Where were we?
Oh yeah, William Nemesis had just been turned into a frog.
(Admittedly, it wasn’t one of his finer moments – though he’d certainly experienced stranger.)
Unlike his cartoon counterparts or telepaths of great renown
(Nemesis’ telepathic abilities were low-level; great for the Jedi mind trick but that’s about it)
he found himself unable to speak or communicate in any way. In fact, his mind appeared to be regressing to an animalistic state, hence the insatiable hunger for as many flies as his now-elongated tongue could snatch. This left the magical ball in the hands responsible for William’s fate: the scantily-clad sorceress known as Madame Strange.
Still reeling from her own actions – she hadn’t employed this particular skill in many a moon – Strange was still paralyzed, unable to fully process the events she had just set into motion. She had been trailing her prey across worlds, a baker’s dozen, in fact, and now, on the world of her birth ironically, a simple slip-up undid all her hard work,
Then Nog (“Nemesis” mixed with “frog”) released a massive croak and snapped the antagonistic mage back to life.
“Oh very well,” she sighed in a sultry tone. “I believe my point has been sufficiently established… you will listen to my words and no longer invade my personal space unless requested to do so, correct?” The command left her exquisite lips just as Strange realized an amphibian couldn’t answer even if it wanted to, and so she began to reverse her supernatural handiwork when yet another player player entered the fray…
Do not mess with the Madame…
“WHERE… IS… HE!” The voice that merged from the figure standing in the Empire’s doorway was hoarse and weak yet simultaneously brimming with rage.
“Oh, it’s you,” Madame Strange was unimpressed and quickly turned her attention back to Nemesis.
But this newest arrival to the proceedings wasn’t content to be dismissed. “I WON’T ASK AGAIN… YOU HARLOT!”
That did it.
“I have little time to play with you… you mewling stripling. Now go find a tailor to make you some more mature garments before I have you join… him.” Strange’s frigid dismissal did little to cool Golden Lad’s white-hot anger – but seeing Nemesis reshaped into an amphibian certainly did.
(Okay, so I lied. the Lad is actually an old player, not a new one. Sue me.)
At any rate, GL burst into a raucous fit of maniacal laughter at the sight of his “super fan’s” transformation. “I’d forgotten you could do that, Strange!” he announced between giggles before snapping back to a tenuous form of sanity. “Where the hell have you been, anyway? No one’s seen you for decades… not since you disappeared in a burst of blinding light over the Statue of Liberty. I could have used your help all this time, you know!”
Her mind momentarily cast itself back to the event in question but Madame Strange had no time for such trivial reminisces. Gesturing in arcane fashion, she at last undid her witchery and restored William Nemesis to his gangly mortal form.
Having a human throat again meant he could finally articulate his feelings. – and he had plenty of them. “What precisely is your damage, you golden age Kardashian reject? It’s not enough to stalk me across the Multiverse… you had to make me a low-rent Thor variant too? If I had the time I’d kick your magnificent ass! And Tommy, you should be directing your anger where it belongs… we’ve got a lab full of your friends that needs burning to the ground!”
Tommy Preston was flabbergasted, so much so he had no retort. On one hand, his power, which had been drawn from the souls of a thousand martyred Aztecs, had been irrevocably drained
(completely against his will, it should be noted)
and he was pissed about it. On the other, he had just been told his lost allies were not only still breathing, there was a chance they could be freed?
“You better not be messing with me, boyo – ”
“He isn’t,” Madame Strange coldly injected. “But freeing your friends from their dormancy will mean nothing if this world’s death throes are the first and last noise they hear upon awakening.”
Tommy’s already-brittle consciousness was about to splinter beyond repair. William knew he had to channel the Speed Force and bring this Titanic-sized train wreck back under control before his entire mission was rendered pointless.
“Yes, Tommy, now that those two middle-management thralls are out of the picture this world is on a countdown… but believe me when I tell you there is an army of the most unconventional, marginalized, forgotten heroes across a host of realities fighting to make sure every world survives the conflict that ‘s coming.”
His words penetrated Golden Lad’s wounded heart. He knew what it was to be the hero everyone overlooks – and what it felt like to be a world’s only hope.
But Madame Strange was another story altogether.
“Your actions have obliterated the Balance on thirteen worlds now, forcing them onto a collision course with their final end, William Nemesis, what makes you think your allies will succeed before time runs out on these realities?” she questioned with chilling superiority.
“The best of things, Strange. The thing that powers me and every one of my brothers in this war… hope.”
“SERIOUSLY? HOPE’S YOUR SECRET WEAPON!” Golden Lad sputtered. “Even I’m not buying into that! And I’ve been flying around in shorts for decades!”
“Okay, fine,” William groaned as he headed towards the Empire Diner’s mangled front entrance. “I also have a plan so airtight it’s practically hermetically sealed. Can you two just trust me so we can get moving before this earth really is lost for good?”
The two heroes of a bygone age just stared at Nemesis as though someone had pressed “pause” on their lives. “Okay, fine,” he responded. “I know you feel rudderless without your power but the Heart of Gold is still functioning -”
“Then why the hell did I have to walk back here, you idiot?” was Tommy’s snappy comeback.
“You still have your costume, don’t you?” William then grabbed a cup of ice cold java left behind by an Empire patron who vacated as soon as the action began. It sloshed against Golden Lad’s chiseled chest without leaving a single drop behind. “And the mojo that keeps it clean is still in place… so there’s a shining example of hope right there!”
The Lad looked unimpressed. To say the least.
“And there’s a way to get the Heart back up to full power… but only if we get ourselves to that lab!” Nemesis’ sales pitch appeared to be doing the trick with Tommy – but Madame Strange was still a rock.
“I know what you’re worried about, lady, but there’s a strategy in place to keep this and every reality from disintegrating and becoming a giant cosmic energy drink for She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named… assuming She ever finds Her way back from wherever the hell She disappeared to!”
Madame Strange cracked ever… so… slightly.
“Very well,” she relented. “Let us go and dismantle the remainder of The Dark’s infrastructure so this stratagem of yours can commence. But know this, William Nemesis…
(a big fan of dramatic pauses, Madame Strange)
I represent one who will not allow the Multiverse to fall under any circumstances,” she shot a glacial glare in the direction of both male heroes. “I know spells that make the frog form seem like paradise.”
“Greeeat,” was their dual acknowledgment.
Let’s go to the lab… and see what’s on the slab.
We’re getting there…
Where exactly does one get a superhero costume that’s stain resistant? Uhhh… asking for a friend…
You need to track down a wizard who specializes in garment protection spells.
Check Craig’s List..
The last time I tried looking on Craigslist for something I ended up scarred for life.