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":https://new-guardians.obsidianportal.com/items/gravity-gun 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?"
"That's clever. Much better than 'Queen Cranium'."
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.