It had been four days since last he had slept. The blaster known as Spinja was hot on the trail of the Skull known as Bonebreaker, yet each time the fiend’s dark magic had kept him at bay. As he sprinted through the dark alleyways of Kings Row, he found himself reflecting on the events of the past few days.
He had recently busted a Superadine ring in Steel– apparently the Skulls were trading it to the Trolls in exchange for magical artifacts that were increasing their necromantic abilities. To his horror, Spinja had found a tome detailing some of the very ritualistic practices that the Circle of Thorns and other such gangs employed. If the Skulls were trafficking in this kind of equipment….
But Bonebreaker had attacked and stolen the tome. Spinja, infuriated by having been caught unawares, had vowed that he would not be taken a second time. He had hunted him relentlessly, tracking him all through the streets of Paragon. Now, it seemed, Bonebreaker’s luck had at last run out.
As he entered the building, Spinja felt an uncanny sense of being watched. He scanned the room, looking for any sign of the Skulls, but he detected nothing.
“I know you’re here,” he said to the darkness. “Show yourself now, if you wish to fight.”
“Stand down, hero,” rasped a voice from the shadows. “My quarrel is not with you.”
From the shadows a figure revealed himself briefly. Shadowking, as it turned out, was hunting villains of his own, and had tracked down a number of the Circle of Thorns to this very location. Concerned that the two gangs might be organizing a much greater threat to the city than either was aware individually, they agreed to watch each other’s back until they found out what was happening. Unbeknowst to them, both of them were being watched by another. The Anointed knew that a greater power was at work than either the Skulls or the Circle, and that his healing aid would be needed before the night was done.
As the pair travelled down the hallways, they grew uneasy with the silence. Corridor after corridor turned up not a single criminal… unusual, to say the least. A pale green light flickered in the distance, but otherwise nothing seemed amiss. The green light grew stronger as the corridors grew darker, enshrouding the heroes in its viridian glow. With growing uneasiness, they realized that this was the telltale glow of the Circle, yet far too strong to be any small gathering.
When at last they emerged, they found themselves in a massive chamber where a veritable pillar of emerald smoke climbed from floor to ceiling. But instead of the usual worshippers, they found only the mutilated remains of its members, intermingled with the corpses of Skulls. The blood was still wet… whatever had happened was very recent.
“Spinja, so we meet again,” came a familiar voice.
“No, you fool. I am so much more now than what you could ever imagine!”
The figure bore only a passing resemblance to the powerful Skull that Spinja had fought before. His entire body writhed with a hideous power, and the green glow emanated from every pore of his body.
“Now you shall know my true power! Now your pathetic life shall be put to an end!”
Spinja launched a powerful blast of energy while Shadowking unleashed the fury of the storm, but their assaults only seemed to intensify the glow. Then the glow erupted into a fiery blaze, enveloping the figure in an inferno as it grew twice, thrice, four times its original size. The hideous skull was the only recognizable feature of the monster– the pulsating green aura warped and twisted its entire body, distorting it until it bore a horrifying resemblance to the Balors of mythos. And it was laughing.
“You seem perplexed by my new state,” it continued. “Where did I get such power, you are asking yourselves? Why are all these bodies so horribly destroyed? What dark force could be at work here?”
“You don’t frighten me, Bonebreaker,” retorted Spinja. “Whatever force is at work here, I plan to put a stop to it here and now!”
“I destroyed them myself,” it went on, ignoring the response. “Each and every one of them. They brought me power. But only through his power was it possible. His power. He gave it to me. And now I will use it to destroy you!”
“Oh shut up already, you overgrown piece of monkey maggotry!” shouted a voice from above. “I’m gonna stick this sword so far up in y’all it’s gonna tickle your throat!”
The monster looked up just in time to see a masked figure dropping from the ceiling, a katana slashing wildly right in its face. Roaring in pain, it reached up to grab at its new assailant, only to receive a powerful blast in the arm from Spinja. Shadowking reacted by cloning the assailant with several phantom copies, distracting the beast while the attacker continued to slash away at its skull.
With an inhuman screech, the demon unleashed an inferno of green fire, sweeping the entire arena in diabolical energies. The katana-wielding assailant was blasted to the far wall; Spinja and Shadowking were barely able to get to cover in time. It was then that the Anointed decided to make his appearance.
Bringing forth the mighty energies of his healing, he brought strength and fortitude to the heroes in their dire battle. Empowered by their newfound strength, the quaternity redoubled their attack with a fury matched only by the unholy strength of their demonic assailant.
The battle raged back and forth– hellfire and dark magic clashed with sword, energy, illusion, and storm. The entire infrastructure of the building shook with the unleashed power. Yet for all their efforts, the heroes grew weary, and their opponent showed no signs of failing.
In the darkest hour, one last hero came into the fray– one whose dark magic rivalled the creature’s own, but one whose healing power brought the endurance they needed to keep up the fight. Now surrounded, the demon found itself besieged on all sides, no longer able to deal with a single front, and it was beginning to falter. Seeing his nemesis failing, Spinja brought his leadership to bear, rallying the heroes to a unified assault simultaneously. Under their combined might, the beast was at last destroyed, exploding in a blazing cataclysm of emerald energy.
When the carnage at last was done, the heroes knew that what they had witnessed could only be a part of some greater scheme, and all agreed that they would best thwart such powers together rather than disparately. Thus were the founding fathers united– Spinja, Shadowking, The Anointed, Darkest Light, Goemon– to form the supergroup known as Rustproof. New heroes moved to join their ranks, but much of their story as yet remains unwritten. What role will you play?
To be continued….