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.
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.”
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.