Inside the vehicle, the sound of pounding against the walls was overpowering. Outside, the vehicle was covered the by evil minions Damon commanded, trying their hardest to enter the mobile encampment. The group covered their ears while talking.
“Buddy, that was freaking awesome, man!” Ryan yelled.
“What?” Buddy yelled back.
“I said, that was outrageous, dude!” Ryan yelled even louder.
“What’d he say?” Alexa yelled as she leaned close to Buddy.
“What?” Buddy yelled.
D.A.W.N.’s voice could be barely heard over the ruckus.
“Was that D.A.W.N.?” Zero yelled. “What did she say?”
“What?” Buddy yelled again.
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” D.A.W.N. said as the sound subsided. “I asked you if you would like me to turn on the noise cancellation software.
“Oh, yeah, that’d be great,” Buddy said.
“Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with all of you,” D.A.W.N. said, sounding disapproving.
“Wow, alright, so, is everyone okay? Anyone get hurt or anything?” Buddy asked.
“We’re all good, Buddy, just, you know, a little shaken up,” Ryan responded.
“I don’t know,” Zero disagreed. “I think I’ve got a bit more fight in me, if the need were to arise.”
“Well,” Alexa said slowly, looking out the view screen toward where Damon was, “it may just have arisen.”
The group turned to look and saw the altar was faltering, but Damon’s demons were holding it up. And in the center of it all, the crystalline structure Buddy had created around their enemy was now rising into the air and on fire. D.A.W.N. zoomed into the action.
“Ryan,” Buddy asked quietly, “isn’t that rock supposed to be flame resistant.”
“Um,” Ryan spoke. “Yeah. It is.”
“So, that right there. That’s a bad thing, right?”
“I’d say so, yeah.”
“This is wonderful,” Zero exclaimed. “I had thought our battle thus far had been too easy. I forgot all about the point in which the bad guy comes back and we have to put him down again.”
“Oh yeah, that part.”
“D.A.W.N.,” Ryan began anxiously, “where’s that device Carl had promised?“
“I’m teleporting it in right now, Ryan.”
Near the flying, flaming Damon-ite, a blue light appeared and a device morphed into existence in its place. Just as the device appeared, the rock cracked.
“D.A.W.N.,” Ryan spoke again, his voice cracking, “activate the device, please.”
The device lit up brightly and began spinning.
“So, anyone know what this device is supposed to do?” Buddy asked. The group looked at Ryan.
“Dude, even I couldn’t understand Carl when he was talking about it. I think it was something to do with thought suppression.”
“Well,” Zero started, “it better start suppressing.” The cracks in the rock became larger until a loud KRAKOOM was heard and Damon’s form appeared in the sky once again.
“D.A.W.N.,” Ryan said again.
“It’s activated, Ryan.”
“Then make it do something,” Buddy yelled.
Damon saw the whirling dervish that stood on his altar and with a flick of his wrist, threw a fireball at it, sending it out onto the road. It shattered as it hit the ground.
“Well,” Alexa spoke softly, “I guess that’s the end of that idea.”
“Don’t sound so discouraged, young Alexa. This is the fun part.”
“How is this the fun part?”
“Now we get to figure out what will work. I’m going to go try fists.” Zero was beaming from ear to ear as he began to make his way up the hatch.
“I think about the only thing that will work now,” Buddy said, “is to wait until he has to take a nap or something.”
“Oh, chum. Evil never rests. You know that.”
“Wait,” Alexa shouted. “Buddy might be on to something.”
“I am?” Buddy asked.
“Maybe,” Alexa turned to look at the computer panels on the side of the vehicle. “Ryan, is there any way to get a message sent out?”
“Of course there is, dear,” D.A.W.N. responded cheerfully. “Who would you like to talk to?”
“Can you get Special Agent Parker on the phone?”
“Parker?” Buddy asked.
“Do you have a plan of action, young Alexa?”
“Yeah, I think I do.”
“See,” Zero cheered. “I told you this was the fun part. So, what is it? Are we going to call the the army? The nukes? Biological warfare? What’s the plan?”
“I’ve got Agent Parker for you,” D.A.W.N. chimed.
Buddy covered his ears. The group looked at him. “Sorry, I’ve had bad experiences with Agent Parker in the past, I’d rather not hear his voice.”
“Umm. . . Buddy, Parker’s a mute, he can’t talk,” Alexa said quietly.
“Oh,” Buddy said.
“Okay, D.A.W.N., open the line.”
“Kent here,” Agent Kent’s voice sounded tense. “What do you want?”
“Kent, I need you to get a message to Parker for me as fast as you can.”
“He’s right here, Ms. Rose, what do you need?”
“You know Damon’s taken over Barber Street, right?”
“Of course we know, Ms. Rose. We’re the federal government, there’s nothing we don’t know about.”
“If you are aware of the battle, why are you not engaged in it?” Zero yelled. “Shouldn’t this be your fight?”
“We are currently working with the president on the Sun City situation. I’m not at liberty to discuss the options currently on the table.”
“Nukes?” Zero asked excitedly. The line was silent.
“I need you down here. Now. I’ve got an idea on how we can get rid of Damon without destroying the city.” Alexa sounded confident.
“I’m sure the president would be pleased if you could pull that off.”
“Great, can you use your little watch things to find our location?”
“I never said we were going to help.”
“Kent,” Alexa yelled, losing her composure, “we don’t have time for this crap. Get Duff on the line so we can settle this!”
“Sergeant Duff has much more important matters to attend to right now than the whims of some rich spoiled runaway felon.”
“Tell Sergeant Duff,” Ryan spoke with authority, “if I don’t hear his voice in the next 30 seconds, I’ll make sure my father gets him fired so quickly he won’t even have the chance to pack up his desk.”
“Yeah? And who the hell do you think you are?”
“This is Ryan Reed, son of Oscar Reed.”
“What do you want?” an angry voice quickly sounded on the line.
“Sheesh, Duff. I didn’t think you’d be able to break that easily,” Alexa laughed.
“Don’t you know, sis? Dad’s one of the president’s top advisers now.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Duff yelled into the phone. “What do you want?”
“I need you to send Parker down to our location immediately. I’ve got a way we can take care of Damon Memphis once and for all.”
“Fine,” Duff answered gruffly. “Is that it?”
“I could also use some water,” Zero added. The group looked at him. “What? It’s hot in here.”
The phone went silent and a loud popping noise filled the cabin. Agents Parker and Kent appeared.
“Here’s Parker, you better return him in the same shape you got him.” Kent spoke quickly and with another loud pop, he was gone.
“What’s up with him?” Zero asked.
“I don’t know, but whatever it is, Duff seems to be dealing with the same issue,” Alexa added.
“You still seem pretty calm, Agent Parker,” Ryan said. Parker nodded slightly. He looked at Alexa questioningly.
“Right,” Alexa began. “We should move quickly. Buddy said that every time he gets knocked out, he has a dream where he sees through Damon’s eyes.”
Agent Parker looked at Buddy for confirmation. Buddy nodded his head.
“She’s right. I can’t control him or anything, but I’m definitely hearing his thoughts.”
“Right,” Alexa continued. “So, with your goofy mind powers, Parker, I figured there might be something you could do that would allow Buddy to get inside Damon’s head and do some real damage.”
A smile spread across Agent Parker’s face and he nodded.
“So, I’m on the right track?” Alexa asked. “If you can get into Damon’s head through Buddy’s you can do the same thing you did when you re-wrote everyone’s brain?”
“Alexa, that’s–” Buddy started.
“Freaking brilliant!” Ryan interrupted. “It’s so freaking simple, I don’t know why I didn’t come up with it.” Zero patted her on the back with a look of pride on his face.
“Alright, so everyone agrees this is the plan, right? We conk Buddy on the head, take Damon out, and call it a day?”
“Sounds good to me,” Zero cheered.
“Wait a second,” Buddy began. “We’re doing what with me now?”
“Well,” Alexa answered, “Someone’s going to have to knock you out in order to get you and Damon connected, aren’t they?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so, but–”
“I thought you were a fan of the idea.”
“Well, I am, but–”
“Buddy does have a point,” Zero agreed. “It will take quite the person to knock him out now that it appears he is back to his full strength.”
“Right,” Buddy joined in. “So, who do we have that can actually get me unconscious?”
Parker raised his hand and smiled. He closed his eyes briefly, reopened them and stared deep into Buddy’s.
Buddy’s world went dark
He opened his eyes and found himself standing once again in the spotlight in the center of that dark room. He heard footsteps and Agent Parker walked into the light.
“Your lady friend developed a very impressive plan, Mr. Jackson. I have to admit, I was beginning to believe that the story of your return was going to have a rather depressing ending.”
“Yeah, well, you know, she taught me everything I know. But the real issue is, can you do it? Can you erase Damon’s memory?”
“But what about the Mind Wipe, couldn’t you do whatever you guys did then?”
“You flatter me, Mr. Jackson. My involvement in the Great Redaction was non-existent. Although I may share similar abilities with the device utilized to alter the public consciousness, my power is no where near as strong.”
“But you told Alexa you could do it. Why are we even here if you can’t do anything?”
“I didn’t say I couldn’t do anything. Tell me about this unconscious state you say you have been experiencing. Is it true you are actually able to see the world through Damon Memphis’ eyes?”
“Sure, for short little bursts. I mean, I think I can. It sure seems like it anyways.”
“And this only occurs when you are unconscious? You never hear his voice or see these images at other times?”
“Not that I remember, no. It’s only been happening for the last week.”
“Well, Mr. Jackson,” Agent Parker said with a sly grin, “He has only been back for about a week.”
“Right, duh. So, can you take him out?”
“I can’t make any promises.”
“Okay. So, how do we do this? I’m unconscious right? Shouldn’t we be in Damon’s brain already?”
“Oh, you are not yet unconscious.”
“Okay, so how do I get knocked out then?”
“Ah, that should be no trouble, Mr. Jackson. Allow me to begin the process by slowing your heart rate. You may feel a bit drowsy.”
“Wait, you can do that? Couldn’t you just go up and do that to Damon then?” Buddy asked, his brain beginning to feel mushy. “In fact, why do you even need me for this in the first place?”
“Mr. Memphis has found a way to shield his mind from people such as myself. However, with the special bond you two apparently share, we may have found the back door I have been looking for.”
“Heh, back door,” Buddy laughed stupidly. “Back door away,” Buddy spoke slowly as he felt his mind drifting.
Parker disappeared from view and Buddy sat alone in the spotlight. He fell to the ground and lay motionless. Another figure appeared above him, standing between him and the light. Buddy looked at the man who had placed him in the shadows. The man looked down. Malice shined off his teeth as he recognized the helpless man at his feet.
“Buddy Hero.” Damon laughed heartily. “Oh how the mighty have fallen. What better way to end your pitiful life than to have you at my feet.” Buddy felt the drowsiness dissipating. He lifted his head off the ground to look at Damon. He spit at his feet.
“You really are just like those bad guys in the comic books, aren’t you?”
“What makes you believe I’m the bad guy?”
“Your choice in clothing, for starters.”
“Enough,” Damon yelled. “I will take this mindless banter no longer.”
“I don’t know where you think you are, Damon, but you might want to take a look around. You’re in my domain now. I’m the one who gets to decide when the bantering is over.”
Damon laughed again. “Your domain? You mean to say you honestly believe you control this featureless plane of existence?” Damon laughed louder.
“Um, yeah,” Buddy replied. “Why? Do you know something I don’t?”
“Don’t you see? This is your hell. And I am your captor. This is my reward. I have completed what God requested of me and have now been allowed the one thing I wanted more than anything else, to exact my vengeance upon you for all of eternity.”
“But weren’t you supposed to destroy the whole world? By my count, you just got a small part of Sun City taken care of. And, honestly, you didn’t do too good of a job at that.”
Damon paused momentarily. “You are correct, Buddy Hero. I do not seem to remember actually completing my task. However, one does not question the acts of God.” Damon lifted his hands above his head and smiled grimly, his teeth glinting in the light. “Buddy Hero, welcome to your hell.” His smile slowly faded as nothing happened. He looked at his hands. “What sort of trickery is this?” Damon looked up and yelled. “Lucifer, I demand my vengeance!”
“Oh, this isn’t my hell, Memphis,” Buddy said as he stood. “It’s yours.” Buddy pulled his arm back and swung at Damon’s face. Damon flew through the air. “Welcome to the seventh circle.”
The light expanded as Damon flew and the area around them came into view. An entire world came to life around them. The familiar surroundings of Sun City grew up from the ground.
This Sun City was different. It was brighter somehow. Aside from the fact there was no visible destruction, this version of Sun City looked a lot more like the one he had seen on the film reel of his previous battle with Damon. Even the sky seemed bluer.
Buddy didn’t have long to reflect on this as Damon flew in from behind one of the buildings. He looked down at Buddy.
“What is your cohort, Lucifer, up to, Buddy? Why should he bring the deceit of days long dead back to the present?”
Buddy looked at Damon and remembered the man who flew above him as if he had always known him. He looked at the world around him and feelings of nostalgia washed over him. He looked down and saw himself draped in the familiar sheen of green. He placed his hand on his chest and swiped his fingers across the emblem emblazoned upon it. For the first time in days, he felt at home once again. For the first time in years, he knew who he really was.
He was Buddy Hero.
“Dominion,” Buddy yelled, “your reign of destruction is over. You have two choices, give up immediately or allow me the pleasure of tearing you apart.”
“Now that sounds much more like the Buddy Hero I have grown to despise,” Damon hissed. “Perhaps this may yet prove to be my own corner of paradise.” Damon’s hands rose above his head once again and this time became engulfed in flames. He flew at Buddy and grabbed his neck.
The two hit the ground and Buddy felt the burning sensation heating his throat. The world flashed out of existence briefly and Buddy saw the inside of the tank.
Damon’s grip lessened for only a moment. That moment was long enough for Buddy to flip him over his head and into the side of one of the buildings. The world flashed yet again.
“What sort of mind trick are you playing on me, Buddy Hero?’ Damon asked as he removed himself from the wreckage he had created. “Why am I still seeing my final moments on earth?”
“Simple, Damon,” Buddy said, crouching low to the ground. “You ain’t in hell. You’re in my nightmare.” Buddy lunged through the air at Damon, crashing against his frame and ramming him into building after building. Each impact brought another flash of the real world, until they finally came to a stop.
They landed hard. A loud gasp of air escaped from Damon’s lungs.
The ground trembled. Damon pushed Buddy off him and stood, cackling loudly. He rose into the air, the entire world vibrating around him.
“Oh you poor, poor fool. Did you honestly believe you could defeat me with a dream? I am the Angel of Death. You are the one who will fall.” Damon turned his back to Buddy and raised his hands to the air once more. The world exploded away from him. As the world expanded, Damon looked once more at Buddy.
“It was a mistake to allow me into your mind, Buddy.” The air filled with a blinding bright light. Buddy closed his eyes and fell to the ground.
“Buddy?” a concerned voice asked.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Six