Sam stepped through the barrier and immediately felt a chill run down her spine from being so close to that dark power. Her every instinct screamed at her to destroy that barrier, or at least, to stop the one who’d created it. She wasn’t sure how much of that desire was her own, and how much was a side effect of her power.
Now Sam and her team had gone through the barrier, the next step was to find their assigned obelisk and the villain who guarded it. Unfortunately, that was over thirty miles away, which meant that it wasn’t going to be a quick and easy journey. Of course, she could fly there, as could Mystik, but she was pretty sure that neither Deadbeat nor Agent Briggs…Poison could fly. That meant she and Mystik would have to carry them. Sam shuddered at the thought of carrying Deadbeat’s dead and decomposing body, but since Deadbeat was one of her own teammates in the Slackers, she couldn’t very well put that one off on Mystik.
Since Sam wanted to put off touching Deadbeat for as long as possible, she looked over her new team. She knew Deadbeat and had worked with her for some time now, but the other two were almost a complete mystery. Agent Briggs, who was calling herself Poison now that she was in costume, was a DAD agent, which meant that she was probably trained and experienced. However, Mystik was even more of an unknown. All that Sam knew was that she was some sort of magic user, and that she could fly. Sam, had seen Mystik doing so when she’d first arrived on the gathering point.
Then, Sam noticed that Mystik and Poison seemed a bit wary of each other. “I take it that you two know each other,” she commented, remembering that they’d already said as much a short time ago. However, at the time, she’d been distracted by everything else that had been going on and hadn’t paid much attention.
“We’ve worked together before,” Poison carefully responded. “It wasn’t under very good circumstances.”
“You can say that again,” Mystik muttered.
Poison smiled faintly and explained, “I was undercover in the Black Guild, and we worked a couple jobs for them together. At the time, I thought Mystik was a rookie villain, and she probably thought I was a psychotic monster.”
“You did a good job of playing the part,” Mystik pointed out.
“If you were there because you were undercover,” Sam asked Poison, then looking at Mystik, “then why were you there?”
“Because I was a rookie villain,” Mystik answered with a scowl, which surprised Sam.
“What the fuck?” Deadbeat demanded. “You’re a villain?”
“I was.” Mystik just shrugged, as though it was no big deal. “The fact is, I was a small time thief, and when I got my powers, I decided to try for the big leagues. But as it turns out, I wasn’t very good at it…”
Poison smiled faintly. “She started sabotaging half the jobs…or at least…protecting the bystanders. She released a bunch of hostages the Black Guild was holding, saved my life after my cover was blown, and then helped save the world.”
“And she made sure I got a second chance,” Mystik grudgingly admitted as she gestured to Poison. “Ironically, I’m better at being one of the good guys anyway, so that’s what I do now.” Then she gave a wry smile and added, “Besides, my girlfriend made me promise to stay on the straight and narrow.”
“I’m just glad I didn’t waste the effort,” Poison said with a faint nod of approval.
Mystik looked a little self-conscious at that, then gave Poison a curious look. “I thought you were playing dead, so no one from the Black Guild would come after you for what you did. What made you change your mind?”
“This,” Poison answered, gesturing to the barrier with a grim expression. “And this new Scepter. I hate leaving unfinished business, especially after everything I went through to take down the Black Guild and the Scepter.”
“Speaking of which,” Sam said with a glance to Deadbeat and a sigh of resignation. “We should get going.”
Deadbeat nodded. “The sooner we get this thing over with, the sooner I can get a beer.”
“I can take us there,” Mystik announced. “It will take a third of my power, but it will be the fastest way to get to the obelisk.”
“Then do it,” Poison told her.
Mystik held up her gold metallic staff, swung it about in a dramatic fashion, then slammed the base of it into the ground. Suddenly, there was a flash of light and a strange twisting sensation, and then they were somewhere else.
Sam looked around, surprised to see that she was now standing on a grassy lawn, in what appeared to be the suburbs. The homes and street all seemed calm and peaceful, reminding her a great deal of her own home, until she looked at the house across the street. A large black obelisk sat in the middle of a carefully manicured lawn, as if it was some kind of massively oversized lawn ornament.
“What the fuck?” Mystik suddenly exclaimed, which brought Sam’s attention to the base of the obelisk.
A dozen people…men, women and children…were all handcuffed to each other, wrist to wrist, so that they formed a circle around the base of the obelisk. The children, and several adults, were crying, while every one of them looked terrified.
“Hostages,” Poison stated in a grim voice.
“Yeah,” Mystik agreed in identical tone. “This is the Scepter’s style all right…”
Just then, Sam saw a flash of movement from the corner of her eye, but before she could consciously register it, Deadbeat was thrown back. Sam snapped around, only to see Deadbeat’s body on the ground a short distance away…while her head was entirely missing. A gore covered cinderblock tumbled along the ground even further away, before coming to a stop.
“TAKE COVER,” Poison ordered.
Sam flew straight up into the air, a moment before a stop sign flew through the space where she’d been standing a moment earlier. She quickly looked around for the source of the attack, noticing that Poison and Mystik had both run for cover behind a parked car.
“What part of take cover don’t you understand?” Poison snapped.
“I’m going higher,” Sam called back, hoping she could get out of range and get a better view at the same time. After a few seconds, she saw movement from the window of a house, the very one that the obelisk sat in front of. Going back down, she pointed to the house and announced, “I found her…”
“Good,” Poison responded. “She has us pinned down at the moment, but knowing where she’s coming from makes a huge difference…” Then she chuckled faintly and added, “Damn, I wish Harbinger was here for this one. We could use a good sniper, right about now.”
Sam dropped back to the ground, right beside Poison and Mystik, just a second before several rocks and bricks smashed into the other side of the car. They all shifted, prepared to break cover if it began to fail.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” Poison said, glancing around the back of the car and trying to catch a glimpse of Scepter.
“No big deal,” Sam responded with a faint smile. “Once Deadbeat finds a new body, he’ll be back.”
“I am not even going to ask,” Mystik commented.
“Our objective is the obelisk,” Poison reminded them. “Taking out the Scepter doesn’t do any good if we can’t remove the obelisk too.”
“Hard to take that out with the hostages,” Sam reminded her grimly. “If we do anything to knock it down, people are going to get crushed.”
Mystik nodded. “If I get close enough, I can free the hostages or take out the obelisk, but I can’t do either if I have to worry about getting my head knocked off.”
“So, either way, we have to deal with the Scepter,” Sam stated. “I’ll get her attention so you two can move in.”
Sam took a deep breath, then flew up into the air again. A fire hydrant suddenly flew at her, but she saw it coming in time to move out of the way. She flew towards the house, firing a brilliant blast of light right at the window.
While Sam was doing that, Poison and Mystik came out from cover and began rushing towards the house, trying to catch the Scepter by surprise. However, they had only made it halfway to the house, when the front door was flung open. A woman emerged, but it wasn’t the Scepter. It was a woman, who looked like a suburban soccer mom.
“Stop where you are,” the Scepter yelled, standing right behind the woman.
The woman stepped forward while the villainess used her as a human shield. A man came out with them, acting as a second hostage and shield. Both of the hostages looked terrified.
“One step more, and they die,” the Scepter stated. She held out her hand, which was firmly clutching a scepter. With a slight gesture with the scepter, the two hostages floated a foot into the air and remained there.
“What do you want?” Sam demanded, hovering in the air and wanting to blast the Scepter, but knowing that she couldn’t risk it.
“I want the world to kneel at my feet,” the Scepter answered with a smirk. “And one day it will. For now, I merely want to repay a debt, and that means dealing with minor nuisances, such as yourselves.”
“Let them go,” Poison demanded.
“I am the one in control here, not you,” the Scepter snapped.
Suddenly, the man who was floating beside the Scepter let out a gasp, right before his neck bent into an unnatural angle. A moment later, the man’s lifeless body dropped to the ground.
Sam gasped in horror and prepared to blast the Scepter, but the villainess gestured to the other hostage who was still floating there, screaming in horror. Sam snarled and spat out, “You monster…”
“A meaningless label,” the Scepter stated in a cold tone. “One the weak give the powerful.”
“And you think that you are powerful?” Poison asked, obviously trying to distract the Scepter and buy time to think.
The Scepter snarled. “I AM powerful, and I will only grow more so.” She gestured to the woman who hovered in front of her, and who was crying in terror. “Surrender heroes, unless you wish to see her die too.”
“Shit,” Poison exclaimed in frustration.
Sam scowled, seeing that they didn’t have a choice. Not unless she wanted to watch the Scepter murder that woman the way she had the man.
“You win,” Sam spat out bitterly, landing on the ground and holding up her hands.
Mystik hesitated a moment, but her staff was suddenly torn from her hands by the Scepter’s power, and sent flying nearly thirty yards. She glared at the Scepter but made no move.
“Kneel before me,” the Scepter commanded, “and I will let you live.”
Just then, the dead body near the Scepter’s feet groaned and began to get to his knees. As he looked up, his head still hung at an unnatural angle.
“G…Garret?” the hostage gasped in shock.
The corpse slowly staggered to his feet, moaning, “Brains…”
“What the…?” the Scepter started, taking a step back in surprise.
A moment later, the slow and staggering corpse suddenly launched himself at the Scepter, grabbing the scepter from her hand and throwing it. “Got your power, bitch,” Deadbeat exclaimed from his new body as he punched her.
The hostage dropped to the ground, free of the Scepter’s power. Sam saw her opening and flew to the hostage, grabbing her and pulling her away while Deadbeat threw himself at the Scepter, keeping her occupied.
A loud roar filled the air, right before a large black panther pounced on Poison from the side. Poison snapped around, surprised by the large cat that she hadn’t even seen sneaking up on her.
Poison’s fists burned with a green glow, and she dodged to the side, avoiding the slashing claws before punching the cat in the side. The cat snarled and hissed, seeming angry but unharmed.
“It…didn’t die,” Poison blurted out, looking at her glowing hands in surprise. “But my touch is lethal…”
“Ebon is no ordinary pet,” the Scepter exclaimed. “And I am no ordinary woman…”
With that, the Scepter gestured at Deadbeat, who was suddenly thrown away from her. She no longer had the scepter which Sam had assumed was the source of her powers, yet she still had her powers.
“Ebon,” Poison exclaimed in surprise.
Mystik’s staff flew through the air and right into her waiting hand. “Last I knew, Ebon was a housecat… That can’t be the same cat…”
“I think it is,” Poison responded grim. “Somehow.”
“Let me down from here,” Deadbeat ordered, flailing through the air.
“Ebon recognizes two of you,” the Scepter announced, sounding surprised. “He says you two played a part in ending the Black Guild and killing my predecessor…”
Poison glared at her. “So you aren’t the previous Scepter after all…”
“No,” the Scepter responded with a cruel smile. “He was nothing but a puppet. A pawn.”
The Scepter made a gesture with her hand, then Deadbeat let out a yelp, right before his body was torn in half. The lower half of his body was flung onto the nearby rooftop, while the upper half flew into the middle of the street where it hit hard enough to peel of flesh and shatter bones.
“Not again,” Deadbeat gasped out before his body went motionless.
“GARETT,” the hostage woman cried out while Sam tried to get her to run while she could.
“You are a monster,” Sam announced with fury burning in her eyes.
Sam glared at the Scepter, and the swirling glow around her body grew brighter as she gathered her power. She was about to blast the Scepter, who she could feel the taint of darkness from, but then she hesitated and realized that there was a much more powerful source of darkness.
“The cat,” Sam exclaimed, looking at the black panther that Poison was fighting. She could feel a lot of darkness from that cat, the same darkness that she’d felt from Nevermore and her creations. Without another moment of hesitation, Sam blasted him with a beam of light.
As soon as Sam’s light blast hit Ebon, he howled in pain and jumped back. Ebon snarled and roared, glaring at Sam with a look of pure hatred in his eyes. Sam felt a chill run down her spine as she realized that this was no ordinary cat. Ebon was something else entirely…a creature of darkness in feline form.
“NO,” the Scepter snarled, right before Sam was suddenly thrown back.
“You take the cat,” Poison exclaimed. “I’ll get the Scepter…”
Poison charged straight at the Scepter with glowing green hands, which Sam knew, would normally kill on contact. The Scepter looked vaguely worried, then levitated up into the air, out of Poison’s reach. As soon as she was high enough, she used her telekinesis to lift the various scattered bits of debris from around the yard, then sent them all flying straight at Poison.
“I’m not that easy to kill,” Poison said as she quickly leapt and dodged, avoiding the projectiles.
Sam paid little attention to what her teammates were doing, instead focusing on Ebon. The cat was snarling, glaring at her with glowing red eyes. Then the dark creature abruptly leapt at her, claws and fangs extended. Almost on reflex, Sam blasted Ebon with as much as she could, sending the cat flying back with a shriek of agony.
The Scepter suddenly dropped from the air and hit the ground, looking as if she was in pain. Sam stared at the Scepter, then back at Ebon in surprise and realization. With a grim smile, she fired another blast at the feline.
“You won’t win,” the Scepter yelled furiously, getting back to her feet and looking as though she was in great pain. Though most of her face was obscured by her helmet, the fierce determination was still clear in her voice. “You will NOT beat me…”
“We already have,” Mystik called out.
Sam looked to Mystik, who was floating in the air, right in front of where the obelisk had previously been. She gasped in surprise and saw that there was absolutely no sign of the obelisk, other than a blackened spot on the ground where it had previously stood.
The hostages, which had all been chained up in a ring around the obelisk, were no longer held in place by the stone pillar. They were still chained to each other, but half of them were dragging the other half, trying to get away from the Scepter.
“The obelisk,” the Scepter exclaimed in surprise, right before demanding, “WHAT DID YOU DO?”
Mystik smirked, twirling her staff around in a move that was obviously intended to show off. “I sent it to the same place I sent the last Scepter. Needless to say, it’s gone for good.”
The Scepter snapped out her hand as if to use her powers on Mystik, but nothing happened. That only seemed to shock and frustrate the villainess even more, though she still looked arrogant.
“You’re defeated,” Sam announced.
Poison immediately followed that up with the command, “Surrender.”
“NEVER,” Scepter yelled. “I’m too powerful to be stopped by the likes of you…” At this point, she sounded more like she was trying to convince herself of that than them.
Sam saw a flash of black, only to realize that Ebon was now running straight at the Scepter. Poison saw him coming and immediately snapped around to hit him, but the cat leapt over her head and landed right beside the villainess.
The Scepter gave a cruel smile, then Poison was thrown back, where she landed in the middle of the street. A moment later, the villainess started to levitate again.
“I don’t think so,” Mystik exclaimed as she suddenly appeared in the air beside the Scepter. Mystik was already swinging her staff, and hit the Scepter as hard as she could. Sam followed that up by blasting the Scepter with a burst of light.
The Scepter dropped from the air again, hitting the ground beside Ebon. “NO,” the Scepter snarled furiously. “I will NOT be beaten… I will NOT be powerless again... NEVER AGAIN.”
“Shut the fuck up,” a new voice added.
Sam looked to the source, a teenage girl with blood all over her clothes, and with a dull lifeless color to her skin. Deadbeat continued walking straight at the Scepter with a look of fierce determination on her new face.
“You know what,” Deadbeat stated. “I just climbed out of a pile of dead bodies in that back yard.” She gestured to one of the houses down the street. “You’re going down, you sick bitch. There was a baby… A GOD DAMN BABY! There is no way in fucking Hell that you’re gonna walk away from this one.”
This was the first time that Sam had ever seen Deadbeat so angry or motivated. Normally, the zombie hero was lazy and virtually useless, living up to her codename as if that was a challenge she had to meet. But not now. For the first time since Sam had known her, Deadbeat was pissed off and determined.
Ebon abruptly turned and pounced on Deadbeat, clawing a nasty gouge down the side of her face, all the way down into her collarbone. However, Deadbeat barely seemed to notice the injury and merely grabbed the cat and slammed him into the ground. Deadbeat was stronger than she looked, and her bodies were completely expendable. Even if Ebon tore Deadbeat to shreds, Deadbeat would merely get a new body and come back.
Sam blasted Ebon with another blast of her light, and the cat shrieked in pain. He quickly scrambled back to his feet and hissed at her. The large cat’s glowing red eyes were filled with hatred, and it was all directed at her.
“Bad kitty,” Deadbeat exclaimed, right before kicking Ebon in the side as hard as she could. The panther tumbled over, quickly regained his footing, and was about to leap at Deadbeat again, when Poison leapt at him.
Since Poison was keeping Ebon busy, Deadbeat charged straight at the Scepter, as did Mystik, who used her staff to repeatedly hit the villain. She jumped back when Deadbeat reached them, giving Deadbeat room to work. Without a word, the zombie girl picked the Scepter up, held her over her head for a moment, then body slammed her into the ground.
“Deadbeat,” Poison called out. “Find something to restrain the Scepter. “Glamour Girl and Mystik, keep her covered…”
Deadbeat sneered, which was a frightening expression on her shredded face. “The way you’re barking orders,” she grumbled, “I’m starting to feel like I’m in the Army…”
“I was in the Marines,” Poison responded proudly. “Not the Army. Now move your ass, soldier.”
“Bite me,” Deadbeat responded, flipping Poison off, then kicking the Scepter in the side before she turned to do as she’d been instructed.
“No,” the Scepter snarled, struggling to get back to her feet. Her armor was cracked and dented, but her spirit and determination seemed intact. “I will not be defeated by the likes of you. I will not be powerless again… Never again… I am the one with the power now. ME! I’ll crush you all…”
Suddenly, Sam found herself moving through the air, but not under her own power. The rest of her team began floating up as well, much to their evident surprise. She gulped, having a very bad feeling as she remembered how easily the Scepter had killed that hostage earlier when he was helpless like this. However, it took her a moment to realize that even the Scepter seemed a little surprised. But then, Sam was abruptly slammed back to the ground, hitting into the lawn with a painful thud.
Sam started to scramble back to her feet, only to see Ebon leap at the Scepter. As soon as the panther landed, his body seemed to shift and blur into a thick black smoke, which quickly reformed into a new shape. A giant black bird…a massive raven with glowing red eyes, let out a loud ‘kaw’ before he grabbed the Scepter in his claws and took to the air.
“Stop them,” Poison yelled.
Mystik held out her hand, and the staff that she’d lost when she’d been thrown around, quickly flew back into her palm. Sam flew up into the air, determined to catch the Scepter and that dark creature who was helping her, but when she looked around, all she saw was dark clouds. The Scepter and her giant raven had disappeared. With long stream of profanities, she settled back down to the ground.
“They got away,” Sam reluctantly told the others.
“FUCK,” Deadbeat snarled furiously.’
“Did you see Ebon?” Mystik asked Poison. “I knew that damn cat wasn’t normal, but I never saw it do anything like that…”
“Me either,” Poison admitted. “Whatever that thing really is, I’m getting the feeling that its at least as dangerous as the Scepter is…if not more.”
“At least we took care of the obelisk,” Sam pointed out, looking to Mystik and adding, “Good job with that.” Mystik merely nodded.
“Whatever,” Deadbeat grumbled, gesturing to the hostages that were still handcuffed together. “While you gets cut them loose, I’m gonna go get a body that isn’t so damaged, then I’m gonna look for a beer. After what I just saw back there, I’m gonna need at least a six pack.”
“Just don’t get drunk,” Poison pointed out grimly. She stared at the spot that had previously been occupied with the obelisk, scowling deeply as she did so. “We might have won this battle, but the war isn’t over. We’re not done yet.”
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