What's Gone Before: While most of the Fellowship is trapped outside the museum, a mob of mind-controlled people descending on them, inside, the villainous Puppet has succeeded, it seems, in raising the three thousand year old Rath-Det from his sarcophagus. Mr. Amazing has freed himself from the Puppet's mind-control, but now lies in a heap on the floor, leaving the Silhouette alone in a chamber of bad guys...
War in the Street
The chamber in the museum was a collection of bizarre contradictions.
There was the to-be-expected contrast of the ancient Egyptian antiquities -- some still in packing crates -- in a room architecturally clearly of the modern world, a No Food or Beverages sign at the entrance. But there were other anachronistic elements. Towering on spindly metal poles, blazing, heavy wattage lamps flooded the room with enough light to twist the storm-darkened night into broiling midday. The lights were the kind used in the filming of motion pictures, yet nowhere was there a movie camera, or a director's chair. Another paradox.
A big, beefy man stood by one lamp, dressed in a striped shirt and black trousers, out of place for ancient Egypt, but perfectly in keeping with 1940's Toronto fashions. Yet he was the only one. The other figures about were dressed in increasingly bizarre regalia, from the dwarf in the rather overly formal tuxedo, make-up that had been intended to give him the visage of a ventriloquist's dummy, now smeared across his face into a ghastly sight. The little man's eyes blazed with insane triumph, a touch of froth at his lips. There was the beautiful Silhouette in the pink bathing suit and mask. There was the big, muscular man known as the Raven, shaking himself as he rose from where he had crashed into a wall, garbed in black and yellow with a beaked mask and wings attached beneath his arms and vicious talons on his fingers. There was Mr. Amazing in his jodhpurs, loose shirt and mask.
Mr. Amazing was on the ground, writhing, which just compounded the oddity of the scene.
And last, but most definitely not least, was the centre display of the room, the ancient sarcophagus of the demonic Egyptian Pharaoh, Rath-Det. The lid of the sarcophagus was issuing grinding sounds as stone scraped against stone, as the heavy lid, which had not been disturbed in thousands of years, was slowly being pushed aside...from the inside.
Yes, the room was a collection of paradoxes.
The Silhouette let out a choked sob, while the brutal super-powered mercenary, the Raven, snarling from the unexpected attack of Mr. Amazing, reared up, ready to slash at anything with his deadly claws. He saw the sarcophagus. He saw the moving lid.
The Raven, then, let out a shrill, blood curdling scream of horror.
* * *
The Man-Fly, now dressed in his familiar trenchcoat and grotesque fly-head mask, heard the scream. He was still staggering down one of the museum's dark halls, clutching his left arm from where the Raven had slashed him earlier.
Jumping to the logical, if erroneous assumption, he muttered, "Silhouette." Instantly, he started racing through the dark halls, seeking the source of the scream.
* * *
The scream carried out into the night, where, despite the lashing rain and the occasional peels of raging thunder, it was heard.
"Heads up, gang," shouted Blacklight. "It sounds like the show's already started."
"Damn!" hissed the Dreamstalker. He, walker of the dream plane, master of the subconscious, was rapidly finding reality itself had taken on the aspect of a nightmare. He, Blacklight, Roberta the robot, and the duo of Kid Gloves and the Rajah, had arrived at the museum, where the attempt to resurrect the pharaoh, Rath-Det, was most certainly taking place. However, they had yet to make it through the front doors. Or even up the front steps.
The villainous Puppet had arranged a "welcoming committee" for them.
The Puppet's forte was mind-control, the Dreamstalker knew, and outside the museum was a mob of controlled subjects, each one an innocent victim, each one deserving of their help as much as any man or woman alive. And each one was an obstacle, keeping them from the museum where events were transpiring that could affect the whole city if the stories of Rath-Det's power were true. Perhaps even the world, in time.
And there were more than enough world-conquering megalomaniacs in the world today as it was, he thought bitterly.
The Puppet's controlled mob flooded around them, tearing at them, clawing them, trying to halt them, hurt them, even kill them. How did you fight that? he wondered. How did you fight with all your might against people who are not truly your enemies?
"You are in the Puppet's sway no longer!" he roared, his intense gaze burning into the eyes of the woman in front of him, attempting to use his mentalism to override the Puppet's neuro-hijackers. "You -- uh!" He grunted as someone hit him in the side, and another got behind him, clawing at his cape, pulling it tight across his windpipe. "You...are...in..." he choked, "..his sway...no --"
The woman hauled back and slugged him, sending him tumbling back into the man behind him, momentarily relieving the pressure on his throat. If only he could concentrate, he thought wildly as he swung out, relying on his fists now, not his mind. If he could focus on one subject at a time, perhaps he could help each and every one free themselves from their mental constraints.
Someone slugged him in the stomach.
Or perhaps his age was ending, he thought blurrily. Perhaps his Old World mentalism was no match for the Puppet's modern technology.
Suddenly his chest started spasming, hoarse coughs raking fire across his lungs and sparks flashing before his eyes. Lungs scarred by mustard gas from the last "Great" war made the Dreamstalker a poor physical combatant. His black cloak and gleaming helmet disappeared beneath a hail of flailing limbs.
Blacklight tried to slip through the mob, utilizing his super-speed, but there were too many, blocking his every move. Being gifted with tremendous speed was of little use if you couldn't start running to begin with. He punched out at the possessed mob, but even then refrained from using his ability to deliver a hundred blows in a millisecond. These people weren't the enemy! he told himself. The whole scene was like some twisted idea of Hell. Some of the attackers were fully possessed, and came on with bloodlust in their eyes, but others -- dear God, others -- were still in charge of their minds, if not their bodies. Their eyes pleaded, theirs voices chorused like damned souls: "Help me! Save Me!" Even as their limbs tried to tear Blacklight to pieces.
Then he saw the Dreamstalker disappear beneath a torrent of limbs.
"Dreamstalker!!!" he shouted.
"The Puppet must be taxing his resources to the limits, Rajah," muttered the youthful hero, Kid Gloves. "His mind-control devices affect the conscious mind. But some of these people are still aware of themselves, just not in control of their bodies. He hasn't used that technology since he made the improvements. Not since the case of the Kapuskasing Werewolf." He grunted as a big man got him in a bear hug, powerful arms closing about his chest, straining his ribs till he thought he heard them creak. "Rajah!" he gasped.
But the tall, dark-skinned man in crimson was surrounded and made no move to assist.
On his own, Kid Gloves brought his knee up into his attacker's diaphragm, breaking the bear hug. "What do we do, Rajah?" asked the Kid, stumbling away. He looked around at the swirling mob, his veneer of analytical detachment unravelling as he contemplated the horror, the tragedy, around them. "Golly -- what do we do?" It was as much a plea as a question.
For the silver woman, Roberta, the situation was almost the worst. Her metal skin was more resilient than her flesh and blood companions, though even it would buckle eventually, if subjected to continuous punishment. For the moment, though, she was in no great danger, but, like the others -- perhaps moreso -- she feared her greater strength would harm these controlled victims. Even so, she started to wade toward the museum steps, people wrapped about her legs, clutching at her arms, leaping onto her back. Dragging the flailing human anchors, she staggered toward the museum.
But she had no idea what to do if she got in there. Nor what she would find.
* * *
What she would find was almost literally beyond belief.
The sarcophagus lid groaned like a living thing, the sound echoed and re-echoed in the chamber, then crunched as it hit the floor, breaking in two and sending pre-industrial motes of carved stone blooming into the air.
The Silhouette crouched defensively over Mr. Amazing, still curled upon the floor.
The Raven gawked, his eyes bulging from the eyeholes in his mask.
The Puppet, grinning insanely, clearly no longer a master of his own mind, gestured wildly. "Behold my master...behold the master of the world! Behold Rath-Det!"
Emerging from the hollow of the open sarcophagus, momentarily lost in a swirl of ancient dust like a ship breaching a bank of fog, a figure arose.
The Silhouette felt her heart slam wildly against her ribs as a shape fully seven feet tall loomed. The dust dissipated, its curling tendrils fading, revealing a giant of a man swathed in dirty wrappings, arms outstretched as if to hug all of reality to his bandaged breast.
She sucked in a frightened gasp as she viewed his face.
The wrappings had fallen away, revealing hollow, dessicated skin, and ragged teeth jutting crookedly from a lipless mouth. His eyes were black pinpicks in white caking, nestled in hollow caverns. His laugh was something she would take to her grave. Perhaps literally, she realized.
"I...live...again," he roared, his voice like tin cans being dragged over macadam. "I...Rath-Det!"
She shuddered, but thought that 'live' might be an overstatement. Nonetheless, he was animated, and that was all that really mattered.
"Soon, my Lord," said the Puppet. "Soon the light of Ra will shine once more upon your noble brow."
Out of the corner of her eye, the Silhouette saw Mr. Amazing slowly rise to his knees, only just recovering from the tremendous effort of will it had required to throw off the Puppet's control. She heard his sharp in-take of breath as he regarded the creature that called itself Rath-Det. Then Mr. Amazing, not quite sure of the circumstances after his recent ordeal, perhaps even unsure where he was, uttered the only words a man dubbed 'the Spirit of Decency' could -- words of compassion.
He said to Rath-Det, "Are you O.K., fella? You don't look well."
* * *
Kid Gloves choked on blood from a smashed lip as more of the Puppet's puppets tackled him, slamming him back against his own sonic car. His fists gleamed with gold, and he spared a glance at his gloves. He could start swinging, but it had gone beyond just laying out a few unrulies; they were tackling a mob. Yet if he used the full, electro-magnetically enhanced power of his gloves, he would hurt someone. Badly. But it was rapidly appearing that he had no choice.
In the war that was raging in Europe, these decisions were made all the time, he knew. Deciding who lived and who died, sacrificing a village here so that a town might be saved there. To stop the Puppet, must some of his victims be sacrificed? That was the logical thing to do, the calculated thing to do, maybe even the proper thing to do.
But he had donned this costume to be a hero, he knew. And heroes only had one benchmark by which to judge their actions: was it the right thing to do?
And the answer, as he looked into these wild, straining faces, some mouthing words, pleas for him to save them, was most definitely no. Either they all lived through this night, or none of them did.
Unfortunately, it was looking like the latter option.
"Rajah!" he wailed, fists pummeling him, crushing him to his knees. He glimpsed his bearded aide and mentor through the press of bodies, oddly stoic, as if resigned. They needed something akin to divine intervention, the Kid thought weakly.
And then the boom of thunder exploded on the street, the concussive force sending one and all tumbling. It was a sound the Kid recognized. He looked up from where he sprawled on the rain flooded sidewalk at a woman in a modified monk's robe, her face hooded.
Blacklight was on his feet first, facing the woman. He didn't quite know where she stood in all this. She had attacked them at the train station, but with an air of wrathful indignation that seemed incompatible with their assumption that she worked for the Puppet. Now she had unleashed her sonic boom, bowling over everyone, friend and foe alike, at a time when they were clearly at the disadvantage. She must have known it could do nothing but good for them.
"I think maybe we got off on the wrong foot earlier," he said tentatively, his words almost drowned beneath the wind and the rain. If he was wrong...
But then she nodded, curtly. "Oui," she said. "Dat is what I dink, as well."
Satisfied, he looked around at the people scattered like debris upon the road. Seeing the Dreamstalker in a crumpled heap, he went to him, while Kid Gloves dragged himself to his feet. Roberta had been halfway to the entrance, but now she was hurrying back to them.
The Kid, too weak to speak, tried to wave her back, encouraging her to press her advantage while she could and get inside. But she either did not understand him, or chose to ignore him. He cursed inwardly at her impetuousness. Already the Puppet's controlled army was rising -- she had had a momentary window, nothing more.
But then he realized that even if she made it inside, even if they all did, the mob would be right behind them.
"You are a scientist," Roberta said, coming to his side. "I know something about science." Whether she meant it as a joke, he could not say. After all, the robot girl was science. "Can we not disrupt the electronic signals that control these people?"
Battered and groggy, Kid Gloves looked at her. Through puffy lips he said, "No. The signal's too close to the brain, at too low a frequency." Though he was intrigued by the fact that she, of all of the Fellowship of the Midnight Sons, would think of it. After all, who would be more conscious of electronic signals than she?
But she shook her head. "Not the ones like Bartholomew Mortimer and Mr. Amazing -- the others. The ones still in control of their own thoughts, but not their bodies. Clearly they are being fed impulses from an outside source, or else how could they attack us?"
He stared at her, mouth agape. "Holy Mahoney! Of course! The Puppet's original control disks required someone to constantly feed them instructions. Someone within line of sight." He turned and threw open the door of his sonic car. "I think I've got something here to jam transmissions, but someone needs to find that controller."
Instantly, Roberta turned and leaped in one bound the distance to the Dreamstalker's side. She looked at Blacklight. "I will tend to the Dreamstalker," she said. "Find that controller -- fast."
Blacklight looked at her, then at the mob slowly closing in again. "You want fast?" And then he was gone, a blur of black light.
Blacklight did not know what exactly he was looking for, but clearly one of the figures in this controlled mob was not as controlled as he, or she, appeared. They'd have a device, something. He whirled in and out of the advancing army, desperately scanning hands for devices, faces for signs of self-control.
"Wh-what's happening?" stuttered the Dreamstalker, one eye swollen shut.
"It is not good, I'm afraid," said Roberta. "The woman the others mentioned, the Canticle, has bought us a momentary respite, but they're closing in again. And that light from inside the museum just taunts us, like a beacon, perpetually out of reach."
"Light?" repeated the Dreamstalker sluggishly. "Yes," he said, as if answering an unasked question, "yes, the light. Protect me," he said suddenly, command re-entering his voice. "Don't let anything break my concentration." He put one hand to his head, closing even his good eye.
Roberta looked around helplessly at the people shuffling closer, ever closer.
Preserving the Dreamstalker's concentration seemed like a very tall order indeed.
* * *
Swallowing her fear, the Silhouette made to launch herself at the revived Rath-Det. She was not quite sure what she could accomplish against a seven foot tall living mummy, but she knew she had to try.
But try was as far as it got. Her muscles locked, her brain felt cold. She wanted to scream as something crawled up her spine, as her arms, her fingers, felt like limbs no longer attached to her body -- or like experiences felt second hand.
With mounting horror, she realized that her body was no longer her own.
She trembled, but nothing more. She was frozen, like a doll, awaiting her owner's pleasure. Nor did she even wondered from whence came this power, this personality overriding hers. She knew she was staring directly at him. She was in Rath-Det's power -- the legends were true.
She could just barely control her eyes and, straining, she managed to look around the room. The Raven was standing, rigid, as though at attention. Likewise, Jerry, the Puppet's flunky, stared blankly at the three thousand year old pharaoh.
The Puppet continued to laugh wildly, the heavy duty lights gleaming off his sweaty cheeks. He turned to Rath-Det, and bowed, waving his top hat before him with a flourish.
"My Lord, Rath-Det, welcome to Toronto -- welcome to the first stepping stone on the road to global conquest!"
Next: One way or the other, it ends. You won't want to miss it.
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