The Return of Nevermore part 14

Joselyn stood back, silently watching Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy, who had just returned after their failed mission against Circuit Monger and her obelisk. They were both sitting down to rest, though Invincible Woman was also holding an ice pack against the side of her face. Between the bruised face and her torn costume, it was pretty obvious that she’d been in a tough fight. In contrast, Ghost Boy looked tired, but completely unharmed.

Many of the heroes had gathered around, eager to hear about what had happened with Circuit Monger. The members of Faction Zero looked especially interested, which was no surprise since they were the ones who had the most experience with her.

“We beat Circuit Monger before,” Invincible Woman said, her tone being just a little defensive…or maybe just embarrassed. “But this time was different. When we got to the obelisk, Circuit Monger was there…with an army.”

“An army?” Shiver blurted out in surprise.

“There were several hundred people in the area,” Ghost Boy explained, “completely surrounding the obelisk. They looked like normal people, except they all had glowing green eyes…”

“The infected,” Denise stated, drawing Joselyn’s attention to her. She hadn’t even realized the doctor had come over, until that moment.”

Icarus gave Denise a suspicious look and asked, “You know about them?”

Denise had a grim look on her face as she nodded. “I saw them this morning. Groups of them were searching the streets and buildings, finding other people and then infecting them.”

“Infecting them?” Joselyn’s dad asked. “What do you mean?”

“The infection seems to be spread through direct physical contact,” Denise explained with a deep scowl. “Less than half a minute after direct exposure, and the victim shows all the symptoms as the others. I would assume that this was a form of virus, but the rate of progression is far too rapid for that.” Then she shook her head and added, “I haven’t seen any of them speak or even communicate with each other, but their movements and actions were still completely coordinated. It was quite…disconcerting to see.”

“Damn,” Kaboom exclaimed, shaking her head. “Sounds like Night of the Living Dead or something…”

“Or the Borg,” Ghost Boy added with a deep scowl. A moment, he looked around defensively, “I have watched Star Trek, you know…”

“You sound like you know what you’re talking about,” Joselyn commented, watching Denise with a curious look.

Will, who was standing beside Denise, gave her a nervous look. “I’m…something of an expert in retroviral mutation,” Denise said with a carefully controlled expression. “And I watched those infected, as much as I could without getting close. In fact, when I first saw them, I assumed that Baltimore had been quarantined to prevent their spread…”

“A reasonable assumption,” Joselyn’s dad stated, turning his attention back to Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy. “Please continue…”

“When we got there,” Invincible Woman said, removing the ice pack from her face and revealing that most of the bruising was now gone, which said something about how bad she must have been to start with. “Circuit Monger was waiting…with her army. There were so many of them, and they were completely surrounding the obelisk. Praxis went to try shooing them away from the obelisk so we could destroy it, while Ghost Boy and I tried to keep Circuit Monger busy…”

“The…infected,” Ghost Boy said, glancing to Denise before using her term for them, “swarmed over Praxis…and infected her. The next thing we knew, Praxis had joined them and started to attack us…”

“Damn,” Kaboom exclaimed while several others nodded agreement with the sentiment.

“Praxis,” Joselyn whispered, feeling bad for the woman. She barely knew Praxis at all, but to have something like this happen to her… She shuddered at the very thought.

“We couldn’t beat both Praxis and Circuit Monger,” Invincible Woman continued with a deep grimace. “And we didn’t dare get too close to the infected…”

“I could have gotten past them,” Ghost Boy added, looking frustrated. “But there isn’t much I could have done to the obelisk. My powers are more suited to stealth than destruction…”

At this point, Warchild grumbled, “We should have sent all the teams in with explosives...just for situations like this.”

“But how do you get past an army of mind controlled civilians?” Joselyn asked, looking around. “I mean, you can’t just kill them like you would a bunch of zombies or robots…”

“Actually,” Interface mused with a thoughtful expression, “I believe the Borg analogy is probably closer to the truth.”

Joselyn stared at Interface for a moment, then realized that this wasn’t just speculation. The Guard member actually knew something about these infected. However, before she could call him out on it, Shiver pointed out, “That’s right. You and Circuit Monger have a history…”

Interface nodded grimly. “Circuit Monger and I received our powers from the same source…a techno-organic virus. This virus gave me the ability to interface with computer systems, and even other people’s nervous systems, but Trojan received a variant strain that had somewhat different effects. He gained the ability to interface with computers, just like I can, but not with humans. Unfortunately, his strain also became somewhat sentient…and either merged with him or seized control. I’ve never been quite certain which.”

“I thought we were talking about Circuit Monger,” Kaboom said with a confused look. “Not this Trojan guy…”

“Trojan is Circuit Monger,” Shiver told Kaboom.

Interface nodded again. “Trojan transferred his consciousness into a cybernetic body, a duplicate of Circuit’s, and then changed his…her name.” He scowled at that. “From what I know of her, she considers this cybernetic conversion an upgrade…and as she is far stronger and more powerful than she’d been in her human body, I can understand that perspective.”

Warchild snorted. “Please don’t tell me that you’re thinking of turning into a fembot too…” He smirked faintly as he added, “Having one fembot on the team is enough.”

Interface gave Warchild a wry look. “Trust me, when I say, I have no such plans.”

“Please continue,” Joselyn’s dad urged him, somewhat impatiently.

“From what I have heard about these infected,” Interface continued with a deep scowl. “I believe that I know how Circuit Monger is doing this.”

“How?” Joselyn asked.

“When I interface with a person,” Interface explained, “I create a very limited infection, which allows me to interface with their brains and access the information stored within. Trojan was obsessed with acquiring information, and was jealous that I could do this while he could not. The human mind is a repository of information that he could not directly access, much to his frustration.”

Joselyn’s dad stared at Interface for a moment before saying, “And you think that Circuit Monger learned how to do this.”

“Yes,” Interface agreed with a deep scowl. “I believe that Circuit Monger has not only learned how I interface with people…but has created a much more powerful version. Instead of just interfacing with someone else’s brain, she created a virus that could override and control it.”

“An infectious virus,” Joselyn pointed out.

“Yes,” Interface said again. “One that allows her to access and control those who are infected.”

“Like Praxis,” Ghost Boy added bitterly.

“And all those civilians,” Icarus stated with a sour look. “Circuit Monger has always been dangerous, but if she can do this now, then she has become a major threat. Perhaps an even greater threat to the world than Nevermore.”

“I doubt that,” Joselyn muttered, though she could definitely see how dangerous Circuit Monger was.

If Circuit Monger’s infection got out of Baltimore, it could easily spread over the entire world, like some kind of high tech zombie apocalypse. But as bad as that was, Joselyn was sure that whatever Nevermore had planned would be even worse.

“Circuit Monger has turned people into…drones,” Interface spat out in disgust. “If this spreads beyond Baltimore…”

“It won’t,” Joselyn said, surprising herself with the comment since Interface had just been echoing her own thoughts. Then she realized that her powers were giving her more information. “I think she has some kind of limitation about distance. She can only control them if they’re close enough…”

To Joselyn’s surprise, no one questioned how she knew that. Instead, Interface merely nodded. “If she’s controlling these people directly, then they have to be close enough to receive her communications signal…”

“Unless she builds some kind of repeater,” Surge, of the Miracle Men offered.

“Would it be possible to interrupt this communication signal?” Icarus asked Interface, who seemed to be the expert on these kind of viruses.

Interface thought about it for a moment, then shook his head. “Perhaps…once we knew how Circuit Monger was communicating with them. The electro-magnetic spectrum is quite vast, and unless we know what part of the spectrum she is using…and what frequencies, our options are limited.”

Joselyn stared at Interface for a moment as an idea occurred to her. “You think she’s using some kind of radio signal?”

“That seems the most likely option,” Interface explained, giving her a faintly annoyed look, as he seemed to think she was asking a dumb question. “From what I know of the original virus, that would be the best means of communication between one host and another. The problem is, jamming the entire range of possible frequencies will be extremely difficult.”

“What about an EMP?” Joselyn’s dad asked thoughtfully.

“Possible,” Interface responded with a look of consideration. “If nothing else, it would disrupt communication long enough for us to act…”

“I have an idea,” Joselyn announced.

Her dad abruptly paused to give her a curious look. “Your powers are telling you something?”

“Not exactly,” Joselyn admitted with a grin. “But I know someone who would be perfect for this…” At her dad’s curious look, she explained, “Her powers let her jam the entire electromagnetic spectrum at once.”

Without bothering to explain more, Joselyn pulled out her cell phone and made a call. As soon as her best friend picked up, Joselyn said, “Hey, Vickie… I know this is short notice, but I need you and Chris to get dressed. We need you.”

--------------------

The air was filled with a sense of dark unease, the kind that sent chills down Gwen’s spine and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She slowly looked around, gulping nervously as she did so. Though she didn’t see any signs of an immediate threat, she knew that it was out there…surrounding her.

“It isn’t much further,” Glamour Girl announced, pointing down the street.

Glamour Girl had already said this before, just a couple minutes ago. That was why Gwen had landed her cloud and let it vanish. She’d gotten them close to Nevermore, but now they wanted to go the rest of the way on foot so that they wouldn’t be seen as easily.

“This is a reconnaissance mission,” Poison reminded the rest of them. “For now, we just want to get close enough to see what’s going and what we’re facing. If necessary, we can send for reinforcements.”

“I’d rather just kick Nevermore’s ass and get it over with,” Deadbeat grumbled.

“I’m with him,” Alleycat agreed, gesturing to Deadbeat.

Gwen let out a sigh, then pointed out, “We don’t really know what Baron Nevermore is up to…or how many people he has with him.”

“SHE probably has an army of monsters,” Glamour Girl responded grimly. “I can feel the darkness…a lot more of it than the last time I saw Nevermore.” She shuddered visibly.

“Let’s just get this done and over with,” Mannequin said grimly.

Mystik didn’t say a word, though she definitely looked nervous. Instead, she swung her staff in a dramatic manner then began walking in the direction that Glamour Girl had indicated. A moment later, everyone else followed.

“I can’t believe we’ve got to walk,” Deadbeat grumbled, “when we’ve got perfectly good transportation…”

“It’s only a block,” Gwen pointed out with a roll of her eyes. She hadn’t known Deadbeat long, but she’d already noticed that he liked to complain about everything. She was beginning to see how he’d earned his codename.

Suddenly, Glamour Girl froze and looked around with a grim expression. Gwen immediately began scanning the area, still not seeing any threats, though she didn’t doubt that they were there. “They’re coming,” Glamour Girl finally said.

In spite of Glamour Girl’s dire pronouncement, it took another ten seconds before the creatures appeared, crawling out of the nearby buildings and dark alleys. Gwen gulped as she looked around, realizing that there were a lot more of these things than the last time her group had been attacked. However, she reminded herself, this time they had Glamour Girl with them from the start.

Glamour Girl floated up into the air, then let loose with a massive burst of light, aimed straight into the center of the swarming mass. Dozens of the creatures shrieked and crumbled away at once, and she didn’t hesitate to start attacking the rest.

“Oombay,” Gwen called out, creating a small explosion that took out a couple of the creatures.

Mannequin fired energy blasts at a couple from her palms while Poison, Alleycat, and Deadbeat circled around the rest of them, clearly preparing to deal with any of the creatures that got too close. And then there was Mystik, who suddenly teleported to where one giant snake had just appeared from a building doorway, and then smacked it over the head with her staff. Repeatedly.

“Snakes,” Mystik commented with a grin, as if she was making some kind of joke. “Why did it have to be snakes?”

Gwen just gave Mystik a curious look, a little confused since she’d heard that the other magic user was pretty powerful, but all she’d seen Mystik do was teleport and levitate. Then again, she reminded herself, Mystik had once taken out Entropy, when Faction Zero had been unable to do so, which proved she had some real power. But before Gwen could give any more consideration as to why Mystik was holding back, another wave of the creatures began to appear.

“There are a lot more of these damn freaks this time,” Alleycat growled, right before she leapt at one catlike creature and used her own claws on it.

“We’re a lot closer to Nevermore,” Glamour Girl pointed out grimly, right before she fired several more blasts of light.

“Good thing we have you here with us,” Poison said, punching a flying monkey, then lashing out at something else. “Otherwise, we’d be completely overwhelmed, just by sheer numbers…”

“There are still too damn many of them,” Deadbeat pointed out. With that, he picked up one of the humanoid creatures, which looked like a zombie from some horror movie.

Gwen stared at the sight of one zombie fighting another, then shook her head and focused on several of the flying creatures that were getting too close. “Irefay. Reezefay.”

Less than a minute later, the remaining creatures turned and fled, and soon the streets were once again empty. Gwen gasped for breath and let out a sigh of relief before announcing, “We did it…”

Glamour Girl snapped around and demanded, “What do you mean WE?”

“What’s your problem?” Alleycat snarled, glaring at Glamour Girl.

“I am the one who beat those things,” Glamour Girl exclaimed, looking around at all of the others with an arrogant expression. “Just like I’m the one who beat them the last time. We all know that I’m the most powerful one here, and that I’m the only one powerful enough to beat Nevermore. The rest of you are just cannon fodder to keep her troops occupied…”

“Why, you arrogant bitch,” Alleycat yelled, her eyes blazing with rage.

“But she’s right,” Gwen gasped, staring at Glamour Girl and feeling a growing sense of jealousy. Glamor Girl was so beautiful, and strong, and tough, and she had such beautiful light power…

“Calm down,” Poison yelled, but it did little good as Alleycat leapt at Glamour Girl. The glowing heroine responded by backhanding Gwen’s teammate, sending her flying back. Poison snarled in anger, her hands glowing green. “YOU WILL OBEY ME!”

“What the Hell is going on?” Mannequin demanded, looking around in shock.

Deadbeat shook his head with a look of confusion. “Beats me…”

Mystik clutched her staff tightly and began to back up while giving everyone else suspicious looks. “Mine,” she muttered, pulling her staff even closer to her body. “My precious…”

“I want her powers,” Gwen whined, still staring at Glamour Girl. She considered her magic, wondering if one of her spells might be able to take Glamour Girl’s powers… But then, she paused, realizing that something wasn’t right. It was with a great deal of effort that she gasped, “Indmay ieldshay…”

Suddenly, Gwen’s mind cleared and she let out a gasp, no longer feeling jealous of Glamour Girl. She stared at the other heroes, seeing that everyone besides Mannequin and Deadbeat were getting ready to attack each other. With a grimace, she gathered her energy and repeated the spell she’d just cast on herself, targeting Poison first, then quickly getting the others.

“I almost killed you,” Poison gasped, staring down at her own hands in shock. “I can’t believe…”

“I can’t believe I was saying those things,” Glamour Girl said with a look of guilt.

“The Sinner,” Gwen blurted out, immediately getting everyone’s attention. “She’s here…”

Mannequin scowled and began to look around. “I should have known… But where is she?”

“No idea,” Gwen responded, looking around her surroundings but seeing no sign of the Sinner…or anyone else. However, there had been no mistaking that power. “But she’s around here somewhere…”

Just then, someone began to clap. “Very good,” the Sinner announced a moment later, as she stepped out of a nearby doorway and into view. She had an arrogant smirk on her face as she said, “You caught me…”

“YOU,” Gwen snarled, becoming angry at the very sight of the woman who had caused so much devastation.

“I just had to take a peek at your defining sins,” the Sinner casually said, looking oddly amused. Gwen REALLY wanted to knock that smug look off the villain’s face. “Pride and anger are no surprise. After all, those are the most common sins among your kind. But greed…” She stared intently at Mystik. “That is a little less common, but oh so interesting…”

“Bite me,” Mystik responded, flipping the Sinner off while raising her staff to fight.

“Mine would probably be sloth,” Deadbeat admitted with a shrug.

“We’ve got you now,” Alleycat exclaimed with a satisfied look of her own as she began to slowly walk towards the Sinner. “You don’t have any civilians to use this time…”

The Sinner just sneered at that. “I don’t know how you broke free,” she said, “but this time, you’ll tear each other to pieces before you even know it…”

Gwen suddenly felt pressure against the mind shield spell that she’d cast, and she held her breath for a moment. To her relief, the spell held. She grinned, feeling much more confident about the situation.

“That isn’t going to work on us again,” she called out.

“You’re in deep trouble now,” Mannequin announced as she started walking straight towards the Sinner, making a show of cracking her knuckles.

The Sinner looked worried, but only for a few seconds. “That might be true,” she responded, once again smirking and even buffing her nails. “If I was alone.”

“DESTROY HER,” a new voice yelled out.

The voice had barely finished speaking when Mannequin was suddenly struck with a flash of red energy. A moment later, there was a smoldering hole where hero had been…with a charred and severed arm beside it.

“MANNEQUIN,” Gwen cried out in stunned horror.

Gwen snapped around to look for the source of the voice and saw a skinny woman with black hair, and wearing a red and black suit of armor. She was hovering in the air, surrounded by a ring of black smoke. At first, Gwen had absolutely no idea who this woman was, but then the saw the black staff in her hand.

“She has Loki’s staff,” Gwen blurted out, right before snarling, “She killed Mannequin…”

“Good one, Loki,” the Sinner called out with a smirk. “And in case I forgot to tell you before, you look a lot better as a chick. Maybe once we’re done here, we can go try out your new body…”

“Shut up,” the woman…Loki snarled, definitely not looking happy.

“Take them,” Poison yelled, pointing at Loki with a look of cold fury.

With that, everyone burst into action. Deadbeat, Alleycat, and Poison all ran towards the Sinner since she was on the ground and none of them could fly. Since the mysteriously transformed Loki was floating in the air, that left Glamour Girl and Mystik to fly after her, while Gwen focused on her ranged magic.

“Irefay,” Gwen called out, throwing a ball of fire at the floating villain, who dodged out of the way.

“Protect the Sinner,” Loki ordered, right before the Sinner suddenly vanished, only to reappear a moment later in another location. “Protect me…”

Glamour Girl punched Loki, or at least tried to, because her fist went right through Loki as if she was a ghost. Loki just laughed at that, which infuriated both Gwen and Glamour Girl.

“You’ll pay for murdering Mannequin,” Glamour Girl yelled.

“And everyone else,” Gwen added, wondering what she could do against someone like Loki, when her own magic was quickly running out.

“Loki,” Mystik called out, floating up into the air. She had a grim look on her face as she glared at the villain. “If you really are Loki.”

Loki glared at Mystik before answering, “I remember you… You were one of the bitches who sent me to prison…” Then Loki smirked, “I’m gonna love fucking you up…”

“I’ve got one wish left,” Mystik stated grimly. “Taking you down will be a good use.”

“I’ve got as many wishes as I want,” Loki bragged. “But I only need to use one to kill all you nosey bitches…” Then, she held up her staff and yelled, “KILL THEM ALL.”

Suddenly, the sky cracked open, with jagged black tears running through the very air. Gwen stared at it with a very bad feeling, especially when red energy began to leak out from the tears.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Gwen muttered. “A VERY bad feeling…”

After several seconds of tense waiting, the rest of the sky seemed to shatter, releasing a downpour of crimson liquid. Suddenly, a large golden dome formed over the area, like an enormous umbrella to protect them all from the bloody rain.

“What the…?” Gwen started in surprise.

Gwen looked through the transparent dome and saw the red liquid pouring down outside of it, coming down like a heavy rain. Then Gwen noticed steam coming from where the liquid hit, and she gasped as a nearby car began to blister and melt, dissolving like a sugar cube left out in the rain. Even the ground began to burn and dissolve.

“No fucking way,” Alleycat exclaimed.

Then a shriek of agony pierced the air, drawing Gwen’s attention to the Sinner…who was outside the golden dome and caught in the bloody downpour. She was on her knees, screaming as her clothes and skin burned and dissolved, as though she’d been doused in acid.

“Oh God,” Gwen whispered in horror, tearing her eyes away from the villain as she couldn’t bear to watch something so horrific. The screaming stopped a couple seconds later, but Gwen couldn’t bring herself to look at the Sinner…or at what was left of her.

The bloody rain stopped after only a minute, and as soon as it did, the glowing dome vanished as well. Gwen looked around, horrified at her surroundings. The buildings, ground, and everything that had been caught in the rain, was melted and dissolved, losing an inch off the surface. However, the area that had been protected by the dome was intact and an island of normalcy in comparison.

“Loki’s gone,” Gwen said in realization. She didn’t see any sign of the villain.

“She probably figured we were all dead from that,” Glamour Girl announced, “and left.”

“Or she didn’t want to get caught in it herself,” Poison added.

“Good news for us,” Alleycat said grimly. “If she doesn’t come back.”

“That’s it,” Mystik exclaimed, now standing on the ground and leaning on her staff. “I’m done. My tank is empty.”

“You created the force field,” Poison said, looking at Mystik in surprise. “You saved us…”

Mystik nodded at that. “Yeah, but I’m pretty much useless now.”

“Yeah, but so is the Sinner,” Deadbeat announced with an evil chuckle. “Damn, there’s hardly anything left of her.”

Gwen shuddered at that. “TMI.”

Mystik let out a sigh, then said, “I can still teleport for a couple more minutes, but after that, I’ll change back to normal and probably won’t be able to use my powers again for the next week.”

“Can you teleport yourself back to the base camp?” Poison asked.

“Yeah,” Mystik agreed with a scowl, carefully not looking at what was left of the Sinner…or Mannequin. “I can do that, but I don’t like the idea of abandoning you out here.”

Poison nodded thoughtfully. “If your powers are out, then you’d just be a liability. You’ve already done your part, so get back to where it’s safe…and fill everyone in on what’s going on.”

Mystik hesitated a moment before nodding agreement. “I can do that. Good luck.” And with that, she suddenly vanished in a flash of golden light.

“Now what?” Deadbeat asked.

“Now,” Poison announced, gesturing in the direction that they’d previously been heading. “We still have a reconnaissance mission to complete.”



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