Darkness Rising - Part 4

April 11, 2014: As New York shifts and warps around them, a handful of heroes find themselves in a broken reality that's right out of a steampunk horror story. What to do? TRIUMPH! Or, perhaps, die.

Dark City

New York City sits in darkness, this night, transformed by unknown means into the Dark City — an oppressive place where thick, smothering fog blankets the streets and the general reaction of the world skews just a bit to sinister. Lights shine only dimly through the gloom, and most have a gaseous cast, rather than the crisp, clear brilliance of electricity. Indeed, electricity is unpredictable here and electronics are often more useful as paperweights or projectiles than tools. Even living beings aren't immune to this strange entropy effect. Meta, mutant, and other powers tend to skew sinister, like the rest of the world. They just don't quite work right. Like in a nightmare, control can be dicey and luck is more often bad than good (but not always, luck being luck, after all). Simple, honed physical skills are far more reliable than anything else.



  • Dark Master of the Keep
  • Blackcoats and undead blackcoats
  • Jason Albright and the adventurers of Dark City

Mood Music:

Dark clouds boil over the city, tonight. Purple and green in their cast, forks and sheets of lightning rain down from them, striking seemingly randomly onto the streets below. The center of the maelstrom twists overhead the Dark Keep, analogous in this place to Belvedere Castle in New York City. It's sat beside a small lake in the midst of the area that would have been known as Central Park, had it not fallen to the darkness. Indeed, the landscape is much changed, the verdant parkland looking more like an arcane labyrinth of carnivorous hedge-walls, and changeable stonework mazes filled with traps, pitfalls, and no shortage of ratling swarms or blackcoated guardsmen to catch the unwary. Worse, the best way through the maze is, indeed, simply to cut a swath through it. Any attempt to fly over it, or fly into the airspace above the Keep, is met with a debilitating barrage of aetheric lightning — as several of mechanically-winged flying men discovered to their detriment less than a half hour ago.

Indeed, the plan that led thus far had been simple, hatched by Jason Albright — a native of the Dark City and leader of the small rebellion that seeks to dethrone the Dark Master dwelling within the Keep. Once he realized just how many 'champions' of New York had survived the transition into Darkness, each of them ultimately finding their way to what they would have recognized as St. Patrick's Cathedral (however walled and fortress-like it has become), he laid out a simple, three-pronged attack.

A small force of flyers and watermen cut across the lake to attack the rear of the Keep. Their methods were flashy, involving a lot of gun powder and aetheric rays. Their goal was to capture the attention of the Keep's defenders. They were partially successful.

Under the cover of that distraction, a second team — consisting of Hawkeye, Superman, Witchblade, Jonathan Storm, and young Evelyn — were smuggled beneath the water by a nautilus pilot, right up to the base of the keep where they were able to, thanks to the Kryptonian's remarkable strength, breach the subaquatic grating that protects the waterways in and out of the castle. Now, they have access to the inner bailey and the keep itself. Of course, a phalanx of blackcoats stand in their way.

Meanwhile, another trio of the champions — Domino, Lunair, and Mimic — cut their way straight through the maze with a handful of Albright's men. It was bloody, it was messy, and it proved that the castle's defenders weren't all taken in by the flashy attack above the water. Indeed, the three were ultimately surprised by a strike of lightning that, instead of killing them, transported them deep inside the keep.

When the light and dust clears, everything has changed around them. Below the trio is what appears to be a great black sphere of some sort of crystalline material. It sits cradled in dark metal, rods full of power and coiled with wire like a Tesla device pointing at the crystalline heart of the thing. Energy flows over bodies and armor, immobilizing and neutralizing powers, leaving the three suspended in mid-air.

Dark laughter fills the space, soft and almost intimate — a sound not meant to carry and entirely appreciative rather than megalomaniacal… though there's no mistaking the 'evil' in it. "Oh, excellent," a smooth, liquid voice proclaims. Dark eyes reflect the violet light within a heavy black hood. "You are exactly what I need to make this work…"

Three mutants in a baited trap, the heart of darkness roiling below them, an arcane storm boiling above. No. This really can't be a good thing at all.

Phalanx of blackcoats? Hawkeye is down more than a few arrows, and now, even after plucking a couple of used ones from the dead bodies, he's in conservation mode. Pistol at his side is seeming more and more useful, though still considered a 'hold out' weapon. Instead, as they group moves forward slowly but steadily, (each moving forward in a 'leap frog' sort of formation) Clint is picking things up or off the walls in an eye to use as a thrown weapon. While not as deadly, the SHIELD agent is accurate.

The biggest thing Clint has on his side, truth be told, is silence… and he creeps forward, back to the wall, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. The moment a target shows itself (looking for those stragglers!), an arrow will fly to hit the most discernable weak spot.

Stuck with an electrical power source, Evelyn tumbles and leans on others chronically, needing to as her reactor cutouts become more frequent the closer they get to the castle. Her reactor deactivates for minutes at a time now, but she seems more aware, maybe more frightened. Despite her failings, Evelyn downed more than a couple blackcoats that tried to stand in her way. Even with a failing power supply, she is as ruthless as a combatant as ever. As the phalanx falls, Evelyn joins Hawkeye in the shadows, putting her training to use.

(So… Be honest here, Domino. Which is worse, being stuck on top of an oversized obsidian snowglobe of evil, or knowing that Barton's still out there with pretty decent odds of being part of the rescue party?) … (Can I get back to you on that one?)

This is the sort of moment where the albino mercenary would -so- love to be able to lift that belt-fed machine gun, courtesy of Lunair who's stuck right next to her, and lay waste to the person responsible for all of this. Or at least responsible for pulling Dom out of the slaughter. But as luck would have it, this is also the one time when she's finding it really..not..that..easy to turn desire into action. So, in as few words as possible: This sucks.

"At least -someone- here's happy," she sides to Lunair and Calvin. "Ideas?"

The black-coats are clearly the thuggish minions of the fell Dark Master - for a moment Johnny Storm's mind gives a derisive snort at that name, before yielding again to the adventurer Jonathan Storm, Master of Fire.

The blond man in the deep blue samite coat with the "4" of Jupiter on the sternum speaks, "Incendius Regulus" and the twin flaming swords he wielded to good effect upon the Ratlings before, appear in his hands again. He leaps at them, fiery wings erupting from his back as he begins lashing them with fire. He becomes a near-whirlwind of flames.. Brave lad! Foolish lad.

Nautiluses are cool. They really are. Lunair is figuring out what works a little better than what. And is in awe that Hawkeye just might be on top today (if she knew, anyway). Still partying like - okay, that joke's been made. Lunair looks unhappy at the prospect of what's about to happen. Her eyes widen, and she winces. This is not good. She has her own weapon, a hunting rifle. But she finds she cannot lift it. It's like her body is weakened again.

"I don't know. I wish I knew more about his trap," She admits. What kind of a trap is it? She tries to take a step foward. "But if it is built for people like us…"

Mimic finds himself in mid air and transformed back to flesh. Even more dramatic, to him, but much more subtle, is the dulling of his senses. He's spent almost ten years living 24/7 with Wolverine's heightened senses and having them gone feels strange as if everything, including sight, is muffled. He tries to shift to metal, pops his claws, burst into flame. Nothing. The laughter draws his attention to the one who is, presumably, the 'Evil Mastermind'.

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume." He tests the extent of their imprisonment to find that he can move, a little, with enough effort and begins to slowly extend his arms toward Domino and Lunair.

"What's the point of all this? What is that?" Get him talking.

There are some advantages to the thing on her wrist, and a whole lot of problems that come with it. But with so many others here, Sara has at least reluctantly come to the conclusion that this particular situation hasn't been caused by the Witchblade. This time. Like so many other things, it has its odd moments here, in this strange bubble of time and space. It looks more gentle than usual, the dark steel and barbs traded out for gold filigrees and a slender rapier. And yet, every now and then, as one of the blackcoats find out, the more vicious side of the blade lashes out, and despite her unusually demure blouse and long skirt, Sara slices through an opponent.

Superman follows behind Hawkeye slowly and cautiously. This strange land is uncomfortable for him; his invulnerability here is suspect, though many of his powers still work fine. In short, he has to be careful. So as Johnny starts to blaze his way into battle, it's Superman who reaches out for him, "Wait no!" The whisper is one of disdain and irritation.

He sighs, looking at Hawkeye, "Well, there goes our cover."

Superman leaps towards the minions, eagerly giving them a one two with his fists in a style of fighting he learned from his father, who in-turn learned from Saturday nights out in Smallville.

Men fall to Hawkeye's accurate arrows. Their garb is little different than any British redcoat of the 19th century, save that their jackets are black — as are their trousers and boots — and their bandoleers red. They wear the expected shakos on their heads, emblazoned with suitably martial symbolism, of course. But none of that is significant armor. The muskets they carry, however, are strange insofar as they seem to shoot lead shot, and their range is not significantly greater than would be expected of such weapons, but they don't seem to have to stop to reload nearly as often as one might expect for such archaic armaments.

The inner bailey is a fairly sizable yard, meant for the normal business of the keep, including the training of its soldiers. But along the perimeter are useful structures that can be used as convenient perches and sniping points — for those with the wherewithal to use them. Indeed, following in Barton's wake, Evelyn may find more than a weapons discarded by dead hands. The only challenge to picking them up is the tendency of the dead to, after about 5 minutes of lying inert, slowly sit back up and reach for those self-same guns again.

And wouldn't Domino be disappointed to know that opportunity is one of which she can't easily take advantage? The more any of them try to move — her, Lunair, Calvin — the more the lightning flashes above them and the greater the surge of power in the collectors surrounding the sphere appears to be.

Jonathan's swords are remarkably effective, however, at keeping the dead from rising. They don't seem to do so well when their heads are severed from their bodies or the corpses consumed by flames. And the shot does have a remarkably low melting point, in the grand scheme of things. The right aura of heat will no doubt help protect the elementalist.

Lunair, alas, did not have the advantage of riding on the nautilus, though there's no doubt she'd have enjoyed it greatly. Suspended above the sphere with Domino and Mimic, she's caught in a sluggish web of energy that saps strength and makes movement remarkably difficult — as both Domino and Mimic have already discerned. The sphere and the energies surrounding it seems to feed on power. And it's true, the three are 'mutants'. Perhaps that does make a different, compared to the others.

Then again, perhaps it doesn't…

Regardless, what villain doesn't like to monologue! It seems a universal failing of the breed — at least, it does among those that haven't availed themselves of the ubiquitous, if digital, Evil Overlord List.

"This," the dark cloaked figure says, a purr of pleasure in the liquid voice, "is my greatest creation. It will allow me to root my power in a new world, bending all creation to my will. And your blood will be the catalyst for that."

Pity, really, he doesn't realize Calvin isn't of Earth-626 like his companions are.

Sara's clothing may be demure, but clean it simply can't stay, wading through the blood and fire of the battlefield. Like Jonathan's blades, however, hers is remarkably adept at making sure the dead stay that way — providing those heads are severed, of course. One might presume, as Domino discovered so long ago, that turning them into so much hamburger might work, too.

That, however, may not really be Superman's style. There is, however, something to be said for an out-and-out brawler's punch. Men go crashing through wooden walls to slam against hard stone. Those that are rendered unconscious don't have the advantage of their deceased counterparts. They won't rise again without being revived, first.

If Clint had the time and inclination to facepalm, it would be at that moment that Jonathan Storm did his 'thing'. Instead, he looks back to Superman and exhales in a pointed sigh before facing front once again, and whipping a metal bit of something he'd picked up at one of the blackcoat's head.


While it's not 'down he goes', it's more of an 'AAAH!' and is replaced with yet another blackcoat. The 'hold out' is tempting, his pistol still settled upon his thigh. Hawkeye always goes for the bow first, the silent, deadly killer. One.. two.. three are loosed in quick succession, and the moment the targets go down and the group has the chance to advance, he's jogging forward and plucking the shafting, not even bothering to wipe the blood from the tips. Availing himself to one, two of those blunderbusses, never know when it'll come in handy… and the first rifling of a dead body can be counted. First!

Evelyn mutters to herself, "It's okay, Eve, they're not real. They aren't people. Just shadows."

Reaching over for one of the discarded weapons, she cocks it and continues muttering, "They're just shadows. No one is dying. You can do this."

The rifle reports as she takes a blackcoat between the eyes with wicked precision. Cocking the rifle again, she moves with the Archer, stopping sometimes to blow away any blackcoats giving chase, acting somewhat as a ranged support unit. When her rifle is empty, she discards it and takes another, "You can do this, Evvy, they're not real people."

"Then we're probably SOL," Domino finishes Lunair's trailing thought.

"Still got any use of that weird power of yours, maybe throw something of the high explosive variety beneath the guy and his oversized marble?" Mimic's powerset is a bit more difficult to figure out, she's already seen the guy do -several- fairly unique tricks. Who knows what the ceiling is on his abilities? Though at the moment, he's also the one that visually seems to have been affected the most by any X-Gene nullifiers. Which probably means that the two women aren't going to fare any better in here. Turns out that he makes as good of a canary as he is at making new doorways.

Too bad that won't help them out here.

"You know about the Steampunk themed nights at some of the local clubs, right?" she asks the mysterious figure. "Because that would save you a hell of a lot of effort. And that whole 'draining us of our blood' deal. Seriously, who -does- that sort of thing anymore? Do you even know what century this is? Try cloning us or something first, what a freaking waste."

The dervish of fire settles down as they reach the bailey and there is a momentary break in the action. Storm sucks in great gasps of air as he brushes the thick, wax-like blobs of lead from his blue tunic, from his arms. Such sustained action can be exhausting. He stands, and does not correct (what he believes to be) the Irish orphan girl over the reality of the enemies. And as soon as more foes appear, he will return to the affray.

Lunair can't cheer on Superman and friends, sadly. She looks to Domino and pauses.

"I can try…" She's not sure chucking a mine at his head is going to go well. "I'm just worried about it bouncing back. I think I can just- have one there…?" Maybe? But she's listen to the man's speech first. No one interrupts monologues.

"Um. May I opt out of the blood draining thing? I have a phobia…" Which means that Lunair may go unhinged and it won't be pretty. On the other hand, maybe there's something to this 'create a mine under him thing'. To test her theory BEFORE using explosives, she'll try to call a sword to hand.

Correlation isn't causation but it doesn't take a genius to connect the increased lightning with his struggles to move. Given that, Mimic stops and is content for the moment to just hang in place.

"I'm guessing you mean that literally? Our blood? So there's more to keeping us trapped up here than making sure we don't stop you?"

The Witchblade is the balance, and a place more out of balance than this would be hard to imagine. As the first of the lead shot pings off of the armor at Sara's shoulder, more of it creeps across her torso and down her legs in gleaming gold, a strange fire behind her eyes as she struggles for control.

"They're getting back up," she points out, looking to the others in the party. "Because, you know. We needed to add 'undead' to the list of strange things going on here." One insufficiently taken down starts to demonstrate, and loses its head for its trouble before she looks to Superman.

"Do you still have the faster than a speeding bullet thing going on? Enough to scout ahead so we don't waste time on wrong turns?"

Seeing that his strategy is working, Superman doubles his efforts. He grabs one by the old garments and throws him at a pair of others, taking all three out. As he's about to be attacked from behind, Superman dodges out of the way and leaps up into the air. His eyes begin to glow, but he second guesses himself.

His heat vision would work remarkably well, wouldn't it? Would it not burn many of these members of the undead community to a crisp making it far easier for the heroes to win? But is that killing? Can one kill what is already dead?

As he ponders this, Superman lands near a stack of barrels and begins to chuck them at oncoming soldiers at super speeds, taking them out in explosions of water, barley, and grain.

He looks over at Witchblade with a nod. "I can scout ahead. Be right back." He digs a toe into the dirt and begins to jet around in circles, checking rooms and pathways, generally looking ahead.

The quintet from the nautilus slowly make their way across the bailey. There are two ways in — a pair of broad doors at the base, which the blackcoats are still guarding ferociously, or a set of stairs that curves along the walls and provides access to a guards station on the second level. Not, mind, that there are many less guards that way. Either way is fraught with peril, but both are now close within reach of the embattled champions. Breaching one or both of those doors leads that much closer to the source of the storm overhead.

The captain of the blackcoats roars out an order and several of them form up into a tight formation, three by three, stopping to level their guns at Barton in an effort to stop his advance toward the doors.

Whether or not Evelyn believes the men to be real hardly matters. Each shot that puts a man down sends one more into the ranks of the risen dead. There's movement behind her, however, as a pair of men leap from the low wall above, down toward her position.

Domino's quips are, sadly, lost on the Dark Robed Man. "Blood is power," he replies, perhaps even predictably, "and yours must contain great power, to have come so far so quickly." Isn't that nice? They're special.

There's little time to rest, however, and Jonathan will find that there are any number of guards willing to step into the gap and give him more reasons to demonstrate his considerable skill.

Lunair will find that creating a sword isn't all easy. But the power of the sphere flares as she tries, tendrils of energy wrapping around her, pulling her closer to the crystal, trying to tap into the effort she makes.

As Lunair becomes the focus of the energy, Calvin's question might be partially answered. It doesn't appear that an actual bloodletting is necessary. Given the soft, urbane laughter of the Dark Robed Man in response, however, don't rule it out. "You have power," he says with an almost casual shrug. "Power that can be harnessed. All power can be harnessed by those that know how."

Sara's suggestion isn't a bad one, though it leaves the other four to contend with the forces remaining in the courtyard. Regardless, they're making progress, and perhaps a little more effectively than it first seems.

As Superman shatters through the doors, however, he'll find the corridors of the castle laid out in a remarkably straightforward manner, for all that they are well defended. Still, it doesn't take all that long to determine just where the heart of the keep is… nor that getting to it will require climbing up the central tower.

The keep might share its location with Belvedere Castle… it doesn't share its architecture.

If there is ever an option to go up, that is where Barton goes. Up.

Looking at his compatriots, he points a finger up — even before he may get the intel that it's in that direction they've got to head anyway. (Up is always right.)

"Okay…" and Hawkeye turns back around to face that.. wall of men. Great. Soldiers that he knows are going to do the volley thing (he remembers some history, after all.) and he takes one, two steps back before he goes for higher ground — a table, a stairwell.. anything that'll give him just a little cover and more height. The bird wants his damned nest!

That doesn't stop him from bringing his bow to bear, hopping from spot to spot — one incendiary arrow (he was saving for a special occasion) comes round, aiming for the middle guy in the middle row for that best flamed explosion.

"Fire might work here.. particularly with them all bunched for us!" And if they're undead? Even better.

Evelyn screams as she turns to quickly face the two men that drop down at her position.

"Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!" she chants as they land near her on opposite sides. Running forward, she lifts the rifle like a bat over her shoulder, swinging it hard into the face of one of the blackcoats. The wood splinters and metal squeals as the rifle clatters to the ground in parts and splinters, the blackcoat's neck making a disgusting breaking sound. As she turns to face the other soldier, he fires on her, piercing her chest with a round. Stumbling back a step she gasps before running forward and punching the blackcoat in the throat, sending him hard against the ground. Looking for Hawkeye, she sees the firing squad and begins to move up to a position near him while resuming cover.

"Yeah, personal bloodletting's against my religion," Domino adds to Lunair's 'phobia' about the matter. Hell, why not? It's not like they've got anything else to retaliate with! Right next to the two, Mimic continues to be useful by demonstrating what happens when one of them tries to move while contained above the sphere.

"Ease up there, Sparky. If you suddenly turn metal while doing that you're going to end up with a crispy cellmate or two." Then to the Dark Robed Man, she counters with "If you think our blood is powerful, you should see what we can do while we're still alive. Renewable energy, it's the way of the future. Think about it."

Erm. Lunair's …moving. "Alright, so that's probably a bad idea," Dom concedes. "Good try, thanks for playing." Now if they can find a way to make it look like they're losing their power, then they might be onto something… But, how the heck are any of these three supposed to accomplish something like that? Her X-Gene has no user-accessible off switch!

Cutting down more enemies, Storm hears the mistress of the gauntlet decry the foul necromancy.

"This false alchemy is intolerable," Jonathan Storm says, "raising the dead to movement but not to life. Not even Lord Van Dume is this depraved." He pauses. "I wish my fellows were here. Professor Richards is better at impromptu invocations of the Principles."

He reaches down and picks some detritus — a handful of decomposing straw for the symbol of Decay — from the ground, and whips the sword in his other hand in a circle over his head.

"Voco Yaoel, Voco Nathanael, Voco Nuriel, Regulae Dom… Dominiti Ignis Vertuum … Ad mortem consignat mortii ambules FUERINT."

The circle erupts outward with lances of fire that jab unerringly at the fallen who are dead, and causing the fire from the incendiary arrow to burn farther and hotter — and Storm falls to his hands and knees, fire-wings draped over his body.

"Can't do that again soon," he gasps. "This place is so very wrong. Other-me, you are totally weird. And we suck at Latin."

Lunair nods, looking apologetic. "Sorry," At least her abilities do and Lunair ceases in moving and using them. She just — needs a moment. She's at a bit of a loss, and she looks between Domino and Calvin. She falls quiet and still for now. She's none too keen on going down in history as 'the doof who fried her teammates KFC style'. Although, even the Colonel wouldn't stand for this.

"So it's not that you neutralized our abilities but rather that the sphere is absorbing them." Mimic says. He might be looking at the villain, he's really talking to Domino and Lunair. "It even absorbs kinetic energy so the more we struggle, the more we feed it. Impressive. It must have taken you years to build this. Why did you pick this world and not another?" He's stopped fighting against the force completely and is even trying to slow his breathing and heart rate to see if that makes any difference. He's arrived at the same conclusion as Domino.

"Too dangerous for me to break out," Sara calls back to Hawkeye, shaking her head, though her left palm starts to glow white-hot at the suggestion of it, the Witchblade hungry to unleash its own sort of justice and balance on this dark world. Johnny takes care of the fire issue, though, and for a moment, she just stops to stare.

"Yeah. Seconding that," she agrees with his assessment of the situation, wincing as that glow starts to light behind her eyes again as the Witchblade demands its due. It remembers castles. Castles, and a weaker bearer who let it run the show. Rather than engage in a complete battle of wills, Sara compromises, diving into what's left of the line of soldiers with a cry of rage and blades in both hands.

When Superman returns, the look he gives Witchblade is a resigned one. "Bad news. The only way to get where we need to be is to scale the tower. It's the hub of everything." Superman considers going by himself, and taking on whatever lies inside.

As one of the undead comes upon them, he gets a vicious, swift Kryptonian knuckle sandwich that nearly takes his head from his neck. He nods to Hawkeye as the man points upwards, knowing that's the only way.

And as the foes keep coming, Superman finds himself wondering once again what it means to kill and what it means to kill something already dead. If he doesn't act, it's very likely that these heroes, some of which he has fought alongside before and some of them who are new, could all fall here today. Are his rules going to prevent death or encourage it? With an empty pit in his stomach, his eyes begin to glow. A moment later, quick and accurate shots flare out from his eyes and begin hitting some of the men, engulfing them via his heat vision.

The center blackcoat shrieks a very human scream as he's lit on fire by an arrow through the chest. He might have trouble getting back up again. And his companions certainly scatter when he topples back, though not without at least a couple of them having the wherewithal to fire in Hawkeye's general direction.

Evelyn quickly dispatches her opponents and, as long as she's quick, she'll likely be on Hawkeye's six in short order… perhaps in time to shield him from another round slug or two. Who knows?

"Because this world," the Dark Robed Man says in response to the questions and quips from his three captives, "has so many beings of such power. So very, very many…"

He begins to chant, his voice rising and falling with a cadence not unlike a Roman Mass, though the language doesn't sound like any Latin anyone here might know. The storm overhead intensifies and the three hanging above the sphere may find it suddenly harder to breathe as electricity, aetheric energies, and ozone press in on them.

Storm's efforts, however, decimate the blackcoats in the bailey in fairly short order. Even those yet living are unmanned by such a raw display of power. Indeed, these are men whose experience with such elemental forces is at the hands of their dark master… who is decidedly not someone they want to cross.

Those blackcoats left alive soon join the ranks of the dead under the Witchblade's assault. However, given the blade's efficiency, and the fire that consumes the courtyard, they don't join the ranks of the undead. The same is true of those Superman's deadly beams dispatch. Definitely time, however, to get out while the getting's good… before the fire turns on the rescuers, too.

Fire seems to be the way to go, apparently. Though he and his compatriots are a touch on the slow side in that there is at least one volley that manages to be loosed in his direction. He's not a 'superhero' in the sense that he's got heightened anything (he's just good at what he does), and he's not the best at dodging bullets. (That's other people's schtick.) so his jump, roll and shoot in response to the lead shot coming in his direction is probably just a little on the slow side as a lead ball finds its way into the meat of an arm.

The leather jacket is punched through, and blood begins its seeping as Clint curses under his breath. Nope.. no yelping. He's been shot before.. which is why the curses come. More like.. 'not again'.. and the 'bastard got me..' as a swear more than anything else.

Grasping his arm, Hawkeyes fingers come away bloody, and there's a set to the jaw.

It's when the conflagration begins that there's a light that is reflected in those blue eyes, and he's taking the up in bounds, ready to shoot anything that comes near.. saving, of course, a few arrows for the end.

Evelyn certainly reaches Hawkeye in time, at least to duck beneath cover and slump against it as her reactor flickers off once more, "Oh, no. No, no not right now." It doesn't come back online, and Evelyn pats her chest, sitting against some rubble as she feels the bullet wound in her skin. Panicking, Evelyn shouts out, "G-guys! Help!" She hasn't quite told anyone that she's an android or that her powercore has been failing, just that she's been having trouble fighting off the dark mist. For all anyone knows, she's just the incredibly skilled CIA Agent. Despite her own shortcomings, she's on Barton's six, long enough to hear the shot whizzing by and the thunk. "Hawkeye, are you okay?"

It's here that Domino looks back over to Mimic, all but saying 'nice play' to the other mutie's words to their captor. He's done this before, point for him. Though in another moment their situation goes from bad to worse, the overall spike in their condition enough to finally bring a look of discomfort from the albino.

"Alright, look," she mutters through clenched teeth at the other two. "If this is the end of the line I'm not gonna sit around and wait. Sparky, if you've got any chance in hell of bringing out your powers… Stab me. Make it count."

Blood is power. The psychotic robed guy said it, himself. Now what are the odds of them being able to give this crazy device a total power overload? (1 in 383,417.) And, if it -does- somehow work, then maybe, somehow, she'll be lucky enough to not die from the attempt.

There's only one way to find out.

(Knew I shoulda stayed home to sort the armory today.)

As the group surges forward, some of them struggling with last-minute wounds gratia the malefic spirit of battlefields, Jonathan Storm stands again, as he draws strength from the flames around him.

"We need to get to the ritual center! Can anyone else fly quickly?" His wings lift him from the ground. He reaches out a hand to Evelyn, one without flame wreathing it.

Blink. Lunair looks worried, between the two. She nods to Mimic. She seems to trust him, although she looks pained by what is going on. "Um. You can't be serious? If you get stabbed, who will shoot everyone? Also, I guess you should probably not die before that arrow fellow." Lunair points out. "But maybe it'll work." Lunair is worried, but on the OTHER hand, dying horribly is also bad. Nevertheless, she will trust Domino for now. Maybe it's time to recommence flailing. "Guess I can help too." Flail! Not like a weapon, moving.

Stab her? Now that's a strange idea but one that immediately sends Mimic's train of thought to the same conclusion Domino reached. The only problem is… she's over there and he can barely move. He's still got his powers. Which means, he's still got his claws. His claws retract into his forearms which is why he needs to keep his wrists straight when they pop. What if he doesn't? Instead of popping through the skin by his knuckles, they should pop through his arm and bleed a lot more. Which is not going to be immediately healed by his neutralized healing factor. The line of thought only takes a second and he's about as relaxed as possible at the moment. The sphere should have as little hold on him now as ever. Just one little, low energy use of power.


Sara follows Superman's nod toward the tower, then nods as well. "I can make that," she says, and as she does, the Witchblade armor grows, covering what's left of her converted skirt and blouse in gold and silver armor, the blades in her hands fading away in favor of wicked barbs extending from her torso. Her gauntlets sprout claws, and the armor at her feet grows something similar. "Can you take passengers?" she asks as she starts toward the tower, metal biting into stone. "I think the feds need a ride." Once the party is airborne, she'll start climbing, sending bits of rubble falling to the ground beneath her.

As the battle turns towards the heroes, Superman decides to disregard the cautious approach he's taken. He looks to Sara and Hawkeye a nod, "I'm going for it. Those who want a ride, hop on."

With a zephyr of air and a sound of motion, he's gone and picking up those allies who want the Kryptonian Train to the dark center of the dark city.

A blue and red streak zips across the ground and then up the tower, covering its distance in no time flat. From there, Superman throws himself and his allies into the center of the keep, willing to take on whatever it is that lies inside.

Flying, climbing, crawling… whatever the locomotion, going up outside the tower is far faster than trying to fight up the interior staircases and corridors. That's certain. Of course, it also opens the heroes to a whole lot more lightning, since the airspace over the keep is protected by the storm above. Thus, while Superman's speed, even were it blunted by the entropy of this dark world, is sufficient to carry them through, the lightning lashing where he was rather than where he actually is, those moving through the air at a slower pace my find themselves in for a bit of a shock.

This should, however, allow Superman, Hawkeye, and possibly Evelyn to arrive at the top in no worse condition than they were at the base of the tower — which in the case of the two agents means ailing but moving. As for Witchblade or Storm? Well, that depends on how resistant they may be to arcanely fueled electrical charges.

Popping a claw is a physical movement more than a raw expenditure of energy, though the resulting healing afterward is certainly energy-based, in some fashion. But any movement through the charged field is slowed… which means the 'snikt' isn't so much a 'snikt' as it is a 'ssssyearghthatfrickinghurtslikeafrickingfirebrandholyhellgetitoverwithnniiikt' as the claw reluctantly breaks through flesh to emerge with agonizing slowness out of Mimic's curled fist. Yeah. That's just gotta hurt.

The Dark Robed Man continues to chant, but as the erstwhile Superfriends break into the upper antechamber outside the ritual chamber, he hisses in irritation. The closed doors of the chamber warp and morph. From off the front of them, still leaving closed portals behind out in the antechamber, steps a golem made of iron, looking much like a 12 foot tall knight in blackened armor with a FF XIII-worthy sword.

It's the 'help!' that gains Clint's attention, and immediately he swings around, his expression one of determination. Brows rise, and he holds a hand out to offer help in steadying Evelyn. His injury takes a backseat as he makes a quick fieldcheck, as it were, as to how -she's- holding up. "You hurt.. stay with me.. just behind—" but she's been on his six, and it's the spot where he can best cover her. In answer, however, he mumbles, "I'm fine.." in that 'I'm a great deal more pissed off than hurt, but it does sting' tenor.

Before Clint can turn about and keep moving, Storm's there.. and.. he straightens. "Fly. Really? Uh.. no. Damned close, however." He's got a good 'climb' skill, and he does like to use it to best effect.

Sara's shift before him gains a good, long stare before he shakes his head and exhales in one of 'those' sighs once again. "Man.." Well, if he and Evelyn can hold their own? Damn, they're good.

It's when Superman offers the lift that Clint accepts. (After all, who can claim they've been flown by the Man of Steel? Sounds like one of those 'no shit, there I was' stories later. In a bar. After more than a few drinks. Assuming Fury doesn't stamp this classified, that is. (Which he's been known to do, and Clint swears that it's for no other reason than 'he can'.) Assuming, of course, he's not fried along the way. He can feel the hair on the back of his neck rise. And all the rest of his hair too. (Thankfully, he's just recently gotten his hair cut, or it would have looked worse!

There is a slight flaw in Domino's plan, besides the whole 'potentially lethal' result and all. She knows a 'Snikt' when she hears it. It's a quick thing. What this guy is doing right now..?


There she hangs, unable to do anything more than stare as a single claw sloooooooowly creeps forward, right for her.

(Aw, shit…)

It might hurt for Mimic. It looks like it hurts for Mimic. Dom's pretty certain that it's not hurting Mimic anywhere NEAR as much as it's hurting her. It starts with a stifled catch of breath, hitting every major octave along its way toward a full-blown snarl that's equal parts blinding agony and feminine fury. And blood… Blood is power.

Right now there's a lot of power being thrown about the place.

The Irish girl — Johnathan can't but see her as that, even when his modern-sensible other-self insists that she's not Irish, probably not an orphan, and clearly a better fighter than he wants to think — has grabbed his extended arm, and he gets a good grip himself, and lofts them into the skies, as the blue-clad man with the strangely simple cape pulls the other man to the skies, and the lady of the Gauntlet skitters up the side of the tower with a spidery agility.

And, apparently, the corrupt aetheric forces around this castle have been bent from their proper place. A fork of fire from the skies reaches out to strike at them. Storm, Master of Fire, can shield himself somewhat, but with the fair maid in his grip, his shield has a weakness, and he finds himself paralyzed and falling from the sky.

Evelyn takes Clint's hand first, "Reactor —" she begins to say, about to remit to him her secrets of androidness. He now has the chance to find out about her, but it's a chance taken away by Storm's arrival. Pushing herself up a little bit with Hawkeye's hand, she stands. Reaching out further, she takes Storm's hand. "Alright. Careful, I'm broken." She's not exactly sure how, either. Giving Hawkeye a final look before the Man of Steel sweeps him away, Evelyn ascends with Johnny, up into the air.

The thunderclap of lightning in Superman's wake catches both her and Johnny Storm. Normally that bolt of lightning would have fried her systems, but in this strange world where the laws of physics don't quite align with reality, it instead empowers her. Her charged cells immediately top off and her reactor reignites with not an orange or a blue glow, but a blinding white glow that causes her skin to glow dimly as though she were an angel. Finding herself falling, she maneuvers herself and Johnny towards the wall, her fingers breaking stone as she slows their descent. Pulling Johnny onto her back, she then begins to ascend by planting her feet into the stone, rapidly climbing her way up the stone face before discarding Johnny in the antechamber and climbing up herself, crackling with aetheric energy.

Oh dear. Lunair looks at Mimic, horror flashing across her face like Miley flashing across on a wrecking ball. "S-sorry." He means well, but it's still kind of horrifying when you think about it. Now Lunair just feels kinda bad for Wolverine. She'll give him a hug or a bill for beer. She can't buy beer yet. Worst friend ever. "Well, neither of you die. I'd be — really sad." She means that. Seeing them in pain pains her. Lunair has little problem actively killing opponents, but this — this is paining her.

Pause. "Everyone else is doing it." Time to shoot herself in the foot it is then! If she can. But it's a hunting rifle and really, probably no worse to the foot than being STABBED. There's also less time to think about it. And then, suddenly, buyer's remorse. "OW!" Followed by not merely a string of profanity, but an entire cute charm necklace of profanity. At least she's bleeding.

Pain is the body's way of screaming 'Yo, brain! Something is wrong here! DO SOMETHING!!' Wolverine's powers don't include a high resistance to pain. He just ignores it, knowing it'll heal. It's a trick Mimic picked up out of necessity. But hell yeah, that hurts! But it accomplishes the purpose which is to let him bleed down onto the sphere. Clenching his teeth, he stoicly gives no indication of what's happening so as not to alert the magician down there. Which, as it turns out, doesn't really matter since Domino isn't nearly as stoic. Then again, he's used to it. Not to mention, his forearm isn't anywhere near as vital an area.

Sara climbs the tower, moving as quickly as she can with the aid of the Witchblade. That lightning, though, is a problem. The Witchblade can deal it, but its ability to take it seems to come and go. One bolt bounces off, dealing no more harm than a sudden flash of light, but the next outlines Sara and the armor in actinic sparks, drawing a sharp cry from the detective as her muscles all clench tight and frozen. She's making progress, working her way up the outside of the tower, but each time the lightning strikes instead of glancing away, she's frozen for a moment until the Witchblade can recover. And as if time isn't enough of a concern, the more she's forced to rely on the blade, the stronger it becomes in the battle of wills for normalcy. As the others reach the summit, she's still a few feet away, clinging to the stone.

Welp. Bricks gotsto fight. That's how these sort of things work.

Superman stares down the golem with the large sword and doesn't give it time to act. Instead, he's attacking it at superspeeds with fists straight out, trying to carry both him and itself through the wall of the tower!

And, now, all hell breaks loose.

First, there's the blood dripping down onto the sphere. Energy flares in the chamber and it can almost be heard singing (in an exultantly minor key, of course). Then, there's the crash as flesh meets metal meets stone and a red, blue, and black blur goes shattering through the ritual chamber, narrowly avoiding knocking the Dark Robed Man off his feet. He reaches clawed hands towards the energy and it cascades towards him, more and more lightning raining down. Now, it's blind, dumb luck that governs who gets hit and who doesn't.

Once at the top of the tower, Clint's not entirely sure how to thank the guy. 'Hey, thanks for the ride' seems… trite. Settling for a nod, the archer is on his way — until he sees that blast of light that is Evelyn, only he's not truly aware that it is the 'military' woman.

It's that iron golem now that gains Hawkeye's attention (though not by much, really!) and he pulls an arrow; he's got a couple of specialty ones left. That knight is drawn on, but with Superman's push, the target moves, and quickly. The energy ball is his next target, and there's got to be some sort of good old fashioned disruption. Iron. Ferrous. Nothing magical. Nothing special.. and while it's a shot in the dark, it's a —


Lightning strikes just near, and Clint can feel the singe at the proximity of the hit. He's got to move, and now he's in a crouched run, looking for the best angle of attack.

Crackling with aetheric energy, Evelyn glows warmly against the dark fog that's covered New York City. The skin on Evelyn's fingertips has scraped off, leaving the bare scratched metal exposed beneath. Bolts of energy flicker between her fingertips, and a ray of light shines from the whole in her skin through her body where the bullet pierced previously. Supercharged, Evelyn takes off at a slow run that very quickly gains a lot of momentum. Rearing back her fist, she makes a line straight for the dark robed man, making to punch him right into the face with enough force to break a wall. All the power of a lightning strike.

Well, at least Domino's in the company of good sports. Mimic came through, and Lunair just..shot herself in the foot… Now all three of them are bleeding! And wouldn't you know..?

It works.

She's barely aware of the end result, the collision of power, the overflow and destruction, it's ..well, it's a start to her growing need to inflict some sort of proper violence. She needs something to kill.

And now… She can.

Free of the overbearing hold, free to reach for a weapon, reconnecting with her power, and most definitely at one with her pain. One hand applies pressure to the stab wound. The other's got a sidearm out, aimed, and fired with the promptness of snapping one's fingers. After all of this, her target should be obvious.

Dark Robed Guy's head.

Mission first.

Jonathan Storm shakes his head, sitting up, and takes in his surroundings. First, the hole in the wall, clearly recent as bits of debris, still falling. Second, the three sent in earlier, in Captured Pose above the aetheric collector, a definite sign of an unbalanced and dangerous practice of the Science Alchymical. Third, the maniacally laughing Dark Robed maniac, probably NOT Lord Van Dume as the robe is not drab forest green, and no True-Leaden armor is evident. Fourth, lighting striking. This, he can do something about. This, Aetheric Fire, should obey his will, if he can just find the right formula among the hundreds he has learned… Ah, stop that. Just set fire to his robes.
Fine. I will.
"Incendis incendis incendiaris ardere flagrare," he gestures, and a line of white-hot flame runs from his outthrust palm at the Dark Robe.

Punched him into ash? More like, how Twilight should've ended. Although, Lunair is howling in pain and dread of being treated in a hospital, she's actually quite happy Domino is still Angry.Lady. She's going to be okay, she thinks. At least, that's what Domino punching things usually means because Lunair's no doctor and Calvin has a PhD in Snikting (or was that Wolverine? She forgets these things). Nevertheless, she hops a little away and will do her best to keep anything out of the way from impeding Domino's path.

Which means doom for any hapless minions passing by. DOOM. The hunting rifle is kinda vicious. Really.

*drip* drip drip Each drip of blood onto the sphere causes another flare of power and an increase in the lightning. And then the field holding them is gone and Mimic starts to fall toward the sphere. This would be bad. Two things happen almost simultaneously. He transforms back to metal and then he BLINKs away to a point right above the chanting magician. No matter how powerful the wizard, half a ton of hero falling on his head seriously cramps his style.

Sara crouches against the stone as that rush of energy blasts from the top of the tower, then pulls herself over the edge and inside with a last push of energy. Now might be the worst time for the Witchblade to be unpredictable. And given the way things are going, that's…exactly what happens. The nagging feeling she's had at the back of her mind since she stepped into this shadowed version of New York is suddenly a roar, and the balance will no longer be denied. Both hands rise, press together, and a beam of balefire-bright light fires from her palms, aimed directly at the dark device. Sara has enough control to make sure it's aimed at the device and not the captured heroes, but that's about it for now.

Superman and the Golem tumble straight out the back of the tower and begin falling towards the ground. Each of them trade powerful blows that send shockwaves of sound out to the entire bailey. A vicious smack knocks Superman back for a spell, but he's right back giving another punch to the golem in a mere instant. They continue like this down all the stories of the tower until smashing through a set planks and disappear to the depths below. Even after they do, a raucous set of smashes can be heard along with a tremble under the feet of those within the castle.

Energy falls over the hooded man like water over a precipice. His laughter swells with the ecstasy of so much power surging through him. His form is lifted up, back arching. Power crackles from his fingertips as his arms spread widely. Then, however, his robes are on fire — though he doesn't seem to notice. And his body jerks, blood spraying, as Domino grabs a weapon, at last, and drills the crazy man's head with a lump (or three) of speeding hot lead.

As his brains splatter across the room, the energy goes wild. That metaphysical humming coming from the sphere turns into a violent screech of power unleashed without control. Dark energy builds to a climax and the sphere shatters like a crystal goblet caught in the resonance of a soprano's high note. Splinters explode outward like a giant frag grenade, though the release of pent up energy disintegrates most of the shards before they end up tearing through fragile bodies.

The storm high overhead whips into a frenzy as light channels straight up from the shattered crystal globe. An explosion of impossible proportions lights up the sky, seeming for a moment to set the very air on fire.

If it's fire, however, it's a purifying flame. The dark fog dissipates in a wave of light and an earthshaking clap of thunder. As the light spreads from the heart of Belvedere Castle, the gothic remains of the Dark City flicker and fade away, leaving a busy Manhattan night in its wake.

Atop Belvedere castle, 7 heroes are left to pick up the pieces. Down in the courtyard, the Man of Steel is left with a dented, shattered opponent that crumbles into rust before his eyes and then, simply, blows away.

Down by the harbour, a well-dressed man in an expensive suit and sharp Fedora purses his lips in thought. A small smile touches them a moment later and, red eyes gleaming, he starts to whistle a jaunty tune, spinning his dapper cane as he turns and walks away into the night.


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