The Champions

Champions Issue 12- The Baptism of Baron Bedlam
And the Rise of the Lunatic Fringe!

When Last We Left Our Intrepid Heroes—

The Champions just learned of breaking news reports about corpses rising from cemeteries near Rome, Georgia.

NOW

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The Champions Issue 11- Death Beams From Space!
And The Darkness At Our Door

The Story So Far-

After the adventure at the South Pole and returning with Ice Prince, the Champions experienced Weaponized World, an amusement park turned into a killing field by a billionaire named Jack Johansen. After Murderworld the Champions fought Dr Hephaestus and his genetically created ‘mythic’ Greek monsters. After that Slugger, Arsenal, and Prince had their minds swapped because of an insane egoist calling himself Super Ego, Captain Ego, and Kid Id (Freudian Slip). Then Cruel and Unusual Punishment (Jack Johansen and his bodyguard) attacked the Champions in Central Park, killing Phoenix (for the first time). After the Champions were all but beaten came an attack by the Carnies… the incident where Catzclaw, Gornak, and Bella all joined the team (to help save the day!)

Meanwhile, in Chicago at Dr. Discordia’s Institute, all her patients (mostly mutants, including numerous mutants who were in comas from an event that happened in the Silver Age) were moved to an unknown location. Dr. Discordia herself, a respected expert in paranormals/mutants— both their physiology and their psychology— went missing the moment her name became associated with the others involved in this secret conspiracy.

Because of help from the Carnies, a chamber was discovered under Murderworld. There, the Champions fought the Carnies along with Johansen, ultimately defeating them. In this underground chamber (which had a strange dampening field at its entrance that effected every kind of flight), there was Victorian Age hospital discovered.

After that, as the FBI worked to try to uncover more information about Discordia (and also Mark Morning, the former Champion called Cyclone who is also missing)— the Champions did some training in a junkyard in Manhattan.

NOW

The police arrive at the junkyard because of a flood of 911 calls by frightened and concerned citizens who witnessed death beams from Gornak’s satellite in space. Arsenal gives the police assurances that the authorities will be notified in advance of any training in the city that will include said death beams from space.

At Champions mansion, the Champion’s butler Morgan has a message for Gornak from his benefactor, Mr. Prophet, who asks Gornak to come home. (Gornak has been staying at Champions mansion since joining them.)

Gornak arrives at Prophet’s home. Prophet talks to Gornak, concerned about the negative PR of a “death beam from space” given Congress wants to investigate.

Prophet also confesses that his R & D department has been working on teleportation. He is concerned Gornak can’t keep up with the other Champions (does have a movement power.)

At Prophet’s urging, Gornak tries to fly and can’t. Prophet suggests he tie a handle to his mammoth’s tusk and throw it really, really hard.

Prophet also tells Gornak he has something new to show him… and also some documents for Gornak to sign.

That night, Gornak dreams of caveman times. He sees himself attacked by a sabertooth tiger. The ensuing fight lands him in a cavern filled with fire. A dark figure stands there with glowing eyes. Just as the sabertooth is slashing Gornak’s throw with its fangs, the dark figure cackles… and Gornak wakes up.

Bella is getting ready to attend a wedding rehearsal, a bridesmaid for her cousin. The night before the wedding, she dreams that she is hovering high above someone. She dives down, through a ceiling, and sees that she is above a sleeping Scott Branson. Her dreaming self takes his head in her hands and she experiences his dream.

At the same moment that Arsenal is dreaming— and Bella is experiencing his dream— Prince Paradigm is at the museum where he lives and he has a vision, experiencing the same dream… as does Slugger. The three heroes were linked (in Issue _).

Scott Branson (Arsenal) dreams about a pair of hands wielding cards. The backs of the cards have skulls and bones on them. Seven cards are laid aside (Cards #0-6)… and then cards are flipped.

The Seventh card of the Tarot deck is The Chariot. Arsenal (and the others) know that this card represents himself.

The 8th Tarot card is Strength, depicting a female with a halo. This face on the card is clearly Slugger’s.

The 9th Tarot card is The Hermit, a card representing wisdom—a wise man wearing tuxedo with tails and a top hat. This card foretold Monopoly Guy.

The 10th card in every Tarot Deck is The Wheel of Fortune. This card—with its Egyptian symbols— foretold Prince Paradigm. The Wheel on the card began to whirl, spinning up tendrils of darkness.

The 11th card of the Tarot is Justice. The women depicted on the card looked exactly like Bella.

The 12th Tarot card is The Hangman, depicting a man hanging upside-down. The rope on this card doesn’t appear to be hemp, however. It looks more like the kind of webbing used by Black Spider.

Card 13th was laid facedown.

The #14 Tarot is Temperance, a figure that on this card looks like Phoenix. In the background of the card, what appears to be a flaming portal is depicted.

Card #15 was laid facedown.

Card #16 in the Tarot deck is the Tower. The tower depicted is being obliterated by what seems less like lightning and more like a death beam from space. This card foretold Gornak (and Mr. Prophet).

Card #17 is the Star, a gorgeous sophisticated lady… who looks exactly like Freeze.

Card #18 in the Tarot deck is The Moon. At first glance the creature howling up at the moon seems to certainly be a wolf but upon closer inspection, it’s revealed to be a cat. This tarot foretold Catzclaw.

Card #19 in the deck is The Sun. A baby on a horse is depicted, the baby’s face glowing too bright to recognize.

Card #20 is Judgement—and it’s placed to the side of the others… as is the final Tarot, #21, The World.

The World card shakes. The Judgement card covers it.

The original seven cards flip over. Two are The Devil and Death. These cards merge together… and on the resulting card is a Victorian era baron with a handlebar mustache and eyepatch. This card goes back to the original five.

The hero cards all flip over and start to bleed, except Arsenal’s… which begins to scream.

Arsenal awakens around dawn. Mandy calls. She’s also had a disturbing dream he had and wants to meet him.

At Bella’s cousin’s wedding rehearsal, Jenny Jefferson, age 22, one of the bridesmaids get the giggles. She is mentally impaired, slightly autistic, and when she can’t control her laughter, her embarrassed mother escorts her out.

Later at the dinner, Jenny tells Bella, “I know your secret!”

For a moment, Bella is naturally concerned that Jenny has found out about her super powers but then Jenny says, “You’re dead too, right? Just like me! He’s coming!”

Bella escorts the unhinged woman back to her parents.

Bella’s father is late. She calls him but gets no answer. She texts and he texts back: “We need to talk.”

He finally arrives and takes her aside to confront her about going to Champions headquarters. He had her followed. She plays it off saying that she is a fan of Freeze. He tells her to stay away from them, especially fearful now with everyone in all of New York City talking about how they now possess a death beam from space.

Monopoly Guy is on his way to the same wedding rehearsal dinner. As he approaches the hotel, he sees a large green sign that appears on the ground that says “GO!” He steps on it and collapses. He seems to rise above his body, to look back down on it as it lays on the street. A silver cat appears and climbs onto his chest. It says…

THE WHITE KNIGHTS WILL STAND AGAINST DISORDER

“A MAN OF TOMORROW DEPENDENT ON THE PAST

THAT WHICH IS MOST DEAR MUST BE SACRIFICED

FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE AND LAUGH

HE RISES AGAIN IN ROME!"

Monopoly Guy then awakens with $200 in his hand.

Prince Paradigm is at the museum. Dr. Danquitti is working downstairs. Prince is in the study they’ve provided him, sitting cruising the internet. “Death Beam From Space!” is all over the news. Through the mind link he shares with Danquitti, he becomes aware that she’s being attacked by an armed man.

Prince hurries downstairs to Danquitti’s office. The guy who is threatening the doctor is someone Prince recognizes. It’s a guy that has been to the museum before, always complaining about Prince being a zombie. Prince immediately entangles the man with an electric cage. The cage instantly knocks the man out.
Danquitti identifies the man as Rick Randolph, a former colleague of hers. When Rick wakes up, he starts ranting again about the “undead.”

At the same time Prince is rescuing his benefactor, Arsenal is meeting Mandy for lunch.

In Mandy’s dream, she saw the same Victorian baron dressed in purple, with his black eyepatch and handlebar mustache. Arsenal attacked this villain alone in her dream, to no avail. Then he called the other Champions, who were all promptly killed upon their arrival. The villain stole something from Arsenal, something precious but unseen. After defeating all the Champions to came to Arsenal’s aid, the baron made Arsenal’s armor disappear.

After that, the Champions became zombies and tore Scott Branson to pieces.

Mandy is very upset by the dream, which basically annoys Scott. He gives no credence to such ‘cryptic shit’, would never allow it to influence his actions, and doesn’t seem to even understand why Mandy would allow a mere dream to unnerve her so.

Gornak, meanwhile, is taken to one of Mr. Prophet’s testing facilities. A team of lawyers meet with them. Prophet takes Gornak into a private study where he tells Gornak that “They” are going to shut Prophet down. Prophet babbles, paranoid visions of the government—apocalyptic visions of the near future. He calls Gornak: “the Messiah.” He talks about how by reviving Gornak and bringing him into the mix, Prophet has done his part to stave off the end of the world.

Prophet seems completely unhinged. He talks about different degrees of craziness. He identifies Johansen, Hephaestus, and Olmstead as “first generation crazy.”

“We knew we were doing wrong. You can’t raise the dead without being crazy! Insanity is REQUIRED, you see? The first generation lunatics—they grokked that. They got with the program. Eventually. And then they started cutting deals.

“It’s all too late. It was too late centuries ago. It can’t be stopped now. It’s inevitable. Nothing is certain by death and madness!

“I knew I couldn’t stop the end of the world. My participation with the others—it was marginal, you know? I mean, yeah, I benefited. Not saying that doing business with devils isn’t lucrative! Not saying that at all. But I didn’t actively seek global insanity! Still, yeah, I knew and I know that I’m damned. But understand: it wasn’t MY idea to bring about the Apocalypse! I never wanted any of this to happen!

“But I think maybe God gave me a second chance: you! You’re the Messiah! You’re my REDEMPTION!

“The giggling dead are coming. The time travelers will make it right. Won’t you? You’re the ones they never expected!”

Gornak takes all this ranting and raving in stride, as if it’s really quite normal.

Prophet tells Gornak he needs him to sign some papers. Gornak is okay with that.

Mr. Prophet leads Gornak outside the facility to large field. In the middle of the field is a tarmac, where a desk is set up with a desk top computer on it. Around the desk is about a dozen lawyers dressed in expensive suits.

Mr. Prophet says, “Time for the test. I do wish, though, that we’d had more time to perfect the teleportation.”

The papers are signed, then faxed to various lawyers and banks. Prophet and Gornak move off to the side. Prophet gives Gornak a small globe that emits a force field… but will only work once… It will only work for what Prophet then activated: a true Death Beam from Space! The beam vaporizes everyone on the tarmac, all the lawyers and Prophet himself. Only Gornak is saved by the force field.

Gornak collapses to his knees, screaming to the skies: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

A man then steps out of the building and crosses the field to meet Gornak, introducing himself as Lucius Fox. He tells Gornak that he has just inherited everything Prophet owned. Gornak is now a billionaire!

At that moment, everyone then hears a telepathic BRAIN BLAST. Across the East Coast, millions of Americans all heard the same mental message….

THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY FRIGHTCAST SYSTEM! This is ONLY a test! In the event of the actual Apocalypse, this brainblast would drive you bat-shit insane. You would be terrorized to the extreme of probably peeing yourself. And puking. Basically, there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And giggling, of course. Because, you know, the whole world ending and literally EVERYONE dying except the mentally unstable— that’s freaking hilarious. So yeah, in the event of a world-wide calamity— which is coming by the way and really, really soon— SPOILER ALERT!— in the event of the dead walking the earth, this brainblast will drive YOU insane too… at which point you die… and then your snickering corpse will join the zombie horde destined to rule the Earth!

HAVE A NICE DAY!”

After the brain blast— ‘heard’ by all— Arsenal heads to Champions headquarters to scan for weird frequencies.

*MEANWHILE*—Spitfire is asked to escort a former FBI agent, Edgar Evers, who is believed by some in the Bureau to have prophetic powers, a man who is regarded by most everyone in the Bureau as crazy. This man has information about the sanitarium beneath Murderworld but first needs to go there to examine it more thoroughly. Spitfire bitches a great deal about having to babysit.

On the way back from Chicago, their plane is shot down over Niagara Falls. Emerging from the wreckage, Spitfire sees an unconscious woman. Joey goes to her, kneels next to her, and she suddenly turns over and grabs his arm. The strength leaves his body. She pulls him into a kiss……….

Arsenal is called in to find Spitfire. He argues with Maxwell, then sends Slugger, Bella, and Phoenix to the crash site to investigate.

Gornak sends all Prophet’s files to Arsenal, who is surprised to hear about Prophet’s connection to Johansen, Hephaestus, and Olmstead.
The three Champions arrive at Niagara Falls. The local cops tell the women what they know: the FBI agents are all dead. Spitfire and Evers are gone. The agents who died had their brains explode.

Back at Champions Headquarters, appearing just outside the front doors are Edgar Evers and Spitfire. After some initial questioning by Arsenal, Spitfire hits Evers with a spitball!

Arsenal scrambles the heroes who are here. Gornak arrived earlier in a limousine wearing a new three piece leopard skin suit. Gornak, Catz, Prince, and Monopoly Guy head outside.

Catz flings blades at Spitfire, who melts them in mid-air.

Prince fires a photon push at Spitfire but next to Spitfire, a woman appears. She’s dressed like an owl; she is Screech Owl, one of the Black Sisters; and she uses a sonic blast to deflect Prince’s blast.

Monopoly Guy teleports himself and Edgar Evers into a nearby pool, putting out the fire burning Evers.

Gornak saves. Arsenal saves.

From around the corner of the mansion bounces Sabertooth, the second of the three Black Sisters. The man-eater snarls at Catz and Gornak.

Catz calls Sabertooth, “little kitty cat”, infuriating Sabertooth. Gornak says, “Cat fight!” Catz attempts a move-through but misses. Sabertooth retaliates by swiping at Catz but she also misses.

Prince flies toward Spitfire and Screech Owl, unleashing a photon wave, which spreads and hits them both. Spitfire is knocked back 5”. Screech Owl flies back 1” and instantly reorients herself.

Screech Owl then deflects Arsenal’s unibeam.

Spitfire reorients himself in the air and misses Arsenal with a flame blast.
Monopoly Guy slams Screech Owl with a locomotive, knocking her straight down, slamming into the ground.

Gornak swings club at Sabertooth and misses.

Appearing near the pool, out of nowhere, is Succubus, the phenomenally beautiful final Black Sister. She grabs Monopoly Guy and kisses him, thus controlling his mind. She then tells him to kill his teammates.

Bella arrives on the scene. Arsenal tells her to concentrate on taking out Succubus.

Catz saves, waiting for Gornak.

Prince flies toward Spitfire and unleashes a photon blast. Spitfire barely manages to dodge it.

Monopoly Guy teleports into the air next to Prince, trying to grab Prince but he misses and falls to the ground.

Screech Owl, still prone, screams up at Prince, doing 55 stun, sending him more than 40 feet straight up.

Sabertooth swipes at Gornak, raking his chest with her claws, causing 7 body and 14 stun.

Arsenal blasts Spitfire, sending him careening backwards 50+ feet. Spitfire slams into the ground, stunned.

Bella punches Succubus in the head, 52 stun, and knocks her 40+ feet, where she lands next to Spitfire.

Monopoly Guy summons his train again, missing Bella.

Gornak and Catz coordinate on Sabertooth: Catz does eviscerate. Gornak swings and misses. Catz claws strike once, doing 9 body and 9 stun.

Catz follows with a leg sweep, doing 31 stun. Sabertooth is knocked down but she pops right back upright (breakfall).

Catz slashes at her again, this time doing 17 body and 17 stun— he severs her right arm!

Sabertooth screams and grabs Catz with her one remaining arm. She then takes a bite out of Catz, doing 5 body and 5 stun.

Prince rights himself in the air, drops down to about 20" off the ground and fires a photon blast at Monopoly Guy, doing 62 stun and 19 body. This stuns Monopoly Guy.

Bella runs to the prone Succubus, grabbing her.

Arsenal lands next to Screech Owl, warning her not to get up. On her hands and knees, she screams at the ground, tunneling down into it.

Monopoly Guy recovers from being stunned.

Gornak swings at Sabertooth, missing again. Catz tries pulling Sabertooth off of him and succeeds. Catz follows up with a slash of his claws which Sabertooth manages to dodge.

Prince shoots at Monopoly Guy but misses.

The ground beneath Catz and Gornak erupts in an explosion as Screech Owl comes back to the surface. The 58 stun that they both take stuns both Gornak and Catz.

Spitfire gets to his feet and saves, warning Bella to release Succubus.

Bella shoots straight up into the air, flying high, carrying Succubus. Spitfire takes to the air after them.

Arsenal opens up his unibeam full-bore on Sabertooth, blasting her into the mansion wall and through it.

Monopoly Guy throws a thimble over Arsenal.

Catz recovers from being stunned.

Prince fires his photon phaser at Screech Owl, hitting her. 52 stun. She is thrown back 9", also slamming into the outside wall of Champion’s mansion.

Screech Owl orients herself and screams back at Prince, doing 58 stun and 14" knockback. He’s also deafened for four phases.

Spitfire hurls a spitball at the flying Bella, hitting her for 6 body. His napalm-like spitball continues to burn on her.

Bella drops Succubus and drives into the pool in front of the mansion, putting out the fire.

Arsenal punches the thimble but doesn’t affect it.

Monopoly Guy gets up and hits Catz with his race car, to no affect.

Gornak recovers.

Catz stands and yells at Monopoly Guy before rushing over to him (but with claws retracted). Monopoly Guy goes into a martial dodge but Catz hits him anyway with a leg sweep, doing 36 stun. Monopoly Guy uses breakfall to remain on his feet.

Catz runs to the thimble encasing Arsenal and slashes it, utterly destroying it.

Prince Paradigm fires at Spitfire, who aborts to dodge.

Succubus is falling and now hits the ground. 33 stun.

Screech Owl flies across the courtyard, landing next to Succubus. Screech Owl grabs Succubus and blasts another tunnel into the ground.

Arsenal takes to the air and fires a unibream at Spitfire, missing.

Bella moves to Monopoly Guy and swings at him, missing.

Gornak gets up, enters the hole in the wall of the mansion, going after Sabertooth. He fines her prone but she’s getting up. And her wounds are no longer gushing blood. She is already regenerating.

Catz attacks Monopoly Guy, who does another martial dodge. Catz misses him.

Prince shoots at Spitfire, hitting him. Joey Spilva goes flying 9" and slams into the ground. This blow is sufficient to end Succubus’s mind control of him.

Arsenal and Bella coordinate attacks on Monopoly Guy. Bella misses. Arsenal hits for 51 stun and 3" knockback.

Inside the mansion, Gornak feels the ground quake. A hole appears beneath Sabertooth and she disappears into it. Gornak moves to the hole but it’s already rapidly filling in with dirt.

Catz moves to Monopoly Guy and punches him, doing 48 stun and 8" knockback, but Monopoly Guy stays on his feet.

Prince shoots at Monopoly Guy, knocking him out, freeing him from the mind control.

The team searches the mansion but finds no sign of the Black Sisters. Ambulances arrive for Edgar Evers and Bella. Bella refuses a trip to the hospital, afraid the staff will touch her and pass out.

That night, breaking news from Georgia hits the airwaves. Zombies have arisen, several hundred of them. Not all bodies everywhere are rising, only certain bodies from certain graveyards in an area around Rome, Georgia.

The champions are off to deal with the undead!

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The Champions Issue 10 - Let's Scrap!

Still awaiting results of several FBI investigations into the whereabouts of Dr. Discordia and Mark Morning, and the backgrounds of the triumvirate of masterminds just recently dealt with, the team finds itself with some rare downtime.

Arsenal arranges a Training Day, in order to learn more of the capabilities of his new team members Catzclaw, Gornak, and Bella (who has yet to choose a code name). The team assembles at a junk yard in Newark. The owners agree to let the team train amongst their wrecked cars and other junk.

The Champions divided into three random teams of three heroes each. The objective: race to the end of the training zone, retrieve a football, and get it back to the starting line.

For the first run the teams were:
Arsenal, Bella, and Ice Prince
Slugger, Prince Paradigm, and Gornak
Monopoly Guy, Catzclaw, and Phoenix

Catzclaw’s remarkable speed and dexterity proved out in the first round. He raced straight to the ball, outpacing Prince Paradigm and Arsenal.

Slugger glanced at Gornak and said, “They sure are gettin’ there quick. Hey, are you fast?”

“Gornak slow.”

“Aw, honey, don’t you worry ‘bout that none. Ah’ve been hearin’ that mah whole life and ah just ignore it. In fact, ah’m a dee-tek-teeve!”

In addition to exhibiting his superior running speed and agility, Catzclaw managed to take a full-strength punch from Rogue which appeared to do him very little damage. His vulnerability, as it turns out, is energy damage, as he was knocked for a loop in the second round by a blast from Prince Paradigm.

Speaking of the second round, the rules were tweaked. This time each member of a team must possess the football for at least one Phase before they can win, and the football must be dropped if the carrier takes any damage at all from an attack.

The teams were also decided less randomly, assuring at least one faster hero one each team. For Round 2 the teams were:
Catzclaw, Rogue, and Gornak
Prince Paradigm, Ice Prince, and Phoenix
Arsenal, Slugger, and Monopoly Guy

This round went [i]much[/i] longer. One again Catzclaw was the first to reach the football, but it was quickly lost. It changed hands several times while battles raged.

Rogue decided the best strategy (and perhaps the most fun) would be occupy Slugger. She challenged her to some wrasslin’, which Slugger eagerly accepted. Rogue grabbed her and flew straight into the air. “How kin ah teach you wrasslin’ moves if’n we’re in th’ air?”

“I’m helping you learn now.”

Slugger’s eyes brightened. “You mean you think ah kin learn t’ fly? Ah guess ah ain’t never tried to, although ah’ve done mah share o’ fallin’.”

And she did again. Rogue dropped her from a 20" height. Just before hitting the ground, Rogue plummeted straight down and slammed into Slugger like a piledriver.

The two of them went back and forth while the rest of the heroes were trading possession of the football. At one point Monopoly Guy showed his versatility, taking on Catzclaw in a Martial Arts display, and later deflecting energy blasts and teleporting out of entangles.

As the sun was waning, Rogue had taken possession of the football and flown it straight up into the air, planning to play keep-away long enough for Gornak to be revived (he’d taken massive punishment from Prince Paradigm), as he was the last person from his team needing to take possession of the ball.

Rogue had taken the opportunity to get the ball after Catzclaw had raced over to where she and Slugger were tangling on the ground, and Catzclaw had pummeled the prone Slugger into unconsciousness (she was the remaining hero on her team who hadn’t had the ball yet).

Rogue dropped the ball to Catz, who played his own game of keep-away, racing back and forth across the field of battle, too fast for anyone else to catch. This especially frustrated a reawakened Slugger, who was now furious at Catz for hitting her while she was down.

It appeared to be a stalemate, so Arsenal called it a day.

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The Champions Issue 9 - Fits You To A T

After the whirlwind that has been the last three issues, the heroes get a couple of days to wind down. Arsenal sits down with the new additions, both to learn more about them and to detail for them what’s required for team membership: full background check and some basic law enforcement training. Bella refuses the background check, so Arsenal proposes that she be considered a freelance contractor. The DHS may still have some problems with that.

The team becomes aware of a breaking news story: a flaming tornado has appeared in mid-town Manhattan and is now tearing up Times Square.

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The Champions Issue 8 - Nice To Mecha You
We're all crazy

The Carnies beaten and/or fled (see last issue), the Champions limp back to Champions Mansion for medical attention.

While there they learn that the fight with the Carnies had been televised and live-streamed world-wide, but it had also been heavily edited to make the heroes out to be the aggressors.

Treated for his injuries, Scott Branson heads to an FBI briefing where he meets the team’s new FBI liaison, Marla Monroe.

“We’ve identified the villain known as Cruel. Carlos Rodriguez, a former bodyguard of Jack Johanson. Rodriguez was presumed dead, he hasn’t been seen in years. It is also believed that he is a mutant, and that he’s the son of a supervillain, but we don’t know which one.”

In addition, Monroe reports that Dr. Discordia has gone missing along with three of her patients: Mandy James (aka Body Heat, and Freeze’s sister), Wendy Weinstein, and Charles Coulson. All three had been in comas for years.

Arsenal assembles the team and leads another search of the remains of the amusement park (see Issue 3). They find high-range signal receivers, but nothing else.

Returning to the Mansion, the team finds Morningstar (Phoenix) is now fully grown, going from infant to young adult in a matter of hours. She remembers nothing of her previous life. Arsenal begins to fill her in.

Just then a news report comes on. “Two paranormals are wreaking destruction through Chicago. Right now it appears they’re heading for a large oil refinery, and if they reach it we could see a conflagration that rivals the Great Chicago Fire!” After determining that the nearby Guardians are unavailable, the Champions load into a C-jet and head west.

Nearing Chicago the team sees three flaming figures in the middle of the Chicago Skyway. The road is littered with flaming wreckage and fleeing people. The Champions disperse around the figures and Freeze recognizes one as her sister Mandy. Similarly, Arsenal recognizes another as Coulson.

Freeze cries out to her sister, but Mandy shoots a flaming blast at Slugger. Coulson then steps up to her and punches her, hard. Before she can recover, Mandy summons a column of flame to erupt beneath Freeze, stunning her.

Seeing this, Arsenal unibeams the younger James sister, knocking into a car, where Spider entangles her in webbing.

A few feet away, Monopoly Guy summons his trademark locomotive to barrel into Coulson, knocking him flat. Slugger waits and, when he climbs back to his feet, slugs him right in the jaw. He sails fifty-odd feet across the highway.

Gornak, paying no attention to the webbing surrounding Mandy, wrenches a sign from the pavement and slams it into her. She seems to explode in flames, burning away the webbing and the sign.

As Monopoly Guy moves closer to the fracas, Mandy moves away from the car a few feet, closer to Coulson, who’s rising to his feet. She lines up a shot and sends a searing blast of flame at Monopoly Guy and Slugger. They both dodge it.

Bella then lifts a car and heaves it, slamming it into both Mandy and Coulson. The improvised missile explodes on impact with Mandy’s flaming aura, and both villains go flying to land in smoking heaps. Spidey quickly covers them with webbing.

Approaching them, the heroes notice blood seeping from Mandy’s webs. They tear away the sticky entangle and find her dead, impaled through the head by shrapnel. Likewise, Coulson is dead.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Brandy accompanies her sister’s body to the morgue. Bella, feeling horribly guilty, tries to fly away but Arsenal stops her.

“I understand how you feel. We have to make the hard decisions, and those decisions don’t always work out. You’re new to this, you need the support of people who’ve been through it, who truly understand. Stay, and I can help you with this.”

Branson orders another search of Dr. Discordia’s facilities. They retrace the villains’ steps to a house, or rather the charred remains of a house, which is owned by the missing doctor.

Back in NYC, the team finds Morgan entangled, left there by Phoenix who has been testing her now-unfamiliar powers. Morgan tells them that while he was tied up, someone contacted him. Just then, a disembodied voice is heard. “It was me. I’m over here.”

The voice belongs to the Wisp, a former member of the Carnies. He has quite a story to tell. He claims his colleagues in crime are currently under the control of Jack Johanson (a.k.a. Unusual Punishment). Johanson has somehow infested them with explosive nanites, which he can detonate at any time. Johanson seems to be seeking out and and killing mentally disabled people.

Wisp reveals that the Carnies are being held beneath the ruins of Weaponized World. Also there, he claims, are Milos Hera, and the only character at Weaponized World that wasn’t a robot: the Fiddler.

Branson, with Monopoly Guy’s help, prepares to rescue the Carnies. They build a powerful EMP generator into his armor, so that when he gets close to a Carnie he can depower the nanites before they can be detonated.

Wisp leads them to the center of the wrecked amusement deathtrap: the control room. He opens an undiscovered secret passage, and the team follows him in. They travel down a corridor a few dozen feet when the floor suddenly drops out from under them. They fall a few feet to land in another corridor. Following this leads them into a huge natural cavern, in the middle of which appears to be a Victorian hospital building.

From the building emerge the Carnies: Femme Fatigue, Captain Caricature, Static Cling, Cotton Candy, and Grumpy the Clown.

Arsenal flies toward them and fires the EMP. He tells them what he’s done and says they can either help him take out Johanson or get out of the way.

Suddenly Johanson appears, bursting out of the front doors of the hospital in a gigantic mech armor, towering over the scene. A dozen feet tall and replete with four large arms, Johanson scowls maniacally behind a windshield. Bella screams and flies straight at him. “You made me kill people!” she cries, but the armor is faster than it appears. Johanson swings twin metal arms and smacks her away like a fly.

She lands near Arsenal and stands. “Hold one second, Bella, let’s do this right. When I give the word, okay?” Then on the team frequency: "Champions, on my mark … " He nods at Bella. “NOW!” She flings herself full-bore at Johanson, while Gornak and Slugger do the same. Arsenal’s unibeam sears the air, punctuated by the roar of Monopoly Guy’s locomotive.

All the attacks piledrive into the mech, sending it careening back through the hospital wall and into the building. Bella follows and slugs the mech again. Beyond it, she can see down a hallway, where Dr. Haphaestus is hobbling toward her, using a long-handled hammer as a cane. He sees her and bellows, “You defiled Olympus!” He raises the hammer and from the head a gout of flame shoots, missing her.

Gornak and Phoenix follow Bella into the building. While Bella beings to rip the mech armor from around a struggling Johanson, Gornak moves past them, toward Haphaestus. The caveman swats the doctor with his club.

Outside, the Carnies have decided to fight. Cotton Candy moves on Slugger, slamming a wad of pink sugary confection in her face. Slugger begins to slip into a trance, but somehow shakes it off. She then slips behind Cotton and grabs her substantial girth in a bearhug.

Cruel finally breaks free from his giant thimble prison and leaps at Arsenal, who immediately blasts him in mid-air. The beam sends Cruel careening away, landing near Monopoly Guy. So out comes another train. Cruel goes flying into a cave wall, stunned.

Inside the building, Phoenix joins Bella in tearing at the mech armor. It begins to smoke and spit electricity. Johanson screams. Suddenly explosions are heard, from far above them in the upper floors of the building. The entire cavern rumbles and shakes.

Grabbing what’s left of the armor, Bella flies out of the building, heading for the exit. Arsenal flies over to help Cruel get out before the cavern collapses.

Phoenix watches Bella go, then realizes that one player hasn’t shown himself yet: the Fiddler. She reaches out with her mind and locates him, further into the building. Realizing there’s not enough time to save him, she heads back into the cavern.

Haphaestus stands and swings his hammer at Gornak, knocking him for a loop. “You defiled Olympus!” he screams, over and over. Monopoly Guy and Spider both enter the corridor. MG moves to help Gornak, while Spider tries to talk sense into the demented doctor. “The place is self-destructing, we have to go now!”

“You defiled Olympus!”

“Riiiight, there is that. Okay.” Spider shoots a thin web line at Haphaestus, sticking it to his chest. He then flings the doctor toward the hospital entrance. He lands in a heap just outside the doors, where Phoenix grasps him in her glowing talons.

Most of the heroes and villains alike scramble toward the exit as huge stalactites begin crashing to the floor.

Cruel is resisting Arsenal’s help. Slugger has stepped up to help, but Arsenal urges her to the exit. He maneuvers around and blasts Cruel, knocking him toward the cavern exit.

Everyone finally makes it outside. Immediately, Cruel leaps away. Captain Caricature, Static Cling, and Femme Fatigue decide to stay, even though it means they’ll likely face charges. The rest of the Carnies (Cotton Candy, Grumpy the Clown) flee. Johanson is dead inside the mech armor. Haphaestus likewise does not survive the escape. Fiddler is presumably dead as well, crushed in the hospital.

The team learns that while the battle was raging, Misquito of the Carnies entered the hospital room where Olmstead was recuperating and killed him along with the two FBI agents who had been guarding him. Olmstead’s last words, caught on a surveillance camera, were, “Bedlam is coming.”

The next day a search of the collapsed cavern reveals no trace of a building. What’s more, during a debriefing, Captain Caricature claims that the Wisp has been dead for two years.

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The Champions Issue 7 - Showdown in Central Park!
Of Carnies, Catz, and Cavemen

The team is battered and broken after their encounter with the duo calling themselves Cruel and Unusual Punishment (see last issue). Freeze and Slugger both nurse broken arms, Monopoly Guy clutches a cane to relieve his broken leg, and Arsenal’s armor is cracked and spitting sparks. Phoenix is gone, nothing but ashes, in her place a squawling infant. And then from the trees emerge ten menacing figures: The Carnies! Misfit circus-themed paranormals who, when last encountered, were under the thrall of The Mesmerist.

MEANWHILE
Across North America television broadcasts are interrupted; all around the world, a YouTube channel begins streaming. Viewers see different camera angles of a sunny spot in Central Park. A crashed news helicopter lies smoking near a copse of trees while police cars cordon off a wide area, at the center of which stand The Champions amid battle debris.

“The court of public opinion is back in session!” a voiceover booms. “Tonight, a world-wide audience will witness the utter and total defeat of the Champions!”

From the trees emerge ten figures. Most of them are recognizable as members of The Carnies: Captain Caricature, Cotton Candy, Femme Fatigue, Mallard Man, Misquito, and Static Cling. With them are an enormous fat clown with a scowl, a dandy swordsman, a chattering monkey/human hybrid, and a creature that appeared to be made of sticks.

“This time you will all be easily defeated!” boasts Captain Caricature.

The aptly-named dandy, Swordswallower, draws his weapon and plunges it down his throat. When he pulls it out it’s crackling with electricity. He points it at Arsenal and a bolt of energy arcs from its tip, slamming into Arsenal’s chest. His armor sparks from everywhere at once and then shuts down completely.

Femme Fatigue takes to the air and flies toward the heroes, firing a blue beam at Slugger. It strikes her and saps most of her remaining endurance.

Monopoly Guy summons Car, aiming it at Captain Caricature and the large clown. The car roars past them, clipping them both.

Prince Paradigm gains a few feet of altitude and then shoots at Femme Fatigue but misses.

Arsenal says, “Brandy, my armor’s locked up! I can’t fight, I can’t even protect this child.” Freeze turns and creates an ice wall around Arsenal and the infant. “Don’t worry, boss, we can take these idiots, broken arms or no.”

MEANWHILE
Among the millions watching the broadcast, three people from three different areas of New York decide they want to help. Each paranormal, they’ve yet to use their powers in any kind of public way, but they can’t sit by and watch the Champions be slaughtered. They each make their way to Central Park.

BACK AT THE PARK
The stick creature, Twigs, gestures toward a tree. It animates, yanking its roots from the ground and plodding toward the heroes.

The airborne Mallard Man flaps toward Monopoly Guy and begins quacking at a deafening volume: the Quack Attack!

Femme Fatigue and Prince Paradigm square off in the air. FF hits Prince with her blue beam, sapping energy.

Bella, one of the paranormals who had been watching on YouTube, arrives. She spies Monkey Boy in a nearby tree and flies towards him.

Also having seen the telecast, part-time Champion Black Spider swings into the park. He quickly leaps at Twigs but, weakened by sunlight due to his curse, misses.

Captain Caricature zeroes in on Monopoly Guy, shouting, “I really like that mustache!” Suddenly MG’s mustache grows in an instant to envelope him in hair.

Swordsman swallows and regurgitates his sword again and again swings the electrified blade at Slugger, but she ducks out of the way. “Yer gettin’ spit everywhere, that’s gross!”

The newest member of the Champions, the Ice Prince, chooses that moment to arrive, sliding up next to Freeze. “About time you showed up!” she says without looking at him. She’s watching Cotton Candy approach. The two lock eyes and their nostrils flare. “YOU!” they both scream. Freeze is the first to react, covering Candy with a thick coating of ice. The huge woman struggles to break free of the ice and cracks cascade through it.

Monopoly Guy, looking more like Cousin It, teleports into a nearby tree just as Mallard Man is flapping by. The villain is startled and spins away.

Yet another new arrival is Gornak, who is dressed in furs and looks all the while like a Cro-Magnon man. “Gornak!” he says as he moves on Twigs while hefting his axe, but the villain quickly sinks into the ground, only to reappear several feet away, emerging from the trunk of a tree.

The tree animated by Twigs plods up to Slugger and swings a branch, followed by Grumpy swatting her with his gigantic mallet. She’s knocked back several feet. reeling.

Mallard Man’s frantic flitting finally finishes near Prince Paradigm, still in the air and focusing on Femme Fatigue. Mallard squawcks, “Quack Fu!” and attempts a kick with his big webbed feet, but he misses. Prince answers with a Photon Push but the duck spins out of the way.

Prince’s attention diverted for a second, Femme Fatigue looks to the ground and zaps Freeze with a blue beam, taking the last of the ice hero’s energy. Ice Prince, reacting quickly, envelops her in frigid air which serves to recharge her. She gestures toward Femme Fatigue intending to encase her in ice, but misses.

Monkey Boy leaps from a tree at the passing newcomer Bella. He lands on her shoulders and starts pounding on the top of her head like a bongo. She quickly, and with surprising strength, grabs the chimp-man and flings him hard to the ground.

Below, Catzclaw leaps into the air attempting to kick Mallard out of the sky, but he also misses and crashes to the ground in an ignoble heap.

Seeing his simian teammate slammed into the ground, Captain Caricature yells, “Time to put your feet on the ground!” and gestures at Bella. Suddenly her feet grow to enormous, ridiculous size. She keeps flying, however: right at the Captain. She lands on him with gusto, pinning him to the ground. Her feet shrink back to normal size.

Gornak (“Gornak!”) chases after Twigs and cleaves him with a mighty swing of his axe, but the writhing wooden sticks that make up the villain’s body reassemble almost instantly. The creature retaliates by animating the tree next to him, which bends and smacks the caveman, but he shrugs it off.

Cotton Candy finally explodes from the ice entangle and leaps at Freeze, swinging an oversized cotton candy, but in her rage she misses.

Grumpy, just missed by Monopoly Guy’s Locomotive, swings his mallet at Slugger, smashing it into her head. She swings back with her good arm. Surprisingly he acts like a punching bag: he falls straight back onto the ground, then springs right back up and headbutts Slugger, sending her flying.

Above the fray, Mallard Man decides he’s had enough and he begins to fly away from the battle. Before he can get too far, however, he clutches his chest and his heart literally explodes. The fowl-man drops to the ground, dead.

Swordswallower recharges his weapon with electricity and slams it into Slugger, eliciting a cry of pain.

Monkey Boy, gets up and leaps onto Grumpy’s shoulders, screeching loudly.

Static Cling slips around the edge of the battlefield and flings her blobby goop at Freeze, covering her in a sticky mess up to her neck. Freeze responds by turning on the cold: an ice sheet spreads from her feet, covering the ground for twenty yards in all directions. At that point it becomes somewhat of a comedy:

One of the trees animated by Twigs starts sliding on the ice toward Spider but it spins out and crashes. Cotton Candy tries to roll herself to her feet but instead spins around and rolls into Grumpy, which knocks him down. Monkey Boy slips trying to stand. while Static Cling uses her power to summon gooey tar to coat her own feet with it, to keep from slipping.

Gornak draws and fires a pistol at Twiggs, to no apparent effect. But a second later a bright red laser shoots down from the sky and strikes the tree-man. Twiggs explodes, and then every tree in the immediate vicinity explodes as well. Monopoly Guy, perched in one of those trees, falls with a thud to the ground.

While Catzclaw fights Swordsman (taking a nice slice out of his leg in the process), Femme Fatigue hovers in the air and drains more of Catz’ endurance.

Bella flies straight into the air, then slams back down onto Captain Caricature. Spider tries to snag the flying Femme Fatique with a webline but misses. Prince Paradigm turns his attention to Swordsman, still fighting Catzclaw, and shoots him with an electrical blast. Swordsman is surrounded by electricity; he begins to spasm wildly and then he drops in a smoking heap.

Freeze watches Cotton Candy rolling around on the ground. “What’s the matter, too many cheeseburgers for breakfast, you COW?!?” This sends Candy into a fit of rage. Grumpy gets up and smacks Freeze with his mallet. The blow itself hurts a bit, but it also sets off the static electrical charge that Static Cling had put on her, which hurts even more.

His foe vanquished, Catzclaw moves across the ice to Grumpy and rakes him with his claws, knocking him down again.

Monkey Boy, finally upright, flings himself at Bella (still on top of Captain Caricature). As he sails past her his tail whips out and wraps around her; she’s flung to the ground.

Finally free of his attacker, Caricature rises and turns to Freeze. “You have a really big head!” he says dramatically and gestures toward her. Suddenly her head grows to massive size; too heavy to support, she falls onto her back. Caricature then turns to Bella, who’s grappling with Monkey Boy. HIs enormous fist barrells into her, sending her flying.

Static Cling entangles Prince Paragidm with her goo while Misquito stings Spider, his poison weakining the hero. Prince blasts his way out of the mess, but another static charge is set off. He barely feels it. He then spins around and blasts Caricature.

Ice Prince encases Femme Fatigue in ice and she falls out of the sky.

As Gornak moves across the ice to Static Cling, Slugger gets up and leaps toward her as well. She hesitates, not knowing which of them to hit first.

Turning on the nearest villain, Catz swipes at Static Cling. The impact knocks her down. From the ground she entangles Catz. His claws make short work of the tarry substance, but a static charge is set off; this stuns him. Gornak then moves on Static, pounding her with his club. When he strikes her she explodes with electricity, which serves to knock out the nearby Slugger.

Seeing Grumpy the Clown moving back into the fray, Bella flies at him with all her speed and slams into him with tremendous force. The impact stuns both of them.

Monkey Boy turns on Monopoly Guy, leaping at him and snatching off his hat. MG sends a Train down at Monkey but misses. Monkey puts the hat on his head (well, puts his head in the hat, as it’s much too large for him) and scampers around. MG summons another Train, this one hitting Monkey from below. The impact sends him rocketing about 70 feet straight up.

Freeze, nearing exhaustion, drops her ice armor but maintains the ice slick. Seeing an opportunity, Cotton finally manages to stand up and throws herself at Freeze, screaming incoherently and stuffing a huge cotton candy in her face.

Femme Fatigue finally breaks through the ice entangle and once again takes to the air. Prince follows her into the air and blasts her, sending her plummeting back to the ground.

Misquito, flitting around Spider’s head, tries to sting him again but muffs it and drops to the ground, where Spidey promptly stomps on him, then covers him with webbing.

Catz moves to help Freeze, leg-sweeping Cotton and knocking her flat. Ice Prince then hits her with a blast of cold air. Freeze, her head too large to move, flails about on the ground and tries to entangle Cotton with ice but misses.

Captain Caricature stands (again). He surveys the battle field and sees things are going South for the villains. So of course he says to the heroes, “You’re all going to lose!” He spies Prince in the air and says, “You can hear defeat coming, just put your ear to the ground!” He gestures frantically at Prince, but nothing happens.

Gornak gets right up in Caricature’s face. “You can all surrender now!” the Captain says.

Catz slices Grumpy again, a devastating attack that sprays blood. He then moves deftly to Captain Caricature, upon whom the other heroes (aside from Freeze) are convening. Catz claws Caricature, which sends him reeling to the ground, unconscious.

Freeze’s head returns to normal size. She gets up and kicks the unconscious Cotton Candy. That’s when she, and most of the other villains, vanish into thin air. All that remains are remains: the bodies of Swordswallower and Mallard Man remain.

The police, having cordoned off the area and kept away bystanders, now converge on the scene. That’s when the heroes learn that the entire fight has been broadcast, but that’s not all: it’s also been heavily edited, and narrated by someone who made no secret of trying to show the heroes in the worst possible light.

The NYPD sergeant on the scene at first attempted to take the heroes in for questioning, but Arsenal put a stop to that. First, several heroes required medical attention, and secondly, the Champions are fellow law enforcement officers and Arsenal thought they deserved a bit of professional courtesy. He offered to take statements from everyone at Champions Mansion and make themselves available for later questioning.

Arsenal thanked the three newcomers and asked them to the Mansion to get their statements.

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The Champions Issue 6 - Death of a Champion!
Breaking Bone

Released from the spell that held them captive (see last issue, the unconscious Olmstead is taken under guard to the hospital. The heroes realize that they had been taken captive earlier that morning (before their various meetings that took place last issue). Arsenal sets the FBI on a couple of investigations: into Olmstead and into the warehouse in which he, Prince Paradigm, and Slugger had been held.

The next morning, Brandy James (Freeze) receives a call in her New York office. Dr. Discordia requests a meeting with her that afternoon, in James’ Indianapolis office. Brandy agrees, thinking it’s about her sister. She flies to Indy and heads to her corporate office. She does a bit of work there and at 12:30, her desk suddenly bursts into flames, then explodes, knocking her out.

At about that same time, At Champions Mansion in NYC, the butler Morgan approaches Arsenal to announce that Arthur Morning is here to see him.

“I’ve got another clue for you,” he says. The name Olmstead had triggered a vague memory connected to his brother Mark. He did some digging into his brother’s old journals and came across an entry that mentioned Olmstead by name. He handed a page to Arsenal bearing Mark Morning’s old Morningstar Enterprises letterhead. The page read:

*From the desk of Mark Morning
President, Morningglory Enterprises,
President, Morningstar Enterprises

Saturday, April 7, 1979

Today was the big 50k meeting. I was paid $50,000 for an hour of my time. In attendance at the Ritz-Carlton were Jack Johanson, weapons designer and robotics pioneer; Milos Hera, genetic engineering whiz-kid; Dr. Edgar Gordon Olmstead, biochemistry wunderkind; Dr. Desdemona Discordia, a psychologist specializing in paranormal psychology; and a mysterious (and gorgeous!) woman named Sylvia Black.

Our mysterious host calls himself Bethlem. I think he’s insane. At the very least, he’s seriously deluded. His predictions were intriguing but his proposal was suspicious. Discordia agrees that Bethlem is half-mad at best, but do the others see how deranged he is? I don’t think they do.

Everyone is so desperate for funding for their own pet research projects and Bethlem is offering plenty for each…but what is the catch? Just a pound of flesh. Just a sliver of our souls.

I gave him back his money. I couldn’t help but laugh at him. I was polite enough not to tell him how utterly demented I think he is, but I was sorely tempted to call him “Bethlebonkers.”

Flying cars will happen by the 21st Century. Hell, maybe even teleportation. But the notion that the entire world will be threatened by a few individuals with super powers? Madness!*

“Since that meeting,” Arthur continued, “each of the people on that list have had continuous and generous funding. Most have become leaders in their fields.”

“And for some reason,” Arsenal muses, “they’re turning their brilliant minds on us.”

Arsenal calls their FBI liaison and asks for financial records for each person on the list, going back to the beginning of their careers. If they can trace the source of their funding, they can find this Bethlem, who seems to be calling in favors. He also makes a note to contact Dr. Discordia. She’s cooperated with paranormal heroes in the past, it’s difficult to imagine her turning on them.

Later that evening, the team holds their weekly meeting. Freeze is notably absent. Arsenal catches the team up on the latest developments. As he’s finishing, Morgan interrupts, saying he’s overheard a police dispatch about the body of a paranormal being found in Central Park. The meeting is adjourned to recommence in the park.

The heroes arrive by air and locate the crime scene, in the bushes near one of the Park’s small lakes. The body is that of Thistle, a member of the villain group the Terrible Ts. She sprawls just off the pedestrian path near a light pole.

Detective Harry Callahan is the lead investigator. He greets Arsenal and tells them that she was killed somewhere else and dumped here, the killer wanted her to be found. Cause of death appears to be a broken neck.

Just then the sound of incoming missiles fills the air. Arsenal takes to the air, moving away from the crime scene and toward the missiles. Prince Paradigm, already airborne, flies toward Arsenal. Monopoly Guy activates his force field and prepares to deflect.

Phoenix targets the missiles with her Phoenix Wings (her aura’s wings slam together creating a shock wave). This causes two of the missiles to collide and veer into the ground near several normals. One explodes, spewing flaming napalm. Three of the normals are now on fire. The other missile discharges thousands of six-sided dice into a smoking heap.

Suddenly one of the boulders near the crime scene lifts from the ground, held aloft by a 14’-tall brute wearing a “C” on his chest. His scarred face sneers and growls as he emerges from the ground and heaves the boulder toward the police gathered around the body. Monopoly Guy, ready and waiting, summons a giant iron which deflects the boulder away.

Prince Paradigm whirls and hits C-man with a Photon Beam. The brute swats at the beam and reflects it right back at the Prince, yelling, “Cruel!” Prince goes spinning back through the air. Slugger throws a punch at Cruel’s mid-section, which doesn’t seem to bother him much.

Monopoly Guy flings his hat. It lands deftly atop Cruel’s head and he’s teleported sixty feet into the air and a couple of feet to the left, above another boulder. The hat disappears and reappears on MG’s head.

Phoenix flies toward the injured normals. Her Pheonix Aura begins to cry, dropping huge tears to douse the flames.

Cruel falls, slamming into the boulder. He growls, moves into a crouch, and leaps at Slugger, just missing her. Prince Paradigm rights himself in the air; he’s ended up above the downed missiles, just above the pile of dice. Just in case, he materializes an Electric Cage around the pile. Arsenal flies that way.

Monopoly Guy peers into the hole from which Cruel emerged, but sees nothing. Slugger takes advantage of Cruel leaping past her and turns, grabbing him in a bearhug from behind.

The remaining airborne missile swerves and slams into Cruel and Slugger, exploding with a violent burst of electricity. Slugger, susceptible to electricity, is stunned, and Monopoly Guy takes a bit of damage as well.

Cruel punches the stunned Slugger, knocking her back a few feet and out. Prince Paradigm flies toward Cruel and unleashes another Photon Blast, which slams into the ground at his feet. It appears to have no effect.

Arsenal tries to radio the FBI but his transmission is interrupted.

“The only one who can hear you is me.”
“Who is this?”
“Call me Unusual Punishment. You’ve already met my partner Cruel. And some of my missiles. I have a lot more.”
“Why? What do you want?”
“To punish you, of course. All of you.”

That’s when Arsenal hears over his helmet radio the screams of his daughter Mandy. Furious, he flies toward Cruel and hits him with a beam of ultra-violet radiation, to no apparent effect.

Monopoly Guy summons a freight train. It barrels toward Cruel but a second before impact he stretch his arms into the air and twists his body. His flesh ripples and rails form, from his feet up to his out-stretched hands. The train screams up his body and is turned toward Arsenal, hanging in the air. It flies off the tracks and slams into him, the impact hurtling him away.

The normals now safe, Phoenix flies a few feet and lands next to it, then surrounds it with a mound of dirt. As she finishes, three more missiles are spotted.

Cruel steps over to Monopoly Guy, bellows, “Cruel!” and kicks at him. Monopoly Guy’s right knee snaps and he passes out.

Prince Paradigm flies up to attack the three new missiles, but notices that two of them have transparent nose cones and contain people! He recognizes his friend Dr. Danquitti in one and flies up to grab it; in the other is Arsenal’s daughter Mandy. Arsenal rights himself and flies after her, grabbing that missile.

Phoenix grabs at the third missile with her aura’s talon but misses. It then veers into the missile being held by Prince Paradigm and explodes. Both missiles and Prince are covered in a thick gooey substance, and they veer toward the ground.

They slam into the ground not far from the original crime scene, next to the lake. The gooey substance quickly evaporates and the transparent nose cone pops open, spilling Dr. Danquitti onto the ground. Prince reaches for her and suddenly notices two angry hippopotami emerging from the lake, heading right for them.

Monopoly Guy, coming to but very groggy, senses Slugger lying nearby. He reaches out and grabs her ankle, then teleports them both behind a nearby rock. There he summons his Dog, which barks at her and helps to heal and revive her.

Phoenix takes flight again, jetting toward Cruel. The brute tears a light pole from the ground and leaps into the air, at the same time flinging the pole at Phoenix. She unleashes a wind blast which causes the pole to spin, but it doesn’t deflect it enough; it strikes her and sends her spinning as well. Before she can recover, Cruel leaps into the air and slams down on top of her, sending her plummeting into the ground. Cruel stands over her, bellowing.

Arsenal smashes the transparent cone of the missile he’s grappling, freeing Mandy. He swoops low over the lake and drops her, telling her to swim toward Monopoly Guy and tell him to get her out of harm’s way. He then flies back toward Cruel, attempting to goad him into leaving Phoenix alone. Unusual Punisment breaks in over his helmet radio again. "He doesn’t really understand much. If you really want to goad him, try — " Arsenal curses and snaps off his helmet radio.

Monpoly Guy looks up into a nearby tree and notices a metallic cat perched on a branch. It nods toward one of the low-hanging branches and it droops to the ground and breaks off, the perfect size for a crutch. MG grabs it while he summons Dog again, this time to heal himself.

Slugger, now fully revived, moves to help Mandy from the lake. Monopoly Guy hobbles to them and takes hold of Mandy’s hand. He summons a horse and they ride toward the police cars.

Prince Paradim drops Dr. Danqitti behind a line of police cars and flies back toward the battle.

Arsenal routes additional energy into his Unibeam and fires it at Cruel. The blast staggers the villain slightly.

At this point a news helicopter appears over the scene. Another missile appears as well, this one from a different direction than the others and heading toward Arsenal. It explodes a few feet away and causes an electro-magnetic pulse, doing enough damage to the armor to short out the Unibeam.

Slugger leaps over to land nearer to Cruel, and beneath the hovering Arsenal. Prince Paradigm flies in that direction also.

Asenal drops to the ground in front of Cruel and challenges him. Cruel swings but Arsenal blocks the mighty blow. “We need to hit him at the same time, coordinate our attacks!”

Before they can all get set, Cruel pulls back to swing again. Phoenix lands behind him and punches the back of his knee. He doesn’t flinch and instead, kicks Arsenal, sending him flying and stunning him.

Prince flies at Cruel, blasting him again. The shot destroys the villain’s shirt. The body beneath is horribly scarred, but a large tattoo can still be read: CRUELTY BEGETS CRUELTY. Reading this, Phoenix has an idea. “Stop hitting him! Try being nice to him!” She reaches up and hugs him. Slugger follows her lead: she approaches the villain, unbottoning the top button on her flannel shirt, and say haltingly, “Hey sailor…uh, you sure are handsome…umm…”

Cruel growls and tries to pound Phoenix into the ground, but she dodges it. Slugger, relieved she doesn’t have to be nice to him anymore, winds up a Haymaker. Prince and Phoenix time their attacks to land with her punch. Phoenix rushes her punch and misses, but Prince’s Photon Beam and Slugger’s powerful Haymaker connect at the same time. The ground trembles with the force of the blow, but Cruel stays on his feet.

Monopoly Guy moves to Arsenal’s side, summoning Dog. As Arsenal is healed, another missile hits the ground not far away. No explosion this time; the nose cone pops off and disgorges Freeze! She tumbles to the ground and looks a mess, dressed in a gaudy, clashing, ill-fitted costume, hair and makeup askew. She looks herself up and down and screams, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”

Cruel grasps at Slugger but misses. Prince hits him again with another Photon Beam, with the same results (none). Cruel snarls and grabs Slugger’s arm, then punches it. Her forearm snaps and she screams at the unfamiliar sensation.

Arsenal again calls for a coordinated attack. He flies within range of his Unibeam before realizing it no longer works. Monopoly Guy, Freeze, and Phoenix move into position and attack. Cruel is pummelled by a freight train, an ice ram, and a massive punch simultaneously. “Pain!” cries Cruel.

Two more missiles sail into view. One shoots past Prince Paradigm and hits the ground, exploding. The second missile zeroes in on Cruel. It explodes, raining fiery napalm all over him.

The burning Cruel kicks Slugger, who is sent flying across the Park to land in a heap. Phoenix exerts control over the earth element, burying Cruel in a mound of dirt. Freeze then encases it in ice. Arsenal, boot jets sparking, lands in front of it. Slugger slowly gets to her feet.

With another shout of “Cruel!”, the villain bursts from the entangle, sending chunks of ice and clods of dirt flying like shrapnel. Arsenal is standing right in front of him so that’s who he punches. The armored hero is stunned again.

Seeing Arsenal smacked through the air sends Phoenix in to a rage. She gathers strength from the earth at her feet and lands a mighty blow; Cruel howls and drops to one knee.

The others then coordinate once again: Monopoly Guy summons another train, Prince fires a Photon Blast, Freeze creates another ice ram, and Slugger leaps at Cruel from several feet away with everything she has. All of this tremendous power impacts Cruel at once, actually knocking him back a few yards. Slugger knocks herself out.

Cruel doesn’t stay down long. As he’s rising, Prince flies toward him still firing his Photon Blast. Monopoly Guy rides his horse toward Cruel and summons the Shoe. It appears around Cruel’s foot, intended to slow him down. At the same time, Freeze slides toward him and covers the ground at Cruel’s feet with a sheet of ice.

Phoenix takes to the air again, scanning the park below for signs of a command center. Instead she spies two more missiles, coming from yet a different direction. Before she can react they are upon her and there’s a massive, fiery explosion. Her limp, flaming body drops to the ground. Arsenal screams and flies to her side, his boot jets finally giving out as he lands. He pulls her body from the flaming debris field, but it’s too late, she’s nothing but a charred husk.

The rest of the team continue to hammer Cruel with attacks. He takes a step but slips on the ice, falling to the ground. He gets up again and makes a tremendous leap, landing directly on top of the news helicopter, then bouncing off of it to leap away.

The copter goes into a spin, its rotors destroyed. Prince flies to it and grabs it by the tail, trying to steady it and slow its fall. Freeze slides closer and throws up a circular Ice Wall, about 20’ high, directly below the chopper. Its fall slowed by Prince Paradigm, it drops a couple of feet and lands safely on the ice.

Cruel is gone. Broken, bleeding, and exhausted, the heroes gather around Arsenal, still kneeling by Phoenix’ body.

“Are you still there?” Arsenal asks with contained fury into his helmet radio. There is no response. “I know you’re still listening. I’ll see you dead for this.”

Before their eyes, the burned husk that was Phoenix beings turning to ash very quickly. It cracks open, a hollow shell. Inside is a squealing infant girl surrounded by a tiny, flickering phoenix aura. Arsenal picks her up gently and stands, the heroes glancing at each other in surprise.

That’s when they see heading toward them a group of supervillains. The experienced heroes recognize some them immediately: Captain Caricature, Femme Fatigue, Misquito, Cotton Candy, and Static Cling. The Carnies.

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The Champions Issue 5 - Freudian Slip
You're never alone with a schizophrenic

Scott Branson (Arsenal) has been taking classes at Empire Statue University in Criminology and Forensics, hoping to become a private detective. His recently-married daughter Mandy works as an ER trauma surgeon at ESU Hospital.

Ice Prince has been busy dealing with helping his home government establish ties with the United Nations and the United States.

Slugger has gone back to movie stunt work in NYC between missions with FIRE Team. Due to her extreme weight she stays at Champions Mansion while she’s in the city. This evening she’s scheduled to train with the team, part of a cross-training agreement between the Champions and F.I.R.E. Team.

Slugger is in the kitchen waiting for her lunch when she sees a flash and it seems the whole world is bathed in red light. As quickly as it strikes, it passes.

Scott is lunching with his daughter Mandy at a cafe close to the university. As their meal is delivered, Arsenal sees the same red effect.

Prince Paradigm is in Dr. Danquitti’s office, she’s once again grilling him about life in ancient Egypt.

As Morgan serves lunch to Slugger, she is suddenly no longer in the kitchen. She’s in an office, in a chair opposite a large desk. Behind the desk is a middle-aged woman who says, “What do you remember about the goddess Bas?”

That’s when Slugger notices that she’s a man, wearing a suit and sunglasses. She flips out. She gets up and heads for the door. As she grips the knob, suddenly she’s sitting at a table in a cafe. A young woman sits across from her and says, “Dad, we’ve got to get to the ER, you’re not yourself!” She’s also holding a phone, a person on the other end is telling her calm down.

Meanwhile, Scott Branson finds himself suddenly sitting at the kitchen table at Champions Mansion, being served lunch. He seems to be seeing things from Slugger’s perspective. Just as quickly he’s seated in the chair opposite a woman at her desk, hanging up her phone. She says, "What’s going on? He looks for some means of identifying whose body he’s in, but the man has no wallet.

Back to Slugger, she’s in a cafe across from Mandy Montgomery. Mandy reveals who she is and Slugger explains (as well as she can) what she’s been experiencing. They head to the Mansion to find Branson.

Branson, in the chair behind the desk, learns that he’s currently at the Manhattan Museum of Natural History. He deduces that he’s in the body of Prince Paradigm. He borrows a phone and calls Mandy and they agree to meet at the Mansion, figuring Prince Paradigm now occupies Slugger’s body.

They meet up at HQ. Branson (in PP’s body) triangulates the locations of each hero at the time of the mind-switch, and decides to head to the center of the area to investigate. Slugger (in Branson’s body) insists that she put on Arsenal’s armor, being the only one without inherent paranormal powers. After an initial refusal she talks Branson into it, and they head downstairs to his private lab.

Slugger (in Branson’s body) dons the armor. Branson (in PP’s body) stands in front of her urging her not to turn on anything without prior approval. Before she can agree, the chest beam activates. Branson (in PP’s body) is blasted across the lab, through the double doors they’d entered, and into the corridor.

It’s then that all three share a brief vision: they see three people, two men and a boy of about 10. Both men wear business suits; one has added a cape and a bright necktie with an embroidered “S” on it. The first man stands between the child and the caped man, trying to keep them from fighting. Then the vision is gone.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s armor blasts Branson (in PP’s body) through the double doors into the corridor. “I didn’t do that!” she says, confused. Branson tells Slugger to take the armor off RIGHT NOW. But she finds she can’t move it. Prince (in Slugger’s body) moves over and tries to pull the helmet off. The armor reaches out and grabs him. Somebody or something else has taken control of it.

Suddenly the far wall explodes. Flying into the room are four old Arsenal suits.

It’s then that the heroes notice that a mind link has developed between them, perhaps as a side-effect of the mind transfer. Slugger tells Prince how to do a reversal maneuver and he twists out of the armor’s grasp. Now behind it, he takes the armor in a headlock. Slugger finds herself facing the incoming suits of armor. She thinks, “Shoot! Blast! Fire!” and the chest beam activates. The beam of solar energy strikes the so-called Brick Suit. Despite its design to resist knockback it is slammed through the wall.

Two suits fly over and land on either side of Prince (in Slugger’s body). One grabs an arm but Prince maintains his headlock on Slugger (in Arsenal’s body).

The fourth remaining suit, the Energy Suit, flies toward Branson (in PP’s body). Prince tells Branson to use his Photon Push power, which he does to devastating effect. The Energy Suit is thrown across the lab to embed, sparking, in the far wall. Branson rushes over to the downed armor.

Prince (in Slugger’s body) wrenches free of the grasping armor and swings the Arsenal suit ino the armor on his other side. His elbow smashes one of the energy cells on the armor, causing a massive explosion that fills the lab.

When the smoke clears, Prince (in Slugger’s body) is the only one still conscious. Suddenly the Arsenal suit (containing Slugger in Branson’s body…whew…) stands up, and the recovered Brick Suit re-enters the room.

Inside the armor, Slugger (in Branson’s body) sees another vision of the three strange people. The child is screaming with rage, incomprehensibly shrieking. The man with the “S” pushes aside the man in the middle and reaches for the child. The middle man slaps “S”, who crumples to the ground and is immediately bound in gold chains. The child stops shrieking and instead laughs. The middle man hangs his head.

Branson (in PP’s body) sees a slightly different version of the same vision. In his, the two men are unconscious. The child looks at him, panting, and says, “That wasn’t easy! Now. I can devote my attention to YOU.”

Slugger (in Branson’s body) and Branson (in PP’s body) both come to. Slugger begins yelling out commands for a central computer. “Computer, off! Computer, shut down!” Suddenly a display screen appears across her vision, inside the Arsenal armor. She hears a voice inside the helmet yells, “Shut up!” The armor’s arm lifts up and punches the helmet.

Prince (in Slugger’s body) body slams the Brick Suit. It promptly gets back up and punches him.

Branson (in PP’s body) is still next to the downed Energy Suit. He kneels and begins to cobble pieces of it together into a bio-electric amplifier which should augment Prince’s already considerable electrical powers.

The Arsenal suit punches itself again, knocking out Slugger (in Branson’s body). The armor remains standing.

Prince (in Slugger’s body) body slams the Brick Suit again, sending its helmet flying. The body, however, gets up and attempts to engage its strength booster, but instead, explodes.

Branson (in Prince’s body) moves his materials to the center of the room and puts together an amplifying gauntlet, to modulate Prince’s Photon Blast into an electro-magnetic pulse.

Slugger (in Branson’s body), unconscious again, sees the vision continue. The child is gone in this one, the two adult men conscious. The suited man is tied up, and says, “I can help them if they call come see me together!”

She awakes as the Arsenal armor’s boot jets activate. She flies up and bursts through the ceiling into the sky.

Branson (in PP’s body) sets off the E-M pulse. The animated suits all shut down. Arsenal’s armor is caught as well and it falls. Prince (in Slugger’s body) tries to catch the falling armor but it slams into him, knocking them both out.

This time they share a vision. They appear together in a misty fog, the two adult men there as well. The child emerges from the fog and says, “Stay in your place! You know, Prince, I know your nightmares!” And then they both awaken.

Branson (in PP’s body) calls Morgan and asks him to monitor their vital signs. His plan is for all three of them to be rendered unconcious so they share the vision to confront the child.

Morgan reports, just as they’re going under, that zombies are attacking the museum. They decide it’s a distraction, to stop their plan. Morgan then reports that a giant monster is rampaging through the city. Another distraction, they decide, and carry on with the plan.

When they’re all three unconscious, they appear in the familiar fog. The child now has a sword, and as he moves to attack “S” when the middle man moves between them, intercepting the blow. He’s decapitated with one stroke.

Elsewhere, Black Spider is swinging through Manhattan when his spider-sense tingles. He sees a vision of his own, but this is from his spider-sight: the ability to see through the eyes of a distant spider. He sees a square room, in the center of which is a circle drawn with chalk, and within it a triangle has been sketched. At the points of the triangle lie Slugger, Scott Branson, and Prince Paragidm.

Above the center of the floor floats a man in the lotus position. Along the walls of the room stand twelve men, armed with machine guns.

Back in the shared vision, the child is raving, and he begins to grow. Arsenal (everyone in their own bodies within the vision) blasts him, but the child deflects the blast with this sword. “What is all of this about?” Arsenal demands. The child screams, “I’ll show you!” and inflicts upon them a vision-within-a-vision:

Edgar Gordon Olmstead is the man’s name. They see him receive a suitcase full of money from a shadowy figure. Next they seem him developing a formula to augment the human brain. The serum perfected, he used it on himself. The results increased his brain power by a phenomenal amount. However, the sheer power caused his psyche to split into its Freudian parts: Id, Ego, and Super-Ego. Still, his mind grew and expanded. Quickly his absorption of input and knowledge threatened to outstrip his new-found brain capacity and overwhelm his fractured personality.

So he concocted a plan to capture paranormal brains to use to expand his own psyche.

The vision-within-a-vision disspates, and the heroes launch a new attack. The child (Kid Id) has continued to grow and now towers over them. Arsenal and Prince coordinate their blasts, but Kid Id reflects them with ease, sending both heroes flying into the mist. Slugger slugs him in the kneecap which only triggers a growth spurt. He stomps down on her, stunning her.

Prince and Arsenal, shaking off the last blast, both have the same thought: rescue Super-Ego so he can help against Kid Id. Prince flies over to free Super-Ego while Arsenal flies in to distract Kid Id.

Kid Id spies Prince heading for his captives and uses his “nightmare” against him: a gigantic hippopotamus appears in front of Prince.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Black Spider has reached the building where he saw the heroes being held. He sneaks in and from near the ceiling beings webbing the armed me. He leaps and twists as they open fire, one bullet (out of dozens) just grazing a foot. He considers waking one of the unconscious heroes, but he hears a voice in his head whisper, “They must be brought out of it at the same time or they’ll die.”

Back in Olmstead’s mind, his Super-Ego is now free. “S” attacks Kid Id, forcing him to shrink to normal size. They then start choking each other while the heroes just stand and watch. As they struggle their bodies begin to twist and grow, and out of them both emerges Ego. He shoves them apart and says, “Id was the first to wake up, he shouldn’t be in control.”

“But I’ll stay that way!” Kid Id screams, and disappears.

In the real world, as Spider mops up the guards, Olmstead’s body that once floated in the air above the circle/triangle is now encased in webbing. He gasps as his consciousness returns, then goes silent.

Back in his mind, the heroes are startled when Id reappears, shreiking.

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The Champions Issue 4 - The Island of Dr Hephaestus
It's all Greek to him

Immediately upon the disappearance of Monopoly Guy and Phoenix (see last issue), Arsenal calls in F.I.R.E. Team agents to lock down the amusement park. He orders a background check into the owner, Jack Johanson, and the lawyer who set up the deal.

Bob Sanders (the former Blue Saturn/Wraith) calls just then, requesting that Arsenal and Prince Paradigm meet him at FBI Headquarters.

BACKGROUND: Champions signal devices operate on Wraithtech™, devised by Sanders to tap into the Blue Dimension, a universe of pure energy. He’s devised a range of applications, one of which is instantaneous communication without regard to physical range.

Sanders reports that whomever kidnapped Phoenix and Monopoly Guy is able to block Blue Dimension radiation, and thus their ability to track the signal devices. Their last known location was somewhere in the Catskill Mountains. Sanders can teleport the team there (another application of Wraithtech). He’s also invented a lash-like device that can home in on BD radiation and retrieve whatever’s using it.

So far background checks are coming up empty, although a name appears in connection with both Johanson and his lawyer: Milos Hero, a wealthy nanotech developer who dropped out of sight about the same time Johanson had.

When Sanders’ BD radiation detector goes off, he opens a portal through the Blue Dimension. The heroes step through and appear in the center of a huge atrium, enclosed by transparent walls and surrounded by grass and the occasional tree. The atrium is attached to the face of a mountain. Sanders, though their comm link, explains that the site is an abandoned insane asylum. The FBI believes it is owned by Mr. Hero.

At the mountain side of the atrium are two large doors. Flanking the doors are two gigantic cyclops. The heroes also notice, perched in two trees inside the atrium and to their right, what appear to be harpies, except instead of hideously ugly they’re extraordinarily beautiful. Also off to the right, on a pile of rocks, stands a centaur.

The sirens begin to sing and cause Arsenal to go catatonic. Slugger, unaffected, steps toward the centaur who fires an arrow, which explodes in a tangle of wire, ensnaring her. Prince Paradigm aism and fires at the centaur, blowing it through the wall and outside into the rain.

The Wraithtech lash held by Prince suddenly activates itself. A glowing blue line whips through the stone wall at the end of the atrium and pulls Phoenix and Monopoly Guy into the atrium. (Seconds before, Monopoly Guy had managed to free himself from his bonds and teleported to Phoenix’ side, where he freed her and she blasted a villain who had been standing over her). Unfortunately, as soon as they appeared, Monopoly Guy fell under the sirens’ spell. Phoenix slaps him to snap him out of it.

Suddenly a hulking griffin flies through a hole in the atrium roof and sets upon Prince Paradigm, who has taken to the air. The griffin sails past the Prince, its claws just brushing past him. He sends electricity shooting through the air and blasts the creature into the far wall.

Slugger snaps the wires around her, looks around for a target, and spies the two cyclops guarding the doors. She leaps to them, and they both swing at her. One lands his blow, the other misses and instead hits his fellow guard, who goes flying. Slugger is knocked back also; her body slams into one of the trees supporting a siren. The tree snaps in two, the siren flaps her impressive wings and stays in the air, but she stops singing.

Phoenix notices, on the mountain side of the atrium but set away from the doors, the mouth of a cavern or tunnel into the rock. Heralded by a loud hissing noise, a medusa crawls from the opening. Instead of eyes, she boasts twin snakes from her eye sockets. These serpents stretch out and wrap themselves around Phoenix and she falls to the ground.

Monopoly Guy conjures a cruise ship which appears blowing its fog horn, in an attempt to nullify the sirens’ song. It works, but it also deafens Slugger.

Prince Paradigm flies toward Phoenix and blasts the medusa.

Monopoly Guy next summons a freight train and the standing cyclops, sending him through the wall.

The griffin struggles upright and attacks Slugger, who lands a mighty punch as it reaches her.

As the battle rages, Phoenix transmits through the team’s psychic link a description of the man who brought them here: Dr. Hephaestus. He’s a large man who’s been deformed, dressed in a toga.

Prince fires at the remaining, airborne siren, who reflects his shot with a sonic blast. His own electrical bolt slams him across the atrium and through the wall. Barely phased, he gets up and flies back into the atrium.

Monopoly Guy moves to the prone cyclops and punches him, which has little effect. The cyclops gets up and pounds MG into the ground. MG teleports himself out of (further) harm’s way.

The freight-trained cyclops emerges from the hole through which he’d been knocked, looking for revenge. Slugger steps to it and throws a punch but misses.

Arsenal, recovered from the siren-induced stupor, blows the flying siren through the wall. He locates the other siren and unleashes a chest beam on it. The siren screams, a sonic wail which causes Arsenal’s body to vibrate, sapping his dexterity. He aims carefully and still manages to hit the siren, knocking yet another hole in the atrium wall.

The medusa fully emerges from the cavern mouth. Phoenix’ glowing aura forms giant talons which reach out to grab the monster. Medusa retaliates with her eye snakes again; this time they strike at Phoenix and stun her with a psychic blast.

Slugger performs a takedown on the cyclops, slamming it into the floor. The griffin moves toward her and lashes out with its massive beak, stunning her.

Prince Paradigm, missing the griffin with another electrical blast, decides to take all chance out of the equation. He flies right up to the beast and sets off an explosive blast of such power that it shatters the wall behind the griffin and mostly buries it in debris. He shoots what he can see of it again, just to be sure it stays down.

Monopoly guy teleports behind the medusa and wraps her in a choke hold. After a moment the medusa wriggles free of his grasp, but by then Phoenix is right in front of it and smacks it with a roundhouse. The snake-headed monster spins around with the impact and Monopoly Guy punches it, knocking it out.

The initial gauntlet of monsters defeated, the team moves to the nearly destroyed inner wall, behind which they see the two cyclops standing in a large room lined with huge vats. It appears to be Dr. Hephaestus’ laboratory where he’s growing new cyclops and centaurs.

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The Champions Issue 3 - For Your Amusement
The E-ticket ride to death

Play Date: 6/29/2013
Game Date: First day of Spring

SETUP

The Champions have returned from Antarctica as heroes, having stopped an attack on the outside world by the Antarcticans and an invasion from another planet, which had been connected to Antarctica by a huge portal that the team destroyed. Arsenal and Spitfire are debriefed and told that the official story does not mention the other planet or aliens, just that there’s a long-lost civilization, an off-shoot of humanity, that has been revealed to the world. They also discover that while only a few days passed for them, three months passed in the outside world.

In New York, work continues to clean up the damage wrought by the attack. The Chrysler Building is a total loss and has been demolished. The Statue of Liberty was also taken down, having been crushed by a giant Ice Spider. Authorities have yet to determine how to replace it.

Arthur Morning (a.k.a. Sea Crab, benefactor of the team) summons Arsenal for a meeting. He announces salary hikes for everyone, then asks a favor. It seems that an acquaintence of his, Jack Johanson, runs a robotics company called Animatronics Independent Development (AID). He’s been working on civilian and military applications for his robot prototypes. But recently Johanson has begun acting strangely. He had built an amusement park on the Jersey Shore in which he used his inventions. A few weeks ago he contacted Morning about working together, and for the second time he was rebuffed; Morning doesn’t want to share his force field technology with anyone. Johanson reacted poorly.

Concerned, Morning sent several private investigators to find out what was going on. They discovered that he had moved himself into his park and ceased contact with his company and the outside world.

Just the day before the Vice-President of AID, Mason Marsden, contacted Morning with an invitation for the Champions to visit the amusement park, as a gesture of thanks for saving the world (and more likely as a way to win over Morning’s trust in the robot tech). Morning asks that the team attend as a favor to him, so that Arsenal can talk to Johanson and gain more information on his current mental state.

WEAPONIZED WORLD

The team agrees and three days hence arrive at the Jersey Shore in a C-Jet. A crowd is already enjoying the park. They’re met at the gate by a friendly robot who welcomes them and leads them through the gates.

Moments later a low hum fills the air and a gigantic force field emerges from the outskirts of the park, rising and curving upwards to form a dome. Giant screens appear against the surface of the dome, one appearing to be a scoreboard with each of the heroes listed. Loudspeakers come to life as a smarmy announcer’s voice fills the air: “Welcome one and all, park patrons and viewers around the world! Tonight you are privileged to watch as the world-saving Champions face their greatest threat ever: Weaponized World!”

The announcer goes on to set up the scene: there are 1,227 civilians currently inside the park, which is divided into several themed sections. The Champions will be challenged to save as many people as possible, and as they struggle, America will be voting for which hero is truly deserving of the name Champion.

And then the game begins: the park begins to come alive and malevolent. Four incidents are highlighted on pop-up screens projected against the dome for everyone to see:

In Future World, alien plants come alive and stretch from their beds to entangle several hapless people. Arsenal dispatches Prince Paradigm.

In Western World, robot gunslingers at two gunfight stunt shows go crazy, turning on the spectators. Monopoly Guy summons a horse token and takes off with Freeze behind him.

In Fantasy World, two animatronic knights at a sword fighting show turn toward the crowd. Arsenal dispatches Phoenix to deal with that while he flies high above the Fantasy Castle, which is rumbling and crumbling violently.

As Monopoly Guy and Freeze race through the arch dividing the main park from Western World, they both feel a slight tug as if they’ve passed through some kind of barely-perceptible barrier. Very quickly the two heroes get to work: Freeze looks to the right and erects an Ice Wall between the spectators and the two gunslingers there, while MG summons a Thimble to drop onto one on the left.

Above the park the floating scoreboard pings and “Saves” counts are updated for Freeze and MG.

Prince Paradigm arrives in Future World. He notices the plants that have entangled the civilians appear to be rubbery and fibrous, rather than the robots he expected. A photon phaser blast destroys one of the planters, spewing fibers everywhere. Before he can take aim at another planter he hears wrenching metal. Down the walkway at the Laser Car Bumper Ride, two cars have broken free of the ride and sail into the air, heading right for him. Laser weapons on the front of the cars begin to fire.

In Fantasy World, Arsenal watches from the air as the castle crumbles to the ground, revealing a huge coiled dragon within. The dragon roars and belches a column of flame that bathes Arsenal in tremendous heat. He responds with Unibeam blasts. Below, Phoenix arrives at the Champions Tournament Stunt Show as the knights are turning on civilians. Her flaming avian aura’s talons rip up the ground around one, surrounding it with dirt. She notices that beneath a couple of inches of topsoil is what appears to be a power grid and relays that to the rest of the team as her aura’s talons crush the other animatatronic knight.

The Royal Seamstress Shop just down the street from Phoenix then explodes, and miles of threads fly out, entangling several civilians.

Prince Paradigm turns his attention away from the entangled civilians (who don’t appear to be suffering any ill effects, except the not-being-able-to-move thing) to the power grid, blasting a large hole in the ground in front of him. As he looks up he sees two giant Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots (an attraction that allows fair-goers to control the robots within a huge ring) break free of their ring and wheel down the pathway towards him. He blasts the ground again, showering sparks from the disrupted grid, and the robots coast to a halt, powerless.

In West World, Monopoly Guy takes the cue as well and summons a freight train in mid-air, sending it slamming straight into the ground. A large hole in the turf is left behind, revealing a sparking, mangled grid beneath. “Everyone, you can disrupt the grid by hitting it with a train!” Phoenix immediately does likewise in Fantasy World, pummeling the ground with her talons. Nearby rides and robots power down as a result.

As he stops two cars on a runaway coaster, Arsenal turns back in time to see the dragon spew fire on 3 civilians. He flies back and blasts a smoking crater in the ground near the dragon, rending a hole in the grid and shutting it down. Phoenix flies over to attend to the burn victims. While tending them she psychically scans for the Announcer but comes up empty.

Two civilians are also hit in Future World, by the flying laser-tag cars.

In Jungle Land, the riverboat ride capsizes sending riders into the shallow water. As they realize they’re not going to drown, from the end of the river appear robot alligators, heading right for them.

Freeze, preparing to head toward Jungle Land, sees two coaster on either side of the walkway nearby suddenly uncoil and merge tracks. A car on each of them, full of people, are on a collision course. She quickly encases each in a block of ice.

Monopoly Guy also intending to head to Jungle Land, passes by the Lava Ride in Jungle Land. The fake lava suddenly bursts into flames. Several riders begin screaming for help. He quickly teleports onto one of the boats and teleports its two occupants to safety, then repeats the process for the other car.

The screens projected on the inside of the enclosing dome flicker, but stay on. One now shows the Snake Charmer’s cobras in Arabian Land slither away from him toward a group of fair-goers. All the while, the floating scoreboard dings with updated counts.

Arsenal is the first hero to reach Jungle Land. He lands in the water of the River Ride, between the robot ‘gators and the people. He opens up a wide-area Unibeam blast, wiping out all of the robots. Just as they’re destroyed, however, more enter the river. These appear to be real, and they also appear to be generating extreme heat, as clouds of steam hiss into existence as they slither into the water.

As he’s about to fire on them, a nearby Mushroom ride spins out of control, causing the cables on the cars to snap and send them flying. The cars crash into the river, dumping their riders between Arsenal and the approaching gators. He quickly moves ahead of the people and lets lose another blast.

The people from the River Ride, meanwhile, have reached the banks of the ‘river’, where the plants come alive and entangle them.

Turning his attention back to the Laser Tag cars, Prince Paradigm flies up to the nearest one and wrenches the occupant free and settles him to the ground. The other car banks around and slams into Prince head-on. He sails through the air and crashes into the Gadget Shop. Inside he notices the ‘gadgets’ are very real-looking laser weapons, shoulder cannons, and assorted nastiness. He immediately starts destroying the inventory before something puts them to use.

Freeze finally reaches Arabian Land (noticing the same feeling of bursting through a thin membrane when she crosses beneath the archway) to find several fair-goers wrapped up and floating in mid-air, entangled in Flying Carpets. She also sees the cobras approaching them; the nearest stetches its body and strikes one of the helpless people. She erects an Ice Wall between the people and the snakes, but it’s only a matter of time before they slither around it.

Two more screens flicker into existence, projected against the dome. One shows the Fighter Ace ride at the front of the park, another the Griffin Ride in Fantasy Land. Simultaneously the rides speed up, spinning their occupants faster and faster. Suddenly the four planes and the four griffins break free of the ride. They fly under their own power, helpless riders screaming, and take off in formation, on a course that will bring them into a collision above the center of the park. The planes begin strafing people still on the pathway below, hitting 14.

Arsenal flies out of the ‘river’ and sees the griffins heading his way. He flies up and grabs two of them, lowering them to the ground. The other two appear to be on a collision course with the strafing jets.

Not far away, the Fantasy Land Candle Shop explodes and catches fire, spewing burning wax onto the people still wrapped up in string from the explosion of the Seamstress’ Shop.

Also in Fantasy Land, the Princess’ Tower ride suddenly rockets straight up into the air, carrying six people. Phoenix considers letting them go for now and instead trying to disrupt the entire power grid, but she decides against it. She streaks into the air, passing the tower, and from above it begins flapping her great phoenix wings. She manages to generate enough wind force to slow the out-of-control ride. Its rockets burn out and it begins to fall.

At the archway between Western Land and Fantasy Land, Monopoly Guy prepares to ram a train into it, thinking that they might be the key to shutting the place down. He shouts out his theory, advising everyone to target the various archways. But before he can trash the archway he notices the Piranha Kebob restaurant is full of water, and people are trapped inside. He quickly smashes the front glass, saving 30 people. Freeze, heeding his advice, destroys the archway into Arabian Land, to no apparent effect.

Prince Paradigm, in Future Land, destroys the gigantic Globe of Tomorrow, the area’s centerpiece. The light spiralling from the top of the globe goes out as the structure shatters, and this causes the force field around the park to shut down.

In Western Land a rumbling is heard, then felt. Ten cattle stampede out of the Petting Zoo attraction, eight real cows and two robot steers bringing up the rear. At the same time the water tower looming above the saloon suddenly bends and gushes its contents, sweeping saloon patrons into the street and into the path of the rampaging bovines.

Freeze moves to cast an ice sheet in front of the stampede; on her way she notices a group of people dancing happily around a fiddler.

In Future Land, Prince Paradigm turns to see the flying saucer ride, filled with people of course, begin to spin madly as energy crackles around it. Prince times his blast carefully and, as the cars dip toward the ground, blasts the central hub of the ride. The explodes and the cars drop to the ground, skidding across the walkway into an adjacent building. Some of the resulting debris slams into the laser cannon atop the Future Toy store, knocking it out.

In the air, Arsenal and Phoenix deal with the last of the griffins.

Monopoly Guy was carried by the water tower deluge into Jungle Land, just in front of the Animal Show, where he sees two jaguars advancing on a screaming child. He jumps up and punches one, then the other. Just as the second falls unconscious, a toucan flies down from the trees and steals his top hat. He watches it for a second then summons a locomotive. It appears directly above the bird and slams it into the ground. Monopoly Guy retrieves his hat, pops it out and dusts it off, and looks around. He sees the large ziggauratt towering over Jungle Land and figures since nothing bad had happened there yet, it’s about to.

In Future World, Prince Paradigm continues his reign of destruction. This time the target is the Comedy Robot building. When he blasts it, the animated robot atop the building begins sparking and screaming. Just then the Rocket Diner (boasting a rotating restaurant at the top) begins to lift off just like a rocket. Prince turns and blasts it just below the restaurant level. The rocket wobbles and falls over, smashing into the Lobster Shack.

In Western World, Freeze has turned toward the fiddler when civilians in a nearby spinning ride are catapulted straight up into the air. She quickly creates ice slides just beneath them and the slide safely to the ground. Turning back toward the Pied Fiddler, she sees the line of dancers stretches into a building in neighboring Fantasy Land.

In Fantasy Land, the Candle Shop continues to burn, and now starts to shoot flames like a fountain, setting fire to some of the thread-entangled fair-goers scattered about the area. Phoenix flies above the shop and releases a torrential downpour, drenching the fires.

Freeze enters Fantasy land, following the line of people into the building. It’s the head of a roller coaster; she sees people strapping themselves into the coaster, but no fiddler. She erects an ice wall in front of the coaster so it can’t move.

In the air, Arsenal now turns and flies toward the River Ride in Jungle Land with the strafing planes and their terrified passengers hot on his tail; his hope is that they’ll ‘softly’ crash into the water when their engines die. They do.

In Future Land, Prince Paradigm’s attention is drawn to another neighboring area, Beach Land, where he spies a line of people marching themselves into the sea, accompanied by a fiddler. Prince flies over the beach and fires at the fiddler, but misses.

This draws Phoenix’ attention. She looks toward the beach and sees a disturbance in the water several hundred yards from shore. She alerts the others and flies toward it.

Prince fires at the beach fiddler again, this time sending him flying across the sand. When the music stops, the fair-goers suddenly awaken from their trances.

Freeze makes her way to Beach Land, stopping to ice up the Unicorn ride, which hasn’t gone crazy yet but still holds stranded civilians.

At sea, a gigantic humanoid shape emerges from water and begins trudging towards the beach. At the same time, the ferris wheel on the Boardwalk begins spinning, shooting cars out as they reach the top. They hurtle toward the giant.

Prince flies up to the creature’s face and goes Nova, doing tremendous damage. Arsenal and Freeze coordinate their attacks, hitting the beast with a solar blast and an ice ram at the same time, which blows the humanoid apart.

Phoenix manages to catch the first ferris wheel car; the rest, now that the giant is down, continue their arc and plunge into the sea, where they’re quickly rescued.

When the giant drops, the park craziness seems to cease. The team spreads out to canvas the park and locate the control center. Prince finds it in the ruins of the Globe of Tomorrow that he’d destroyed. The team converges there after a search, descend into a subterranean complex.

As they enter they see a laser light from the ceiling that paints a target on both Phoenix and Monopoly Guy. A hologram appears on the wall showing the final stats:

PRINCE PARADIGM — 70 saved
FREEZE — 63 saved
ARSENAL - 49 saved
Monopoly Guy -
46 saved
Phoenix — 32 saved

FOUR DEAD
FORTY-SIX INJURED

The announcer’s voice sounds off again. “America, you have voted! Phoenix and Monopoly Guy have been found wanting! Their sentence to be determined at a later date!”

Monopoly Guy and Phoenix then disappear.

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