What's Gone Before: A villain who uses mind-control, the Puppet, is determined to awaken the mummy of a three thousand year old pharaoh, also rumoured to have a talent for possession of others. The Midnight Sons want to stop him...but it isn't going to be easy...
To Waken the Pharaoh
The Dreamstalker emerged from the side room outfitted in his voluminous magician's cape and psychic-enhancing, Roman-style helmet. They were as ready as they would ever be -- he, Roberta, Blacklight, and the duo known as Kid Gloves and the Rajah. Mr. Amazing was gone, still under the influence of the villainous Puppet, and they feared the Silhouette was with him, though they hoped incognito.
The Dreamstalker had foolishly allowed himself to believe that the Puppet's plan was only gradually unfolding, perhaps to see fruition in a few days. But the speed of events so far, and the intensity of his recent dream, spurred him to action. He was convinced the Puppet intended to strike...tonight.
He looked at his companions, and stopped. "Uh...where is the Man-Fly?"
They looked around mutely, slowly perceiving the Man-Fly's absence. At last, Roberta said, "I have not seen him since he woke you from your nightmare."
The Dreamstalker closed his eyes. "Damn," he muttered. "He went to save the Silhouette."
"Don't you mean he went to stop the Puppet?" asked the Blacklight. "I can't see him going out of his way for any of us."
"Then you don't know him at all," snapped the Dreamstalker. "Beneath that enigmatic, hard-boiled persona, Artie Trent is one of the best. He wouldn't go after the Puppet alone, with his bad arm, knowing the Puppet had all the advantages, just for the sake of judicial celerity. Come on, we've got to hurry before they all get killed."
As they started to leave, Blacklight asked, rhetorically, "Are we going to save them...or join them in death?"
"Only the morning will give us that answer," remarked the Rajah.
Suddenly, the lights went out.
* * *
The Puppet stood beside his limo, ignoring the rain pelting him, striking the sidewalk with the sound of bullets. His garish make-up was running grotesquely. Overhead, the sky split open with the blazing glory of the sun, then vanished again, followed momentarily by a teeth rattling boom.
"That was close, boss," remarked Jerry, shoulders hunched miserably.
The Puppet ignored him and started to laugh, at first a chuckle, then hysterically. The super-powered mercenary, the Raven, joined him after a moment. The entranced Mr. Amazing looked from one to the other, but said nothing.
Jerry scratched his head. "What's so funny?"
The Raven pointed to the dark museum. "The storm's knocked out the power -- disrupting any alarms. Those damn plans you stole from the insurance company are pointless now."
And Jerry, after a moment, chuckled too, seeing the irony. Then lightning flared once more across the sky, and he jumped back fearfully against the car.
"Come on," said the Puppet. "Gather the equipment. Destiny awaits." He strode toward the museum.
* * *
Blocks away, a nun, Sister Maria Bonnier, stumbled through the rain flooded streets, then ducked into an alley. She fumbled at her nun's habit, pulling off her clothes, then began to pull from her carrying bag other, decidedly less appropriate, garments. She slipped on form-hugging navy blue pants, then donned a hooded tunic that, when sashed at the waist, affected the appearance of a monk's robe. Her features concealed beneath the hood, the Canticle was once more ready to do battle in the name of God.
She raced back onto the street.
It had been while escorting a troupe of school children to a museum in Montreal that she had first perceived -- first sensed -- the evil emanating from the exhibit dedicated to the disgraced pharaoh, Rath-Det.
God had touched her and bequeathed upon her certain abilities, including the talent for sensing evil. She saw herself, in a way, as a kind of modern Joan d'Arc -- an emissary of God.
She had returned to the museum, only to recognize a dwarf among the patrons whom she was sure she had read about as being wanted in Toronto under the alias, the Puppet. It was not hard to foresee the end result of the intersection of two such malignancies.
She had followed the exhibit to Toronto, where she fought a trio of costumed characters (see Act 5.~the ed.). She had taken them for agents of the evil seeking to resurrect the Satanic emissary, Rath-Det. After all, had they not arrived at the station, same as she? No doubt tracking the Egyptian antiquities that included the Pharaoh's sarcophagus, the same as she? Had she not emerged from changing in the washroom to see them attacking a room full of innocents?
Some of what they said did not make sense, however, and she was forced to realize she had misjudged the situation.
Which troubled her, that she should misperceive the situation so. After all, if she likened herself to Joan d'Arc...well, there were those that said Joan was no prophet, but simply mad, were there not? She shuddered. Such thoughts were for another day.
Now she was intent on pursuing her crusade to its ultimate end...the Royal Ontario Museum.
* * *
Mr. Amazing glided through the dark pools flooding the lobby of the museum, sliding up behind one of the big marble pillars. He heard the swish of fabric, the clop of a footstep. He leaped from concealment and his feet went out from under him, the rain dripping from his clothes having puddled at his boots. He hit the marble floor hard, and skidded another few feet, almost cracking his skull on the staircase. He shook himself groggily.
He did not understand. Usually his luck was almost eerily good -- he was not prone to such clumsy gaffs. The scarf he wore about his neck was supposed to imbue him with good luck, so long as he dedicated himself to decency.
He frowned. Was that the key? Was there something indecent about his current work? Was he somehow wrong to throw in his lot with the Puppet? He winced, a pain clamping about his brow, and a burning flaring up at the nape of his neck. He clasped his hands to his head. There was something, an answer, lurking at the fringes of his mind, if only, only...
"Are you okay, my son?" asked a plump, middle-aged cleaning woman, leaning over him. "Y'give me quite a fright, t'at's fer sure."
He squinted at her. That was the sound he had heard -- not a guard, but a harmless old woman. He struggled to his feet, staring at her wide-eyed. If only she could tell him what he needed to know.
"You really shouldn't be here, b'y," she said conspiratorially in her heavy Newfoundland accent. "Comin' in here, so late at night. I might 'ave t'ought you were a t'ief or somethin'. A bad man."
"A...thief?" he repeated. "A...bad man?" He touched his scarf, confused. Suddenly he saw a black and yellow shape flash across the lobby, coming towards them soundlessly, like a ghost. Instinctively, he delivered a karate chop to the side of the old woman's neck. She seemed to flinch a fraction of a second before the blow, so that he thought his hand only glanced off her. But she crumpled at his feet nonetheless.
"Nuts," quoth the Raven. "I was going to gut her."
"She's harmless," said Mr. Amazing. "No need for lethal force."
"No need...?" The Raven stared at him, darkly. He made as though to speak, but then the Puppet brushed by him, Jerry clumsily lugging heavy lights right on his heels.
"Let's not dawdle, gentlemen. I'm sure there are more formidable adversaries awaiting us upon whom you can expend your vaunted prowess."
Casting one last suspicious look at Mr. Amazing, the Raven followed his diminutive employer. After a moment, still shaking his head, Mr. Amazing took up the rear.
For a moment, there was only silence in the lobby. Then a shadow upon the floor swelled into the shapely form of a young woman in a pink bathing suit, mask and boots. She hurried to the old woman and shook her. "Are you O.K.? Ma'am?"
The cleaning woman's eyes snapped open. "Now you're a right pretty sight fer sore eyes, girl."
"What?" The Silhouette sat back on her heels.
The cleaning woman rose, but suddenly the accent was gone, as was the feminine tone. Instead her voice took on a deep, decidedly masculine air.
"Mr. Amazing must be slipping, or else he is fighting the disk. I was sure he would realize I pulled back enough to take the sting out of his blow." The cleaning woman clawed at her face, and the skin came away in ragged strips.
The Silhouette was momentarily startled, then instantly realized what was happening as the mask was pulled away.
"Man-Fly!" she gasped.
From the vestiges of the "cleaning woman" face, Artie Trent stared at her. "That was a damn foolish stunt you pulled, going after them alo --" He winced, teeth clamping together as he grabbed at his left arm.
"Let me see," she said, brow crinkled in concern. She tore at the padded costume, exposing a badly lacerated arm, still enflammed from his earlier encounter with the Raven. "Now who's foolish? You never should have come. You're in agony."
"Pain's an old friend. Now come on, let's get out of here. I'm sure the others are on their way -- even they must have pieced it together by now."
"The Man-Fly waiting for reinforcements? I don't believe it."
"As you noted, I'm in no condition to take on the Puppet."
"But I am. And I think you're right, I think Mr. Amazing's fighting it. He did earlier, when he saw me. That might make it two against three."
"Might, sister, only might! And a pretty iffy might at that. Don't be ridiculous, I didn't come all the way here..."
"Why did you come, if not to tackle the Puppet?" She grinned at him when he didn't answer. "You chivalrous scoundrel, you." She leaned forward and kissed his lips, startling him. Then, after a moment, she kissed him again, a bit longer. Then she jumped up. "Wish me luck." And she raced off into the darkness.
"Silhouette!" he hissed. But there was no answer.
* * *
Hurrying steathily through the corridors, the Silhouette came upon a museum guard stretched on the floor, but a quick check revealed he was only unconscious. Presumably Mr. Amazing again, she realized. On a certain level, if only subconsciously, he was fighting the mind-control, and preventing the Raven from dealing with the guards in a more lethal manner.
She moved carefully through the darkness, split only occasionally by a flash of lightning snapping through a window. Suddenly, light washed out from somewhere ahead of her. At first she thought it was lightning, but it lingered too long. Then she thought the power had come back on. Looking behind her, though, she saw the rest of the place was still awash in impenetrable darkness.
Then she remembered the cramped quarters of the limo's trunk, and the metal ridges she was forced to share her hiding place with. The Puppet had brought his own lighting.
Staying close to the wall, she headed for the light. At last she stopped, and peered into the room beyond.
It was a large chamber, lit by a spotlight-like apparatus on a high pole. A movie light, she figured -- the kind used in motion pictures. The light was hooked up to a portable generator Jerry, the Puppet's henchman, must have brought with them. There were other lights being set up around the room, six all told, but only the one was so far activated. The Puppet, Mr. Amazing and the Raven were standing about a golden sarcophagus as Jerry struggled to set up the lights.
"At last," muttered the Puppet. "At last, the secret of the ancients will be mine."
The Raven looked at the millennia old coffin. "Be hard to fence," he remarked dubiously. "I suppose you could melt it down..."
"Fool! We are after something far more precious than gold, we are after the secret of global domination. We are after my master, Rath-Det...!" The Puppet stopped, appearing momentarily confused, his rain smeared make-up making him look positively grotesque. He took off his top hat and fumbled with the brim. "I mean...I mean...we're after the secrets of Rath-Det. Yes. We will, will free the secrets, and Rath-Det will rule...I mean," he stopped again, shaking his head, "I will rule. Me."
The Silhouette frowned. This was getting kind of...weird. And even though they were in the middle of downtown Toronto, a sprawling modern metropolis, she felt a shiver run up her spine, as though she were watching a Universal horror picture.
"Y'all right, boss?" asked Jerry, tightening a bolt on a light stand.
"Yes, yes I'm fine." The Puppet, however, did not look fine. He looked slightly disoriented.
"How did you find out about this secret?" asked Mr. Amazing, looking rather worse for wear himself, a hand to his head.
"I, uh, I read about Rath-Det and the legend of his mind control...in National Geographic. I went to Montreal to see him, I mean to see it -- professional curiosity. And then I realized it was more than just a legend. It was all true, and I could unlock the secrets..."
"How?" Mr. Amazing grimaced. "How did you...realize?"
The Puppet looked around, like a drunk slowly waking up in a strange bar. He licked his lips. "Um, I, I just, I suppose I just did. I'm a genius, after all. Hurry, Jerry. The lights." He said this last as though desperate to change the topic.
"Right-ee-oh, boss," chirped Jerry.
The Raven scowled. "We did all this for some screwy Egyptian...whatever? And what's with all the lights? What're they for?"
"Silence, cretin! The moment of release is at hand!" roared the Puppet, no longer quite sounding like the Puppet.
"Hey, are youse a cretin?" asked Jerry, plugging in the last of the lights. "Maybe we're related. Boss says I'm a cretin, too."
The Silhouette started to move forward. She was scared to death of the Raven and his deadly talons, but it was clear things were coming to a head. And there was no sign of reinforcements.
* * *
Outside the Royal Ontario Museum, Kid Gloves' sonic car screeched to a halt, momentarily followed by the boom of its engines. Blacklight was already waiting as Kid Gloves, the Dreamstalker, Roberta, and the Rajah spilled out into the black, storm ravaged night.
"There are lights inside -- but the power's out everywhere else," said Blacklight.
"Must be the lights he stole from the National Film Board in Montreal," said the Kid. "Why he couldn't use flashlights like every other B and E man, I'll never know."
"Perhaps we need to know," remarked the Dreamstalker, his cape flapping angrily about him. "If we're to survive this, we need to decipher every aspect of this bizarre episode."
"Perhaps we should figure out who they are," said Roberta.
They all turned to see figures, inexplicably, emerging from the night. Where moments ago there had been no one, where no one should have been on such a Godforsaken night, there were now dozens striding toward them.
"I recognize one or two," said the Rajah, his voice grim. "From the train station."
"The Puppet's final defence," said Kid Gloves. "An army of possessed people -- he knows we'll be reluctant to use our full powers against innocents."
"But they'll have no such compunction, I fear," remarked the Dreamstalker.
Roberta looked around desperately. "They're already blocking us from the museum..."
* * *
"Jerry, the lights!" shouted the Puppet, his eyes blazing with a mad glee.
Jerry threw a switch, and the room was flooded with brilliant illumination.
Suddenly, the Raven glanced over his shoulder and snarled, "That skirt from before -- the Silhouette!"
He made to launch himself at her, but Mr. Amazing suddenly threw himself at the man, screaming in unbelievable torment. His unexpected attack threw the Raven off balance, sending him crashing into one wall.
Tears of agony streaming down his cheeks, face a mask of pain, Mr. Amazing truly lived up to his name. Hands trembling, he reached haltingly back and wrenched off the mind-controlling disk at the back of his neck. Then, with a gasp, he collapsed.
The Silhouette started to race to him, when she was stopped by the mad laughter of the Puppet. His confusion of a moment ago was gone, but the light in his eyes seemed not entirely his own anymore. "You're too late, heroes! My master returns!"
And the Silhouette let out a choked cry.
The lid of the sarcophagus had begun to move...
Next: The Pharaoh wakes, while most of our heroes are beset by a murderous mob! Can it get any worse? Unfortunately...it can.
Back to Main Page