Buddy, Zero, Alexa, and Ryan stood in front of the tank and surveyed the battlefield. Between them and their destination lay hundreds of forms of proof that their goal was an impossible one in the bodies of those already defeated. Yet these four would-be heroes did not appear distraught, they seemed hopeful.
“Like they say, there’s no time like the present,” Buddy stated.
“Especially if you’ve got no future,” Alexa laughed. The rest of the group joined in.
“Lions and tigers and bears?” Buddy said as he held out his arms to link with the group.
“Oh my,” Ryan joined in. The four were connected and made their first step forward. After finding themselves still alive, they continued. The foursome walked in a line, slowly, but purposefully.
They couldn’t help but look down at the faces of those who had already been tossed aside.
“At least no one appears to be seriously injured,” Zero spoke.
“Yeah, that’s weird, isn’t it?” Alexa asked. “If this guy is planning on destroying the world, why wouldn’t he just cremate these guys while he’s got them in his sights?”
“Good question, young Alexa,” Zero responded. “Perhaps we’ll find out the answer to that question soon.”
“I’d prefer if we didn’t,” Buddy laughed. “They all look conscious though, don’t they? I mean, they’re all staring up at Damon, or that hole, or whatever.”
“Yeah,” Ryan replied. “They seem pretty entranced. Hey, look over there, isn’t that Jeff?”
Buddy broke hold of the group and rushed to Jeff’s side.
“Hey, Jeff,” Buddy yelled as he neared the immobile man sprawled out before him.
“Are you okay?” Buddy approached Jeff’s slumped-over body and knelt on the ground beside him. He grabbed Jeff’s right shoulder and shook.
“Jeff, wake up!”
Alexa knelt next to Jeff as well and grabbed his left shoulder to contribute in Buddy’s shaking. Jeff’s mouth moved slowly but no noise came out. Buddy let go of the shoulder and placed his ear in front of the man’s mouth, hoping to hear the words not being spoken.
“What’s he saying, Buddy?” Ryan asked.
“I can’t quite make it out.”
“This is pretty darn creepy, if you ask me, chum.”
“Jeff!” Alexa yelled. No response.
“I guess we just leave him here?” Buddy asked standing up to look at the group. “Maybe if we take care of Damon he’ll get better.”
“Da. . . mon. . . “ Jeff said slowly. The group turned quickly to see Jeff now looking at them.
“Right, Damon, what’s Damon up to, Jeff?” Alexa asked, kneeling back down at his side.
“Damon. . .” Jeff repeated, his voice getting stronger.
“Yeah, dude, we get it. Damon. What’s he doing?”
“Damon, Damon, Damon, Damon–” Jeff kept repeating the name as he stood. Soon after he began, the bodies around the group rustled to life and a low rumble of the chorus started from all directions. In a matter of seconds, a large majority of the previously immobile bodies were now standing and chanting the name of the man currently infesting the street with his dark minions.
“Whoa, now that’s creepy.” Buddy said. He stood up and backed away from Jeff slowly, only to back into Mr. Smith and Mr. Frederick, who happened to also be chanting the name on everyone’s lips.
“Be careful, chum,” Zero advised. “This is not the first time we’ve seen this particular parlor trick. If we do not tread carefully, we could have the entire city after us.”
“Advice noted,” Buddy replied.
“Damon, Damon–” the chant continued. The horde swayed as they chanted, their eyes all glaring at the foursome.
Buddy looked at the structure which held their enemy and could now make out that there were still people from Arthur’s army making the attempt to battle Damon. Amid the mass exodus from the hole in the sky was a fireworks show of lightning bolts, flames, and fists.
Yet, not a single one of them was able to make it past the wall of minions Damon had standing guard on the lower levels. The sight was almost magical in its tragedy with the multi-colored light show in the sky created by Damon and his monsters, coupled with the steady stream of bodies being flung through the air. There they would lay until, like the rest of the zombie-like horde, they stood and joined in repeating the name of the man of the hour.
“So, you guys see no one is getting past ground level, right?” Ryan asked.
“Yep,” Alexa responded, slack-jawed.
“And these guys were supposed to be like green berets, weren’t they?”
“So, how in the world do you think we’re supposed to get any further than they are?”
“Simple,” Zero answered. “Anyone got a rabbit’s foot?” The group groaned.
Ryan poked one of the mindless drones around him hoping to get some sort of response.
“Come on, dude, wake up already,” he said as he poked harder.
“Ryan, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Alexa warned.
“Oh, come on, what’s he gonna do, start saying my name?” He gave the agent right next to him a hard shove and pushed him onto the surrounding group of agents; causing a domino effect of mindless drones falling over on top of each other. The attention of the entire horde immediately turned to Ryan.
Silence filled the air as their chant stopped. The fallen zombies stood and surrounded our heroes, closing in on them quickly. They continued pressing in, decreasing the amount of open area surrounding our heroes.
“I told you it wasn’t a good idea,” Alexa whispered to Ryan.
“Buddy Hero and the Defenders of America!” came Damon’s voice booming somehow from atop the altar. “What took you so long?” he laughed.
“Okay, fine, you were right,” Ryan whispered back.
“Do you like what I’ve done with the place? I thought the old spot could use a little redecorating.” He gestured below him and Buddy realized he had been too caught up in the moment to notice the altar Damon had created was straddling Barber St. in front of where Maggie’s Diner used to be. One small corner of this evil structure had been built directly upon his sister’s place of business.
“So, what’s the plan?” Alexa whispered to Buddy.
“Yeah, don’t you have a plan?”
“Oh there is no need to whisper young lady, these servants of mine also serve as my eyes and ears. With them at my command, I am all-seeing, all-knowing. I have been given the power of God.”
Alexa, Ryan, and Zero all looked to Buddy
“Well, I have one idea, I guess.”
“Is it the one I hope it is, chum?”
“I don’t know, that depends on what time it is.”
“Really?” Alexa groaned. “You’re going to do it that way?”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“I guess if it has to be done.” She paused. The group put their backs to each other, ensuring that all of them were looking out to the crowding army. “Okay, go ahead.”
Buddy smiled a cocky grin. “It’s hero time!” he yelled as he pulled his arm back and placed it directly in the center of the face of the drone nearest him.
“You bet it is,” Zero added, throwing his arms out in front of him causing a ripple of energy to explode outward from his frame. Hundreds of bodies fell to the ground, only to be immediately replaced by new ones.
“Buddy!” Ryan yelled as he picked up one of their enemies and threw him into the crowd.
“What?” Buddy asked as he took out three more of the zombies with one swing.
“Can you see what’s happening to the dudes we’ve hit?” A net shot out from one of the protrusions on Ryan’s armor, knocking five men down.
“No,” Buddy yelled back, throwing his elbow into the face of one enemy as his foot caught the stomach of another.
“They’re waking up,” Alexa yelled, her arms a-flurry in front of her as she used her super-speed to take out all who would approach.
“Right, I see that. We’re kinda fighting them right now.”
“No, chum, they are awakening from Damon’s slumber.”
At that moment, three faces appeared in front of Buddy. The faces of Mr. Smith, Mr. Frederick, and Jeff. Jeff stood immediately in front of him, looking at him with angry eyes. Without a second thought, Buddy slammed his fist into Jeff’s face as hard as he could, causing the man to double backward. He was caught by Mr. Smith.
“I’ve been wanting to do that ever since I met you,” Buddy laughed.
“Owww, you bastard,” Jeff yelled.
“Mr. Jackson,” Mr. Frederick began, “We’re here to help.”
“Oh, I thought you guys were still–”
“We were awoken by one of our fellow men nearby.”
“Yeah. So why the hell did you hit me in the face? I think you broke my nose.”
“You are lucky,” Zero yelled, “if that is the only damage you sustained after receiving a blow from Buddy Hero.”
Buddy laughed. “Look, Jeff, if I had known you were a–”
“Admit it Buddy,” Alexa laughed, “you would have done it anyways.”
Buddy grinned sheepishly at Jeff. Mr. Smith and Mr. Frederick began knocking away the enemies approaching their position so Jeff and Buddy could speak.
“Jeff, I’m really sorry, okay, I didn’t mean–”
“Can the crap, Buddy. This is war we’re dealing with. There’s no time for apologies.”
“Okay. . . “
“Me and my men can work on waking everyone up. You guys need to deal with Damon. We haven’t been having any luck.”
“And what makes you think we will? You’ve spent most of the time since I’ve met you telling me how I can’t do anything.”
“Hey, I still don’t think you’re anything special, okay. But, my dad seems to think you are the key to getting rid of Damon and we’re running out of options here.”
“Okay, so what do I do?”
“Hell if I know. Just do it already.” And with that, Jeff left the group, Mr. Smith and Mr. Frederick clearing a path for him as he went.
“Alright kids, you got any ideas?” The hordes were thinning out as more and more awakened agents joined the fight. Buddy decided to have fun with the few that happened to make it to him. He delivered a poorly-executed roundhouse kick to the zombiefied agent in front of him now. He had aimed for the woman’s chin, he hit her hip.
“I say we attempt to go at the man head on,” Zero yelled.
“No one else seems to be anywhere near him,” Alexa responded.
“Tis true, milady. However, we are The Defenders!”
“I’m up for it,” Ryan offered.
“Really?” Buddy asked. He had been enjoying taking out the hordes of simple enemies, who barely put up a fight, but the idea of fighting the man who controlled so much seemed to be a suicide mission.
“You chickening out now, Buddy?” Ryan asked. “I thought you were all about this fight.”
“Well, yeah, but this all seems a little too, I don’t know, impossible.”
“It’s not impossible, chum. Merely improbable.”
“Sure, but, I don’t know. . . couldn’t we die?”
“I know where you’re coming from Buddy, but from the looks of the folks who have already gone up against these monsters, no one’s been injured yet.”
“Right,” Buddy said slowly. “Yet.”
“So, are we going?” Zero asked, looking twitchy.
“Wait,” Buddy said suddenly. “I’ve got an idea.”
Buddy ran ahead to Jeff. Jeff covered his face at Buddy’s arrival.
“Relax, Jeff,” Buddy laughed. “I think I’ve got an idea on how to get rid of Damon.”
“Okay, fine, go ahead and do it. My men are almost ready to get out of here.”
“No, I need you all to stay. I need your help.”
“Yeah? And what kind of help is that?”
“What I need you to do is gather all your men to form a wall around us.”
“Right, of course. We don’t want the legendary Buddy Hero to get hurt.”
“I don’t think that’s what he means, Mr. Flores,” Mr. Smith cut in.
“Right,” Mr. Frederick added. “You want to create a phalanx, correct?”
“Um,” Buddy answered. “Maybe.”
“Well,” Mr. Smith continued, “it wouldn’t be a proper phalanx. But you want to move as one unit, having an ever shifting group of men on the outside, defending the central unit until we arrive at our destination.”
“Yeah, that sounds kinda like what I meant. Do you think you can make that happen?”
“Of course we can make it happen, Buddy. In fact, I was just about to mention how we should do that before you came over here and started babbling.”
“Perfect,” Buddy laughed. “So, how do we–”
Mr Frederick put two fingers to his lips and blew a loud whistle. Immediately a crowd formed around the group. Zero, Alexa, and Ryan also appeared beside Buddy.
“Men,” Mr. Smith yelled. “Formation attack Alpha Romero Omega!” The men and women jumped into action and suddenly Mr. Smith, Mr. Frederick, Jeff, Buddy, Zero, Alexa, and Ryan were in an opening surrounded on all sides by the army, all facing in the outward direction.
“Hmm,” Buddy said, “very impressive.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Smith replied.
“What the heck’s going on here?” Alexa asked.
“Simple, we’re going after Damon.”
“Like this?” Ryan asked. “How are we getting up the giant altar thingie?”
“That’s something we’ll just have to deal with when we come to it.”
“I like it, chum.”
“Okay, fine,” Alexa added, “but we’re going to need someone to stay back to wake us up in case this goes south.”
“Oh, I’d be more than happy to do that,” Jeff sneered.
“Should’ve seen that one coming,” Buddy joked. “Alright, everyone ready then?”
“I say we go for it,” Ryan yelled.
“Men,” Mr. Smith yelled. “Move out!”
The walls of people immediately began moving.
“See you suckers on the other side,” Jeff said as he disappeared into the wall.”
The foursome was now a sextet as Mr. Smith and Mr. Frederick stayed with the new Defenders. The group moved slowly with the walls around them. The sounds of battle echoed through the area.
“Hey, we’re just one short of the old team,” Zero said joyfully.
“Yeah,” Buddy responded sarcastically, “if only Jeff had stayed. Then it would be like old times.”
“You’re right, chum! Ahh, old times!”
“Alrighty, so, do we have any sort of plan for moving forward here?” Alexa asked.
“I say we just move forward,” Zero cheered.
“Right, but, I mean, you know, do we have any clue how to fight Damon?”
“No,” Buddy replied. “Anyone have something?”
“If I may be so bold,” Mr. Frederick opened. “From what I have seen, Damon’s quite well protected. The only chance we may have for beating those defenses is speed.” The group looked at Alexa.
“Sure, I can get up there, but what would I do when I get there? I mean, I’m not really all that strong, and I’m definitely not too flame-resistant.”
“But Mr. Jackson is both,” Mr. Smith continued, “is he not?”
“You’d have to tell me,” Buddy responded.
“Okay, fine, but I can’t pick him up,” Alexa argued. “No offense Buddy, but you are a tad overweight.”
“Ah, but that’s where I come in, young Alexa. I can create a field around him which will cause him to weigh next to nothing. You should be able to carry him without trouble.”
“Wow, okay, that seems pretty easy then.”
“Yeah,” Ryan scowled. “Too easy.”
“Too easy for who?” Buddy asked. “I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do when I get up there? I haven’t had too much success against him so far.”
“Ooh,” Ryan’s face brightened. He pulled a device from a container strapped against his back. “Here you go, Buddy, it’s a miniaturized version of the goo gun.”
“Brilliant!” Buddy exclaimed. “So, we get him rocked up and then wait for the device Carl’s bringing, right?”
“Right!” the group agreed.
“Awesome,” Buddy beamed. “For the first time since I’ve met you guys, things actually seem to make sense.”
“Good,” Mr. Smith spoke. “Because it would appear the time has come to make your move.” The group looked outward and saw their location being overwhelmed by the little minions Buddy had seen in his dream.
The army was outnumbered and the minions were approaching the heroes’ location quickly.
“Okay, Zero,” Buddy yelled, “do your field thingie!” Zero closed his eyes and Buddy was lifted into the air. “Whoa, that’s a weird feeling. Okay, Ryan, gimme the gun!”
“Here you go, captain,” Ryan cheered, throwing the gun at Buddy.
Buddy caught it. “Ready Alexa?”
“Get me up there and get out as fast as you can, okay?”
“You won’t even know I was there.”
“And I want every last one of you to get to the tank as fast as you can. Who knows what will happen, whether this works or not.”
And with that, the group disappeared from Buddy’s view and was replaced with the ugly visage of Damon Memphis. Damon saw Buddy appear in front of him as soon as Buddy became aware of his new surroundings.
“You!” Damon screeched. “How did you manage to get past my dark army?”
“I’m Buddy Hero, chump. No army can stop me.”
“Maybe not, but the fire of God can.” Damon raised his finger at Buddy. Buddy smirked and raised his weapon just as fire erupted from Damon’s fingertip. A look of fear crossed Damon’s face as he was covered in goo, which immediately hardened into a dense crystal.
“Goo gun. For those hard to extinguish fires of God.”
The altar began shaking under Buddy. He looked down and saw pieces falling off at a rapid rate. The army of monsters all approached his location.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Five