Once Ryan, Alexa, and Talmadge departed, Buddy and Zero were left staring at the impossible task in front of them.
“Well, chum,” Zero said, cracking the knuckles still left on his right hand in anticipation, “how do you suppose we start this epic battle for the safety of mankind? I’ve got a whole new arsenal of tricks I can’t wait to test out.”
“I think we simply need to keep these guys from finding whatever they’re looking for. Any ideas?”
“It doesn’t make use of any of my new parts, but I have been working on a new technique,” Zero grinned brightly, “that I’ve been wanting to test out in the field.”
“Will it be big enough to distract them all?”
“There’s only one way to tell,” Zero said, his face showing his eagerness.
“Hey, you know me,” Buddy laughed. “I’m always up to try something new.”
“That’s something I don’t believe I do know about you, chum.”
“Whatever, just do it already.”
“Alright,” Zero said as he closed his eyes. “Here goes nothing.”
The air trembled around Zero as his body turned a deep shade of purple. He rose into the air slowly, a tempest crashing around him as a purple cloud appeared around the periphery of the distant army. Slowly, the cloud gained definition and became a spherical wall, which slowly shrank, pulling up a layer of earth as it closed in on the members of the enemy force. As the circular object became smaller, the meta-human army within reacted violently, like hornets. They turned their energy toward breaking the ball which closed in on them. The interior suddenly resembled a chemical reaction, lightning bolts, flames, and a multitude of other powers being exhibited at large within.
Zero fell to the ground. Buddy ran to his side, making sure to take a brief glance over his shoulder to ensure the spherical prison still held their enemies in place. Zero’s eyes were closed. Blood began pouring out of his nose and ears and his body shuddered violently.
“Zero!” Buddy yelled, ineffectively attempting to rouse his comrade. “Wake up!”
Buddy spun on his heel as a loud explosion occurred behind him and saw a figure burst out of the ground. In a whirlwind, this new enemy rose into the air before it finally paused and stared at the floating orb.
The figure spun and turned its attention on Buddy and Zero, returning to a tornado of rage as it neared.
It stopped just before reaching its targets and as this unfamiliar woman landed and approached the downed heroes, her form morphed into the shape of Jeff, looking as enraged as ever as he hastily shortened the distance between them.
“How dare you?” he yelled. “How dare you come between me and my final reward, my birthright?”
“Jeff, calm down,” Buddy stuttered.
“I will not calm down,” Jeff screamed as he reached Buddy’s position and morphed into his doppelganger. He grabbed Buddy by the lapel and lifted him into the air. “And you will not succeed in defeating me this time.”
“That’s where you’ve got me wrong, Jeff,” Buddy stalled. “I don’t want to defeat you.”
“Don’t try and fool me, you insignificant speck. I know why you’re here. I know what you’re doing. I know you want the Mind Wipe Device for yourself.”
“The Mind Wipe Device?”
“Don’t play coy with me, Buddy,” Jeff snarled.
The sphere flickered briefly. Buddy looked down at Zero and saw his friend was still unconscious and looking worse for the wear. His skin was turning gray, his face sunken.
“Okay, Jeff,” Buddy forced a grin. “You caught me. I wanted the Mind Wiper for myself.”
“Ha!” Jeff laughed loudly. “You think you could possibly have better intentions for the device than I? I shall use it to rule the world, to shape the minds of every single person on the planet to my whim. With the power of the Mind Wipe Device, I shall finally have the one thing I truly desire.”
“Your father’s attention?”
“You’ve always thought you were so clever, haven’t you Buddy?”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“Shut up!” Jeff’s face grew red with rage. “Meta Mob!” he yelled. “Attack!”
Buddy laughed now. “Sorry, chief, they’re a little tied up at the moment.”
“You think something as simple as the orb of Kid Zero could stop my men from doing my bidding?” Jeff morphed into the shape of non-cyber-Zero. He closed his eyes briefly and the sphere shattered, freeing the army. Jeff morphed back into his own form. “You see, Buddy, I hold all the power. There’s nothing you, or anyone else, can do to stop me.”
A whistling noise sounded from above their heads, quickly becoming a loud squeal. Before Buddy could turn to look at what was arriving in their location, he felt the heat of a thousand suns on his back. He was blinded by a brilliant light filling the air as a loud krakakoom sounded all around them. The ground reacted violently to this new intrusion, causing both Jeff and Buddy to lose their footing.
Before they could return to their feet, a voice boomed through the early evening sky. “Why did you do this to me?” it screamed. “The pain, the torment. Why?”
“Damon?” Buddy asked quietly. His eyes adjusted to the increased lighting, but all he could see was a fireball with a ten-foot diameter, directly in the center of what had once been the Sun City Convention Center.
“You!” the flames yelled as they burned brighter.
“It’s time I took care of this idiot once and for all!” Jeff cried out, his form turning into that of Dominion’s. He immediately lit himself up and flew into the new threat. His army stood at attention. “This was supposed to be my day, Damon. My day!”
“What do I need of you, you insignificant speck?” the voice echoed. A tongue of fire flared out from the center of this earth-born sun and wrapped around Jeff, pulling him in.
A look of fear crossed Jeff’s face at this unexpected response. “Metas!” he yelled as he disappeared within the fire. “Extinguish the menace!”
Immediately the Meta Mob went to work throwing everything they could at the flames of Dominion. Ice, water, and wind melded together from the beings capable of producing such elements. Others searched for nearby offerings that they might be able to use in order to satisfy the fire with a sacrifice. Others still entered the flames directly. Buddy lost sight of them as they approached the edge of the brilliantly burning flames. He couldn’t help but hope they had some sort of protection against the heat inside the fire. From this distance, it appeared just as easily that they were instantly vaporized.
Around the periphery of the flames, he noticed the lights of emergency vehicles. At least the city’s services were in working order, although he couldn’t imagine there was anything they could do toward extinguishing the danger before them. He imagined firefighters attempting to douse the flames with their hoses and prayed they wouldn’t be stupid enough to venture in.
If only the MHDT weren’t so hell-bent on keeping themselves secret. Perhaps there’s something they could do to help. Of course, considering how likely they were to be connected to the Flores family, maybe it’s best they weren’t around.
He looked over to his companion and saw Zero open his eyes slightly. He ran to his side. “Zero, are you–”
“I’m fine, chum. Apparently my new bionic nature doesn’t change the fact that my powers do have the tendency to take their toll on me if overused. Have we saved the day yet?”
“How can I be of assistance?”
“Dude,” Buddy laughed lightly, “just relax. I’ve got everything under control.”
“Are you certain?”
“Certain, pal,” Buddy smiled.
“As long as you are certain,” Zero coughed, “then I suppose I may be willing to close my eyes for a time. Awaken me when the battle re-commences.”
“You know I will.”
Buddy walked closer to the fireball, squinting to see if he could make out anything of what was going on inside the flickering flames. He stood in silence for a while, noting that even Jeff’s minions had given up on their attempts to stop the fire and many of them were now doing exactly what Buddy was doing. Watching.
Alexa appeared next to Buddy with Ryan in the back of the rickshaw. “Buddy!” she said, “looks like you didn’t need us to find Damon or Jeff after all.”
“Nope, they both managed to find us.”
“What are they doing?” Ryan asked as he climbed out of the cushioned interior.
“Absolutely no clue.”
“Heard anything from Talmadge yet?” Alexa asked, staring in awe at the burning air in front of them.
“Nope, but I know what Jeff’s looking for.”
“Oh yeah?” Ryan asked. “What’s that?”
“The Mind Wipe Device.”
“What?” Alexa asked, breaking her stare to lock eyes with Buddy. “Artie has the Mind Wiper?”
“Jeff thinks he does.”
“How in the world did he get that?”
“Let’s just hope Talmadge finds it before anyone else. I’d hate to think what could happen if Jeff got his hands on that thing,” Ryan shuddered.
“Should I go in there?” Buddy asked.
“I’m certainly not,” Alexa replied.
“I’d think about it, but I’m not sure my suit can handle that kinda heat,” Ryan offered. “You sure you can?”
“I have no idea what my limits are,” Buddy answered, “but I haven’t found them yet, so there’s no reason to believe this would surpass them, right?”
“I guess,” Alexa said quietly.
“Alrighty,” Buddy said, stalling for time, “I guess that means I should go in there, then.” Buddy slowly walked toward the source of the fire.
The ground rumbled beneath them. Buddy sighed in relief and stopped to see what new disaster might await them.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Eight