THE GAME:
AND A CHILD SHALL LEADÖ
PART 1


Nocturne smiled graciously at The Nameless as the supergroup stared at Beguiler with a baffled expression.

"You nevah said nuthiní bout beiní married before!" guffawed LiveWire.

"Shut up, JD." growled Beguiler, still glowering at his ex-wife.

"You didnít tell them about me? Trying to rewrite history for yourself, my dear? I wasnít that horrible to live with, was I?" the blue-skinned villainess took a couple of steps closer. Her undead honor guard moved with her in perfect unison, stopping when she did. She turned her attention to Solanum and gave her a studied once-over. "I suppose this is what occupies my place these days. Hmm."

Beguiler could feel the anger rising up in Solanum. Every stereotype about redheads and Irish tempers were completely true in her. It took very little to provoke a fight from Sara, and Nocturne was exceptionally skilled at pushing buttons.

"What do you want, Nocturne?" Nightbringer asked, hoping to break the mood.

She smiled warmly at the tall, blonde hero. "I sense in you one who handles the powers of death, and you are not afraid to do so." she began calmly, and with all the skill of a diplomat. "I am sure we would have much to discuss. However, I came to see my husband about our son."

"Your what?" asked Solanum, her claws resheathing from the shock of this revelation.

"She and I had, have, a son. Heís fourteen."

"Yes, and whether you know it or not, he was also enrolled at Sussex Academy." Nocturne added.

"So, youíre saying weíre in the same boat." asked Medusa.

"Exactly." smiled Nocturne.

The ring of a cell phone suddenly broke the awkward silence. Nightbringer answered it, leaving the rest of the group to talk.

"The kids were last seen going towards Eastgate." started Vision.

"Troll territory? Theyíll be killed!" hissed Nocturne. "How did you let this happen?"

" How exactly is this my fault?" snapped Beguiler in protest.

"Weíre headed that way now." Solanum informed her. "Youíre welcome to come with us."

Nocturne nodded in acceptance of the offer. Trolls were no threat to one such as her; but to her son, whose powers were just beginning to manifest themselves, it was another story.

"I can teleport all of us." she said, palms turned upwards as she began to summon the necessary energy.

"Whoa, whoa, wait!" said Nightbringer. "I just heard from WhiteDiamond. We need to meet her at City Hall right away. You five go ahead and try and find the kids. Weíll catch up as soon as we can."

With a graceful, almost regal, nod, Nocturne agreed, then cast a shadowy envelope around herself, her retinue, and the four heroes. When the shadow dissipated,they had vanished.

Taking to the air, the rest of The Nameless flew off in the direction of City Hall.


White Diamond watched the crowds of heroes swarming the building with icy detachment. A quick skim of their minds revealed that only a few were actually trying to track down Gamester, and even less were looking for the children. Annoyed by their thoughts, she walked away from the entrance, where her attention was drawn to three heroes sitting, looking somewhat glum.

"Whatís eating you?" she asked as she walked up to them.

The three men seemed startled that someone was speaking to them.

"Nothing." replied one of them, whose yellow bandana, black t-shirt, and jeans seemed the most unheroic outfit she had ever seen.

"Youíre tracking down Gamester, arenít you?" she pressed as if she hadnít heard his gruff reply.

One of the three, dressed in a white flak jacket stood up. "Yes, we are. How did you know?"

"Because your thoughts are as transparent as glass." she replied with a smile. "Most people donít bother with their thoughts around City Hall. Besides, the few who are looking for him are few and far between."

"Who are you, anyway?" asked the man in white.

"White Diamond. My team, The Nameless, are on their way here."

"So you know Solanum, then." said the third man as he elbowed the man in white.

The tall blonde gave him a curious look. She could easily see into his mind, but seeing his face was another matter. "Yes, I do."

The man in white took over. "Iím Medik, this is Red Sniper, and heís Fixit."

"Of Fixit Auto Body?" she asked.

Fixit turned to face her. "Yeah, thatís me. Howíd you know?"

"My teammate Psirene brought her car to you a couple of months ago. She said you were fantastic." she gave him a little wink.

To her delight, he suddenly turned beet red, and got up to go light his cigar.

Medik and RedSniper turned from their teammate and looked at White Diamond, who had a subtle smirk on her face.

"What was that about?" Medik asked.

"Iím sure I donít know," she replied, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "Psirene has a thing for double entendre, but Iím willing to bet he got lucky." Smiling at them again, she changed the subject. "Now, what have you boys found out that we havenít?"


Eastgate would have been a good place to live, had not the Trolls decided the same thing.

In an attempt to expand their territory, they set a bunch of explosives into a portion of the sewer network. The resulting explosion triggered a massive cave-in due to the presence of the caverns underneath the tangle of pipes. The newly opened territory, dubbed "The Hollows," quickly became a turf war between the drug-addled gang and the Outcasts. More recently, however, strange creatures called Pumicites had been seen crawling up from the very depths of the caves, some felt they came from the molten interior of the earth itself. All in all, Eastgate had been forever altered.

The five heroes looked over the once-fine neighborhood for any sign of the children.

"Where do we start?" asked Valdrich, his brown eyes intently watching a group of Trolls.

Solanum pulled out her PDA for information on the neighborhood. "Itís mostly residential, a few shops, but I donít see anything that would attract attention for a bunch of mind-controlled thieves."

"So, basically, we have to walk around and ask," sighed Psirene. "Lovely."

The group set down the hill, only to be met by a large group of Trolls.

"Capes no allowed!" the largest one challenged. The others grumbled in agreement.

"My, my, you can use words with more than one syllable," purred Nocturne in a way sure to provoke a fight. "Iím almost impressed."

"We do not want to fight," began Valdrich, stealing an uneasy glance at Nocturne. "But we will if we have to, and you will most assuredly lose. We need to know if you have seen six children come this way."

The Troll looked at them, confusion obvious on his face. Most capes fought, and these didnít.

"What, is six too high of a number for you to count to?" snarled Nocturne.

The bass growl coming from the giant could be felt as much as it was heard. Solanum gave a warning glance at the indigo woman, wishing she would shut up.

"Assuming you didnít try to eat them, which way did they go?" Nocturne demanded, pushing her way to the front. The deathly chill coming from her zombies made everyone give her a wide berth.

Sufficiently angered to attack, the Troll raised both fists high in the air, and brought them crashing down towards the slight woman, which was all she wanted.

With a wave of her hands, the zombies leapt onto the Troll leader, their cold flesh slowly draining the life from the monstrous gang member. A quick summoning of shadow kept his fellow Trolls from fleeing; she wanted them to see what was about to happen.

Having been pinned by four undead, the Troll was crying piteously; the chill touch hurt, and he felt a little bit of himself drain away with each second. Nocturne knelt down, grabbed him by what little hair he had on his head, and made him face her.

"I have neither time nor inclination to wait for your slow-witted answers. Did you see six children pass this way?" She shook his hair, pulling on it and made him yelp in more pain. "ANSWER ME!!!" she screamed.

Psirene worked quickly, circumventing the fallen Trollís consciousness, and finding what part of his mind was still human and cognizant. Seeing through his memories, she saw that the children, did indeed, pass through this part of The Hollows, but proceeded to go northward, out of the area.

"Nocturne, stop." she requested.

Slowly, the dark woman turned to face her former sister-in-law. Red eyes narrowed, she reluctantly unhanded the now-weeping Troll. Wordlessly, she called off the zombies, who resumed their respective places around their dark mistress. Nocturne schooled her expression back into cold impassivity.

"The children did come through here, but headed north. Iím not sure what else this Troll saw, but at least we know which direction to go looking in." Psirene informed.

"Letís get moving, then," Solanum said. She was now even more uneasy about having Nocturne working with them, but figured her powers would come in handy if they encountered Piper or the others.


When the rest of The Nameless arrived, White Diamond made the introductions between them and the three heroes she had just met. Then she went straight into what she had found out.

"Several of the children have been apprehended. Someone by the name of Spectreblade managed to get teleportation tags on several children and send them to Chiron Medical for a psyche evaluation."

"But?" asked Medik. He could tell something else was going to follow her announcement.

"Heís gone missing. He reported that he was engaging in a fight with Piper."

"Hmm.." mused Nightbringer. He was trying to piece everyoneís role. "So, Piper watches over the children, the other four are just distractions, Gamester oversees the whole thing. But I still donít get why."

"Revenge is always a motive," offered Red Sniper.

"Yes, but who is Gamester trying to get revenge on? There seems to be no connection to any of it. I mean, no one has actually seen The Gamester, have they? He keeps sending out those damned boxes that people keep opening. The city might as well call out the snowplows."

"You know, Nighbringuh, that might not be a bad idea. Put a big olí blade on the trucks, and WHAM! Them oversized snowmen wouldnít know what hit Ďem." LiveWire chimed in.

"Go make that suggestion, and see if you can get us an interview with Dr. Webb while youíre at it."

"Yessuh!" saluted LiveWire as he ran into City Hall.

"We questioned him, but we didnít get a whole lot. I think Emplate freaked him out." stated Medik. "He said that Gamester came to him, threatening to expose his experiments to Statesman if Webb didnít do as he demanded."

"So, we have an ambitious newcomer manipulating a very talented inventor. Where do the others fit in?"

"Maybe I can help with that," replied a woman.

The heroes turned to look at the speaker. She clearly was an ordinary citizen, but looked like she had been following this story closely. She nodded a greeting to Fixit, and introduced herself to the others. Pulling out a notepad, she began to read her findings.

"Several months ago, the Circus Royale was in town."

"Psirene took Delilah and Carlito to that. She said it was pretty bizarre." commented Medusa.

"Well, while they were in town, several performers disappeared."

"How many?"

"Four; their strong man, a juggler, a clown, and their sideshow fortuneteller." she read.

"Add some technology enhancements, and I think youíve got Gamesterís gang," concluded Nightbringer. "But that still doesnít answer how they started working for him."

"What about Piper? Did you find anything about him, Lindsey?" asked Fixit.

The reporter shook her head. "I went to Sussex Academy to talk to the faculty. I was able to talk to all of them except one, Jeffrey Hamlin."

"I think Psirene mentioned him. She said that all the kids love him." remarked Vision, leaning on his staff.

"From what I found out, they have good reason to," replied Lindsey with a cryptic smile.







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