by Starsky Hutch 76 and CSyphrett
As soon as the last of the flying monkey forces was defeated, the group noticed that two of their number was missing. “Tarnation!” the Vigilante exclaimed. “Danny and Billie have plum disappeared!”
“There’s only one place they could have gone,” Patriot said, pointing to the castle.
“So what are we waiting for?” said Americommando. “Our reasons for storming the castle just tripled.”
The remaining Soldiers of Victory proceeded toward the castle. The air was ominously still.
“It can’t be this easy,” said Red Arrow. “He’s not simply going to let us waltz up to the castle after one scuffle.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a new defensive force moved into place with a clatter of hooves and a rattle of armor. The troops were made up of figures out of a fantasy epic: black knights, dark elves, trolls, ogres, dwarves, and goblins.
“Looks like they’re playing our song, Dad,” said Knightfire, creating a sword of fire.
“Then, by all means, child,” said the Shining Knight, raising his sword. “Let us dance.”
The Nebula-Man watched the three screens floating in the air in front of him. He smiled slightly. He seemed to have underestimated the younger members of this assemblage of his old enemies. The veterans had also learned some new tricks in their time back in the real world. He winced as the Vigilante lassoed a group of flying goblins together, guiding them into the ground. It was time he showed them that he had learned a few things as well during his stay in this realm. He waved his hand across the screen. “That should make things interesting for them.”
He turned to the screen where Billie Gunn and Wing How moved cautiously forward, then changed the landscape around them so that they would wander until he wanted to see them again. He then turned to the second screen to find the green-and-black-clad intruder gone. “Fast devil,” he said ruminatively.
Sir Justin, the Shining Knight, had battled evil across the centuries as a hero of the Round Table. He had beaten numerous foes of every stripe. Still, he was unprepared for the thing that rose out of the ground between the heroes and the portal. He was half-turned in his saddle when the massive ball of fire washed over him and Winged Victory. His steed crashed into the wall of the mountain, hard.
“A seven-headed dragon,” said Patriot, ducking a beam of ice from another head.
“Don’t that beat all,” said the Vigilante, throwing himself behind a jutting rock as a bolt of lightning came crashing toward him.
Knightfire landed beside her father, quickly examining him. She was not sure he had been unhurt. His golden armor and enchanted horse were invulnerable to harm under normal circumstances. She did not want to find out that this strange place was the exception to the rule.
“I am unhurt, daughter,” said the fallen hero, pulling himself to his feet and shaking his head to clear it. “Just shaken.”
Yet another of the dragon’s heads opened its gaping maw to fire a stream of acid at Americommando as he tried to take aim with the weaponry he had built into his armor. He was forced to fire the jump systems to leap clear. The acid cut a furrow in the ground behind him as the head rotated to keep him in its sights. He landed and leaped again as the dragon ran out of steam.
The dragon lurched forward, beating its wings in a cloud of dust. The Soldiers of Victory tried to regroup as its seven heads blasted at them with its various deadly breaths.
The Nebula-Man reconfigured his center screen, trying to focus on the roaming Soldier of Victory loose in his stronghold. He caught his new foe leaping into an upper gallery bordering one of the halls where he created troops to drill and maneuver. If only he could control the substance of the real world as well as he did that of his own, he pondered. What terrors he could unleash with his thoughts. But such ruminations were for a later time. For now, he needed to stop this lone intruder. Once that was complete, he would then deal with the rest of his old enemies.
Upon the center screen, the green-and-black-clad man bounced along the gallery, using each landing to bound against the opposite wall. The Nebula-Man judged the spot he wanted ahead of the hero, then pointed at the screen. The wall became soft under his influence, and he waited for the inevitable.
The green-and-black-clad hero hit the wall and sank out of sight. He had been going so fast that he vanished almost instantly. A finger snap later, and the wall hardened into solidity. That took care of that little problem nicely. The Nebula-Man turned his attention to Billie Gunn and Wing How. It was time for a reunion.
He waved his hand at the floating screen, and the hall behind the duo began to flow like a river. The streaming fluid swept the pair of adventurers up and into a staircase that he turned into a funnel into his throne room.
The shape of a wide, evil grin crossed the Nebula-Man’s face. It didn’t get any better than this.
Dragonmage tried to push back out of the solid stone he found himself immersed in. The stone returned to its rigid state as he strained against it. Danny Leong was frozen in place with but a few minutes of air trapped in his lungs. He had to escape before he suffocated.
Forcing himself to remain calm in spite of his situation, Dragonmage closed his eyes, using the other skills he had learned to concentrate on what he felt around him. The stone was solid energy, without the usual gaps he would have felt in real matter. Still, it held something he could manipulate with his training.
He touched his stone prison calmly, looking for a loose end to grab and unravel. It was harder than he was used to, but manageable. He touched the right piece of quanta with his skills, and the stone’s energy warped under his small influence. It was enough to allow him to draw back an arm. Green flame encircled his fist. He lashed out, channeling his chi down his arm, through his fist, and into the walls of his makeshift prison. The wall exploded outward in a small, concentrated area.
Dragonmage opened his eyes. Seeing the hole, he gave a slight smile and slipped his arm out of the hole. Slowly, he squeezed the rest of his body after the arm until he was out in the hallway once more. He rose to his feet, taking a deep breath, then closed his eyes again, feeling his surroundings. Then he started leaping down the hall a corridor over from the one he had been traveling in. He needed a way to get close to the Nebula-Man. Then he would work his magic again.
Wing How and Billie Gunn found themselves carried into the throne room as if a raging river had swept them up. When they finally landed unceremoniously before him, they found themselves in very different attire than what they had worn before.
“What the hell?” Billie said, brushing herself off and discovering she was no longer in her militaristic attire. Instead, she wore a feminized version of the Vigilante’s outfit — the double-breasted shirt was tied off above the waist, the pants were now a pair of tights, and the kerchief was no longer a mask but a decorative piece. Instead, a bandanna mask, from which her shoulder-length auburn hair flowed underneath, replaced it. Her Jatimatic was now replaced by a pair of six-shooters she wore upon her hips.
Wing was equally shocked as he rose to his feet. “Why have you dressed me as the Crimson Avenger?” he gasped.
“You are his heir apparent, are you not?” the Nebula-Man said. “It seemed fitting that the Crimson Avenger’s successor wear the suit now.”
“His successor?” Wing asked.
“Oh? Did you not know?” the Nebula-Man said. “Well, how could you? Here. Let me show you.” The Nebula-Man waved his hand over the center screen, and Lee Travis’ last moments played as he piloted a boat filled with explosives away from the city he protected. Wing’s jaw dropped in horror as the boat became a ball of fire, lighting up the night sky.
“Lee!” Wing exclaimed in horror. The Nebula-Man threw his head back in laughter.
“We can’t keep this up forever,” Patriot said as he blasted away at the hordes of energy-constructed mystical beings while also trying to avoid the blasts of the dragon’s heads.
“No kidding,” Knightfire said, throwing up a flame shield to block a blow from a troll’s battle axe.
“Maybe we can hold out forever,” Red Arrow said, firing off three explosive arrows to take down three flying goblins. “It seems like I should’ve run out of arrows a long time ago, but every time I reach back, there’s one there waiting for me.”
“Tis passing strange,” the Shining Knight said, bringing the butt of his sword down on an ogre’s head. “Tis as if reality is the subject of fancy here.”
“You mean, I want an arrow, so I’ve got an arrow?” Red Arrow said, pulling out another and knocking a black knight off his horse.
“Now that yuh mention it, I reckon I shoulda run outta bullets fer muh shootin’ irons a long time ago,” the Vigilante said.
“If that’s the way this place works, then why aren’t we already where Wing is?” Knightfire asked. “After all, we want to rescue him, so that’s what we should really get.”
“Because that mangy polecat Nebula-Man still runs the show, darlin’,” Vigilante said.
“Right,” Patriot said. “Otherwise Wing wouldn’t even need rescuing.”
“I think I know a way to take care of our rather large problem here,” Americommando said, gesturing at the seven-headed dragon.
“Well, I’d sure be interested in hearing it!” Patriot said.
“These things are constructed from the energy of this dimension,” Americommando said. “If we reverse the polarity, they’ll fall apart.”
“And then we take the fight to our enemy!” the Shining Knight said enthusiastically.
“That’s the idea,” Americommando said, smiling.
“Let’s give it a shot,” Patriot said, adjusting the controls on his belt.
“Here goes nothing,” Americommando said as they jumped out from behind the rock where they’d been taking cover.
“Hey, sparky!” Patriot shouted. The dragon turned with all of its heads and was about to fire as they both leveled their arms and fired twin bursts of energy in its direction. The dragon let out a roar from all of its throats and then vanished.
“Yahoo!” Vigilante exclaimed. “That big, scaly varmint didn’t know what hit ‘im!”
“Ready for a little pest control, Pat?” Patriot asked Americommando as he eyed the rest of the army.
“You know it, Syl,” Americommando said. “And if they were really alive, I’d say they’ve got to be feeling like those cartoon roaches in the bug spray commercials.” They began blasting away at the trolls, ogres, elves, and other imaginary soldiers of the Nebula-Man’s defensive force, causing them to disappear, one by one.
The Nebula-Man, watching it all, gave a curse. “No!”
“Looks like we’ll have company very soon,” Wing told him.
The white slits that served as the Nebula-Man’s eyes narrowed with anger. They weren’t playing by his rules.