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.
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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.