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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1094 - 1096

Post by GPrime » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:06 pm

That wasn't a "Yay, it's over", I was just stating the facts. Can't wait to see what Lex has been up to.

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New Vindicators, Chapter 1097

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:31 pm

Chapter XCVII: Vindicated
He wanted to go home.

Once upon a time, his home was a trailer park in Illinois. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was an expert at pretending her high school sweetheart wasn’t abusive. Everything changed the day his Neo-Sapien powers manifested in self-defense. When his father’s punches couldn’t hurt him anymore, he was disowned. He was kicked out. He spent weeks living on the streets. A local branch of the Church of Genetic Purity found him and tried to lynch him. He would have died had he not been saved by two angels…

Crusader and the fourteen-year-old girl in her company took him to New York City. Neither of the teenagers had thought they had nowhere else to go but the New Vindicators Academy of America took them in and gave them a home. For the first time in either of the youths’ miserable lives, they were happy.

Those two teenagers made the New Vindicators Academy of America their home and, slowly, they made a home with each other. After graduation, they married. After the Trials, they were recruited to join the Guardians—a group of super-powered jailers charged with keeping the most dangerous criminals in America locked up on Alcatraz. They said goodbye to New York and moved to San Francisco. They missed their home, but both felt that home was wherever the other was.

When news of Jacque’s death reached Lex, he died too. His heart broke. His happiness had been stolen. His resolve to go on had faded. His spirits shattered.

His home was gone… and Lex Sway did not know where to go…

It had all happened in the wake of Black Box’s rise. The walls he and Jacque had occupied—the roof they lived under—had been stormed. Agents watched it, anticipating his return. His account was frozen; he had no money. He watched as their landlord bagged up their possessions in Hefty bags and put them out on the curb.

He wanted to desperately to get his things: love letters Jacque had written him or pictures of the pair. Home movies on the hard drive of her laptop, their marriage certificate, clothes that might still hold her scent, the VHS copy of The Princess Bride he bought her back in 2003… He wrestled with himself as the mound of garbage bags sat on the curb for pickup. Every fiber of his being yearned to go down there and take them. He told himself it would be easy: teleport down there, grab what he could, and teleport away.

What was the worst they could do?

In the end, he did nothing. In the end, he turned his back on the mementos of their life together and cried as he forced himself to leave San Francisco behind him.

He found work washing dishes at a family restaurant in Northglen, Colorado. He couldn’t remember the last time he had ate a home cooked meal—he had been surviving by digging through the trash—and inhaled whatever the cook prepared for him on each of his breaks. He never got paid though: the owner’s wife handled the bookkeeping and when she came to him about an error with the phony Social Security number he had given her, he fled for Rapid City, South Dakota.

There, he found work as a laborer. Still, when questions about his identity were raised, Lex Sway bailed out on another invented identity.

He met another Neo-Sapien while jumping trains. Lex had no destination in mind: he teleported on and was determined to ride it wherever he could. Carter Ingram was headed north though; Carter Ingram was bound for Canada. The man from Minnesota had heard of other Neo-Sapiens jumping the border and hiding in Canada. In Canada, they were able to work without fear of Black Box coming after them. In Canada, they had a chance to be happy…

It sounded nice and Lex had no plans except to keep moving. He had considered taking his own life but debated if that was possible. It was theorized that Neo-Sapiens unable to control their powers were in such a state because of a mental block: something subconscious prevented them from mastering their abilities. If he tried to jump off a bridge, would his mind—in an act of self-preservation—subconsciously cause him to transform into his invulnerable body? Would the same happen if he tried to slit his wrists? If he put a gun in his mouth? If anything, fleeing to Canada was a wonderful respite from suicidal thoughts that terrified Lex.

Lex made his way to Thompson, Manitoba. He found work in the mines. He kept to himself mostly but some of the other guys were determined to bust through the wall he had erected. He politely declined their invitations to join them at the bar; memories of his father’s alcoholism had turned him off of beer forever. He was not above going bowling with them however…

Mark Danver’s dad died in ’98. A bulkhead collapse caused a wet-fill release in the mines that claimed the father of four. Mark dropped out of high school to help his mother support his younger siblings. A few months later, Mark knocked up his girlfriend of two years. Like that, he had two more mouths to feed.

Mark had never made an honest woman out of Jennifer. He moved her and their son in with him and his family. The second eldest—his sister Marion—got a scholarship and left for college without ever looking back. He gave his son her old room while he and Jennifer slept in the same room he had grown up in. His mother slept on the couch while her youngest two boys shared her old room in the cramped, three-bedroom home.

Lex saw so much of his own life reflected in Mark’s life. Mark was just like his old man: a high school dropout who knocked up his girlfriend and never married her. Worse, Lex saw that Mark was an abusive drunk, just like his old man…

One night, Mark had had a few too many at the bowling alley. Lex, who never drank, insisted on driving Mark’s truck back to the homestead and Mark obliged after some coercion. When they pulled in the drive, Jennifer was sitting on the porch swing, smoking a cigarette. Mark stumbled up the stairs and Lex hung back, still holding the man’s keys.

Jennifer asked how much he had to drink and Mark told her to shut her mouth.

Jennifer asked if drank away the money that was supposed to pay the gas bill and Mark answered with his fist.

Something seized Lex then. He couldn’t stand to watch another drunk beat on the people who loved him but more than that… he couldn’t watch a man hurt the woman who was his home…

Lex transformed. His strength increased as his skin hardened. His skin turned black and his touch turned icy.

Lex transformed. Where he once lived his life protecting others, he was suddenly filled with murderous intent.

Jennifer screamed at the sight of him. Mark turned in time to see Lex seize him by the throat. Mark’s feet left the porch and then the floorboards collapsed under Lex’s immense weight. In a feeble attempt to fight back, Mark grabbed Lex’s wrist and screamed at the cold, burning sensation that shot through his palms and fingers.

Lex pulled back his other hand and punched Mark in the face. He pulled it back and punched him again and again and again. Lost to the rage, he could barely hear Jennifer’s screams trailing off as she ran into the house. The Neo-Sapien’s features were lost to the darkness that shrouded him but he was gritting his teeth. He was snarling. Spittle sprayed from the corners of his mouth as he relentlessly punched the man in the face.

He stopped when he heard the sirens in the distance. He looked at Mark: the man’s skull had collapsed. The bloody mess of tissue that had once been his face was oozing over Lex’s hand. Trembling, he dropped the man. He scrambled to flee the scene. He moved as if he were trying to swim through the splinted wood sundered under his other form. Eventually he stepped down onto the lawn. Lights from the squad cars were sweeping across the Danvers’ neighbors’ houses. Panic set in and Lex teleported…

The rage followed him. It followed him as he made his way across Canada. The media was flooded with reports of a super-powered serial killer. It was CBC News that first dubbed him “Man-Eater”—a homicidal Neo-Sapien who murdered men who abused their significant others. Man-Eater’s status as a Neo-Sapien caused some to petition Parliament to do something about the waves of American Neo-Sapiens sweeping into Canada.

The campaign picked up more steam when Man-Eater seemed to settle down in one province: Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was here that Man-Eater claimed his most victims: before the murders inexplicably stopped, he had claimed six lives—one more than he had in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec combined.

His last victim had been the one Lex had been looking for. His rage swallowed the shock of what he had done the night Mark Danver was killed. His rage pushed him to go on—to make this his life’s work. His rage demanded Lance McGee’s life be forfeited and so, Lex began looking for him.

It made sense: Carter said that Neo-Sapiens were migrating to Canada. Lex had even heard of humans in hiding—their only crime being that they were related to someone in the files of the New Vindicators Academy of America. As an alumnus, the school would have had his parents’ identities on file. Lance McGee and Christine Sway had to be in the hordes liberated from Peoria—ironically close to their trailer home in neighboring Bartonville. His parents’ names would raise too many flags in America. Surviving couldn’t be too hard—how many illegal immigrants were there in the States?—but life would be so much simpler north of the border.

Lex was confident he would find his parents in Canada. Weeks after Mark Danver was killed, Lance McGee was murdered… and the killings came to a grinding halt.

Outside his parents’ new home, Lex saw a ghost. Cloud Goodman was supposed to have died two years prior and yet he came before Lex to warn him that Black Box was closing in on him. With promises to bring Man-Eater to justice discreetly, the Canadian government allowed Black Box to hunt the killer. Cloud was leading the team determined to bring Lex down but their friendship made him reluctant to carry out his orders.

Lex fled… and began to reflect on what he was becoming. He felt like all he was had been shattered when Maria told him about Jacque’s sacrifice. Now, he felt as though he were frantically grabbing up the shards of his former life. He was desperate to cling to some semblance of who he once was… and earnestly prayed he could put the pieces back together.

At the homeless shelter, Lex handed over the rags he had been wearing for weeks and was given clean clothes. He showered. He shaved. He got a haircut. He ate what was simultaneously the worst spaghetti he had ever tasted and the best meal he had eaten in months. Each night, before dinner, he made his way to the chapel and listened to whatever minister had come to preach at him.

It was always the same: they all preached on forgiveness and redemption.

He was indifferent at first but with the New Year came a new direction: Lex Sway tried prayer. As he sat down to eat lunch, he prayed something other than the generic blessing the other men at the shelter had been taught: he asked for guidance.

“I need a sign,” he whispered.

The television was tuned to CNN. A report on the repairs to the Empire State Building was interrupted by something unfolding in the news room. Cameras turned and focused on a portal forged from an otherworldly, burnt-orange energy.

More alarming than the cosmic doorway that appeared in the middle of the room was the figure that stepped through it. For eight months, Magnus Loder had been one of America’s Most Wanted. “I won’t even waste my breath trying to argue my innocence,” Magnus said. “I doubt anyone would believe me… just as I doubt you’ll believe me when I say that I’m not here to harm anyone. I simply have need to convey a message to my friend…

“Alexander…” Lex dropped his fork into his plate. “You’ve been away for so long and… so much has happened.” As he watched, Lex’s hands covered his mouth. “In an hour, Maria and I are getting married and… I hoped you could be there.” Tears streamed down the homeless man’s face. “I don’t know where you are right now or if you can make it in time but if you can, then come to the place where we first met Atlanta’s dad.”

Immediately his mind called up that night two Novembers ago. Tide attacked Forrest Bedford’s mansion, abducting Chienne from her eighteenth birthday party. In order to help the New Vindicators track him down, the Aurelius had teleported over from his home in San Francisco.

The school—Magnus was telling Lex to meet them at the school.

No longer caring about his cover, Lex transformed and teleported out of the shelter’s dining hall. It took him several jumps but he was able to do it. Not long after he crossed the border into America, Lex Sway found himself once more in New York City. Before long, Roosevelt Island was in view—the Lighthouse rose up from the northern point.

Lex had come home… but he couldn’t bring himself to go in. Magnus was marrying Maria. This was a joyous celebration and his hands were red with the blood of the Man-Eater’s victims. It didn’t feel right to come back here—not yet—so he settled for finding a perch out of sight and watching the couple’s union from a distance.

He saw that he was not the only such guest to watch from a seat other than the rows of chairs arranged on the main quad: Deimos was crouching on the roof of the Lighthouse.

Lex knew Deimos. He knew little good could come of his presence here. Determined to ensure his classmates were able to enjoy the happiest day of their lives, Lex transformed and teleported himself to the same roof. Just as Deimos took a step forward the gravity around him intensified. Barely able to stand, Deimos slowly turned his head back. “What the…?” Even with his face obscured by the mask he wore, Lex knew the Nephilim was wearing an expression of surprise at the sight him.

“You never could play nice with the other kids.” He never moved an inch; he simply opened his wormhole—the pocket dimension that existed inside of him. Before Deimos could fight back he was pulled into the void and removed from more than the ceremony—he was displaced from the material world. “As far as wedding presents go, it’s better than a blender.” As he looked down on the wedding ceremony, Lex couldn’t help but smile. “Good luck to you both. Protect her with all you are and more, man.”

From there, he watched the two kiss. From there, he watched as Andrew McClanahan introduced the couple as “Mister and Missus Loder”. From there, he watched familiar faces celebrate. He watched them dance. He watched them evoke their powers in the pursuit of the bridal bouquet and Maria’s garter belt.

As he watched the reception dwindle as the sun drifted beyond the horizon, he found himself thinking about his own wedding. He and Jacque had skipped the big ceremony. They hadn’t had a reception. The pair had eloped while on vacation. Jacque had been the one to suggest it, but he had always wondered if she ever regretted missing everything involved with a big wedding: the stressful months spent planning the event, trying on dresses, picking wedding colors, having every eye on her as she appeared dressed all in white…

When the last car—a crimson Hummer—left the school, Lex figured it was time for him to leave too.

For months, Lex had traveled the country. He had shoveled snow in Eau Claire, Wisconsin; he worked on an egg farm in Troy, New York; in Staunton, Virginia, he helped put a new roof on a Methodist church for three meals a day and a cot in an unused Sunday School classroom. He was working as the groundskeeper for an insurance company in Wilmington, Delaware when he heard about the attack on Chicago. For days, he listened intently to the news: he took some of what he had saved up to buy a small radio and hungrily devoured the news for talk of the Vindicators.

When it was announced that they had been reinstated, he left for New York. He hoped that if the Vindicators had been reinstated, the New Vindicators Academy of America had been reopened. The school had saved his life. It had saved Jacque’s. There were countless others out there, suffering like how they suffered.

There were others out there who needed the school.

Once more, Lex, stood on the east bank of the East River, looking out towards Roosevelt Island. Once more, his breath was taken away by the sight of the Lighthouse that rose up from the two buildings that composed the academy.

Built in 1872, the Blackwell Island Lighthouse was the landmark around which the New Vindicators Academy of America had been built. It was the job of a lighthouse to help navigate ships into safe harbor. When construction began in 1976, the area was planned as a headquarters for the Vindicators IV, heroes who would act as a lighthouse to the world.

It was an allusion that continued to work when the abandoned project was opened as a school in 2001: the New Vindicators Academy of America was a lighthouse that served to help navigate teens like Lex and Jacque—kids who endured horrible childhoods—into a safe harbor. Yes, Lex had come close to burying a classmate for each year he had been alive. Addison Truman, Lucas Howell, Malachi Brown, Drew Jenkins…

Doctor Styles…


Too many people who called that school home had lost their lives far too early, but Lex realized that didn’t change what the Lighthouse stood for. If it hadn’t been for that Lighthouse helping Magnus and Maria to navigate, they wouldn’t have each other. The same could be said for Ben and Alicia, David and Cassandra, Quinton and Clarissa—for everyone he had watched since coming back to New York…

Once upon a time, Maria Espada was a tomboy; Ben Altair never took responsibility for his actions; Alicia Gladstone felt pulled in multiple directions; David Meinstein was immature; Cassandra Goodman manipulated men; Quinton Jorgenson kept to himself; Clarissa Townsend wanted to be loved.

Today, Maria Loder was a wife and expectant mother; Ben Altair was responsible for his family; Alicia Altair found her purpose; David Meinstein grew up; Cassandra Goodman allowed herself to love; Quinton Jorgenson opened up and Clarissa Townsend was dating her teammate.

Before he had been brought to the Lighthouse, Connor Crete’s life had been filled with misery. Used and abused by one monster after the next. He had never been allowed to do what he wanted—be who he wanted. He had been forced to follow orders. Now he was his own man; he made his own decisions and did what he wanted to do… much to the chagrin of his friends.

Before he had been brought to the Lighthouse, Owen Reagan had been living on the streets and living in fear. He was afraid of what he was. He was afraid of what would happen if he was caught. He was afraid of what the future held for him. Now, he had a place to call home and friends he considered family.

Before she had been brought to the Lighthouse, Adrianna Covington had been ignored by her mother. Sibling after sibling ran away from home. Adrianna had been alone. Now, she was surrounded by people she would die for.

Before she had been brought to the Lighthouse, Christmas Clark had been called fat, nerd, shy and weird by the kids in her class. Now, her classmates looked to her to lead them and turned to her to go to bat for them against the faculty. Her classmates called her the girl who saved the world from the Basileus.

Doctor Howell had been an inmate of Alcatraz. Atlanta White suffered from hyperfocus. Alexa Hawk had been trained to be a mercenary. Chienne Bedford had been a bigot, poisoned by her father’s philosophy. Norman Goodman’s mother had disowned him for his sexuality while Eli Cron’s had brought him a military discharge. John Doe didn’t know who he was. Doctor Jenkins had buried his family. Ephraim Dane had been lamenting his inability to save his wife and son from Black Box. Agatha Neswander had been a child bride.

Doctor Howell was a respected man. Atlanta’s focus had never been clearer. Alexa was a nurse and a mother. Chienne was in love with a Neo-Sapien and counted many others as her closest friends. Norman and Eli had each other. John was positive of who he wanted to be. Doctor Jenkins found a new family. Dane found a second chance to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. Agatha was getting a second chance at childhood.

When the world refused to give them a chance at happiness, they saw the Lighthouse and were guided to a place where they were accepted for who they were. When they were alone, the Lighthouse guided them to a place where they were surrounded by people who cared for each other like a family.

From time to time, someone like Adonis Skraag, Forrest Bedford, Terahertz, Doctor Colbenson or Deimos may have come to try and shatter what the Lighthouse gave them… but they could do nothing to destroy what it promised to do.

“This school stands for something,” Anomaly snarled as he and Deimos fell towards the earth, “and I’ll be damned if I let you make it into anything else, you son of a bitch!”

When they hit the ground, they separated. Deimos fought to make it to his feet as Lex rose up slowly. The gravity around them was still so heavy that it took everything the madman had to keep from falling flat on his face. Still, he stood and he conjured his soul-weapon in an attempt to threaten his opponent.

Lex Sway was not easily intimidated.

Once he transformed back to his natural form, the gravity around them let up. The flames that crackled in Deimos’ eyes burned with more intensity at the sight of Lex switching off his powers…

Michuru led Deimos into the Wreck Room where the bigger man was waiting. “You won’t listen to your teachers; you won’t accept help from your peers; you keep mouthing off to everyone! You’re so insistent on picking a fight with those around you… well, here you go: fight Lex.”

Deimos looked up at Michuru with eyes shining with disbelief. “You can’t be serious!”

“What’s wrong, Deimos? You go on about how you don’t need anyone—how we only hold you back… Here you go: it’s your chance to prove it.”

“What makes you think I want to fight him, you moron?”

Michuru shook his head at the young man. “Because you’ve mouthed off to him at every turn and called him things that would have made Andrew Dice Clay shudder.”

“Who?” The young man had never heard of the raunchy comedian.

Michuru sighed. “Just fight him.”

Even without transforming, Lex’s experience in traditional wrestling was enough to put Deimos under. Before the young man could lay a hand on Lex Sway he was hitting the mats. His hands were twisted behind him and his wrists locked under Lex’s strength. “Look at that, Deimos…” Michuru articulated. “He doesn’t even need his powers to deal with you!”

“Shut up!” screamed Deimos from under Lex. Suddenly, Lex was up, letting the youth have another chance. Deimos quickly scampered to his feet and channeled his hellfire—the black energy coated his body and formed a scythe in his hands. With a guttural roar, Deimos charged for Lex once more. The youth still refused to transform though. He merely side-stepped the reckless assault and hooked his foot into Deimos’ ankle. Once more, Deimos had hit the floor and once more Lex had put the youth in a lock.

The memory caused the rage to bubble up inside of Deimos. “Asshole…” Deimos growled as his fists shook violently. When he could no longer handle it, he charged for Lex. An unintelligible snarl escaped from the Nephilim’s lips as he swung his soul-weapon back.

Lex never once moved. He kept his feet planted. He held his ground. He kept his cool, unsympathetic gaze on Deimos.

The Nephilim swung the scythe for his old classmate. Agility conditioned on the gridiron let Lex dodge Deimos’ slash. With the opening he created, Lex swung his fist up and into the Nephilim’s face. The armor of flames absorbed the brunt of the blow but Lex’s counterattack had been about more than brute force. As Lex’s fist glanced off the flaming mask Deimos wore, he flexed his fingers. With a twist of his wrist, he grabbed the Nephilim’s face and guided it to the ground.

Lex wasted no time in pouncing onto the Nephilim’s back. Once his knees were planted into Deimos’ spine, Lex crossed his ankles over his opponent’s arm. His right hand grabbed Deimos’ right wrist and bent the arm back and straight up. His other hand fell on the back of the Nephilim’s skull. “I so much as feel your armor tickle me and I transform!” Lex threatened. “I know all about that little trick of yours—turning the armor into a hellfire aura! Do it and you get crushed under a black hole! Got it!?!”

Deimos struggled to move his head. Finally, he turned to see massive feet forged from stone walking towards them. The Curler, dripping wet and reeking of the East River’s contents, was making his way to join them. Straining his eyes in their sockets, Deimos could make out others gathering around them. Lodestone was landing on the grass beside Frostbite and the Aurelia. Rumble and Wilt were trailing behind them. Hourglass and Horde were already here, standing with Portal and Prompt.

“You came here looking for a fight,” Lex growled as he continued to keep the Nephilim pinned. “It looks like you found it, huh?

“You challenged this school? Well, the school accepts your challenge, Deimos!”

And like that, it happened: without warning, a smoke-grey barrier spread out from Deimos’ pinned form and moved to encapsulate the entire campus. Deimos looked at his hands in wonder and then back at the heroes who stood before him. It should have been impossible—Libra only worked in one-on-one fights.

The reality of it all set in then: Deimos realized that Libra would keep him sealed in here until one of two things happened...

Either he killed every single person on the school grounds, or they killed him…
To Be Continued... wrote:It's Tuesday somewhere.

Three chapters remain. Next time: Everybody versus Super-Deimos.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1094 - 1096 and 1097

Post by Arthur Eld » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:31 am

Awesome. Even dead, Libra manages to get the last laugh on Jeremy.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1094 - 1096 and 1097

Post by flynnarrel » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:23 pm

The Super-Deimos comment has me worried....

These chapters were really good. The montage of the Lighthouse's effect on people was emotionally fulfilling.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1094 - 1096 and 1097

Post by Arkrite » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:57 pm

Well, Libra got the power of the person he was challenging, so theoretically he now has every power that the entire group can use... Except for maybe Portal's since he's depowered at the moment.

I'm not big on Lodestone but I can't say it wasn't funny to watch him knock Diemos around. (Okay, I was cheering for Lodestone, quiet you)
Lesson learned, when you're going to be extremely arrogant about taking people out, you should probably make sure that your ultimate weapons arn't something another person can easily control. (Warning: Probably didn't learn this lesson myself...)

I was actually half expecting one of the combatants to finally figure out how to dodge the scorpion tail. Diemos almost always goes for the headshot ;~)

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New Vindicators, Chapter 1098

Post by Michuru81 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:39 pm

Chapter XCVIII: Given Up
The sudden appearance of a smoky dome of force surrounding the school was the last thing Anomaly was expecting. He couldn’t help but gaze up at it wonder as Portal sighed and shook his head. “Explaining this is going to be fun,” he groaned. His mind reeled with a flock of reporters descending upon the main entrance, asking about the barrier that now surrounded the campus that, publicly, was just a school for the gifted.

“What is it?” Anomaly asked. There was a hint of awe in his voice as he gazed up at the energy field that had emanated from the youth he had pinned.

Before any of the other heroes could answer, Deimos’ body turned to stone and grew in size. The power of Libra bequeathed its host with the powers and abilities of those who accepted its challenge. That included the Curler.

With newfound might, Deimos was able to buck Anomaly off of him. As the Nephilim started to climb to his feet, the Curler charged him. “Cheater!” he thundered as he pulled back his fist. As he swung, Deimos’ stone figure was engulfed in obsidian flames. The madman caught the titan’s fist with his bare hand and gave it a squeeze. With super-strength borrowed from Dane, Deimos was able to easily turn the immortal’s appendage to rubble.

Lodestone turned to Horde with a worried look on his face. “Oh, God…” He couldn’t help but to be reminded of the ill-fated mission he had led into the Aeolian Kingdom on the Astral Plane. When his strike force moved to put Apocatastasis down once and for all, the monster’s powers of mimicry adopted the genius’ ability to duplicate himself infinitely.

Lodestone had nearly killed himself removing the powers of Gemini from Deimos, only for the Nephilim to seize a simulacrum of them.

In reality, it was worse than Lodestone could have guessed: Gemini allowed Deimos to create a clone; while he could create an endlessly supply of them, he could only create them one at a time. Horde had no such limitation and now, neither did Deimos.

There was no counting the number of duplicates Deimos forged in an instant. Some of them employed the Curler’s powers while others shifted into a sand form. Others adapted Miss Mist’s power to transform their bodies into an intangible gas while others turned aqueous.

In the midst of them one amalgamated Doctor Howell’s Neo-Sapien power with Anomaly’s and Agatha Neswander’s: a sixteen-foot tall gorilla covered in black flames loomed over the front quad, pounding his fists through friend and foe alike. Those within his vicinity found intense gravitational fields pressing down around them.

Impossibly, that clone was dwarfed by one of his brothers: integrating the Curler and Agatha’s abilities allowed for Deimos to transform into an eight-foot-tall man forged from solid rock and then grow exponentially. Such size made him the biggest target: nearly as impervious as he was enormous and disturbingly strong, he was the one Rumble charged for.

The southern belle’s hair was matted with blood, sweat and semen and her youthful face was contorted with pure rage. When she had woken up in Alexa’s ruined domicile, she discovered Michael’s remains. Her boyfriend’s butcher had left him almost unrecognizable, but she knew Michael. She saw the scar an inch to the left of his belly button—a memento from his childhood in Louisiana—and she recognized the frayed cuticles that came with his habit of chewing at his phalanges. Though the body she found beside her was hardly recognizable, she knew it was Michael. She didn’t want to believe it was Michael, but she knew.

She said nothing as she lunged for the giant. She pounced onto the colossal Nephilim’s thigh and created hand and footholds by punching through both flaming black armor and rocky skin. As she climbed up the monster, Deimos swatted at her with massive stone hands. She endured the first blow but when the second came she jumped from Deimos’ thigh and grabbed onto his fingers.

Deimos tried to shake her off but Rumble moved like a machine. Her jaw was set as she scaled Deimos’ arm. Her powers were rooted in adrenaline—she was in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight response. The sight of her boyfriend massacred—no doubt for the sin of protecting her—had pushed her abilities further than ever.

Rumble jumped from Deimos’ upper arm to his chest; her fingertips sank into the stone. She brought her right arm back and punched the behemoth. Where her fist landed, only a crumbling indentation remained. Even as the stone started to reform itself—the debris flowing back up and into the wound—Rumble continued with her barrage. She was determined to break through the monster’s chest.

She was determined to see if Deimos had a heart.

On the ground below her, one of Deimos’ normal-sized clones raised an arm towards Portal and cackled with delight. When nothing happened, a confused expression appeared on his face. “Why can’t I control the armor?” he asked rhetorically.

“Using Magnus’ powers?” Portal asked. “I’m immune to his powers!” Flames erupted out of his back and at each leg as rocket thrusters shot him across the quad. He left scorch marks through the lawn as he hurled himself at the ersatz. Behind his visor, Portal showed surprise when Deimos’ clone failed to budge after receiving the attack. Armed with the stone form Hourglass had inherited from her father, this clone was not only impervious to harm but too dense for Portal to move with a simple slam attack.

Deimos responded by slamming his hellfire-coated, stone fist into Portal’s face. The armor absorbed the brunt of the attack. At the realization that the pair’s strength and invulnerability placed them in a stalemate, Deimos resorted to his own powers and manifested his soul-weapon.

He did not will it tangible.

“All that armor and what does it get you?” Deimos asked as he swept his soul-weapon through the torso of the 001. From within, David Meinstein’s tormented scream was garbled electronically and fed to the Nephilim as little more than static. The Nephilim delighted in swinging the weapon through him again and again. Ethereal, the weapon passed through the armor and cut away at the soul of the man behind the mask.

“Leave him alone, Deimos!” Anomaly snapped as he tackled the clone. Much like Portal, Anomaly found that there was no moving Deimos. Still, Anomaly knew how to turn an opponent’s strength against him. In high school, he had been on the wrestling team. He had spent four years at the New Vindicators Academy of America, learning basic self-defense. His senior year, he had asked Mister Bradshaw for some private lessons in aikido. Anomaly could turn Deimos’ newfound might into his latest boon… if he could only land a hit…

By adapting the Aurelia’s Neo-Sapien ability to transform into an anthropomorphic feline, Deimos suddenly found himself with catlike grace and agility and easily dodged Anomaly’s attempts to grab and throw him. “Well, would you look at who’s actually using his powers to fight me!” Deimos laughed as he leapt out of the former Guardian’s reach. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you were afraid of me, Lex!” Deimos aimed his hands at the ground beneath his opponent’s feet and suddenly the ground began to shake. It wasn’t Maria’s geokinesis that caused the ground to crack under him and threaten to swallow him whole but rather Everett McGee’s power. Unlike Everett, Deimos had full control over the ability without needing to have a seizure. “That’s good!” he laughed as his former classmate tumbled into the newly forged crevasse. The Nephilim casually stepped forward and looked down into the pit where Anomaly was now wedged. “You should be…”

Behind him, twelve of Horde’s duplicates were piling atop an eight-foot-tall Deimos made of rock and coated in black flames. Their strength counted for nothing against the enemy: Deimos grabbed one and hurled it across the quad before snatching up another and tossing him into the wall of the evacuated dorms. The Nephilim cackled as he kicked one in the chest and sent him flying through the air.

The Vindicator’s duplicate entered the monstrous gorilla’s vicinity and the intensified gravity flung him hard to the ground. As he faded out, he caught sight of Wilt struggling to stand ahead of him. The gorilla was big but Wilt had hoped that he could absorb some of its energy if he could just get close enough to touch it.

The gravity hardly hindered Miss Mist and Hourglass in their gaseous forms. Given the size of the gorilla Deimos, they knew that they wouldn’t have the volume to suffocate him on their own.

As they entered the monster’s breathing passages, they had a better view of the battlefield: not far off, Frostbite hurried through the throng of clones, freezing those foolish enough to utilize Alexa Hawk’s powers while he yet breathed. In his wake, Lodestone’s two halves guided iron walls through the unmoving Nephilim; after she had healed his injuries, the Aurelia had conjured the pair of construct and let the heroes loose.

The sorceress, meanwhile, was fighting to dot the landscape with writhing, ebony tentacles. Some of Deimos’ clones were able to escape the swarm by shifting into a gaseous state; others simply employed strength acquired from any number of the Vindicators and their allies to break away the bindings. Only a scant few were dissipated by the constricting tendrils.

One of Deimos’ clones discovered John Titus’ hydrokinesis. Armed with the ability to manipulate water with little more than a thought, Deimos discovered himself capable of commanding the armor of frost Frostbite wore. As the father of three began to rise up into the air, Lodestone’s positive side hurled the iron wall for him. Another of the Nephilim’s clone threw up a hand and caused the construct to stop and merely hover in place.

The redheaded hero turned to his blue-haired counterpart and watched as he wrestled with a similar problem. “Told you would should have killed him when we had the chance…” the blue-haired Lodestone said as both fought to regain control of the ferrous structure.

“We didn’t have a chance!” the other Lodestone spat. Suddenly, the Nephilim commanded the dense sheets of metal to shoot towards each other. When they touched side-to-side, Deimos used Lodestone’s ability to shape metal and locked the two structures together.

Lodestone and Lodestone stood side-by-side now and poured their all into wresting control of the iron slab away from Deimos. Several more of the Nephilim’s clones mimicked the man’s powers, however, and with their arrival, Deimos easily ripped control away completely.

The clones cackled with fiendish delight as they commanded the iron wall to shoot high into the air. The bulwark rocketed past Frostbite—who was still being slowly lifted higher and higher by the hydrokinetic doppelgangers—and then it dropped out of the sky.

It didn’t fall straight down: its path was curving—it was aiming for Lodestone and Lodestone. The men tried to run but their legs suddenly slammed together. It dawned on them that Deimos was using the iron in their boots against them: while Lodestone used them to fly, Deimos now used it to trip the men up.

The blue-haired Lodestone represented all that was negative about Magnus Loder’s psyche. Lecherous and crude, he was a pessimistic and pragmatic. His other half, in contrast, was optimistic and romantic; the more sophisticated of the two, he frequently found himself apologizing for the brashness his counterpart displayed. He was everything positive about Magnus Loder and possessed the majority of the totality’s sense of morality.

While they were not merely good and evil, there was more of a heroic fiber in the redheaded Lodestone than in the other.

Realizing that Deimos was simply binding their legs together—not to the ground—the redheaded Lodestone used his powers to propel his other half away. The blue-haired Lodestone looked back to see his counterpart smiling at him… just before his body was crushed under the iron slab.

“Pinky?” he asked. He pushed himself off the ground and knelt on the front quad, surrounded by battle. “It can’t be…”

The collective of Deimos’ doppelgangers raised the iron wall into the air slowly. Lodestone’s eyes bulged as he saw blood dripping from its surface. What had once been the other Lodestone was crushed into the ground.

“PINKY!” Lodestone screamed. His powers surged. With a thought, he caused the wall to transform. He redistributed its volume: he made it thinner but increased the circumference. Once he had a razor-thin disc of iron, he overpowered the legion’s control of it. He sent the disc flying into one and then curved it to cleave through another. The next quickly assumed Hourglass’ sand form—letting it harmlessly cut right through him before taking out the next.

The last of the clones took on the Curler’s rock form and swung a massive stone fist down and into the edge of the disc.

As Lodestone commanded the rest of the disc to crumble around the clone’s arm, its particulate brethren rushed for the hero. Suddenly the man cursed himself for sending Maria away: her geokinesis would have ended this battle swiftly.

As he dodged Deimos’ elongated strike, the enormous simian began to fall forward. He would have crushed countless clones and a few Vindicators but as his body sagged, it faded from existence. Miss Mist and Hourglass hovered in the air, looking down over the battlefield. Looking around her, Hourglass realized that the dome had transformed into a column: curving, smoke-grey walls of force surrounded the campus and reached high up into the sky before ending in a point. It took the young woman a moment to realize what it meant: the barrier expanded as the challengers separated; if the barrier were stretched to such extremes, someone was up there.

As she began to wonder who, the ceiling began to speed towards her at an alarming rate. Her eyes widened in horror as she realized it was Frostbite who was now falling fast for the ground. “Ben!” she screamed as she dove after him.

In her gaseous form she had no ability to physically affect matter. If she wished to fly, she could not carry anyone with her. It was pointless for her to pursue him—there was little she could do given his velocity—but it was not the case with Wilt.

The winged, half-naked boy was climbing as fast as he could. He was determined to catch Frostbite but Frostbite was still trying to save himself: beneath him he formed ice construct after ice construct. The clones who had raised him into the air used John Titus’ hydrokinesis to sunder each structure as swiftly as he fabricated them.

“Go limp!” Wilt screamed as he flew up to meet Frostbite in the air. Just as the two neared each other, Wilt was battered by hurricane-force winds. As Wilt’s wings enabled him to glide, rather than fly, he was helpless but to be dragged away by the current manipulated by a perversion of Eli Cron’s Neo-Sapien powers.

The wind had little effect on Prompt’s telekinetic abilities, however. Deimos’ clones were not using their absconded powers to push Frostbite into the ground—just raise him up to a point where gravity and inertia would do the rest. She had little resistance in slowing his fall and planting him safely on the ground.

Immediately, Frostbite broke away at his armor. Without it, he was free from Deimos’ influence but also divested of the protection it afforded. Such protection hardly mattered against the trick Deimos utilized. He remembered the battle with Tide all those years ago—he remembered how his fellow alumni-turned-traitor had used his own ability to mentally command water. With a thought, Deimos drew the moisture out of Frostbite’s body and used it to suffocate Prompt.

“Seems like someone here is capable of teleporting liquids?” the Nephilim mused. Prompt’s mind went to her fellow senior—it was Cheyenne Ford’s Neo-Sapien power Deimos now used against her. Everything the Nephilim’s clone tore from Frostbite’s body he instantly transported straight to Prompt’s lungs. Her mind cycled through the catalogue of abilities she had imprinted from every Esper she had ever encountered, hoping that amongst them was one that would save her from this fate.

A mad snarl caught Deimos’ ears then. He turned and took in the sight of John Doe charging him with his soul-weapon ready. What the amnesic man was not ready for was the invisible barriers Boson commanded into being.

Deimos looked from John to Frostbite and Prompt. He surveyed the front quad: all around him, his clones were proving victorious. Yes, Hourglass and her mother had bested his giant gorilla and Rumble had impossibly toppled the stone goliath but with Horde’s ability, Deimos knew he could continue fighting until every last one of them was finished.

The sight of a blue-haired Lodestone futilely trying to absorb his other self’s corpse brought a smile to his face. The sight of Anomaly pinned beneath one of his clones made him giddy.

This was it. This was the victory he had been yearning for all year—every since they had abandoned him in the Astral Plane…

This was the end of the Vindicators...
To Be Continued... wrote:With only two chapters remaining in the book, the battle comes to an end...

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1098

Post by Arkrite » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:42 pm

I think the lession we're learning here is that if you ever get the chance to gain a secondary power on top of a combat capable ability you should probably take Horde's powers. ;~)

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1098

Post by Horsenhero » Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:34 pm

I have to say, I'm really interested to see how the Vindicators are going to pull out a win without it seeming contrived. Of course Michuru has a habit of being far cleverer than myself, so he obviously figured out something.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1098

Post by Arkrite » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:32 am

I think it's possible, if they can figure out which one is Deimos prime and take him out.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1098

Post by Michuru81 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:52 pm

Arkrite wrote:I think the lession we're learning here is that if you ever get the chance to gain a secondary power on top of a combat capable ability you should probably take Horde's powers. ;~)
A part of that is my own prejudice. There are certain powers I gravitate towards: Telekinesis and Super-Speed are big ones--which makes Kinetic Control the greatest power ever. Duplication is another big one for me--so many applications... Regardless, I've gotten so tired of writing the words "clone", "doppelganger", "duplicate" and whatever variations I could uncover that my goal is to dial the power back in the story with the coming book.
Horsenhero wrote:I have to say, I'm really interested to see how the Vindicators are going to pull out a win without it seeming contrived. Of course Michuru has a habit of being far cleverer than myself, so he obviously figured out something.
Well, here's to hoping I manage to live up to that... I'm hoping this doesn't seem contrived.

One thing I loathe is when writers introduce new elements late in the game. It's like a murder mystery when the killer turns out to be a guy who had never even been mentioned until the solution--it's just a cheat for the author. As flynn pointed out recently, I have a tendency to try and set things up in advance so that the resolution doesn't seem like a massive ass-pull. The solution was introduced well over a year ago so... hopefully that helps to not make this seem like it all comes out of left field.

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New Vindicators, Chapter 1099

Post by Michuru81 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:55 pm

Chapter XCIX: Jeremy
Deimos took a moment to enjoy his handiwork. One of his clones employed Boson’s powers in trapping John Doe in an invisible box; two more utilized John Titus and Cheyenne Ford’s powers in tearing the moisture out of Frostbite’s body and instantly teleporting it into Prompt’s lungs. His old classmate was too fatigued to make a move against him while the Esper who had saved him struggled to breathe.

He looked towards Lodestone. Had it not been for the smoke-grey barrier under them, the blue-haired man would have been kneeling in the snow-covered ground. Before him was his other half—his redheaded counterpart was lying still under the barrier that encapsulated them all. There was no mistaking what it meant: Libra’s power had released Lodestone’s positive side when his life had come to an end.

There was no mistaking that fact but that did not stop the surviving Lodestone from frantically trying to reabsorb his twin back into their collective.

The original Deimos created another doppelganger and nodded towards the mourner. “Finish him off,” he commanded. “I don’t care how—just make sure it looks painful.”

The clone adopted the Curler’s stone form and augmented such strength with Dane’s. Deimos’ ersatzes’ inability to muddle up the stone man’s powers with Rumble’s made the Nephilim pout. The Curler’s powers transformed every fiber of their being to solid stone and Rumble’s powers were based on her biology: it was hard for a living rock to enter a state of fight-or-flight response without a functional adrenal gland to pump the proper hormones. Similarly, it seemed as though Libra’s powers were incapable of mimicking the powers bestowed by Portal’s armor, the effects the Aurelia evoked through arcana, or the talents Prompt possessed as an Esper.

Deimos remembered what it felt like when Rumble had accepted his challenge earlier this evening—how strangely aware of her ability he had been. Now, he was aware of the genetic powers possessed by each and every person within the barrier. Sadly, there was no other way of augmenting the Curler’s might more than it already was…

The stone figure began to stride towards the grieving man. One figure moved to cut him off, however. Deimos watched with interest as Rumble charged for his dense minion.

Rumble’s knuckles were blood raw from punching through solid rock. Her hands were mangled but failed to notice. Part of her ability included a pain dampener: she was more than capable of fighting until her body simply couldn’t take anymore.

When she was within striking distance, Deimos’ clone swung his massive, powerful arms for her. The girl took the hit to the chest and was flung across the yard. Her body bounced once before skidding to a stop. She twitched before forcing herself to get back up. She ran for Lodestone’s would-be executioner with one arm hanging limply at her side.

Again, the stone Deimos swung for her but Rumble was ready this time: she jumped into the air, dodging the wild blow and planting her foot against the monster’s face.

While the Curler’s density meant he was hard to move, it was not impossible. Rumble wasn’t trying to rush him so much as she was trying to tip him over. No matter how heavy he was, he was tall and her blow hit him at the highest point. The clone fell back onto the ground and Rumble wasted no time in jumping atop his chest.

With her shoulder dislocated by the double’s opening crescendo, the first order of business was popping the bone back into its socket. She never flinched as the pop filled the air. Instead, she began to grind her teeth as she viciously began to pummel her mangled fists into the rock’s face.

After six or seven punches, Rumble had bested the clone. The ersatz faded from reality and Rumble rose slowly. She turned around even more slowly and grimaced at the sight that awaited her.

Deimos stood with a line of clones ready behind him. Each of them were forged from stone and coated in obsidian flames. “Go get her.”

At their leader’s command, the six of them charged for the Georgian. Rumble held her ground against the stampede. The first to reach her swung and Rumble caught the massive stone fist with her own dainty hand. As he punched, she sprang from the ground and used his arm to pull herself up. Once she was airborne, Rumble kicked her leg up high and let herself descend upon her attacker.

The clones’ heads had followed her up; when she dropped back down, she brought the heel of her foot down and into the creature’s face. It faded from sight as two rushed to grab her.

Adopting the Curler’s powers meant adopting his size. Smaller than they were—and with two trying to sandwich her—she easily evaded their attempts to seize her. As the Vindicator ducked out from between them, another swept his arms in attempt to bind her in a strong hug. Rumble slid towards him and thrust her legs between his. Lying on her back, the girl attained leverage when she spread her legs to put them against the insides of her opponent’s limbs. Her elbows dropped to the ground and she used her monstrous strength to roll over onto her side.

As she tripped the clone she looked up to see a massive stone fist descending towards her skull. The girl threw her hands behind her and kicked her legs forward; she used the momentum to rise up in a handstand and quickly flipped to right herself again.

The clone she had upended with moving to stand back up but Rumble had other plans. Punching a hand into his chest and another through his stomach, the girl found herself with handholds. Effortlessly, she hefted the figure high over her head and hurled him with all her might at his brothers.

As Deimos watched her make a mockery of his clones, he forged thirty more. “Stop her,” he commanded them. He was determined to not let her make a fool of him—not when he was so close to achieving revenge against his former friends.

Once Rumble had finished the last of the second wave, she looked up to see the third storming the field for her. She readied herself to cut through them when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning, she was surprised to see the Aurelia standing behind her with Lodestone. “We need to get out of here,” the Aurelia said. “Beating Deimos like this is impossible…”

Rumble shook her head and turned to face the coming stampede. “Luke 1:37 says, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ We fight the good fight—we will triumph.”

Lodestone rolled his eyes at the Georgian. “And how do you propose we do that? Stand around in a circle, hold hands and pray?”

The Aurelia ignored the man and focused on her cousin. “I have a plan,” she told her. “I just need you to trust me!”

Though Rumble hesitated at first, she quickly put her hand on the young sorceress’ shoulder and allowed herself to trust her teammate.

The Aurelia’s hands wove themselves through the complicated hand signs needed to manipulate the primal forces of arcana. With the utterance of a single word—“Tropelet”—she instantly transported herself and her two allies across the landscape.

The onslaught of Nephilim stopped when they saw their targets vanish from sight. With his entertainment momentarily eluding him, Deimos turned back towards his other victims. His eyes glazed over where Frostbite and Prompt had been prostrated before him; when he saw them missing he turned to where he had trapped John Doe. Too late, he realized that their allies must have evacuated them while he was focused on watching Rumble’s battle.

“No matter,” he growled as he rose up into the air. “Inside Libra’s barrier, there’s nowhere for them to run to…”

Borne on flaming moth wings, Deimos surveyed the battlefield once again. In the distance he could make out a dense patch of his clones wrestling with what looked like an onslaught of Horde’s duplicates. The battalion was another distraction: Horde’s clones served only to keep Deimos’ doppelgangers from pursuing the heroes through the glowing portal standing in the midst of the melee.

Once the Vindicators had made their retreat, Deimos watched his army of ersatzes make short work of Horde’s own contingent. Once they were finished, Deimos absorbed his own duplicates into him and the barrier around the school began to shrink. While he had been surprised to see it activate on so many challengers at once, Deimos still felt he had a handle on Libra’s abilities. For starters, the barrier grew when the fighters were further apart and contracted when they were close together. By reabsorbing his own horde, Deimos was able to use the narrowing barrier to pinpoint where the Vindicators had fled to.

The smoke-grey barrier stretched from Deimos towards the school. “Of course,” the Nephilim said as he casually made his way to the school. As he walked, he thought on how Anomaly had phrased the words that triggered Libra’s powers: “You challenged this school? Well, the school accepts your challenge, Deimos!” Anomaly’s words included everyone on the campus—not just the Vindicators. Deimos’ battle would not be over until he slew every person here: every teacher and every student—from the cafeteria workers to those who toiled in the laundry room. All the way from the janitorial staff to Doctor Howell, Deimos was now obligated to slay every last man, woman and child on campus. “No time like the present,” he said as he made his way back to the school.

Deimos stepped through what remained of the front doors and soon arrived at the elevator doors that would lead to the sublevels. Libra’s barrier constricted around him now—it didn’t go in any direction from him but down. He knew where they were gathered and chuckled at what he assumed what a last ditch effort at besting him. He was overwhelming them with numbers, so they thought to draw the battle to a place where they could bottleneck him? It worked two ways: while they believed they were employing the hedgehog defense, Deimos saw this as a battle of attrition. “Have it your way, morons,” he said as he walked into the Common Room.

While the barrier prevented him from physically touching anything but the challengers inside of it, he was able to manipulate the overturned sofa through the force field. Once he had it on its side, Deimos moved around it and sat down to relax while the Vindicators and their allies slowly ran out of food and water. Starvation and thirst was no threat to Deimos: so long as he had access to the Curler’s abilities, he was perfectly content with waiting the heroes out.

He looked down at the floor and smiled. He had waited this long for revenge—he could wait a little bit longer. As he watched the barrier vanish through the floor around his body—passing through the floorboards and the earth to connect him with his prey—something unexpected happened: the barrier appeared beneath his feet.

Deimos rose up from the couch and saw that the barrier had again constricted. Its size altered to encapsulate everyone trapped within it but now it was a perfect sphere that entrapped only him. “What the hell?” he asked, looking down at his smoke-grey prison. “What the hell happened!?!”

A flash of energy caught his eye. He turned and saw one of Portal’s gateways open in the room. One-by-one, the Vindicators rushed out and stopped at the sight of him on the other side of the barrier.
Deimos began to slowly shake his head. “No.” The word was a whisper on the wind—the stale, still wind trapped inside the impenetrable prison with him. “No, no, no, no, no…” Each time he said it, his voice grew louder and louder. Soon, he was saying it faster and faster: “Nononononono…”

Deimos tore the rings off of his fingers and threw them at the ground. Much to his chagrin, the barrier the rings had created remained all around the New Vindicators Academy of America.

Denying the rings a host did not terminate the secondary effect of Libra’s powers.

The portal closed when its creator stepped through. The armored hero looked at Deimos and shook his head sadly. “He was right where Kat said he’d be,” Hourglass said to her boyfriend, “just like Anna said he’d be…”

The Aurelia hurried to the portal and put her hands flat against the sphere. She wore an elated smile on her face. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it actually worked!”

Deimos tried to pound his fists against the barrier but the force field adjusted its size with his movements. Though he was able to stand with his feet on the floor of the bubble, the force field’s diameter expanded to correspond with his every action. “What worked!?!” he thundered. “What did you do!?! How did you get out!?!”

Portal proved the answer: “When Libra fought Tiffany Soto, we tried everything to get through and come to her rescue. It was Rumble who figured out a backdoor into Libra’s Funhouse from Hell: none of us could teleport in but she discovered that by shifting to the Astral Plane, walking through to where inside the barrier of the barrier would be and shifting back to the Material Plane, they were able to enter.

“Thankfully, Adrianna figured that if it worked to get us into, it might work in reverse and let us out.”

“We already evacuated the school to the lower levels,” Chienne explained, looking at Deimos with a hate-filled glare. “The others popped in and the Aurelia opened a portal for us all to file through to that other world.”

“Once we left the Material Plane,” Doctor Howell intoned, “the barrier must have contracted around you—the only remaining occupant. At that point, all we did was exit the Astral Plane through an second gateway and we were free.”

Deimos scanned the unsympathetic faces gathered before him before his eyes settled on Rumble, quietly standing in the back. “Atlanta!” he cried, rushing forward to reach the pretty blonde. “Atlanta, you have to help me! Convince them to come back! Please, Atlanta! Talk to them! Get them to let me out!”

“What, so you can try to kill us again?” the Aurelia asked. “No, thank you!”

Deimos ignored the sorceress and focused on the less-experienced mage. Facing Rumble, the Nephilim dropped to his knees. “Please, Atlanta! You—you’re a Christian! Your entire religion is all about forgiveness, right? Redemption?” His hands scooped up the Libra rings and offered them towards the woman. “This is it,” he said. “The last of the Areopagus. You can have it. I… If you take them, I won’t be a threat to you!”

Anomaly shook his head. “You never were.”

“Please,” Deimos pleaded pusillanimously, “don’t let them leave me in here…”

Rumble turned a cold gaze on the Nephilim she once considered a friend. She may have been the only one at the school to think of him that way after everything he had done—after the way he had always acted. “You’re right,” she mouthed raggedly. “I’m a Christian.” Her voice was so cold and lifeless than her accent was barely recognizable. “A Christian is someone strives to be like Christ… and Jesus would forgive you again and again…”

Deimos smiled. Rumble turned her back on him. Deimos frowned. “Sometimes, even the most devout Christians fall short of that mark, Deimos.” Rumble walked away from the kneeling Nephilim and from her friends. “Maybe you should try asking Michael for help,” she said as she was swallowed in shadow. “He always was a better person than I could ever hope to be…”

No one else knew what to say that could possibly impress the gravity of his situation into him the way Rumble had. The Vindicators simply stood around the impenetrable orb of energy and watched in silence as Deimos stared after Rumble. One-by-one, they began to make their way out of the Common Room. Deimos had attacked their friends and their families. He had damaged their homes.

They had repairs to make.

Soon, only a handful stood around Deimos. Doctor Howell stood by. Portal stood behind him; his bulky gauntlet held Hourglass’ hand tenderly. Fathom stood by, holding Lexie. Ben stood with his wife; they held their children. Horde stood back, leaning against a wall, watching with a dark expression on his face. Lodestone stood looking down at Deimos, but something else caught his eye. He looked across the sphere—behind where the others had assembled—and swore he saw Drew Jenkins silently abiding over them.

“We’ll need to make arrangements for him,” Doctor Howell softly said to Portal. The armored hero nodded.

“I’ll make a call to Colonel Sidell—see what he thinks we should do with him, now that he’s…”

As he listened to them, it slowly sank in for Deimos: this was the end of his story. Libra’s powers had been activated and everyone who had accepted his challenge had escaped their fate. So long as they still lived, Deimos could not escape this prison. He wondered how that worked: if they died of old age, did it still count? Did he have to be the cause of their demise or did he simply have to outlast them all? That was impossible: amongst those who accepted the challenge were the Curler and Rumble—two immortals.

Was he immortal? He had the powers of everyone who had been inside the barrier, but did he still have them?

It would have been simple enough to check; all it required was for Deimos to shift forms—sand, mist, rock, water. He would have his answer if he simply turned into a gorilla or increased his size. All he had to do was make a single doppelganger and he would know whether or not he still wielded their powers…

If he still had their abilities, all he had to do was kill himself. After Rumble had accepted his challenge, she had been released from the barrier after he slew her. He thought back to Lodestone’s positive side—expelled from the barrier after being crushed under the iron slab. If he was still immortal and he killed himself, Libra’s force field would free him.

The only question then was how long would it take for him to revive? The Curler recovered almost instantly from death while Rumble needed several minutes before she was restored. In the time it took him to recover, what would his enemies do to him? Would he awaken to find himself in a new prison? Would he find himself bound wrists and ankles and unable to make a move against them?

Somehow, he found himself devoid of the drive to even try now. Looking around at them—at Magnus and Ben, Lex and Alexa, Alicia and Atlanta, Quinton and Cassandra—and knew he had failed. Once upon a time, they were his classmates. For all the faculty’s talk about the school being like a family, Deimos didn’t see it. When he needed them, where were they? When he was hurting, where were they? They did anything and everything for each other but he was always an outsider.

He had wanted so desperately to make them pay for the way they had treated him—for the way they had neglected him—and he had failed. Ben and Alicia stood with their three kids; Cassandra held her boyfriend’s hand; Alexa held her daughter… Libra had armed him with Capricorn, Scorpio and Gemini; he had bested Libra and claimed his power as well. He came with an army; he came in the night; he attacked them while they were apart; he used their own powers against them and still he had lost.

It was at that moment that Deimos gave up on escaping. If he couldn’t beat them then—with all of the powers he possessed and measures he had taken—then he never would… Deimos gave up on picturing freedom and surrendered himself to the horrible existence that was spending the rest of his life trapped in a bubble.

Deimos continued to penitently kneel in the midst of his old classmates. His arms hung limply at his sides. They moved suddenly and the heroes anticipated he would summon his soul-weapon. The flaming scythe failed to appear; instead, Deimos buried his face in his hands and wept.

The muffled sound of Deimos sobbing visible disturbed those who formed a ring around him. The Vindicators and their charges had expected him to scream savagely or unleash a torrent of obscenities from his mouth. What none of them had expected was for Deimos to break down into fits of crying.

The sounds that poured from his mouth alternated between pained groans, hysterical sobs and aberrant snarls. His body writhed and twisted around.

None of his old classmates knew what to do. They all stood back, watching in quiet discomfort while the Nephilim rolled onto his side and pull his knees into his chest.

Tears streamed down his face sideways and formed a pool on the ground. A snot bubble popped in his nostril. Slowly, he shook his head in a vain attempt to wipe his face on the floor of his prison.

Jeremy looked up at them with unblinking eyes.

His eyes were blue.
To Be Concluded... wrote:Fallen Rising.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1099

Post by GPrime » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:39 pm

... Wow.
I have to say, Deimos' fate scares the life out of me. Wow...

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1099

Post by Horsenhero » Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:11 pm

Yeah, I'd completely forgotten the astral getaway. Well, I can't say I feel sorry for Deimos. He allowed himself, willed himself to be a hateful, spiteful an eternity stewing on those bitter ashes seems right.

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Re: NEW VINDICATORS, Chapter 1099

Post by Arthur Eld » Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:20 pm

I'm actually quite surprised he didn't try to kill himself. Seemed like it would be up his alley.

Still, now I'm more concerned about what's going to happen next. Deimos may have awakened an evil far greater than he could ever be.

On accident of course, he could never do something so dangerous to the whole world on purpose.

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New Vindicators, Chapter 1100

Post by Michuru81 » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:05 am

Chapter C: Oubliette (Disappear)
The night Deimos attacked the New Vindicators Academy of America, Asmodeus was in a hotel room in Cambridge. He had spent the last two decades moving to mobilize an effective defense against Semyazza’s bid for power. With Deimos’ defeat of Libra, Prompt’s triumph over the Basileus and Frostbite’s burning off the last remnants of his father’s powers, Semyazza’s machinations had been successfully unraveled. Now, the Demon of Gluttony faced a period of uncertainty… He had devoted himself to retching victory from his brethren’s hands and now that he had won, he found himself struggling with what to do next.

He considered the other Fallen and where he had last seen each of them. Lucifer still sat on the throne in Hell. According to Lodestone, Astaroth had planted himself amongst the Church of Genetic Purity, under the guise of Red Kreichgauer. Asmodeus had personally encountered two others at the New Vindicators Academy of America—only one appeared to have their wits about them…

It was surprising that Abaddon had fallen victim to his son’s ability: Apocatastasis had drained his father of his very consciousness and used that to heal himself. One of the Vindicators—Falkenburg—was comatose following his brush with that ability but Abaddon was one of the Fallen and was recovering much more quickly than the immortal sea captain.

Abaddon was functional but he had no memory of who—or what—he truly was. He was harmless; Asmodeus needed to focus on Astaroth and Leviathan. One of them would be making their bid for power while Semyazza struggled to recover from such a devastating loss. He had a hunch as what they were planning and feared the two were on a collision course with one another.

A war was coming—one between two of the Fallen—and Asmodeus knew it was his purpose now to move against them. The Vindicators were weary of him, yes, but they trusted him. He could ready them for the coming onslaught, but first he needed information…

It was that which led him to Cambridge. Here, he knew a man considered an expert in mathematical and quantum physics. These days, Doctor Mark Ander held tenure at MIT. It was a possession he likely would not have held were his status as a Neo-Sapien known.

The truth was that Doctor Ander possessed the ability to command an energy he referred to as ether—the hypothetical building blocks of creation. By tapping into such a power, the man could manifest nearly anything he could dream of from nothingness. It was a power that had evolved in his son; Corey had the ability to create or destroy with little more than a thought.

In investigating Astaroth and Leviathan’s goals, Asmodeus had made a startling revelation: Astaroth had planted his son, Dominique Infinity, in the New Vindicators Academy of Europe to antagonize Corey Ander. While the young man’s father was an American, his mother was British. Claiming dual nationalities, Corey’s mother had custody and when he came of age, that put him in the jurisdiction of the Viennese school.

As Quintessence, Corey had met an unfortunate end though and when Asmodeus had started looking into his brethren’s movements, he discovered Astaroth was now searching for the benefactor of the Vindicator’s powers.

Asmodeus had altered the memories of those Astaroth had sent out to search for Corey’s parents’ whereabouts. After lengthy interrogations, he had concluded that they didn’t know for what purpose Red Kreichgauer had ordered them to locate the estranged couple. Asmodeus hungered for answers but knew this was one puzzle he may never solve: it was more important to deny Astaroth what he wanted than it was to solve another mystery.

The limitations Solomon had long ago placed on the Fallen were what had necessitated his remaining in the body of Michael McDougall. Though his arcane array and celestial abilities were cripplingly limited when channeled through his host’s form, Michael was a Neo-Sapien capable of manipulating kinetic energy.
Thanks to those powers, Asmodeus was able to make it look like a suicide.

Astaroth would not get those abilities now…

Before returning to New York, to educate the Vindicators as to all he had thus far uncovered, he settled into a hotel room for the night. While Asmodeus did not require sleep, his host’s body did. The Fallen walked the man to the front desk, acquired a room and went to it. He laid on the bed and turned on the news, only to see the footage shot from a helicopter circling the New Vindicators Academy of America.

Instantly he recognized the smoke-grey barrier as the effect of Libra’s powers. According to the heroes’ report, Deimos had engaged Libra in combat. Many of them had witnessed the dreary orb over Chicago, but they never learned the outcome of the battle. Whether the victor had been Libra or Deimos, he had disappeared afterwards. While the heroes had other things to focus on—the reinstatement of the Vindicators, the reopening of the school, the positioning of the refugees—Asmodeus wanted closure. Libra had been Semyazza’s strongest piece on the board and Asmodeus was hardly about to turn his back and let the Areopagus surprise them when their guard was down.

He approached Katherine Wellor and asked her to locate Libra. She told him she felt pulled in two places: she sensed Libra close by and to the east and further away in the west. As they delved into it, they approximated that she meant Chicago, Illinois and Trenton, New Jersey, respectively. When he asked her to locate Deimos, she had told him she had been unable to do so.

At first, Asmodeus was content to assume that this implied Deimos had lost to Libra. The only explanation he had for her being unable to locate Deimos was death, but Katherine explained that during the hunt for Miss Multiple’s offspring, she had been able to lead Lodestone and Dane to the corpse of Cole Bilson.

Dead or alive, Katherine could find them. The only explanation that remained was Deimos was somehow shielded from her detection. No matter, it didn’t answer Asmodeus’ question: he had no idea if Deimos had won or lost to Libra and no way to determine why Katherine sensed the Areopagus in two separate locations.

He was encountering too many unsolvable mysteries lately: why did Astaroth want Quintessence’s power? How was Libra in two places at once? Why couldn’t Katherine locate Deimos?

They were questions that Asmodeus meditated on while he allowed Michael McDougall’s body to rest. While he wanted to depart now—and while Michael’s speed might allow him to swiftly reach the school—he knew there was little he could do if the campus was contained in Libra’s barrier.

When morning came, the Fallen commanded his puppet to rise. He checked the news again: within the hour, the Department of SPB Affairs would be releasing a statement about the events that occurred in the night. Other than that, nothing new was known: the barrier surrounded the school for a few minutes, during which time it fluctuated oddly. Then it seemed to diminish until the cameras picked up only a small dot moving along the yard of the school, towards the front doors of the Lighthouse.

Asmodeus scrutinized the footage from the night before. At times, the barrier increased to great heights without anything ever showing so high up. It was one more enigma for him to mull over as he checked out and made his way back to Roosevelt Island.

When he arrived he found construction had already begun on the facilities. Horde stood outside the front gates, acting as crowd control. A swarm of reporters had descended upon the campus and the Vindicator now fought to keep a path cleared for the trucks coming to drop off building materials.

Asmodeus made his way over the wall and onto the grounds. From the other side of the wall, he could hear the legions of reporters asking the Vindicator if his presence here meant the Department of SPB Affairs was connected to the Meinstein Institute—the public name for the academy. Through it all, Horde said nothing: he simply formed a chain of duplicates designed to keep the journalists out while letting the truck drivers in.

Some of them slipped past him. As Asmodeus made his way up to the school, he witnessed a few of the men he had been imprisoned with in Peoria escort a woman in her mid-twenties out. Apparently, the woman had paid one of the truck drivers two hundred dollars to take her past the gates so that she could go snooping around for an exclusive.

After her, Chienne Bedford escorted Cameron Kirk out of the building. No one quite knew how the reporter had gotten past and they didn’t care. His camera had been accidentally dropped down the stairs several times and he had been warned what would happen if he was caught again.

If anything, the powers that be had enough sense to hide the school’s more high profile residents. Doctor Howell and Connor Crete stood out like sore thumbs and if the media got wind that the school was harboring Magnus Loder and Ben Altair—two of the FBI’s Most Wanted—all of the P.R. the Vindicators were doing in the wake of their triumph over the Basileus would be for nothing.

It was one of the reasons why they had not hired any contractors. The school was home to several refugees from Peoria—men and women who had not accepted the offer to be taken to Vienna or defected to Canada. Many of the refugees found employment as the school’s support staff. Hub Enterprises had acquired a high-rise building on the island to accommodate the school’s employees. Some lived in the apartment complex but found work in other areas. Many of them now volunteered their time and efforts to help rebuild the school after the attack.

It didn’t take the man long to find Katherine Wellor. The Rubenesque woman reminded him of Sarah, a woman he had lusted for many ages ago. The woman had married seven men and Asmodeus had slain each of them before the marriage could be consummated. Back then, women were more shapely—more pleasing to look at by his standards. As the only adults accompanying Prompt’s exodus of Espers, he had tried to forge a romance with the woman but nothing had ever happened. Since learning of his true nature, the broad-hipped woman seemed very nervous around him.

He doubted if she would ever let him have her now.

While she likely wouldn’t give him her heart, she was apt to supply him with answers: she confirmed that it had been Deimos who ravaged the school and told him that even when she was staring right at the entombed Nephilim, she had not been able to detect his presence. Further, he learned that none of the school’s security systems or surveillance cameras had picked up the young man.

He would have liked to have spoken with him. He would have liked to have made Deimos tell him how it was that he avoided all forms of detection but apparently Deimos was no longer on the school grounds. He had been spirited away to an unknown location and with Deimos’ apparent immunity to Katherine’s powers, it was likely that such a location would remain forever unknown…

After Asmodeus had parted ways with the would-be mathematics teacher, he recruited one of the students as his new source of information. David, he learned from the girl, was in Turtle Bay for the official statement on what had happened. Cassandra had gone with him. Clarissa and Adrianna were on a secretive mission to San Francisco while Owen was tasked with babysitting Connor.

Much like the immortal, Magnus and Ben had been spirited away from the school along with their families. According to the Esper, they were visiting their loved ones: the Altair family was in Canada, with Alicia’s parents, while Magnus and Maria had sojourned to Maine where his parents resided with his grandfather and great-grandfather.

It seemed as though finding anyone he could trust with the news of the coming war between Astaroth and Leviathan would have to wait for now. For now, Asmodeus contented himself with wandering through the school, taking in the damage Deimos had caused with his rampage.

As he made his way through the doors, Asmodeus stopped at the sight of John Doe, tossing bricks into a wheelbarrow. “Good to see you’re still here,” the possessed man said. He did not mean it as thankfulness that John had been spared Deimos’ vengeance but that it pleased him to know that he could still keep tabs on the amnesic man.

John shrugged as he bent down to snatch up two more bricks. Once upon a time, they had been part of the hall of the dorms. In the attack, Deimos had knocked a few of them down. Before new walls could go up, the debris needed to be cleared away.

“Sounds like everyone pulled through…”

“Atlanta White’s boyfriend was killed,” John intoned morosely. “Joshua Cron was slain as well.”

“That’s awful,” Michael said. “I’m sorry, John. You two were close, weren’t you?”

Again, John shrugged. “I had asked him to use his magic to help me find out who I really am. He…” John said nothing more but Asmodeus inferred the rest: John was becoming suspicious of the placebo existence the divinator had crafted for him. “I fought Deimos. He… I think he knew who I was. He told me that he hated me—that he wanted to kill me for… for doing horrible things to him. He said I was an old man too…”

Asmodeus tried to play it cool. “Is it possible he was just trying to goad you? I mean, this is Deimos we’re talking about…”

“He knew something. He held it over my head—wanted me to beg like a dog. He wouldn’t give it to me though…”

“Maybe he didn’t have anything to give?”

John threw the next brick a little harder than the others. “He knew,” he said adamantly. He hung his head and shook it sadly. “He knew…” His voice trailed off as something in the debris caught his eye. As he bent down to brush aside the debris, Asmodeus tried to see what John had seen.

John reached into the pile and pulled out a black cube. Each side was a foot in length. Were it not for the thick work gloves the man was wearing, he found have found it cool to the touch. “John…” Asmodeus said warningly. He knew what it was; he knew what it could do. If John’s skin so much as brushed that cube, all of his memories would be restored…

Abaddon would return.

John set the cube down atop the wheelbarrow and hastily pulled the gloves off. “John, don’t. Josh… he lied to you. He was trying to protect you-”

“I have to know,” John said. His voice was a whisper, as if the awe he felt towards this artifact commanded such reverence from him.

Asmodeus moved to rush forward—moved to take the Black Box away before Abaddon’s psyche could be released. Before he could, John reached forward and grabbed at the cube.

The instant John Doe’s hands touched the Black Box all of his memories came crashing down like a wave over him. His mind was flooded with six thousand years worth of memories. The intensity of it caused him to scream and when it was over Abaddon looked down at his hands—at the artifact he held there—and he began to cackle.

Asmodeus didn’t know what to say. He feared moving from this spot—if he moved, how would Abaddon react? Would he view it as a threat?

Abaddon turned slowly and took in the sight of the possessed man watching him worriedly. “It’s ironic, isn’t it, Asmodeus? I favored Apocatastasis—believed he would be my champion—all the while I disregarded Deimos as little more than a science experiment…

“Apocatastasis turned on me and nearly removed me from our little game. It took Deimos to bring me back. Indirectly, yes… but I’m forced to admit that were it not for that little bastard, you might have been able to keep me trapped like that for years.”

“What will you do now, Abaddon?” the possessed man asked.

A wicked sneer flashed over Abaddon’s face. “I’ve spent so long playing goody-goody, I feel like doing something… wicked. I hunger, brother. I yearn for revenge.”

Abaddon disappeared from before Michael McDougall. Terrified of being right, Asmodeus severed the connection with the man and—for the first time in over a year—opened his own eyes and took in the sight of one of the many libraries he kept around the world.

There were no doors into the room. There were no windows to let in light. The chamber was illuminated by arcane methods. Unearthly light fell over tomes the demon had spent a lifetime collecting. Only twenty-one Gutenberg Bibles were thought to still exist but the truth was that twenty-six still remained. The three complete copies in Asmodeus’ possession were some of his most cherished possessions…

Abaddon knew this. He was a master of the mind. He could tell what a person was thinking simply by watching them. The moment he entered the den, he saw the trio of books and grinned fiendishly.

Asmodeus watched as Abaddon evoked the sword they had been armed with as seraphim and willed it to become tangible. In three fluid strokes he had cleanly cut down the spines of each tome.

“Is your thirst now satiated?” Asmodeus said. He was angry but he was not about to push his luck: if the worst Abaddon was willing to do was destroy his priceless book collection, he would not balk.

“Hardly.” Abaddon’s blade was dispelled and he raised his arm towards his brother.

It was at that moment that Asmodeus remembered what Elemenoh P. Quarez had told him so long ago: “I hate you so much, Asmodeus. I can’t wait for you to die in New Vindicators #100.”

That stopped Mister McDougall’s determined procession. “What?” he asked.

“I said I can’t wait for U2… dinning… new… Vin Diesel haters… Screw it, you’re gonna get yourself killed before this arc is over. There! Are you happy now!?!”

Asmodeus didn’t know what the Cosmic Kender had meant by “#100” or “arc” but now, facing the Angel of the Abyss, he couldn’t help but wonder if the child-like entity had prophesized this moment.

Even if he had known more about the prophesy, he never would have believed his end would come at the hands of Abaddon, whom Asmodeus had always considered himself above. Abaddon was the Demon of Rage—he settled things with sheer force of power and raw might—while Asmodeus preferred to move with subtlety and guile. He believed that knowledge was true power and strove to learn everything he could about his opponents and discern how to efficiently destroy them.

“You?” the Fallen said weakly. Had he known it would be his final moment in this existence, he likely would have chosen something more profound to serve as his last words. His essence was snuffed out and his body faded leaving the image of his surprised expression forever seared into his murderer’s mind.

It struck Abaddon then that his son had actually given him a tremendous gift: realizing how crucial the New Vindicators Academy of America was going to be in the grand scheme of things, the Fallen had long ago created the persona of Doctor Jason Pickford so that he could better observe the young heroes.

That name was known to them now as an enemy… but John Doe was a trusted friend and ally. As far as he knew, with the deaths of Breeze and Asmodeus, none inside the school knew his true identity…

Realizing that there were worst things than wearing the mask that was John Doe, Abaddon grinned… and began to plot…

  • The End of the Second Arc