave. On the way out, Fortress notices out of the corner of her eye three men seated at the end of the bar. Rather dark-skinned, their features are somewhat Asian, and somewhat familiar, although she can’t quite place them. All three stare at the team as they walk toward the entrance. One of them appears to speak into his cuff.

She mentions this to Baron. “Looks like the Brotherhood is after the amulet too.”

“One joint down, four to go,” says Bantam. “You know, of course, that he’s going to be at the Blue Oyster.” “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of,” Baron sighs. “May as well get this over with.”


The bouncer greets them cheerfully, if loudly, just inside the front door, shouting over the pulsing electronic dance music. “Oh, girls, the costume contest was last week. Too bad, too, you’d have swept it! Let’s see those IDs!”

Kid says to Baron under his breath, “Um, I’m under-age.”

Baron produces an Indiana State Private Security card. “We’re the Guardians. We’re looking for Bobby Lucese.”
“Is there some kind of trouble?”
“No, we just need to talk to him.”

Baron stands perfectly still and closes his eyes. Tapping into the power of the Mind Gem, he spins time backwards in his mind’s eye. The following is what he sees, in its proper chronological order:
About 20 minutes ago, Bobby was here with two other men. He was wearing the amulet. He answered a phone call. Because of the lack of an audio component to these visions, he put to use his lipreading ability. Bobby was panicked about something, cursed Scarpelli, and said, “we have to get this thing back to Vip’s.”

Unfortunately, it takes Baron several long minutes to gather this info. “I know where he is, but we need to hurry,” he says, heading for the door. As they’re leaving, Fortress again sees three swarthy-looking men in suits sitting at the bar, staring at them. She peels away from the group and walks straight up to them. All three stand in unison as she approaches.

“Hi fellas, is there something I can help you with?” They glare at her for a second, and then they turn and walk away in different directions, fading into the crowd. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”


Dance music hits the groups as they step into the front doors of Vip’s. A lone bouncer sits in a small booth by the door. As the team approaches they see the bouncer’s eyes go wide. Just then, his desk phone rings. Before he can pick it up, Baron uses his telekinesis to hold the headpiece in its cradle. The bouncer struggles to lift the phone, staring back and forth from it to the heroes.

“Is Bobby here?” Baron asks. The bouncer stammers. “Uh, well, um…let me go check.” He moves out from behind the booth and walks into the club. After a few steps, he glances over his shoulder, then breaks into a run and disappears around a corner.

Hesitating only a second, Kid Green acts. He barrels past the guard booth, through the coat check room, and smashes through the opposite wall. He finds himself in a small corridor. To his right he sees the bouncer dashing around the corner, heading straight for him. The guy comically slides to a stop and stares.

To Kid’s left, the corridor ends in a door with an EXIT sign above it. Two restroom doors stand on the right side of the corridor, on the left is a single door, flanked by two beefy gentlemen in expensive suits.

The team follows Kid. Baron tosses a few coins on the counter of the coat check room as they go by, apologizing to the startled girl watching them go by.

Kid heads down the corridor toward the two guards. Seeing him coming, they both swallow hard and draw Glocks from their holsters. “You don’t really expect those peashooters to stop me, do you? Just get out of the way so I don’t have to hurt you.”

While Kid talks, Baron spies a security camera at the end of the hallway. Again using his TK, he carefully unplugs it.

Fortress, apparently at the end of her patience, steps between Kid and the guards. Without saying a word, she reaches out and grabs both of them by the junk. Unfortunately for them, her powers are still in flux; she squeezes much harder than she intends. Both men scream like girls; one collapses against the wall and slides straight down, the other jumps back and fires his weapon wildly into the ceiling.

With the guards out of the way, she opens the door. Inside is a small office. Three men stand in front of a desk, watching a fourth straightening from a crouch in front of an open safe.

“Bobby!” Baron says. “We’ve been looking for you!”

Bobby Lucese turns to face the heroes in the doorway. The amulet hangs around his neck, its yellow jewel gleaming despite the meager light. “Carmine, take this somewhere safe.” Bobby takes the amulet off and hands it to one of the other men, who puts it on.

Baron steps into the room. “Bobby, we just need to talk.”
“I’ve had enough talk! That’s all Marcone wanted to do, talk.” Bobby spits on the floor.
“Marcone? Your boss?”
“Yeah. When my beautiful Katherine was killed by Scarpelli’s goons during a botched hit, I begged Don Marcone for revenge. Revenge that was rightfully mine! But he refused. Insisted that he would get compensation from Scarpelli by talking to him. Bah! So I decided to do it by myself. I found these Sri Lanka guys, they guaranteed me enough power to rule Chicago, if I would get Vinnie’s lucky necklace for ’em.”

Bobby draws a deep breath, and the air around him seems to shimmer. Instantly he bursts into flames and grows about two feet. Horns sprout from his forehead, his clothes burn away, and his legs twist into those of a goat. Standing before the Guardians now is a flaming horned demon. A huge scimitar sprouts from one hand, made entirely of flame.

“Well, I got their necklace, and now I get why they want it! It’s got power too! Too bad for them, I ain’t givin’ it back. I killed ‘em all last night at their warehouse on the docks. And now I guess I’m gonna have to kill you too.”

To the team, Baron says, “We can’t let him keep that gem.” Still in the hallway, Torrent prepares for the impending fight by sucking up into her watery body large chunks of debris left by Kid Green’s impromptu demolition of the wall. Bantam shrinks to his smallest size and sneaks through the doorway into the office, then uses his static cling to clamber up the wall to the ceiling.

“Boys,” Bobby says, “we’re gonna need those special toys.” While Carmine and Bobby watch, the other two men draw weird-looking pistols that appear to have multiple barrels. They both fire at the biggest target in the doorway, which is Kid Green. Greenish bolts of energy shoot out. One misses and punches a small hole in the wall, while the other strikes Kid square in the chest. He feels it.

In response, Kid whips a stalk into the room and grabs the gunman who hit him. Picking him up he swings him at the other gunman but misses; the guy is slammed through the wall and into the adjoining coat check room. The girl starts screaming as coats fly everywhere.

On the wall, Bantam fires a Bantam Bolt toward Carmine. At the same time, one of the two chains holding the light fixture above Bobby’s desk gives way. The light swings down and is destroyed as it intercepts Bantam’s attack.

Baron tries to infiltrate Bobby’s mind and do damage directly into his brain, but he finds weird mental ‘interference’ that proves somewhat difficult to get through.

Fortress zips up to Carmine and grabs at him. He twists at just the right second and she ends up with a fistful of torn necktie.

Bobby growls to Carmine, “Go!” Carmine obeys, scooting through the new hole in the wall and into the coat check room. Bantam chases him with another blast of electricity, but this time a hunk of loose plaster around the hole in the wall breaks away, and again his attack is thwarted by happenstance.

In the hallway, Torrent sees Carmine emerging from the coat check room. She spits one of her debris chunks at him. Her aim is typically precise, but this time just as it’s about to hit him, he trips over a coat. The shot sails right over his head.

Thinking a more personal approach might work better, Torrent runs and flings herself at Carmine, intending to wrap her arms and legs around him. Instead she ends up on the floor, wrapped around his jacket, as he continues to head for the front door. As she tosses the jacket aside, she sees the fleeing mobster stop in his tracks. In front of him are standing four members of the Brotherhood of Senhala, those “Indian”-looking men they’ve been seeing all evening.

“The Gem does not belong to you,” the apparent leader says. The other three pull blowdart tubes from their jacket pockets. One puffs a dart toward Carmine but it glances off the amulet (Torrent notices the end the dart seems to be faintly glowing). The other draws in a breath to shoot Carmine and accidentally inhales his dart. He stumbles backwards, choking.

Inside the office, Bobby roars. He casually swats the desk out of the way and swings his flaming sword at the closest Guardian, Fortress. She ducks it. From the doorway, Kid performs his famous Whiplash maneuver: a stalk shoots out at Bobby, grabs him, and pulls him hard toward Kid Green, who greets him with a punch. The demon is knocked flying back through the office and through the far wall, landing in a heap in the bouncer’s booth.

Bobby hauls himself to his feet and stomps like a bull. “Yer gonna pay for that!” Fire and thick black smoke belch from his nostrils and he gallops across the office. Kid sets himself; thick roots burst through his boots and plunge into the concrete floor. When Bobby slams into him at full firey-demon speed, it’s like hitting a brick wall. A shock wave rocks everyone and everything in the room.

Bantam takes the opportunity and throws a deadly electrical charge coursing over Bobby’s body, who bellows with pain and rage.

Baron, still in the office, is interested only in the Gem. He can see out into the club through the hole in the wall, where Carmine is facing down the Brotherhood. An idea comes to him. Baron mimics Bobby’s demonic growl and shouts, “Dammit, Carmine, give the jewel to Jack Jones!”

Hearing this, Carmine is even more confused. “To Jones? B-but Bobby, you said…you said to get it outta here!”

Bantam zips down the wall and through the hole. He throws an electric cage around Carmine in case he starts running again.

Torrent shoots another bit of debris and stuns one of the Brotherhood, while Forterss bearhugs another. The one remaining Sri Lankan yells into his cufflinks, “Converge on Vip’s! Converge on Vip’s!” Torrent quickly runs between Fortress and the electric cage to get a better shot at him. She sends another chunk of wall at him, sending him sprawling into a table. But, as she’s getting into position, her watery leg brushes the cage and shorts it out. The sparking energy dome that was around Carmine dissipates.

Baron again, in Bobby’s demonic growl: “Carmine! Give Jones that gem now!” Baron then steps from the office into the foyer, walking up to Carmine with his hands extended. Carmine is still confused, but crazy people are shooting darts and lightning and bits of plaster at him and he’s had enough. “S-sure, Bobby, sure! Here!” He removes the amulet and hands it to Baron. Then he beats feet past the main stage into the interior of the club.

Baron, clutching the amulet in one hand, darts behind the bouncer’s desk. He removes the DVD from what he assumes is the security system. He also sees one of the weird multi-barreled pistols and takes it.

“No!” cries the man in Fortress’ grasp. “We must have that Gem for the ”/characters/mistress-of-gaia" class=“wiki-content-link”>Mistress!"

Inside what’s left of the office, Bobby and Kid are now face to face. The flaming sword slices right through Kid, searing his midsection. Bantam turns and sends a jolt of electricity through his wounded area to stimulate healing. Kid punches back at Bobby who leans out of the way.

Torrent re-enters the office and sprints toward Bobby. She tries to grab him and her hand starts steaming due to the heat.

The demon tries to grab Kid by the throat but the hero blocks it. Bantam hits Bobby with a blast, which enrages him even more. He turns his head and breathes a sheet of fire at Bantam. Too small to get out of the way, the tiny hero is stunned by the flames. He drops to the floor and regains full size.

Kid swipes at Bobby but misses. Torrent leaps onto his fiery body from behind. Now she’s steaming like crazy. The mobster shrugs her off, then swings a fist at Kid, who dodges it.

In the front of the club, Baron now goes to the front door and locks it. Outside, he sees two cars screeching to a halt, one at either end of the parking lot. A few feet away, one of the Brotherhood who’d been previously knocked out gets back up and takes aim at Fortress with a blowgun. She quickly lifts the one she’s been holding and throws him. Both go flying back against the wall and land in a heap.

Torrent gives up on trying to bearhug a flaming monster and dashes out of the office, to the front of the club. She moves next to Baron, who’s gazing out the front door. In the parking lot, from one car emerge more Sri Lankans. From the other spring four men in suits, presumably either Scarpelli’s men or Marcone’s. She takes advantage of her watery body and oozes through the crack between the locked doors, reforming just outside.

The one Sri Lankan still standing steps toward Baron. “We must have that gem! It does not belong to you!”
“But it belongs to you?”
“It belongs to The Mistress. You know this. So does yours.” He indicates the red jewel in Baron’s turban.
Baron drops him with a mental attack.

Fortress looks around and notices the member of the Brotherhood who’d swallowed his dart. He’s lying on the edge of the stage, a stripper bending over him. Fortress turns him over; he’s not breathing. She sees the glowing tip of the dart lodged in his throat. After pulling it out, she begins to perform CPR. In a few seconds he sputters back to life.

Back in the office, Bantam regains his wits and shrinks again. He slams Bobby with another burst of electricity, just as Baron Mind, glancing into the office from the front door, hits Bobby again with a mental blast. This time the psychic attack punches through the demonic resistance and the demon rears back its horned head and bellows fire into the ceiling. Kid then drops and sweeps his leg at Bobby’s, dropping him to the ground with a thud.

“Get away from him!” Kid hears. He turns and looks down the hallway. Carmine stands there, next to the bouncer who’s still gaping. He’s got one of the “special toys” in his shaking hands. It jumps as he pulls the trigger and green energy fires out. The bolt hits Kid with a tremendous impact, sending him flying down the corridor and smashing through the door at the end. He ends up lying on his back on the sidewalk outside.

Bantam zips into the hallway and shoots at Carmine. Electricity dances around his body as he convulses with pain, but he remains standing.

Bobby gets to his feet and stomps into the hall, going after Kid. “I’m gonna burn you!” Kid, still on his back, stretches an arm above his head. A stalk whips out, grabs one of the parked cars only a few feet away, and sends it flying head-on into the flaming villain. Bobby raises his sword of fire to deflect it, but he’s too late: he’s hit in the grill with a grill. The impact is deafening: crunching metal and smashing glass resound off the corridor walls. Bobby is sent careening back down the hallway, so far that he slams into Carmine and they both smash through an interior wall, into the main room. They land in the center of a table, which smashes into firey bits. Club patrons and lap dancers go tumbling.

The demon struggles to his feet and lumbers toward the front door, swatting more normals out of the way as he goes. Bantam dashes down the hallway and examines Carmine’s gun. He sees a numbered dial on one side with four settings. He grows, picks up the gun, and fires across the room at Bobby’s back. The green bolt hits him between the shoulder blades. His flaming body goes into a tumble and blows through the wall next to the front door.

“So much for locking the door,” Baron muses.

Torrent now stands just outside the front door. Bobby lies amidst a pile of rubble a few feet away, in the handicapped parking spot. A few yards from the door, two young men had been heading to the club for a night of debauchery, but they now stand in shock at the scene before them. “You two,” Torrent says, “need to turn around and get out of here. Now.” They do.

Bobby heaves himself to his feet, a bit more slowly than the last time. One of the mobsters now standing next to their car yells, “There he is!” They all open fire with handguns. The bullets hit Bobby but dissipate instantly in puffs of superheated gas. He bellows again and starts to head toward them. Baron instead hits him with one more ego attack. This one goes deep into the brain of the possessed mobster. He stiffens and is perfectly still for a second. Then the flames swirl madly, obscuring his body. With a ‘whoosh’ they flare up and vanish, leaving a smoking, naked, very human Bobby Lucese. He collapses to the ground like a marionette suddenly without strings.

Two of the newly-arrived Sri Lankans sprint toward the front door, the other two head toward the side door, where Kid Green still lies.

Fortress heads outside and kneels beside Bobby, to make sure he’s still breathing. “Get away from him, lady,” one of the mobsters says. Their guns are still drawn. “We’ve got this under control.” Bantam runs over beside her and throws up a electric cage around the three of them.

Kid Green gets up and leaps over to do a very impressive Superhero Landing behind the two Brotherhood who were running toward the front door. They stop and turn around in awe. “Get lost.” They slooooowly back away, meeting the other two back at their car.

Kid then leaps across the parking lot and executes another Superhero Landing in front of the mobsters’ car. “Leave.”
“We ain’t leavin’ widout Bobby.”
“You have to the count of ten to be gone.”
They glance at each other and before the word “One” is out of Kid’s mouth, they’re climbing back into their sedan.

Still inside, Baron slips the amulet into his shirt. It seems to glow and grow warm against his skin. He feels light-headed, almost giddy, for a second. At complete peace with the universe. The euphoria is short-lived, but it leaves behind a certainty: the gem in this amulet is the Karma Gem, one of the four Universal Jewels. [Of which his own Mind Gem is also one — see the “Items” section for more info — Ed.]

He’s jolted from his reverie by the patrons and dancers, who are all heading toward the exits in somewhat of a scramble. He unlocks the front door and steps outside, out of their way.

He can hear sirens in the distance as he watches the mobsters and the Brotherhood drive away. As the rest of the team restrains Bobby, Carmine, and the Sri Lankan who appeared to be in charge, Baron calls Scarpelli. “We’ve dealt with Bobby.”
“Jones, that’s wonderful. Really great news. Now, you need to take him to —”
“I won’t be able to hand him over to you.”
“Excuse me? Why not?”
“This whole thing is too high-profile. The Guardians just battled a demon in the middle of a strip club in downtown Chicago. There’s nothing I can do.”
Baron can hear Scarpelli breathing for a moment. "I’m disappointed, Jones. Very disappointed.
“Listen, did he…did he have anything…unusual in his possession?”
“Nothing at all?”
“Nothing at all.”
Again Scarpelli is silent. Then, “I’ll be in touch.”

What’s Baron going to do with the Karma Gem? What are the Guardians going to do with two Chicago mobsters? What’s that crazy pistol those guys were using? Those questions and more will be answered next issue!

Issue 32 - The Revengers
This time it's personal


The team is home from Seattle, the first leg of their promotional tour for the upcoming Fox reality show (see last issue). Over the next few days they escort the captured paranormals to Stronghold (successfully this time…for a list of the bad guys, go here).

Ernest informs them that they’ve received VIP invitations to attend a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Maelstrom Tornado. Years ago, the arch-villain Maelstrom had obtained a device to enhance his powers a thousand-fold. He created a mile-wide F5 tornado in south-central Indiana and marched it toward Indianapolis, demanding to be made King of Indiana. As far as the public knew, the Guardians defeated the insane villain Maelstrom and his team Death’s Hand, thus limiting the death toll to just over 3000. In reality, the villains fought the Guardians to a standstill until the creator of the amplification device, Simon LeBaron, arrived and detonated a self-destruct bomb he’d built into it.

The ceremony will be an unveiling of a monument to those who lost their lives, on Monument Circle in downtown Indy. Several state dignitaries will attend, and Lightning Bolt, as the only remaining team member who was there that day, is asked to say a few words.

Joe Bob “Alpha” DeWitt, escaping charges thanks to his FBI informant status, expresses his concerns about the mysterious figure known as Black Lung, whom Joe Bob claims is the spirit of his long-dead uncle. He says Black Lung needs to periodically return to the abandoned mine in which he was killed 30 years ago, or he’ll wither and eventually die.

Darlene receives a report from one of her firm’s PIs, Hugh McDonohugh, who has been on the trail of the missing Dr. Liefeldt. He’d previously tracked him to a Fort Wayne firm, Wilmington Special Needs Center. The address on their single-page website was a parking lot. Darlene tells Hugh to dig into the organization, particularly its funding.

Kid Green has his hands full consoling his mother, who in the past few weeks has learned that the son she thought she’d lost was still alive, and that her husband had been lying to her about it for years (see Issue 25). He manages to get away to visit the comatose Amy in the hospital, only to find she’s been transferred out.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the desk nurse says, “privacy laws prevent me from saying anything else.”
“Do privacy laws prevent you from being squished?”
Shaken by the hero’s unhero-like behavior, the nurse eventually reveals that Amy was signed out by a woman claiming to be her mother, May. The paperwork indicated that she was taken to the Wilmington Special Needs Center in Fort Wayne.

Sid, pining for his friend and mentor, calls Hugh McDonohugh and hires him to track down Graviton, who left with his brother Magnus when the team had been captured by General Stone (see Issue 28).

Baron Mind catches up on his fan mail and rehearses for some upcoming stage shows. One email in particular catches his eye, it’s from a young man who loves magic and is seeking an apprenticeship. The boy is backstage at Baron’s next show, introducing himself as Eric Hanson. He shows Baron some of the tricks he knows and begs to be an apprentice. It’s clear that he has some talent. Baron agrees to teach the 16-year-old what he knows.

Baron also receives a call from Anthony Scarpelli. After using his retrocognition to discover who killed the manager of a Scarpelli-connected nightclub, Baron had learned that the culprit was named Bobby Lucese. Bobby had somehow been transformed into a flaming horned demon, attacked the club, and made off with a glowing yellow amulet. Baron instinctively knew that the gem in that amulet was related to the one in his turban, to the group of stones sought by the Mistress of Gaia (see Issue 17 and Issue 29).

“So,” Scarpelli began, “I know you claim your magic isn’t real, but do you happen to know anybody who might be able to deal with a flaming-headed-demon kind of problem?”
“Yes, I think I do.” To himself, Baron mused, “That’s my new sidekick’s gem.”

Dallas is settling back into his lab at the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine on the campus of IUPUI. He hears glass breaking and screams from down the hall, from the direction of the animal labs. He pokes his head out the door and sees a shambling, quivering, misshapen mass of pink blubber emerging from a laboratory door. It leaves a wet trail as it crosses the hall and enters another animal lab. More screams.

From the first lab, Dallas’ frequent research partner Felicity Hoffman comes running. “What is that thing?” Dallas asks. “My experiment,” Felicity pants. “I’ve been working on spurring the growth of stem cells. Something…something went wrong…”

“No kidding. What exactly is it made of?” “Just…just stem cells. Mice.” Dallas hesitates only for a second before heading back into his lab. “I’m going to call the authorities!”

Instead, he dashes behind his desk and shrinks out of his clothes (fortunately, he’s taken to wearing his Bantam costume full-time). He runs back down the hallway and into the animal lab. As he dashes up a wall he sees the Blob, jerkily moving toward a lab tech who is cowering in a far corner. Bantam fires electricity toward the beast, aligning the electrons so that a sparking wall of force forms between it and the tech. The Blob moves against it and momentarily stops; that’s when the Guardian erects an electric cage around it.

“Look,” someone from the hallway cries, “it’s Ant-Man!”

“I’m not Ant-Man!” Bantam says as more electricity arcs from his hands. The bolt strikes the creature. It shudders and then is still.

He hears Felicity from the hallway. “Dallas? Where’s Dallas?”

Knowing he has only seconds to preserve his secret identity, Bantam spies a wall outlet. He shrinks even further and leaps into it, riding the electrical current back to his office, emerging from a socket there. He pulls his clothes on and is straightening his tie when Felicity walks through the door. “Dallas! You should’ve seen it! Bantam, of the Guardians, was here! He stopped the thing!”

The day arrives for the unveiling ceremony. The Circle has been blocked off, and two hundred chairs have been arranged on the South side of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Seated to either side of the shrouded sculpture are the Governor, the Mayor, and assorted state and city government officials. Seated on the stage, to either side of the dignitaries, are the Guardians: Lightning Bolt, Fortress, Kid Green, Baron Mind, Bantam, Vapor, and the newest member, Torrent. Dark Witch and Bounder couldn’t make it; Darlene is arguing a case in court, and Elton has a meeting with his parole officer.

The emcee for the event, Channel 6’s Kevin Gregory, introduces the dignitaries to the lunchtime crowd. "Today we honor the memory of those 3114 people who perished all those years ago today, innocent victims of an insane supervillain. Today we also honor those fearless heroes, The Guardians, who put their lives on the line that day against a mad monster.
“We’ll hear from some of Indiana’s Finest in a moment, but first please join me in a moment of silence.”

Next, Governor Mike Pence takes the dais to speak. After him, Mayor Joe Hogsett says a few words. Both praise the Guardians. And then, Lightning Bolt is introduced.

The hero takes the posium. He speaks of being grateful for having stopped Maelstrom and his villain team. He then mocks the bad guy. “All of this needless death, because he wanted to be king! Of one state! ‘Oooh, make me king of Indiana!’ He was insane! And if he showed up here today, we’d stop him again!”

The crowd applauds and cheers as LB retakes his seat. Emcee Gregory then introduces the dancers of the Indiana Repertory Theater. “Please enjoy this special dramatization of that fateful battle, through interpretive dance!”

Costumed dancers emerge from the edges of the crowd. They are dressed as Maelstrom and his Death’s Hand: the demonic Devilar, the albino Halo, the four-armed Tick, the armored Whirlybird (now known as Chopper), and the powerful psionic, Brain (later called PsiLord). They begin to dance as large wind machines, standing on either side of the stage, are cranked up, and dry ice generators waft a low-lying fog over the ground.

Then more dancers appear, these dressed as the members of the Guardians at the time. There is Lightning Bolt; the brutish Monstro; tech expert Thermo; Spider-Man (now calling himself Black Spider) and the late martial artist, Black Panther.

As the dancers engage in mock fisticuffs (and mock flying and mock energy-blasting), dark clouds begin to develop directly overhead. The rumble of thunder can be heard. The dry ice fog seems to thicken and rise, from ankle-height to waist-high in a second. Ever on the alert, Fortress stands and shouts, “Everyone get inside, now!” She quickly grabs one of her four vials of serum and injects herself.

Appearing in individual flashes of light around the stage area are: the speedster who nearly killed Fortress, Friction; Vapor’s murderous ex-wife, Stiletto; the demon-possessed former partner of Baron Mind, Miscountess, who just days ago was delivered in custody to Stronghold; the lightning-goddess-worshipping Conductor; Lightning Bolt’s former lover/sidekick, Blue Streak; Kid Green’s girlfriend Amy, as her costumed alter-ego Scarlet; the four-armed, slow-witted pawn of Maelstrom, Tick; an unknown figure in a black-and-yellow costume; and the mad supervillain himself, Maelstrom. Each has soft blue crackles of energy dancing over their bodies.

Lightning Bolt stands, clutching his shield. “Martin.”

Maelstrom sneers. “Arthur. How rude to commemorate an historic day, yet fail to invite the man who made it so.” He gestures to the sky with his remaining good hand (the other having been destroyed when the tornado device was blown up) and a lightning bolt tears from the cloud and strikes LB. The explosion sends the spectators in his immediate vicinity flying and chairs toppling.

“What do you call this new team, Martin? Death Fist? Stormfinger?”

“No, I think you’ll agree that a much more appropriate name is…The Revengers!”

Blue Streak zips over to LB. “Hi, Shannon. I assume —” She savagely kicks him. “Yeah, that’s what I assumed.”

“You abandoned me! Treated me like shit for over a year, ignored me while I ran your business practically by myself! And then when I’m beaten within an inch of my life, where were you? Where was the hero? This is my payback, Artie!”

The dignitaries are still on the stage, staring in mute shock. Fortress steps over and picks up the podium. Hefting it above her head as a weapon, she leaps toward Stiletto. The villain, in noticeably better armor than the last time she faced the Guardians, produces a sword blade of pure energy from her right gauntlet. She swings and slices the podium in half cleanly as Fortress brings it down toward her head.

The ominous clouds overhead begin to spit rain.

Kid Green moves down the steps, toward Scarlet. “Amy! Thank God you’re alive!”

A glowing red bubble of energy grows around her and she rises into the air. “But my father’s not alive, is he, Jake? He’s dead! Dead because of you!”

Tick, standing a few feet away from the stage, is intent on Fortress. Baron Mind hits him with a Mental Illusion, causing him to think Conductor looks like Fortress. The large man furrows his brow, turning his confused gaze from the real Fortress to Conductor, and back. “Daddy? Tick see two Fortsesses. Tick confused…”

Vapor focuses on the unknown villain, the one in black and yellow. He explodes a puff of knockout gas in his face, to no apparent effect. Sid postulates that the bad guy’s full-face mask is acting as a filter.

Kid, stinging from Amy’s accusations, turns his attention to Maelstrom. He whips out a stalk, but misses. “Arthur, where did you find this freak?” Maelstrom laughs.

Preparing to swing a fist at Stiletto, Fortress hears a sudden rush of air behind her. “Hi, baby! Miss me?” Friction pummels her with a flurry of super-speed punches before wrapping his arms around her. The intense heat radiating from his body plays havoc with her powers. She begins to sweat and feels her strength waning.

Miscountess seeks out Baron Mind. “I’ll have that Gem!” she says in what sounds like two voices, one silky and the other a gravelly rasp. She raises her staff, the end glowing with energy. Baron reaches out with his telekinesis and whips the shroud from the commemorative sculpture, holding it up in mid-air between him and Miscountess. Fire spews from the end of her staff, burning through the canvas like tissue paper.

LB, catching Fortress’ predicament from the corner of his eye, turns and flings his shield at Friction, but misses. The diminutive hero feels Friction’s super-heated aura drive the last of the serum from her system. She’s normal again, and with her arms pinned she can’t quite reach her vials.

Bantam also turns his attention to Friction, hitting him with a stream of electrons meant to resonate in his bones, weakening him. Still the villain hangs on to Fortress. That’s when the unknown villain moves toward Bantam. “You’re no hero!”

“Who are you?” Bantam asks. The man pulls off his mask to reveal a mutilated face, scarred almost beyond recognition. Almost. “Liefeldt!”

“Is this what heroes do, Damon,” the former Dr. Charles Liefeldt asks. “They abandon innocent people? Look well upon me, these scars are yours! This face is your fault! And because your failure to help me has destroyed my life, I will now destroy you!”

Kid Green, somewhat distracted by Amy, fails to hear Tick approach. He feels four large arms wrap around him from behind. “Get your hands off me, Ugly.”

“Hey! Tick not ugly! Tick do okay!” Kid’s skin begins to tingle as Tick leeches energy from him.

LB says through the team comm-link, “Kid! Call him stupid! It drives him nuts!”

Kid: “Okay, get your hands off me, Stupid.” Tick thinks for a second, then bellows with rage.

With Fortress’ attention elsewhere, Stiletto moves away from her to locate Vapor. She finds him and advances, the glow from her sword casting her rage-contorted features in an even more menacing light. “Any last words, worm?”

“No. I’m not going to die.”

“Oh, really? You’re not?” She swings a fist at him. He tries to dodge but fails. She slugs him right in the jaw, sending him sprawling backwards onto the steps. “You little asshole!”

“I missed you too, honey.” He knows she wears nose filters, specifically for him. But he also knows that tear gas works on the tear ducts as well as the sinuses. He blasts her full-on with a facefull. She can still breathe, but her eyes fill with tears. “Aagh! I can’t see! You bastard!”

Conductor teleports next to LB with the crackle of lightning. She grabs him and sparks fly between them. As she feeds on his bio-electricity, she says, “At last! A fitting sacrifice for the Lady of the Lightning!” LB swings his shield and smacks her hard. “Well, she’s still crazy.” An explosion of sparks sends them each tumbling in opposite directions. LB comes up on his feet.

A rock zings past Blue Streak’s head. She turns and sees Torrent. “What the hell are you?” she asks, seeing a woman made of translucent water with bits of debris floating around inside of her. Shannon fires a blue streak of electricity towards Torrent but misses.

This serves to turn Maelstrom’s attention away from LB and toward Torrent. "You must be the famous Water Baby from years ago. Another freak.
“Tell me, child, did Lightning Bolt bother to tell you how my powers work?”

The villain gestures towards Torrent and demonstrates: Maelstrom can affect the moisture in the air, including freezing it. As a blast of cold hits her, Lani feels her body solidifying. In a second she’s frozen solid.

Bantam continues to dodge the energy bolts Liefeldt is firing. He hits the man with an electrical blast of his own, but when it strikes the villain he laughs and begins to glow. Bantam zips over to one of the wind machines, to get some cover and maybe a second of breathing room to figure out what to do next.

Lightning Bolt has concluded that the faint blue glow coruscating around each villain is likely a force field being generated by Blue Streak. “Everyone, pile on the blonde!” He throws his shield toward her but misses.

But everyone is busy with their own problems. Kid Green can feel his strength draining away, and Tick’s grasp getting even stronger. He focuses his remaining energy into one massive effort and breaks free. In the same motion he drops low and swings a leg around, knocking Tick’s out from under him.

Straining within Friction’s grasp, and now powerless, Fortress manages to reach one of her remaining three vials. But instead of injecting herself, she slams the needle into Friction’s leg! “You’re stabbing people now?”

“Sometimes,” she gasps in reply. “Feeling okay?”

Friction’s hold on her weakens and she feels his weight shift. “N-no…what did you do?”

Baron Mind’s force field protects him as Miscountess swings her staff as a cudgel. “I’ll pluck that Gem from your cold, dead head!” she cackles. Baron replies with an attack directly into her brain, turning her cackle into a shriek of pain. She hits him with a wind blast from the staff, but again his mental force field holds.

Stiletto continues to swing blindly, her energy sword sweeping a wide arc in front of her. Vapor edges backwards, staying just out of her reach, until she trips on a step and goes down, cursing all the way.

Maelstrom cocks his head to the side, as if listening to someone whisper in his ear. He then nods and says, “It’s done. Conductor, now!” They both gesture toward the sky. Two streaks of lightning zag through the cloud and merge directly over LB. He tries to raise his shield but is too late; the force of the combined bolt slams him hard into the ground, and despite his natural resistance to electrical damage, it hurts. He lies there, smoking.

Liefeldt blasts the wind machine above Bantam, sending him spinning.

Blue Streak teleports near Fortress. Friction has released her from his grip, he’s stumbling backwards with one hand on his forehead and one on his stomach. Shannon hits her with a sparking blue bolt, a blast which normally would do her no harm at all. But she’s yet to re-inject herself, so the attack hits a normal person. Alyssia is stunned and falls hard to the ground, landing on her remaining vials. The normally shatter-proof glass has also been weakened by the sustained heat of Friction’s aura; they shatter, shards slicing into her hip. The serum, the contents of both remaining vials, is absorbed into her wounds.

Lightning Bolt can sense the fight slipping away. The Revengers have them out-numbered and they were taken by surprise. The battlefield is surrounded by two hundred gaping bystanders, some already injured. He decides there’s only option that keeps everyone safe.

Lightning Bolt stands. Eyes lowered, he drops his famous shield to the ground. He then raises his head, staring right into Martin Langstrom’s eyes. “Leave them alone, it’s me you want. So here I am.”

The steps of the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument grow quiet, apart from the patter of the rain that’s still falling. Maelstrom smiles and shakes his head in disbelief.

“Oh? You’re just…giving up?”

“That’s right. Take me, kill me, whatever. Just leave everybody else alone.”

Langstrom’s brow creases, then clears. The malevolent smile widens. “Kneel.”

Lightning Bolt steps up to him and stops. Some in the crowd gasp as he slowly sinks to one knee.

Maelstrom throws back his head and laughs. "The great Lightning Bolt is mine! After all these years….say goodbye to your friends, Arthur. Say goodbye to everyone and everything! You’ll never see any of it again!


No sooner does Maelstrom call out the name than the villains each disappear just as they appeared, in a flash of bright light. Lightning Bolt, too, is gone. The rain slackens, then stops, and sunlight begins to peek through the cloud.

The remaining Guardians return to HQ only to discover Vulcan and Microwave gone from their cells. Ernest tells them that shortly after they left for the ceremony, Lightning Bolt and Fortress returned and told him they needed to escort the two villains to Stronghold.

A review of security camera footage instead showed two mysterious figures: one, a young adult woman, the second a withered male in a floating wheelchair. His head was larger than normal, as if he suffered from extreme macrocephaly. He also had two faces, side by side on the front of his head.

Vapor is able to identify the male: it’s Janus, a powerful mentalist last known to work for Maelstrom. He apparently overcame Ernest with a mental illusion to change their appearance, and perhaps took control of his mind.

Issue 31 - Blood And Oil
Featuring the debut of GM Katie!


Finally ready to serve federal warrants on the villains who raided the Stronghold train and Guardians HQ (see the last two issues), the Guardians coordinate with the U.S. Marshal’s office. They take several SUVs full of tactical agents and four Stronghold containment units on semi trailers.

All of the suspects have one address on file. It turns out to be DeWitt Automotive on Stinking Creek Road in DeWitt, Kentucky. The convoy halts in front of the garage and a small, thirty-ish woman emerges, wearing coveralls and wiping her hands on a greasy rag. She wears one pair of glasses and has two more stacked on her forehead.

“If’n y’all need a brake job, it’s gonna be at least a week ’fore I can git to it.”

Deputy Marshall Royal exits his vehicle, alone with the Guardians. “We’re here to serve warrants on suspects in federal crimes, including assaulting federal officers, six counts of attempted jail break, destruction of property…there’s more, ma’am.”

The woman stares. “Ah suspect ya’ll understand what you jest walked into, don’tcha? Ya’ll want to arrest DeWitts? This town is called DeWitt.”

As she speaks, from homes up and down Stinking Creek Road, front doors open and people walk out. Men, women, and a few children, almost as one move down their front steps to stand along the road in front of their houses.

“Ma’am, we don’t want anybody to get hurt. But your people are suspected of crimes and we need to let the law work.”

“The law?” From inside the garage comes Drusilla DeWitt, matriarch of the clan. She steps up beside the other woman. “You mean the same law that allowed you to murder my boys?”

Lightning Bolt steps forward. "Ma’am, we’re very sorry for what happened but we were not responsible for that. The dog was wrong. We were being controlled by nanobots — "

“Oh, of course! You weren’t in control of your own body. Well that’s mighty convenient, ain’t it? Ya’ll can git away with anything, just claim “mind control”! Well you ain’t in the city any more, boys. This here town is called DeWitt for a reason!"

Suddenly the ground rumbles, and Black Lung erupts from the ground a few feet away. The townspeople began to walk up the road toward the garage. The tactical agents brace, raising their weapons.

Marshall Royal raises his as well. “Tell everyone to stand down, ma’am!”

Drusilla scowls. “Ya’ll are the top dogs everywhere else. But you ain’t the predators here.”

“Ma’am, how do you think we knew your family was going to attack that train? We were warned. By your son, Joe-Bob.”

“You lie!” Drusilla spits on the ground and glares at LB.

“He’s an FBI informant. He’s been one for months, that’s how General Stone knew your sons were going to hijack that weapons convoy. He got them killed! That’s who told us where you were. That’s who identified everybody involved in the raid on the train. Your niece Penny said that you suspected someone close to the family was an informant. It was Joe-Bob.”

Drusilla’s grimace softened into a frown. Her brows worked, and tears appeared in her eyes. “No…” She connected the dots. “My son…four boys dead and my only surviving son, a stinkin’ rat…” She turns away.

Black Lung vanishes in a cloud of coal dust and emerges from the ground near Drusilla. He puts a hand on her shoulder. She looks up at his featureless face, sobs, and nods.

She turns to the woman and weakly says, “Gadget, go get the others. They’re turnin’ themselves in.”

“Meema, no!”

“You heard me, child! Enough blood has been spilt.” Drusilla turns a cold gaze on Lightning Bolt. “Your justice system is shit. You can arrest my people and lock them up, but know that there are a lot of us. And we never forget those who cross us.”

From the depths of the garage come the suspects: Gnat (Bobby Oney), Dart (Daisy DeWitt), Wildfire (Becky Oney), Mule (Jackson McCoy), and even the 12-year-old, Captain Awesome (Jerome DeWitt…the Marshall’s office had sent deputies with expertise in handling special needs offenders. Between them and his Meema Drusilla, they manage to keep him calm). The deputies handcuff the suspects and lead them to the containment units. Black Lung stands motionless, looking down from his 7 feet almost daring them to cuff him.

So Baron Mind pitches in, creating an illusion in the big guy’s mind of his relatives surrounding him and urging him into a containment unit. It works, and the villains are transported back to Indianapolis without incident.


The team receives a call from Megan Williams, PR Director for the FOX Network. She relays details of the upcoming junket to promote the TV series. She has their travel itinerary, all arrangements have been made. They’ll leave on a pair of chartered planes this coming Sunday, and stay at the Four Seasons of Seattle.

Psyche of the FBI’s F.I.R.E. Team informs LB she’ll be tagging along. On the flight she reveals that she’s been given the case of a serial killer in Seattle and there appears to be paranormal involvement. Seventeen women have been killed in eerily similar fashion. The last victim’s murder was caught on surveillance tape. A female attacker is seen dragging the girl into an alley. She kills her quickly, cuts off and keeps an ear, and then a man seems to fly into the alley. He has words with the woman, then wraps her in his arms and flies away.

Once in Seattle the team gets settled in their rooms (actually an entire floor has been rented by FOX; each hero has his own suite). Then the guys (LB, Vapor, Bounder, Baron, and Kid Green) head to a bar on the pier, Whaler’s Pub. Bounder convinces everyone to wear their costumes, to better pick up women.

As the boys drink round after round, wanting to see who could get more drunk, an odd pair enter the bar. Identical twin males, dressed exactly alike, step up to the bar and place a large case on it. They speak with the bartender for a moment, then leave without the case.

Always curious (or paranoid, depending on one’s perspective), the guys question the bartender and find out that the twins are local brewers who dropped off a case of a new beer.

The next day it’s off to Comic-Con! Megan has the team scheduled for an open panel at 8 AM, after which they’ll do an exclusive 2-hour interview with the FOX Network.

Audience questions are asked during the panel discussion (“Which teammate to you like the least?”), and at 10:00 the heroes are whisked to an adjoining conference room for the FOX interviews. These are focused on the upcoming reality show (“The Real Guardians”). They run clips of previous battles and situations and ask for commentary. One thing the team notes is that the network had previously announced a 9-episode season, the last two of which were to be the team’s capture at and eventual rescue from Camp Atterbury. Those two episodes have been scratched.

At 12:30 they step outside the convention center to meet Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for a luncheon at SkyCity, the restaurant atop the Space Needle. Both men enjoy the company, the mayor even asking LB if they’d consider relocating the team. He mentions a three-fold increase in paranormal crime that has him and the Governor concerned.

During lunch, Baron suggests to the others that they each develop their own catch-phrase so they can expand their marketing to bumper stickers and coffee mugs. Then it’s back to the ’Con for an afternoon autograph session. Ever the scoundrel, Bounder winds up autographing a few female breasts and rear-ends.

Finally the day is done and the team relaxes for dinner around 7:30. Midway through the meal, Psyche walks in. “Bounder, do you know a Sally Jonas?” “Not if she has a kid.”

“She was murdered tonight. She had your name scrawled on her chest.”

“Woah, hold on! I signed lots o’ body parts today, luv! Didn’t kill a one of ’em!”

Psyche tells them the MO appears to be the same as her serial killer; if so, Sally was Victim Number 18. So far the killer’s victims have next to nothing in common, apart from being young and beautiful. But they’re all killed with a knife, facially mutilated, and missing one ear.

The team leaves the restaurant and accompanies Psyche to the latest crime scene: the alley behind a Days Inn. There, Baron uses his retrocognition to view the past several hours in reverse. This is what he tells the team:

A woman was lying in wait in the shadows, several hours ago. Sally passed by the mouth of the alley and the woman stepped out, asking for change. This caught Sally off guard, and suddenly the woman attacked her with precise Martial moves. She dragged Sally into the alley, behind a dumpster, and killed her. Then just like in the surveillance video, a man entered the scene, flying in from above.

Reading his lips, Baron related the man’s words: “You have to stop doing this, Rachel.” Rachel replied: “But she was prettier than me.” To which the man replied, “I’m sorry.” The man wraps Rachel in his arms and they both fly away.

Baron noted that the woman had been wearing a necklace made out of what appeared to be human ears. Twenty of them.

They retrace the woman’s steps to the woods across the road from the motel. Baron’s retrovision sees the woman emerging from a path. They follow that until they come out next to another road, where they find an abandoned car. A quick check on the car reveals it’s been reported stolen.

Anticipating an early wake-up call, the team retires to the Four Seasons. Psyche will continue with the police work.

The next morning is set aside for individual interviews. Each hero is set up in his or her own room and a parade of reporters and bloggers and entertainment show hosts march in and out.

At one o’clock the interviews are wrapped up and it’s time for lunch and then an afternoon flight back to Indianapolis. The team gathers in a conference room awaiting their catered meal when they notice that Fortress isn’t there.

Megan stated she last saw Fortress a few moments ago on the way to the bathroom. Baron mentally scans for her in the convention center but she’s gone. He expands his mental reach to include the greater downtown area, but there’s no sign of her.

He then enters the bathroom to use his retrocognition again: He sees the brewer twins from the bar enter the bathroom behind Fotress and subdue her quickly with what appears to be chloroform. They drag her outside.

Baron recalls the brand of beer they sold at the bar was called Bob’s. The team locates a Bob’s Brewery just outside of the city and hightail it there. Baron scans for Fortress as they approach but she’s not there.

The owner, Bob, says the twins are actually three or four brothers who all answer to the name Mark Simmons. Weirdest thing he’s ever seen. He gives them the contact information he has, an address and phone number.

The address is an apartment building. Barons scans it, no Fortress. He knocks on the apartment door, no answer. They do get the attention of the landlady, however, who tells them Mark owes her rent and she hasn’t seen them for weeks, but she did hear noises in there last night.

Without much prodding she produces a master key and lets them into the apartment. The only clue they find is a calendar with today’s date marked: “Pier, 2 PM”. Which was half an hour ago.

They race down to the pier. Questioning neighboring boat owners and other witnesses they say the Marks (numbering by some accounts as many as seven or eight) have been seen carrying bags to and from their boat. One guys says they told him something about a decommissioned offshore oil rig, which the locals considered to be haunted. Their slip is currently empty.

The heroes rent a couple of boats and head out for the rig. Baron scans it on the way and locates Fortress, who seems to be beneath the gigantic platform, under the water. They dock the boats and stretch/leap/fly up to the main level, which is about 30 feet above the ocean surface.

They immediately see, scattered about the platform, several Mark Simmonses. Bounder stretches a giant hand out and picks up the nearest Mark. He squeezes hard and demands to know where Fortress is. “We’re just lackeys, we don’t know! Ask The One!”

A frustrated Bounder flings the Mark over his shoulder and off the platform, into the ocean below. “Somebody else have a different answer?” he shouts. Another Mark points across the rig, “The One is over there!”

The rest of the team begin to make their way across the rig to the structure that Mark pointed out, Kid Green leading the way with a titanic leap across the rig, landing on top of it. He punches a hole in the roof and sees inside a man at a keyboard who looks like the flying man in the police video. Next to him is a young boy who is surrounded by a foggy aurora. After a second Kid sees faces resolve themselves in the fog, and realizes they’re ghosts, whirling around the boy.

The boy looks up and sees Kid staring down at him. One of the ghosts flies free from the others and shoots through the hole but misses Kid.

Baron, still standing just in front of Bounder and next to a door in the side of the helipad, sees the door slam open and a tiny glowing figure fly out. Vapor, next to Bounder, sends a puff of knockout gas its way. The glow flickers and the small figure drops to the bulkhead.

Baron peeks through the door and sees radar and other operational equipment. “Find an elevator!” Bounder shouts, but Baron sees none. He turns away and flies up into the air, better to view the entire rig.

The One asks Kid, “What are you doing here?” and follows it up with a blast of energy from his hand which hits Kid.

A door in another structure, this one across the platform from where Kid and The One are, opens and out steps a very tall, grinning man. With him are several more Mark Simmonses. Bounder leaps over and lands in front of the tall man. “Is there an elevator in there?” “BALL!” the man answers, jumping up and down and clapping his hands. As Bounder stares in bewilderment, the Marks all swing at him at the same time. Only one hits, but with enough force to set his bulbous body spinning in place. Tall Guy, laughing gleefully, starts to dribble Bounder like a giant basketball.

LB arrives at the building where Kid Green is taking energy blasts from The One. He turns back and targets three Marks with his shield, but hurries the throw and misses them all.

From a large maintenance hole in the deck, between LB on one end and Bounder on the other, flies a person on fire. At the same time, around a corner near LB, races Rachel: the woman from the police video, Psyche’s suspected serial killer, complete with a neckace of (now 21) human ears. Tiny Bantam zips across the deck to stand next to LB.

The flaming man unleashes a thin stream of flame toward Kid. It misses, but quickly melts a hole in the concrete roof next to him. He ignores the flame and whips a stalk into the structure, trying to Whiplash The One, but he misses.

Vapor, seeing the flaming man from across the rig, tries to steal the oxygen from the air around him but he’s too far away.

Ghost Boy turns and runs through the open door, past LB and Bantam, and out across the deck.

Baron, who can now see the tiny figure is a female, smacks her brain with an Ego Blast, which stuns her again.

LB and Rachel spar for a second before Bantam fires electricity at her, knocking her off her feet and several feet across the deck.

Suddenly a muffled explosion is heard and felt beneath the rig, under the water, but powerful enough to cause the huge structure to rumble and quake. Kid sees The One momentarily turn away from their fight, toward his viewscreens. “Shit! She broke my machine!”

Rachel gets to her feet. “Kent,” she shouts, “what do we do?” Before she gets an answer Lightning Bolt flings his mighty shield…terribly. It short-hops into the deck two feet in front of her and careens sideways, until it comes to rest just at the edge of the platform.

Bounder, tired of being bounced, times a jump and leaps away from Tall Guy, who giggles. Bounder is immediately attacked by Flame Guy, who hits him with a gout of flame but does no apparent harm.

Most of the Marks spread across the oil rig break into a run, toward the structure where The One is. All but two; the two nearest Vapor move toward him menacingly. One punches him and knocks him sprawling. The rest of the Marks reach the buliding and attack LB and Bantam. One does manage to connect with LB, but it has little effect.

Vapor gets to his feet, produces a dense fog bank around himself, and then slaps a Mark with knockout gas. He drops.

Ghost Boy, now across the deck, turns back and sends one of his ghosts away from his body. It flies to a pile of drill pipes, lifts one, and swings it at Bounder like a giant baseball bat, missing. As if that weren’t enough, Tall Guy now leaps over and lands next to Bounder. “Oi, Mate,” Bounder asks him, “is that a real ghost up there?” Tall Guy nods vigorously. “His name George.” Bounder gapes in disbelief.

Another explosion shakes the platform. It rattles and sways before beginning to tilt toward one corner.

The One moves to the doorway. “Abandon ship!” he yells. Rachel instantly turns and dashes to the other side of the deck. Kid Green does a Foot Stomp on the roof, caving it in. He slams to the ground amidst a pile of rubble, just a few feet away from Kent. The One turns to him, a look of admiration on his face. “We should’ve gotten you, you would’ve been a good one for it.”

Baron continues to search for an elevator, floating down a stairwell to the deck below. LB dashes through the crowd of Marks and across the deck to retrieve his shield before it slides away.

Bantam simply explodes, a ball of expanding electricity shocking the four Marks and sending them tumbling; one rolls over the side.

The rig shudders again and tilts even more dramatically, knocking several Marks, Baron, Bantam, and Tall Guy onto the deck.

The One flies up and out of the now-roofless structure, across the rig, and picks up Rachel. LB steps toward them and throws his shield, this time hitting Kent. He and Rachel go into an airborne roll, but continue to fly away.

Bounder, tired of this shit, leaps high above the platform and out over the edge of it, splashing down into the water. He desperately looks for the source of the explosion, or some way to get into the structure to save Fortress. He sees air bubbles and debris near the drill shaft.

Flaming Guy and Tiny Girl take to the air and fly out and away from the rig.

Vapor takes off running across the rig toward Ghost Boy, but as he does he sees the ghosts around the boy begin to fly even faster, spinning into one solid wall of fog, and then they and the boy disappear.

Bounder paddles over to the drill pipe structure. He stretches an arm below the water, feeling around the pipe for an opening. He finds that it’s been severed several feet below the water. “Help!” he screams. “I can’t submerge, I’m too damn floaty!”

Baron gets Tall Guy into one of the heroes’ boats by telling Tall Guy he will get him a new ball, then scans again for Fortress. He senses her mind, inside the drill shaft, several feet below the surface. She’s sinking. She’s still alive and conscious, but her claustrophobia has kicked in and she’s panicking.

Bounder is bobbing helplessly in the water. “Kid! Leap down here, grab an arm as you go by, and pull me under the water! Then I can stretch down further and get her out of there!”

Instead, Kid decides to do it himself. He dives into the water next to Bounder and sinks fast. He stretches out stalks, probing inside the drill shaft, until he finds a coffin-like pod, bristling with broken cables. He sends it to the surface, where Bounder grabs it and pops off the lid. Inside is a terrified Fortress, curled into a quivering ball. “Shh, luv, it’s okay. I saved you!”

The rig by now is half-submerged and still sinking. The team gathers the remaining Marks on the boats to question them. They insist they want to be killed, so they can rejoin The One. They practically beg for it, and agree to answer one question in exchange for one of them being dispatched. Curiously, the team agrees.

Via this questioning they find that Fortress was kidnapped so Kent could steal her powers. He has a machine that transfers paranormal powers to him. The names of the other villains are Brick Wall (“Tall Guy”), Pixie (the tiny glowing woman), Red Edge (Rachel’s nom de guerre), Hot Head (“Flaming Guy”), and Gravekeeper (“Ghost Boy”). They were all hired by The One, and he pays well. They don’t know where he is, they are simple duplicates.

They don’t end up killing all of the Marks; three survive and are turned over with Brick Wall to Psyche for arrest and processing (good luck with that!).

Issue 30 - Stone Cold
General Stone's last stand


After stopping the raid on the Stronghold train ( see last issue), Lightning Bolt contacts the DHS to report the incident. With the trestle destroyed and nothing to get the villains securely across the trestle that won’t take several hours, it is decided that the train will head back to Indianapolis and the villains will be re-established in Guardians HQ until the track can be repaired. The transfer will be rescheduled. Also in tow are the two baddies captured at the train, Joe-Bob “Alpha” DeWitt and Penny “Pygmy” McCoy.

They arrive back at HQ around 11 pm and meet up with Bounder, Torrent, Dark Witch, and Vapor. They survey the damage done to HQ while they were away (also see last issue).

After Kid Green left the headquarters (did you read last issue yet? It’s all there!), he leapt straight to Harry Matsuzaka’s house.

He breaks in and begins to search for any clues to the location of General Stone. A perfunctory search of a main floor office reveals nothing, so he heads to the basement, where he knows Matsuzaka kept a small lab.

Eventually he finds a large safe, tucked behind a panelled wall. Using his safe cracking skills…just kidding, he wrenches the door off like it was made of cheap plastic. Inside are stacked books and ledgers.

While Kid sits down for several hours of reading, Lightning Bolt and Baron Mind are interrogating the newest residents of Guardians holding cells. They first sit down with Penny McCoy, aka Pygmy. “Snake girl”.

She reveals her relationship to the DeWitts (she’s the daughter of Drusilla DeWitt’s sister, Dora McCoy). She repeats her accusations: the Guardians at the behest of the US government murdered four DeWitt brothers near Camp Atterbury ( Issue 24 – Excuse Me While I Kill This Guy). The clan knows this because one of her Uncle Joe-Bob’s dogs witnessed it, and he can see whatever his dogs see.

She also believes that somebody tipped off the government to the DeWitt Brothers’ raid on the weapons shipment, but she doesn’t know who.

The two heroes then move on to talk to Joe-Bob DeWitt. He immediately tells them that he’s an FBI informant (the one referred to by General Stone when this all started back in Issue 24).

“After I was arrested three…four…six times fer dog-fighting, I was looking at some serious prison time. Well, for some time now my four brothers have been trying to set up a paramilitary anti-government camp outside of Ninevah, Indiana. They wanted me in on it, but I said no, that’s a little too much fer me. So I stayed in DeWitt, Kentucky. They was already on the feds radar I guess, ‘cause this Agent Marx pressed me hard to join them and rat ’em out. What could I say? I’d been arrested four…five…eight times already by then, I had no way out.

“But you can’t let Penny know! You can’t let anybody know. My momma would be heartbroken, four of her boys dead and the last one a rat that got ’em killed.” Joe-Bob lowers his head and wipes tears from his eyes. “Call Agent Gordon Marx, he’s my handler.” The number Joe-Bob gives them rings to voicemail.

They decide to wait until morning to verify his claim, but they leave him something to stew on. Baron Mind produces a key fob from his pocket and, using his skills of ventriloquism and mimicry, produces a playback of Joe-Bob’s words, as if the fob is a recording device. “Oh God please, no, you can’t let anybody else know!”

The ledgers in the safe detailed monetary transactions and supply shipments going back over two years. The books Kid found were Harry’s personal diaries. These went back over 20 years. He found the account of his daughter Amy’s accidental ingestion of Harry’s early nanobots, and the puzzling transformation they made in her. They granted her the ability to project an energy field around herself, and to control that field to manipulate objects with it. The nanos also rapidly healed any injury or malady; a broken arm was knitted back together in hours, and the child never was ill for more than a couple of hours. The diaries went on to detail Harry’s struggles to duplicate these effects, and his frustration when he continued to fail.

When it was revealed to his bosses at Raytheon that he’d allowed his young daughter into his lab and to accidentally ingest a top-secret project, Harry was summarily dismissed, and became known as a kook in the science community at large. He became quite reclusive, still obsessed with duplicating his one success. Tapping retirement funds and investments, Harry established a secluded lab and continued his work as best he could.

Then, just over two years ago, Harry met General Hiram Stone. Stone offered him the backing of the National Security Agency to develop his nanos toward security concerns; specifically, paranormals. More specifically, even the good guys. You never know when somebody can go rogue. With seemingly unlimited resources, Harry made great progress.

The next few pages lay out the plan to use Amy to get next to Kid Green, gain his trust, and then lure him to Harry’s lab, to get the nanos into him for a test run ( Issue 15 – Nano He Didn’t). Harry writes that Amy was reluctant at first, and then truly fell in love with Jake and regretted her part in it.

At this point a loose page falls from the diary. On it is an address and a list of dates and times. The last entry is 7 PM tomorrow. Kid texts Fortress: “I may have found Stone.” He sends her the information. “We’ll be there,” she sends back. She Googles the address and finds an abandoned paint factory on the Westside.

Everybody’s tired. LB decides to pursue warrants for the DeWitt Clan in the morning, so the heroes call it a night. Vapor has used his oxygenation powers to help clear Darlene’s lungs of the coal dust that had caused

For Darlene, it’s a townhouse near downtown. But not long after she enters deep sleep, a nightmare arises.

She stands on a mountain of rubble. The blood-red sky is smeared with black smoke, from fires stretching from here to the horizon. The stench of burning flesh fills the air; she sees bodies piled like old tires and set ablaze. Buildings that once stretched to the sky are smashed and toppled, severed limbs aimed impotently for heaven. As she scans the landscape, the horror she expects to feel isn’t coming. Instead she feels elation. Power! Triumph!

She looks down and sees in her hands the source of…everything! A bold, scarlet gem the size of her fist. It shines, it pulses…it lives! And she commands it!

Darlene bolts upright in bed, damp with sweat. The nightmare begins to fade almost immediately, although the feeling of terror mixed with joy will linger all day, in and out of her thoughts at random moments. The one thing she will remember with some clarity is that gemstone. It looked just like the one in Baron Mind’s turban.

Agent Marx confirms that Joe-Bob DeWitt is his Confidential Informant. He’s not happy that his intel on the DeWitt Clan was somehow obtained by General Stone. He takes the statements of a couple of the heroes and promises warrants for the rest of the villains by noon.

Initially planning to head to DeWitt, Kentucky as soon as those warrants came through, Lightning Bolt decides instead to wait so the team can accompany Kid Green into the paint factory at the designated time that evening.

T.F. pilots the team helicopter and the Guardians arrive a few minutes ahead of seven o’clock. They assemble in an overgrown, vacant lot next to the factory. Vapor creates a dense fog to hide them. The team waits as Bantam shrinks and dashes through the fence around the property.

The building appears to have gone unused for some time. Graffitti adds color to some of the walls, and the few windows not boarded up are smashed. But as he reaches the front door, Bantam notices that it appears brand-new, and there’s a keypad on the wall next to it with a small red light. He’s able to shrink down small enough to zip under the door and into a corridor.

Four offices line the hallway, which terminates in double doors. Bantam peeks in two of them to see furnished offices. Filing cabinets stand open, and cords snake from wall outlets to empty desks. Somebody left in a hurry.

He moves on down to the double doors. Another keypad is here, and the doors are too close to the floor for Bantam to get under.

Just then, Kid Green arrives. His leap carries him over the property fence and he slams into the ground at the foot of the entrance steps. He chooses to bash through a boarded-up window next to the front door, landing in an office that had been cleared out.

As Kid emerges from the office into the corridor, Bantam returns to normal size. “Hey Kid, I’m going to see if I can figure out this keypad.” He goes to work, using his knowledge of security systems. In just a few seconds the pad’s red light flashes to green and the doors slide open. “It’s an elevator.”

The rest of the Guardians head inside. The elevator can hold them all but Bounder, so he stays back as the team descends. The doors open onto a large room. On a concrete floor stood what remained of a bucket-filling assembly line. In one corner stood large mixing vats and pumps, while in another were stacked dozens of one-gallon paint cans. Partitions had been erected along two walls, apparently to create more offices.

As the team fans out across the room, at the other end, from one of the office doors, bursts a humanoid, featureless, silver figure. Someone covered with the SENTINEL nanos!

“Tell me where to find Stone and I’ll go easy on you,” Kid Green snarls. The figure says nothing. Kid shoots out a stalk, but the Sentinel effortlessly knocks it aside. Its other arm raises but before it can do anything, Dark Witch wraps it in the eldritch energies of her wand.

The Guardians jockey for position…except for Vapor. He moves to a side wall and sits on a table. “I know from experience my powers are completely useless against these things. I’ll be over here in case somebody gets hurt.”

A brillaint flash of light shreds the entangling energies around the Sentinel. It follows that by creating a blast of water from its hands, sending Lightning Bolt diving out of the way. The water slams into Dark Witch, drenching her and knocking her down.

Baron Mind projects an image of Graviton standing next to him, throwing a Gravi-Pulse, hoping a decoy might draw some fire. Bantam, from some distance, fires a Bantam Bolt which doesn’t appear to do much damage.

As Fortress, Kid Green, and LB crowd around the Sentinel, its face shimmers and resolves into that of General Stone. “This attack proves me right! You so-called heroes are unaccountable. A threat to the security of the United States!”

Torrent, who’d previously sucked up loose nuts and bolts through her feet, fires one at Stone. With amazing accuracy it strikes him in the forehead, dropping him to a knee. This causes Kid Green, Bantam, and Dark Witch to all miss with attacks, but LB’s haymaker connects. Stone grunts with the impact and flies backwards several feet before imbedding in a concrete wall. Fortress follows this with a titanic punch, sinking him even deeper into it.

Bantam moves to get a clear shot and arcs electricity toward Stone. It strikes him and a charge dances over his body. Puffs of dust erupt from the silver nano armor; it appears to be killing the nanos.

Kid Green steps in front of Stone and pulls back a fist. “I have you to thank for the success of my project,” Stone says with a smile.

“You’re lucky I don’t kill you.”

“Kill me! I will have given my life as a patriot! The SENTINEL Program will live on!”

With that, Stone seems to explode with light. The blast wave blows through the heroes, knocking them back like bowling pins. LB, Kid Green, and Fortress are all catapulted away. Bantam, extremely susceptible to knockback due to his size, is sent careening clear across the room and smashes into the stacked paint cans.

“Fortress, love!” screams Bounder, emerging from the elevator in time to see her flung onto her back. “I’ll kill you, you bastard!”

Stone stands there, free from the wall, eyes glowing. LB leaps to his feet and gets in Stone’s face. “Are you even inside that armor, or are you a coward, doing this by remote control?”

“Does it matter? You’re all dead either way!”

Torrent delivers another bolt to Stone’s forehead, sending him staggering backwards into the wall again. Baron Mind attack’s Stone’s mind, dealing damage straight into his brain. Stone screams with pain.

The Brit bounces over to Fortress’ side and she reluctantly takes his hand and stands. “Thanks, Bounder,” she says. Then she picks him up. “’ey now, this is more like it!” he says, just before she heaves him at Stone. Bounder’s rubber body smacks into the General, flattens against the wall, and rebounds with equal force back into the room.

Kid, still on his back, follows this by shooting two stalks to the rafters and using them to swing himself up and into Stone, feet-first. The punishing blow further cracks the wall surrounding the villain.

The heroes move in again. Stone begins to rage, but Torrent slides over and clamps a wet hand over his mouth. Bantam teleports closer and hits Stone again with an electrical BODY drain. Sparks flow over his body as he sputters and twitches, and then with a loud CLICK the silver nanos suddenly turn a dark gray and sluice off, a gooey mess puddled at his feet.

Kid entangles the defeated General with this stalks, and the team carts him back to HQ.

The team has a lengthy discussion about how to proceed. Kid Green wants to beat Stone to a pulp. LB suggests going straight to the President to inform him that Stone went rogue. LB considers having Kid accompany him to the interrogation. “Can I trust you not to hit him?” he asks. “No.” Kid huffs angrily and storms off (again), going to visit the comatose Amy in the hospital.

As the discussion drags on, Baron Mind and Fortress return to the paint factory. Baron takes the next few hours standing in key areas of the building, using his Retrocognition to replay events going back over a week.

Time unspools before him, like a video on rewind. His reconstruction of events is this:
The factory was being used by General Stone as a makeshift NSA office and testing complex. Over the past 24 hours, crews dressed in fatigues systematically disconnected all computers, emptied all file cabinets, and cleared out. Not long after that, a shadowy figure, in a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat to shield its face, escorted General Stone into the building. The figure then left, alone.

General Stone sits shackled in an interrogation room. Vapor surreptitiously creates bursts of laughing gas in the room, lowering Stone’s ability to resist questioning. Baron has now returned and, again calling on his image projection and mimicry skills, enters the room as Harry Matsuzaka.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” a bleary-eyed Stone slurs. “You perfected the nanos. They work! Didn’t need you anymore, or your daughter.”

“Who are you working for?” Baron asks. “I and I alone am responsible!” Stone yells. He then goes on to tell Baron how the SENTINEL Program was approved by Congress, but was initially restricted to testing on captured villains. “I was the only one who had vision! Wasn’t that why they put me in charge of it in the first place! I saw the day when these private sector heroes went rogue, and we’d have no way to stop them. So I went off-book, for the good of the country!”

“So what was your next step? Say you managed to kill the Guardians tonight, what then?”

Stone cricked his neck and stared blankly for a few seconds. “Kill the Guardians. That’s all. That would make everything better. I and I alone am responsible for the program.”

Soon that’s all they can get out of him, just that last sentence repeated over and over. Baron leaves the room. “We might get more out of him if we had a more powerful Mentalist here. Can we bring in Psyche?”

Psyche, member of the FBI’s F.I.R.E. Team, a powerful telepath. LB calls Washington, D.C. and asks her to come to Indy in the morning. He also calls and arranges to talk to Admiral Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA.

Lightning Bolt flies to D.C., accompanied by Baron Mind (with Bantam shrunk and hitching a ride in Baron’s pocket). They meet with Admiral Alexander. After laying out the story, the Admiral furrows his brow. "Of course I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any classified program. But I can say that what you’ve told me is quite disturbing. I need to talk to General Stone.

“I need to ask that you remand him to my custody, along with any and all materials you’ve found in connection with this case. I’d like your interrogation recordings as well. All copies.” At this, Baron Mind sends a telepathic signal to Kid Green, and him alone. “Make copies of everything and put them somewhere safe.”

LB agrees, assured that the Admiral will handle the case and that the ordeal is finally over, except for one last thing: serving the federal warrants on the DeWitt Clan.

He and Baron thank the Admiral and leave. Unbeknownst to LB, Bantam slips from Baron’s pocket and stays in the office, hidden. He waits while the Admiral places a call and asks for a team to travel to Indianapolis ASAP to collect General Stone and the interrogation materials. After Alexander leaves for the day, around 6 PM, Bantam tries to hack into his desk computer, but can’t get past the password. He searches a file cabinet but finds nothing in it more recent than about 10 years ago.

Pyche has arrived and sits down with Stone. She easily enters his mind and casts about for answers. After only a few moments, she exits the room and speaks to the team.

“I didn’t get much that you don’t already know. He referred to that shadowy figure as The Specialist, but he remembers no details about the man. They met just over two years ago, just before the SENTINEL Program was started. But Stone believes himself to be solely responsible for the SENTINEL Program and for going rogue.”

“Believes himself?” LB asks. “You put it that way for a reason.”

Psyche scowled. "Well…I reached into the man’s subcounscious. I found memories that he’s long-ago forgotten. But there are recent memories that have been psychically walled off, for lack of a better phrase, to keep Stone or anybody else from getting to them.

“There’s been another mentalist in his head. A powerful one.”

The Guardians head to Southern Kentucky to serve some warrants, and then it’s off to Seattle Comic-Con to promote the upcoming TV show!

Issue 29 - Country Cookin'
Revenge is a dish best served with greens and a side o' cornbread


As a result of his help rescuing most of the Guardians from Camp Atterbury ( see last issue), Bounder is offered provisional membership on the team. As a result of his doing pretty much nothing during said rescue effort, Brigade was returned to his holding cell in the lower levels of Guardians headquarters. Bounder’s place on the team is contingent upon several things, notable among them that he is officially on probation, and that he refrain from sexually harrassing Fortress, who can unilaterally boot him from the team at any time. He reluctantly agreed.

New to the team as well is Torrent, also known as Lani.

Between the rescue and the next scheduled team meeting:
Lightning Bolt realizes he needs help running The Knockback, since Shannon was injured and then disappeared. After several disappointing candidates, in walks a leggy young blonde. Larisa Bolotnikov, 28 years old, is a Russian immigrant. She ran a restaurant in Kiev.

“I’m not sure you’re right for the job,” Lightning Bolt said. “Your name…there is no alliteration.”

“Ah,” Larisa replied, “but my initials are LB.”

“You’re hired!”

Darlene, in her day job as a defense attorney with a reputation for paranormal cases, has already been approached by Mr. Jensen, Kid Green’s father, about ensuring that he be allowed to serve his sentence at Stronghold, where his son Sam will eventually be taken.

Today she’s contacted by two of the villains who are scheduled to be transferred to Stronghold tomorrow, Microwave and Vulcan, and one still in the Marion County Jail, Ditty. Vulcan (businessman Muhammed Abdul) and Microwave (Bjorn Christensen) both assure her they have access to money.

Darlene’s other active case is the disappearance of Dr. Liefeldt. Her investigators have nothing new yet.

Babs Bennett, local TV newsbabe, airs a story featuring a crusading mother, Drusilla DeWitt, who claims that the government and the Guardians killed her boys. The woman scoffs at denials from the Army and the State Police. “If the law won’t hold people accountable, then it’s up to the people!”

After seeing this, LB contacts Babs. When she had come around asking about an alleged incident in Southern Indiana, he had told her to look into General Stone. She tells him that she’s hitting a wall, that the Army denies he even exists. Twice he comes close to divulging the truth, that the team’s bodies had been taken over by nanobots and four people ended up murdered. But he hesitates, instead telling her again that she needs to track down Stone.

The FOX producers attend the weekly team meeting to announce the episode lineup for the premiere season. There will be nine episodes, presented as such:
S1E1 – History of the team
S1E2 – Lucas Oil Stadium fight with PIPER
S1E3 – Security cam footage from inside the jail during the attempted jail break of Alyssia
S1E4 – The raid on Unicorn’s HQs and the battle with her team and Foundation
S1E5 – Fighting the giant Hedge that was Sam Jensen
S1E6 – The first battle with Conductor and her escape
S1E7 – The funeral of the people killed by Conductor, and their rising as electric zombies
S1E8 – The first raid on Camp Atterbury and the capture of the heroes
S1E9 – The return and rescue.

After the producers leave, team benefactor Arthur Donaldson enters, trailing lawyers. They’ve seen the news report and want to have a discussion. Most of the team believes they should track down Stone, to get concrete proof that they were not responsible for their actions. Lightning Bolt insists that the truth be told. “It’s dishonest, it’s not fair to Mrs. DeWitt! She’s asking questions about her dead sons, as she should, and we have the answers!”

The lawyers, of course, urge silence. “Say absolutely nothing. If they had any proof they’d have you in an interrogation room by now.”

“It’s not just you that we’re talking about here,” Alyssia speaks up. “It’s me and Kid who are in this as well. You can’t speak for us! We know we’re innocent, we need to go get the proof!”

LB is finally convinced, reluctantly, to remain silent. For now.

Kid Green, still in anguish over Amy’s brush with death and her persistent coma, blows up. “We need to stop all this talking and go find Stone NOW! We should be doing nothing else!” With that he stormed from the room.

The team has also been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security. They want to hire the team to provide escort to the Stronghold transport train tomorrow. On board the heavily modified Amtrak train will be: Miscountess, Brigade, Bulldozer, Microwave, Anti-Matter, Mortar, and Vulcan. The cars have been reinforced and provided with a dampening field that will suppress most paranormal powers. Each villain has also been fitted with dampening cuffs.

Lightning Bolt assigns himself, Fortress, and Bantam to escort the prisoners.


The train moves Southwest out of Indianapolis. After a couple of hours, as it nears a trestle in Southern Illinois, and explosion up ahead rocks the cars. The train screeches to a hault just head of a chasm, filled with the smoking ruins of the track.

From the woods surrounding the tracks step several figures, each wearing dark clothes. A male figure is flanked by three hulking dogs, slavering and growling. LB and Fortress disembark, Bantam zips on top of a train car. He shoots electricity at the dogs, but misses. They respond by making an incredible standing leap onto the top of the car, on either side of him.

A small female suddenly whooshes into view. Fortress grabs her and holds on. The girl then begins to vibrate violently, causing Fortress to not only lose her grip but to be sent flying back into the side of the train car. No sooner does she hit the ground than a cloud of insects flies from the woods, swarming her face.

The third dog, still beside its master, flings itself at LB. He tries to get his shield up to block it but the beast is too fast. Fortunately, it’s also got lousy aim: it sails past LB and slams into another train car.

On top of the car, Bantam tries out a new trick: from his tiny size of 1/15" he suddenly grows to his full six feet, directly beneath the jaws of the dog, and then shrinks again. The result is a violent uppercut which sends the dog tumbling end-over-end past the engine and out of sight, landing with a thud and a whimper.

The girl Fortress had tangled with says, “I’ll be right back.” She gets very blurry for a second but is still standing there. “You can get up now so I can knock you down again.” LB flings his shield at her but misses. Referring to LB, she says, “Joe-Bob, yours is gettin’ squirrelly.”

“I’m on it, Daisy, you worry about your’n.” Joe-Bob, the one with the dogs.

Fortress jumps up and swings at Daisy but misses. Daisy responds by pointing her hands at Fortress and vibrating them until they’re nearly invisible. LB throws his shield, attempting to deflect away from Fortress whatever is coming next, but his aim is errant; the shield wings off the ground and bounces into the treeline. A shockwave erupts from Daisy’s hands that slams into the hero, driving her back into the same train car. This time the force is enough to punch her through the side of it, and then send it toppling over.

Fortress glances up from the floor of the car (actually the other side of the car) and sees tossed about, still in their dampening shackles, two unconscious guards, along with Bulldozer, Brigade, and Miscountess.

LB dashes over to Daisy and punches her, knocking her back into the dirt. She vibrates and is suddenly standing upright. LB feels a tap on his shoulder and turns to see another woman. Her face is mostly concealed under a hood, but what he can see appears to be scaley. He can also see fangs. She hisses into his face, spraying a foul-smelling mist, and says, “Go down to the last car and open it. Let those people out.” LB is filled with a sudden urge to do just that.

Daisy dashes into the treeline and tries to grab LB’s shield. Unfortunately it weights 400 pounds and she can’t budge it.

On top of the train car, Bantam is dodging huge canine fangs. He uppercuts another one, sending it flying away like it’s brother, just as the first dog, now recovered, returns. “Hey, stop hurtin’ my dogs!” Bantam hears their master yell.

Inside the upended train car, Fortress pauses and looks around very carefully. Miscountess, or rather the demon inside of her, shrieks to be let free so it can kill everybody. Brigade gets to his feet. “Well well, how about this? Looks like I’m gettin’ out after all, I didn’t need to join your stupid team.”

“Sit down, Brigade.” Fortress stands. “Make me,” he says. So she does, giving him an elbow in the face which drops him to the floor.

The fog in LB’s mind clears as he starts toward the rear of the train. So instead, he turns and tries to grab snake-girl. “What’s your name?” he asks as she slips away from him. “Penny McCoy,” she spits back. “What’s your code name? You’ve all got code names, right?”

“Pygmy. For the snake. But the name you need to remember is McCoy, and DeWitt! We know you killed those boys! Alpha’s dogs seen it happen, and told him everything! And you’re gonna pay!”

“The dog didn’t know what he was talking about.”

Bantam is again facing off against two dogs on top of the train car. He uppercuts one, again sending it spinning away into the woods. “I’m gonna kill you!” he hears, and sees the dogs’ master moving away from the tree line and toward the car. Bantam dodges another set of fangs and fires off an electrical bolt at the man. The smell of ozone fills the air as he’s struck and is knocked back into a tree. The dogs stop and lift their muzzles to the sky, howling plaintively.

Just then the heroes’ signal devices go off. “Oi, mates, this is Bounder…is this thing on?…we’ve got a problem ’ere…” An explosion is heard. “’ey, knock it off!” Bounder yells to someone. “Wanker! That’s it then…” and the transmission goes dark.

Pygmy, still facing down LB, calls out. “Gnat, secure that shield!” Another person emerges from the trees, this one a male. He stands over the shield, and LB flings himself at him. The hero slams into Gnat, sending him flying back into the trees. He picks up his shield and sends it flying at Pygmy. It connects with a “CLANG” and she’s sent sprawling.

Daisy appears at Joe-Bob’s side, trying to rouse him. One of his dogs have joined them, frantically licking his face. Bantam dispatches the last dog on top of the car and then fires a bolt at Daisy, knocking her out.

Inside the train car, Bulldozer has risen to his full height, towering over Fortress. He looks down at her, then up at the hole in the car, then back down at her. Sensing that he’s preparing to jump out, she latches on to one of his legs. As Fortress she weights close to 12 tons. With the dampening cuffs on, Bulldozer’s strength is gone. Try as he might, he can’t budge. But he doesn’t give up. After a few minutes she gets tired of hanging on and punches him hard right in the berries. He sits down.

Outside, LB is about to advance on Pygmy when he hears buzzing in his ears and a thick swarm of wasps surrounds his head. It persists for only a few seconds, but when it disperses, Gnat is gone.

On the other side of the train, Daisy has recovered from Bantam’s blast and zips away. Pygmy has moved over to Joe-Bob and is lifting him up. Bantam takes a shot at her and she drops. The heroes collect Pygmy and Alpha and try to get back in touch with Guardians headquarters.


Gathered at HQ are Bounder (he lives here now), Torrent (learning her way around), Vapor (he still lives here), and Dark Witch (just hanging out). Torrent is asking the others’ impression of being a Guardian.

Vapor says, “We work about 14 seconds a week. But those fourteen seconds are punctuated by extreme terror. Otherwise, not a bad job.”

Ernest calls up to the meeting room. “There’s some scraggly guy out front taking pictures.” The quartet move out to the front porch, where they see a man walking up the driveway. “Can we help you?” Lani asks.

“Hi, my name is Bentley McCormick. I run I got an anonymous call to meet some people here, they said there was some bombshell story about excessive force? You guys know anything about that?”

Sid mutters, “We are about to be attacked.”

Just then a van screeches to a halt at the end of the drive. Four people emerge. Two adults, a man and a woman, are clad in jeans. A larger figure emerges behind them, who seems to be covered in all black, from head to toe. Finally a young boy steps out, wringing his hands and muttering to himself.

The woman starts to yell. “We is here to get the story out that the Guardians are murderin’ bastards! They killed the DeWitt boys on orders of the US government!”

Sid sighs. “So, what do you call yourself?”

“You ‘bout to find out, boy. I’m Wildfire!” Flames sprout from her downturned palms and she lifts into the air.

The large black figure steps away from the van, toward Bentley. Dust wafts from him with every move. “So, what’s your name,” Vapor asks. “I’m also obligated to ask why none of you wear costumes.” The figure says nothing. The other adult male gives a rebel yell and then grows before their eyes, topping out at about thirteen feet.

Bounder speaks up. “So, I’ll just be going inside, right? To coordinate the attack plan.” To which the others respond in unison, “NO.” He bounces off the porch, into the driveway moving toward the van.

Dark Witch teleports to the top of a parked car and points her wand at Bentley. His eyes go wide as he’s enveloped in writhing dark energies. “Relax,” she croaks, “it’s to protect you.” At the same time, Vapor transmutes the air in the car she’s standing on to propane, just in case somebody needs a bomb.

Torrent runs off the porch to the fountain in the center of the driveway. She beings filling her body with rocks. Wildfire sees her and flies toward her, shooting a flame blast. The force of the blast slams Lani to the ground and knocks her out.

Bounder’s about to land just in front of the van, but as he’s coming down from his bounce the small boy says, “Scary. Scary shit. Go away.” He flicks his hand at Bounder almost imperceptibly, and the large round erstwhile villain is struck by an invisible force. He careens backwards as if smacked with a giant baseball bat, arcing across the driveway and smashing through the front windows of the HQ. “Scary man gone now.”

The black figure aims a hand at Dark Witch, atop the car. Thick coal dust shoots forth, scouring and blinding the hero and pushing her off the car and across the drive. At the same time, Vapor moves toward the center of the drive and manifests a dense white fog across the area.

He then causes the air in front of the tall male to become tear gas. He starts gagging and flailing his arms about, nearly striking the young boy. “Mule, calm down!” Wildfire says.

Inside, Bounder picks himself off the floor and activates his brand-new Guardians signal device. “Oi, mates, this is Bounder…is this thing on?…we’ve got a problem ’ere…” At that moment, outside, Wildfire hits Darlene’s car (the one filled with propane that she’s standing near) with a flame blast. It goes up in a brilliant fireball. Dark Witch is sent tumbling across the grass.

“’ey, knock it off!” Bounder yells. “Wanker! That’s it then…”. He slams down the signal device and heads back outside. He sees the boy, now hovering several feet in the air. “There you are you little sot!” He bounds into the air, swelling one fist to gargantuan size, ready to pummel the child. The boy gestures slightly and Bounder is suddenly caught in mid-air, giant fist raised. Immobile.

The dark figure again points at Dark Witch, and again fills her face with coal dust. This is more insidious, however. It works its way into her nose and throat, choking off her air. She struggles to stay conscious.

The giant is still flailing around, blind. He manages to make his way to the center of the driveway and kicks through the side of the fountain. Water and pieces of concrete flow everywhere.

Wildfire and Vapor trade attacks, both missing. She does manage to set a concrete pillar on fire. So rather than continue to miss her, Vapor concentrates and draws the oxygen from the air in a 60’ radius around him. The flames on the porch and those eating what’s left of Darlene’s car die quickly.

Dark Witch turns the tables on the black figure, blasting him in the face with a shot from her wand. Dark energies swirl around his head. This doesn’t seem to slow him down, though, as he fires back with more coal dust. She teleports away.

The boy, still holding Bounder immobile, now wiggles a finger and sends him flying away, toward Vapor. Sid dives for cover as the large round Bounder sails over his head and slams into the ground. Vapor stands and takes aim at Wildfire, bursting a cloud of poison gas in her face.

Mule, eyes now clear but temper still stoked, reaches out and grabs the nearest car (Lani’s). He picks it up and flings it toward the headquarters building, smashing in the front doors.

Torrent, conscious again, fires one of her projectiles at Wildfire. Between Sid’s gas and a rock striking her forehead, Wildfire drops from the air in a heap.

Instantly, the young boy beings to cry and scream. “Becky hurt! Becky hurt!” He glares at Torrent and pain erupts in her head. She drops, unconscious again. Vapor moves quickly and blinds the boy with gas in his face, then hits him with a second dose and he drops.

Dark Witch reappears near the black figure, who punches her. She fires her wand but misses. He swings again, knocking her out.

Mule and the black figure are now staring at Vapor. “I take it all back.” The black figure sends coal dust flying at him, but misses. Sid moves quickly to Dark Witch’s side and heals her, but she remains out. Torrent flings a piece of concrete at Mule, missing.

Just as Wildfire begins to get up and it looks bleak for Vapor and Torrent, crashing down onto the van comes Kid Green! He whips out a stalk and grabs the black figure, pulling him back violently and delivering a mighty punch, knocking him back into the ground. He gets up, looks around briefly, and then moves toward the unconscious boy.

Kid Green moves on to Mule. He does a leg sweep that knocks the giant villain onto his butt. He tries to kick Kid but misses. Kid launches himself straight up into the air and comes down in a piledriver on Mule. That does it.

Wildfire is back on her feet, and both she and the black figure are menacing Torrent. “I fried you once, you best git before I do it again!” The black figure swings a backhand at Torrent, but it splooshes right through her. Wildfire lights up her hands again, preparing to take to the air, when another burst of knockout gas hits her and she collapses.

The black figure again moves toward the boy, picking him up. Dark Witch, now recovered, teleports near him and shoots him with her wand. “Jeremiah is scared!” the boy cries, and in that instant, the villains all disappear in a flash of light.

Kid Green looks around to make sure everybody’s okay, then leaps away. “I’ll be back when I find Stone. Stop calling me.”

Darlene is hurt and is taken quickly to the medical bay.