TOPS

TOPS Issue 2 - The Gang's All Here

TOPS #2

See last issue, we’re picking up right where we left off, in front of the Sonic Bloom sculpture outside Seattle’s Pacific Science Center….

Shiloh Samson, erstwhile soap opera star, now lives again in his hometown after the tanking of his TV career and a failed movie shoot in the South Pacific. Unbeknownst to the general public, Shiloh has returned with super powers. He had been strolling around the grounds when he noticed police cordoning off a large area, and evacuating the Sky Needle and surrounding buildings. He made his way to the roof of the Science Center, stripped to reveal his new costume, and watched the events of last issue unfold. He sees Vanguard, several yards away at the edge of the roof, tangle with Gravekeeper before finally being swatted off the roof by one of GK’s ghosts wielding one of the Sonic Bloom flowers.

Warlock, the shape-shifting robot, turns from a bush to a cat and rushes over to the unconscious Ripper and begins licking his face.

Red Edge, having just watched The One dispatch Ripper with a tremendous beam of energy, turns her attention to Ultra-Babe, who cowers beneath a tree nearby, whimpering. The villain glares at her, then rushes over to her and starts stabbing. The blade sinks deep into UB’s shoulder as she frantically turns away, and she screams.

Vanguard, now on the ground and just a few feet away, turns his attention from Gravekeeper and fires a narrow laser at Red Edge. She’s fast; the beam misses her but strikes The One, standing several feet behind her. It appears to do nothing more than singe his jacket.

Baron Mind, levitating several feet off the ground, strikes at Red Edge’s mind from across the battlefield. He can see her wince in pain.

Gravekeeper whispers to one of his ghosts, which zips toward, and past, Vanguard.

Shiloh moves to the edge of the roof and leaps into the air. One arm stretches impossibly to the wall, and serves as a swing line for Samson to reach the ground. He lands between Red Edge and the bleeding UB. “Leave her alone!” He swings at RE but misses.

“I have to make her ugly!” “Then you’ll have to go through me: Shiloh Samson, Seattle’s Scarlet Sensation!”

Suddenly the combatants see a brilliant flare of light atop the nearby Space Needle. The flare streaks from there to the edge of the combat zone and explodes in flames to reveal a black figure surrounded by an orange glow.

Nearby, The One turns toward the new arrival. “Are you hear for recruitment?” he asks hopefully. “I’m here to stop the recruitment.” The One sighs and lifts his hand. Energy erupts from it, the blast striking Corona to no apparent affect.

Red Edge stabs at Shiloh. Expecting his rubbery body to deflect the blade, he’s surprised when it sinks into his abdomen. Gooey ‘sap’ leaks from the wound. He realiates with a vicious punch which sends the villain sailing dozens of feet through the air, dazed. She slams into The One and staggers him, but he stands in place. She crumples to a heap at his feet.

Roused by Warlock’s lapping tongue on his face, Ripper comes to. He stands and surveys the scene to regain his bearings.

Vanguard fires another rocket at GK. A swirling ghost intercepts the explosion.

Baron turns his attention to Gravekeeper. “Take this, creepy kid!” He reaches into the boy’s head and ‘squeezes’. GK yelps and drops, limp, to the ground. The cloud of ghosts spins faster around him, obviously agitated.

The One lifts the unconscious RE and hugs her to him with one arm. He then runs up to SS and grabs Shiloh by the throat, then flies straight up into the air. He glares directly into SS’s eyes. “If she dies I’m coming after you!” The villain then drops SS, who splats on the ground and spreads out into a puddle before immediately flowing back to humanoid form. One arm stretches to the wall and he swings himself up to the roof. From there he stretches out to grab The One. One arm wraps around the villain’s legs and SS squeezes.

Ripper looks down at Warlock, still in cat form. “Do you have claws?” Warlock pops small, cat-sized claws in response. “Good.” Ripper tears open a portal and teleports Warlock right on top of GK’s face. The ghosts, still clearly incensed, do not attack. Only when Warlock tries to claw at GK do they react, blocking each attempt.

Seeing The One at least temporarily stopped from fleeing by SS, Baron Mind hits him again with a mental assault. The One shudders in pain. He growls and unleashes a bolt of energy at SS, which hits him full-on. The impact sends him tumbling back across the roof. Stunned, his stretched arm goes limp and slowly reels back in.

Vanguard misses the newly-freed villain with a plasma beam from his bionic eye. Ripper dashes over to stand near the levitating Baron. “Who do I blast?”

Gravekeeper comes to. He whispers to his ghosts, and one proceeds to sling Warlock away.

With another flash of bright light and a fiery explosion, Corona zips from the ground right past The One, to the roof. He then emits a bright white light, hoping to blind the bad guy. The One shields his eyes just in time, and then zooms away.

“The One, huh?” Corona shouts after him. “We should call you ‘The Run’!” Across the roof, SS shakes his head and gets to his feet. He quickly swings back to the ground, to Ultra-Babe’s side. She’s unconscious and bleeding badly. He lifts her in his arms.

Several yards away, Gravekeeper gets unsteadily to his feet. The boy is quickly handcuffed, and gagged to prevent him from using his ghosts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Back at the station they meet up with Cpt. Nymity. They notice there are far fewer cops here than there were earlier.

Gravekeeper is escorted to the booking area, while the Captain debriefs the heroes and is introduced to Corona. “I would like to join the team.” “We’ll see,” Nymity replies. “Right now I want to know more about this claim that Shiloh Samson, the actor, is some kind of superhero.” “Totes legit, Cap,” Ripper says. They all head to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Shiloh arrives at Seattle General with Ultra-Babe. Nurses converge and quickly wheel the injured woman away. After explaining to the desk nurse what happened, Shiloh calls his agent, Abby Adams. “Get a presser together down here! I’ve saved the day!”

While waiting for the crush of reporters (and a report on Ultra-Babe’s condition), Shiloh is in the waiting room when the rest of the team arrives.

“So, the famous Shiloh Samson is now a superhero?” Capt. Nymity asks as she reaches out a hand. “Captain Nymity, SPD. If this is your new gig, where were you at tryouts?”

“My day was booked solid, so sorry. I really should wait for Abby, she hates when I negotiate on my own behalf, but how much does the job pay?”

“Well, the starting salary is based on existing pay scales, and there’s a hazard bonus of course, in line with what SWAT gets…”

He interrupts with a grunt. “Doesn’t sound like we’re talking six figures here.” Capt. Nimity laughs. “Not exactly. This program is the first of its kind and it was a real bear getting the limited funding we have.”

“So, we’re police officers? Is there…paperwork?” “Yes, you’ll be expected to fill out incident reports, and at some point deliver them to the Chief and the oversight board. Oh, and testify in court, of course.”

“I hate paperwork. The money’s not enough for me to do paperwork. I’m already rich!”

Ripper immediately raises his hand. “Hey Rich Guy, I’ll do your paperwork for your for $100 a week.” A wallet appears in Shiloh’s hand and he doles out four crisp hundreds. “There’s a month’s advance. I’m in!”

“Okay, Vanguard, let’s find dinner in the cafeteria. I’m buying!”

Ten minutes later, Abby dashes into the waiting room. “How much time do we have, Abby? I need to make sure I’m camera-ready.” “They’re not…coming,” she gets out between gasps of air. “Bank alarm…went off…South Side…”

“This sounds like a job for Shiloh Samson, Seattle’s Scarlet Sensation!” Shiloh lets the last syllable ring as he rushes out the door. Captain Nymity sprints toward the cafeteria to retrieve the other two, at the same time calling for a paddy wagon to get them all to the scene.

Fifteen minutes later they arrive to find Washington Federal Bank surrounded by police cars, barricades, and officers. The mobile command center is behind an open SWAT vehicle. Shiloh stands with seven men in combat gear trying very hard to ignore him. They’re all staring at a monitor on a small table, displaying a live closed-circuit feed from inside the bank.

Several customers are face-down on the floor in the main lobby, near the front doors. A woman hovers in the air nearby. Her body sparkles as she moves; they can see she’s covered head to toe in tiny mirrors.

Four other people can be seen: three who stand watch over the civilians while the last is behind the teller’s window, stuffing cash into a bag.

“Situation?” Captain Nymity asks the SWAT Commander. “We believe it’s just those five. One interesting note: we don’t think they have a getaway car.”

Shiloh straightens. “You people take the armed ones,” he announces loudly, “I’ll deal with the super!”

Vanguard objects. “We should try to get in undetected, from several different angles.” He sends Corona to the roof to wait for the signal, then blast a hole into the lobby.

Shiloh tires of waiting. He grabs Vanguard and Ripper in his pliable arms and then stretches his body into a torus. He rolls across the parking lot, gaining speed, and smashes through the glass doors of the bank, into the center of the room. Taking that as the signal, Corona blows a hole in the roof and flashes through it to the floor.

The Scarlet Sensation whips out an arm to swat the hovering woman, but she avoids it. “Shoot them!” she commands. It’s not clear if she means the heroes or the hostages. Ripper turns on his force field and stands ready to deflect bullets.

Vanguard stares at Mirror Girl (later dubbed Reflector) and lets go a plasma beam. In a blink she raises a shiny arm and reflects the attack toward Ripper. He tries to divert it with a portal but he’s too slow. He’s knocked back into the facing of the teller windows.

Corona takes a few steps into the lobby and flares brightly, trying to blind at least one of the goons and Reflector. The other three gunmen each moves next to a hostage, lifts them from the floor, and puts their guns to the civilian’s heads.

Shiloh targets one of the gunmen with a hostage. He smacks the bad guy with his fist at the end of an impossibly long arm. The baddie goes flying, still clutching the hostage, and slams into the far wall, stunned.

Ripper, still sitting on the floor, targets another hostage-taker. He teleports the goon outside, six feet away from the police line.

Vanguard turns to the erstwhile bag-stuffing bad guy, who now has a hostage in front of him. A plasma blast shoots out, barely missing. The mug hauls the screaming woman toward the drive-through window. He fires a volley at it, trying to break it by the time he gets there. Instead, bullets richochet off of the bullet-proof glass. One errant shot strikes one of the hostages, striking him in the arm. Ripper promptly teleports him outside, but well away from the bad guy he put out there.

Corona steps to the thug he’d blinded and punches him. The guy fires at him wildly.

Shiloh again turns his attention to Reflector. He swings another roundhouse but it’s just as she’s regained her vision. She flits out of the way, and again shouts, “Shoot them!”

For the third time, Shiloh Samson, Seattle’s Scarlet Sensation, swings at Reflector and misses. Frustrated, Ripper tries to drop a portal over him and teleport him right into the floating villain’s face, but he misses.

Vanguard frowns and turns his laser attack on Reflector. She tries to maneuver an arm up to reflect it, but this time she’s a split-second too slow. The crimson beam burns into her costume, between mirrors. She cries out and drops to the floor like a sack of bricks.

Corona, taking no chances, aims a brilliant beam of solar energy at the ceiling above her, burying her in debris. The goon who’d just shot at him tries it again but manages only to shoot himself in the foot.

Vanguard cuffs Reflector. Ripper teleports outside and says, “Come get ’em, boys! TOPS has it under control!”

==========

Back at the station, Captain Nymity has mixed feelings. “You stopped a bank robbery and captured the villain, but you also let a hostage get shot. This squad is already on thin ice with the taxpayers and the media, we can’t afford mistakes like that.”

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TOPS Issue 1 - Calling All Heroes
Who's recruiting whom?

TOPS #1

FIRST PULSE-POUNDING ISSUE! Guest-starring BARON MIND!!

==============

PREVIOUSLY, IN THE PAGES OF The NEW GUARDIANS

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and Seattle Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole met with the Guardians a few weeks ago when they were in Seattle for Comic Con. After their meeting, the oil rig incident occurred but the villains got away. This cemented the idea the three of them had to form a special field team of paranormals, tentatively called TOPS: Tactical Organization of Paranormals and Supers.

NOW:
The call goes out for recruits: people with special powers who are willing to join this new unit of the Seattle PD to take on paranormal cases. Baron Mind, already in town at the request of SPD to help locate three missing women, is asked to help evaluate the candidates, their own celebrity guest judge.

A large warehouse was rented and an obstacle course set up inside. Several hours before it opened a line began to form: everything from the blue skin or glowing auras of true paranormals to obviously normal cosplayers on a lark (and perhaps a LARP) was on display.

Across the street other groups formed. Protestors with the same general sentiment but split into two camps: those who opposed TOPS because they felt it would draw supervillains to the city, and those who opposed the program because of the tax increase pushed through to fund it.

Henry Yamamoto (Ripper) and Harrison Helms (Vanguard) find themselves in line. Immediately around them are a shapeshifting robot called Warlock, a normal-looking man with no discernable powers, and a very large whale-human hybrid calling himself Whale Man. Suddenly everyone turns to see a strikingly beautiful woman flying in to land among them. She fairly glows with charisma and power. “I am Ultra-Babe!” she exclaims, before settling in a the end of the line.

As the group finally enters the building, they see a cavernous space dotted with pillars and temporary walls and other obstacles. Immediately to the left is a row of tables, behind which sit a dozen uniformed police personnel. Applicants first sit to fill out preliminary paperwork, answer questions, then embark on the course. Each station is manned by a well-padded evaluator.

Toward the center of the room stands a group of four people: Baron Mind, Mayor Murray, Governor Innis, and Police Captain Ann O. Nymity. As candidates navigate the obstacles, these four share their impressions with each other. Baron takes special note of a tiny flying woman, currently attempting the “Rescue Normals” station. She struggles to lift a mannequin. Something about her nags at his mind, but he can’t quite name it.

Helms seats himself across from one of the police questioners and gives his name. “What are your strenghts and weaknesses?” the officer reads from a clipboard. Vanguard reveals a bit about what he can do (laser eye, armor) but says nothing of his weaknesses. “What sets you apart?” “I don’t know, I have no idea what these other people can do.” “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Helms laughs, “Five years closer to the goal.”

Ripper is asked, “Why do you want this job?” He replies that he wants to help people, then asks how much the job pays. He says he intends to continue his current employment as well as take on this job, as he sees this as an on-call, only in emergency type of gig. When he’s told he’ll get a full-time salary, he smiles and says he works on contract IT jobs anyway so the hours won’t be a problem.

They then move on to the first obstacle: the Wall Scale station. Candidates are expected to navigate their way over a wall. Ripper, three people back from the front of the line, freaks out when the first guy in line bursts into flames and takes to the air. “Is that normal?” he shrieks, “Is that supposed to happen? Holy crap!”

This draws the attention of Baron Mind, who sees something familiar in the flaming figure. When he then turns and sees another of the candidates in the Mud Pit station creating duplicates of himself, it clicks: these two and the fairy girl are aligned with The One, the mysterious villain the Guardians fought at the oil rig.

“We have a problem,” he says to the officials. He points out the three he suspects are villains, and then nods toward Vanguard. “I think that armored guy might be with them too.”

Teams of SWAT officers, stationed at various points around the building, begin to converge on the four targets. Baron lifts into the air. In the Mud Pit station the duplicates yell, “We’ve been found out, boys!”

Pixie drops the dummy she’d been trying to lift and rises further into the air. The flaming man, Hothead, flies toward the rising Baron. “Give me my brother back!” he screams.

Baron says, “This is how the conversation is supposed to go: You’re under arrest.”

Hothead flings spouts of flame toward Baron, but Ripper acts quickly. He opens a portal between the incoming attack and the Guardian, and another portal behind Hothead. The blast enters the first portal and emerges from the second; Ripper had intended to hit Hothead with his own attack but it misses.

Ultrababe levitates shakily into the air and stammers at the villains, “S-stop that! R-right n-n-now!”

Vanguard steps toward the 5-man SWAT squad that is moving toward him. “Is there a problem?” “We ask that you come with us, sir, for questioning.” “Questioning? I have nothing to do with these other people. I don’t know them. I don’t know anybody.”

Henry, a Seattle native, recognizes Multiple Man (M&M) from news reports of the oil rig disaster. He teleports himself beneath the levitating Baron Mind and introduces himself. “How can I help, Mr. Mind?” “Well, that guy is throwing flame blasts.” Ripper attempts to use his power to keep Hothead from flying, but he fails.

Pixie then flies over to hover above him. She sprinkles a mist of pixie dust over him, and his body floats off the ground. Ripper slowly rotates in the air, helpless.

M&M extricates themselves from the Mud Pit and advance on the floating Baron. Hothead also flies closer to Baron, still hollering about his brother. He shoots more bursts of flame at the Guardian but misses. Baron gestures grandly, pretending it was his mighty mental energies rather than the villain’s poor aim that was responsible.

The SWAT Team lead senses that Vanguard is telling the truth. “Well, we sure could use your help with this.” Helms nods and ignites his jetpack. At the same time he spins and fires a rocket at Pixie. The concussive explosion stuns her; both she and Ripper drop to the ground.

Baron places his fingers to his temples and projects an image of Hothead’s brother, the captured Brick Wall, in the Water Tank station. “Your brother’s right over there,” he says. He then mimics Brick Wall’s voice (“Help! I’m a-drownin’!”) Hothead yelps, believing the image is real.

Suddenly bursting through a window into the building is the villain known as The One, carrying the murderous woman known only as Red Edge. She clutches a stack of leaflets. The One flies a circuit around the warehouse as she flings the papers into the air. They float to the floor like snow. “We’re done here!” The One cries as they smash through a window on the opposite side of the building and fly away.

Three of the four M&Ms produce knives and stab themselves in the heart. As they die, they vanish, leaving only one. He makes haste for the nearest exit, yelling at Hothead as he passes, “That’s not your brother.”

Vanguard now moves on Hothead. A glowing beam lances from his bionic eye and sizzles past the villain. Refusing to be distracted, Hothead zips over to the image of his brother. When he reaches out to help Brick Wall from the water, his hand passes right through it. He turns back to Baron, seething. “You’re dead meat!”

Baron responds by lifting a huge volume of water in a telekinetic fist and attempting to douse the flaming bad guy, but he misses.

Pixie shakes it off and flits into the air, speeding for an exit. Ripper stands and again asks Baron what the plan is.

Vanguard unleashes another blast at Hothead, hitting him this time. The villain spins backwards through the air and slams into the ground near the far wall. Instead of heading to the exit as the others have, he stands up, bellowing incoherently. He ignites and flies into the air, speeding back toward the heroes.

Baron again scoops water into a giant fist and slaps Hothead with it. The liquid douses his flames and he drops into the pool. Ripper teleports him out of it when it becomes obvious he can’t swim.

The heroes gather around the gasping villain. Warlock, Ultrababe, Whale Man, and the normal-looking gent are all that remain of the applicants; everyone else has fled.

Several of them pick up flyers. The pages offer jobs to paranormals, working under The One. What appears to be an abstract map, and a mathematical equation, appear at the bottom. While the others discuss what it might mean, the Normal seems absorped in it, muttering to himself.

Baron leaves with Hothead in custody. The nondescript Normal finally speaks up. “I’m Cypher. I’ve figured out what this flyer says.” He claims it is a map of the Pacific Science Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Specifically, the famous Singing Flower sculpture is highlighted. The equation resolves to “next Tuesday at 3 PM.”

Captain Nymity congratulates each remaining applicant. She thanks Whale Man but decides his skill set is too specific to be of much use. He leaves, dejected.

She tells the rest that they are hired and she wants to meet them back at police HQ in an hour.

There, their statements are taken and they’re given a tour of the department. They notice the stinkeye from several police as they pass; rumor in the station has it that these untrained newbies will rank equivalently to detectives, which irks more than a few of them.

Concluding the tour, the Captain tells them to report bright and early on Monday morning to being their training.

OVER THE WEEKEND -
– Baron spends hours using his retrocognition to locate one of the three missing women. Her body is found, viciously stabbed.

- Harrison Helms looks for a place to live, using referrals from Captain Nymity. He then finds a library to begin learning about the (to him) retro-tech of the early-22nd Century. He needs to reconfigure his communication interfaces, as they’re all built to operate on 23rd Century tech. - Henry Yamamoto heads home to his mother’s house and spends the weekend hacking the Seattle PD mainframe, digging into Captain Nymity’s personnel file. She’s an exemplary officer, with nary a blemish on her official record.

MONDAY-

Six AM comes early, and the rookies assemble just down the street from the police station, in front of the training facility. They notice that Cypher isn’t there. “He won’t be training with us,” Captain Nymity explains. “His skills are better utilized behind a computer.”

Inside they find the space filled with obstacle stations, similar to last week’s recruitment. The walls, pillars, and swing-ropes ring the outer wall of the vast room, so that just to the right of the entrance, but at the end of the circuit, was a small house made of plywood.

“It’s not enough that you each have special powers,” the Captain begins. “We must put those power to the most efficient use. We must communicate and operate as a single, cohesive unit. So today’s goal is to navigate these obstacles as a team. At the end of the course, if you haven’t failed it by then, we have a hostage situation. I’ll brief you on that if you get that far.”

Using his mutant powers, Ripper simply teleports the team members around each obstacle, and they’re all standing before the makeshift house in a matter of seconds.

Nymity smiles. “Okay then. Next we have a tactical situation. An unknown number of armed perps have taken a hostage. Your job is to rescue the hostage and apprehend the kidnappers.”

Vanguard’s police training kicks in before he even realizes it. “Ripper, slip over there and peek in the window.” It’s covered by a drape, so he opens a portal into the room. Through it he sees a mannequin standing by the front door, a rifle slung over it’s shoulder. Through a doorway he sees another seated at the kitchen table.

Vanguard moves to a side window and peers in through the curtain using his X-Ray vision. He sees a female mannequin on a bed, two rifle-toting dummies standing on either side. At a third window on the other side of the house, Ultrababe spies a dummy on the toilet.

The future-cop tells Ripper to get the hostage. He opens a wider portal in the hostage room, reaches in and pulls out the dummy. Immediately the mannequin kidnappers begin to move.

Warlock pries open the front door and whacks a kidnapper. Vanguard slices a hole in the wall with his laser eye, then fires rockes through it which take out the other three.

They adjourn to a meeting room at police HQ. They, and Cypher, are presented special badges, identifying them as Detectives in the TOPS unit. Baron Mind adds his congratulations to the Captain’s.

Talk then turns to the flyers left by The One. The address turns out to be the Pacific Science Center in downtown; specifically, beneath the Sonic Bloom sculpture (40-feet high flower sculptures that ‘sing’ as the wind blows through them).

Vanguard decides they’ll surround the place and stake it out, with police establishing a wider perimeter around the complex. The attractions, including the Space Needle, are closed early and evacuated.

THREE PM -
At the time specified on the flyer, the only approaching figure is a young boy. As he gets closer to the flowers the heroes can see he’s sporting a coruscating aura of what appear to be ghosts. The boy whispers something and one of them peels off and flies away.

A moment later The One flies in, holding Red Edge as he had last Friday at the warehouse, along with the ghost. They land next to the boy, the ghost re-entering the swirl around him.

The One swings around, arms outstretched. “What do you mean, there’s nobody here?”

From a copse of trees, Baron projects an image (a rather shaky one) of an approaching paranormal.

“Finally!” The One smiles. “Somebody shows up!” The image says, “Yes, um, I deciphered your ingenious mathematical message. Really impressive, uh, how you did that.”

Vanguard leaves his spot among the trees and flies to the roof of the adjacent Pacific Science Center.

The boy says of the image, “That’s not real.” So Red Edge throws a knife at it. Baron dispels the phantasm and tries to reform a better one but the illusion is broken.

Seeing that the jig is up, Vanguard goes on the offensive, firing off three tiny rockets. Each hits its mark, but they appear to have little effect.

The One dashes away from the others, onto the grassy edge of the treed area. His gaze darts around, looking for more attackers. He zips past Baron Mind’s hiding place, so the Guardian hits him with a mental blast. The One stops and smiles. “Ha! I came prepared for you!”

Red Edge moves toward the lawn area as well, past Warlock shape-shifted into a bush. He doesn’t budge. She flings a knife at Baron with deadly accuracy, but at the last second Ripper tears open a portal in mid-air which swallows it.

A plasma beam erupts from Vanguard’s bionic eye and slams into The One. He tumbles backwards several yards but ends up on his feet.

The boy takes to the air and comes even with the roof, staring at Vanguard. One of his ghosts zips away from his body and shoots toward Vanguard but he leans out of the way. He answers with a plasma beam which sends the boy spinning backwards through the air. The ghost boy recovers and sends another ghost speeding at Vanguard. This one slams into him and sends him careening across the roof. He pops up to his feet.

Seeing Ultrababe squatting behind a tree, whimpering, Baron tries to snap her out of it with a mental projection, trying to get her to see the villains as silly and weak. She continues to cry.

The One, still smiling, gestures at Baron, who feels the energy draining from his body. Red Edge presses the advantage, moving in to stab him. Again one of Ripper’s portals opens, this one a horizontal hole above Baron’s head that drops over him. He instantly emerges from another portal several yards away.

Levitating into the air, Baron slaps The One’s brain again, and again the villain smirks. “I feel you tickling me again!”

Red Edge turns toward Ripper and crouches as if to leap. “W-woah, hold on! One move and I’ll teleport you into the heart of the sun! I mean it! The sun!” She doesn’t buy it. A knife flies at him, only partially deflected by the field of shifting portals that surround him. The blade doesn’t cut, but the impact is felt.

The One turns from Baron to Ripper. “Don’t you dare hurt what’s mine.” The warning is punctuated with rapid-fire bursts of energy which pummel into the hero and send him sprawling across the pavement.

Red Edge then throws a knife at the floating Baron, who mentally deflects it right at The One. The blade sinks deep.

Vanguard sees the opportunity and fires a plasma beam at The One but he misses. That provides an opening to the ghost boy. One of his ghosts slips from the aura and wraps itself around one of the Sonic Bloom flowers. It tears from the ground, turns and then swings at Vanguard, knocking him off the roof. He again manages to land on his feet.

With a sigh Ripper rises and moves forward, attempting to teleport Red Edge away from everybody else. He fails. The move becomes doubly brave when he realizes he’s left himself wide open to both villains. The One chuckles and slams the hero with a tremendous burst of energy. His forcefield is able to shunt some of the attack into the Energy Dimension, but not enough. The impact knocks the wind out of him; he slams into the ground and tumbles for a few yards before stopping, unconscious.

It’s suddenly quiet, save for Ultra-Babe’s crying. Warlock remains motionless and ignored as just another shrubbery. Gravekeeper, Red Edge, and The One all turn toward Vanguard and the hovering Baron Mind, the only good guys still standing.

How can this fledgling hero team deal with The One and his powerful villains? Find out next issue!

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