FESTIVAL OF TERROR


Psirene walked into the conference room where the rest of The Nameless had gathered. Casually, she tossed the unwrapped gift into the table’s center and slid into her seat. The sparkling metallic red paper covering the box glittered in the pale light shining overhead. Those sitting around the table looked at it apprehensively.

“That’s the fourth one this week. Who brought it?” asked Nightbringer, his features dominated by the shadows.

“Yankee Pryde brought it. He said one of his neighbors brought it to him. Then he said that he couldn’t look into it himself since he was part of the task force selected by Statesman to go to Siren’s Call.” Psirene rolled her eyes in disgust. “Name-dropping bastard.” she muttered.

“Personal feelings aside, he still brought another one of these things to us.” Madam Medusa reminded. She was often the voice of reason within the group, and made sure that everyone stayed focussed during missions and meetings. “Any clue as to what this one does?”

“Unfawtionately, Gamestuh said nuthin’ bout nuthin’ in that radio address of his.” slurred LiveWire, who looked out of character bouncing his son on his knee. He and WhiteDiamond had just returned from an extended stay in southern Mississippi and New Orleans, where both heroes were from. Being back in his native Diamondhead for two months had completely revived his thick Southern accent, and even his wife had a more pronounced drawl. “Just open ‘em and see what Fate has in store, was all he said.”

Nightbringer scowled. He knew this was going to be the start of something big, but he, like no one else, had no clue what it all meant. A new supervillain, an enigmatic figure known as The Gamester, had bedeviled both heroes and police with diabolical puzzles and riddles hinting at future capers and crimes. More recently, The Gamester had commandeered a radio broadcast, and in his pirate message to the city, announced he had left shiny red boxes as “prizes” to the citizens of Paragon City. After a few tragedies occurred following the opening of some of these packages, the people were encouraged to turn in any of the boxes to either the police department or any heroes living in their neighborhood. Since The Nameless made no secret about the house being their headquarters, many residents of Silver Lake came to them.

He sighed deeply. By some bizarre twist of fate, he wound up the leader of the group, and all looked to him for direction.

“We’ll take them down to City Hall. Likely the Directors will want to have them in their possession for analysis. Besides, there’s too much temptation to open the things. I don’t want to take the risk that could lead to anyone dying.” He made eye contact with each of his teammates. “When we get down there, we’ll go to our separate Departments, and then try to find out from the Directors what is known about The Gamester and his associates, if he has any.”

A sudden shrill beeping went off. Psirene grabbed the tiny cell phone at her side, the source of the noise, and answered it. While she was talking, the rest of the group discussed strategy among themselves.

“Have you talked with anyone else, like Top Ten or Onami?” Solanum asked, drumming black nails on the polished table top.

“All I got were answering machines. You know how busy both those groups are.” Nightbringer sighed again. “I got a call from Tragic Johnson, though. He said he heard rumors of mixed bands of gangs roaming around.”

“Mixed bands? What did he mean?” asked Vision, leaning forward to get a better look at Nightbringer. He stole a quick, concerned look at Psirene, who stood up and walked away from the table, still talking on her cell.

“Like Lost with Trolls and Vazhilok. He said he even saw Skulls running around with Hellions last night.” Nightbringer explained.

“That’s impossible, those two hate each other!” exclaimed Stingray, Solanum’s younger brother.

“That’s what Tragic saw.” Nightbringer held up his hands defensively. “I don’t know how true it is, or if it’s even connected with what’s going on with Gamester.” He saw that Psirene had finished her conversation, a look of profound worry on her face.

“It’s the kids at Sussex Academy. They’ve all gone!” she said, a note of hysteria in her voice.

“What do you mean gone? Is Delilah missing too?” Beguiler asked, rising from his chair quickly. His concern for his niece was almost as strong as if she were his own child.

“What about Carlito?” asked Solanum, standing up just as quickly. “Is he gone?” She had become a foster mother to the young teen ever since LiveWire had brought him back from Chicago. Part of her mothering came from the fact that she had been very close to Bluedragon, Carlito’s older brother.

“All of them are gone! They just stood up and walked out of class!”

The group looked at each other worriedly. Sussex Academy, one of the most prestigious prep schools in New England, also had a reputation among superheroes as the place to send their children, if they had any. Due to the high security that wealthy parents demanded for their children, as well as the intense privacy protection, it was considered one of the safest schools in the state, if not the country. For someone to have infiltrated it…

“Who called you?”

“The new teacher, Mr. Hamlin. Delilah raves about him. He tried to close the room off, but the children overwhelmed him and left. The faculty has been calling parents since it happened.”

Nightbringer thought fast. He knew Psirene, Beguiler, and Solanum would not be of any use until they found the kids. “LiveWire, you and Prismatic go with those three. Medusa, Vision, Stingray and I will take the boxes to City Hall. White Diamond…”

“I get it. I hold down the fort.” She scooped up JT from her husband. “We need to get you a good sitter!” she said playfully as she tickled her son’s belly. “That way, Mommy can get out on her missions!” she winked at the others and left the conference room.

Solanum’s cell phone suddenly rang. She quickly answered it.

“Yes, I know the children are missing….Yes…No…Wait! Slow down, will you?…When did this happen?….I see. Are they still there?…Ok, we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

Solanum looked at the heroes. “That was Detective Wright. A group of kids dressed in Sussex Academy uniforms just robbed Van Briesbock’s. Two of the kids involved matched Delilah and Carlito.”

The group looked stunned. VanBriesbock’s was Paragon City’s oldest, most respected, and most wealthy diamond brokerage. The place was secured not only against regular robberies, but also against modest super-powered attacks.

“How much was stolen?” whispered Nightbringer.

“Approximately eight million dollars’ worth of diamonds.” she looked at her team, a puzzled look on her face. “What the hell is going on?”

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