A group of three people, with another in tow, flew low and fast across the icy surface of Antarctica. In the lead was Golden Dragon.
The cold air zipping through Dragon's hair made him think. "Why is it always Antarctica?" he muttered.
Shockwave, carrying Indigo in his arms, said, "Sorry?"
Dragon glanced over to Shockwave, not realizing he'd been heard. He was surprised anyone could hear over the racket that Red Dragon's boot jets were making.
"Just thinking out loud. I do that at times. Wondering why Antarctica figures into our lives so much."
"Well, speaking for myself, this is my first visit," Shockwave answered.
Dragon smiled. "I meant Wildside when I said we. It was one of the first places we visited when we were born, as it were, and it was where the world believed we had died. It was where we arrived on this world, to start a fight that would begin to end in the same place."
"Look," Indigo said, "No offense, but are you really Golden Dragon? You're a lot more..." she was about to say reasonable, but changed her mind and finished, "...philosophical."
"Things change," Dragon said softly. "No matter how much we might wish otherwise. Things change."
"Proximity alert," Red Dragon said calmly. Dragon noted that Shockwave shivered at the sound of his voice. He hoped that wouldn't become a problem.
Dragon's pleasant demeanor disappeared. "How many? ID them."
"Two Overseers, fifteen Guardsman."
"More than we figured," Dragon said. "But not much more. Stay with the original plan."
Red Dragon flew over and accepted Indigo into his arms. Seconds later, the two of them became invisible, not even appearing in Shockwave's motion sense.
"Full Combat Mode," Dragon intoned. His uniform responded, appearing from an other-dimensional space, a final gift from the Armorer before he had left the dimension. His costume was the familiar gold and black that he had last worn that fateful day in Antarctica almost fifteen years ago. Of course, the Armorer had made modifications. Two heavy guns were mounted, one on each shoulder hardpoint. A vast sensor array and computer were tied into the helmet. The uniform also provided some necessary armor and flight speed. Dragon wasn't as young as he used to be.
For his part, Shockwave called his force field around him, causing a slight shimmering in the nearby air. Adrenaline rushed through his body. As a doctor, he hated fighting, but he knew that the thrill of combat was an all-too-human response. In this instance, he went with it.
Before the Overseers could lock on with their long range weapons, Dragon and Shockwave both used a burst of speed to fly in closer. Shockwave's was a burst of youthful energy, Dragon's was a burst of jellied fuel shot into leg-mounted turbines, but the effects were the same. They rocketed to close range with the troops before anything else could happen.
Dragon opened fire with his two guns, one firing a burst of explosive shells, the other a beam of pure energy. They struck one of the Overseer robots at a split-second interval. Each attack penetrated, but just barely. Dragon's helmet readouts confirmed his fears.
"These robots don't have the force field weakness!" Dragon yelled. "Skip Plan Alpha, go to Skirmish plan! We'll have to hope the second team moves fast!"
Shockwave flew into the midst of the fifteen Guardsmen, who were flying in tight formation. They scattered like upset ducks, but fired upon Shockwave seconds later.
The energy hit Shockwave hard, punching through his force field and breaking at least two of his ribs. While they were concentrating, however, Dragon had time to get in close. He waded in and swept a massive arm through three of the distracted Guardsmen. A resounding clunk sounded from each one as they were propelled away from the battle with great speed.
Fighting to stay conscious, Shockwave spread an energy blast across the three Guardsmen on their way out while Dragon blocked return fire with his body. His blasts hit their marks effectively enough, and the destruction of the Guardsmen's boot jets ensured that they wouldn't return to fight anytime soon.
"Dragon, I can't take another hit," Shockwave yelled.
"Hang on, Shockwave! If we wander out of this group, those Overseers have a clear shot!"
Shockwave went into evasive maneuvers, twisting and turning throughout the Guardsmen. Their tracking systems still managed to follow him, and he took a couple of hits anyway, but his force field held back the major damage.
He watched as Dragon, shrugging off a point-blank burst of energy, knocked two of the Guardsmen's heads together and followed with a mid-air back kick against another. He fought like a master martial artist, not like the brawler Platinum and Vincent had always described him as.
As if to complement that thought, Dragon spun and narrowly missed being hit by another Guardsman's energy beam, then dove again to avoid yet another. He took two more, but seemed relatively unhurt.
The Overseers turned suddenly and aimed their massive hand cannons into the group. "Weakness Beta Confirmed."
Dragon fired another burst of his jets and grabbed Shockwave on the way out of the group. Behind them, both Overseers locked on and fired electrical beams that arced throughout the mass of surprised Guardsmen. They dropped to the frozen ground like paralyzed metallic flies.
Dragon spoke into his helmet communicator. "Nice job, team two. Ready for us to come in?"
"Door is open," came Red Dragon's voice.
Dragon floated over to Shockwave. "Set down for a second."
Shockwave obeyed, landing on the ground. Dragon landed next to him and ordered his combat mode dissolved. He placed his hands on Shockwave's injured ribs. Shockwave grimaced.
"Sorry. Nice work up there."
"You did all the work," Shockwave said.
"Hardly. I got the easy part. You took the hits that set them up and you finished them off. Nice work. Now hold still."
Dragon closed his eyes and concentrated, focusing his ki outward, shaping it into a healing energy. He felt the warmth in his palms extend out, beyond his body, into the body beyond his. He felt the broken ribs start to knit, felt the body's pain centers dull. He opened his eyes.
Shockwave rubbed his ribs, amazed. "Better, but how?"
"Ancient Japanese secret," Dragon said with a mock bow.
Chuckling, he floated up into the air and towards the now visible door into the complex below the ice. Shockwave floated after him.
"They were right about his sense of humor, at least," Shockwave said. "It stinks."
* * * * *
Cindy piloted the Victory right through the reinforced steel walls of the Ruler's Washington D.C. Headquarters. Overseer robots rushed out to meet the rebel forces.
From his vantage point in the sky, held aloft by Legionnaire, Vincent called out orders to the human rebels piloting the stolen Mecha. They coordinated and attacked Overseer robots, teaming up five on one. Given that they had had only a few minutes of warning that they would be participating in this attack, they were doing very well. Vincent looked beyond the wall of robots to see the complex. It seemed very far away.
"Hunter, can you handle these robots?"
"Roger that, Vincent. Go finish the mission."
"Good luck, Hunter," Vincent said. He nodded to Legionnaire. Legionnaire engaged his rocket pack and they flew past and over the Overseers. A few stray shots came their way, but mini-energy shields deflected them.
"Nice suit," Vincent remarked.
"Yeah, dad really knew how to build them," Legionnaire responded.
They landed at what tactical plans had marked a back door. While Legionnaire watched to make sure no Guardsmen were sneaking up, Vincent used his sword to begin hacking through the door. It had been determined earlier that this method was faster than using Legionnaire's security overrides.
When the first cut sliced a hole in the door, green gas began to pour out of the holes. Vincent sniffed it, shrugged, and kept slashing away. A clear plastic cup formed over Legionnaire's mouth and nose.
Two minutes later, Vincent had cut a hole big enough for them to crawl in through. Legionnaire formed a small metal ball out of the material of his armor and tossed it into the hole. From inside, there was a massive explosion, and a jet of flame shot out of the hole towards the two rebels. They simply stepped out of the way.
"That ought to do it," Legionnaire said. He squeezed his way in through the hole. Vincent cast one last glance at the Mecha, engaged in battle with Overseer robots, and climbed in after him.
In the hallway, two Guardsmen were down with severe burn marks all over their armor. Legionnaire had a huge grin on behind his gas mask.
Vincent took the lead, running down the massive steel corridor. Using the map he had memorized, he made every turn sharply, letting his blade precede him into every new corridor. Finally, they reached another door.
"This is too easy," Vincent said. "Dragon said there were over 100 Guardsmen at this base. We've seen two."
"Count our blessings?" Legionnaire offered.
"Go to Stealth Mode and stay out of the fight. You finish the objectives, okay?"
"Just go to Stealth Mode and follow the plan!"
Legionnaire shrugged and let his metallic form slowly drift into invisibility. Vincent checked with his radar to make sure the cocky youth was using full cloaking and, when satisfied, he slashed once at the door.
The door slid open to reveal a massive room, packed with Guardsmen. Some were flying just above the heads of those standing in rows, others flying just above those. They all fired their blasts out into the hallway.
Vincent had already moved, and their blasts struck empty air. He let out a breath of relief, realizing that Legionnaire hadn't stayed there either. Vincent tore off down the corridor. Behind him, he heard the Guardsmen beginning to give chase.
Loyal to a fault, Vincent thought, but dumb.
Outside, the battle was turning against the rebels. Half of their Mecha had fallen to the Overseers' guns or fists, and well over thirty Overseers remained. Cindy used the Victory to wade between her surviving Mecha, taking shots for them and returning fire with the Victory's much heavier guns. Still, she knew they couldn't hold out for much longer.
Inside, Legionnaire flew cautiously into the room, swerving around the remaining Guardsmen. There were still well over thirty in the room. He saw the console they had been expecting on the far wall. Five Guardsmen stood right by it.
"Run Argent Protocol," he said. His voice was masked to everyone but his internal computer, which responded, "Running."
Molecule thin wires, invisible to the naked eye, extended from his suit and into the console. A display came up on Legionnaire's headset. It showed a menu of options, but they were written in complete gibberish. "System cracked, but it is still encoded," his computer said. "Stealth Mode at 80% and degrading. Now fully visible to enhanced scent."
Legionnaire held his breath, closed his eyes and then said, "Simultaneous Metahuman Duplication. Argent Protocol and Red Dragon System Codes."
"Stealth Mode at 75% and degrading. Protocol and System Codes loaded. I wish to go on record as saying this is a bad idea."
"Whatever," Legionnaire said. The menu cleared up on his headset, and he could now read them. He didn't understand half of what it said, but he didn't have to. "Load Custom Virus Denouement One."
His system loaded the prepared virus and shot it through replicated nanites into the Ruler's computer. After the few minutes that it took them to reach the system, he watched as the menus started to move of their own volition. Alarm sirens began screaming.
"They're in the system!" one of the Guardsmen yelled. "One of them is in the room! Self-destruct!"
"Negate that self-destruct!" Legionnaire yelled. The last part of his voice escaped from the voice masking, and a couple Guardsmen turned their blasters in his direction.
"Stealth Mode will be shut down. We can't..."
"Just do it!" Legionnaire screamed. "Maintain self-destruct lock until virus runs its course! How long could it take?"
Legionnaire appeared, floating in the center of the room. The Guardsmen's blasters all began to fire. Before he lost consciousness, he heard his computer say, "Twenty seconds."
Vincent was still running down the corridors at top speed. He managed to slide under one blast door as it closed behind him, but was stopped when another landed in front of him. He was trapped in a small metal room. From the other blast door, he could hear the Guardsmen's welding torches cutting through. "Well, I guess I get to die again," he muttered.
A voice cut through his communications. "Vincent?"
"Sort of. This is the computer. Legionnaire is unconscious. I'm using force field at near full strength, but he can't hold out much longer."
"Did you plant the virus?" There was a spark as a circle of light began to appear in the door.
"Yes. It has five seconds left to run its course. Field integrity..." There was a sound of static and the voice cut out. Vincent tapped his comm.
"Cindy, set all Mecha reactors to blow and tell your troops to activate Enigma's prepared escape. Quick! 4, 3, 2, 1..."
The metal circle fell out and blasts ricocheted throughout the trap. The Guardsmen were surprised to find the trap empty. Then an enormous explosion sounded, rocking the entire building. Those outside watched as all the surviving Mecha went up in a ball of fire, taking most of the Overseers with them.
And in a computer terminal in the base that even the Guardsmen didn't know how to find, an LED indicator read, "Orbital Fortress Selected. All other channels locked out."
* * * * *
In a flash of crimson light, three forms materialized. Behind them, a glass window gave a view of space.
Enigma looked in both directions, making sure there were no guards at their arrival point. She began to walk down the corridor, her metallic boots not even making a click. Platinum and his sister followed her just as silently.
They moved along the corridor, passing windows that looked out into space. Finally, they reached one that overlooked the Earth.
"This is the right direction," Enigma said over her mind link. She turned the other way and began feeling for a door in the featureless metal wall. A sharp click told her she had found it. A ten-number keypad slid out of the wall. Enigma tapped in the entry code she had gotten from one of the earlier raids against the Ruler's intelligence forces.
The wall slid away, revealing a corridor within the wall. Unlike the other they had been walking along, this corridor had wood paneling and fine art on the walls. They slipped inside and closed the wall behind them, plunging them into darkness. Enigma let a ball of red light form in her fist, illuminating their section of the hallway.
They crept along the hall. Enigma focused her energy into extending a cloaking shield around all three of them, blocking them from any security scans the Ruler's Orbital Fortress might hold.
Finally, they reached a door. It had a retina scanner, a palm scanner and something else that none of them were familiar with.
"How will we get in?" Platinum thought to the team.
"We'll have to wait on that," Enigma replied. "In the meantime, spread out. We have preparations to make."
* * * * *
Dragon and Shockwave entered the door into the Antarctic compound. The door slammed shut behind them, echoing throughout the steel halls. A hiss of vapor rose as the heating system desperately tried to cope with the influx of sudden cold.
Red Dragon was physically plugged into the wall by a socket in his neck. There was a squeal and a sound of static as he inputted the final series of commands into the base computer and logged out. The socket withdrew from the wall and back into his neck like an artificial serpent.
Indigo was patching up two Guardsmen, trying to clear away the blood-soaked bandages she had been using on their eviscerated chests. Shockwave rushed to help, but it was clear they were fighting a losing battle.
"Dragon, can't you help them like you did me?" Shockwave asked.
Dragon was looking down the hallway, where another Guardsmen was embedded in the wall. He looked down at the two wounded.
"I can't heal those whose spirits are badly damaged. Those who serve the Ruler are too corrupt for me to aid," Dragon said sadly.
To Red Dragon he said, "Alex, I thought I had warned you about killing. You're supposed to be better than that."
"Killing these men was a mercy," Alex answered. "The Ruler had taken their lives away from them when he implanted his control chip. I simply sent them to where their souls could be reborn."
"No more killing," Dragon said emphatically. Alex shrugged.
"Damn it. Okay, Indigo, Shockwave, let's move. There's nothing you can do for them, you know that."
Shockwave got right into Dragon's face and yelled at him. "Vincent was right! Golden Dragon would never be so callous about two men being killed! You're not him!"
Dragon took in a deep breath and locked his eyes with Shockwave. "After the horror that men like this have inflicted on this world, horror that I helped to cause, you want me to feel pity for them? I pity their victims. I'm sorry that these two were killed. It is not what I would have chosen. But I have a mission, and I will not let grief over the death of two evil men lead to another fifteen years' worth of death and slavery for this world."
He paused to let that sink in. Then he finished, "And neither will you. Are we clear on this?"
Shockwave stared angrily, but didn't respond. Finally he turned his eyes away. Dragon turned to Alex.
"No more killing. Period."
Before Alex could respond, he walked down the hallway. His team followed him. He held his hand up to stop and looked around.
"Traps," he muttered. "Shockwave?"
Shockwave focused his vibratory energies down the hallways, triggering each motion sensor. Two dead weights fell ahead of them, blocking their path. They heard a burst of lasers from up ahead. And deadly nerve gas was released into the room.
Dragon inhaled deeply, taking all of the gas into his lungs before it could affect his team. Alex formed a metal canister from the center of his body and Dragon blew the gas into it, containing it safely.
"Good. Indigo, Alex, help me lift this first dead weight."
Using their combined strength, they managed to lift the weight long enough for Shockwave to move through to the other side. Red Dragon was first to let go of the weight, putting an incredible strain on Indigo and Dragon. The dead weight began to come down again.
"Go," Dragon said to her. "Quickly."
Indigo began to protest, but realized that if she refused, they would both be crushed. She let go and rolled out of the way, all in one motion.
Dragon yelled out as the full weight pressed down on him, pushing his arms down. Indigo and Red Dragon both caught the outer edge, helping him hold it just above his head.
Dragon let go and flew out from under the dead weight, seconds before it crashed into the floor. All three of the team panted heavily. They stared at the next dead weight.
"One more time," Indigo said weakly. They walked forward to lift that one as well.
Once they were past the dead weight, they saw the lasers crisscrossing, setting up a web of deadly energy. Red Dragon moved into the center of it. The lasers began to pour into him, but instead of penetrating his skin, he absorbed the energy, creating a clear zone around himself. The others moved quickly through. Finally, the energy build up was too much. Red Dragon stepped out of the lasers and focused all of his condensed energy through the beam projectors in his eyes. In one enormous burst, the energy struck the massive metal door in front of them. His burst burned for nearly two full minutes before his energy reserves were exhausted. There was a hole, roughly one foot deep, in the door. But it still wasn't deep enough to penetrate.
"All right, people," Dragon said. "Let's get to work."
They hammered at the door, each in their own way. Indigo and Dragon pounded it relentlessly with haymaker punches and kicks. Shockwave vibrated his hands at superspeed and used them to saw at the holes that were being made. Red Dragon produced a molybdenum chainsaw from his left arm and cut away as well. Finally, after penetrating nearly three feet of metal, they found a hole. From there, it was short work.
When they finally cut a large enough hole for one of them to squeeze through, their efforts were mocked as the door slid open easily. Standing in the center of an otherwise plain room was the Ruler. He was dressed in his red armor, his cape flowing behind him. He had decayed already in this body. To Golden Dragon, he looked just like the scarred and hideous man he had dealt with in his home dimension.
"Come in," the Ruler said in a raspy voice. "I've been expecting you."
Behind the ruler, a concealed door in the wall slid open, revealing a cryogenic chamber with room for his body. "You can't stop me, you know," he said.
Red Dragon's eyes glimmered and the door slid shut again. "You taught me too well, 'father.' I know all your access codes. And we will stop you."
"Impudent whelp!" The Ruler unleashed a bio-energy blast from his eyes that struck Red Dragon in the chest. The cyborg was hurled back by the force of the blow into the wall of the chamber. Lubricant leaked from his cracked chest-casing.
Dragon moved in cautiously as Shockwave opened up on the Ruler with a vibratory blast, something the Ruler easily avoided. He returned fire with a plastic entangle which enveloped Shockwave. Shockwave began gasping for breath and trying to vibrate his hand through the plastic casing, but it simply bent around his hand.
Dragon had gotten close enough to the Ruler to strike, and he pulled out his katana and swung, intent on taking the madman's head off. Even in his weakened condition, the Ruler was fast enough to dodge the blow and return with a rib-shattering punch to Dragon's midsection that sent him flying back to the entry way.
"You've come here only to die! You should have stayed in your hidey-holes, protected by your precious Armorer's cloaking devices. I couldn't find you, and so I couldn't kill you. Now, here, I can do both."
As if to emphasize the point, the Ruler fired a bio-energy blast at the helpless Shockwave. The burst shredded his plastic cocoon, but sent him sprawling along the floor, gasping for breath and screaming in agony.
Red Dragon launched himself at the Ruler. As his hands contacted the surface of the armor, electricity began to course through the outer shell, passing through Red Dragon. He ignored the pain and grasped the Ruler's neck in both hands. He squeezed with all his might.
Dragon could hear the Ruler's neck popping. He checked to make sure Shockwave was going to live and then advanced on the Ruler with his katana.
"Fools," The Ruler gasped. "You haven't won."
"We've won this round," Dragon said, aiming the blade at the monster's forehead. "And you're the fool...robot."
With that, Dragon plunged his katana through the Ruler's head. He fell to the ground, but it wasn't blood that emerged from the wound. It was metal and shattered microchips.
Another wall panel slid open, revealing the badly decaying body of the Ruler. Red Dragon observed the many probes and wires hooked up to him and said, "It is done. The Body Switch has been completed."
"Well," Dragon said. "Now comes the hard part."
* * * * *
His eyes sprung open. He flexed his arm tentatively and found it strong once more. He looked down at his naked body and saw the perfection that was his right. He stepped from the cloning tank and out onto the bare marble floor. A holographic display in front of him was sending a technical readout for him to observe. Everything had gone well. All of the powers inherent in this genetically engineered body were on-line. His mind was fully assimilated.
A word from him brought his armor to him. It wrapped him like a metal blanket, giving him comfort and a sense of power. He reached out and took the helmet from its position in mid-air. Placing it on his head, he turned to face the door of the chamber.
"The Ruler has returned."
The door slid open. Enigma stood there, flanked by Mary and Platinum. They were all in their own fighting crouches, ready for an attack. The Ruler threw his head back and laughed.
"The three of you? Your commander is a bigger fool than I thought. Oh, no, wait, he probably planned for you to use your teleportation abilities to bring him and the others aboard, didn't he? Never thinking that I would have shielded this station against those abilities? Never thinking that I let the three of you in so I could kill you?"
Enigma didn't respond. She just produced a box from the folds of her cloak and held it out in front of her. The Ruler's laughing stopped. He fired a bio-energy blast at Enigma, but it struck her a second after she pushed the single button on the box.
As Enigma flew back into the wall behind her, explosions began to sound around the station. Carefully planted explosives destroyed each and every one of the Ruler's jamming devices. Enigma glowed red, healing the damage the blast had done to her and activating her stored reserves of power on Earth.
Those stored reserves glowed inside the two men who carried them. Seconds later, Golden Dragon and Vincent appeared next to Enigma. Cindy Hunter, Indigo, Shockwave, Red Dragon and Legionnaire appeared with them. Enigma's energy flowed over all of them, and when its caress had subsided, they were all fully healed and prepared to do battle.
In a blur of motion, the Ruler crossed the room. He swung his armored fist at Red Dragon, connecting and sending the cyborg flying out of the room and into the corridor beyond.
Before he could move back, Enigma struck him with an energized katana. It sliced through his armor, leaving a smoking crack in his arm. She watched the burnt flesh heal even as he flew back out of range. He lifted himself into the air, firing a wide-spread energy burst at the entire group. Cindy Hunter dove out of the way, and Vincent dove into the room, but everyone else was caught in the blast. Platinum and Mary Ochiro were both left lying on the floor, unconscious. Shockwave and Indigo both felt the effect through their natural defenses. Dragon and Enigma stood, untouched.
Vincent leaped at the floating figure, swinging his sword in an arc at the Ruler's neck. The Ruler ducked, managing to deflect the sword with the shoulder pad of his armor, which went up in an explosive burst. Vincent flipped in mid-air and landed on the other side of the room.
"Choke," the Ruler said, looking at Cindy Hunter. A metallic clamp appeared from the armor and zoomed in at her neck. It clamped onto her throat, and she began to gasp for breath.
The Ruler turned his attention to Vincent and suddenly stopped moving. Legionnaire thought to Dragon, through the mind link Enigma had established. "I've got him, but not for long."
"Have Red Dragon reinforce," Dragon responded. He flew in towards the Ruler, with Enigma running closely behind. Indigo charged as well. Enigma and Indigo leaped just as Golden Dragon connected with a haymaker. The combined force of the blow split the Ruler's chestplate and sent him careening into the far wall. He landed on his feet. The wall behind him wasn't scratched, although his armor was all but demolished.
"Problem," Legionnaire said. "That hit took out his armor's cybernetic links. I've got no control anymore."
"Enter combat mode," Dragon thought back to him.
The Ruler shrugged off his armor's chestplate, revealing a bare and muscled chest. Trying to regain his bearings, he let loose with a flash pulse from his hand. Only Indigo, without any means of defense, was affected. Dragon and Enigma came in at the Ruler again and combined with a powerful kick and punch combination to his head. His helmet went flying against the other wall.
The Ruler howled and punched Golden Dragon. Dragon nearly crashed into Vincent after the power of the blow crushed him against one of the walls. Enigma dodged the Ruler's follow up attack as Vincent ran past again and cut with his sword.
Shockwave flew into close range and started to vibrate his hand at high speeds. Dragon, recovering from the Ruler's punch, yelled out, "No! Get back!"
The warning was too late. A burst of bio-energy from the Ruler's eyes tore through Shockwave's force field as if it wasn't even there. The bones in his chest were laid bare, and he screamed horribly before falling mercifully unconscious.
Empowered by this brutal shot, the Ruler produced a blade of pure radiation and swung out at Enigma, who did a series of four backflips back to the entrance to avoid him. She locked eyes with Cindy and commanded, "Get ready."
Cindy nodded and focused her mental powers on the Ruler, firing a burst into his mind. At the same time, an energy tendril from Enigma lowered his natural defenses. The bolt struck home, crashing into the Ruler's undefended mind like a hammer. He cried out and fell to the ground, momentarily stunned.
The team took advantage of that moment to move in closer. Dragon flew in and threw a solid kick to the Ruler's head. Vincent slashed his sword across the throat, causing a large rip which began to heal almost as it was made. Red Dragon, having entered the room again, focused his life-draining energy matrix and began to suck life energy from the Ruler. Legionnaire took advantage of the time to create a medical computer from the substance of his armor and attach it to Shockwave. It immediately began patching his wounds.
Enraged, the Ruler let loose a burst of bio-energy from his entire body. It ripped through everyone, causing intense pain directly to their nerve structure. Only Indigo, because of her body's mutant physiology, was unaffected. Recovering from her blindness, she swung a punch at the Ruler which connected, but had little effect. He backhanded her, sending her out of the room.
The Ruler stood up and walked to Shockwave. He aimed his hand at Shockwave's head and prepared to fire. His arm was wrenched back behind him by Golden Dragon. Red Dragon grabbed the other arm and held it the same way. Legionnaire created a metallic clamp which slid into place over the Ruler's eyes, blocking his deadly bio-energy beams. Before he could throw them all off, Enigma moved in and fired a burst of red energy at the Ruler. As she did so, his healing process slowed. The wound in his throat remained a thin line instead of healing to nothingness.
The momentary respite was over as the Ruler brought both his arms together, knocking the two Dragons into one another. He ripped the mask from his face and threw it at Legionnaire, tagging the armored youth and dropping him, unconscious and with a gash in his side, to the cold marble floor.
Vincent reached into his sash and pulled out a hypodermic needle. He glanced at Enigma, who sent the thought, "His healing factor is down. Do it."
Vincent stabbed the hypo into the Ruler's bare chest, injecting the contents before being grabbed and thrown, hard, against the wall. He landed and didn't move.
"Enough!" The Ruler cried. He fired a bio-energy blast at Indigo, knocking her off her feet and into unconsciousness. Turning, he fired again, a different blast which struck Golden Dragon and immobilized him. His giant frame glowed with white energy.
Another thought, and the entire room was flooded with radiation emitted from the Ruler's body. Enigma and Cindy Hunter dropped to the floor, severely burned. Finally, he gazed at Red Dragon.
"The most powerful of my creations. You were to be my Lieutenant after Menton's unfortunate demise. And yet you turned against me. And the worst betrayal, my son, the worst betrayal in my mind, is that you thought so little of me. You thought so little of me that you didn't even consider that I might have a device to destroy you."
"Your overconfidence has always been your weakness," Red Dragon replied. "Your device has been blocked for the longest time by the Armorer's technology. In fact, he even replicated it."
The Ruler rubbed his skin where Vincent had jabbed him with the hypodermic. He fired a bio-energy burst at Red Dragon just as Red Dragon finished saying, "And if worst came to worst, he told me how to activate it."
Red Dragon went up in a fiery burst from inside, the destruct signal racing through his mechanical innards. The Ruler felt the same change begin inside himself.
He concentrated all of his innate power into removing and neutralizing the device. For minutes he struggled. Golden Dragon broke free of his paralysis. Enigma woke up from her unconsciousness. Indigo, Platinum and Legionnaire rose from their prone positions. Finally, the Ruler collapsed, unconscious. He was severely damaged, but alive. Red Dragon was nothing, a pile of burnt microchips and flesh.
Enigma walked over to the unconscious tyrant and sent a single tendril of red energy into his mind. Then she extended more, until she sat like a spider in the midst of her energy web. Power flowed visibly through the tendrils.
Dragon walked over to the mechanical ruins of Red Dragon. Legionnaire stood behind him.
"I knew it could end this way," Dragon said sadly. "But I had hoped it wouldn't."
"Dragon..." Legionnaire began.
"Check on the others," Dragon interrupted. "This is private."
Enigma floated above the Ruler, sucking energy from him. Legionnaire confirmed that Vincent was dead, but everyone else had pulled through. Shockwave had severe damage to his body which might never fully heal, and Cindy Hunter had horrible radiation burns, but everyone else seemed relatively all right.
It was a full hour before Enigma began to withdraw the energy tendrils. She floated to the ground in front of the Ruler.
"I've eliminated his powers," she said.
"Forever?" Dragon asked.
"They will not surface again for 100 years. His body will age and die long before that time."
White light began to fill the room. A glowing form appeared and condensed into Samsara. He looked around and nodded. "It is done."
He moved in between the frozen forms, taking advantage of the time stop he had indulged himself in. He observed the damage done to his troops and to those of the home dimension. Unable to directly heal them, he took the next best thing. He advanced time to allow them to heal themselves.
Golden Dragon looked at the figure who had suddenly entered the room.
"We've met, haven't we?"
"Yes, Golden Dragon. I am Samsara."
Vincent groaned and sat up. "Did we win?"
Dragon started and looked over at Vincent. "Have you started healing a lot faster since last I saw you?"
"No," Samsara answered. "I have advanced time. You were all in stasis for two days."
Dragon's first reaction was to look for the Ruler. He was awake, but chained to the wall.
The others all began to get up, except for Shockwave. Indigo looked up at Samsara.
"Can't you help him?"
Samsara shook his head. "No. His wounds will be healed with much time, if at all. Magical aid will not help."
A glowing portal of light opened in the center of the room. Samsara gestured to it. "Come, now that I have found you, you should return. There is another storm coming."
Indigo carried Shockwave through the gate. Legionnaire walked over to Samsara.
"Listen, do you know if my father is still alive over there?"
Samsara nodded. "I know all there is."
Legionnaire waited a few moments and then said, "Well?"
"Your father still lives."
Legionnaire grinned. "That's all I needed to know."
He dove through the portal before anyone could make a move. Golden Dragon yelled, but Samsara raised his hand to stop him.
"All is as it should be."
Vincent walked over and shook hands with Dragon. "You were right, Dragon. You pulled this one off. I'm glad I trusted you."
"I'm glad you got the chance," Dragon said.
Vincent stepped through the portal. Golden Dragon, Cindy Hunter and Enigma stared at one another. Platinum, looking around the room, observed the scene of the battle. His sister walked by his side.
"I have missed a glorious battle," he said. He walked over to the portal and bowed to Samsara, then stared at Golden Dragon.
"Are you coming with us?"
Dragon lowered his eyes. "I...can't. The Ruler is defeated, but someone has to imprison him. Someone has to help these people back on their feet. Someone has to stop the Overseer robots."
Enigma laid a hand on Dragon's shoulder. "That someone is me. You have a family at home, Dragon. For all these years, you've wanted to go back to them. You need to go back to them. Go."
"What about you?" Dragon asked.
"My family ties are severed," she responded.
Dragon embraced her and whispered something into her ear. Turning, he put his arm around his children and walked with them through the gateway.
Cindy Hunter looked at Samsara and then at Enigma. "You're staying here? What about me?"
"I cannot be what you need," Enigma answered. "I'm sorry."
Cindy turned to the portal and walked through. Just before she entered, she heard Enigma's voice in her mind.
"Say hello to your father for me."
Samsara prepared to step through his portal, but Enigma stopped him.
"You're lying," she said simply. "You knew where they were shortly after Azathoth scattered them. You manipulated them to one place and sent them into this dimension so that they could fight this battle."
Samsara didn't answer. He just waited for her to continue.
"I don't mind that. We needed their help. But they should know. Especially Cindy."
Samsara said, "David Hunter already knows, and is planning to tell his child."
"That doesn't upset you?" Enigma asked.
Samsara smiled as his portal closed and he disappeared.
"All is as it should be."