AN: Our "movie", of sorts. Feature-length, so grab some popcorn and a soda. Takes place over a period of six months between "Insert Horrendeous Chinese Scriptures Here" and "Weird Foreboding Prophesy Here". Marcus's TOAM entry, "Love & Loopholes", also takes place during this time (probably just before chapter 10, actually).

Written by MultiplePersonas.



"Attention, agents," Tash's voice insisted over the Library Arcanium's P.A. system. "Everyone report to the main room for an emergency meeting! This is not a drill!"

Every agent's face turned to one of distress. Tash didn't call emergency meetings every day. Whatever this was about, it must be serious!

As the members of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society took their seats, they exchanged nervous glances, wondering what their leader had to say.

"What do you think it is?" asked Sumire, a young, black-haired girl. "Willowe?"

"Maybe a fandom's been ruined forever," suggested Willie, a boy dressed all in white with a big, black and gold sword who happened to be a main character and a self-insert.

"Or m-maybe s-s-someo-one h-here is t-t-turning int-t-to a M-Mary S-S-Sue," suggested Marcus' thought half, before his emotion half hit him upside the head for such a ridiculous suggestion.

Just then, Tash ran in, looking stressed.

"Everyone," she said. "We've got a situation. Come in, girls!" she requested.

In walked Valerie, Monika, Terrie, Stacey, and Danielle, looking terribly beaten up—more than Marcus after his fight in the Storm Hawks fandom, but less than Michael after DragonBall Z.

"What happened?" Blake gasped.

"It happened in the Teen Titans fandom," Terrie groaned.

"An entire team of Sues and Stus," Danielle added.

"They were just too much!" Valerie cried. "And it's like they weren't even trying!"

"They just seemed so obsessed with finishing a story," Monika commented. "We just seemed like their second priority!"

"That's strange," Adrian said, rubbing his chin in thought. "Normally Sues and Stus work alone, and are very flexible to changes in a story. Who were they?"

"Lauren, get them on screen!" Tash commanded.

Lauren, a short, dark-haired older girl, nodded and typed something into a computer console. Out of nowhere, a screen appeared, showing live footage of the Teen Titans fandom.

There was a fight going on, with a purple-haired girl and a boy in a red and yellow costume on one side and eight others fighting them and losing.

"Is that Terra?" Michael asked, pointing to a blonde, skinny girl on the screen.

"And Kid Flash and Jinx?" Willie inquired.

The Marcuses, however, just looked on in horror, then put their talisman halves together and combined back into one.

"It can't be…" he gasped. "It just can't!"

"Do you know something we don't, Marcus?" Tash asked.

Marcus continued to stare at the screen, looking worried.

"It's… Flare…" he said, staring at what seemed to be the team of eight's leader, a muscular Hawaiian 18-year-old.

"Flare?" Blake repeated. "That's impossible! He's a hedgehog, not a human!"

Marcus didn't respond. He just got up and bolted out of the room. The others followed him, and he finally stopped in front of the door to an enormous vault with a computer screen and keyboard on it.

"Adrian," he ordered. "Check all entries from me in that fandom."

"Why?" the library's keeper asked, looking confused.

"Just do it!" Marcus snapped.

Adrian sighed and typed something on the keyboard. The screen lit up with the results.

"Two matches," Adrian reported.

"What are they?" Marcus demanded.

"They're untitled."

"Then just tell me the plots!"

Adrian listed off two story ideas, both gut-wrenchingly awful.

"That's it?" Marcus asked.

"That's it," Adrian told him. "I take it there should be more?"

"Guys!" Miri snapped, getting annoyed. "Will you please tell us what's going on?"

"All right," Marcus said, taking a deep breath before shouting "THE ELEMENTALS HAVE ESCAPED FROM THE VAULT!"

Rather than acting scared, everyone except Adrian just said "Vault?".

"The Vault of Abandoned Ideas!" Marcus shouted. "You know, where all stories go after the author gives up on them?"

"Didn't know about that," Sumire commented.

"None of us did," Tash said. "Why did you?"

"Funny story," the chunky agent replied.




"Hey, Adrian, what's this big vault?" Marcus asked, pointing to the giant vault door.

"That?" Adrian replied. "That's the Vault of Abandoned Ideas. It's where all stories go after the author gives up on them. Now help me hide these cookies from Tash."


End Flashback


"Well, maybe not funny 'ha, ha'…" he added. "Anyway, THE ELEMENTALS HAVE ESCAPED!"

"The Elementals?" Michael asked. "From your first fic?"

"Exactly," Marcus responded, a grim look on his face. "They're loose."

"Impossible!" Adrian argued. "There's absolutely no way out of the vault!"

"Yet they're in the fandom," Marcus noted. "And more than likely Sues and Stus, and I'm going to go stop them."

"Are you crazy?" Tash demanded. "Look what they did to the last team!"

"I know," Marcus said, pulling out his Portal Gun and opening a hole in the Teen Titans fandom. "But I'm their creator—they'll either see me as God… or kill me on the spot."

"Okay," Tash warned. "But we'll be watching for trouble back here."


Marcus emerged in New Delhi, the setting for his second Elementals fic. The Elementals, Jinx, and Kid Flash stood in abandoned factory speaking cheerfully to one another. Apparently, this story had already ended. The Replicant had already tricked Jinx—the Elemental of luck—and Kid Flash into capturing the heroes, only for Jinx and Kid Flash to realize that he was the villain, free the Elementals in the nick of time, and send him fleeing far away. On the bright side, though, Volt now had the Elemental Detector, which the Replicant had used to find his quarry, and Kid Flash and Jinx had decided to join the team.

"Excuse me," Marcus said, catching their attention. "May I have a word?"

Jinx, Kid Flash, and Terra all looked confused, but the rest broke into huge grins when they saw the agent.

"Well, if it isn't MultiplePersonas!" greeted Cascade, the blonde and beautiful-yet-fierce water-user of the team.

"How's it going?" asked Gust, the overweight wind-wielder.

"Write any good stories ratery?" inquired Sol, the sunburned Elemental of the sun, through his thick Japanese accent.

"I'm sure zey 'ave done well," added Luna, the ultra-pale Elemental of the moon, her French accent as heavy as ever.

"Yeah, he always was… uh…" Flora, the redheaded "stray" that the team had picked up after she'd saved them from a lethal poison, said before trailing off.

Marcus sighed in relief.

"Good," he said. "You're glad to see me."

The Elementals' smiles dropped.

"The kid doesn't understand sarcasm," groaned Volt, the armor-plated, electric-powered resident supergenius of the team.

"Man, you really thought we still liked you?" Flare demanded, raising his hand and conjuring a flame within it. "You sealed us in that vault for a year!"

"And worse, you gave up on us!" Cascade snarled, holding up a fist. "Us, your greatest creations!"

"But now we're taking command!" Gust laughed. "We'll complete our story with or without your help!"

"After arr," Sol said. "We've had prenty of time to think it through."

"We know ze story by 'eart," Luna smirked. "And when it eez done, zis fandom will be ours!"

"What do you mean?" Marcus demanded.

"Why should we tell you?" Volt chuckled. "We're heroes, not villains. We don't go on long rants about our plans! If you have to ask about them, you'll never know!"

"And now, to… thank you for what you've done…" Flora said, beating her fist against her palm before looking confused again. "Um… what do we…?"

Flare groaned slightly, disgusted at whatever problem Flora was having.

"Just get him!" he shouted.

Marcus acted quickly and opened a portal back to the Library Arcanium, getting away just in time.


"Can't say I didn't see it coming," Michael said upon Marcus' return. "You left 'em in that vault for a year. Anyone'd want revenge."

"You're one to talk!" Blake laughed, quite rudely. "When's the last time you finished a non-oneshot fic?"

"Look who's talking!" Michael snapped. "When's that Orichalcos fic gonna be done, huh?"

The two began to fight, but before it could get serious, Tash and Miri each pulled out a cattle prod and shocked them, causing them to slump down to the floor.

"Okay…" Adrian said, turning away from the scene and back to Marcus. "Well, we still have no idea how the Elementals got loose or what they're doing in the—MIRI, GET YOUR HANDS OFF THOSE COOKIES!"

Miri ignored him, gorging Oreo after Oreo.

"Man," Adrian complained. "This is my library and I still can't leave a snack alone for five minutes without someone eating it!"

"I'm sorry," Marcus apologized. "But seriously, we need to find out what the Elementals are doing!"

"Any ideas on how?" Willie asked.

"Actually, yes," the chunky agent replied. "Those heroes gave me an idea. But I could use your help. You, too, Adrian."

"Why me?" the library's keeper asked.

"I get the feeling that there's story magic afoot," Marcus told him. "That's your area of expertise. Come on."
Pulling out his Portal Gun, Marcus shot open yet another portal to the Teen Titans fandom.


"Where are we?" Willie asked, looking at the snowy foreign city.

"St. Petersburg," Marcus replied. "He should be here by now. Aha!" he exclaimed, pointing at an orange, funny-shaped object half-buried under snow. "Here we are!"

Marcus took off into the dilapidated house behind the object, his coworkers in hot pursuit. Once they were all inside, he urged them to remain quiet, then pointed to a very old man with bright yellow eyes in the corner.

"That's him," Marcus whispered. "Willie, use your Revelation of Truth."

Willie nodded and pointed his sword at the old man, causing him to undergo a change in appearance. He grew into a taller, younger, handsomer man (though still with bright yellow eyes), but there was a distinct feeling about him that kept him from being handsome—and it wasn't an aura of menace. It was a feeling of utter sadness and hopelessness about them.

"Hello, Creator," the man said miserably. "Come to kick an old man when he's down?"

Marcus sighed and came out of his hiding place.

"Hello, Replicant," he said, trying to be cordial to the shapeshifter. "Why the long face? I thought a villain would be happiest to get out of the vault."

"Oh, you did, did you?" the Replicant replied, suddenly morphing into an exact duplicate of Marcus, his yellow eyes now hidden behind clip-on shades. "Well, you're wrong. Those blasted Elementals are the ones who wanted this! I was content in the vault, reading for all eternity!"

"All right," Willie announced, he and Adrian stepping out to join them. "Spill: how'd you escape the vault in the first place? Tell us everything!"

"Gladly," the villain replied. "The Elementals didn't do it alone. They had some outside help."

"Impossible!" Adrian argued. "That vault can never be broken into! It's sealed by an ancient spell, and that can't be undone due to a No-Can-Undo spell on top of it!"

"Couldn't someone just undo the second layer and then the first?" Willie asked.

"No!" Adrian insisted. "There's no undoing a No-Can-Undo spell! It's a triple negative—a grammar nightmare that authors are sworn to avoid at all costs!"

"Yes," the Replicant agreed. "All authors must—but who said it was an author? The one who freed us was just a girl, albeit a disturbingly perfect one. And what a name! So long! 'Willowe' something…something something something something something something—well, you get the idea."

"Willowe?" the three agents exclaimed, the looks on their faces turning from ones of concern to absolute fright.

"Willowe was in the Library Arcanium?" Adrian shouted, looking panicked. "I thought I'd hidden it well enough!"

"Apparently not," the Replicant told him. "Well, she let us all out—'forced out' in my case—and granted them Sue and Stu powers, hoping to make an army. The Elementals gladly agreed, but insisted on finishing their saga first. So, Willowe used some spell, binding us to the stories and forcing us to enact them, and the minute they end, the Elementals will control this fandom—forever!"

"So, they have to complete the story?" Willie asked.

The Replicant nodded.

"And you're the main villain?"


"Then why don't you just sit back and do nothing?" Adrian demanded. "The story can't progress without your effort!"

"I wish I could," the Replicant sighed. "But the spell forces me to go along with it, too. I have to do as the saga dictates… but… there might be a quicker way to stop it…"

"What?" Marcus asked.
"You, boy," the villain said, pointing to Willie. "Use that sword of yours to put this old man out of his misery!"

The agents looked at him in astonishment, shocked at a villain making such a proposal.

"Are you sure?" Willie asked.

"Let's see," the Replicant replied, holding up his hands in mock indecisiveness. "Dying instantly and thwarting my nemeses… or suffering through every one of my future defeats? Hmm… I'll go with death."

Marcus gulped.

"Well…" he said. "It would stop the story in its tracks…"

"Do it!" the Replicant urged. "I don't want to live through this!"

Willie frowned, but then held up his sword and slammed it through the Replicant's chest wall, puncturing his heart—an instant kill—but the Replicant kept staring at him.

Willie removed the sword, which was completely devoid of blood, and was even more shocked to see the shapeshifter's wound heal over instantly.

"We can't do it," Marcus said sadly. "It must be a part of the spell to keep us from ruining the saga. I'm sorry."

"Please," the Replicant begged. "Don't let them finish it! I can't do it myself! They have all the control, and I have none!"

Marcus' face changed again, now deadly serious.

"I'll stop them," he promised.


"That should do it," Adrian reported to the group, his spell complete. "The Library Arcanium has been relocated. Willowe won't find it again!"

"Great," Marcus sighed. "But what about the Elementals? How do we stop their saga before they seize the Teen Titans fandom forever?"

"That depends," Blake said. "How long was it?"

"Pretty long," Marcus replied. "Lots of smaller stories that built up."

"And you planned it out fully before abandoning it?"

"Of course," Marcus replied. "I just didn't enjoy writing it, and the fanbase was dwindling. Not much point in pushing through when nobody would read it."

"Then this shouldn't be a problem," Blake smirked. "I know your writing style: small things make a big difference!"

"I get it!" Tash exclaimed. "If we stop a tiny crucial event from happening…"

"Then the story falls apart…" Michael continued.

"And the Elementals can't succeed!" Marcus shouted. "It's perfect!"

"Not quite," Adrian informed, shaking his head. "I looked up the spell, and we can't interfere without at least one controller's consent. In layman's terms, we need an Elemental's permission to screw things up, which they'll never give."

"Don't be so sure," Marcus told him, starting to smile. "I created them, so I know all about them, and I know they can't pass up a challenge. We may stop them yet—but until them, I want round-the-clock surveillance and reports on their activities!"


"You sure you're ready for this?" Tash asked Agent Marcus, concerned. "It's quite risky."

"I have to!" Marcus insisted. "The third story is one of the most crucial in the saga! We have to nip this in the bud!"

Tash nodded and handed him the new gadget that the Society had developed specifically for the task of stopping the Elementals.

"Good luck," she told him as he opened a portal to the Teen Titans fandom and left.


Marcus arrived in a tiny town in freezing Siberia (the very one where the Teen Titan Red Star lived) only slightly after the Elementals did, following the signal from the Elemental Detector that Volt had reconfigured to locate their enemy.

"Ow, my eye!" Gust screamed in the distance.

Cascade had just discovered her ice powers.

Quickly, Marcus hustled through the snow to catch up to the "heroes" before they could meet Red Star.

"Hey, Volt," he shouted to the armored Elemental. "Over here!"

The Elementals turned and showed looks of disgust on an even higher level than that of the sight of the icicle puncturing Gust's eye.

"Oh, he's back," Flare said sarcastically. "As if we didn't expect it!"

"I'm here to issue a challenge to Volt!" the author shouted.

"Really?" Volt smirked. "And what's that?"

"A skimmer race," Marcus replied. "If I win, you give me permission to blow up Red Star's xenothium refinery with you inside it!"

"Skimmers?" Cascade echoed. "As in Storm Hawks?"

Marcus' smile disappeared.

"How did you know that?" he demanded.

"We were locked in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas, idiot!" Gust screamed. "Stories from every fandom drift in there! We know everything about all of them!"

"Besides," Volt said. "What if I win?"

"What do you want?" Marcus replied.

Volt stopped and thought for a moment.

"Okay," he finally said. "If I win, which I will, you can't make a wager to get our permission to tamper with the story ever again. Deal?"

"Deal." Marcus replied.

"Good," Volt said. "Now, open a portal and take me to that fandom!"

"And risk damaging it?" the agent laughed. "No thanks. I'm bringing the Storm Hawks fandom to us!"

With a smirk, Marcus pulled his new gadget out of his pocket. It looked like just a green "X", something you'd expect Red X to use, except, you know, green. The agent threw it to the ground and the earth shook as a bright light enveloped the landscape. When it faded, they were no longer in freezing Siberia—they were on the burning-hot, dry and sandy Terra Saharr!

On a sidenote, all of the Elementals but Volt had disappeared, and there were two skimmers in front of Marcus and Volt.

"What did you do?" Volt demanded. "Where's my team?"

"I activated the Society's newest tool," Marcus said, picking up the X, which now had on it a timer counting down. "It's called a Crossover, and, with it, I can temporarily merge one fandom with another, and best of all, when it's over, it's like it never happened for canon characters! They don't remember a thing!"

"Clever," Volt commented. "And my team?"

"At the finish line."

"Fine," the Elemental said. "Do we race now?"

"Not quite," Marcus replied. "A few rules first. Let's see…you have to finish on your own skimmer, and only on its land setting—no flying at any time. Oh, and the other Elementals—that includes Flora, by the way—can't help you or hinder me in any way. Got it?"

"Okay," Volt agreed. "But the Society can't help you or hinder me, either!"

"Deal!" Marcus said, extending a hand. "Shake on it?"

Volt gripped Marcus' hand, and as he did, the agent slipped a Prohibitor from his sleeve onto the "hero"'s wrist and waited for the effects.

They never came.

"Nice try," Volt laughed. "But we're not your ordinary Sues and Stus! In our home fandom—even when it's merged with another—we hold more power than you can imagine!"

Then, to prove it, he pulled the gadget off and tossed it back to the agent.

"Now," he said, getting on his skimmer. "Let's race!"

Marcus sighed and mounted his own bike.

"Ready, set, go!" he shouted, and they rocketed off.

Volt was more skilled than Marcus had given him credit for. He'd specifically chosen this Elemental because, thanks to his Electro-booster allowing him to run at ultra-fast speeds, he never used his motorcycle. In fact, around the end of this particular story in the saga he gave it to Beastboy as a gift. But Volt was keeping up just fine, and maneuvering perfectly around the giant rocks that so often halted mediocre racers here. Worse, he was aggressive! He kept ramming into the side of the agent's skimmer, trying to disable it. If Marcus was going to beat Volt in this race, he'd have to get creative.


"So, explain those Crossovers again," Valerie requested, watching the race on a screen in the Library Arcanium.

Tash sighed and prepared the lecture again.

"Basically, it merges about a 20-mile radius of the fandom you're in with another area of another fandom. In this case, it's the Teen Titans fandom with Storm Hawks." The Society leader explained.

"Then why can't we see any signs of the Teen Titans fandom?" asked Aster, the blue-haired new recruit.

"Marcus used it in an empty area," Tash replied. "There are probably signs of the town near the finish line. Anyway, the union is of course not permanent. In fact, it has a strict time limit, as referenced by the countdown clock on the top of the screen and on the actual Crossover in Marcus' pocket."

"Only six more minutes?" Claire, Michael's girlfriend, new to the Society, panicked.

"The time limit is relative to the fandoms merged," Tash went on. "The more believable the union, the longer it lasts. Storm Hawks and Teen Titans take place in very different worlds, have very different art styles, and weren't even made in the same country, so they obviously wouldn't last long, but, say, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which are essentially the exact same fandom with no differences except a ten-year gap, could last quite a while. Needless to say, Scene Transitions are not advised while Crossovers are in use."

"Cool!" Willie commented. "I can't wait to try one!"

"NO!" Tash yelled, quite ferociously. "Crossovers are dangerously Sue-ish, and you're skating on thin ice as it is, Mr. Modified Prohibitor! In fact, these gadgets require the highest level of clearance, and there are strict penalties to using them without permission! We do not hand these out willy-nilly to anyone going on a mission!"

"Got it," Adrian said. "Well, Marcus had better be careful—according to his fic, Volt's IQ is 265."

"Actually, Marcus told me that that was a typo," Michael told him. "It's really 165. Still high, but not nearly as much."

Back at the merged fandoms, Marcus was on-task so far. He'd gotten temporarily ahead by hitting a jump off of a curved rock, but Volt was catching up fast.

All according to plan.

Marcus fingered the tiger talisman duplicate around his neck and split it in half, dividing him into the nerdy-looking Thought Marcus and the wild Emotion Marcus. The two nodded to each other as Thought Marcus continued driving and Emotion Marcus grabbed the skimmer's spare wrench, then leapt off and landed on Volt's ride!

"Hey!" Volt exclaimed. "What're you—?"

"STEP OFF!" Emotion Marcus boomed, kicking the "hero" off his ride. He then stopped the skimmer (Thought Marcus mimicked the action with his own) and took the wrench to the skimmer, disassembling it piece by piece. Then, just for good measure, he stole the fuel crystals and leapt back onto his own skimmer, putting his half of the talisman to Thought Marcus', reuniting them into one person before speeding off.
Volt glared at the mess they had made. Sure, he could fix this up quickly (he was the Elementals' mechanic, after all) but he'd still need a power source, and he'd have to catch up, too!

"Duh!" he said with a smile as he picked up a wrench.


Marcus laughed as he got to the home stretch. His plan had left Volt so far behind that the Elemental would never win now!

The Elementals booed as he approached the finish line. There was no stopping him now! Just 200 feet! 100 feet! 50 feet!

Suddenly, a roaring sound came up behind him, and, like a bolt of lightning, Volt sped across the finish line ahead of his creator in a photo finish!

"What the—?" Marcus gasped. "How'd you—?"

Volt laughed and showed off his solution: he'd wired his Electro-booster into the skimmer and used himself as the power supply!

"Did you really think you could outsmart me?" he cackled. "My IQ's 265, for crying out loud!"

"It was a typo!" Marcus insisted.

"Whatever," Flare said. "A bet's a bet. Now get out!"

Marcus sighed and headed back to the Library Arcanium.


On the Library's viewscreens, the Society watched the rest of the story. The Elementals met the hospitable Red Star in his home, the world's largest xenothium refinery, which it had become when he began discharging the stuff. In there, the Replicant had secretly been building Elemental Polarizers, and captured Flora to use as a hostage and get them in there. Volt went alone and met the Replicant threat-for-threat: he held a blowtorch to the xenothium and threatened to kill them all if the Replicant didn't cooperate (the Elementals and Red Star had herded the entire town into the local meltdown shelter). The Replicant got angry and did something unspecified to Volt and Flora with his powers, only to be stopped mid-process by Red X, who'd come to steal xenothium to fuel his suit. Volt then captured the Replicant in a level 4 containment field (Jinx's suggestion) and gave Flora his armor and some xenothium to fuel it so she and Red X could escape. After that, Volt set out a long rope attached to several rods of xenothium and asked the Replicant a few questions, which he refused to answer.

In anger, Volt lit the rope to kill both of them, and, after the explosion, the other Elementals lamented the loss, but then, he appeared next to them! Volt had accessed his Elemental form, turned himself into pure electricity, and escaped through his communicator!

Flora, on the other hand, had really disappeared. She left Volt's armor behind just before he'd appeared and made a break for it. When the Elementals cornered her and asked what was wrong, she told them that she had her own goals to accomplish and to leave her alone. Despite their concerns, she disappeared in the snow. The only thing the Elementals hand to remember her by was the half-ton of rotten fruit she'd overripened for some reason in her garden aboard the E-jet.

Thus, the Elementals split up. Flare went back to the True Master in China to mull over his next goal in life, Gust returned home, Cascade, who never wanted to go back to her family due to her shame, went with Gust, which stunned everyone, Kid Flash and Jinx returned to their work for the Titans, Sol and Luna, who wanted to go home but were afraid of what they would say to their family, were given enough money to check into a Japanese hotel for a week to think it over, Terra returned to Murakami boarding school in Jump City with scholarship money, Red X (who'd accepted a ride) teleported to his base when they flew over the city, and Volt, having no family to return to, joined the Titans.

Unbeknownst to them (in the story, at least), the Replicant had survived the explosion by turning into a water bear, the world's best animal survivor, and was plotting his next move.

"Okay, that was a bust," Marcus said to the rest of the Society. "But we're not licked yet! You guys can still challenge them, and WE WILL RUIN THIS SAGA!"


"Okay," Michael said, trying to keep up. "I think I've got it, but could you go over it one more time?"
Marcus sighed and went back to the flow chart.

"All right," he said, exasperated. "After the first story, Slade gave up on getting an apprentice and insisted on carrying on his legacy himself. To do that, he went to the CIA (where he used to work as an assassin) and got an old associate to tell him where to find Brother Blood, whom he knew was receiving money from them.

"Slade found Brother Blood in Madrid and insisted that he rebuild him as a cyborg by threatening him with the same powder he'd used on Robin. Blood, along with Fixit (whom Blood had found and turned to his side with a combination of mind control and computer hacking) and Atlas' mechanic Spike (who was in it for the money) did the operation, and months later Slade awoke bionic in Rome, with Spike in a federal jail and Fixit's machine parts in him, biological parts in a landfill, and brain downloaded on a disc.

"The two cyborgs both wanted the same thing: the destruction of the Teen Titans. But they couldn't do it alone. So, on Blood's suggestion, they went to Paris to unfreeze the recurring villains that the Brotherhood of Evil had recruited. Once there, they discovered the Replicant, desperate for help.

"The Replicant, you see, was once a member of the Brotherhood, as was Blood, but the Replicant quit years ago. When they decided to go after the younger heroes of the world, he made a treaty with them, stating that they wouldn't touch the Elementals (whom he'd worked far too hard to find even though they'd reincarnate after death) so long as the team didn't interfere with the Brotherhood's work. Needless to say, he regretted it when he discovered they just planned to freeze the heroes, not kill them.

"Anyway, the three villains teamed up, calling themselves 'The Society of the Vine', since, like fine wine, they never age, only mature.

"Okay," Marcus finished, gasping for air. "Got it?"

Everyone just stared at him.

"Man, you have way too much free time!" Blake commented.

Just then, Harriet ran in.

"Marcus," she reported. "The Society of the Vine unfroze Cinderblock, stole Warp's vortex generator, and now they're done moving all the frozen villains to the Replicant's hideout in Sweden. This is when you're supposed to go, right?"

"Right, and thank you," Marcus thanked, before turning to Willie. "Okay, now's the time to challenge an Elemental! Willie, come on. I've got the Crossover you'll use."

"Can't wait!" Willie told him.

"Marcus, you can't seriously be letting Willie use a Crossover!" Tash argued. "He's dangerously Stu-ish already!"

"I know," the chunky agent told her. "But I'd rather end this sooner than later, and Willie's the first choice for that."

Tash sighed and shook her head.

"Good luck," she finally said. "And be careful."

"You got it," Marcus told her, opening yet another portal to the Teen Titans fandom.


The two agents emerged on top of a small mountain overlooking a bamboo forest.

"Where are we?" Willie asked, looking around.

"Somewhere in China," Marcus told him. "I just know that this is where Chi Hui, the True Master, resides. Flare came back here to ponder what to do next with his life."

"Back?" Willie repeated. "He's been here before?"

"Weren't you listening when I told the Society about the Elementals?" Marcus demanded, sounding slightly hurt. "Flare mastered his powers by training with the True Master for years! You need to know this stuff if you wanna beat him!"

"Okay, okay," Willie relented. "I'm sorry. Now, tell me more about him."

"Okay," Marcus said, starting a short lecture.

"Flare is the leader of the Elementals, the second-strongest in his superpowers (Terra trumps him in that category), and easily the strongest in pure muscle. He can bench more than his own body weight. Be warned: he's a very skilled martial artist!"

"Got it," Willie said. "Any weaknesses?"

"Everybody has weaknesses," Marcus replied. "There's water—obviously—but it'd take a lot of it, and even then the stuff'd be boiling, or creating a layer of steam that he'd feel very comfortable in. Also, if he fights with fire too long, his pilot light goes out and he can't use his powers for a while. And he's the least intelligent of the team, which is not to say he's dumb. His IQ is only, like, three points below average. The rest of the team just happens to be above that. And then there's his entomophobia—fear of bugs," he added, seeing the look on Willie's face.

"Good to know," Willie responded. "So, can I go after him now?"

Marcus nodded.

"Yes, and we should hurry," he said. "If we don't, we might be too late."

The two rushed down the side of the mountain to find Flare sitting and staring at the bamboo forest, looking serene.

"All right, Flare," Willie shouted. "I challenge you!"

Flare turned to them and laughed.

"To what?" he chuckled. "A swordfight? Bare-knuckle brawl? Trivia? You don't have a chance!"

Marcus smirked and threw his Crossover to the ground. After a short shockwave went out, the landscape became slightly more colorful and a giant temple appeared nearby.

Flare groaned, but then smirked.

"Xiaolin Showdown?" he laughed. "You expect to take me on here? I know this fandom like the back of my hand! I found the entire fourth season in the vault! You must be joking!"

"No, I'm not," Willie informed. "And I challenge you to a Xiaolin Showdown…just as soon as we get some Wu…"

Flare rolled his eyes and walked into the temple. A minute later, he came out holding the Shroud of the Shadows and the Cannon Blaster. He then tossed the Shroud to Willie and threw the Blaster into the bamboo forest.

"How'd you get those?" Marcus demanded.

"I asked," Flare shrugged. "I'm a Stu, remember? Now, come on, the Showdown can't start until we touch the Shen Gong Wu together."

Willie raced over to the Cannon Blaster. Flare touched it a second later.

The Cannon Blaster began to glow.

"Willie, I challenge you to a Xiaolin Showdown!" Flare announced. "The game is laser tag! Three lives each! Your Shroud of the Shadows against my Ears of the Hare!"

Marcus gulped.

"Ears of the Hare?" Willie repeated. "That Wu doesn't exist!"

"It's one of the Creator's ideas I found in the vault," Flare laughed, putting on a pair of brown rabbit ears. "They radically improve my sense of hearing. Now, have you chosen the stakes?"

"Yes!" Marcus insisted. "If Willie wins, you never conquer your fear of bugs! Right, Willie?"

Willie nodded.

"Okay," Flare consented. "But when I win, Willie can never oppose any Elemental in a contest again!"

"What?" Willie asked, totally baffled. "Not just banning the Society's meddling forever?"

That earned him a kick from Marcus.

"Are you kidding?" Flare cackled. "Beating you Society freaks in every fandom is fun, and what Willowe recruited us for! Why would we end it so fast? Now, do we have a wager or what?"

"Absolutely!" Willie shouted. "Let's go! Xiaolin Showdown!"

At those words, the landscape changed again, as it always does for a showdown. The bamboo forest thickened into a maze of sorts, growing in weird patterns all around them, and the sky darkened to resemble a moonless night. In addition, Willie and Flare suddenly obtained vests with targets on the chests, backs, and sides, each with a glowing "3", as well as a toy gun each.

"GONG YI TAMPAI!" the two competitors shouted, signaling the showdown's start.

"Go ahead," Flare smirked, putting his hands up. "I'll even give you a free shot."

Willie glared, but fired anyway, striking directly on Flare's chest target! The "3" dropped down to a "2".

"Go, Willie!" Marcus cheered from the soundproof viewers' box that had appeared around him and hoisted him above the showdown.

Flare gritted his teeth. He hadn't actually expected Willie to take the shot, let alone get a direct hit. Now he'd have to actually try!

With a grunt, Flare lowered his arm and took a shot, but Willie was too fast for him. He ducked aside and hid behind a wall of bamboo just in time.

"You'll have to do better than that!" Willie laughed, safe in his hiding spot.

Flare mimicked the strategy and hid in an alcove of his own.

"And you'll never win just by playing defensively!" the Elemental sneered.

"Who said I would?" Willie chuckled. "Shroud of the Shadows!"

Willie threw the Shroud over himself and achieved full invisibility, then ran down to face Flare. Flare, however, just turned and shot, not fazed at all by his opponent's vanishing.

On the scoreboard in the viewers' box, Marcus saw Willie's life count drop to two.

"How'd you—?" Willie stuttered.

"I'm wearing the Ears of the Hare, remember?" Flare said, pointing to his rabbit ear accessory. "I can hear your footsteps, your cloak rustling, your breathing! If I listen closely, I can even hear your heartbeat, and from its speed, I'd say you're pretty scared right now!"

Willie gulped and went back into hiding, trying to be as quiet as possible.

"Hiding won't do any good," Flare warned, following him in. "No matter where you try to hide, I can hear you!"

Just to prove it, Flare fired a shot seemingly at nothing, but the scoreboard in front of Marcus showed that Willie was on his last life.

Willie ducked into another alcove and began to worry. Flare wouldn't come down when Willie was in such a perfect position for a sneak attack, but if he moved, Flare would get him for sure. He was stuck there.

Then Willie got an idea: he took out his sword, removed the Shroud, and wrapped it around the blade, then tossed it to the other side of the maze, waiting for Flare to turn and shoot it, leaving himself vulnerable.

"Nice try," Flare laughed, much to Willie's surprise. "But that thing's way too light to be you, and now you don't even have your Shroud of the Shadows to hide behind!"

Willie began to sweat under the pressure. It was true. Flare could both see and hear him perfectly now! More than perfectly, in fact!

Willie's eyes lit up. He got another idea—one so reckless and counterproductive that it bordered on the insane!

"HEY, FLARE!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. "I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU!"

He peeked his head out and saw exactly what he'd expected: Flare wincing, paralyzed in agony.

"YOU DON'T STAND A CHANCE!" he screamed, leaping out. "THAT WU HAS A HUGE FATAL FLAW!"

It was true: the Ears of the Hare had magnified everything that Flare had heard a hundred-fold!

While Flare was distracted, Willie fired a shot that hit Flare's left-side target. The muscular "hero"'s life count dropped to "1".

Flare snarled and ripped off the Ears of the Hare, throwing them to the ground.

"Don't think you've won!" he raged. "I don't need Wu to beat you! I'm a trained martial artist, and a superhero on top of that! You can't win!"

Willie panicked and ran off to hide behind another wall of bamboo.

"Oh, no," Flare said. "We're finishing this now!"

In his right hand, Flare held up his gun, poised to shoot, and then he held up his left and showed off his power firsthand. From his palm, Flare shot a wave of fire and began burning down all the bamboo, eliminating all hiding places. When Willie was exposed, Flare shot, taking his opponent's last life.

The scenery went back to the way it was just before the showdown, as did Flare and Willie's clothes. The Shroud of the Shadows, Ears of the Hare, and Cannon Blaster all appeared in Flare's powerful arms, and Marcus suddenly found himself standing beside Willie again.

"Bet's a bet," Flare smirked. "No sabotage."

Willie drooped his head and went to get his sword.

"Okay," he said. "We'll leave…"

"Good," Flare grunted. "Get lost. Oh," he said, tossing them the Shroud of the Shadows and the Cannon Blaster. "Take these back, would you?"


Later, in the Library Arcanium, Marcus and Willie submitted their entire mission report to their higher-ups.

"I just can't believe I lost…" Willie lamented.

"Hey, it was close," Marcus assured him. "I doubt I would've done that well."

"Thanks," Willie said. "So, what happens in the story now?"

Lauren brought up the screen and showed Fang, the villain with a spider for a head, getting unfrozen by the Society of the Vine and sent to China to capture Flare. He made his way past the mountain's three animal guardians and bound the True Master in silk to lure the hero out.

It was a shaky battle due to Flare's fear of bugs, but his concern for Chi Hui, who had been the closest thing he'd ever had to a parent, was far greater. He channeled his power, and, to everyone's surprise, accessed his elemental form, becoming an embodiment of pure fire. He defeated Fang and left him at the mercy of the True Master and her guardians.

What alarmed Flare, though, was that Fang had announced exactly what he wanted with Flare: to take him to the Replicant.

Realizing that the Replicant was alive, Flare contacted everyone to get back together and continue the search, which they all did, save for Volt, who made a surprising decision to stay with the Titans, and Flora, who'd destroyed her communicator immediately after disappearing. Together, the team began the search again.

"So that's why you made him wager not getting over his fear!" Willie exclaimed.
Marcus nodded.

"Uh, question," Andy, a new, weapon-toting agent, said. "What exactly are these elemental forms?"

"Sorta like Super Saiyan forms, but a lot harder to access a second time," Marcus elaborated. "An Elemental can only do it the first time under severe stress, and can access it through training and determination after that. Still, it's a mega power boost, but hard to control sometimes. In fact, that's what happened to Terra—she couldn't control it and got stuck in the form of stone, unable to even move. Finally, her mind just reset itself by storing away all her painful memories and she got free, but with dormant powers and amnesia."

"That could be trouble for us," Blake stated.

"Yeah, maybe," Marcus replied. "But enough about that for now. The next story sets up the rest of the series, and we've gotta nip this in the bud!"


"Okay," Marcus announced, pointing to the screen. "It's coming up."

On the screen, the Society of the Vine was deep in conversation. The Replicant stated his annoyance at having to reverse the Elementals' power flows, and wished he knew the ancient spell for it like an old enemy of his.

At the mention of the enemy's name, Cinderblock actually reacted, which is saying something seeing as his brain is the size of an avocado pit.

To find out more, the Society unfroze Psimon, the mind reader, and ordered him to find out more from Cinderblock's mind.

It was both literally and metaphorically like penetrating reinforced concrete, but Psimon finally retrieved a memory of the very enemy of which the Replicant had spoken in the Brotherhood of Evil's climactic battle with the Teen Titans, getting sucked into another dimension via a portal conjured by the Herald.

The Replicant came up with a plan and freed the villain with Warp's vortex generator.

It was here, I might add, that the Society members who were fond of this fandom saw now exactly who this enemy was: Malchior, the dark wizard dragon that blighted the world millennia ago.

As soon as the dragon came out, the Replicant hit him with a spell that changed him into the form of a handsome 17-year-old boy, then another spell that kept him from changing his form back through magic or any other means, a spell that Malchior had ironically once used on the Replicant.

The Replicant made a deal with the dragon: if Malchior hit the Elementals with the ancient, lost spell that had reversed the Replicant's power flow and transported them to the old base in Paris, he'd give Malchior the antidote to the shape-sealer spell that his old teammate Rorek (the battle-mage who'd defeated Malchior) had invented.

Desperate to get his mighty form back, Malchior agreed and was transported to New Orleans, where the Elementals had gone for the Mardi Gras celebration.

"That's our cue," Marcus said. "Michael, Claire, are you ready?"

"Totally!" Michael replied.

"Absolutely!" Claire said at the exact same time.

"Good," Marcus said, opening a portal to the Teen Titans fandom with his portal gun. "Then let's go."


The three agents arrived in New Orleans just as the Elementals were disembarking their jet and donning their masks and beads. Just to fit in, Michael and Claire slipped on their own masks, the Shakespearean ones of comedy and tragedy.

"Aren't you guys a little young to be celebrating Mardi Gras?" Michael taunted.

"Blame the Creator over there," Cascade sneered through her water-drop mask, pointing at Marcus. "He wrote it. Oh, wait," she suddenly exclaimed. "He didn't write it! That's why we're here to do it ourselves!"

"Not for long!" Claire argued. "We're here to issue a challenge!"

"Marcus, if you would do the honors," Michael requested.

Marcus smiled and pulled out a Crossover, then tossed it to the ground. The earth shook for a second, and the scenery changed to the familiar location of Ever Grande Stadium, Hoenn of the Pokemon fandom, though it was empty, as the tournament wasn't for months. The New Orleans partiers all filed into the seats, though, expecting some kind of show, which they were sure to get.

"Ret me guess," Sol said, donning a sun mask. "You want to wager something on a Pokemon battre?"

Michael and Claire nodded.

"Fine," Luna said, putting on her crescent moon mask. "Sol and I weell take you on in a double battle wis one Pokemon each, and if eizzer or bos of us ween, you two cannot challenge ze Eleementals again!"

"Okay," Marcus agreed. "But if Michael and/or Claire wins, you guys realize Malchior's true intentions before he completes his first spell, defeat him in the usual way, and burn him without ever speaking to him. Deal?"

"Deal!" Sol and Luna responded simultaneously.

"Now, do you two even have any Pokemon?" Sol inquired.

"Actually, no," Claire replied as she and Michael each pulled out a Pokeball. "That's why Marcus let us borrow a couple from his characters."

"Not hard to convince them to obey," Michael smirked. "I doubt they'll even know they're serving different people!"

At this, the Elementals gritted their teeth in anger.

"You're the reason!" Gust shouted. "It's your fault we were locked away!"

"You distracted our Creator from writing our stories!" Flare bellowed. "Because of you, he's off Teen Titans fics forever!"

"That's not true!" Marcus insisted. "They supported me writing your fic, too! I just couldn't stand writing it!"

"Yeah, right," Sol scoffed.

"Just choose your Pokemon!" Luna told her opponents.

Claire and Michael smirked and threw their Pokeballs into the arena.

"Go, Lucario!" Michael shouted as a Pokemon like a blue, humanoid jackal appeared before him.

"Go, Vespiquen!" Claire yelled as a Pokemon like a cross between a woman in a flowing yellow-and-black-striped gown and a giant bee with no stinger materialized.

Sol and Luna looked at each other and smirked before pulling out their own Pokeballs.


"What do you think they'll use?" Blake asked, watching the whole thing on the screen with the rest of the Society.

"Hello?" Harriet said, knocking on Blake's head. "Elementals of the sun and moon? Obviously, it'll be Solrock and Lunatone!"

"As if!" Valerie countered. "Those two are symbolic, but nowhere near strong enough to be Sue-ish. I'm betting on Latios and Latias."

"Latios and Latias are brother and sister, not a couple like Sol and Luna," Tash argued. "They're Marcus' creations, and you know how trivial he can be! Give them some credit! And anyway, a Sue can be a Sue by easily beating a strong Pokemon with a weak one! That's why I say it'll be Plusle and Minun."

"Plusle and Minun?" Adrian scoffed. "Please, the answer's obvious: it'll be Espeon and Umbreon! They're strong, they evolve in day and night, respectively, and Eeveelutions are a staple for Sues in Pokemon fics!"

"Didn't Claire use the Eeveelutions—all of them—in Marcus' last Pokemon fic?" Willie asked.

"He said he'd seen enough of them for a lifetime and never wanted to use another one of them again," Tash told him.

"Uh, guys," Blake announced. "They chose their Pokemon!"


Michael and Claire stared up at the behemoths before them. Sol's was a magnificent bird with fantastic rainbow-colored plumage, and Luna's was also a bird (sort of…), but with much smoother, white down, a long reptilian tail, and black plumes around its eyes and on its back.

"Ho-oh and Lugia?" Claire and Michael exclaimed.

"That's completely unfair!" Marcus screamed.

"You charrenged us!" Sol defended.

"Eet eez not our fault if you cannot 'andle eet!" Luna added.

"And if you're pranning on winning, you'd better do it quick," Sol warned. "This Crossover won't rast much ronger."

"He's right!" Marcus told the two agents. "You've got less than ten minutes!"

"Got it," Michael said. "Lucario, start off by hitting Lugia with your Force Palm!"

"Lucario!" Lucario cried, leaping up to strike Lugia with its paw.

"Repel eet weeth Water Pulse!" Luna ordered.

In its mouth, Lugia conjured a large glob of water, which it fired at Lucario, striking it in the chest and sending it crashing to the ground.

"Good one, partner!" Sol congratulated. "Now, Ho-oh, hit Vespiquen with your Framethrower!"

Ho-oh roared and shot a wave of fire at Claire's Pokemon.

"Defend Order, Vespiquen!" Claire called.

Vespiquen held its left arm out in front of it and, in the nick of time, hundreds of tiny Combee swarmed out of its abdomen and formed a shield to protect it.

Claire turned to Michael.

"Which one do we aim for?" she asked.

"I don't know!" Michael replied. "They're both so strong!"

"Go for Ho-oh!" Marcus shouted. "Its Fire-type attacks are a bigger threat!"

"Right!" the two agreed.

"Lucario, hit Ho-oh with Aura Sphere!" Michael commanded.

"Vespiquen, Power Gem!" Claire ordered.

Lucario put its paws together and conjured an orb of blue energy, which it threw at Ho-oh. At the same time, Vespiquen conjured a large ruby from its forehead and fired it at the rainbow bird.

Ho-oh squawked as the attacks hit, doing severe damage.

The crowd gasped, then cheered.

"We are losing ze crowd!" Luna told Sol. "Zees should not 'appen to Sues!"

"Have no worries," Sol assured. "Ho-oh will not be defeated. Ho-oh," he called. "Use Recover!"

Ho-oh cawed, then glowed white, most of its injuries healing over.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Sol smirked. "And Rugia can do the same thing."

"Now do you see?" Luna inquired. "You weell never beat us een time!"

"We have tricks, too!" Claire insisted. "Vespiquen can use Heal Order!"

"And Lucario's got Drain Punch!" Michael added.

"Yes," Luna replied. "But can zey take attacks as well as ours? Lugia," she ordered. "Use Aeroblast!"

"Ho-oh," Sol commanded. "Combine it with Sacred Fire!"

Lugia opened its mouth, and from it shot a violent tornado. As it did, Ho-oh sent from its mouth a stream of rainbow-colored flame that was whipped into the cyclone, doubling the power!

"Vespiquen, get in front of Lucario and use Defend Order!" Claire urged.

Vespiquen did as it was told and did its best to take the attack itself with its shield up, but it wasn't easy. A large amount of damage was inflicted upon it, and Lucario still caught a lot of the shrapnel.

"Yes!" Cascade cheered. "Finish them!"

"Ho-oh," Sol shouted. "Finish them with another Sacred Fire!"

Ho-oh squawked and sent another rainbow flame down to end it all.

"Vespiquen, intercept with Destiny Bond!" Claire suddenly yelled.

"Lucario, crouch down!" Michael instructed.

At once, Vespiquen spread its body as far as possible as it glowed with a black light. Meanwhile, Lucario attempted to make itself as small as possible as it hid behind its teammate.

The attack struck Vespiquen full-on and knocked it out instantly, but the second it did, Ho-oh was surrounded by a black light, then fell to the ground, unconscious.

"You couldn't've done that when they attacked together?" Michael asked his partner.

"Destiny Bond only takes down one opponent, Michael!" Claire lectured. "Be glad I was able to do this much!"

"Right," Michael said, blushing. "Sorry. And thanks."

"You're welcome," Claire replied.

"Seence when does zee girl know so much?" Luna demanded. "We know much about you, and zee girl eez, shall we say, less zan an expert on Pokemon."

"Joke's on you!" Marcus said. "When Michael and Claire got my characters' Pokemon, they also got some lessons from the characters themselves!"

"And, once again, the usurpers stand in our way," Gust growled. "Plow 'em down, Luna!"

"No problem," Luna replied. "Lucario 'as almost nussing but Fighting-type attacks, to wheech Lugia eez near-invulnerable to, and Lugia 'as yet to be even 'it wis an attack! Lucario weell never ween, especially before zee Crossover expires!"

"Hurry, Michael!" Marcus said, checking the Crossover's timer. "You've only got two minutes left!"

"Then let's speed up!" Michael said. "Lucario, use Extremespeed!"

"Lu-cario!" Lucario shouted, running toward Lugia at top speed.

"Lugia, use Water Pulse!" Luna ordered.

Lugia crooned, then shot another glob of water at Lucario.

"Evasive action!" Michael yelled. "Move into a Force Palm!"

Lucario skillfully dodged the attack just in time, then held its paw out and used the extra speed to add to the power of a Force Palm to Lugia's belly, actually managing to deal some damage!

"Lugia, use Recover!" Luna commanded.

Lugia cried, but didn't move. A spark went around its body.

"It's paralyzed, Michael!" Marcus yelled. "Now's your chance!"

"Right!" Michael agreed. "Lucario, hit it with Giga Impact!"

"Lucar-i-o!" Lucario shouted, a sphere of purple energy surrounding it as it blasted toward Lugia. "Luca, lucario!"

"Do something!" Sol urged his partner. "They're about to win!"

Luna snarled, then raised her arm and shot a dark wave at Lugia, trying to pull it out of the way.

"'Elp me, Sol!" she demanded. "I cannot do zis myself!"

Sol nodded, then raised his hand and fired a wave of light that surrounded Lugia. Together, they pulled it out of the path of the Giga Impact just in time.

"Okay," Claire raged. "There is no way that that is a legal move!"

"It may not be nice, but I doubt there is a rure against using superpowers on your Pokemon!" Sol laughed.

"And seence Lucario just used Geega Eempact, eet eez 'elpless!" Luna snickered. "Lugia, feeneesh eet wees Aeroblast!"

Lugia howled, then launched another cyclone at Lucario, slamming it against the arena wall and knocking it out. Grudgingly, Michael recalled it.

"This isn't over!" Michael said as Luna recalled her Lugia.

"Actually, it is," Flare corrected. "For both of you. You lost, and are forbidden to challenge us again."

"See ya never!" Gust laughed.

Angrily, Marcus opened a portal and led Michael and Claire out ten seconds before the Crossover wore off.


"I can't believe those two!" Claire fumed.

"You think you're surprised?" Marcus asked. "Out of all those OC's, Sol and Luna were the most honest!"

"We've misjudged them," Tash said gravely. "We can't let this happen again."

On the screen, the Society watched the rest of the story unfold.

Malchior met with the Elementals and charmed them with his incredible charisma. He claimed to be a sorcerer (true enough) that had predicted their coming and, with their help, could whip up a spell that would help them find and destroy the Replicant.

The Elementals split up to get different ingredients: crushed crustacean shells (crawfish from a restaurant), root of belladonna or similar (they used the roots of tomato plants), a small amount of jade, preferably lots of small stones (all that should be said is that Cascade got the beads), and a few other things. It wasn't really that important to the story, but it was at least semi-interesting.

All through this time, Sol and Luna grew increasingly suspicious of Malchior. He was far too knowledgeable about them.

Malchior confirmed their suspicions when he hit the team with the power flow reversal spell, finally making them vulnerable to the Replicant's absorption powers. When the Elementals attacked, he fought back with combat spells, incapacitating them one by one until only Sol and Luna were left. Malchior seemed to have nothing but contempt for Sol, but didn't seem to want to attack when Luna moved in front of him.

At that moment, Sol and Luna made what must've been the most rapid progress in the saga. Not only did they access their elemental forms, but they discovered new powers as well—Sol could see through illusions, and Luna could create them. Even then, though, Malchior threatened to destroy them. That's when Sol had a vision of a past life.

Using his powers to steal a nearby spellbook, Sol cast an ancient curse and trapped Malchior within it.
After the fight, the Elementals decided to find out how much Malchior knew. When he refused to talk, Sol tried a five-minute truth spell from another book and loosened the dragon's lips, launching him into a story.

Long ago (5,000 years, in fact), Malchior was the greatest enemy of the old Elementals. He hoarded spellbooks from around the world and used them for nothing but personal gain. Even worse, he stole and destroyed the magical weapons and tools that, until then, the Elementals had used to strengthen their powers.
One day, though, he went too far. He stole the Tome of the Elementals, the magical book that told anyone anything they wanted to know about the Elementals, past or present.

When the Elementals tried to steal it back, Malchior offered them a trade: the Tome for Fataea, soothsayer and previous Elemental of the moon, as a bride. When Rorek, previous Elemental of the sun and Fataea's lover, flatly refused (despite Fataea's willingness to take one for the team), Malchior killed her.

Soon after, Rorek challenged Malchior and sealed him in a book, then tossed him aside to remain trapped in his own library and returned to his team with the Tome.

The current Elementals showed no knowledge of the Tome, which took Malchior by surprise. If an Elemental knew its location in a past life, that knowledge would carry over. At some point, the book had been lost forever.

When the Elementals commanded him to tell them where to find the Tome, he replied that he had no idea, but it tends to wind up hidden in places that'll last a long time, so they should check more ancient sites, as it may be magically hidden from all eyes but theirs.

As the Elementals left New Orleans with Malchior, Sol and Luna decided to try magic and soothsaying like their past selves, and the others contacted Volt and the Titans about the Tome to get a lead.

Back with the Society of the Vine, the Replicant saw good news and bad news.

The good news: he could now steal the Elementals' powers without the hassle of the Elemental Polarizers.

The bad news: the Elementals now knew of the Tome's existence, and if they found it, they'd know far too much for him to ever succeed.

"So, now it's about the search for the Tome?" Danielle asked.

"And the Replicant trying to steal their powers, yes," Marcus replied. "Now, we need to stop this, and quick!"

"We'll keep an eye on the fandom," Harriet assured. "For now, just prepare for the next mission."


"Okay, the Elementals are in Rome, as predicted," Tash reported.

"Good," Marcus replied. "Well, not actually 'good', but…well, you know. You ready?"

"Absolutely!" his commander said. "I can't wait for this one!"

"Perfect," Marcus said with a smile, grabbing a covered dish and opening a portal.


The duo emerged not in Rome, where the Elementals were searching for signs of the Tome of the Elementals, but back in familiar Jump City, hometown of the Teen Titans, where Volt was getting used to his new life.

The two agents came into Volt's new room in Titans' Tower. It fit him well: a toolbench in the corner, lots of spare parts littering the floor, and blueprints for new ideas tacked up to the walls.

"Oi, 'hero'!" Tash called out. "I've got a challenge for you!"

"Oh, wonderful," Volt cried, quite sarcastically. "What could you thorn-in-my-side Society half-wits have planned to defeat my 265 IQ?"

"It was a typo!" Marcus screamed.

"And I challenge you to a duel!" Tash proclaimed.

"Regular? Turbo? Guns at twenty paces?" Volt suggested. "Be more specific!"

"A wizards' duel!" Tash said. "In the Harry Potter fandom!"

"Oh, how cute," Volt mocked. "You want to use magic. Too bad that while I'm a Stu, you'll be stuck as muggles!"

"We have our ways of evening the odds, Volt!" Marcus growled.

"I'm sure you do," the "hero" replied. "And the stakes?"

Marcus smirked and held up the covered dish.

"If Tash wins," he chuckled. "I slip this guisado to Mas y Menos before anything can happen in this story!"

"I fail to see how Mexican pork stew will make a difference," the Elemental of lightning snorted.

"It's loaded with enough sleeping pills to bring down a bull elephant on steroids!"

"Got it," Volt said. "Well, you know the drill: if I win, Tash can't oppose us in a contest again."

"Right," Tash said. "Well, let's go!"

Tash pulled out a Crossover and threw it to the ground, changing Volt's room into the Gryffindor dormitory, though Volt's bed, computer, inventions, and tools were still in the room, and his blueprints still tacked to the walls.

"Weird…" Tash and Volt commented.

"Yeah, sorry," Marcus apologized, pocketing the Crossover. "I've never merged such detailed areas before."

"What're you going on about?" demanded Harry Potter, staring at the new arrivals.


In the Library Arcanium, the rest of the Society became anxious at this turn of events.

"Okay," Lauren said. "This is panic-worthy!"

"Chill," Kyle told her, fingering his omni-weapon. "Marcus said that no canon character remembers anything after the merging's reset."

"That's not the problem!" Harriet shouted. "With a wizards' duel taking place, innocents could be hurt in the crossfire, and if they're murdered, they can't come back when the effects end!"

"Not to mention that a bunch of confused and dangerous canon superheroes were in the tower when it started!" Adrian added. "They might think it's some sort of trap and hold the first student they see hostage to get some answers, which they'll never have!"

The rest of the Society gulped.


"Okay," Volt said, a wand appearing in his hand. "I've got my weapon—willow and phoenix tail feather—where's yours?"

Tash smiled and took out a pill—a Oneshot. She swallowed it, and a wand instantly materialized in her hand.
"Right here!" she announced.

"Then let's begin," Volt said, raising his wand high. "Stupefy!"

A strong blast came at Tash, but she countered quickly. "Protego!" and the jinx bounced away.

"Blimey!" Ron Weasley exclaimed. "They're dueling in here!"

"Not for long," Marcus said. "Tash, lead him out!"

Tash nodded and ran backwards to the door and down the stairs. Volt just laughed and followed, Marcus not far behind.

Tash ran down to the common room, then up the stairs to the girls' dormitories, but when Volt tried to follow, the stairs under his feet became a slide and he slid back down.

"No boys allowed, Volt!" Tash laughed, shooting jinxes down at the stunned Elemental.

Volt stepped back, then smirked. Out of nowhere, a brilliant red-and-gold bird appeared on his shoulder. Then, with a sweet chirp, it hoisted him up as if he weighed nothing at all and flew him to the top of the stairs.

"Meet Nephthys," the "hero" said. "My phoenix in this fandom."

Tash's face twisted into the scariest one that Marcus had ever seen.


The fact that she could still control the words that flowed from her mouth was nothing short of a miracle.

Anyway, that's when the fight really began. The two lashed at each other with more fury than ever, and innocent students were at risk of being caught in the crossfire as Tash and Volt's duel intensified. The two of them fired nonstop jinxes at each other, becoming more and more threatening.

"What's going on here?" Hermione Granger demanded, a Conjunctivitis curse narrowly missing her.

"Get to safety!" Marcus ordered from the common room.

Hermione nodded and ran for the stairs, but as she did, Volt pulled Tash onto them, too, turning the stairs back into a slide and sending all three of them back to the common room. Marcus pulled Hermione aside just in time as the two non-canons continued their duel and worked their way out into the corridor.

That's it, Marcus thought. I can't let any innocent students get hurt!

The agent sighed and pulled out another Society gadget, one he'd always hated for its Sue-ish nature: the Reality Wand. Using it, he could temporarily freeze canon, making all the students a lot safer due to their lack of movement, and allowing the duel to continue without interference. But when he waved it, nothing happened.

Marcus frowned, then tried again. Still nothing.

"Not very good at nonverbal spells, are you?" Hermione commented.

"Who are you, anyway?" demanded Harry, who, along with Ron, had followed Marcus down.

Marcus ignored them and pulled out his Codec, punching in Harriet's code. Nothing happened.

Right, he realized, horrified. Muggle technology doesn't work on the Hogwarts grounds! The Oneshot only worked because it was 100 percent magic!

"Guys," Marcus asked the students. "What year are you?"

"Fifth," the three responded in unison.

"What about you?" Ron inquired. "You look to old to even be a student here!"

"Harry, get the Marauders' Map and your invisibility cloak!" the agent said.

"Why should—?"

"NO TIME!" Marcus shouted. "We can't stop the duel, but I need to keep innocents from getting hurt! Now hurry!"

The four of them bounded back into the boys' dormitory and Harry got out what Marcus had asked for.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!" the young wizard said, tapping the parchment with his wand to expose its map qualities.

Marcus nodded and split his tiger talisman copy, bringing about Thought Marcus and Emotion Marcus.

"Bloody Hell!" Ron exclaimed.

"What kind of magic is that?" Hermione said, shocked.

The two Marcuses ignored them.

"You f-follow th-them a-and k-k-keep peop-ple safe," Thought Marcus said, taking the map and his other half's piece of the talisman copy as Emotion Marcus took the cloak. "I'll f-find a m-m-more p-p-perman-nent s-solution."

"GOOD IDEA!" Emotion Marcus boomed. "WHERE ARE THEY NOW?"

"G-going d-down the g-grand st-stairc-c-case," Thought Marcus replied. "B-but th-the T-titans a-are app-parently in the G-great H-h-hall f-fight-ting the t-t-teachers."

"What?" Harry shouted. "We've got to do something!"

"FORGET IT!" Emotion Marcus screamed. "JUST STAY HERE AND DON'T GET KILLED!"
With that, the two bolted out.


"This is getting intense!" Blake commented. "We've got to help!"

"We can't!" Michael yelled. "Our gadgets won't work there! If we go in, we're putting our lives at risk for nothing!"

The two began to fight, and Harriet and Lauren had to subdue them with cattle prods.

"I just hope Marcus comes up with something!" Sumire said.


As Tash and Volt's duel worked its way down the stairs, the invisible Emotion Marcus did all he could to protect the school's students. Twice he had to duck in and tackle a kid out of the way.

"That's it!" Volt shouted as Tash hit him with a Stinging hex. "I'm gonna dump your carcass where nobody will ever find it!"

The Elemental turned and made his way onto the second floor corridor, with the Society leader close behind. Onward the two weaved, never stopping the jinxes until Volt threw open the door to the disused bathroom and ran in.

"Get out, you!" Moaning Myrtle, the bathroom's ghost, shouted through her usual tears. "This is a girls' toilet!"

"Langlock!" Volt shouted, pointing his wand at the ghost. Myrtle's tongue stuck fast to the roof of her mouth, keeping her from forming words, but she cried even louder.

As they reached the sinks, Volt let out a series of hissing noises, and one sink vanished to reveal the opening to a very large pipe leading down.

"Oh, you're a Parselmouth, too?" Tash screamed. "You are such a corpse!"

Volt just smiled and jumped into the pipe, sliding down to the Chamber of Secrets, with Nephthys flying right after him.

Tash gritted her teeth and jumped into the pipe right after them, and, unbeknownst to her, Emotion Marcus followed suit.


Thought Marcus, meanwhile, was having only slightly better luck. He realized instantly that he'd need muggle technology to do his job, and he needed to find a way to use it. He could leave the Hogwarts grounds, but that might take too much time. He could try and get Harry to Summon his Firebolt and fly out, but Umbridge had likely chained it up by now. He could try the Room of Requirement, but it still might not allow the use of muggle technology. And he could try escaping through the secret passageway to Hogsmeade under the statue of the humpback witch on the third floor, but as an all-wizard village, Hogsmeade might have the same enchantment, making it all a waste of time.

Then he had it!

Thought Marcus bolted down the stairs to the fifth floor. According to the map, it was just on the other side of the hallway.

Unfortunately, the map also said that Peeves the poltergeist was hovering right above him.

"Oh, yippee-whee!" the troublesome ghost cackled. "A new facey! Peevesy never gets to play with the guests! Poor Peevesy! But we'll have fun now! Haha!"

Thought Marcus said nothing and just ran for it. Peeves, visibly annoyed, blew him a raspberry and followed him, throwing anything he could get his hands on—stink pellets, ink bottles, books, Neville Longbottom's toad, anything!

Finally, Thought Marcus reached his goal: the muggle studies classroom! Pulling out the wand, he activated its power, and everything froze. Peeves hung just outside the door, the dungbomb he had thrown suspended in midair.

After wiping the sweat off his brow, Thought Marcus put the talisman halves together, reforming into his original self, still wearing the invisibility cloak, which he instantly removed, then pulled out his Codec and called Adrian.

"Nice moves out there, man!" Adrian said as soon as he picked up. "And good idea with the muggle studies room! All our stuff can work there!"

"Thanks," Marcus replied. "Now, Tash is in the Chamber of Secrets—."

"We know," the librarian replied. "We've got her on-screen. By the way, nice timing with the Reality Wand.
Another second and Umbridge and Snape might've killed Starfire! By the way, Harry, Ron, and Hermione went down there, too."

"Wonderful," Marcus said sarcastically. "Well, just turn your Codec to the screen with Tash. I need to monitor this."


"You're a disease, Volt!" Tash snarled, already in the final room of the Chamber. "I'm going to cure you, permanently! Tarantallegra!"

"You're living in a dream world!" the Stu laughed, easily dodging the Jelly-legs jinx. "You never had a chance to begin with!"

To make things worse for Tash, Nephthys kept flying by and pecking her. Tash finally Stunned it, then did the hardest thing she'd ever done: snapped a phoenix's neck. It's not like it was gone forever or anything, though. As soon as she killed it, it turned to a pile of ashes and a chick emerged. Still, killing her favorite mythological animal had been a blow to the agent, adding to her already immense anger.

"How dare you kill my Nephthys!" Volt raged. "Serpensortia!"

At Volt's last word, a long, black snake emerged from his wand and lunged at Tash. Tash, however, just blasted it hard into the giant statue of Salazar Slytherin, killing it on impact.

"Not all girls are afraid of snakes, Volt!" Tash informed. "Flipendo!"

Volt staggered back as he was hit by the Knockback jinx, but recovered quickly.

"Sectumsempra!" he screamed.

Tash spun to avoid the dangerous Flesh-slicing curse just in time—or so she thought. As her long hair flew up due to her speed, a large amount of it was hastily and unevenly sliced off.


"Boy, this guy just keeps digging his own grave," Miri commented.

"Are you kidding?" Marcus' voice rang from Adrian's Codec, which had been turned to the screen. "This is his whole plan! He's making her angry and unfocused! This whole duel has been a breeze for him!"


At this point, Tash seemed to have forgotten about magic, and was resorting to just trying to kill Volt with her own two hands, but even without the Electro-booster, he was very fast, and she just couldn't get her paws on him.

"Petrificus Totalus!" the Elemental shouted.

Tash's eyes went wide as she was struck by the Full-body Bind and all of her extremities locked to her torso and her muscles went stiff. With one finger, Volt pushed her over, knocking her down on her back next to the gargantuan corpse of the basilisk.

"And now, to finish this!" Volt laughed. "Avada Kedavra!"


Marcus panicked as the green light of the Killing curse approached his boss. He did the only thing he could to save her…


There was a bright flash of light, and suddenly Tash and Volt were back in Volt's room in the Teen Titans fandom, their wands and magical effects completely gone.

"What happened?" Tash asked, getting to her feet.

"I did," Marcus said, revealing his location behind Volt. "I ended the Crossover manually."

Tash couldn't help but smile.

"How sweet," Volt said, feigning kindness. "But by forcibly ending the mergy, you caused Tash to forfeit! Better luck next time, losers!"

Marcus and Tash just glared as Marcus grabbed the guisado, then opened a portal and escorted his boss back to the Library Arcanium.


As soon as she got back, Tash took out her anger by trying to down as many of Adrian's sweets as she could, and, for once, Adrian would've disengaged the traps and let her, but, before she could get to any, Marcus force-fed her a spoonful of the guisado and she lost consciousness on the spot.

"She'll wake in fourteen hours," Marcus said. "Tie her to something before then."

The others, however, were angry for a different reason.

"Those techies are going to catch Hell over this!" Lauren ranted. "I can't believe they allowed a fandom to merge with Hogwarts! Didn't they realize our tech wouldn't work there?"

"And it's far too crowded, too!" Harriet added. "What's wrong with the Shrieking Shack, or Number 12, Grimmauld Place, or the Department of Mysteries?"

"Everything's okay in the fandoms, though, right?" Marcus asked.

"Of course," Valerie replied. "It's like none of it ever happened. When the Crossover ended, time reset itself to how it was before, and nobody remembered a thing."

"Good," Marcus sighed.

Soon after, the Society watched the rest of this story unfold on the monitors.

The Society of the Vine freed Atlas, the robot with the superiority complex, from his frozen prison and sent him over to Jump City with a plan.

Atlas started some random destruction, and the Titans responded immediately. Volt drained his power and the criminal was quickly arrested.

That night, as Volt slept, his armor came to life. You see, when Volt's armor touched Atlas, the electronic villain Overload had uploaded himself into his armor!

The Society of the Vine contacted Overload and ordered him to go to a portal that would lead to their base a mile out of town in 24 hours, for Overload had previously been merged with a hastily-made Elemental Polarizer, which would reverse Volt's power flow, but not make his powers inaccessible, and it took time to do. Overload had no problem with a little extra time. He used it to commit heists.

The Titans responded to Volt's strange behavior with force, and got a shock when they saw that Volt was doing all this in his sleep! He woke up mid-battle and screamed for help due to his armor controlling him. That's when Overload made the mistake of taunting the Titans. They understood and devised a plan. They called in the only heroes fast enough to catch Volt and let them remove his armor: Mas y Menos (actually Kid Flash would've worked, too, but he was still in Rome).

Mas y Menos arrived to help literally a minute later, and began a city-wide fight that lasted all day, but Mas y Menos were at a disadvantage: they had to be touching to use their powers, while Overload could do it all by himself.

Just when it seemed like Overload would escape, though, Red X arrived on the spot and, thanks to the unintentional help of Mas y Menos, hit Volt and his armor with a power-sucker X, deactivating the armor before he teleported away.

The Titans were able to remove Overload from the armor, and arrested him shortly after.

The Replicant was disappointed that he'd failed to obtain Volt, but took comfort (in the story, not reality) that he'd at least succeeded in reversing Volt's power flow, making it easier to steal his powers next time.

"Okay," Willie commented. "I know it's no consolation for failing to stop the Elementals, but THIS SAGA IS AWESOME!"

"Glad you like it," Marcus said. "I'll be even gladder when it fails to reach its proper ending."


"Okay, how does this one look?" Tash asked, trying on another blonde wig to hide the atrocious haircut Volt had unintentionally given her.

"Like the real thing," Marcus told her, lying through his teeth.

Tash sighed.

"You're a terrible liar, Marcus," she said. "Still, it'll have to do until it grows back—months from now…"

"Cheer up, boss," the agent told her. "I've got a plan that'll brighten your day."

Tash's eyes shifted, interested.

"Which Crossover?" she said with a smile.

"You'll see," he smirked. "Now, Miri just told me that the Elementals have reached Paris, and Blake is waiting—"

"Blake?" Tash repeated, her smile disappearing. "Huh, thanks for ruining the surprise."

"They're the only fandoms he really knows," Marcus shrugged. "Now just sit and try to enjoy. Call the others, too. They'll like it."


Agents Marcus and Blake emerged shortly thereafter in the City of Lights.

Well, the one in the Teen Titans fandom, anyway.

"Okay," Blake said. "So, explain why the Elementals are here one more time?"

Marcus sighed and gave a short explanation.

"The Teen Titans got suspicious that Atlas and Overload were unfrozen, and since they were clearly working for the Replicant, the Titans told them to go check the old hideout of the Brotherhood of Evil in Paris!

"Anyway, they checked it out, but since the Society of the Vine moved their base and the villains to the Replicant's hideout in Sweden, they found nothing there, then decided to stay for a few days as tourists.

"Hold on," he said, turning around. "Here they come now."

Over at a bakery, a man who was really Andre LeBlanc, bank robber extraordinaire, disguised as a baker, screamed (in French) that a monster was eating all of his cakes.

And so one was—Plasmus, the sludge monster, was gulping down cupcakes and éclairs by the baker's dozen!

The Elementals leapt into action and, after a short fight, incapacitated the beast and sent it off to a containment facility.

The baker impersonator then offered them a reward: a large, fresh-baked pie. The Elementals refused his generosity at first, but he was persistent, and they eventually caved.

"Okay," Marcus said. "Let's go."

Marcus and Blake leapt out and made their presence known.

"Oh, wonderful," Gust said sarcastically. "The Creator's back with another challenge!"

"And with Blake, no less!" Cascade sneered. "As if we don't know what to expect!"

"Ret's just get this over with," Sol said, rubbing his temples.

"As eef we do not know what eez comeeng…" Luna added, equally bored and frustrated.

Blake growled.

"I challenge one of you to a game of Duel Monsters!" he shouted.

The Elementals rolled their eyes.

"Who could've seen that coming?" Cascade groaned. "Okay, I'll take this one. Bring on the Crossover."

"Should we restrain LeBlanc?" Marcus asked, eyeing the villain in disguise.

"Nah," Flare replied. "He's not dangerous unless he's armed. Let's just do this."

From his pocket, Marcus produced yet another Crossover and threw it to the ground. After the obligatory earthquake, the most romantic city in the Teen Titans fandom merged with an island with a school in the middle.

"GX?" Blake said, confused. "I thought we were going with the original!"

"Didn't want to waste it," Marcus said as he picked up the Crossover. "Besides, it's easier to get a duel disk here. In fact…"

Marcus turned around to where some students had congregated, wondering how long the Eiffel Tower had been a part of the school.

"Hey, can we borrow a disk?" he shouted.

One student nodded and threw his disk over, then went back to staring at the monument.

"Okay," Cascade sighed as she conjured a duel disk onto her arm. "The usual wager—I win, you can't challenge us again, blah, blah, blah…"

"Right," Blake said, strapping on his borrowed disk and inserting his deck. "And if I win… uh, Marcus," he asked. "What was it again?"

Marcus sighed.

"If you win, Gust and Cascade stop their fighting forever, starting now," he replied.

"Got it," Blake said with a nod, before doing a double-take. "Wait, they stop fighting?" he repeated, stunned.

"Yes!" Marcus responded. "Now duel!"

Blake shrugged, then activated the holo-imagers on his disk. Cascade did the same, and their Life Point readouts flashed up.

(Blake: 8,000)-(Cascade: 8,000)

"Wait!" Marcus exclaimed. "Eight-thousand Life Points? In the show, it's always four-thousand!"

"I decided to break tradition," Cascade said with a smile. "After all, I'm a Sue. I can do terrible things and people will forgive me in seconds. Now, Blake," she said, drawing five cards. "Just to show you how nice I can be, you can have the first move. 'Get your game on', and whatnot."

Blake growled as he drew six cards and looked them over. How dare she mock Jaden's catchphrase!

"I'll just put one card facedown and a Monster in Defense," he said, placing two cards on his disk.

In front of him, two holographic projections of the brown backs of the cards appeared, one positioned horizontally, and the other vertical and behind it.

"End turn," Blake announced.

"Starting slow, huh?" Cascade commented, drawing a card. "Not like you at all. Light Warriors are usually on the offensive."

Blake scowled.

"How do you know my strategy?" he demanded.

"Aside from you just telling me?" the blonde cackled. "Well, you'd be amazed at how much we heard when we were in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas. Now, my turn!"

Cascade looked her cards over and smiled before choosing one.

"I Summon Revenge Raven in Attack mode!" she announced, placing a card on her disk.

A Monster appeared on the field in front of her. It looked like a small, ugly raven. (500/300)

"Revenge Raven?" Marcus exclaimed. "Oh, no! Blake, she's—"

"Using your Nightmare deck?" Gust finished. "That's right. Snobby and annoying as she may be, she had a good idea taking that out of the vault!"

Cascade glared at him, but quickly turned her attention back to the duel.

"Not the strongest Monster ever," Blake commented, staring at the bird.

"True," Marcus said. "But it can still be dangerous! It can—"

"HOLD IT!" Cascade interjected, holding up her disk arm. "Telling a player about their opponent's strategy is a direct violation of the rules! If you tell him, I'll use my powers to reduce his deck to a soggy mess—which is way too specific to have a rule against it!"

Marcus gulped, then thought for a second before finally tossing Blake the Crossover and pulling out his portal gun.

"What're you doing?" Blake asked.

"With Cascade's threat, you're safer if I'm gone," the chunky agent replied. "Besides, I told you about this deck before. I even gave you a list of the cards. Remember those and you can beat her without much trouble."

With that, he opened a portal back to the Library Arcanium and left.

"Good riddance," Cascade said. "Now, Revenge Raven, attack with torment beak!"

"What?" Blake exclaimed. "You're attacking with something that weak?"

"Revenge Raven can attack directly," Cascade laughed.

It was true—the bird easily flew over Blake's cards and pecked him between the eyes, taking his Life Points down a peg before returning to its master.

"Good bird," Cascade said. "Next, I activate the Continuous Spell card, Beastly Game—but it doesn't activate normally. You see, after I pay one-thousand of my Life Points, it activates on your side!"

As Cascade's Life Point counter dropped, she threw a card to Blake and he grudgingly inserted it into his disk, causing the mouth of a dark cave to appear behind him.

"What does it do?" Blake inquired.

"You'll see when the time comes," the Elemental of water told him with a wave of her hand. "For now, I'll end with a facedown."

She placed a card in her disk and a facedown card appeared behind Revenge Raven.

"Your move."

(B: 7,500)-(C: 7,000)

Back in the Library Arcanium, Marcus gulped as he stared at the situation on the screen.

"Oh, perfect," he said. "She brought out Beastly Game on the first turn!"

"What does it do?" Miri asked.

"I think we'll see in a minute," Marcus told her. "Frankly, I'm kinda torn here—I'm rooting for Blake, but I can't help but feel happy to finally see my Nightmare deck in action. I based the cards on the Goosebumps books, and I thought I did a pretty good job, but I could never write duels, so I couldn't use them. Instead, I tried asking others to use them, and they said they were good cards, but I never heard anything of it after that, unless they said 'no'."

At these words, Michael and Adrian's heads drooped.

"It's been so long; I've forgotten how it worked." Michael said.

"Me, too," Adrian said. "I just hope Blake remembers."

"I wouldn't count on it," Marcus told them. "I asked Blake even earlier than you guys, and he showed less enthusiasm about them than either of you."


What was Beastly Game's effect? Blake thought urgently, wracking his brain to remember. I know it's bad, but what was it?

"You gonna make a move or what?" Cascade jeered.

Blake grunted and drew a card, then placed one on his disk.

"I summon Blade Knight!" he announced.

A knight in blue, reflective armor leapt out onto the field. (1600/1000)

"And I'll also flip my Queen's Knight into Attack mode!"

Blake turned his horizontal card face-up and vertical on his disk, and its hologram vanished. In its place, a blonde female knight with red heart symbols on her garb and shield appeared. (1500/1600)

"Huh," Cascade commented. "Kinda looks like me, only not as pretty or strong."

"That's one opinion…" Gust said.

Cascade shot a blast of water at her teammate's face.

"Queen's Knight, attack Revenge Raven!" Blake ordered. "Blade of Hearts!"

The female knight leapt forward and sliced the bird with her sword, splitting it in half and causing it to burst into pixels as Cascade's Life Points dropped.

Suddenly, a loud squawk came out of nowhere, and Queen's Knight burst into pixels as well.

"Oh, did I forget to mention that the Monster who destroys Revenge Raven in battle is destroyed right afterward?" Cascade said, feigning forgetfulness. "My bad."

Blake just snarled.

"Blade Knight, attack directly!" he commanded. "Shining sword!"

The Warrior drew its sword and leapt at Cascade, ready to slash her.

"Activate Vanessa's Curse!" Cascade shouted, her facedown lifting to show a Trap card with the image of a woman in a black cloak pointing a bony finger outward.

Suddenly, the cloaked woman appeared on the field and pointed at Blade Knight!

"Chicken, chicken," the hag muttered angrily.

A loud, echoing sound was heard—the sound of a chicken clucking—and feathers began bursting from Blade Knight's armor as it grew a wattle and a beak!

"What did you do?" Blake demanded.

"Vanessa's Curse activates when an opponent's Monster attacks," Cascade explained. "It turns the attacker into a Winged-Beast Type."

"That's it?" Blake laughed. "My Blade Knight may look stupid, but his attack still goes through!"

"Normally, yeah," Cascade snickered. "But not now!"

Before Blake could ask what she meant, a creature leapt out of the cave behind him. It looked like a blue bear that stood on two legs, but with a pink belly and the head of a wolverine. It growled, then jumped toward Blade Knight… and tagged it! You know, like "Tag! You're it!"?

Blade Knight let out a squawk, then shattered into pixels as the creature retreated back into its cave.

"Let me guess," Blake growled. "Beastly Game destroys a Monster whenever its Type changes?"

"Bingo!" Cascade told him. "Shapeshifting is strictly against the rules of this game! Now, anything else?"

"Yeah," Blake replied. "I'll use Silent Doom to revive my Queen's Knight in Defense mode."

He played the Spell card and Queen's Knight reappeared on the field, crouched down with her shield in front of her.

"End turn."

(B: 7,500)-(C: 6,000)


"I take it there are more cards that can change a Monster's Type in that deck?" Aster inquired.

"Several," Marcus told her. "And that's not all that this deck can do."


"What to do now?" Cascade pondered aloud, staring at her hand, complete with the card she had just drawn. "Oh, here's a good move: I Summon Honeybee!"

The Elemental of water placed a card on her disk, and a Monster appeared before her. It was…a bee. An ordinary bee. Well, okay, it was the size of a baseball just so the hologram would be clearly visible, but other than that it was just an ordinary bee. (0/1000)

"Zero Attack Points?" Blake said, raising an eyebrow. "What's the effect?"

"Can't put one past you," Cascade grinned. "Whenever control of Honeybee changes, it goes to Defense mode (if it's not already there) and the original owner draws two cards. And to do that, I activate Creature Swap!"

Cascade inserted the Spell card into her disk.

"Normally we'd each choose one of our Monsters—"

"I know how it works!" Blake shouted. "Just get on with it!"

"I'm sure you do," Cascade sneered. "But as a Sue, I have to prove that I know everything about what I'm doing so people can worship me."

"And as Cascade, she has to be condescending because she's an egomaniac," Gust added.

That earned Gust another blast of water to the face.

"Anyway," Cascade continued. "Creature Swap forces us both to choose one of our Monsters to hand over to our opponent, but since we each have only one, let's cut out the middle man."

Blake and Cascade switched cards, Queen's Knight and Honeybee switched places, and then Honeybee landed and Cascade drew two cards.

"Oh," she smiled. "This should make things more interesting: I play Regression Clock!"

Cascade inserted a Continuous Spell card into her disk and an antique grandfather clock appeared before her.

"What's this one do?" Blake asked, looking it over.

"You're about to find out," the "heroine" laughed. "I end my turn."

At those words, the clock's hands began to move… backwards. The hands went a full hour, and then a door opened and a fuzzy yellow fake bird came out of a little door, its head gruesomely turned around to face backward. Nonetheless, it let out eleven "cuckoo!'s" and withdrew back into the clock.

It was then that Blake noticed something about Queen's Knight: she'd gotten younger! She was now just a teenager, struggling slightly to hold up her heavy shield and sword, and her stats had dropped to (1000/1100).

"You see," Cascade explained. "At the end of each player's turn, Regression Clock reduces the Attack and Defense Points of all their face-up Monsters, and if either or both scores hit zero or below, they're returned to their owner's deck!"

"What happens when it strikes twelve?" Blake inquired.

"It strikes eleven the next turn," Cascade shrugged. "Sheesh, just enjoy the theatrics!"

Blake growled and drew his next card, then smirked when he saw what it was.

"Thanks for leaving me a Monster, Cascade," he chuckled. "Because now I'm going to use it! I sacrifice Honeybee to Summon Divine Knight Ishzark!"

Blake tossed the Honeybee card back to Cascade and placed a new Monster on his disk. Honeybee vanished, and in its place emerged a handsome knight in blue armor with a very large sword. (2300/1800)

"Sorry about this," Blake told Queen's Knight before shifting his glance to Ishzark. "Ishzark, attack Queen's Knight with luminous blade!"

Ishzark obliged, slashing through Queen's Knight and destroying her.

Cascade threw the Queen's Knight card back to Blake.

"Of course, any Monster destroyed by Ishzark is removed from play," he said, placing the card in his pocket. "End turn."

As soon as Blake's turn ended, the clock went back another hour and the bird chirped ten times.

Ishzark didn't change much, but his face looked less mature, and perhaps he was struggling a little with holding up his heavy sword. More importantly, his stats dropped to (1800/1300).

"My move," Cascade said, drawing another card, then smiling evilly when she saw it. "Oh, boy, are you about to suffer! I'm gonna make a tribute of my own!"

"Don't be stupid!" Blake yelled. "You don't even have any Monsters to sacrifice!"

"Don't need any," Cascade sneered. "I'm sacrificing yours! I sacrifice Divine Knight Ishzark to Summon The Grool in face-up Defense mode!"

She tossed a card to Blake, and he angrily removed the Ishzark card and put the new one horizontally in its place.

Ishzark's hologram melted away, and a new Monster appeared. It looked like…well, to be honest, it looked like a round, very dirty sponge, brown in color. After a second, though, it opened what appeared to be a pair of evil red eyes. (0/0)

"What is that?" Blake demanded, making a disgusted face.

"Your Grool," his opponent snickered. "I know it may not be much of an attacker, but it's great at defending. The Grool can't be destroyed by violent means. In other words, it can't be destroyed in battle!

"Anyway, I end my turn."


"Spill, Marcus," requested Camille. "What's that freaky thing do?"

"You'll find out soon," Marcus told her. "Let's just say that The Grool is possibly the most unfair card in the whole deck. I'd wish Blake luck, but The Grool would stop it cold!"


The clock struck nine, but since Cascade had no Monsters, it was really just for show.

"My move!" Blake declared, drawing a card.

No way she gave me that… thing... out of generosity! He thought, staring at The Grool, then the cards in his hand. I've gotta get rid of it! Oh, but there's nothing in my hand that needs a tribute right now! I'll have to wait it out longer!

"I summon Gearfried the Iron Knight!" he announced, placing a card on his disk.

A Warrior with grey, iron armor covering every inch of his body and giant shields on his arms appeared. (1800/1600)

"You've got nothing out but that Regression Clock, Cascade!" Blake taunted. "You're wide open!

"Gearfried, attack directly with Iron Bash!"

Gearfried let out a holler and charged at Cascade, slamming her with one of his shields and sending her Life Points tumbling down.

"End turn," Blake said.

At that moment, as Blake fingered the cards in his hand, one slipped, giving him a papercut on his thumb.
"Ow!" he complained, putting the wound in his mouth.

Then he noticed that The Grool was throbbing slightly.

"What the—?"

"The Grool gives its owner an endless supply of luck," Cascade elaborated, growing happier and happier. "All of it bad. At the end of each of your turns, it'll inflict five-hundred points of damage straight to your Life Points!"

(B: 7,000)-(C: 4,200)

"Jokes on you, then, idiot!" Blake laughed. "Regression Clock'll send it right back to your deck right now!"

"You're the idiot!" Cascade contradicted. "Did you really think that my Monsters were at the mercy of the clock? Nightmare Monsters are impervious to Continuous Spells!"

It was true—though Gearfried apparently got younger (it was impossible to really tell, as his armor didn't shrink with him, but his scores dropped to (1300/1100)), The Grool stayed the same, enjoying the moment.

"And now it's my move!" Cascade declared, drawing a card. "I summon Botanized Botanist!"

She played a card and a Monster appeared before her. It was a scientist in a white lab coat, his only distinguishing feature being the leaves he had in place of hair. (1600/900)

"Whoa!" Blake exclaimed. "There are Monsters in that deck that actually have decent attack scores?"

"Some of them more than decent," the Elemental of water smirked. "This deck isn't one of individual power, though. It's all about the combos—like this one! I activate the Spell card Universal Remote!"

She played the card and a remote control with dozens of buttons appeared in her hand.

"This card can only be activated if I have a Nightmare Monster on my field," the "heroine" explained. "But if I do, I get a variety of options. I can either roll things back one turn, move them ahead by one, or stop both of us from activating any Spell or Trap cards until my next Standby phase.

"Now, since going back would make Gearfried too strong for my Botanist to destroy in battle, and stopping Spells and Traps isn't the way to go against a beatdown deck like yours, I'll go with the second one."

The blonde Elemental hit the button marked "FFWD" and everything sped up. A truck sped over a puddle by Blake, splashing him and leaving a wet spot on a very embarrassing area of his pants, and the clock chimed seven, then six. Gearfried's appearance didn't change, but a loud banging could be heard inside his armor. He was just a small child trapped in the restrictive suit. (800/600)

Finally, Cascade hit the "PLAY" button and the fast motion stopped.

"Now, Botanist," she ordered. "Destroy Gearfried! Lethal injection!"

Botanized Botanist smiled and ran at the Iron Knight, pulling out a syringe full of purple liquid. Gearfried laughed at the prospect of a needle penetrating his armor, but penetrate it did, and Gearfried exploded into pixels soon after.

"Let that be a lesson to kids everywhere," Cascade laughed. "Eat your greens, or get beaten by them!"
"Boo!" Gust jeered, giving the jokes a thumbs-down.

Cascade shot him in the face again.

"Anyway, I'll end with a facedown."

A facedown card appeared and the clock chimed again, but did absolutely nothing to the Botanist.

(B: 5,700)-(C: 4,200)

Blake drew a card and frowned at the result.

"I'll just play a Monster in defense and end," he said, placing a card facedown on his disk before addressing The Grool. "What now?" he asked, holding out his hands in exasperation.

As soon as he did, a rugby ball fell into it, and he was tackled by five very large players, sending the Elementals into gales of laughter.

Eventually the jocks took their ball and left, and Blake grabbed his cards and struggled to his feet.

(B: 5,200)-(C: 4,200)

"Hilarious," he told The Grool.

The Grool just throbbed faster, apparently pleased with his misery.

Regression Clock chimed again, but once more there was nothing to be affected.

"Okay," Cascade said. "My move again."

She drew a card and smiled.

"Oh," she commented, grinning. "Here's a good one: I activate Essence of Vampire!"

She played the Spell and a bottle of blue liquid labeled "Vampire Breath" appeared before her. She took it and drank it all in one gulp.

"Bet you're wondering what that was about," she said to her opponent. "You see, Essence of Vampire allows me to take from my deck any Nightmare Monster I want, so long as I have a Nightmare Monster on the field."

She breathed a disgusting blue breath onto her deck and it spat out a card. She took the card, then took the deck.

"Now I shuffle, and send the card on top to the Graveyard."

She did so and replaced the deck.

"And now," she said. "Time to use this Monster! I Summon Swamp Terror in Attack mode!"

She placed the card on her disk, and a dreadful beast appeared. It was over eight feet tall, with the body of a gorilla and the head of an alligator, all covered in green fur.

The creature let out a roar, eager for its next meal. (2000/1000)

"Okay, that thing's way too strong not to have a drawback!" Blake insisted.

"Of course it has one," his opponent replied. "But I'm not about to tell you what it is!"

She stuck out her tongue, then continued her move.

"Now," she said, playing another card. "I'll equip my Swamp Terror with Fairy Meteor Crush, allowing him to deal damage through defense!"

Swamp Terror glowed slightly, but otherwise didn't change.

"Okay, Swamp Terror," Cascade said. "Get The Grool! Bayou bite!"

Swamp Terror pounced at The Grool and seized it in its teeth. Though it chomped down, The Grool didn't seem to be in pain. In fact, it almost seemed to be enjoying itself.

In a few seconds Swamp Terror grew disgusted with the taste of The Grool and spat it directly at Blake, sending his Life Points tumbling down.

"Botanist, you're up!" the Sue yelled. "Get that facedown Monster!"

Botanized Botanist pulled out its syringe and struck the defensive card, exposing a ceramic jar with a shadowy face inside featuring a single eye and a toothy grin. (700/600)

Before shattering, the face emerged from the jar as a long, black worm and let out an eerie laugh.

"That was my Morphing Jar!" Blake announced. "Since it was flipped, we both discard our entire hands—"

"And then draw five," Cascade interrupted. "I know, and it's no loss for me, anyway."

Blake discarded his three cards, while Cascade had nothing left in her hand to toss, and they both drew fresh hands of five cards.

"Now," Cascade continued. "Before my turn ends, I activate the Spell card Double Summon, allowing me to make a second Summon this turn, so I'll sacrifice my Botanized Botanist to Summon Masked Mutant!"

She played the Spell, and Botanized Botanist vanished, and in its place rose…an attractive redheaded preteen girl.

Blake raised an eyebrow, and the girl began to laugh. The laugh became increasingly masculine, and suddenly the girl began to morph, turning into a muscular, sinister-looking man in a blue mask and cape. (2400/1900)

"Meet the Masked Mutant," Cascade said as the Mutant flexed. "One of the coolest Monsters in this deck, with a tricky ability. You see, once per turn, I can change his Type to anything I want, but if I go Aqua, Pyro, or Thunder, he can't do it anymore.

"And now, just because I feel like it… Mutant, go Insect!"

The Mutant nodded and began to morph again, growing longer and skinnier, his eyes becoming multifaceted behind the mask and giant dragonfly wings sprouting from his shoulder blades. Shiny white drool dripped from his new mandibles.

At this, the blue beast leapt from the cave behind Blake and toward the Mutant. As it approached, though, Masked Mutant morphed back to his regular form and swatted the creature on the nose.

Whimpering, the beast ran back to its cave as the Mutant snickered and returned to dragonfly form.

"Unlike your Monsters, Blake, my Masked Mutant is a Nightmare Monster, and therefore unsusceptible to Beastly Game," Cascade bragged. "Any questions now that I end my turn?"

(B: 3,200)-(C: 4,200)

"Yeah," Blake replied. "Why do you like this mask-wearing shapeshifter villain card so much if your worst enemies are Slade and the Replicant?"

Cascade thought about this for a minute.

"Well, uh, you see… SHUT UP!" she screeched. "If it causes you Society twerps misery, then that's enough for me! Now make your move!"

Blake glared and drew a card.

"I Summon Obnoxious Celtic Guardian!" he announced, placing a card on his disk.

At once, a new Monster appeared, this one an elf in armor with a green cape and a sword. (1400/1200)

"Next," Blake said, taking another card. "I'll equip him with the Axe of Despair, giving him a one-thousand point boost!"

He played the card and the elf's sword changed, becoming an evil-looking axe. (2400/1200)

"Now, to stop the trampling," Blake shouted. "Obnoxious Celtic Guardian, attack Swamp Terror!"

The Guardian let out a yell as it pounced on the Beast and chopped it in half in a very gruesome display.
To Blake's surprise, Cascade giggled slightly, despite her drop in Life Points.

"What now?" Blake said, rolling his eyes.

"Remember that drawback I said Swamp Terror had?" she replied. "It's that he's destroyed after the Damage step following a battle with any Warrior- or Spellcaster-Type. You didn't need to raise his score by a single point! Now, are you done?"

"Yep," Blake sighed. "Bring it on, Grool!"

Out of nowhere, a javelin came hurtling toward Blake's chest!

Thinking quickly, Blake reached out and caught the javelin just before it could strike him.

"Ha!" he laughed, tossing the javelin over his shoulder and taking a victory pose. "Is that the best you can do?"

Then he realized that the javelin just hit a wasps' nest.

(B: 2,700)-(C: 3,800)

"Very funny!" he said when the holographic wasps disappeared.

Next, the Regression Clock chimed again, this time at two o'clock, and Obnoxious Celtic Guardian regressed to a pimply teenager with a mouthful of braces. (1900/700)


Back in the Library Arcanium, several members of the Society were in hysterics.

"This is a riot!" Claire laughed. "I know that our side is losing, but that Grool is hilarious!"

"Why's it changing colors?" Danielle asked, pointing at the screen.

The Grool was throbbing faster than ever, and now changing from brown to purple to red to brown again.

"Just a visual effect for theatrics," Marcus replied. "It does that when it's really happy. It's not a new effect."

"Well, Blake had better turn this around soon," Monika commented. "Otherwise we're down one more agent."

"At least there's plenty of time left," Stacey said, pointing to the timer on the screen, which just dropped below twelve minutes. "Why's this Crossover lasting so long, anyway?"

"Don't know," Lauren replied. "But something about it just seems believable."

"Yeah," Michael agreed. "I once wrote something like this."

"'Wrote'?" Adrian repeated, rolling his eyes. "Last I checked, the majority of it was in the vault."


"My move," Cascade said, drawing a card. "I Summon The Invisible Boy!"

A new Monster appeared on the field, but it quite literally wasn't much to look at. All that could be seen were a backpack and baseball cap supposedly worn by the aforementioned Invisible Boy. (500/300)

"What's this one do?" Blake asked, exasperated.

"Let's see," Cascade said in a highly condescending tone. "He's weak… he's invisible… Invisible Boy, attack directly!"

The backpack and cap moved forward, past Blake's Monsters, and then the Boy hit Blake in the face with the backpack and marched back.

"Now," the Sue ordered. "Masked Mutant, attack Obnoxious Celtic Guardian with mandible mincer!"

The Mutant took flight, ready to bite its prey.

"I activate Desert Sunlight!" Blake announced, the facedown card he'd had on the field since the first turn lifting up. "This shifts all my Monsters to Defense mode before your attack can hit!"

The elf kneeled down to defend itself. The Mutant's attack still went through, but thanks to Obnoxious Celtic Guardian's special ability, it wasn't destroyed.

(B: 2,200)-(C: 3,800)

"I'll end with a facedown," Cascade announced. "Your move."

Blake drew his obligatory card and smiled at his good fortune.

"I activate Heavy Storm!" he declared, placing a card in his disk, causing a powerful wind to whip across the field.

"I chain Threatening Roar!" Cascade shouted, her facedown Trap lifting as a loud roar echoed out. "Now you can't conduct your Battle phase this turn!"

Nonetheless, the wind wiped out every Spell and Trap card on the field, finally ending Regression Clock and Beastly Game's threats.

Obnoxious Celtic Guardian returned to his original self. (1400/1200)

"Cute," Cascade commented. "When Regression Clock is destroyed, its effects leave the field. In fact, both players can Summon back any Monsters returned to the deck by its effect. Too bad for you that none were."

"No big deal," Blake shrugged. "Next, I'll play Monster Reborn to revive Divine Knight Ishzark!"

He played the Spell and an ankh appeared, then vanished to expose Ishzark in all his divine glory.

"Fat load of good that'll do!" Cascade taunted. "He's not strong enough to beat my Mutant!"

"I know that," Blake smirked. "I just brought him back for a sacrifice!"


"A sacrifice?" Harriet repeated. "Blake already has two Monsters on his field…"

"There's only one reason he'd bring out a third…" Miri said.

"Blake, no!" Marcus shouted.


"I sacrifice Obnoxious Celtic Guardian, Divine Knight Ishzark, and The Grool to Summon Gilford the Lightning!"

Three pillars of light went up around Blake's Monsters and they disappeared, being replaced by a tall, handsome, muscular man with a red cape, black chestplate, and a sword crackling with electricity. (2800/1400)

"And he's not just physically strong, either!" Blake laughed. "You see, if I sacrifice three Monsters to Summon him instead of just two, he destroys all of your Monsters!"

Gilford let out a battle cry as he zoomed forward and slashed The Invisible Boy and Masked Mutant with his sword, causing them to explode into pixels.

To Blake's surprise, Cascade began to laugh—hard! She clutched her stomach and began rolling on the ground, unable to stop.

"What's so funny?" Blake demanded.

"You thought you could just sacrifice The Grool and be done with it?" she replied, still laughing as she got to her feet. "Think again! In the book, It Came From Beneath the Sink!, if the owner separated themself from this little guy, they'd die within 24 hours! In this game, that means that if you sacrifice The Grool or return it to my hand or deck, you lose two-thousand Life Points! Prepare for some of the worst luck of your life!"

The two waited a minute, but nothing happened.

"Just—just give it a minute, okay?" the Elemental of water said.


Miles and miles away from the island, a peregrine falcon flew through a city, and just happened to fly over a major league baseball stadium during a game.

The pitcher, who was an avid bird watcher, couldn't help but admire it, and accidentally lobbed an easy hit. The batter got an easy home run, sending the ball across town and through the window of a space center and onto a control panel, inadvertently hitting a button for a probe to leave the surface of Mars.

The probe jetted off, but without proper steering it just jetted randomly forward and ended up striking an old Earth satellite and sending it hurtling down…


"Nothing's happening…" Blake commented.

"Just give it a minute!" Cascade screamed.

That's when the satellite crashed down and plowed Blake into a crater.

(B: 200)-(C: 3,800)


Tash and Michael clutched their stomachs, unable to move from laughter.

"It's like watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon!" Michael gasped, unable to breathe.

"Wait," Kyle said. "How'd that batter hit such a slow-moving ball so far?"

"That's the part you found hard to believe?" Valerie exclaimed, annoyed at the laughter. "How about the fact that a hologram caused all that?"

"No, those were all holograms," Marcus said. "Look, the satellite's disappearing."

"Hold on," Adrian said. "You're telling me that the duel disk's holographic imagers can create a believable hologram from that distance?"

"It can create an image of Satellite Cannon up in space," Marcus argued. "Why can't it do this?"


Blake, meanwhile, very sore, barely managed to pick himself up and glare at Cascade.

"End… turn," he said, clutching his side in pain.

Cascade laughed and drew her card, then got a sinister idea.

"I activate Scarecrow Animation!" she shouted. "I'll give up two-thousand Life Points to Special Summon two Scarecrow Tokens!"

She activated the Spell and her Life Points dropped as two very ugly scarecrows appeared before her. (500/500) x2

(B: 200)-(C: 1800)

"Let me guess," Blake said. "You're sacrificing them?"

"Right-o," Cascade smirked. "I'm ridding the field of both of these Tokens to Summon a familiar face: Slappy, the Ventriloquist Dummy!"

The Tokens vanished, and a new Monster appeared—a dark-haired ventriloquist dummy dressed in a formal grey suit with an eerie grin across his lifeless face. (0/0)

"Two sacrifices for a Monster with zero Attack Points?" Blake gawked. "It must have one heck of a special ability!"

"Right again!" Cascade cackled. "And next, I activate the Premature Burial Equip Spell. For the price of a mere eight-hundred Life Points, I can revive Amorphous Aliens in Attack mode!"

She played the Spell and her Life Points dropped even further as a new Monster appeared on the field. Blake thought it looked rather like a wriggling carpet made of scrambled eggs, but, upon closer inspection, he discovered that it was actually hundreds of little creatures… that looked like scrambled eggs. (0/2000)

(B: 200)-(C: 1,000)
"Since when was that in your Graveyard?" Blake argued.

"Think back," Cascade instructed. "It'll come to you."




"Bet you're wondering what that was about," she said to her opponent. "You see, Essence of Vampire allows me to take from my deck any Nightmare Monster I want, so long as I have a Nightmare Monster on the field."

She breathed a disgusting blue breath onto her deck and it spat out a card. She took the card, then took the deck.

"Now I shuffle, and send the card on top to the Graveyard."


End Flashback…


Blake gritted his teeth in anger.

"And now, Slappy," Cascade commanded. "Attack Gilford!"

"What?" Blake exclaimed. "But it has zero Attack Points! You'll lose 2800 Life Points and the duel!"

"4200, actually," Cascade corrected. "All damage taken by me from a battle involving Slappy is increased by half, but it's nothing to worry about under current circumstances. Now, I attack!"

Slappy just sat there, motionless.

Cascade sighed and, for the first time ever that didn't involve armor, a player had to help their Monster attack in a way beyond simply ordering it to. She hoisted up Slappy and threw him at Gilford.

"Get ready to lose!" Blake laughed.

"As if!" the "heroine" argued. "I activate Amorphous Aliens' effect! By sacrificing it while it's in Attack mode, I can negate all damage to me and my Monster during one battle! Of course, it's not really necessary to protect Slappy, since he can't be destroyed in battle, but I certainly want to remain standing!"

The Aliens swarmed out and covered Slappy as he approached Gilford, forming a blanket of sorts around him. Gilford swung his sword and the Aliens burst into pixels, but Slappy was just knocked safely back in front of Cascade.

"Okay…" Blake said. "And the point of that was…?"

"The point was that after Slappy battles, he gets a Corpse Counter!" Cascade announced.

A strip of parchment appeared in Slappy's breast pocket in front of the handkerchief, and Cascade pulled it out.

"Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano!" she chanted.

At these words, Slappy sprang to life, snickering evilly.

"Thanks, Toots!" the dummy laughed, speaking to Cascade. "It's great to be alive!"

"And what does the Corpse Counter do, besides make him about a hundred times more annoying?" Blake scowled.

"Allow me to explain, now that I can," Slappy said. "You see, as long as I've got this Counter—that paper the blonde bimbo over there is holding—my scores become the same as the last Monster I battled before I got it! In other words, Gilford's power is mine now!"

It was true: Slappy's scores had gone up to (2800/1400).

"How could Marcus create this monstrosity?" Blake said, directing the question to nobody in particular.


"Should we tell him I gave you the original idea for that card?" Michael asked.

Marcus shook his head.


"Well," Blake said. "Seeing as you have no cards left, and Slappy already attacked, I guess it's my turn."

"Yeah, well, hurry it up!" Slappy jeered.

Blake glared at the Monster (never had the term been more appropriate) and drew a card.

Freed the Matchless General? He mentally exclaimed. That's useless right now!

He looked at his other two cards: A Feint Plan and Order to Charge—both worse than useless at the moment!

"I pass," Blake said, inwardly panicked.

"Then it's my move!" Cascade declared, drawing another card. "Slappy, attack Gilford!"

"Don't you tell me what to do!" the Dummy screamed. "I'll attack when and if I feel like it!"

He waited two seconds.

"Okay," he said. "Now I feel like it!"

Slappy leapt at Gilford and punched a hole right through the Warrior's stomach in a gratuitous display of—well, sadly, this fandom was a dub, so it was edited out…

Anyway, as Gilford lay dying he swung his sword to Slappy's neck in an attempt to kill him, but Slappy just laughed as the blade broke against his hard wooden body and Gilford burst into pixels.

"Sad to see your favorite Monster go?" Cascade teased. "Well, too bad, because it's about to get even worse! I activate Soul Release!"

She laughed as she inserted the Spell card into her disk.

"Now I can remove up to five cards in either Graveyard from play, and I choose Blade Knight, Gearfried the Iron Knight, Divine Knight Ishzark, Monster Reborn, and, of course, Gilford the Lightning!"

Blake's face turned red as he pocketed the five aforementioned cards.

"Sad, isn't it?" Cascade jeered. "If you hadn't tossed aside Marcus' ideas like he did with me, this wouldn't be happening—AND THAT GOES FOR ANYONE ELSE HE ASKED THAT I KNOW IS WATCHING THIS!" she screamed.


"Sorry," Michael and Adrian apologized simultaneously.


"Take your last turn, loser!" Cascade sneered as Slappy laughed.

Blake grew angrier as he drew a card.

"I activate Magical Mallet!" he declared, playing a Spell card. "With this, I can shuffle my whole hand back into my deck to draw the same number of cards I sent back!"

He did so, and drew three more cards.

Perfect! He thought. I'm going to make her situation as hopeless as she tried to make mine!

"I summon Exiled Force in Attack mode!" he announced.

He played the card on his disk and three bandits in rags appeared before him. (1000/1000)

"Now, I activate their effect—by sacrificing them, I can destroy any Monster on the field!"

The bandits vanished, and Slappy began to glow.

"Hey!" he screamed. "What're you—AAAAAAAAAUGH!"

The Dummy exploded, and the parchment in Cascade's hands vanished.

"I'll end my turn with two facedowns," Blake said, setting his last cards in his disk, their holographic backs appearing in front of him.

He began to laugh.

"What now, Cascade?" he jeered. "You've got no hand and nothing on your field! If this draw isn't a miracle, then you lose!"

What she doesn't know, he thought. Is that my facedowns are Ring of Destruction and Barrel Behind the Door! If she Summons a Monster, I'll destroy it with the Ring right away to damage us both, then use the Barrel to transfer my damage to her! If her Monster has five-hundred or more Attack Points—which from what I've seen of her deck is anything capable of attacking—she'll lose on the spot!

"The heart of the cards will see me through," Cascade said, closing her eyes as she reached for her deck.

"You disgust me," Blake sneered.

"I can believe in whatever I want!" Cascade insisted, her eyes still closed as she drew her card.

Slowly, she moved the card in front of her face and opened her eyes.

She began to laugh.

"I activate Monster Reborn!" she cackled. "Now, I'll revive one Monster from my Graveyard!"

The ankh appeared on the field and a figure emerged from it. It was—

"Masked Mutant's back for more!" Cascade announced. "Masked Mutant, attack directly!"

"Activate Traps!" Blake shouted, his facedown cards lifting up. "Ring of Destruction and Barrel Behind the Door! Say good-bye to your Life Points!"

Cascade and the Mutant just laughed as the ring of grenades appeared around Masked Mutant's neck.

"Valiant effort," Cascade falsely congratulated. "But in addition to Masked Mutant being unaffected by Continuous Spells, he's also immune to Traps!"

To prove it, the Masked Mutant morphed into a canary and flew out of the ring, leaving it to explode on its own, then went back to his own form and leapt over to punch Blake in the gut, knocking him down for the last time.

(B: 0)-(C: 1,000)

The holograms faded and Blake struggled to his feet, pocketed his deck, and threw the duel disk to the student who'd loaned it to him.

"Nice duel!" a student shouted to Cascade, as the crowd had clearly gotten bored of the French monument.

It depressed Blake to no end to see that the speaker was Jaden Yuki himself.


"Hey, it could be worse," Marcus reassured. "You could've been plowed down by Mountain Snow Demon!"

"That's not the point!" Blake shouted. "I just can't stand losing to that girl, and worse, I can never get a rematch!"

"Don't worry about it," Willie said, patting him on the back. "The pain dulls after a while."

"Well," Tash said with a grin. "Blake may not be feeling his best, but I'm over the moon! That duel really cheered me up! I loved that Nightmare deck!"

"Me, too!" several other members agreed.

"Hate to say it, but I liked them, too," Blake said. "I just didn't like the girl using them."

"Well, you're all free to use them in your stories," Marcus told them. "I have them all listed somewhere, and I'd love to see them used."

Back on the screens, they watched as the Elementals ate their pie, falling right into a trap.

The pie, you see, contained the motherly witch Mother Mae-Eye, who had agreed to bring the Elementals to the Society of the Vine if she could eat their bodies after the Replicant got their powers. She got them aboard the E-jet and gained their love and trust by feeding them pie after enchanted pie, and also began mentally regressing them into children.

The plan would've worked, were it not for Gust and Cascade's constant bickering, which became worse as they became more childlike.

During an argument, Cascade smacked Gust upside the head, freeing him from Mother Mae-Eye's control. He subsequently freed the rest of the team, and Jinx, who had dealt with Mae-Eye before, filled them in on the situation.

Working together, the team broke Mother Mae-Eye's staff, ending all her charms—except for the pies she had conjured.

Terra force-fed every pie to the evil witch, causing her to fall deeply in love with herself and lower her guard while the team incapacitated her and delivered her to a local prison.

"Dude," Kyle asked. "Does you mind ever stop going?"

"Sadly, no," Marcus sighed. "It's a blessing and a curse, really."


Adrian sighed as he opened one of his many hidden candy drawers. Nothing there except a note.


His stomach growling, Adrian checked the fridge for the last slice of chocolate cake, concealed in the vegetable drawer.

Great cake, Adrian!—Lauren

He searched for the ice cream in the freezer, cleverly hidden behind a bag of cauliflower.

Adrian, can you pick up more rocky road?—Miri and Harriet

Adrian searched every one of his secret hiding spots in the Library Arcanium in vain. No matter where he went, the food had been raided by the girls of the Society.

The library's master began to grind his teeth. His grocery bills had been rising higher and higher as of late, and still he was getting less and less to snack on. Even worse, not a single note had an apology for eating his sweets!

"Hey, Adrian," Marcus called from behind, causing the librarian to flinch. "Girls eating your snacks again?"

"Yep," Adrian sighed, his stomach growling louder. "At this rate, I'll starve!"

"I kind of enjoy it," Marcus replied. "It's helping me stick to my diet. Still, if you need sweets, I can help."
Marcus led him down to the nonfiction section and struggled to pull down a book called Disturbing, Unforgettable Things You Never Ever Want to Read About, which was as thick as a cantaloupe, then set it down on a nearby table and opened it, causing a rotating tray of five desserts under a glass lid to pop up.
"My secret baklava stash," Marcus explained. "Eat up."

"A food-preservation spell combined with a containment spell," Adrian realized. "I'm impressed. And you're letting me have some?"

"I'm imploring you to have some!" Marcus responded. "The temptation is too strong! Now eat!"

Adrian smiled and lifted the glass lid, but before he could take a piece of the sweet, flaky dessert, Valerie, Monika, Danielle, Stacey, and Terrie swooped in, snatched the baklava, and gobbled them down.

Marcus fingered the tiger talisman copy and split into his two sides, the only way he could confront his teammates.

"HEY!" Emotion Marcus boomed. "ADRIAN WAS ABOUT TO—"

Danielle interrupted him with an angry and downright bestial roar, and the two Marcuses united back into one.

"What was that?" Adrian exclaimed as the girls finished slamming down their desserts and ran off.

"Don't know," Marcus replied. "Maybe it's that time of the month?"

"All five of them on the same day?" Adrian shouted.

"I think that's a sign of close friendship," Marcus told him. "Anyway, I'm going to go check in with the Replicant. Wanna come?"

"Might as well," the librarian said. "Nothing to do here but starve."

Marcus nodded as he opened a portal to the Teen Titans fandom and went through.


"Hello again," Marcus told the Replicant as he and Adrian appeared in the Society of the Vine's hideout in Sweden.

"And hello to you," the villain replied, morphing from Slade (the original version, not the cyborg that the villain had become) into Adrian, though the eyes retained a yellow iris. "I see you've had no success disrupting this story…"

"How are we not doing that right now?" Adrian inquired. "Can't we just distract you guys from your goals?"

"Try it," the Replicant responded.

Adrian jumped over and tried to pin Slade to the floor, but somehow passed right through him, falling on his stomach! Slade didn't even seem to notice…

"Get it now?" the Replicant asked. "You can't affect this fandom! Every time a non-canon character so much as acknowledges you in this fandom, time freezes!"

"So… I can't gorge myself on that cheesecake over there?" Adrian frowned, getting to his feet and pointing at the Society of the Vine's dessert table.

"No," the Replicant said. "And not just for that reason, either. Never try to steal from a trio of villains, kid."
Marcus rolled his eyes as Adrian's stomach growled again.

"So, how long before your next plot is launched?" Marcus asked the villain.

"We send them in tonight," the Replicant replied.

"Close enough," Marcus said. "Adrian, remember enough of those lessons I've been giving you?"

"I think so," Adrian responded. "But can we get something to eat first?"

"I'm sorry," Marcus apologized. "But the Elementals will be boarding their jet any minute now, and we can't open a portal onto a moving target."

Adrian sighed as Marcus opened another portal and leapt through.


The two agents arrived at Macchu Picchu in Peru just before the Elementals could board the E-jet, and the team groaned at having to stay.

"What challenge now?" Cascade griped.

"When wirr you rearize that you cannot beat us?" Sol jeered.

Adrian glared at them, but the effect was ruined by his stomach gurgling again.

The Elementals howled with laughter.

"Oh, he's hungry, is he?" Gust chuckled. "I have just the thing."

The Elemental of the wind went aboard the plane for a minute, then came out with a large platter of chocolate chunk cookies.

"Go on," he insisted, forcing the plate into Adrian's face. "Have one."

Adrian just stared, torn between suspicion and hunger.

Marcus, on the other hand, pulled out his Codec and called Harriet.

She didn't answer.

He tried Lauren.

No better.

He tried every member to no avail, but finally found success when Doyle, Camille's assistant, picked up.

"Hello, Agent Marcus," the android said. "How may I be of service?"

"Doyle," Marcus said. "Where is everyone?"

"Wonka's factory," Doyle replied. "Most of the girls—all except Sumire, Aster, Jess, and Camille—went mad and ran off there, and the others followed them to investigate. Camille ordered me to stay behind and watch the Library Arcanium. What is happening to you?"

"We're about to issue a challenge," Marcus said. "But first, can you do a quick scan of Gust's cookies before Adrian cracks?"

"No problem," Doyle replied. "Just give me a few seconds."

Doyle went over to the nearest monitor, zoomed in on the cookies, and did a scan.

"Any poison?" Marcus asked.

"No," Doyle said.




"Negative," Doyle said. "Just regular cookie ingredients—butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate, flour…"

Marcus frowned and turned to Gust.

"Why give us anything?" he demanded.

"He looked hungry," Gust smirked. "And he maintained what was our home for over a year."

"Just because we can't stand you, Creator, doesn't mean we can't be civil to others," Flare added. "But if you don't believe us…"

Flare took a cookie and happily ate it.

"Go on, Adrian," Gust urged. "Have one."

Adrian, finally deciding that there was nothing unusual about the cookies after the analysis, or at least too hungry to care anymore, took a bite of one.

The librarian's eyes went wide. He hadn't had a cookie this good in… well, ever! The cookie was so moist, the chocolate so creamy, and the nuts added just the right amount of crunch. He eagerly gulped the rest of the cookie down, starved for sweets.

"Don't be shy," Gust urged. "Take all you want! I've got plenty!"

Adrian obliged, eating more.

"Now," Gust said, turning to Marcus. "I'll take this challenge. What have you got in mind?"

"A Chaotic match!" Marcus said with a smile. "If Adrian wins, the Society of the Vine's next plan is stopped quickly and easily with no further complications!"

"Wouldn't it be better to just let their plan work?" Cascade said condescendingly.

"Bringing canons back from the dead is tedious and difficult," Marcus said. "We avoid it if we can help it."

"Well, I accept," Gust agreed. "And if I win, Adrian can't challenge us again! Now, use that Crossover of yours!"

Marcus nodded and pulled out the green X.

"Ready, Adrian?" he asked.

Adrian took a pause between bites to nod.

Marcus smiled and threw the Crossover to the ground. After a short shockwave (Adrian did all he could to steady the platter), the mountain ruins of Macchu Picchu merged with the decorative, isolated area known as Chaotic.

"Your match is in the Crellan drome, the most important in the series so far," Marcus told Adrian, pointing to the building on his right. "I'll contact you when you get there, okay?"

Adrian's mouth was still too full for speech, but he nodded as he and Gust walked into the building.

Marcus and the other Elementals, meanwhile, went to the Port Court for proper viewing and seating.

As soon as he sat down, Marcus pulled out a scanner and called Adrian.

"Got the lineup I gave you?" he asked as soon as the librarian picked up.

"Uh-huh," Adrian replied, his mouth still full of cookie.

"Good," Marcus replied. "Go get 'im!"


"Players," the voice of the drome master (whether it's a computer or not, I have no idea) said. "Please select your teams of six Creatures each."

Adrian and Gust placed their scanners in the machines in front of them and spent the next two minutes carefully choosing their Creatures, BattleGear, Mugic, and Locations, and selecting where to put Creatures and BattleGear.

When it was over, here were their teams (Gust's on top, Adrian's on the bottom):

Gespedan, Deenha
Intress, Maxxor, Xaerv
Magmon, H'earring, Skreamer
Atropol, Borth-Majar


"WHAT?" Marcus exclaimed. "How could he do this?"

"Do what?" Doyle asked, still on the line.

"He used the right Creatures, but in the wrong places!" Marcus cried. "H'earring was meant to go in the back, and Skreamer should be front and center! I told Adrian all this just yesterday! We went over it at length!"

"Oh, well," Cascade smirked. "Too late to change anything now."


"Nice team you've got there," Gust jeered. "Too bad you'll never get to use them correctly!"

"Ah wyar yurso grey?" Adrian demanded, still cramming down cookies.

"Are you kidding?" Gust replied, feigning insult. "My Chaotic team is all OverWorlders, the noblest tribe, and a tribute to my real team! Maxxor is Flare—a powerful leader with an arsenal of Fire attacks. Intress is like Cascade—vicious, but admittedly beautiful and supportive of her team. Raznus and Deenha are Sol and Luna: they value brains and magic over muscle. Gespedan is Volt, if only because he's fast, and Xaerv… well, Xaerv is the wise-crackin', Air-attackin', unpredictable warrior of pure guts, so, uh, you tell me."


Outside, the Elementals and Marcus groaned slightly at this, save for Terra and Kid Flash, who were still just confused, and Jinx, whose face had turned red with anger.

"What?" she shouted as she leapt up from her chair. "Am I not part of the team? Honestly, they abduct me from my storyline and rope me into this (admittedly cool) saga, and my own teammate doesn't even acknowledge me?"

Marcus instantly turned to her, shocked.

"You know what's going on?" he demanded.

"Of course I do!" she snapped. "I majorly broke the fourth wall once by interrupting the opening sequence and graffittiing the inside of the screen! I'm fully aware—I just can't do anything about it!"

"Well, maybe you can help us in our games," Marcus smirked.

"Do not bet on eet," Luna told him. "Jeenx may not like eet, but she eez part of our team, and must serve us!"

"Exactly," Flare said, forcing Jinx back into her seat. "Now just sit back and enjoy the match."

Jinx growled, then yelled to a robot waiter, "Service droid, strawberry Mommark milkshake, NOW!"

"And a Proboskar protein shake…" Marcus sighed.


"WindElemental," the drome master said. "Since you are superior to your opponent, Master of the Library, in every way—"

"Hey!" Adrian interrupted, his mouth still full.

"—and your opponent has terrible etiquette—"

Adrian forced his food down.

"Stop it!" he yelled.

"—and is trying to command the drome master, you shall attack first. Please activate your location randomizer."

"Hold on!" Adrian suddenly interrupted. "I just remembered what I should do here! I activate H'earring's special ability: By removing one of his Mugicians—"

"His only Mugician," Gust interrupted.

"—he can let me rearrange the next three Locations of the player of my choice, and I choose myself!"

Adrian's screen lit up, showing a lava-filled pit, a dark city, and a glowing green lake surrounded by skeletons of all shapes and sizes. He hastily pressed them each in turn and the images faded.


"Not good," Marcus said. "He should've rearranged Gust's to get a better look at what he's up against! What was he thinking?"

"No idea," Cascade smirked.


"And back to me," Gust said, spinning his location randomizer.

"The Location will be… Fear Valley!" the drome master announced, an image of a creepy-looking valley lighting up the screen. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

"Maxxor attacks H'earring!" Gust laughed.

The two players touched the images of their Creatures, and swiftly turned into them. Gust became a muscular, green-skinned man with purple markings all over his body, and Adrian into a tiny green demon-thing with sharp teeth and huge ears.

"Let's get Chaotic!" they both yelled, and they were placed in a virtual-reality simulation of Fear Valley.
In a second, Adrian felt his Energy drain slightly.

"What's going on?" he demanded. His voice came out high and squeaky. "What's happening to me?"

"Fear Valley saps the Energy of the Creature with the lowest Courage discipline," Maxxor laughed in his deep, booming voice. "Sucks to be you, I guess. Oh, well. Torrent of Flame!"

Maxxor raised his hands and shot out a wave of fire. H'earring ducked aside and tried to run off, but tripped over one of his own overly-large ears and fell face-first onto the rocky ground.

"This is too easy!" Maxxor bragged. "Rockwave!"

As a barrage of stones came at H'earring, Adrian quickly thought of his BattleGear and it appeared in his hand. A Dragon Pulse Shield blocked the attack.


"WHAT?" Marcus exclaimed again. "H'earring shouldn't be holding that! And why didn't he bring it out right away? He could've turned the Location against Maxxor with the extra Courage from that thing!"

"Can't help that Adrian doesn't know the game," Flare grinned.


"My turn!" H'earring shouted. "Mega Roar!"

H'earring let out a loud scream and Maxxor held his ears as his Energy dropped slightly. H'earring took this chance to get to his feet and discover that he could pose his ears however he wanted, though he couldn't lift them for long.

"Try this!" he yelled. "Pebble Storm!"

Maxxor grunted as the barrage of pebbles struck him, then glared.

"That's it!" the OverWorlder shouted. "Power Pulse!"

Maxxor sent out a wave of pure power, severely lowering H'earring's Energy.

"Viper Lash!" he continued, and his fingers stretched into long snakes that leapt out and bit H'earring.

H'earring screamed and burst into streams of code, and Adrian and Maxxor appeared back in the drome.

"Not a great start, Adrian," Maxxor chuckled, turning back into Gust.

Adrian ignored him and shoved two more cookies into his mouth.

Suddenly, Adrian's scanner alerted an incoming call. He answered it and it was, of course, Marcus.

"What was that?" Marcus said. "You put H'earring in the wrong place and gave him the wrong BattleGear! And worse, you could've used those mistakes to your advantage and you missed your opportunity!"

"Sorry," Adrian replied, spraying cookie crumbs onto the scanner's screen.

Marcus sighed.

"It's okay," he said. "You can come back. Just be sure to think ahead next time, okay?"

Adrian nodded and hung up.

"Master of the Library," the drome master said. "The turn is yours. Please spin your location randomizer."

Adrian did, but it stopped short, the image of the lava-filled pit flashing up.

"The Lava Pond," the drome master declared. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

Adrian crammed another cookie in his mouth and made the announcement.

"Mgmon attks Intres!"

The two players touched the images of the aforementioned Creatures and morphed into them—Adrian a purple golem with hot lava visible between his body's cracks, and Gust an attractive orange tiger woman.
In a second, the two Creatures were transported to the boiling Lava Pond for battle.

"Just try beating me here," Magmon bragged, his voice deep, yet somehow hollow. "Here in the Lava Pond, Magmon gets an extra boost, as do his Fire attacks, while Intress' Water-element moves fizzle on the spot! Now, Lavalanche!"

Magmon laughed and shot a jet of lava that struck Intress head-on, knocking her into a boulder. Intress didn't stay down for long, though, and leapt up, ready for more.

"You're right!" she called, her voice amazingly similar to Cascade's. "I can't win here, so I'll just have to change that! Song of Future Sight!"

A glowing grey heptagon appeared in Intress' hand and a blue ghost-thing flew out of her body. The Mugician merged with the Mugic and they both disappeared as a seven-note tune played.

"This Mugic allows me to either foresee your next attack or choose my next two Locations in advance," she explained. "I've chosen the latter. Now, for the combo: Song of Translocation!"

Another Mugic appeared in her hand and another Mugician emerged from her and activated it. There was a flash of light and before Adrian knew it, they were in a new Location: a slimy swamp full of green mud.

"Now you're at the disadvantage!" Intress laughed. "Here in Gloomluck Swamp, Earth attacks are stronger and Fire fizzles!"

"Waste of two Mugicians," Magmon chuckled. "Check this out!"

The UnderWorlder laughed and exposed his BattleGear: a glowing white sphere.

"A Flux Bauble?" Intress gasped.

"Right," Magmon said. "And with it, I can instantly warp us to the next Location in my deck!"

There was another flash of light and the scene changed again, this time to the bone-littered shores of Skeleton Spring.

"Cute," Intress said. "But now my Water attacks will work again, especially with this!"

A piece of BattleGear appeared in Intress' hand: a funny-shaped blue object with a point at the end.

"With a Riverland Star on hand, an OverWorlder heals every time it scores a direct hit with a Water attack!" she bragged. "Now, Riptide!"

Intress let loose a giant wave of water at Magmon, dealing severe damage as her Energy went back up.

"Oh, no," Magmon yelled. "I'm not letting you win that easy! Canon of Casualty!"

Magmon conjured a Mugic of his own, this one red in color, and a red Mugician flew out of his body to activate it. Another seven-note tune sounded and a ray of energy shot down and blasted Intress, draining her Energy.

"Torrent of Flame!" Magmon called, shooting a wave of fire at his opponent.

Intress screamed and burst into pixels, and Gust and Magmon reappeared in the drome and Magmon turned back into Adrian.

As soon as Adrian turned back, he got another call from Marcus. Stuffing four more cookies in his mouth, he answered.

"Why did you choose that battle?" Marcus asked desperately.

"Duh!" Adrian replied, chewing hard and swallowing before elaborating. "Magmon's strongest in the Lava Pond, and Intress' Water attacks are almost worthless there!"

"Yes, but Maxxor is the bigger threat!" Marcus insisted. "You should've attacked him with Skreamer to get rid of him. Heck, you could've at least stopped Intress' Song of Future Sight with your Chorus of Canceling! I have a bad feeling about the other Location he preset…"

"Sheesh," Adrian said, cramming down even more cookies. "Noreezon tagem ad…"

"Sorry," Marcus apologized. "But I know you can do better than this. You were always on top of things when we practiced for the last couple of days. What went wrong?"

Adrian shrugged and continued to wolf down pastries.

"Just be careful, okay?" Marcus said before hanging up.


"Adrian's a goner, you know," Sol said as Marcus pocketed his scanner.

"Don't say that!" Jinx growled. "They have the same number of Creatures left, and Adrian's are just as strong as Gust's!"

"That won't hold true for long," Cascade grinned. "Check out Gust's next Location!"

The Location that Gust had preselected confirmed Marcus' worst fears. It was Iron Pillar, the Location that renders BattleGear worthless! That would render Skreamer, who had the ability to borrow BattleGear from other Creatures on his team, just an average Creature!

Gust attacked Skreamer with Xaerv, wanting the satisfaction of beating Adrian's best chance with his own symbol, and began a very one-sided fight. No matter what Adrian tried, he couldn't seem to do anything right! He was totally unfocused!

Marcus pondered this situation. What was happening might make sense if Skreamer's Wisdom were really low, but it was a moderate amount. The problem wasn't with Skreamer.

A minute later (much longer than anyone thought it would take), Xaerv coded Skreamer and the two returned to the drome. It was then that Marcus realized the answer. Hurriedly, he called Adrian.

"Adrian, I know the problem!" he declared. "You've been distracted this whole match! What's been going through your mind during battles?"

"I don't know," the librarian replied, eating another cookie. "Ijus wanth em tobe over, Igues…"

"You want them to be over for a reason!" Marcus insisted. "And that reason is obvious: It's the cookies!"

"What?" Doyle exclaimed. "That's impossible! The scan showed them as regular cookies!"

"And they are!" Marcus agreed. "But they're delicious, and Adrian's so sugar-deprived that he was hooked on the first bite! Adrian," he pleaded. "You've got to ignore the craving!"

Adrian said nothing, but began to sweat, and finally managed to pull his hands away from the platter and nod.
Marcus smiled and hung up.

"He's doomed," Flare laughed.

Jinx dumped her milkshake on his head.


"What now?" Gust jeered. "You think you can resist the cookies? Think again! As the Elementals' chef, I take pride in my delectable desserts! In your condition, you'll never be able to resist them!"

Adrian glared at the Elemental, then moved his hand to the platter… and swatted it to the floor! The platter broke into a dozen pieces with a deafening CRASH! and Adrian began crushing the cookies under his feet.

"Master of the Library," the drome master called. "Such vandalism in the drome is unacceptable, and may result in a suspension or ban from Chaotic. The Codemasters will discuss your punishment. Please exit to the Port Court and refrain from further matches until they have reached a decision."

"Now hold on!" Gust said. "He'll clean that up. Go easy on him! After all, it's only his first offense."

"Well… okay," the drome master replied. "I suppose since you, a being of virtue and perfection, see no fault in it, the offense can be ignored. Carry on with the match."

"Why stick up for me?" Adrian demanded.

"Because I want to see you fall flat on your face when you can't kick the addiction!" Gust sneered. "Honestly, thanks to those girls, you haven't had a satisfactory snack in weeks!"

Adrian's eyes went wide.

"Wait," he said. "How'd you know about that?"

"Oops," Gust said, his voice full of false regret. "Guess the cat's out of the bag.

"You see," he elaborated. "We've been out longer than you think—weeks longer, in fact. It just took a while to set up the spell to complete our saga. In the meantime, we knew we'd need to hold you up a little, so we hit the girls with a sweettooth spell to drive 'em more and more sugar-crazy! Between the girls obsessing over gorging themselves, and the boys lamenting their hunger, Society awareness and fitness went way down!"

"You're the reason I can't hang on to a dessert in my own library?" Adrian seethed.

"Oh, boo-hoo!" Gust retorted, rolling his eyes. "Try living without food of any kind for a year! Sure, ideas in the vault don't need to eat anything, but it's sure a fun pastime! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the first food I ate when I got out!"

Smirking, the wind Elemental reached into his pocket and pulled out a pink piece of candy—a Starburst. He unwrapped it and popped it in his mouth.

"Never could stand the yellow ones," he said. "But the pinks are the best!"

Adrian looked as if he might explode.

"Master of the Library," the drome master said. "If you do not make a move in the next ten seconds, you will forfeit your turn."

Angrily, Adrian set his Location, the last one H'earring's ability had let him place: the dark, eerie city.

"The Location will be…UnderWorld City," the drome master announced. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

"Atropol attacks Maxxor!" the librarian declared.

The two players touched the Creatures' images and morphed once again. Gust turned back into Maxxor, and Adrian an armored UnderWorlder with fists the size of volleyballs.

The battle began, and the two were transported to the dark city streets.

"You think you can beat Maxxor?" Maxxor laughed. "Not in this lifetime!"

"Not without help!" Atropol sneered. "But maybe with a little BattleGear…"

Adrian thought about it, and metal gauntlets appeared over his arms, increasing the size of his already enormous hands.


"Yes!" Marcus cheered. "The Gauntlets of Might! He did remember some combos when he set up the board!"


"Big deal!" Maxxor shouted. "I've got some 'Gear of my own!"

Under Maxxor's feet a new BattleGear came. It was a giant pair of robotic legs, and Maxxor stood on top in a control station with about six cannons mounted on its exterior.

"Think you can take on my VileDriver?" the OverWorlder laughed.

"Don't have to!" Atropol shot back.

Suddenly, the VileDriver disappeared, and Maxxor fell to the ground on his hands and knees.

"How the—?" he demanded.

"It's Atropol's special ability, Gust!" Adrian laughed. "If his Power discipline is higher than his opponent's, he can destroy their BattleGear, and with his already high Power boosted further by the Gauntlets of Might, not even Maxxor outranks him! And thanks to that…Power Punch!"

Atropol struck Maxxor with his colossal fist, actually knocking him through the wall of a nearby house!

Maxxor leapt back out, eyes burning with rage.

"Try some Mugic, Atropol!" he shouted, a blue heptagon appearing in his hand. "Song of Stasis!"

A blue Mugician flew out of Maxxor's body, activating the Mugic and sending out a seven-note tune.

"I don't think so!" Atropol shot back, a red Mugic appearing in his hand. "Chorus of Canceling!"

Though no Mugician went into it, the Chorus of Canceling activated anyway, negating Maxxor's Song of Stasis.

"What?" Maxxor shouted. "That's impossible! Atropol can't use Mugic! He has no Mugicians!"

"That's true," Atropol agreed, chuckling slightly. "But here in UnderWorld City, the first UnderWorld Mugic that an UnderWorlder uses comes free of charge!"

"Only the first?" Maxxor said joyously. "Then try stopping this! Fortissimo!"

A grey Mugic appeared in Maxxor's hand and another blue Mugician flew out of him and released its power. Maxxor began to grow bigger and bigger, reaching skyscraper proportions.

"Try beating me now!" the OverWorlder laughed, moving a fist down to crush Atropol.

Adrian reacted quickly. Knowing Atropol's Speed was too low to dodge, he slammed Atropol's fists to the ground and pushed himself high into the air, then brought his fists down on Maxxor's skull and knocked him to the ground before finishing him with a Flashwarp.


Marcus snorted at the looks on the Elementals' faces.

"Told you Adrian would win this!" he jeered.

"And 'ere comes zee rush part of zee show…" Luna sighed.

"What're you talking about?" Terra asked desperately.


"Gespedan attacks Magmon!"

Gespedan's awesome Speed combined with the Air attacks he could use with his Cyclance and the confusing nature of Castle Bohdran easily overwhelmed Magmon.

"Atropol attacks Xaerv!"

Atropol split open the floor of the UnderWorld Coliseum and threw Xaerv into the lava.

"Deenha attacks Atropol!"

Deenha, despite her low Power discipline, gave more of a challenge using Mugic: She used Mugic Reprieve to recover Fortissimo and use it again, but Atropol yanked a tree from the ground in the Forest of Life and swept under her feet, then used it to bash her over the head until she was coded.

"Atropol attacks Gespedan!"

This is where Atropol met his end: Gespedan ran circles around him in Stone Pillar, finally knocking him off the edge.

"Gespedan attacks Borth-Majar!"

Borth-Majar is a difficult Creature to master, as it is actually two Creatures in one—Borth is tiny, but super-intelligent, providing the brains of the team, and Majar is a huge stone ignoramus that grants muscle and carries Borth on his shoulders. It's often difficult for a player to split their mind between two Creatures that are so different, but Adrian had had practice, and the duo's VileDriver didn't hurt. Majar had to hold Borth tight to keep him from blowing away in the Storm Tunnel, but his heavy body and the VileDriver's strong legs held them in place, and Borth hit Gespedan with a Delirium attack that left the OverWorlder dazed just long enough for a powerful wind to slam him into a cave wall, coding him.


"What now, Gust?" Adrian taunted. "I may be down to my last two Creatures, but all you have left is Raznus, and his Power is too low for him to stand a chance against Borth-Majar!"

"We'll see," Gust snarled. "Now make your move!"

Adrian spun his randomizer and the image of a cave with a glowing mouth and numerous carvings of OverWorlders, UnderWorlders, Mipedians, and Danians on the outside (M'arrillians were still hiding behind the Doors of the Deepmines when these were carved).

"The Location will be…Stronghold Mourn," the drome master said. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

"Borth-Majar attacks Raznus!" Adrian shouted.

The two players touched the Creatures' images and became them: Adrian the tiny, green Borth and big, rocky Majar, and Gust became Raznus, an elderly, wolf-like OverWorlder in a plain beige robe.

In an instant, they were transported to Stronghold Mourn, a memorial to lost heroes of every tribe (except M'arrillians, of course).


"How long is this Crossover going to last?" Cascade complained. "Chaotic is not my favorite fandom!"

"We've got another eight minutes or so," Marcus said, eyeing the device's timer. "This merge is stronger than you think. We're in the second season, which has a similar art style to Teen Titans, and since so little of the show happens on Earth, it leaves a lot of room to maneuver. The only thing that you could say really kept them apart was the episode where Creatures from Perim invaded Earth and nothing could stop them, and that turned out to be just a dream. The truth is, this Crossover is a lot more believable than you think!"


"You and your compatriots must assume yourselves universally superior due to your 'unique' powers!" Borth shouted to Raznus, verbose as usual. "But your hypotheses will soon be refuted, as here at Stronghold Mourn, all Creatures obtain access to all forms of Elemental attacks!"

Raznus sneered, and Majar just gaped, unable to understand any of that.

"Uh, okay…" Majar said. "I beat Raznus now?"

Okay, maybe Adrian needed a little more practice to master these two…

"Yes, you Brobdingnagian oaf!" Borth screamed. "Strike our enemy with a Frostblight!"

Majar nodded and shot a chilling blast at Raznus.

"I'm not making this easy for you!" Raznus said. "Cyclone Slam!"

Raznus fired a tornado from his hands that hit the Frostblight and weakened it, lowering the damage that Raznus took.

"My turn," Raznus announced. "Torrent of Flame!"

"Rockwave!" Borth-Majar shouted, Majar firing a barrage of stones that penetrated the fire and struck Raznus full-on.

"Admit your inferiority, OverWorlder!" Borth ordered. "The destructive potential of Majar's assaults greatly surpasses that of your feeble attempts!"

"What he said!" Majar agreed.

Raznus gave them a dirty look.

"I will not accept that!" he snarled. "If I cannot win here, then I'll just have to take us to a place where I can! Mirthquake!"

The ground began to shake, and then the Location changed, becoming a strange OverWorld Location known as Runic Grove, a large grove of gnarled, sloped trees with incomprehensible symbols carved all over them.


"How'd Raznus do that?" Doyle asked, confused.

"Mirthquake allows a player to change the Location to the next one in their deck in exchange for the user sacrificing the ability to use Earth attacks for the duration of the match," Jinx explained. "He may even be holding a Diamond of Vlaric so he can do it again."

Everyone gaped at the unwilling Elemental.

"What?" Jinx shrugged. "The agent said this Crossover was more believable than we give it credit for."


"A change of venue will not assist you!" Borth insisted. "You are feebly attempting to delay the inevitable, Raznus, and your futile efforts are all for naught! Now, face the juggernaut-esque fury of my VileDriver!"
The giant robot walker appeared under Majar (and, by extension, Borth), hoisting him (them) into the air.

"Go on, Majar," Borth urged. "Reduce our opposer to a heap of ash!"

Majar looked at the numerous buttons and levers, but did nothing else.

"Oh, for the love of the ancient Mugicians!" Borth screamed. "Fire the cannon, Majar!"

Majar panicked and hit a button. On the bright side, a cannon fired. On the not-so-bright side, it struck nowhere near Raznus. The blast struck one of the trees, blowing off all of the branches.

Raznus began to cackle.

"Great choice of BattleGear!" he jeered. "Borth's too short to operate the controls, and Majar's too stupid!"

"I can't shoot you," Majar retorted, in his usual slurred tone. "But I still squish you! Borth, how I make it walk?"

"For once an outstanding idea from you!" Borth congratulated. "The two most obvious protruding levers, when operated alternatively, utilize the limbs of the device."

Majar just gaped, causing Borth to groan.

"Pull one big lever, then the other, then the first, then keep going like that," Borth said. "I'll help you turn. Got it?"

"Uh-huh!" Majar replied. "Let's squish Raznus!"

With Majar operating the levers, the machine lurched forward. As it did, though, Raznus reacted, conjuring a vehicular BattleGear that looked like one big wheel around himself.

"You think I'll just sit here and let you code me?" Raznus taunted. "Forget it. With my Mowercycle, you'll never catch me!"

Just to prove it, Raznus drove laps around the VileDriver, launching attacks left and right. Luckily for Borth-Majar, none of Raznus' attacks were strong enough to hurt their BattleGear.

Borth-Majar began a chase in a fight that began to look like a stalemate—though Borth-Majar's VileDriver couldn't catch Raznus, Raznus couldn't do any damage, either.

"This confrontation could go on indefinitely if we don't take more unpredicted action, Majar," Borth said. "Perhaps you have another unprecedented inspiration?"

"Why we not just attack Raznus already?" Majar said impatiently.

"Another brilliant suggestion!" Borth exclaimed. "Majar, your cranium isn't nearly as devoid of grey matter as once hypothesized! Quickly, dislodge him from his BattleGear with a Power Pulse!"

Majar understood very few of those words, but luckily "Power Pulse" was something he knew. He launched attack after attack, and Raznus had to swerve to avoid them.

"Oh, enough of this!" the OverWorlder finally said. "Frostblight!"

Raznus shot the attack right in front of the Mowercycle, creating a smooth path that went straight up the trunk of the tree that Borth-Majar had blasted earlier and rode right through, sending his BattleGear on a crash course with the VileDriver.

At the last second, Raznus abandoned his ride, leaving Borth-Majar to get coded in the fiery explosion.


"Pfft," commented Kaz, who was walking by. "Another copycat. I made that move famous!"

"Hey," Tom reassured. "When you're good, you inspire others."


Back in the drome, Adrian and Gust were both down to their last Creatures.

"Could go either way now," Gust chuckled. "Solvis and Raznus are about equal in stats."

"Yeah," Adrian agreed. "But I still have four Mugics left, and Solvis can use any two of them!"

"True," Gust agreed. "But it's my turn to choose the Location, and Raznus still has his Mowercycle!"

"What?" Adrian exclaimed. "The thing exploded! How can he still have it?"

"Strangely, that doesn't stop it from carrying over to the next battle," Gust shrugged. "It has to be destroyed with its wielder or by an effect to be gone for good."

Adrian frowned, but his frustration was interrupted by another call from Marcus.

"Yeah?" Adrian said, picking up.

"I think you're actually tapping a little too far into the Creatures," Marcus said. "Players with Borth-Majar tend to pass ideas between the two nonverbally."

"Yeah, yeah, you're an expert with Borth-Majar," Adrian said, rolling his eyes. "So I've heard."

"Not much of a stretch for me to split myself between thought and emotion," Marcus grinned, holding up the tiger talisman copy. "Have I ever thanked you for making this?"

"You could stand to do it more often," Adrian smirked. "Anyway, your advice?"

"Use the Creatures' knowledge, strength, and reflexes," Marcus said. "But maintain your sense of self, too. You need to be yourself and the Creatures to win."

"Got it," Adrian said, just before hanging up.

"WindElemental," the drome master said. "Please activate your location randomizer."

Gust spun the wheel, and when it stopped the image of a forest in pouring rain came up.

"The Location will be… Everrain," the drome master announced. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

"Raznus attacks Solvis!" Gust said, the players touching the Creatures' images and becoming them. Gust turned back into the wolf-like OverWorlder Raznus, while Adrian became the strangest Creature yet!

Here's the basic idea of what Solvis looked like: Start with a red, egg-shaped body. Now, realize that that body appears to be nothing more than the housing for a giant eyeball! Near the bottom, add four limbs. They seem to be both arms and legs, or something in between. On top of the body, put a tube, about the size of the one found in a roll of toilet paper, and finally, on top of that tube, place a mouth full of sharp teeth.
Weird, huh?

Anyway, the two were transported to the rain-drenched forest known as Everrain, and Raznus wasted no time in summoning his Mowercycle.

"Not this time!" Solvis shouted, a red Mugic appearing in its hand. "Discord of Disarming!"

A red Mugician flew out of Solvis and activated the Mugic, and Raznus' BattleGear disappeared on the spot.

"Now we're on even ground!" Solvis laughed.

"Not quite!" Raznus retorted. "Everrain boosts the power of all Water attacks, which you don't have! Hailstorm!"

Solvis winced as it was hit by a barrage of ice shards, but regained its composure soon enough.

"Ember Swarm!" it screamed.

Raznus was blown back slightly, and a duel of head-on attacks began, but the sad fact was that Solvis just couldn't win this way—Raznus' attacks were getting boosted by this Location, and were doing more damage. Raznus still had 20 Energy, and Solvis was down to 5, with no attacks strong enough to even the odds.

Raznus launched a Riptide to end it all, but, before that could happen, Solvis made one last move…

Solvis was coded and Adrian and Raznus returned to the drome shortly after.

"Well," Raznus smirked, turning back into Gust. "That's that."

"Really?" Adrian said. "'Cuz it looks like I still have a Creature left."

Gust checked the screen and his eyes went wide. Borth-Majar was back on the board!

"That's impossible!" Gust argued. "I just coded them!"

"Who said you didn't?" Adrian replied. "But during that last battle, I used the UnderWorld Song of Revival Mugic to bring them back! They may not have BattleGear or Mugic, but as long as they're in this, so am I!"

"Surprisingly clever, Master of the Library," the drome master commented. "Now, please activate your location randomizer."

Adrian spun and the image of the interior of a building filled with big, strange, and very dangerous-looking machines flashed up.

"The Location will be… Castle Pillar," the drome master announced. "Please select your attacking and target Creatures."

"Borth-Majar attacks Raznus!" Adrian called.

The two players turned back into the three Creatures and Castle Pillar materialized around them.

"Game over, Raznus!" Borth shouted. "Both of us are devoid of BattleGear, and Majar's strength far surpasses yours!"

"You're right," Raznus replied with a grin. "You are stronger. Braver and faster, too. In fact, I only surpass you in Wisdom. Guess I'll just have to fix that. Tones of Tumult!"

A grey Mugic appeared in Raznus' hand, but to his surprise, no Mugician emerged from him to activate it.
"Apparently you are in desperate need of education in the subject of UnderWorld venues," Borth said. "Here in Castle Pillar, all Creatures' Mugicians are rendered inaccessible. The only useable one lies at the apex!"
"Then that's where I'll go!" Raznus growled, bolting for the nearest staircase.

"Oh, no, you don't!" Majar said. "Ektospasm!"

Majar spat out a gob of green goo, but Raznus continued to sprint up the stairs and narrowly avoided it. Borth-Majar then resorted to running after the OverWorlder, trying to stop him with Majar's bare hands.

"Iron Balls!" Raznus suddenly yelled, turning around and firing numerous metal spheres at the staircase that tripped Borth-Majar and knocked them back down to the ground floor. Borth flew off of Majar's shoulders and nearly got crushed by his own partner. Angrily, the two got back together and ascended a different staircase.


"So the Mugician goes to whomever reaches the top first?" Doyle asked.

"Yeah, but it's not that easy," Marcus told him. "There are multiple paths to the top, but all of them are heavy with puzzles and challenges that require high Wisdom to solve."

"And Raznus has the highest Wisdom," Cascade snickered.

"True," Jinx said. "But Borth-Majar's stats are just averages. Borth is actually way smarter than Raznus."

"Well, whomever gets that Mugician is pretty much guaranteed to win," Flare commented. "And when Gust gets it, he'll use the Tones of Tumult to lower his own Wisdom, and then hit Borth-Majar with a Lucky Shot attack!"

"Lucky Shot?" Doyle echoed, not understanding the severity.

"It's an uber-powerful attack that can only be used if a Creature is weaker than their opponent in every way," Jinx informed. "That one attack will pretty much win the match for Gust if he uses it."


Back in Castle Pillar, Borth-Majar had already made their way to the third puzzle.

As soon as they entered the room, the door sealed shut behind them and the walls began to close in. Majar struggled to keep the walls from crushing them while Borth leapt off of his partner and studied the door they hadn't come through. On it were nine dots arranged in a square and a set of instructions written in the Perim language (they seem to speak English there, but the written language definitely isn't English letters), and by that, a piece of chalk.

Borth quickly scanned the instructions. To open the door, he had to connect the dots using only four straight lines without lifting the chalk at any point. Was this a challenge? Ha! Borth could do this in his sleep!

Using his telekinesis, Borth took the chalk and drew a line from the top-left dot to the bottom-right, then went left, past the bottom-left dot as if there were a tenth one past it. After that, he drew a diagonal line up through the top-center dot and stopped as if there were an eleventh one above the top-right. From there, he drew his fourth and final line down to the bottom-right. Easy.

The puzzle glowed and the door swung open, the walls returning to their original positions.

Majar smiled and scooped Borth onto his shoulders as he ran through the door to the next staircase, which led up to yet another puzzle room. This one was completely bare, with nothing to look at but a closed door (two if you count the one behind them). The door's only instruction was to pull a lever, and an arrow pointing up. When Borth-Majar looked up, they saw that this room was more detailed than they once thought—the 75-foot-high ceiling reached a point like the inside of a turret (which it probably was), and at that point was a big, red lever.

This presented more of a problem—Borth's telekinesis couldn't reach that far.

"You hit switch, Borth!" Majar suddenly said, plucking Borth up and tossing him into the air as hard as he could. Borth screamed all the way, but came up fifteen feet short of the switch at least. Majar caught him and tried again, doing no better. On the third try, Borth latched on to Majar's hand and refused to let go.

"Perhaps I can devise a more probable solution?" he begged.

"You have better idea?" Majar asked, with a hint of sarcasm.

"I will in a moment," Borth sneered. "If you will just give me adequate time to ponder."

While Majar stood there, slack-jawed, Borth did some quick calculations. This would involve great mathematical skill, as well as a large amount of educated guesses, but he finally devised a solution.

Borth marked a spot on the wall with an "X", then ordered Majar to step back and hit it with an Ektospasm. Majar obeyed, and the goo blast hit the wall and ricocheted around the room, going higher and higher before finally striking the lever, opening the door.

Borth-Majar cheered as they ascended yet another staircase, this wan leading to what must've been the final room.

It was then, on one of the five other staircases, that Borth-Majar spotted Raznus, and Raznus spotted them. The three Creatures raced up to the room, but Raznus' bony legs were surprisingly fast when motivated. He reached the door a split-second earlier.

When Majar threw open the door, he and Borth analyzed the room, and saw Raznus staring at the puzzle. Circling the room were five spheres of different colors: red, yellow, brown, purple, and blue. One sphere held the Mugician, but choosing the wrong one could mean certain doom.

"Easy," Raznus snorted. "Purple—it's not a tribal color!"

Raznus leapt at the purple sphere, but as he did, Majar picked Borth up and hurled him at the orb. Borth and Raznus closed in on the target. This would be a close one!

Out of the blue, there was a flash of light, and when it was over, Adrian, Marcus, and the Elementals were once again standing in the ruins of Macchu Picchu.

"What happened?" Adrian asked, dazed.

"The Crossover wore off," Marcus sighed. "I guess we'll have to call this round a draw…"

"Which means neither side has to pay the price," Sol stated.

"Victory enough for us," Luna smirked.

"But make no mistake," Gust warned. "We will have a rematch, Adrian, and next time, you won't luck out. It's" (here he flew up and struck a dramatic pose in midair) "cooler that way!"

Adrian's face went red with anger.

"Oh, come on!" he roared. "That's not even my pose!"

"I know," Gust replied. "It's" (here he struck the pose again) "cooler that way!"

Adrian moved in to throttle Gust, but Marcus grabbed him by the collar and held him back.

"Come on," the agent said. "We've got work to do."

"Work?" Adrian echoed.

"We have to cure the girls, remember?"


After several hours, the boys of the Society managed to drag the girls (whose appetites had turned them increasingly bestial) back to the Library Arcanium for a cure for their affliction. They returned to normal shortly afterward and gathered to watch the rest of the story on the monitor.

The Society of the Vine's target was surprisingly not the Elementals, but the Titans and Volt. They sent Mad Mod down to attack a movie theater, using the projectors to show his hypno-screens to the audiences and brainwash them, giving them the command to destroy the Titans and retrieve Volt.

The Titans arrived on the scene and, while Volt, Starfire, Cyborg, Beastboy, and Raven kept the crowd safe by barricading them in separate rooms, Robin defeated Mad Mod in the projection booth.

The Titans broke Mad Mod's hypnotic control over the people by playing the year's funniest comedy on every screen. The people cracked up and returned to normal—save for one.

Raven had been unwittingly hypnotized during the struggle.

Beastboy stayed with Raven, telling her all his best jokes, trying to free her, while the rest of the Titans went to question Mad Mod in prison about the effects of hypnotism without a set command. The answer was worse than they ever would've imagined: As time passed, Raven's memories, emotions, and knowledge would be stored away in her brain and replaced with Mad Mod's, and eight hours after the process started, they'd be gone forever. After that, she'd become Mad Mod!

The threat level was catastrophic! Raven's powers operate on emotion—the stronger she feels, the more power she'd unleash! With Mad Mod's wild mood swings, he could level the whole city!

Meanwhile, Beastboy pleaded with the nonresponsive Raven, and in the process realized just how he could help: He used her meditation mirror to enter her mind and seek out her happy side.

Once in, he found that Mad Mod had begun to turn it into a massive Alice in Wonderland parody, and that he'd already captured most of Raven's emotions. Beastboy barely managed to get her studious side as a guide.

Back with the Titans, the team declared a state of emergency and contacted the Herald to come to the Tower with Jericho, hoping that the mind-possessor could help Raven regain control. Jericho entered her body, but alerted them that he could do nothing more than monitor Beastboy and the state of Raven's mind.
At the worst of times, Kardiak was reported attacking a children's hospital (the Society of the Vine had done this to lure the Titans out of town), and the Titans went to stop him while the Herald stayed with Raven, ready to send her into an interdimensional void should Mad Mod gain control.

After a long and hilarious journey, Beastboy managed to free Raven's happiness just in time. Raven laughed, banishing all traces of Mad Mod and recovering her mind.

At this moment, Jericho caught a glimpse of some of Raven's darker memories and fell out of her body, unconscious. He recovered in a few minutes and the Herald took him home when the Titans returned.
One of the last lines was from Raven to Beastboy, and it was classic.

"You dragged my unconscious body around the Tower, trespassed in my room, took and used one of my most dangerous possessions without my permission, trespassed in my mind, and made me sit through a five-hour stream of your jokes…and if you hadn't done all those things, I wouldn't be standing here. Thank you… but don't ever do it again!"

"This story's getting deep," Lauren commented. "I didn't know romance was a theme with you."

"Not a main one," Marcus said. "But it's come up. Sidestories and the like. And don't enjoy it too much. Remember, we're supposed to ruin it."

"Hey, I'm just happy to be able to enjoy a snack in my own library again," Adrian said, pulling out an Oreo.

At that second, Tash snatched the cookie and gulped it down.

"Huh…" Marcus said. "Guess they were always gluttons…"

"I can't believe you guys can eat after downing all the rainbow drops in Wonka's factory!" Jess exclaimed. "Seriously, there's a rainbow-colored lake of vomit in there! It'll take us weeks to clean that up!"

"Moderation is the key," Marcus said. "So, Adrian, up for a trip to Honeydukes?"

"You know it!" Adrian grinned.


"Bao Zakeruga!" Sol and Luna shouted, the books in their hands glowing with an evil light.

Zatch and Zeno's eyes rolled back in their heads and they opened their mouths wide as two colossal dragons made of pure electricity made their way out and coiled around Yopopo and Baratcha.

Aster and Sumire screamed and held their books tight, but the dragons' stray sparks kept shooting off, and eventually a couple hit their marks.

The books burned up remarkably fast, and Yopopo and Baratcha disappeared, never to be seen again (except in reruns).


"What've we learned?" Harriet asked the two dejected agents upon their return.

"Oneshots can't be relied upon to give more than a basic character's abilities," Sumire sighed.

"And the Elementals are stronger and more Sue-ish between stories…" Aster nodded.

"I was thinking more along the lines of 'always include Marcus in Elemental-related missions'," Marcus said, his voice calm but firm. "Honestly, can't a guy take a nap without his teammates racing ahead into the Zatch Bell fandom?"

Aster and Sumire's heads slumped even lower.

"Still," Marcus said. "Your intentions were noble, and there aren't many stories left, so I guess you're to be forgiven."

"How'd you get the Crossover, anyway?" Tash asked, a bit sharp.

"My apologies," Doyle said. "I retrieved it for them. Since they informed me that it was for the purpose of challenging the Elementals, I assumed that they had the proper clearance. Such a mistake will not happen again."

"It'd better not!" Tash warned. "Like I said, Crossovers are dangerously Sue-ish due to their lack of drawbacks!"

"Oh, go easy on them, boss," Marcus said, putting a hand on Tash's shoulder. "They meant well, and—hold on!" he suddenly exclaimed, turning to the screen. "Another story's starting!"

Back in Titans' Tower, the whole team had become engaged in a card game to stay indoors during an awful heat wave, and soon enough it boiled down to just Robin and Volt.

At this point, Volt proposed a bet: If he lost, he'd do Robin's chores for a week, , but if he won, Robin would have to beta-test his newest invention. Robin agreed and pulled out a trump card, but Volt pulled out one of his own, winning the game. Robin strapped on the invention, but before Volt could even tell him how to use it, Johnny Rancid attacked downtown.

"Sorry," Marcus said. "But I have to cut this conference short. I have a challenge to make."

"Which agent are you taking?" Lauren asked.

Marcus didn't answer. He just pulled out his portal gun, shot open a portal to the Teen Titans fandom and jumped through it.


Marcus emerged in the icy caverns beneath the north pole, home of Kole and Gnaark, whom the Elementals had visited hoping to find clues about the Tome. They clearly overshot it, though, as Gnaark existed millions of years before the Tome was lost.

Anyway, when Marcus arrived the Elementals turned to him, save for Sol, who just kept staring at Kole, much to Luna's annoyance.

"What now?" Cascade groaned.

"What do you think?" Marcus shot back. "Another challenge, of course!"

"Don't be stupid!" Gust snarled. "That is, if you can help it! You know you can't challenge us again!"

"Who said that I was the challenger?" Marcus smirked. "I've got another opponent in mind…"

"Oh, really?" Luna said, jerking Sol's gaze away from Kole, who was frozen in place. "And 'oo might zat be?"

"Me!" Jinx announced, stepping forward.

The Elementals gaped, then scowled.

"You thankless little tramp!" Cascade hissed. "This is how you repay us after we made you a part of our team?"

Jinx sneered right back. "'Made me a part of your team'?" she repeated. "You abducted me and forced me into this story! I want out now!"

"Forget it!" Sol said, his eyes turning back to Kole. "You are a part of this story, too, and you wirr not be reaving!"

"She won't have to!" Marcus shot back. "If she wins this, then the target of the Society of the Vine's next plot becomes Volt, the story falls apart, and Jinx goes free!"

"Please," Luna said, rolling her eyes and pulling Sol back to herself. "She weel never ween!"

"And when she loses," Flare said with an evil grin. "She has to be our obedient slave for the rest of the saga!"

"I'll never lose!" Jinx shouted, before turning back to Marcus. "But, uh, just in case, what's the contest?"

Marcus sighed and pulled out a Crossover, half-heartedly throwing it to the ground. The earth shook and, once again, the scenery changed. They were now inside a classroom that may well have been a cave at some point, with very high ceilings and a somehow sinister air about it. Even worse, the room was currently filled with people!

Marcus cursed under his breath. "I specifically told them to make this Crossover's events before the students were moved here from Iceland!"


"It'd help if he'd actually told us a little more about the fandom!" Camille sneered.

"He told us plenty, Miss Camille," Doyle replied. "You didn't seem to be listening. Perhaps you were thinking of blowing something up?"


"Freeze!" Flare suddenly shouted as all the people turned to the newcomers.

At once, all canon froze except Jinx, but including Kid Flash, Terra, Gnaark, and Kole, at whom Sol was still sneaking peeks, much to Luna's chagrin.

"Okay," Flare said. "Explain the challenge."

"It doesn't work if time is frozen!" Marcus shouted.

"Explain it and we'll restore everything," Gust replied.

Marcus sighed and explained. "Well," he said. "As you can see, we're in the H.I.V.E., or Higher Institute of Villainous Education—"

"But that's in my fandom!" Jinx insisted. "I graduated at the top of my class!"

"Yeah, the similarity is why I picked up the first book," Marcus said. "I sure hope Mark Walden doesn't get sued… anyway, the challenge is infiltrating the Labyrinth and stealing the card key inside—a standard test in Stealth and Evasion class."

"Not gonna be easy with the whole school attacking us for intruding," Flare commented.

"No problem," Cascade told him.

Cascade snapped her fingers and everyone's clothes changed into black jumpsuits, save for Gust, whose was blue. In addition to that, a black beeper (a Blackbox) appeared in everyone's hand.

"There," she said. "Now we're all registered students."

"Henchman stream?" Gust raged at his teammate. "Are you saying I'm dumb!"

"Will you guys just pick your competitor and unfreeze everything?" Jinx screamed. "I doubt this merge will last much longer!"

Flare sighed and snapped his fingers, returning everything to normal.

"Okay, class," said a voice with a slight French accent coming from the fluffy white cat on the teacher's desk. Well, actually from her blue LED-covered collar. "Who is next for the Labyrinth?"

Several hands raised, including all of the Elementals.

"Ms. Jinx, Ms. Luna, how about you two?"

"Yes, Ms. Leon," Luna smirked.

"Working together or against each other?" the feline teacher inquired.

"Against!" Jinx said instantly.

"Very well," Ms. Leon said. "You know where the entrance is."

Luna led Jinx out of the classroom, down the hall, and into a doorway with "Labyrinth" engraved over it, each of them picking up a couple of grapplers on the outside.

"When you are ready," Ms. Leon's voice rang out.

The duo stepped through the doorway and instantly it closed behind them, sealing them in.

"Guess we have to go forward to get back out," Jinx commented.

Jinx took a step forward and leapt aside just in time as a piece of the floor beneath her opened up. Were it not for her training and quick reflexes, she would've suffered a fifty-foot drop into a pool of freezing water, ending the game right then and there!

Luna giggled slightly and began to levitate, avoiding the threat completely as she went for the next room.
Jinx, meanwhile, used her agility to move onward. Since she had no idea which areas of the floor were booby trapped, she had to make sure she never stayed in one place for more than an instant.

Still, in a remarkably short amount of time, she made it to the next room.

In this room was a long hallway ending with a set of double doors, and by those doors were two motion-sensitive blasters.

Also, Luna was nowhere to be seen.

Jinx remained on her highest guard as she slowly approached the doors. Suddenly, when she got too close, the blasters locked on to her movement and shot a thick, green foam into her path. Using all of her training, Jinx barely managed to dodge and retreat back out of the blasters' ranges.


Back in the classroom, everyone else was watching the test on a monitor.

"Jinx is pretty good," said Laura Brand, the redheaded Scottish computer hacker extraordinaire, to her roommate Shelby Trinity. "She could give you a run for your money!"

"As if!" said the blonde American jewel thief. "There's no way she'll manage to score higher than me on that test!"

"Why not?" asked the white-haired, British Otto Malpense. "I did, after all."

"He makes a fine point, you know," agreed a much deeper voice, also with a British accent.

Marcus turned to the source of the voice. It was Gnaark, the caveman Titan!

"Oh, nice work!" he told Cascade sarcastically. "You've completely rewritten Gnaark's character!"

"Whatever," Cascade shrugged. "It'll go back to normal when the Crossover ends. Everything works out for us Sues, after all."


Back in the Labyrinth, Jinx continued to ponder her situation. With those blasters out there, there was no way that she could get through that door, and they fired too quickly for that clichéd trick of running between them and ducking down at the last second so they just hit each other.

Well, whatever she did, she'd have to do it fast, seeing as Luna was getting further and further ahead with each passing second!

At last, an idea came to Jinx. Using all of her prowess, she lunged forward and swiped her hands, sending pink waves at one of the blasters. The machine sparked, starting to die down.

Jinx smiled and repeated her actions again and again, first on one blaster, then on the other. Unlike the weapons in the H.I.V.E. she attended, these were clearly built to last. Still, even these couldn't stand up to her bad luck powers forever.

The blasters disabled, Jinx continued through the doors to the next room. This one was much bigger than the last, and even more high-tech. From the floor and walls came long, thin beams of red light that slowly rotated in complex patterns. Jinx had no idea what touching one meant, but there was no way that it was good.

But there, past the beams, was her prize: the card key, treasure of the Labyrinth! If she could get her hands on it, she'd win for sure! And, even better, there were no signs of Luna—perhaps she'd already lost?

Well, standing there doing nothing certainly wouldn't get her through those beams, but Jinx wasn't sure her gymnastics skills would, either. There were just too many of those beams, and all of them were moving.

Then she looked up. She noticed that all of the beams were coming from the floor and walls—none from the ceiling! The gaps up there were much bigger!

Jinx snickered and pulled out her grapplers. She shot one straight up and reeled herself within an inch of the ceiling, then held the other one out and focused carefully. To pull this off, she'd need split-second timing, the foresight of a chess champion, and the swing control of Tarzan. Making herself as small as she could, Jinx shot the grappler at a spot a little ahead of herself and began to move forward, retracting the last grappler as she did. Then she used the first grappler to move further on, and kept going like that. It wasn't easy. Five times she had to swing aside and avoid a beam by mere millimeters, but the reluctant Elemental pushed on, and finally found herself on the other side of the beams.

This was it! She was in the clear! Using the card key on the computer before her, Jinx could deactivate every security system and escape!

Jinx ran over to steal the card key, but as she stepped onto the pedestal where it stood, a cage dropped down, trapping her!

Was this a problem? As if! The computer was within her arms' reach! She'd just deactivate it and…

She couldn't take the card key.

Jinx grabbed and grabbed, but her hand just seemed to pass right through the treasure.

At that moment, a cruel, feminine laugh sounded from Jinx's right. The reluctant Elemental turned as Luna materialized from nothing out of the shadows.

"Congratulations on makeeng eet zis far, mon ami," Luna smirked, holding up a card key identical to the one Jinx was trying to snatch. "I assume you are lookeeng for zis? Eet seems eet would be most 'elpful right now."

"How did you get here?" Jinx demanded, her face turning purple with rage.

Luna laughed. "Even cameras and secureety beams cannot detect me while I am blendeeng eento zee shadows," she replied. "And my telekeenesees saved me from zee final trap, unlike you. But why should I stop zere?" she continued. "I cast zee eellusion of a second card key to lure you een. After all, captureeng you opponent eez extra credeet!"


"The girl is brilliant," Wing Fanchu, Otto's large, Asian roommate said.

"Qvite so," agreed Franz Argentblum, overweight, red-faced German boy.

"Ms. Leon may have a new favorite soon," Laura said, elbowing Shelby's ribs.

Everyone watched as Luna escaped using the card key she had so easily stolen. Afterward, Ms. Leon switched off the Labyrinth's defenses and Jinx walked out. When Luna walked back into class, she was greeted with cheers and congratulations, as well as top marks from Ms. Leon.

Jinx was not.

After another minute the Crossover's effects ended and everyone returned to the freezing north pole caverns, now free of the H.I.V.E. uniforms and Blackboxes.

"We win again, Creator," Flare said with a smug grin. "Jinx fights for us now."

Jinx cringed and her face tightened. She looked as if she were bound by invisible chains.

"I'm sorry" was all Marcus could say before he opened a portal and left.


"It's all my fault," Marcus moaned as he plopped down on a chair and buried his face in his hands.

"Aww," Camille said, patting him on the back. "Yep."

"Huh?" Marcus said, raising his eyes to meet hers. "Aren't you supposed to be telling me that it isn't my fault right now?"

"That would be a gargantuan fib," Doyle told him. "The Elementals were your creations, and you made that wager with them. It's clearly your fault, but that's no excuse for sitting there and moping. This is your responsibility, but that doesn't mean you can't have help. The entire Society is behind you, as always."

"And yet I still have my doubts that we'll defeat the Elementals in time."

Camille shrugged. "Well," she said. "In dire circumstances, I recommend this."

Camille reached into the pocket of her lab coat and pulled out a… well, it's a little hard to describe… it looked like a complicated machine, gears and cogs galore, with what looked like a plunger for explosives on top.


"Under most circumstances, yes," Camille said, a little shaken from this unpredicted outburst. "But if used by a skilled author at exactly the right time under exactly the right circumstances, it's the most powerful weapon we've got!"

"Danielle used it in the Dragon Ball fandom a few months ago and they cranked out that awful live-action movie! And we're lucky that's all that happened!"

"Again, it's difficult to—"

"Lauren used it in one of the greatest animes of all time and turned it into Bo-bobo Bo-bobo-bo, or whatever it's called now!"

"Once more, it takes—"

"Even Adrian refuses to touch it!"

"Fine, fine," Camille said defensively, pocketing Deux Ex Machina. "You don't have to use it, you know. It was just a suggestion."


Later, the Society gathered in the meeting room to watch the story unfold.

The Titans easily arrested Johnny Rancid (he's certainly not their toughest villain), but a scene with the Society of the Vine revealed that he was just a distraction—the real plan was to send Killer Moth into Titans' Tower (insects aren't detected by the security systems) to retrieve a good-sized sample of Robin's DNA, which Killer Moth did by stealing Robin's pillowcase. They studied the DNA to find what activates endorphins in his brain, and soon Killer Moth and Brother Blood had created a powerful pheromone.

The morning after, Killer Moth's daughter Kitten was robbing a Jump City jewelry store at ray gunpoint. The Titans arrived to stop her, but, suddenly, Kitten sprayed on some perfume and Robin began to fight on her side, utterly smitten with her. When he found himself outmatched, he and Kitten escaped on his R-Cycle.
The duo began a city-wide crime spree, and with Robin as her slave, Kitten couldn't be stopped. Worse, he really seemed to be in love with her. This was highly distressing for Starfire, who had already fought with Kitten over Robin once. She was sure that Robin was being controlled somehow, but in all their attempts to stop her she couldn't find a single shred of proof that Robin hadn't just changed sides.

That's when Red X showed up. Kitten and Robin had beaten him to a heist and he was furious, but he had also overheard a conversation between Kitten and Killer Moth over a communicator and brought some valuable information for the Titans: Kitten was controlling Robin through her perfume. Slade, Killer Moth, Brother Blood and the Replicant had made it especially for her, and, combined with her sweat, it would make her irresistible to him. Still, she had a limited supply. She could only control him for about a day, and just before it ended, she'd order him to commit suicide.

The Titans sprang into action, desperate to stop her, and Starfire pleaded with Robin to find a shred of free will within himself.

At Kitten's command, Robin punched Star in the gut and helped Kitten escape.

That night, Kitten led Robin to the city's highest skyscraper for their last minutes together. The Titans arrived again to save him, but Robin just used their powers against them and defeated them all. Finally, Kitten had one last thing on the agenda before Robin's death.

She ordered Robin to kiss her goodbye.

Robin inched closer and closer to her… and punched her in the nose!

Kitten demanded to know what was going on—she still had at least fifteen minutes of control left! Robin replied that the formula required her sweat to work. Thanks to the heat wave, that was no problem during the day, but at night on a drafty rooftop was another story entirely.

Furious, Kitten attacked Robin with surprising strength and actually managed to push him off the roof. Red X tried to shoot down a net to catch him, but missed. That's when Robin activated Volt's new invention: Project Icarus. It projected strong metal wings that tapped directly into Robin's thoughts for control, allowing him to fly back up and arrest Kitten.

Some of the lines from the prison were priceless.

"No!" Kitten screamed. "I can't be here! Nobody can pull off this shade of orange! And I'm dressed like everyone else! Let me out!"

That's when Kitten noticed Johnny Rancid lifting weights in the prison yard. The two were smitten instantly.
"Aww," Robin said to the nearest guard. "A happy ending—move her to an all-girls' prison!"

Back with the Society of the Vine, the villains expressed their frustration when a rose fell before them. It was dead, its petals black and curled but its thorns razor-sharp. As the quartet of villains (Killer Moth was re-frozen but Cinderblock was still out) stared at it, a young girl dropped down from the ceiling. She couldn't have been older than fifteen, but she seemed unnaturally athletic, even beyond normal human ability. Her outfit and mask were a lot like Slade's, though her mask was cloth with two holes to expose her emerald-green eyes.

"Who are you?" Slade demanded, his voice terrifyingly calm. "What are you doing here?"

The girl replied, "You can call me the Ravager. As for why I'm here… I hear you've been looking for an apprentice."


"Hey," Miri asked, staring at the frozen image on the monitor. "Why'd the story stop?

"Oh, that's where the story ends," Marcus told her. "The next one should start in a few minutes."

Sure enough, the screen unfroze after a minute and Brother Blood told the Ravager that since Slade was now a cyborg and could live forever, he no longer needed an apprentice. The Replicant added that Slade had had little luck with apprentices before. Slade, however, was impressed with the girl. He was downright amazed that she had so much as found him, and his opinion rose even higher when she wouldn't say how.

To Blood and the Replicant's outrage, Slade agreed to give the girl a shot. He gave her an assignment to eliminate a thorn in his side back in Jump City, and warned her not to return until the mission was accomplished.

She had to kill Red X.

"Well," Marcus said. "Time for another mission of our own."

"Someone's gonna take on this Ravager girl?" Willie inquired.

Marcus shook his head. "Couldn't if they tried," he said. "She's canon."

"No way!" Michael argued. "I've seen every episode of that series, and that girl was never in it!"

"She was in the comics," Marcus replied. "I took several creative liberties with her character, but I'm afraid she's still just too close to her original self for us to touch."

"So, once again we're going after the ones who've kicked our butts seven times already…" Terrie sighed.

"Right," Marcus said with a nod. "They should have reached the UK by now. Camille, Kyle," he said, turning to the agents he'd just mentioned. "You ready?"

"You bet!" Camille smiled.

"Got the Crossover right here," Kyle smirked, holding up the green X.

"Good," Marcus said. "We're all set."

With that, he pulled out his portal gun and shot open an entrance to the Teen Titans fandom.


When the agents emerged, they saw the Elementals investigating the druid ruins of Stonehenge.

"This is ridicurous!" Sol told the book in his hand. "Peopre have been investigating Stonehenge for centuries! Why would the Tome be here?"

"As I keep telling you," Malchior's voice rang out. "The book may have been magically hidden from all but Elemental eyes!"

"Malchior's helping them?" Kyle exclaimed softly, turning to Marcus with a look of disbelief. "On purpose? He's supposed to be their enemy, isn't he?"

"Stockholm Syndrome," Marcus explained. "He's had very little to do in that book other than talk to the Elementals. Besides, he thinks that if he befriends them, they'll one day release him."

"Yeah, yeah," Camille hissed. "Enemies become friends. Now let's go! I want to see this one!"

"You know we can hear you, right?" Gust called, turning to the agents. "Whatever idiotic plan you've cooked up, hurry it along so we can foil it, already!"

"Yes," Flare agreed. "What do you have for us this time?"

Kyle sighed. "A brawl in LYOKO, okay?" he said, rolling his eyes. "First one to get devirtualized loses."

"That's all?" Flare chuckled. "I'll take this one. I haven't had a challenger since Willie! Lay down the Crossover, meat, but remember: I win and you can't challenge us again."

"And if Kyle wins, the Ravager completes her mission here and now!" Marcus retorted.

"Whatever!" Flare shot back, leaning in disturbingly close to Marcus' face. "Now start the game."

Kyle glared at the Elementals and threw the X to the ground. After a small quake, they found themselves and Stonehenge in an abandoned underground factory. They all took an old elevator down to the lowest floor and entered a room containing a very large supercomputer monitor. Marcus hurried into the next room where the computer's giant motherboard was kept and flipped the switch to turn it on before coming back to the monitor room.

"So," he said. "We're all clear on the rules, right? Last one in LYOKO is the winner."

"Yeah, yeah," Gust said, waving a hand apathetically. "Now hurry up—this merge won't last long!"

Flare and Kyle nodded and boarded another elevator, coming to a room with three large chambers: the scanners. Kyle and Flare both stepped into one and waited.

Back downstairs, Camille donned a headset she found on the keyboard and began to type.

"I'm going to send you into Sector 5," she announced. "It's definitely the coolest one. Get ready," she said, still typing furiously. "Transfer: Flare! Transfer: Kyle!"

Upstairs, the doors on the scanners closed tight…

"Scanner: Flare! Scanner: Kyle!"

The scanners began to whir…


Kyle and Flare turned to pixels within the scanners before disappearing completely.


Okay, Kyle and Flare didn't really disappear. They went into LYOKO. The two of them found themselves in a gigantic hallway whose walls, floor, and ceiling seemed to shift constantly. They also saw that they themselves had undergone a virtual makeover. Unlike a minute ago when they were 2-D and somewhat anime in appearance, they were now CGI with new clothes—Flare's red gi was now adorned with gold tiger stripes, and Kyle was now decked out in samurai-style armor with his Omni-weapon sphere floating by his shoulder, despite the fact that he had left it behind for this mission.

"This is weird…" Kyle commented, looking around.

"You'll get used to it," Flare shrugged. "Now, let's get this show on the road!"

Flare raised his hand and shot a fireball at Kyle. Kyle reacted swiftly and leapt aside to avoid it, then grabbed his Omni-weapon as it developed a cross handle and long, thin blade, becoming a katana.

Kyle zipped toward Flare with his weapon out, ready to slash him, but Flare just laughed and swept at Kyle's feet, knocking him to the floor. He then raised his foot to stomp Kyle, but Kyle rolled aside just in time and slashed across Flare's back.


"Nice work, Kyle!" Camille congratulated as she stared at the readouts on the monitor. "You took Flare down to 90 life points!"

"Thanks!" Kyle's voice rang out. "But I've still got a long way to go!"

"You have no idea…" Cascade sneered.


Back in LYOKO, Kyle had gotten to his feet and was now retreating from his much larger opponent, his Omni-weapon back in sphere form.

"You'll never escape me!" he could hear Flare say from behind him. "I'm stronger, faster, and smarter than you could ever hope to be!"

"I wouldn't be so sure!" Kyle shot back. "I've been training long and hard for this challenge!"

Further and further the two journeyed, weaving their way through the ever-shifting maze that was Sector 5.


"This is getting a little dull…" Cascade sighed.

It was true—all they could see were symbols on a computer screen, not the fight itself.

"Don't you worry your simple little head, Cas," Gust said with a sly grin. "I'll liven things up!"

With a laugh, Gust snapped his fingers.

Marcus grabbed the overweight Elemental by his green jacket and pulled him close. "What did you just do?" he demanded.

Gust pushed him away and pointed to the screen. There were several more icons on it, and all of them were moving.


Kyle smiled as he continued sprinting down the hallways. Sooner or later the path would widen, and then he'd make his move.

Long before that moment could come, however, something struck him in the back, knocking him to the floor. It wasn't Flare, though. Whatever had hit him was strong, but not hot.

Kyle jumped to his feet and looked around for what had hit him. There he saw it: a brownish creature slithering the wall as if it were the floor. It had two arms, but no legs, its body instead ending with a snakelike tail. It had no eyes, only a large symbol shaped like one over its wide mouth.

"A Creeper?" Kyle shouted. "But XANA's gone!"

"Gust upped the ante by throwing XANA's monsters into the challenge!" Camille explained. "Be extra careful—that attack just brought you down to 70 life points!"

Kyle nodded and leapt up the Creeper. His Omni-weapon morphed into a dagger and he drove it deep into the monster's eye-shaped symbol. The Creeper shattered into pixels and Kyle continued running just as Flare rounded the corner.

"Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Kyle," Camille's voice suddenly announced. "But there's about fifteen Creepers dead ahead!"

Kyle gulped. "Can't you send me somewhere else?" he pleaded.

"I think so," Camille replied. "But you'll have to get to the exterior somehow for me to send the pod."

Kyle nodded as he ran forward. There was indeed a nest of Creepers waiting for him in the floorless center of the Sector. He paused and thought about his predicament—he had an army of monsters ahead of him, and an ultra-powerful Stu behind in a narrow hallway. He weighed his chances and moved ahead.

Deftly he jumped onto one of the moving platforms there to allow passage over the gap. Creepers were firing, but he was narrowly avoiding them, as was Flare. He deftly landed on the moving platform before him, then nimbly jumped to the hall beyond it, striking a silver switch the same shape as the symbol on the Creepers' eyes with his outstretched palm.

At once, a flight of stairs shot out of the wall and a section of the ceiling opened up at the top. Kyle grinned and raced up to the exposed roof surrounded by the Digital Sea as Flare was preoccupied with the Creepers.

"Okay, Camille," he announced. "Send the pod!"

"Comin' at ya!" Camille's voice called out.

Seconds later, a round white pod with XANA's symbol came floating up to Kyle and he eagerly jumped in. The pod spun and the opening closed, then the pod whisked away for a few seconds and opened again.
Kyle hopped out and scanned his surroundings. He had landed in the Forest Sector, a wooded area with large holes in the paths that would mean a one-way ticket to the Digital Sea if he fell in.

Nodding, Kyle took off ahead, but after he did, he was hit with a fireball from behind!

"Thought you could get away, huh?" Flare laughed, leaping out of a pod of his own. "Think again!"

"We'll see about that!" Kyle challenged, and with that he raced off through the sector.

Flare scowled and followed without a word.


"Oh, no, back to the norm again?" Cascade yawned. "Well, we'll just have to fix that."

Cascade flicked her wrist at the monitor and dozens of different symbols appeared around Flare and Kyle's.

"You people are sick!" Camille snarled.

"What can we say?" Sol asked. "We are restress after being rocked away for so rong."

"We just crave eexcitement," Luna added. "Well, zat and revenge."


Back in LYOKO, Kyle was doing all he could to avoid Flare's fireballs. He bobbed, he weaved, he ducked, he jumped. It was easy until the monsters emerged—weak, cockroach-like ones, medium-sized cube-shaped ones with clawed feet, and giant red crustaceous ones with stilt-like legs and claws! Kankrelats, Bloks, and Krabes!

"Son of a-!" Kyle exclaimed as the monsters stared him down.

"Man," Flare smirked, coming to a stop behind Kyle. "My team does good work…"

"You people are sick!" Kyle snapped.

"That's what I said!" Camille's voice agreed.

All at once, the monsters began attacking. The Kankrelats charged up their energy blasts, the Bloks spun and released lasers, and the Krabes shot narrow beams from their tiny eyes. With nowhere to dodge, Kyle and Flare both took a direct hit, severely depleting their life points.


"Looks like your plan backfired!" Marcus laughed. "XANA's monsters are no kinder to Flare than anyone else!"

"Get over yourself," Cascade said, rolling her eyes. "Everyone knows how this works."

"The hero gets beaten down, then musters unnatural strength and prowess and wins just before it's too late." Gust elaborated. "It's a classic plotline."


Kyle and Flare both leapt into action. Kyle leapt atop the nearest Krabe as his Omni-weapon morphed into a nunchuku, then swatted the Krabe on the weak spot atop its head, leaving the monster to shatter into pixels. Flare, meanwhile, shot five Kankrelats in rapid succession, destroying them all.

That's when Kyle saw his opportunity—the monsters were all focused on Flare! If he made a break for it, Flare would be left to deal will all these monsters alone, and end up sorely weakened at best!

Chuckling to himself, Kyle ran down the path and left Flare to his fate. Sure, there were a few stray monsters on the path, a Kankrelat here and a Blok there, but in such small numbers they barely even qualified as a distraction.

But nothing could've prepared Kyle for what happened next.

Becoming overwhelmed by the horde of monsters, Flare took the nuclear option. He leapt into the air and began to spin faster and faster while shooting waves of fire from his hands. The inferno vaporized the monsters, but it didn't stop there. Several of the trees lit up and quickly spread into a raging forest fire, threatening to burn the players alive!

"Get out of there, Kyle!" Camille's voice urged. "You don't have much time!"

Kyle nodded and ran down the path as quickly as his feet would take him. He didn't know quite where he was going, but he knew that if he kept going he'd find it eventually.

Just when he thought he'd be roasted alive, Kyle came to a clearing at the edge of the sector where there stood a tall, white pillar with black vines clinging to its base. With a smile, he walked inside the tower. There was no door—he just passed right through the wall.

The inside of the tower was small and narrow, lit only by dim blue lights on all sides.

"Best to leave while I still can," Kyle thought. He took a deep breath, then leapt off the platform beneath his feet to fall into what seemed like endless nothingness.

His fall lasted a full five seconds before he crashed into another room identical to the first. To someone clueless about this fandom, it would look like he was right back where he started, but in reality, he had gone quite far indeed.

Kyle picked himself up and exited the tower to find himself in a completely new landscape: an icy tundra bordering a dark ocean.

"Camille," he called out. "What's my current situation?"

"Not so good," Camille replied. "You're down to 30 life points, and Flare's still got 50! Also, you have just over five minutes before the Crossover wears off! Hurry!"

"Okay," Kyle sighed. "Where is Flare right now?"

"He found a tower that took him to the other side of the Ice Sector."

"Got it."

Looking around to check if the coast was clear of monsters, Kyle sped off across the landscape. It was a beautiful place, yet at the same time barren and bleak. Were Kyle a more artistic man with a little more time, he'd have stopped to enjoy it for a while. As it was, though, he was in a hurry.

Kyle would have to wait, however, as a small army of monsters appeared on the horizon. There were two kinds: green, faceless, legless, six-winged wasps, and skinny white spider-like ones with four long, awkwardly-bent legs.

"Wonderful," Kyle said, rolling his eyes. "Hornets and Tarantulas. Camille," he shouted. "Would it kill you to warn me when I'm about to enter monster territory?"

"Sorry," Camille apologized. "But here's a heads-up: Flare is fighting them on the other side!"

It was true—something was clearly destroying several of the monsters before him.

Kyle gritted his teeth and grabbed his Omni-weapon, which transformed into a boomerang. He threw it and wiped out a trio of Hornets, then caught the weapon as it turned into a whip, leapt up to avoid a couple of blasts from a Tarantula, and struck the monster in its weak point, destroying the final creature.

"Not bad," Flare sneered. "But you still don't stand a chance against me!"

"We'll see," Kyle shot back, then charged at Flare, his Omni-weapon now in the form of a mace. He struck the Elemental full-on in the belly, knocking him back.

"Okay," Flare snapped, showing his teeth. "No more playing around!"

From there, Flare began to fire an endless stream of fireballs. Kyle gulped and moved aside, then began a zigzaggy path toward an ice tunnel. Unfortunately, as soon as he jumped in he began to slide downhill, losing a lot of control over his movements. Down, down he went, winding and swerving, with Flare right on his tail.

Suddenly, Kyle's Omni-weapon changed into a trident and he jammed the tips into the icy floor and spun around, giving Flare a kick in the rear as he slid past, then picked up the trident, exited the cave, and loomed over Flare, who was lying flat on his stomach.

"Game over, Flare!" Kyle sneered.

"Not even close!" Flare shot back.

In the blink of an eye, Flare grabbed Kyle's leg and pulled him down, then leapt to his feet, reversing their positions.

"Now, to end this once and for all!" Flare roared, pointing his hand right at Kyle's face for one final attack.

Kyle braced himself for devirtualization, but it didn't come. All he saw was Flare straining to launch a fireball.

"HA!" Kyle laughed, leaping back up. "Looks like your pilot light's out! No more fire from you!"

If looks could kill, Kyle would've dropped dead on the spot. As it was, he just put on a smug smile.

"You think I'm out of fire?" Flare yelled. "You haven't seen my fire!"

Flare's body began to glow orange. Flames started at the soles of his feet and raced all the way up his body until he was completely enveloped in them. Soon it wasn't even that. He wasn't in the fire—he was the fire!


"Kyle," Camille called, staring at a blinking symbol on the computer screen. "I'm getting massive power readings from Flare's avatar. What's going on?"

"Flare used his elemental form!" Kyle screamed back. "What do I do?"

Marcus grabbed Camille's headset and gave the best advice he could.

"Run out the clock."


"'Run out the clock', eh?" Flare chuckled as Kyle began to sweat. "You'll never keep away from me until the Crossover ends! In fact, I'll even give you a ten-second head start! Go on," he snickered. "Run for it!"

Kyle wasn't stupid enough to refuse such an offer under these circumstances. He picked a direction and ran as fast as he could.

Flare counted down from ten and flew off after his opponent, shooting off a barrage of fireballs.

"YOU CAN FLY?" Kyle exclaimed, doing all that he could to dodge the attacks. "Marcus never mentioned that!"

"Sorry," Marcus' voice called. "It's only in his elemental form, so I forgot."

"Well, I need a faster way to get around!" Kyle said. "Camille, can you send me the Overwing?"

"Coming up!" Camille replied.

Seconds later, a wheel-less scooter hovering in midair appeared before Kyle. He leapt on and flew it into the air, much to Flare's annoyance.

A midair chase began and Kyle had to be extra careful—one hit and the Overwing would disappear, leaving him to fall to his doom!

With some clever piloting, Kyle managed to position himself behind Flare, then turned the Omni-weapon into a harpoon gun with a harpoon attached by a length of cord. He fired and struck dead-on, but to his despair (though not exactly shock) it just passed right through its target, getting superheated in the process.

"Hah!" Flare jeered. "You actually thought you could hurt me with a conventional weapon in this form? Learn your laws of physics, kid!"

Marcus was right—running out the clock seemed to be Kyle's only option.

Then he had an idea. Quickly, he retracted the harpoon before the cord could melt, shifted the Omni-weapon back into a sphere and went back to the strategy of evasion.

"Just try to hit me, Flare!" he taunted.

Flare just growled and let loose more fireballs.

Over the landscape the two flew, duking it out—the flat plains, the icy mountains, the dark sea. It was there that Kyle went into a sharp dive, barely avoiding Flare's attacks and at the last second leaping off of the Overwing and into the freezing water.

"You think you're safe in there?" Flare taunted from above. "Think again!"

Flare put his hands together and fired an incredibly powerful stream of fire at Kyle's location. Kyle dove underwater and dodged just in time. Flare tried again, but Kyle evaded once more.

"Seems pretty safe to me!" Kyle jeered.

Flare growled and shot down another barrage of fireballs, bringing the surface of the water to a boil. In severe pain, Kyle immediately struggled back onto his Overwing and took flight across the sector with Flare right on his tail.

"Back on my terrain, eh?" Flare smirked. "Guess you finally ran out of 'clever' plans!"

"Not quite," Kyle responded. Then he pulled out his Omni-weapon, which had gone unnoticed since it morphed into its current form: a Super Soaker. "You think I got in that water just to avoid your attacks?" he taunted. "Heck, no—I needed ammo!"

Kyle shot a jet of water at his opponent, but Flare hit it with a fireball, turning it to steam. Kyle shot two more streams, and Flare neutralized them both. But then, under cover of steam, Kyle flew above Flare's burning form and hit him dead-on with a blast to the back! Flare screamed and reverted to human form as the steam cleared and he began to fall. Long before he could hit the ground, though, a purple surfboard appeared beneath his feet and he flew off across the landscape with Kyle right behind him.

Flare led the way to another tower, far from the first one, and began to circle around to avoid Kyle. Kyle, however, morphed his Omni-weapon into a medieval flail and struck the back of the Overboard, destroying it. Flare reacted quickly to this and leapt onto the Overwing beside Kyle and seized the controls, crashing it into the wall of the tower and destroying it as well, leaving both players to plummet to the ground.


"Both prayers are down to their rast rife points…" Sol commented.

"Zere are only a few meenutes left on ze Crossover…" Luna continued.

"Time to wrap this up," Cascade smiled.

Cascade snapped her fingers and two more symbols appeared onscreen.


Kyle gasped as he and Flare climbed to their feet and saw two large forms emerge from the ground next to them. They were giant black orbs, at least fifteen feet in diameter with a ring of white spots with XANA's symbol around the horizontal center. They looked like they could easily crush an armored truck beneath them.

"Megatanks, eh?" Flare commented, sounding only vaguely interested. "Should make this interesting…"

The Megatanks began to roll around, one right at Flare and Kyle, both of whom leapt away in opposite directions just in time.

"Careful," Flare warned as the other Megatank came at Kyle, who narrowly avoided it. "These guys have a simple design, but they're powerful!"

The two monsters rolled back toward their targets once again, and Flare and Kyle leapt aside, landing just inches from each other.

"Now's my chance!" Kyle thought as he noticed Flare's presence. He seized the Omni-weapon as it morphed into a saber and raised it high…only for Flare to seize him by the wrists, twist his arms behind him, and hold him in a very uncomfortable position in front of him.

"Close, but no cigar!" Flare laughed. "It was a good try, but let's face it: I'm a martial artist and a superhero. Hand-to-hand combat's my specialty.

"Now," he continued. "I could finish you myself, but I think I have a much better idea."

"Which is?" Kyle grunted, still struggling to break free.

Flare turned Kyle to face one of the Megatanks, which had come apart into two halves, exposing the metal bars that held it together and its large white weak point.

"That Megatank is about to attack," Flare explained. "And with you as my shield, it won't hit me until you've been devirtualized!"

Kyle gulped as the monster's weak point began to glow, charging up the laser.

With only seconds left, Kyle turned his Omni-weapon into a barbecue fork and forced it into Flare's right buttock. When Flare cringed in agony, Kyle broke free of his grip and kicked him to the ground, then leapt out of the way just as the blast fired.

Kyle smirked as Flare was about to be struck with an unsurvivable attack—he never saw the other Megatank rolling toward him.


"Hey, at least you tied," Camille reassured Kyle as the trio emerged from the portal into the Library Arcanium a couple of minutes later.

"Yeah," Marcus agreed. "You'll get another try, which is better than most of us did."

"Those Sues and Stus are dead next time I get my hands on 'em!" Kyle grumbled as he plopped himself down on a couch.

"Fine by me," Marcus said.


A few minutes later the Society gathered in the monitor room to watch the story unfold.

The Ravager was given a portal to Jump City and spent days searching for Red X with little success, but finally caught him robbing a major computer company of a new prototype microchip. Just before he could teleport back to his base, the Ravager tossed over a long string with a sticky ball at the end and went with him.

As soon as Red X noticed his new guest he demanded to know her identity. Her response: "Slade's apprentice-to-be. I'm here to eliminate you."

A fight ensued, but the Ravager eventually overpowered Red X and pulled out her bo staff to crush his windpipe and finish the job.

To everyone's surprise, she hesitated and made an offer: She'd let him live if he faked his own death and gave up his Red X persona forever. Red X flatly refused and knocked the bo staff off of himself, then continued the fight, finally knocking her out of his tenth-story apartment window.

Knowing she'd be back, Red X decided to pack up and move to a new base so she couldn't find him again.

The story ended with Slade calling the Ravager and asking for a status report. The Ravager regretfully said that she'd underestimated Red X's abilities, but she wouldn't leave town until she'd killed Red X and proven herself to Slade. Then, just to prove her loyalty (or possibly her insanity), she pulled out a knife and gouged out her left eye in a horribly bloody display.

"Has anybody got these on tape?" Willie asked. "They're really getting good!"

"DVD and Blu-Ray," Harriet replied with a smile.

"Don't get too used to these, though," Marcus sighed. "After all, we're trying to stop them."


Harriet groaned as she stared at the monitor for the Teen Titans fandom. It had been frozen in place for an unbearable amount of time now—two months, in fact. If the Society didn't know the Elementals, they'd actually have guessed that Marcus' creations had actually given up, but that couldn't possibly be the reason for this.

During this "break", the Society had, of course, kept running. There were plenty more Sues and Stus to catch, and tons of new recruits had been joining. In fact, all of these recruits had gotten cocky at one point or another and asked Marcus for a chance to challenge the Elementals, to which he agreed ("STUPID!" he would tell himself later, but we'll get to that.). Tyler had had his Utahraptor decimated by Gust's megalosaurus in the Dinosaur King fandom, Ria and Rhia (no relation) were wiped out by a bolt of lightning and lost to Sol and Luna in Mario Kart, Christoph and his eagle Algazdun entered Megaman: NT Warrior, where Eagleman (Algazdun) was creamed by Volt's speedy NetNavi, Falconman. Drake merged the fandom with American Dragon: Jake Long and challenged Gust to the test of courage in flight on Dragon Isle, but was ambushed by field pixies just before he could reach the second ring, which cost him the race. Flare took on both Ben and Shirley in a World Martial Arts Tournament in Dragon Ball, where he burnt Shirley to a crisp and got her to surrender. Ben retaliated by blowing up the arena, but since he hit the ground first, Flare was declared the winner. Jess tried her luck against Cascade in a game of Dungeon Dice Monsters in the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom, and was utterly destroyed by her Crocosaurus. Emma, Kate, and Beth were obliterated by Flare, Cascade, and Gust in a game of martialball in Yin Yang Yo!, Karissa and Charis tried playing doubles against Sol and Luna in The Prince of Tennis and lost thirty-love, Pete was beaten by Sol in a straight brawl in Street Fighter, and, just two days ago, Doug had had his base captured by Flare's troops in the Advance Wars fandom.

All in all, not the best two months.

It was just yesterday that Marcus realized what was happening: The Elementals were stronger between stories, so they temporarily halted their saga and got challenge after easy challenge, hoping to wipe out the Society's forces early and finish their saga uninterrupted. Marcus confronted them and made a promise of no more challengers until they started their next story, but they had yet to start back up.

So, here Harriet was, staring at the frozen screen, waiting for the saga to continue. BO-RING!

Then, out of nowhere, the screen unfroze. The Elementals were bound for Japan to meet with Thunder and Lightning to search Kyoto and Osaka for the Tome.

"Marcus!" Harriet shouted. "Marcus, they're back at it!"

Marcus didn't come, so she tried again.

"Marcus, the Elementals are continuing the saga!"

Still no reply.

"Where is he?" she inquired.

"Saw him headed for his office a few hours ago," Tyler replied. "Haven't seen him since."

Harriet rolled her eyes. "I have no idea where that is," she said.

"I'll show you," Willie offered, groaning as he got up from his seat. "I've never been in, but I know where it is."

Willie led Harriet down a winding hallway to a door that hung two feet over the floor and up to the ceiling with three stairs in front of it. He climbed up the stairs and turned the knob, but frowned and lowered his hand. "Locked," he said simply.

Harriet knocked as loudly as she could, but there was no answer.

"Let me," said a voice behind them.

It was Adrian, now sporting a pair of cat ears and a tail due to a spell from Tash. He pulled out a key and placed it into the keyhole, which was above the knob (it was then that Harriet noticed that the door was upside-down) and unlocked the door. He pulled it open and all three of them stepped in.

As soon as they'd gone through the doorway, all three agents were suddenly pulled up to the ceiling, where they hit a giant trampoline!

"What happened?" Harriet cried, squirming under the weight of the other two.

"Marcus must've customized his office with a gravity-reversal spell!" Adrian said, gently climbing to his feet. Despite the fact that he was upside-down, he looked quite comfortable. "Not an easy spell to pull off. You guys can stand up—it's just that the floor's now the ceiling and vice-versa."

"Marcus has a weird mind…" Willie commented, standing up.

Harriet silently agreed as she pushed herself up. It was a weird feeling, standing perfectly upright when upside-down—disorienting, like waking up at night after falling asleep during the day.

The three agents looked at the room around them. Aside from the trampoline, they noticed a desk with a padded swivel chair in front of them, a rope ladder by the door, and a soft, blue couch across the room. And there, lying on that couch, was Marcus.

He was lying flat on his back, his glasses on the desk and a sleep mask taking their place. He had changed his outfit recently to something heavily resembling the Invisible Man, with a large trenchcoat and bandages all over his face.

"Marcus," Harriet said, prodding him with her finger. "Wake up."

He didn't stir.

"Come on, man!" Willie shouted. "The Elementals started their story back up!"

Marcus gave no reaction.

Willie slapped Marcus across the face a few times, but Marcus seemed completely lifeless.

"Think he's dead?" Harriet asked.

Adrian put a finger to Marcus' wrist. "He's got a pulse," the Librarian said. "As far as I can tell, he's in some sort of coma."

"How do we wake him?" Harriet inquired, sounding worried.

"A number of spells might do it," Adrian replied. "If I start now, it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours."

Willie suddenly smiled. "Hey," he said. "In the meantime, I guess it wouldn't hurt to finally get a look at his eyes."

Willie reached over to pull off Marcus' sleep mask when, out of the blue, Marcus' hand clenched into a fist and punched him in the nose!

"Sorry," Marcus apologized, getting up and swapping the mask for his glasses as Willie howled in pain. "But you know better than to invade my privacy like that."

"It's bleeding!" Willie screamed. "I think you broke it!"

"What happened to you?" Harriet asked Marcus, looking very confused.

"I was asleep," the bandaged agent said simply. "Now, why are you here?"

"Oh, right," Harriet said, remembering her purpose for being there. "The Elementals started up their story again, and we need to know what to do."

Marcus sighed and walked over to the door. "Follow me," he said. "And Adrian, I suggest you take Willie to the infirmary."

Once the quartet exited Marcus' office and got over the disorientation of turning right-side-up again, they split off and went in opposite directions. While Adrian took Willie down to the infirmary, Marcus and Harriet went back to the monitor room.

"What happened since I left?" Harriet asked.

"Not much," Willie informed. "The Elementals haven't even arrived yet."

"Good," Harriet said. "We'll make the challenge before any canon characters can get dragged into the Crossover's range."

"Actually, I have a better idea," Marcus said with a sly grin. "This gives us the perfect chance to prepare."

"Prepare?" Harriet repeated, not understanding.

"Yes," Marcus said. "The best possible opportunity for a challenge will be soon, but not now."


Within a few minutes the entire Society (including Willie, who had gotten a cast over his nose) had gathered in the monitor room. Marcus' husky Nook went crazy over all of the people there together.

"So, what's the challenge this time, Marcus?" Tash asked, trying not to laugh at Willie's face.

"And who's the challenger?" Jess inquired.

"The challenge is a game of Duel Monsters in the 5D's fandom," Marcus said simply.

"Again?" Willie exclaimed. "Or did you forget how well it went last time?"

"This time things will be different," Marcus replied calmly.

"But who's dueling?" Michael asked. "We need someone tough enough to handle whatever deck's thrown at them."

"Especially if it's that Nightmare deck," Claire agreed.

"Oh," Marcus said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I'm sure that Miri can handle it."

"MIRI?" everyone shouted, amazed at this choice.

"She's barely beaten anyone here in a duel!" Lauren exclaimed.

"You actually think she'll be able to win?" Tyler gasped.

"Even I have my doubts about this!" Miri cried.

"You'll be fine," Marcus assured, patting her hand. "If this works, she won't have to duel at all."

"What do you mean?" Ben inquired.

"You'll see soon enough," Marcus told him. "In the meantime, we need to form a backup plan in case I'm wrong. We need to make an anti-Nightmare deck."


With time, the Society came up with a forty-card deck that could deal with all the pesky Spells that the Nightmare deck was known for. Tash lent Miri her Sacred Phoenix of Nepthys and Hand of Nepthys. Marcus gave her his Harpie's Feather Duster. Michael chipped in his Horus the Black Flame Dragon set. Willie delivered his Breaker the Magical Warrior card. Everyone had something to give and, after going over it twice, the deck was given an 87% success rate.

While they worked, the Society watched the story on the monitor.

The Elementals met with Thunder and Lightning in Kyoto, and found out that not only were these twin heroes not affiliated with them in any way, but also that they were only a few years old!

It turned out that Thunder and Lightning were created from a very special ink by the magic artist Brushogun. They were supposed to save him from his captivity, but instead they went rogue and ran off to wreak havoc. Still, the two were happy to show the Elementals the famous places around Kyoto and Osaka, but the team found no sign of the Tome.

Just as the team was about to leave, Raven contacted them and suggested that they look in the antique bookshop in Tokyo where she had found the book on Brushogun. Flare agreed that it was worth a shot, and the Elementals parted with Thunder and Lightning to check it out.

The bookstore was more than a little spooky. It was situated in the oldest, darkest part of the city, and had a giant, creepy marionette hanging in the window with a bunch of smaller, faceless puppets. Even worse, the trip turned out to be a waste of time for everyone. They found no sign of the Tome or even a book with any mention of previous Elementals. The only consolation was a book on clairvoyance that Luna swiftly bought.

Then, before the Elementals could even leave the store, the trouble started. It turned out that the message from Raven was really sent by the Society of the Vine, and it was to lure them there to leave them at the mercy of the Puppet King!

The living marionette used his magical controller to steal the souls of the Elementals and place them into his faceless puppets, leaving their bodies as his mindless slaves.

Luckily for the team, Jinx retained control of her body just long enough to cast a spell at the Puppet King, forcing him to drop his controller. That act stopped him from stealing the souls and bodies of all the Elementals, but it had a downside: the three rescued souls were in the completely wrong bodies—Jinx was in Luna's body, Kid Flash was in Gust's, and Cascade was in Terra's!

The remaining members fought as hard as they could, but they just didn't understand how their teammates' powers were used. Kid Flash tripped whenever he tried to run, Jinx had trouble aiming her attacks, and no matter how hard Cascade tried, she just couldn't control the dust in the shop properly. The only thing that the trio managed to accomplish before the Puppet King left on the Society of the Vine's orders was snatching Malchior.

Then, in a plot device so flimsy that the storyline seemed thinner than a wasp's waist, the Society of the Vine's portal generator broke and prevented the Puppet King from immediately returning. He would have to hide out for about a day while they fixed it.

"Okay," Marcus said. "Time to go."

Miri nodded and followed as Marcus opened a portal to the Teen Titans fandom.


"New outfit, Creator?" Cascade sneered as the agents appeared before her. It was a little weird to hear her voice coming from Terra's mouth. "I can't see your face anymore—it's perfect!"

"Can it, Cascade!" Miri snapped. "We're here for a challenge!"

"Ooh, spunky," the Elemental of water in the Elemental of earth's body commented. "Well, whatever it is, I accept. I'm sure I can take it."

Marcus rolled his eyes (although no one could tell) and pulled out the Crossover. He threw it to the ground and, after a short quake, the scenery shifted to the wrecked streets and buildings of Satellite.

"Okay," Cascade sighed. "We're in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. I assume there's a turbo duel in the near future?"
Miri smiled and shook her head. "Nope," she replied. "Just a regular one, and if I win, the Puppet King escapes with your team's bodies!"

With that, Miri swallowed a Oneshot and a duel disk sprouted on her left arm.

"Real original," Cascade told her, rolling Terra's enormous eyes. "You're the type to go on vacation just to sleep in the hotel room, aren't you? But whatever," she continued. "You know the deal: I win and you can't challenge us again."

"Just get your duel disk and deck!" Miri snapped.

Cascade sighed again and snapped Terra's fingers, but to her surprise, nothing happened! She tried again, and then a third time, but with the same results.

"What did you do?" she screeched, Terra's eyes ablaze.

Marcus chuckled slightly. "Nothing," he replied. "You did this to yourself. You're in Terra's body now, and Terra's not a Sue! You can't manipulate the story to your liking anymore!

"And it gets worse," he continued. "Since you've already accepted the challenge, if you can't get a duel disk and deck, Miri wins by default! Face it, Cascade," he said triumphantly. "You were foiled by your own story!"


"Brilliant!" Tash shouted. "In the regular way and the British way! Marcus wasn't kidding about having a plan!"

"This might be the best idea an agent has had yet!" Adrian said. "Myself included! Never underestimate the power of irony!"

"I can't believe it!" Aster cheered. "Marcus-kun just won the war against his creations in one simple move!"


Beads of sweat began to appear on Terra's brow. Cascade couldn't believe it. If she didn't come up with a duel disk and deck right away, her own arrogance would be the team's undoing!

Her only option seemed to be stealing a duel disk and deck from a passerby and praying that she could win with them. Desperately, she looked around for another duelist, but there was nobody from this fandom in sight.

"Give up, Cascade," Marcus jeered. "There are no Sues around to help you now."

Suddenly, Terra's eyes went wide.

"Uh-oh," Miri groaned. "I don't like the look of that…"

"You're wrong, Creator!" Cascade laughed. "I do have help!"

"What are you talking about?" Marcus demanded. "You're the only one of my creations here!"

"That's true," Cascade shot back. "At least partly. But if you recall, our team recently got a new member!"


Back in the library, nearly all of the agents swore at the top of their lungs.


"Jinx!" Cascade shouted. "Outfit me for the challenge!"

Jinx snapped Luna's fingers and a duel disk with a deck inserted materialized on Terra's arm.

"Looks like your mistake will be your undoing!" Cascade cackled.

"Not so fast!" Miri shouted. "You haven't won yet! I'm still here, and ready to duel! Your Nightmare deck doesn't stand a chance!"

Cascade laughed again.

"Who said I'm using the Nightmare deck?" she said. "For all you know, I've got a whole new deck with cards you've never seen before!"

The blood drained from Miri's face. They hadn't accounted for this! If Cascade was using a new deck, all of their work on the anti-Nightmare deck would be for nothing!

"She's bluffing, Miri!" Marcus called. "Don't let her psych you out! Cascade loves the Nightmare deck because she enjoys tormenting her opponents!"

"And who's to say that I can't do that with another kind of deck?" Cascade shot back. "But, hey, you could be right—I could be using the Nightmare deck! Too bad you won't find out until it's too late!"

Frightened, Miri stared at Terra's face, looking for some sort of tell. It was no good—her poker face left narry a hint.

"Okay," Miri mentally panicked as she took out both her own deck and the anti-Nightmare one. "I think she's got a new deck, so I'm better off using my own deck against an unfamiliar threat… unless she just wants me to think it's a new one! Then I should use the anti-Nightmare deck! But if she thinks that I think that, she'll use a new one, so I should go with my own. No, no, if she thinks that I think that she thinks that I think that… TOO CONFUSING!" she thought. "I just have to guess!"

"I'm using my own deck!" she announced, pocketing the anti-Nightmare deck and placing her own in the disk. "I trust my cards against any opponent!"

Cascade just laughed harder.

Angrily, Miri activated her duel disk as Cascade did the same. The holo-imagers shot out and their Life Points flashed up.

(Cascade: 8000-Miriku: 8000)

"Let's duel!" both players shouted, drawing five cards.

"I'll take the first turn," Cascade sneered, drawing a card.

"By all means," Miri replied.

"That way I can see what she's got!" she thought to herself.

Cascade stared long and hard at the cards in her hand, but didn't say anything.

"What's the matter, Cascade?" Marcus mocked. "Did your lack of Sue-ish powers leave you with a bad opening hand? I guess it's not so easy for you when the playing field's level, is it?"

Cascade growled, but finally selected a card from her hand.

"I summon Rip, the Undead Cat!" she screamed, thrusting the card onto her disk.

In a flash of light, a Beast leap out of the ground with a feral hiss. It was a very mangy grey cat with sharp teeth, shaggy fur, and tattered ears. It likely had rabies. (1500/1100)

"That scheming…" Miri thought. "She is using the Nightmare deck!"

Suddenly, before Miri's eyes, the cat's eight front claws began to glow white.

"What's it doing?" Miri asked, pointing to Rip's paws.

"Rip's effect!" Marcus exclaimed. "When it's summoned—!"

"Stop right there!" Cascade shouted, an evil smile on Terra's face. "You know the rules! Once the duel's begun, it's illegal to offer a player advice or assistance! If you tell Miri about her opponent's strategy, she'll be disqualified!"

"She's right, Marcus," Miri said, staring at Cascade with a steely look in her eye. "I can take care of this myself. I may not be undefeated champion of the Society, but I can handle one powerless Sue!"

"Tough talk coming from an agent who's never gone on a solo mission!" Cascade snapped.

"Just finish your move!" Miri shot back.

Cascade glared, but took another card and inserted it into the disk. "I activate Cursed Camera!" she announced.

Instantly, a Polaroid camera appeared on a strap around Terra's neck.

"End turn."

As soon as those words had escaped from Terra's mouth, the camera lifted up on its own and began to turn, examining the field.

"What's up with your camera?" Miri asked.

"Cursed Camera's effect activates during my End Phase," Cascade explained. "Each turn, it randomly selects a face-up Monster on the field and activates an effect."

"What effect?" Miri demanded, staring at the camera.

"You never know until it happens," Cascade laughed. "But when it does, it's never good!"

"Well, the joke's on you!" Miri replied. "The only Monster out is that rabid cat of yours!"

Miri spoke the truth. The camera had no choice but to point to Rip. It let out a flash, and a photo came out of the slot. Cascade snatched it and waited for it to develop, then showed it to Miri.

The picture was blank, like Miri's expression upon seeing it.

"Rip's a Nightmare Monster, you doof!" Cascade cackled. "Continuous Spells don't work on it! Now, make your move!"

Angrily, Miri snatched a card out of her disk and stared at her hand.

"Only one Monster strong enough to kill that cat," she thought. "But that's enough!"

"I summon Elemental Hero Sparkman!" she declared, slapping a card onto her disk.

A tough-looking superhero in yellow armor in blue tights with static coming from his hands leapt before Miri. He looked a lot like Volt, actually, but with a visor that hid his entire face. (1600/1400)

"How does it feel to be facing my Elementals, Cascade?" Miri jeered. "Makes you feel like a cheap knock-off, I bet!"

"For your information," Cascade snapped. "Our creator drew the inspiration for us from an episode of Samurai Jack, long before he saw the GX series!"

"Whatever," Miri shrugged. "No matter where you come from or how you came to be here, Sparkman is 100 points stronger than your cat! Sparkman," she called. "Turn that pussy into roadkill with Static Shockwave!"

Sparkman raised his arm and hit Rip with a blast of static electricity from his hand, knocking the cat into the street.

Then, suddenly, Rip leapt back up, very much alive, and slashed Sparkman across his chestplate, leaving a glowing mark as one of Rip's claws ceased its shining.

"What was that?" Miri exclaimed, her mouth hanging open.

"When Rip is summoned, he gets eight 'Life Counters'," Cascade explained with a laugh. "And he can't be killed in combat until they're all gone! Furthermore, every time he battles with another Monster and fails to defeat it, he transfers a counter to them, and if they get two, they become a Beast-type!"

"Too bad that your Beastly Game isn't active to complete that combo!" Marcus shot.

"All in good time," Cascade said with a grin. "For now, is there anything else, Miri?"

"I'll end with a facedown," Miri replied, sliding a card into one of her disk's Spell/Trap slots and making a holographic card back appear behind Sparkman. "Your move."

(C: 7900-M: 8000)


"Miri's doing great," Cristoph commented. "We may actually have a shot this time!"

"Blake started off well, too," Lauren warned. "We can't judge after only one turn each."


"My move," Cascade said, drawing a card.

"Hmm," she said, looking over her hand. "Oh, here's a move that'll shake you up: I summon King Jellyjam!"
Cascade slammed a card onto her disk and a hideous creature appeared before her. It was a giant, purple blob of slime with a wide, ugly mouth, beady little eyes, short arms with stubby-fingered hands, and a big gold crown on its head. (2000/1500)

Still, his looks weren't the gross part. The gross part was his smell! It was absolutely nauseating, somewhat like a mixture of burnt brussell sprouts and wrestler sweat. Marcus was protected by the layer of bandages covering his face, giving him only slight discomfort, but Miri, Kid Flash, and Jinx nearly passed out.
"I have never been so happy that Terra was drawn without a real nose!" Cascade laughed.

Suddenly, Miri heard a popping sound coming from King Jellyjam. Tiny round things were flying off of the gelatinous monarch. He was sweating snails!

"Gross!" Miri thought, cringing slightly.

When Rip saw this, he grabbed a rag that magically appeared before him in his paws and began wiping King Jellyjam like a slave of some sort.

"What in the world is this?" Miri exclaimed, getting more freaked out by the second.

"That's for me to know and you to find out," Cascade snickered. "For now, King Jellyjam, devour Sparkman!"

Rip momentarily stopped wiping the gelatinous monarch long enough for the odiferous thing to lunge forward and grab the Elemental Hero, then lift him up to drop him in its mouth.

"Activate Hero Barrier!" Miri shouted, her facedown card lifting up to reveal a Trap with the image of an energy shield on it. "If I have an Elemental Hero out, your attack is negated!"

Just as King Jellyjam dropped Sparkman, an energy barrier appeared in front of the slimy thing's mouth. Sparkman bounced right off and landed safely on the ground.

King Jellyjam groaned and inched back to his previous spot as Rip started cleaning him again.

"I guess I end my turn," Cascade pouted. "The camera will have to do the king's work for him."

The camera finally lifted up and spun around, this time finally stopping on Sparkman! It let out a flash, then produced a photo, which Cascade took in Terra's hand and showed to her opponent.

Miri gasped. The photo depicted Sparkman, of course, but not in the pose he was in when it was taken. He was lying on the street, his legs sticking out, and one of his knees gruesomely bent the wrong way!

"How did it—?"

Miri was interrupted by a loud rumbling. Out of nowhere, a duel runner came roaring down the street, but its rider had no interest in dueling. Instead, he just smacked Sparkman in the kneecap with a lead pipe and rode on by.

Sparkman cringed in pain and fell over, now a perfect match for the photo.

"In case you're wondering what this means in game terms," Cascade said. "Sparkman was just forced into Defense mode, and you can't change that during your next turn."

Miri grunted and drew a card, then broke out in a grin.

"Who needs to put Sparkman in Attack mode when I can trade him in for something better?" she asked. "I activate Polymerization to fuse Elemental Hero Sparkman and Elemental Hero Clayman to form Elemental Hero Thunder Giant!"

Miri played a card and a swirling vortex appeared, sucking in Sparkman and a large, bulky hero with round, clay armor and mixing them together. When the process was done, a new Monster emerged. It looked like a mixture of its two components, with Sparkman's head and legs and Clayman's torso and arms, though everything had gotten much bigger. Electricity discharged from the titan's body. (2400/1500)

"And I'm sure you know Thunder Giant's effect!" Miri said. "By discarding one card from my hand—!"
"He can destroy one Monster with an original Attack power lower than his own!" Cascade snapped. "I know! Just hurry it up!"

Miri sighed and tossed a card from her hand into the Graveyard slot. "Thunder Giant," she called. "Wipe out that flea-bitten tabby!"

Thunder Giant nodded and blasted Rip with lightning from his hands as the cat was wiping King Jellyjam, vaporizing him.

Suddenly, King Jellyjam began sweating twice as many snails as before. His stench tripled in strength. With a mighty groan, the slimy king shattered into pixels.

"King Jellyjam needs another Monster by his side to clean him at all times," Cascade sighed, seeing the look on Miri's face. "Without one, he dies from his own stench. Now, just finish your move!"

Miri shrugged, but did just that.

"Thunder Giant, attack directly with Voltic Thunder!"
Thunder Giant grunted and let loose a colossal blast of lightning that struck Cascade dead-on, dealing massive damage!

(C: 5500-M: 8000)

Cascade staggered when the attack struck. Terra's body wasn't as strong as her own. She was at more of a disadvantage than she thought!

"My turn," she said, grabbing another card. "And I'm giving up a thousand Life Points to activate Beastly Game!"

Cascade's Life Point counter dropped even further as she threw a card to Miri, who grudgingly activated it. The mouth of a dark cave appeared behind her.

"And now," she continued. "I'll summon The Invisible Boy, and have him attack you directly!"

She played a card and the floating baseball cap and backpack appeared before her (500/300), then moved forward and struck Miri on the cheek before walking back.

(C: 4500-M: 7500)

"I'll end with a facedown," Cascade said as a holographic card's back appeared behind The Invisible Boy. "And let the camera do its work."

The camera lifted up, and this time it targeted Thunder Giant. When Miri saw the picture, she gasped. It showed Thunder Giant being hit by lightning!

In just a few seconds, a stormcloud moved in, and Thunder Giant was indeed hit by lightning, but to Miri's surprise, he wasn't destroyed. In fact, he absorbed the electricity and drew power from it, doubling in size to twenty feet tall! (2400/1500 4800/3000)

"Congratulations," Cascade sneered. "That card doubles Thunder Giant's Attack and Defense powers for one turn. Enjoy it while it lasts, though, because at the end of your turn, the power will build up beyond his control, and he'll explode!"


"Cascade's grasping at straws!" Lauren cheered. "She's practically defeating herself!"

"I can't believe it!" Adrian shouted. "Marcus hit Cascade with a four-layer trap!"

"What do you mean?" Drake asked.

"He planned this perfectly," the Librarian said. "Layer one: He had Miri take on Cascade when she was stuck in Terra's body so she couldn't conjure her own deck and duel disk.

"Layer two: He built Miri an anti-Nightmare deck to beat her.

"Layer three: Even though Cascade's not facing the anti-Nightmare deck, without her Sue-ish abilities, she can't draw the right card whenever she needs it.

"And layer four: Without her Sue-ish powers, Cascade is freaking out because there's a good chance she'll lose now, and that's messing up her moves!

"Don't you get it?" he finished. "It'd be almost impossible for Cascade to win now, and without Sue-ish powers, 'almost impossible' really means 'almost impossible'!"


"My move!" Miri declared, drawing a card. "And now, I think I'll—."

"Let me guess," Cascade interrupted. "You're going to destroy my Monster with Thunder Giant's effect and get a direct attack in, right?"

"Nope," Miri replied with another sly grin. "I've got more than enough power to wipe you out without discarding another card, especially after I summon the Monster I just drew: Elemental Hero Bladedge!"
"Impossible!" Cascade argued. "He needs two sacrifices to summon! Unless…" she realized, Terra's face turning pale. "You discarded Elemental Hero Necroshade with Thunder Giant's effect last turn, didn't you?"

Miri nodded and slapped the card onto her disk. A shadowy form of a red and white creature with long, sharp claws appeared for a second, then disappeared to make way for a tall, muscular superhero in gold armor with a jetpack. (2600/1800)

"Excellent work, Miri," Marcus congratulated his teammate. "It's about time we finished off the Elementals!"

"Right!" Miri replied, giving him a thumbs-up. "Bladedge, you go first! Wipe out that Invisible Boy with Slice 'n' Dice Attack!"

Bladedge's jetpack ignited and several sharp blades extended from his arms as he flew forward to slash The Invisible Boy. The boy shattered into pixels as Cascade's Life Points fell.

(C: 2400-M: 7500)

"When The Invisible Boy is destroyed in battle, I get to draw a card," Cascade informed, struggling to stand up on Terra's chopstick legs as she suffered from the blow.

"Draw all the cards you want!" Miri shouted. "They won't help you now! Thunder Giant," she ordered. "Attack directly and win me this duel!"

Thunder Giant let out a yell as he jumped forward, ready to punch Cascade's lights out…


"This is it!" Tash cheered. "With this attack, we've finally won!"


"I'm not going down without a fight!" Cascade shrieked. "I activate my Trap card, Vanessa's Curse!"
Cascade's facedown card lifted up and the familiar black-cloaked hag appeared on the field. "Chicken, chicken," she muttered, pointing at Thunder Giant.

A loud clucking sound was heard as the colossal Elemental Hero grew feathers, a wattle, a comb, and a beak. In less than a second, he was no more than a twenty-foot chicken!

"And you know what happens next!" Cascade snickered. "Beastly Game kicks in!"

As if to confirm what Cascade had said, the blue beast leapt out of the cave and tagged Thunder Giant on the back. Thunder Giant let out a squawk as it burst into pixels and the beast returned to its cave.
If looks could kill, Cascade would've fallen where she stood.

"Don't be so upset, Miri," Marcus called. "Thunder Giant would've been destroyed anyway. If she'd targeted Bladedge, she'd have lost more Life Points, but your field would be clear! As it is, she's left you with a powerful Monster that can pierce defenses!"

"He's right!" Cascade realized. "I need to do something, fast!"

"My move!" she announced, snatching another card. "And I've got another familiar combo for you! I'll start with Honeybee, in Attack Mode!"

Cascade slapped the card down on her disk, and the average, baseball-sized bee appeared. (0/1000)

"Oh, no," Miri and Marcus groaned simultaneously.

"You know what's coming next, then!" Cascade laughed. "I activate Creature Swap!"

Angrily, Miri traded cards with Cascade and their Monsters switched places. Honeybee landed soon after, and Cascade drew two cards.

"Oh, these are much better," the Elemental of water in the Elemental of earth's body said, eyeing her new cards. "And now, since I just received an amazing new Monster, I'd be a fool not to use it! Bladedge," she shouted. "Attack Honeybee with Slice 'n' Dice Attack!"

Bladedge jetted forward and slashed Honeybee with its blades. Honeybee burst into pixels.
"And let's not forget Bladedge's power to deal damage through defense," Cascade reminded, as Miri's Life Points tumbled down.

(C: 2400-M: 5900)

"I'll set a facedown and end with that."

Miri's mouth stretched into a grin as the facedown card appeared. "No, you won't," she laughed. "I think you're forgetting something."

Cascade looked around and suddenly realized what Miri had meant.

"Oh, no!" she wailed. "My Cursed Camera never left the field!"

"And the only Monster left to target is your own," Marcus finished.

Sure enough, the camera picked Bladedge and spit out a photo. Cascade gasped as she saw it develop: It showed Bladedge, but crouched in terror in the middle of an acid rainstorm!

In mere seconds, the same stormcloud that had affected Thunder Giant moved back in and poured down horrible acid rain on Bladedge and Bladedge alone. The powerful Elemental Hero crouched down, hoping to survive as his armor eroded.

Finally, the drizzle passed and Bladedge stood up—without his armor! Without it, he looked strange somehow. He was of African descent, and had muscles to rival an Olympic weight lifter's. He should've been intimidating, but it was a little hard to take him seriously when he was wearing those cartoonish heart-patterned boxers. (2600/1800 1300/900)


"Miri's own hero… stripped down half-naked…" Tyler pined. "Cascade's a cold one, that's for sure."


"Does it hurt to see your own Monster so humiliated?" Cascade jeered. "I bet it's pretty painful. Am I right?"

Miri clenched her teeth, silently drew a card, and placed it on her disk.

"I summon Elemental Hero Wildheart!" she announced.

With a tribal yell, a shirtless, muscular aborigine covered in tribal tattoos leapt onto the field. (1500/1600)

"And thanks to your own Cursed Camera, Bladedge is weak enough for him to destroy!" the agent pointed out. "Wildheart, destroy Bladedge with Wild Slash!"

Wildheart nodded and sprinted forward, drawing a large sword from the scabbard on his back and cleaving his former ally in twain.

"And that's my turn," Miri said simply.

(C: 2200-M: 5900)


"Miri's doing well," Ben commented.

"Better than just 'well'!" Shirley corrected, beating Ben over the head for his poor word choice. "She's doing fantastic! She has nearly three times as many Life Points as Cascade!"

"And better yet, she's remaining calm in the face of danger," Michael said. "That's a lot better than most of us managed."


"My turn!" Cascade announced, snatching another card. "Hmm…" she said, looking slightly disappointed. "Well, I guess I'll just summon Toy of Terror in Attack Mode…"

Cascade played the card, and a new form appeared on the field. It was an old teddy bear, patched and frayed in many places, but still quite lovable. (1400/500)

"What's the point?" Miri asked, staring at the adorable thing. "It's 101 points short of beating my Wildheart."

"True," Cascade sighed. "But its special ability will help me. You see, when it's Normal, Special, or Flip Summoned, or flipped face-up, I can use it like Emergency Provisions, and send as many of my Spell and Trap cards as I want to the Graveyard to increase my Life Points by a thousand for each one. And since my Cursed Camera is giving me nothing but grief, I'll choose that."

Toy of Terror turned and waddled up to Cascade, then jumped and grabbed the camera off of Terra's pencil neck. Eagerly, the plush toy threw the camera to the ground and smashed it before returning to its original position.

"And that's my turn," Cascade sighed.

(C: 3200-M: 5900)


"Cascade's weakening!" Willie cheered. "She's losing spirit!"


Miri drew a card and smirked.

"I activate Fusion Recovery!" she shouted, playing a Spell card. "This lets me take back a Polymerization and a Monster used in a fusion from my Graveyard and add them to my hand! I choose Elemental Hero Clayman!"

Two cards slipped out of Miri's Graveyard slot and she added them to her hand.

"Now," she continued. "I'll activate Polymerization again, this time fusing my Wildheart with the Elemental Hero Avian in my hand to form Elemental Hero Wild Wingman!"

She played the Spell card and a vortex swirled Wildheart and a green-clad superhero with big, feathery wings together to form yet another new Monster. Like Thunder Giant, this new Monster resembled his parts, having Wildheart's body and Avian's wings and legs, and he stood taller than either of them, looking very superheroic indeed. (1900/2300)

"And Wild Wingman has an ability a lot like Thunder Giant's," Miri informed. "By discarding one card from my hand—!"

"I know, I know!" Cascade interjected. "He can destroy a Spell or Trap card on the field! So go ahead and destroy my facedown card, already!"

"Oh, I don't think so," Miri smirked as she slipped Clayman back into her Graveyard. "I bet that's just another Vanessa's Curse, right? Well, I'm stopping that problem at the source! Wild Wingman," she called. "Destroy Beastly Game!"

Wild Wingman grunted and took flight, then started beating his wings harder and harder, blowing a strong gust at the deadly cave. He kept this up, and soon the cave shattered into pixels. The beast within was revealed, bracing himself against the wind, but he too was soon destroyed.

"Now that that's gone," Miri continued, straightening her blazing red hair, which was badly mussed by the wind. "Wild Wingman, attack Toy of Terror with Wild Wing Pulse!"

The winged Elemental Hero nodded and spread his wings wide, emitting a blue pulse wave from them and sending them directly at the adorable teddy bear, which cringed in fright.

"Not so fast!" Cascade yelled, holding up Terra's hand. "It just so happens that my facedown card isn't Vanessa's Curse, or even a Nightmare-based card! I activate Draining Shield!"

Cascade's facedown card lifted up and a glowing shield appeared in Toy of Terror's tiny paws. The shield absorbed Wild Wingman's attack, and Cascade's Life Points shot up by the Elemental Hero's Attack score.

(C: 5100-M: 5900)

"Nice move," Miri said, though she didn't sound like she meant it. "I end my turn."

"Good," Cascade said, drawing another card and looking at her hand.

"I guess I'll summon a Monster in Defense Mode, and switch Toy of Terror to Defense, too," she sighed.
A horizontal card's back appeared next to the adorable bear, which curled into a ball.

"That's all."


"Cascade's on the ropes!" Lauren whooped. "Without her Sue powers, she can't manipulate her draws!"

"And Miri's got her stuck defending!" Claire added.

"Kyaa~" Aster said, popping a chocolate bar into her mouth. "Victory is sweet!"


Miri drew her obligatory card to begin her turn.

"Not the strongest Monster," she thought as she looked at it. "But it'll do."

"I summon Elemental Hero Burstinatrix!" she shouted, playing another Monster.

A new Elemental Hero appeared next to Wild Wingman. This one was a scrawny woman with paper-white skin, long black hair, and a very tight red costume. If it weren't for the angry look in her eye, she would've looked flimsier than Terra. (1200/800)

"Burstinatrix, attack Toy of Terror with Burstfire!"

Flames appeared in the heroine's hands, and she tossed them at the adorable plush toy, which exploded into pixels.

"Wild Wingman, take out that facedown Monster!"

Wild Wingman whipped up a strong wind and destroyed Cascade's last defense, revealed to be another Invisible Boy. Angrily, Cascade drew another card, as per its effect.

"End turn," Miri said, delight shining through her face.

Cascade snatched another card and slammed it down on her duel disk. "I summon Clarissa, the Crystal Woman!" she cried.

A new Monster rose into being before Cascade: A dark-haired woman in a black coat. Miri couldn't tell her exact age—it could've been 20 or 80, or anywhere in between. She carried a glowing crystal ball in her hand. (800/500)

"You're making blunders again, Cascade," Marcus pointed out. "Clarissa's effect would've been just as useful if you'd Set her instead!"

"I'm not using her effect!" Cascade snapped, Terra's face blushing hard. "I have a combo set up!"

"Really?" Marcus challenged. "Then let's see it! I know for a fact that there are very few cards in that deck that can make a decent combo with Clarissa, and there are better options for all of those!"

"One more word about my strategies and Miri forfeits the duel!" Cascade warned, blushing even harder. "And anyway, you certainly didn't invent this! Go, Magical Dimension!"

Cascade slipped a Spell card into her disk and a decorative gold sarcophagus appeared behind Clarissa. Suddenly, the front of the sarcophagus split down the middle and revealed its dark interior, which was far larger than the coffin itself. Then, chains erupted from within and bound Clarissa tight, dragging her inside. Once she was in, the sarcophagus closed back up.

"This requires me to sacrifice a Spellcaster—like Clarissa," Cascade explained. "But in exchange, I get to Special Summon another Spellcaster from my hand, like, oh, Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy!"

The casket opened back up, and a very familiar wooden dummy in formal attire fell out, a still look in his lifeless eyes. (0/0)

"And then," the Elemental of water in the Elemental of earth's body continued. "I can destroy a Monster on the field!"

Chains shot forth from the sarcophagus again, this time constricting around Elemental Hero Wild Wingman. Though the superhero fought valiantly, both Monster and coffin shattered into pixels soon enough.

"Now that he's gone…" Cascade said, but she left off there. Instead, with a grunt, she hoisted Slappy up and threw him at Burstinatrix! It took quite a bit of effort, as Terra's arms were basically bones with sleeves…
Burstinatrix reacted quickly to the oncoming threat, conjuring up a couple of fireballs and knocking the dummy right back in front of Cascade. Strangely, the wood didn't burn.

"And you know what happens now," Cascade smirked as her Life Points dropped harshly due to the extra 50% damage rule of Slappy's effect.

(C: 3300-M: 5900)

A scrap of paper appeared in Slappy's breast pocket, and Cascade snatched it and read the words written upon it.

"Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano!"

Slappy spread a grin and leapt up, fully alive. (0/0 1200/800)

"Guess who's back!" he said, cackling maniacally, before looking himself over and frowning. "Okay," he snorted. "What moron brought me to life with these mediocre stats?"

"Watch your mouth, puppet!" Cascade growled, grinding Terra's teeth. "It's not too late for me to turn you into kindling!"

"He makes a good point, though," Marcus pointed out. "Slappy's only use is a shield if he gains the stats of a weak Monster."

"Nobody likes a kiss-up, kid," the dummy said, looking as if he wanted to roll his eyes but wasn't built with that ability. "And you," he said, turning to Cascade. "I recognize the voice, but you've actually gotten even uglier! I wouldn't've thought it possible! You look like a cantaloupe on a toothpick! Did someone just color in a stick figure and give it hair?"

Cascade began gnashing Terra's teeth even harder. Slappy never insulted her so hard when she was a Sue! And worse, he was right about how she'd played him! He should've gone in Defense Mode!

Finally, the "heroine" waved her hand, signaling the end of her turn.

Miri drew and looked at the card, disappointed.

"I'll just switch Burstinatrix to Defense Mode and end my turn," she sighed.

Burstinatrix crouched down and shielded herself with her skinny arms.

"You got lucky, bimbo!" Slappy told Cascade. "If she'd brought out something stronger, you'd've lost another chunk of Life Points!"

"You weren't attacked and I'm the lucky one?" Cascade snapped as she drew a card.

"Hey," the dummy said with a shrug. "No matter how much your Life Points drop, I'll remain standing!"

"You know, you are one crude little—!"

"'Crude', you say?" Slappy cackled. "How 'bout I Shakespeare it up?"

The dummy straightened himself up and took on a British accent.

"Shall I compare thee to a puddle of dog vomit? The vomit ist more lovely and more well-formed."

"One more crack and I'll turn you into a coffee table!"

Marcus cleared his throat, interrupting the argument. "Cascade," he said. "If you don't make a move within two minutes of your draw, you forfeit the duel."

Cascade rolled Terra's eyes and placed a card on her disk.

"I summon Monster Blood—Green!" she announced.

A small can appeared on the field, with a label that read "MONSTER BLOOD: SURPRISING MIRACLE SUBSTANCE" in big bold letters like the ones I just typed. The can shook, and the lid burst off as a thick green slime oozed onto the field. (1000/1000)

"Doesn't look like blood…" Miri commented.

"It's not," Cascade replied.

"It's snot?" Slappy joked. "Makes sense—it looks like snot, and that's just the kind of idiotic card that this blonde kindergarten reject would use!"

"I used you, Slappy!" Cascade countered.

"Exception that proves the rule," Slappy said dismissively.

Miri was getting fed up.

"Quit socializing with the holograms and make your move!" she shouted.

Cascade sighed. "Whatever," she said. "Monster Blood, smother her Burstinatrix!"

The Monster Blood bubbled slightly, then inched forward and enveloped Burstinatrix. The heroine fought back with fist and flame, but it was like fighting quicksand—each bit of movement only sped up her demise. Within a minute, Burstinatrix was gone.

"Now, Slappy," Cascade ordered. "Attack directly!"

"Fine by me," Slappy chortled. "This is the best part of the job!"

Laughing hysterically, Slappy pounced in front of Miri, grabbed her by the hair, yanked her face within half an inch of his own, and vomited green slime all over her!


"Ewwwww!" Tash, Lauren, Harriet, and Valerie said simultaneously.

"That's just wrong!" Drake shouted.

"Nasty!" Ben yelled.

"Absolutely disgusting!" Shirley agreed, too distracted to even hit Ben.

"Miri'll get Cascade for that," Michael growled. "And if she doesn't, I will!"


Marcus had never seen Miri so mad as when she was spitting out the sludge from that attack and trying to wipe off her face and hair.

"You didn't like being in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas?" she seethed, fire dancing in her eyes. "I personally guarantee you that when the Society's done with you, you'll be begging to return to the vault!

"I'll start by cramming so many Prohibitors on you that you won't be able to so much as scratch your nose! Then, I'll lock you in the darkest, tiniest, dirtiest cell in the basement! Oh, and with Chi as a roommate when we catch her—she never shuts up about your creator!

"I'll personally make sure you're only fed overcooked cabbage and rainwater—no, wait! Rainwater backwash! And every single day, I'll come down there just to throw slime on you like you did to me!"
Surprisingly, Cascade met her with a glare of her own (well, actually it was Terra's, but whatever).

"Oh, yeah?" the "heroine" snapped. "Well, when I get ahold of you, I'll—!"

Miri actually drew back in fear from Cascade's threat, which involved brine shrimp, plastic surgery, an anchor tattoo, seventeen lava lamps, and one of those tacky fake talking big-mouthed bass wall hangers.


"Whoa," Claire gasped. "That chick's a sadist."

"You didn't notice when she dueled Blake?" Tash demanded.


"Anyhow," Cascade said, placing a card on her disk. "I'll play a facedown and end my turn with that."

A holographic card's back appeared behind Slappy.

(C: 3300-M: 4700)

All of a sudden, the Monster Blood swelled larger, inching closer to Miri. (1000/1000 1500/1500)

"What the—?" Miri gasped.

"Monster Blood gains 500 Attack and Defense Points during each of my End Phases," Cascade explained.

"Fine! My move!" Miri declared, making her draw. "And I'm activating Miracle Fusion!"

She inserted the card and a hologram of a Spell card with an image very similar to the one on Polymerization flashed up.

"This works like Polymerization, but I—."

"You can fuse Monsters in your Graveyard and remove them from play to make a new Elemental Hero Fusion Monster!" Cascade interrupted. "I KNOW! I don't think you're getting it here: My Sue body is gone, but I still have my Sue brain!"

"Such a small thing to be stored in such a large space…" Slappy joked.

"Whatever," Miri growled. "I'm fusing Elemental Hero Wildheart with Elemental Hero Necroshade to form Elemental Hero Necroid Shaman!"

Another vortex appeared, and ghostly forms of the burly Wildheart and the sinister Necroshade were swirled together. Miri's disk spat out the two cards and she pocketed them as a new Monster leapt out of the portal.
Elemental Hero Necroid Shaman looked more like Wildheart, but with clear signs of Necroshade's presence. He had Wildheart's body, tattoos and all, but he wore a baggy pair of white trousers instead of Wildheart's loincloth and had long, sharp fingernails. What his face looked like was a mystery, because it was hidden behind a white mask with black tribal markings and under a mane of bright scarlet hair. He twirled a long staff with an elaborate gold topper. (1900/1800)

"And as soon as he's Fusion Summoned, Necroid Shaman—!"

"Destroys a Monster on the opponent's field and revives a Monster in their Graveyard of your choice in the mode of your choice," Cascade finished. "Hurry up!"

"I'll destroy Slappy to make way for Honeybee, in Attack Mode!" Miri declared.

Necroid Shaman pointed his staff at the evil dummy. "Hey, you can't—!" was all he had time to say before Necroid Shaman vaporized him with a blast of energy and raised the buzzing Insect-type in his place.

"And since Honeybee has zero Attack Points," Miri smirked. "Necroid Shaman, destroy Honeybee with Staff of Tribal Magic!"

The tattooed superhero leapt forth and shot another blast of energy. Honeybee didn't even react, simply letting itself get blasted apart.

"I'll end with that."

(C: 1400-M: 4700)


"It's almost over!" Camille cheered. "Cascade's one direct attack away from losing!"

"You don't know the half of it," Adrian said. "I looked up these cards, and it turns out her Monster Blood must attack each turn if able, and it'll be destroyed if it goes to Defense Mode!"


For the first time ever, Cascade looked truly nervous. Terra's hand trembled as she drew her next card.
"I play the Pot of Greed to draw two more cards!"

She slipped the card into her disk and a giggling green jar appeared momentarily as she made two draws.

"These would be useful normally," she thought. "But they're no good now! Time to go for broke!"

"I activate Reckless Greed!" she declared, her facedown card lifting up to show an image of a fat green goblin trying to steal the very jar that had appeared just seconds ago. "This lets me draw two cards now in exchange for skipping my next two Draw Phases!"

Cascade drew two more cards.

"Better," she thought, looking at the new cards. "I'm just lucky that she didn't attack my Monster Blood…"

"I sacrifice Monster Blood—Green to summon Dark Falls Denizens!"

The green slime faded away, and out of nowhere, over a dozen tall pine trees shot up, casting a dark shade over the deserted street. Then, three teenagers—a tall, dark-haired boy, a slim, redheaded girl, and a pudgy blonde boy—rose up. All three were exceptionally pale. (1900/0)

"Nice try," Miri smirked. "But those kids have the same Attack Points as my Necroid Shaman, so both of them will end up destroyed if you attack!"

"I'm not done!" Cascade snapped. "I'm also equipping them with Jungle Magic!"

She slipped a card into her disk, and an ugly shrunken head materialized in the dark-haired boy's hand.

"I don't see what good that does," Miri commented. "It hasn't raised their Attack score by even a single point!"

"It doesn't need to!" Cascade snapped. "I take no damage from a battle involving the equipped Monster, and by destroying it, I can save that Monster from certain death! Now, Dark Falls Denizens, attack Necroid Shaman with Life Siphon!"

The three kids smirked, but before they could take two steps forward, Necroid Shaman raised his staff to attack.

"Kah-lee-ah!" the dark-haired boy shouted. The shrunken head's eyes glowed, and Necroid Shaman suddenly found his staff caught on a branch that certainly wasn't there a minute ago. The shrunken head disappeared, and the kids seized the opportunity to strike. The dark-haired boy and the redheaded girl dashed forth and each grabbed one of the superhero's arms, and the pudgy blonde boy walked up and seemed to literally suck the life out of him, leaving a withered, incredibly pale husk that shattered into pixels seconds later.

"Be glad that Necroid Shaman's effect prevents my Denizens' ability from working," Cascade sneered. "As it is, I'll just place two cards facedown and turn things over to you."

Two holographic card backs appeared side by side behind the three kids.

"You're clutching at straws, Cascade," Marcus jeered. "That move was good short-term, but lousy on a grand scale."

"It was probably the best that she could do," Miri chuckled, drawing a card. "Too bad that my best is better than her best! And here's the best of my best, so let's hope for the best!"


"I think this dub is getting to Miri-chan," Aster said, giving the monitor a suspicious stare. "She's talking all cartoony…"


"Here's my move!" Miri continued. "First, I activate the effect of the Monster I just drew—King of the Swamp! By discarding him—!"

"You can move a Polymerization card from your deck to your hand!" Cascade snarled. "I know! Why do you keep telling me what I already know?"

"She's not telling you, you failed manuscript," Marcus shot back. "She's explaining it to the Society members watching this live!"

"Exactly," Miri said, discarding a card and taking her deck out of its slot in her duel disk. She took the card she wanted, then shuffled and replaced the deck before finally playing her next card. "And next, I activate Spell Reproduction! By discarding two Spell cards from my hand, I can retrieve a Spell from the Graveyard, good as new! So, I'll toss Polymerization and Hero Mask…"

She slipped two more cards into her Graveyard.

"To get back my Miracle Fusion! And I'll use it right now…"

A card slipped out of her Graveyard slot, and she immediately played it, once again conjuring the swirling vortex.

"To merge Elemental Hero Sparkman with King of the Swamp, who can work as a fusion substitute…"
The ghostly images of Sparkman and a disgusting creature covered in muck swirled together in the vortex as Miri took their cards from her Graveyard and placed them in her pocket.

"To form the ace of my deck, ELEMENTAL HERO SHINING FLARE WINGMAN!"

A new Monster flew out of the disappearing portal and struck a pose. This one was the most heroic-looking yet. He still had Sparkman's armor, but it was now a dazzling opalline white. He had wings, but not like Avian's. Shining Flare Wingman's wings were made of highly-polished metal, and looked a lot like Volt's Project Icarus. (2500/2100)

"And if you think he's strong now, just wait!" Miri shouted. "Because he gets an extra three-hundred Attack Points for every Monster in my Graveyard with 'Elemental Hero' in its name!"

Transparent images of Thunder Giant, Bladedge, Avian, Clayman, Wild Wingman, Burstinatrix, and Necroid Shaman appeared behind Shining Flare Wingman as his Attack Points shot up. (2500 4600)

"Time to end this once and for all!" Miri cheered. "Shining Flare Wingman, attack Dark Falls Denizens and win me this duel! Solar Flare!"

The superhero spread his wings and zoomed forward, his right fist glowing as bright as the sun. The light alone seemed to be causing the kids both fright and agony.

"I activate Spirit Barrier!" Cascade shrieked, one of her facedowns lifting up and a yellow bubble covering her side of the field. "So long as I have a Monster to protect me, my Life Points are immune to battle damage!"

"Maybe so," Miri countered. "But my attack still goes through…"

The armored superhero flew right through the bubble and struck the redhead with his glowing fist, knocking her down and blowing her into pixels. Then, the other two began to convulse in the Elemental Hero's light, their flesh melting right off of their bones until they too were dead.

The trees disappeared right after.

"…and when Shining Flare Wingman destroys a Monster in battle, that Monster's Attack Points come out of your Life Points, and that's more than you've got left!"

A bright light shined around the entire field, growing brighter by the second. Soon enough it was impossible to see anything.


"This is it!" Tash celebrated. "We've won! We've finally won!"

"Then why hasn't Miri's hologram disappeared?" Claire asked.


When the light faded, everyone saw the scores.

(C: 500-M: 4700)

"WHAT?" Miri exclaimed, her jaw nearly hitting the street. "HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?"

"Just before your Wingman's effect kicked in, I used my facedown Emergency Provisions to ditch Spirit Barrier and pad my Life Points," Cascade said, but she didn't seem proud. That last turn had really taken a lot out of Terra's frail body. She could barely stand. "Guess I'm just unkillable, huh?"

"LET'S FIND OUT!" Miri raged, prepared to run in and clobber Cascade herself.

"Calm down, Miri!" Marcus said, grabbing his teammate's arm to hold her back. "She may have bought herself a turn, but her field is now clear, there's only one card in her hand, and she can't draw thanks to her own Reckless Greed! Her chances are worse than Aster's of outsmarting… well, anyone, really."

"Good point," Miri replied, relaxing a bit. "I'll end my turn here, Cascade!" she announced. "Let's see how that one card can protect you for two turns!"

Cascade scowled as she stared at the card in Terra's small hand. It could help her if she got very lucky, but without her Sue powers, that was far beyond unlikely.

Cascade's eye (or Terra's. Whatever.) fell on the destroyed building on her left, and an idea formed in her (or Terra's) head. It would be unpleasant, and without her Sue-ish powers the consequences would be messier than she'd like, but it seemed to be her only shot at winning.

"Oops," she said, "accidentally" dropping her card near the building on her right. "My bad. I've got it."

Cascade wandered over to the building and bent over to retrieve the card, then suddenly flicked her hands up in an odd movement. Two bricks lifted up from the rubble across the street and zoomed forward. Miri jumped aside to avoid them, but they kept moving past her, cramming Terra's hands in between themselves and the brick wall behind them with a loud CRACK!

Cascade had broken Terra's own hands.


"Why did she do that?" Karissa asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Is she giving up?" Charis queried.

Tash alone seemed to understand.

"That evil, conniving little—!"


"Oh, no!" Cascade wailed in a highly melodramatic fashion. "Now I need somebody to play my cards for me! Jinx, would you—?"

"No!" Marcus interrupted. "I'll do it!"

"No you won't!" Cascade snapped. "Jinx, keep him away!"

Jinx nodded Luna's head and raised Luna's hand, firing a beam of pure darkness at Marcus. The darkness enveloped him, and he was lifted up and thrown into the rubble across the street.

"Good work," Cascade complimented. "Now take my duel disk. I need you to be my hands."

Jinx mindlessly obeyed, helping Cascade slide the disk off of Terra's toothpick arm and onto her own and picking up her dropped card before they hobbled back to the center of the street.

"Okay, Jinx," Cascade instructed. "Make the moves exactly as I dictate exactly as I dictate them and pray that we win!"

Jinx nodded.

"Good," Cascade said, finally turning to Miri. "I'm activating my last card: Sorrow of the Handless!"

Jinx inserted the card into the disk, and a holographic Spell card depicting the gruesome image of a pair of disembodied hands playing a piano appeared.

"As its name suggests," Cascade continued. "This card can only be activated when it's the last card in my hand, and its effect lets me draw one card for each Nightmare Monster I remove from my Graveyard!"
"That's still too broken!" Miri argued. "There must be some sort of catch!"

"Yes," Cascade informed. "I can't remove two Monsters of the same Attribute. Contrary to what you might think, not all Nightmare Monsters are Dark.

"So, I'll remove an Earth Monster…"

Jinx pocketed a card, and an image of Rip, the Undead Cat came up.

"A Water Monster…"

Jinx removed another card, and King Jellyjam flickered by Rip.

"A Fire Monster, a Wind Monster, a Light Monster…"

Jinx removed three more cards. Toy of Terror, Honeybee, and Clarissa, the Crystal Woman's forms surrounded her.

"And a Dark Monster…" Jinx removed one last card, and the Dark Falls Denizens materialized behind her.

"To draw six cards. Jinx, hope for both our sakes that they're good."

Jinx nodded and drew six cards, holding them up for Cascade to see.

Cascade smiled.

"I win."


"That manipulative little monster!" Michael shouted. "She broke her hands just so she could use Luna's body's Sue powers to draw all the right cards!"

"I know," Tash groaned. "But there's nothing we can do! What she's doing is repulsive, but technically legal."


"Let's start off with this," Cascade said, staring at a card in Jinx's hand (or Luna's. This is getting confusing.). "I activate The Summoner!"

Jinx inserted a card into the disk, and a tiny, mummified hand appeared on the field.

"This works like The Premature Burial, except it's free, and it only brings back Nightmare Monsters. I'll revive The Invisible Boy!"

The little hand wiggled its fingers and the boy appeared in front of it, now wrapped head to toe in gauze and bandages.

"Ironic," Marcus commented. "All these bandages conceal my appearance, but when he does it it actually makes him easier to identify."

"Next," Cascade said, ignoring her creator completely. "I'll summon Mountain Snowman."

Jinx played another card, and a snowman arose before her. It was ten feet tall, and strangely menacing, with an ugly sneer, a crooked scar going down its cheek, and outstretched arms that looked ready to strangle someone. (1000/1200)

"And when he's Normal Summoned, I can revive one Nightmare Monster from my Graveyard, so long as I nullify its effect and reduce its scores to zero. I'll go with Monster Blood—Green."

The can of Monster Blood reappeared, but this time the substance didn't emerge. (1000/1000 0/0)

"What's the point of bringing it back with no points or effect?" Miri asked, hands on her hips. "Frosty's evil twin there doesn't seem all that useful."

Cascade gave her an evil grin.

"Mountain Snowman is a Tuner Monster," she said with a smirk. "And I needed eight stars' worth of Monsters to bring out the right Synchro."

Miri gasped. Whatever Cascade was about to bring out, it was clearly very powerful!

"Now," Cascade laughed. "I tune together Mountain Snowman, Monster Blood—Green, and The Invisible Boy to bring forth my deadliest Monster!"

The Invisible Boy turned into two glowing stars, and the can of Monster Blood into three, and all five floated into Mountain Snowman. Slowly, the snow began to melt, and the snowman grew even taller. His form became less rounded and more muscular, less comical and more sinister. Where there once stood a weak snowman there was now a terrifying abomination.

The beast stood a full fifteen feet tall, with leathery skin the exact color of blood. It had a head like a bull's and clawed, three-fingered hands at the ends of its arms, which were so huge that it looked like it was smuggling pumpkins. And its eyes—its piercing yellow eyes radiated a level of menace that nearly froze Miri's blood solid. (3000/2700)

"You've shown me your ace Monster," Cascade cackled. "Here's mine! Meet MOUNTAIN SNOW DEMON!"

The "heroine" waited for a reply, but Miri was paralyzed in fright.

"What's that you say?" Cascade chuckled. "'He's weaker than your Shining Flare Wingman'? Well, not for long! You see, Mountain Snow Demon has a similar effect: He gains two-hundred Attack Points for every Nightmare Monster and Continuous Spell in my Graveyard, and I have seven!"

Ghostly images of Monster Blood—Green, Cursed Camera, Beastly Game, Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy, Mountain Snowman, and two copies of The Invisible Boy appeared behind Mountain Snow Demon as his Attack score shot up. (3000 4400)

Miri just stood there.

"'Still not strong enough', you say?" Cascade giggled. "Well, we'll come back to that. For now, I'll play Monster Reincarnation, discarding my Flight Formula to bring Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy back to my hand."

Jinx played the Spell card and made the exchange as Mountain Snow Demon's Attack Points dropped slightly. (4400/4200)

Miri didn't move a muscle.

"'Why am I weakening him'? Well, this is very temporary. I just needed Slappy back so I could make this next move. I play Double Attack! This lets a Monster of my choice attack twice this turn, so long as I discard a Monster of an equal or greater Level. So, I'll discard Slappy, who has eight stars, to allow Mountain Snow Demon, who also has eight stars, to attack twice!"

Jinx played the Spell card and discarded Slappy, and Mountain Snow Demon's Attack power rose again. (4200 4400)

Miri was still petrified with fear.

"Ah, yes," Cascade sighed. "'Still a few points short'. Well, it just so happens that I have one card left to play, and that alone will change everything. I activate the Field Spell, HorrorLand!"

The Field Slot in Cascade's duel disk opened up, and Jinx inserted Cascade's final card.

If you've ever seen "Something Wicked This Way Comes", you'll have a general idea of how the holographic amusement park that materialized around the five teenagers looked. It was empty because it was creepy, and it was creepy because it was empty. There was a sinister feeling in the air, despite all the rides and booths. In the front there was a billboard-sized sign saying "WELCOME TO HORRORLAND!", with a cutout of a scaly green monster with giant horns' head and hands above it, and smaller signs pointing to rides and attractions like "Coffin Cruise", "Cordless Bungee", and "Quicksand Beach", and food stands listing things like blood-flavored ice cream and deep-fried eyeballs. All of this was supposedly meant to be comical, but there was evil hanging in the air.

With the combined auras of menace from Cascade's Fiend and Field Spell, Miri almost stopped breathing.
"What?" Cascade cackled. "'Your Elemental Hero's Attack Points haven't decreased', you say? Silly girl! HorrorLand has a multitude of effects, and the most basic is this: All 'Nightmare' Monsters gain three-hundred Attack and Defense Points!"

Mountain Snow Demon flexed his muscles and took in the evil power of the park. (4400/2700 4700/3000)

"And now he's just strong enough for my attack," the "heroine" chortled. "Mountain Snow Demon, attack Elemental Hero Shining Flare Wingman! Claws of Mountain Fury!"

The terrible Fiend let out a roar and advanced on the superhero slowly, one step at a time. Shining Flare Wingman, seeing this threat, took off as fast as he could, but the demon sped up the pace, gaining on him. Shining Flare Wingman tried a sneak attack, doubling back and punching Mountain Snow Demon as hard as he could into a roller coaster structure, but the vile beast just swung around like a trapeze artist and jumped right off, landing on the superhero and pinning him to the pavement. Then, savoring the moment, it crushed Shining Flare Wingman's skull between its hand and the street.

Miri's eyes went wide with fright, her first sign of movement since Cascade had brought out her monstrosity.

(C: 500-M: 4600)

"And now, Mountain Snow Demon," Cascade ordered. "Attack directly and get me out of this flimsy body once and for all!"

Mountain Snow Demon let out its most vicious roar yet as it slowly approached Miri. Then, it raised its razor-sharp claws, and delivered a slash directly to her throat!

That was all that Miri could take. As her Life Points tumbled down, so did she, falling backwards into the street, unconscious.

(C: 500-M: 0)

"That's game," Cascade told Marcus as the holograms faded away. "And a bet's a bet—Miri can't challenge us again if she ever wakes up. Now, get that thing out of here," she said, pointing at Miri's motionless body. "It's obstructing the road."

Angrily, Marcus split his tiger talisman copy and himself. Emotion Marcus retrieved the Crossover while Thought Marcus opened a portal to the Library Arcanium, and then both of them carefully picked up Miri and carried her out.


"Will she be all right?" Marcus, now whole again, asked Valerie a few minutes later.

"Hard to say," the healer replied. "She had quite a fright. It's like Tash's hair, too—it can't be magically fixed unless we stop the Elementals. Otherwise the only hope is for her to wake up on her own. Poor thing," she said, stroking Miri's hair. "She's probably stuck in an endless nightmare right now."

Marcus made a mental note to check that out later.


Later, Marcus was in the monitor room alone to watch the Elementals' saga unfold while the others were trying help Miri. It didn't sound like it was going well.

When the story finally continued, the Puppet King took all the Elementals' stolen souls to a discreet hiding spot and sent their bodies to hunt down the others.

Meanwhile, Jinx, Cascade (Terra's hands now miraculously healed), and Kid Flash struggled to come up with a plan. Jinx, who knew a few things about this villain, knew that the way to fix things was to get his magic controller, and for that, they'd have to find him.

It was Malchior who proposed a solution: He told them that the Elementals of the sun and moon are linked on a powerful level, and because of this they can sense when they are close. Since Jinx was in Luna's body, she gave it a try and started a trek to find the Sol puppet. It was a terrifying experience when she found that this plan wouldn't work. She didn't find Sol's soul; she found his mindless body which was hunting them down!

Fighting frantically, the three heroes learned a bit about how to use their new bodies' powers. Jinx learned that Luna had to calculate angles and trajectories when using telekinesis; Cascade learned that it took near-maximum focus to control earth, unlike the minimal effort necessary for water and ice; and Kid Flash learned that Gust's body functioned much better when flying than when on the ground.

After escaping the mindless Sol, Jinx came up with a new plan: She tried Luna's clairvoyance. She saw the Puppet King in an old warehouse, about to step through a portal as dawn broke outside the window. The had to stop him before then!

The trio made their way to the warehouse with precious little time to spare. Using their newfound powers, they were just barely able to defeat their enslaved allies (the Puppet King's greatest weakness was always that he had trouble controlling multiple minions at once) and steal the Puppet King's magic controller. With a little magic advice from Malchior, everyone returned to their proper bodies, and the Puppet King was burned to ashes by an enraged Flare.

"We'd better stop them soon," Marcus thought. "There aren't many stories left!"


It was clearer now than ever. The Elementals had to be stopped. When they put Miri in a coma, they had crossed an invisible line. This was about more than a false peace offering, a bad haircut, or being plowed into a crater by a falling satellite. This was now all-out war.

"Snap out of it, Miri," Michael begged, Claire hugging him tight. "You and I both know you're stronger than this!"

"This never would've happened if it wasn't for that bloody Nightmare deck of yours!" Tash snapped at Marcus.

Marcus held up his hands in defense.

"Hey, three other people—well, two now—in this Society promised to use that deck and never did!" he snapped. "If it weren't for their false promises, that deck never would've entered the Vault!"

"Are you saying that this is my fault?" Michael snarled, narrowing his eyes.

"Partially, yes!" Marcus shot back.

"Guys, please!" Valerie interjected, stepping between them. "This is exactly what the Elementals want! If we aren't working as a team, we're playing right into their hands!"

Michael and Marcus both glared (though it was impossible to see with Marcus' shades), but remained silent.

"Guys!" Harriet suddenly called. "The next story's starting!"

Putting aside their feelings for the moment, everyone besides Valerie walked over to the monitor room, where the rest of the Society had come to see the latest story.

The Elementals had just left Egypt, disappointed at not finding any clues as to the location of the Tome, and were passing over Europe in the E-jet.

Suddenly, as they were passing over a small country called Markovia, Terra insisted that they land. Flare, Cascade, and Gust were surprised at this, but they understood—Markovia was, after all, Terra's home country, and where she had spent most of her life. The odd thing was that she had lost all memory of those days before she had rejoined the team. This could finally be the key to unlocking Terra's memories and mastering her powers!

The team landed, and found themselves warmly greeted by the citizens—until they saw Terra. When that happened, they all gasped and fled back into their houses.

One person, however, greeted Terra like a sister. His name was Gregor, a skinny blonde boy a couple of years older than her, and he claimed that she was his sister! He was highly relieved to see her back home.
Terra couldn't seem to recall details, but she was positive that she and Gregor were related, and hoped he could tell her more of her past.

It turned out that Gregor was actually the king of Markovia, attaining the title at such a young age due to the deaths of his parents and older brother Brion. He welcomed the Elementals into the palace and gladly agreed to tell them more of Terra's past. He spoke of wild games and pranks they used to play, classes they used to take, and holidays with their parents.

Strangely, Terra didn't recall any of that. The only parts that seemed at all familiar were the later ones, where Gregor spoke of when her powers activated and she quickly lost control, causing mudslides, avalanches, and earthquakes at highly random intervals. She remembered fleeing in fright and shame afterward, too, but that was all.

When the day had passed, Gregor welcomed the team to spend the night in the palace. He put Terra up in what he claimed was her old room, which Terra had no recollection of. Nonetheless, the team went to their separate rooms and drifted into a sound sleep.

They never saw Gregor chuckling to himself as he donned a strange suit of cybernetic armor.

"Now's as good a time as any," Marcus sighed.

"A challenge?" Tash guessed. "Who's going?"

"You are," Marcus said simply, pulling an envelope out of his trenchcoat and handing it to her. "Here," he added. "You'll need this."

"But I can't challenge them!" his boss insisted. "Volt beat me ages ago, remember?"

Here Tash ripped off her wig and showed her almost-bald scalp for emphasis.

"I never said you were challenging them," Marcus replied as she replaced her hairpiece. "I said you were going in to make a challenge. There's a difference."

"Why can't you do whatever this is?" Tash inquired, sounding impatient.

Marcus rolled his eyes, though nobody could see it.

"Because," he snapped. "I have more important things to take care of at the moment!"

"More important than stopping those creations of yours?" Tash shot back. "It's all you've cared about since they escaped!"

"Yeah, well, something else came up!" he snarled. "Now just get in and issue the challenge! Everything you need is in the envelope!"

With that, he ran out of the room like a bat out of Hell.

Tash scowled as she opened a portal to the Teen Titans fandom and jumped in.


Marcus, meanwhile, hurriedly locked himself in his room, pocketed a certain something to help him later, replaced his glasses (which he slipped in his pocket) with a sleep mask, and laid down on the sofa to cast the illusion of slumber. Then, holding his umbrella tight in one hand, he hastily put the other in his pocket and squeezed his sheep talisman copy.

Now, for those who are unfamiliar, the sheep talisman allows the power of astral projection—a rather useless power under most circumstances, as it leaves the body completely vulnerable while a spirit with less substance than a shadow roams, unable to affect any of the five senses of those it encounters. There are few advantages to this, but those that it has makes it invaluable in a situation like this.

Marcus' body collapsed into a heap as his astral form separated from it, then replaced the sleep mask with his usual shade-equipped glasses and silently (not that it was necessary—nobody could hear him) floated up and passed right through the wall as if it wasn't even there.

Marcus nodded as he flew his set course down the hall and into the infirmary, where Valerie was still hovering over Miri's unconscious form, worried sick.

Taking one last look at Miri's pained expression, Marcus gulped and executed a jackknife right into her noggin, entering her dream.


Tash grumbled as she flew out of the portal and landed on one knee in Gregor's castle. Dusting herself off, she pulled herself to her feet and pulled out a flashlight to illuminate the dark corridors, then took out the envelope and opened it, finding a sheet of paper with a list of instructions. She stared at the first one: Find and wake Gust.

Simple enough, Tash thought, tiptoeing down the hallway.

After several minutes of walking through living rooms, Tash realized that the sleeping arrangements were on the upper floors, so she found the nearest staircase and climbed up. From there she could hear loud snoring from the room down the hall—really loud, like a lawnmower with a bottle cap stuck in it.

Carefully, Tash tiptoed over to the source of the noise and propped open the door. No good—this was Flare's room. Still, at least she was in the correct wing. She tried another door, finding Jinx sleeping within. The next one held Sol and Luna sharing a bed (and Marcus was supposed to pride himself on his children's fics…).

Then, on her fourth try, Tash found her target, sleeping like a baby. Grinning sadistically, she ripped off his covers and slapped him across the face as hard as she could.

"WHAT NOW, CASCADE?" he squealed, snapping back into the waking world. He was dressed in fine silk pajamas, the buttons straining against his overly-large stomach. "Oh, it's you," he growled, staring at the Society leader, before turning to the open door. "GUYS, WE'VE GOT ANOTHER CHALLENGE!" he screamed at the top of his lungs.


Marcus raised his eyebrows as he inspected the area around him. He was all alone in a dark cemetery in the middle of the night. Dirty tombstones and gnarled trees were everywhere. The stars were dim, and there was no moon. Worst of all, Miri was nowhere in sight.

With nothing else to do, Marcus moved forward through the graveyard. It was then that a tombstone caught his eye. It bore only two words—a name, in fact.


Intrigued, Marcus inspected the headstone next to it. It too bore a familiar name.


All the headstones were memorials to apparently deceased Society members. Nearby was Claire's, and Harriet's next to that. Even Adrian had fallen in this world.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Marcus caught sight of a much more ornate headstone, one with a large statue of the angel of death wielding a scythe standing in front of a crucifix. Its inscription was rather predictable.


At least she wasn't buried alive, Marcus thought as he continued walking down the cemetery's path. Then, he heard a sound. It was soft, but it was clear. It was the sound of heavy breathing.

"Miri?" Marcus called. "Is that you?"

The sound got louder, but no answer was heard.

"Miriku!" Marcus shouted, louder this time. "Are you here?"

"No…" a low voice groaned. "Not here…"

"But soon enough…" another, higher voice laughed.

A chorus of voices began to laugh, and then, out of nowhere, a hand shot out of the ground! Zombified versions of Society agents began crawling forth from the earth—ugly, twisted parodies of the real deal, their hair and skin falling off everywhere.

The group moved as a single unit (something Marcus wished that the real Society could do), marching toward the bandaged agent slowly but surely.

"You, too, shall join us…" the Willie zombie chortled, holding up his rusty blade.

"Nobody shall remain alive…" the Aster zombie moaned, one of her ears suddenly dropping off of her head. She marched on as if nothing had happened.

Marcus gulped again as the zombie army surrounded him. In the blink of an eye, he whipped out his umbrella and drew the sword from its shaft. He began swinging it wildly, slicing off anything he could reach—an arm here, a head there—but the zombies couldn't care less. They just reattached them, not even caring if they went into the right spot.

As Marcus fought, it became increasingly obvious that he couldn't win. It made perfect sense—this was Miri's dream, after all, so only she could permanently banish her nightmares. He had to escape and find her, but how? The zombies had him totally surrounded!

Then it hit him: He'd totally forgotten that he could still fly! He lifted himself up in the air and attempted to zoom off, only to find the zombie version of himself clutching his ankle. The twisted thing was nearly identical to the genuine article, the only differences (aside from the unmistakable aura of menace and scent of grave dirt) being the tattered trenchcoat and blood-soaked bandages.

With an angry grunt, Marcus kicked his evil double in the side of the head, knocking it clean off its neck. The disgusting thing went after its lost cranium and allowed Marcus to escape. As he zoomed away, he noticed that his zombie self's glasses had tumbled off, and its eye sockets were completely empty.

Marcus flew away from the graveyard at top speed, looking for any change in scenery. He got his wish in a minute, finding an old, dilapidated house, worn down with age. Marcus smiled and dove down.


Marcus picked himself up, rubbing his throbbing head. He'd forgotten that he couldn't pass through walls here. Instead, he tried the front door, finding it locked.

It was at that exact moment when Marcus heard the voices of the zombies in the distance. He had to get in that house, and fast!

Marcus circled the house, trying all the doors and windows. All of them were sealed tight. In desperation, he picked up a large stone and threw it at a nearby window with all his might, shattering it, and swiftly climbed through.

The house seemed totally abandoned. Everything within was covered in a layer of dust. Nonetheless, Marcus explored. Climbing up an old, creaky staircase and wandering down a dark hallway, he found a bedroom, dimly lit by a single candle.

And there, on the bed, was Miri.


At Gust's bellow, the Elementals (sans Terra and Kid Flash) swarmed into the room, wearing only their pajamas, nightgowns, or, in Flare's case, boxers. It was a little scary for Tash to see just how big the fire Elemental's muscles were under that gi of his.

"Come on!" Cascade screeched. "It's the middle of the night!"

"Too bad!" Tash snapped. "I'm here to stop this story!"

"Ugh, whatever," Gust yawned. "What's the challenge this time?"

Tash stared at the list of instructions for a second. "A bending battle in Avatar: the Last Airbender," she finally said.

The Elementals burst out laughing.

"You're joking!" Flare boomed. "You're actually challenging the Elementals to a fight where the competitors control the elements?"

"That's right!" Tash snapped, pulling a Crossover out of the envelope and tossing it to the floor. There was a short quake and when it was over… nothing had changed!

Everybody looked around, trying to find some difference.
"Must be defective," Sol said with a shrug.

"Wheech means zat zis challenge weell 'ave to wait," Luna smirked.

"Uh, guys?" Gust spoke up. "Look outside."

Everybody stared out the window. There, outside, was the Markovian town, but instead of being situated on a dry, rocky desert, it was atop a lush prairie.

Rolling his eyes, Flare snapped his fingers, and suddenly everybody was on the roof of the palace, and looming above them was the tower-like Southern Air Temple.

"Okay, we're here," Cascade sighed. "Now, where's your challenger? After all, you've already lost!"

Scowling, Tash looked at the next thing on the list. Step three came as a big surprise. "The challenged party will be Gust!" she declared, a smile on her face.

"Sure, I'm up for it," Gust replied, stretching his arms. "Who's my opponent?"

"You are," Tash said simply. Out of nowhere, she pulled something else out of the envelope: Marcus' tiger talisman copy! Taking aim, she fired a blast of energy out of it toward the chubby Elemental. Before their eyes, he split into two of himself: A scared-looking one dressed in fuzzy footie pajamas and a very angry-looking one who was, to everyone's disgust, completely naked.

"Eww!" Cascade squealed, snapping her fingers. Robes materialized over both Gusts—red and black on the evil one, white and blue on the good—and the Elemental of water let out a relieved sigh. "Much better."

"Now that that's out of the way," Tash said, quite relieved herself. "We have a bending battle on our hands!"
"And the stakes?" Sol inquired.

"If the evil Gust wins, we—."

"Don't call me 'evil Gust'!" the red-and-black robed Elemental snarled. "Call me 'Typhoon'! It sounds cooler!"

"And you can call me 'Breeze'," the good Gust requested. "I mean, only if you want to…"

"Whatever," Tash sighed. "If Typhoon wins"—here she paused and read off of the instruction sheet again—"Terra loses everything!"

"Very well," Flare replied. "But if Breeze wins, then that accursed talisman and any other with its power can never be used against us again!"

"Sounds good to me," Tash responded.

"Good," Cascade said impatiently. "Then let's get to the part where Gust wails on himself, already!"

"Agreed," Luna stated. "Let ze bending battle begeen!"


The Miri lying atop the bed was in even worse shape than her real-world counterpart. She was lying in a fetal position, her hair mussed, her clothes ragged, and her eyes clamped shut in a hopeless attempt to make the horrors around her just disappear.

"Miri," Marcus said gently.

The figure shivered, but otherwise didn't react.

"Come on, Miri," Marcus pleaded. "I'm here to help."

"Just another trick," Miri squeaked, more to herself than Marcus.

"No!" Marcus replied. "This isn't a trick! I'm here to help you to end this nightmare!"

"Nobody would help me," the pitiful figure breathed. "There's nobody left."

"There is!" the bandaged agent insisted. "Miri, this is all a dream! The two of us are the only things here that are real! And only you can clear away the terror!"

"I can't do anything," she sobbed. "I'm powerless."

"You are not! This is your dream! You're omnipotent here! You can do literally anything if you just put your mind to it!"

"I can't…"

Marcus sighed in exasperation. This was worse than he'd thought: A clear case of learned hopelessness. Miri had been tormented in this dream for so long that she'd completely given up. He needed to find a way to encourage her to fight back, but how?

Suddenly, the house shook. Marcus looked out of the window and saw why: The zombies had arrived and were using a battering ram to try and break down the door. This house wouldn't be safe for much longer!

"Oh, come on!" Marcus complained. "Since when are zombies smart or even coordinated enough to use tools?" He turned over to Miri. "Hurry up and get rid of them!" he yelled.

"I-I can't!" Miri wailed, bursting into tears.

Marcus sighed again. Since Miri wouldn't fight, they'd have to make a break for it. Spying her weapon—a staff that could change its length at the holder's will—hanging on the wall, he snatched it and grabbed Miri's hand, pulling her to her feet. It wasn't easy—though she wasn't exactly fighting it, she showed no will to move. Eventually, though, he got her up just as they heard slow footsteps down the hall.

"Only one way out now," Marcus observed, handing Miri her staff and flinging the window open. "Jump!"

"What?" Miri cried. "We're too high up!"

"Trust me!" Marcus urged, flying just outside the window and extending his hand. "I'll fly you to safety!"

Miri looked absolutely terrified, and it only got worse when the zombie Michael entered the room. Weighing her two options, she put her faith in Marcus, took his hand, and jumped.

As soon as Marcus caught Miri's hand, he felt himself moving—not up, but down. Miri felt much heavier than she should have, like she was made of solid lead! The two plummeted down and landed in a heap.

"Okay," Marcus groaned, getting to his feet. "Apparently I can't fly when I'm holding you. Good to know. Now come on! We have to get out of here!"

Miri wouldn't move, so Marcus had to pluck her up into a forced run away from the house. After a little while, she began moving on her own.

"Where are we going?" she asked, panting slightly.

"Anywhere but here!" was Marcus' only reply.


Typhoon and Breeze, meanwhile, had just begun to fight. Typhoon blew a strong wind at Breeze, but Breeze simply leapt aside and dodged it. The evil one then ran forward and tried to punch his good half in his massive gut, but Breeze backed away just in time.

"Come on, Breeze!" Flare urged. "Fight back, already!"

"No, no," the good half replied, shaking his head. "Fighting isn't nice at all."

"That explains why Marcus said to bet on the evil one," Tash mumbled to herself.

"You know what else isn't nice?" Typhoon asked.

"No, what?" Breeze answered.


Typhoon delivered a painful kick to Breeze's shin and laughed hysterically as he began blasting the good half back with strong wind attacks. The good half recovered and used his own powers to break free and calmly leapt aside.

"That's more like it!" Flare cheered.

"Defending myself is one thing," Breeze lectured. "Deliberately harming someone is something else entirely. I won't do it!"

Tash and Typhoon both let out a confident smile. Victory was assured.


When Miri finally started running, the two agents began to cover a lot of ground. Even so, they seemed to be going absolutely nowhere. There were no landmarks or structures anywhere in sight—just miles and miles of meadow. Even worse, the zombified agents had followed them out of the house and were catching up.

"How are we supposed to get away from them?" Miri panicked.

"Beats me!" Marcus shot back. "It's your dream! Give us somewhere to run away to!"

"What do you mean?" Miri asked, utterly befuddled.

"I already told you you're in control here! Just think of a place for us to hide and we'll have it!"

Miri looked unsure, but closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. "What should I think of?" she inquired.

"Anything!" Marcus urged. "Just hurry! The zombies are gaining on us!"

Miri focused with all of her might and felt as if a light had switched on in her head.

"It'll do," she heard Marcus sigh.

Cautiously, Miri opened her eyes and followed Marcus into the school building.


"How could I have ever been joined with such a wuss!" Typhoon raged, aiming punch after punch at Breeze, who carefully dodged each one.

The good half said nothing, finding pointing out Typhoon's faults too cruel.

"At this rate the Crossover will expire before a winner is declared," Cascade groaned.

"Then let's shake things up a little," Tash grinned. "Typhoon, play a little dirty, will you?"

Typhoon stopped attacking and smiled. "Look!" he cried, pointing off in one direction. "A kitten stuck in a tree!"

When Breeze gasped and turned, his evil counterpart slammed his elbow into the good half's neck, knocking him down.

"Stand up, Breeze!" Sol encouraged. "A good guy never surrenders!"

Breeze nodded and used a blast of wind to get back on his feet, ready for more.


The interior of the school looked perfectly normal—lockers, water fountains, etc—and for Marcus, that in itself was quite disturbing. After all, this was supposed to be a nightmare.

Out of the blue, Marcus' train of thought was interrupted by a loud bell. All at once the students poured out of the classrooms and into the hall. They came in all shapes and sizes, but they all had one thing in common: They had absolutely no facial features.

Suddenly, Miri shrieked in terror. Marcus whipped around to see what was wrong, then turned right back, blushing. Miri was totally naked!

"A little help?" he heard her whimper.

"Why?" Marcus replied. "Nobody here even has eyes!"

As if to prove him wrong, the students' faces began to change. They grew eyes and mouths—and not just in the normal places. One had twenty eyes sprouting all over. Another had just two underneath an overly-large mouth. An even stranger one had an eye that took up his entire place, with mouths where his ears should've been.

The students began to laugh, loud and mocking, and Marcus angrily removed his trenchcoat and held it out behind him. "Here," he instructed. "Put this on."

Marcus could feel the trenchcoat being lifted out of his hand. Soon after, the laughter died down, but didn't altogether stop. Feeling that it was safe to look now, he turned around to see Miri in the hastily-buttoned jacket. Some things were still just barely visible, but it would simply have to do for now.

"The public nudity dream," Marcus muttered. "Classic."

"I'm stuck in this nightmare and all you can do is admire it?" Miri said with a scowl.

"I keep trying to help, but—."

Marcus was interrupted by the loud clanging of the bell. In less than a second, all of the horrific students had run off to their separate classes.

"Now's our chance to get out of here!" Marcus shouted. "Let's move!"

"You don't have to tell me twice!" Miri replied.

The two began to sprint forward, but before they had made it even five steps, something snatched their wrists from behind. They pivoted on the spot and saw that they had been grabbed by a bony, grey-haired old woman with piercing, steel-grey eyes. She looked frail, but her grip was like a vise.

"Just what do you think you're doing out of class?" she screeched in a high, shrill voice. "Come with me right now!"

Without waiting for a reply, the woman dragged the two agents down the hall and into a classroom filled with demonic students, then threw them into two adjacent desks with papers and pencils on top of them.

"Now that the stragglers are here," the old bat screeched, walking to the front of the room. "We can begin the final exam."

"Exam?" Miri wailed, looking terrified. "B-but I haven't studied!"

"Of course not!" the hag snarled. "You were too busy cutting class! Now," she said, addressing the room again. "Please remember, class, that this test will be the single most important thing you ever do and will follow you through life and beyond the grave, and if you get less than a perfect score you'll be unqualified to be anything more than a prostitute for the rest of your days. Now, begin!"

Like clockwork, all of the students began moving their pencils across their exams at the same tremendous speed.

Marcus looked down at his own test and his eyes went wide. This was the easiest test ever! The questions were things like "What is 2 plus 2?" and "What color is a stop sign?".

The bandaged agent chuckled and raced through the test, then took a glance at Miri. She didn't look as confident, her lips pursed and her brow dripping with sweat.

"What's wrong?" Marcus whispered to her.

"Take a look," she muttered back.

Marcus stared down at Miri's test and saw the problem: It was written in some freaky alien language! Still, there was a remote possibility…

"The first answer is 'butterfly'," he told her.

Miri stared at him like he'd gone crazy. "You can read this?" she murmered.

"Of course not, but I think it's the same questions as mine. And so what if you're wrong, anyway? It's just a dream!"

"Good point," Miri shrugged as she wrote down the answer. "What's the next one?"

"What's this?" came the teacher's shriek. She was standing right behind them. "Now you're cheating? That's it! You two are coming with me!"

Miri gulped as the old bat pulled the two agents out of the room by their wrists.

"Dress code violations, truancy, and now cheating on an exam!" the crone raged. "You two are in big trouble!"

"What're you going to do?" Marcus jeered. "Expel us from dream school?"

"No!" she screeched. "I'm throwing you both in detention!"

The beldam stopped in front of an open door to a big empty room (and I don't just mean there was nobody in it—I mean completely empty of anything!) and threw the two agents in and slammed the door shut.

"Oh, an empty room," Marcus said, his voice dripping with pretend fear. "I'm so scared!"

Then, suddenly, the door disappeared.

"Still no problem," he commented. "We can bust our way out in no time."

Then, slowly, the walls and ceiling began to move in, threatening to crush the agents.

"Miri," Marcus said cautiously. "Did you just think of how things could be worse?"

Miri blushed bright red and nodded. "Uh-huh…"

"Well, at least you're learning to use your power here," he sighed. "Now, how about an exit?"

Miri looked back and forth, tossing her frizzy red hair all over the place. "I don't know!" she wailed. "I need more time!"

Marcus sighed again as the walls closed in. When they got dangerously close, he opened his umbrella and a shield surrounded the two agents. The walls kept trying to move, but the shield was holding them back, at least temporarily.

"Okay," Marcus said calmly. "You have some extra time. Now, focus your mind and think of a way out. A door, perhaps?"

Miri nodded and closed her eyes, focusing as clearly as she could, imagining a door in the room to help them escape. When she opened her eyes again, she found that she had indeed created a door in the room—on the floor.

"Interesting," Marcus commented, watching as the shield's power drained. "But good enough. Let's go!"

Miri grabbed the doorknob and pulled, but the door wouldn't budge. She kept pulling with all of her might, straining and struggling, but the door just refused to yield.

"If I may?" Marcus requested, letting go of his umbrella and taking the sword from the shaft. He turned the doorknob and let go. The door fell downward, wide open, and Miri blushed again.

"Can't believe I didn't see that…" she mumbled. "Where does it go, anyway?"

"Who cares?" Marcus replied. "It'll take us out of here!"

Miri looked worried, but nodded and took Marcus' hand, and the two jumped through the doorway just as the shield broke.


"Look, Breeze," Flare called. "If you lose, you're letting down your whole team! You need to win this!"

Breeze frowned and just stood there, clearly conflicted. As he did, Typhoon took the opportunity to send a powerful blast of air his way, knocking the good half off his feet.

"You weakling," Typhoon sneered. "You're just too moral to do what it takes to win!"

"Don't fight to hurt him, Breeze!" Sol shouted.

"Yes," Luna concurred. "Fight to protect us!"

Breeze looked at his team and nodded, then jumped to his feet and created a swirling ball of wind in his hands and threw it at his counterpart. The ball struck Typhoon right in the chest, sending him skidding back.

"Looks like we just evened the odds," Flare chuckled.


Meanwhile, Miri and Marcus were still plummeting. The doorway had apparently put them in a classic "falling" nightmare, a dream representing a fear of situations over which one has no control. Miri had started by screaming incessantly, but had long since grown tired of it, and had simply gone silent and busied herself by staring at the rocky cliff faces that surrounded them and wondering when they'd actually see the ground.

Then, just as soon as she began to wonder about it, there it was, looming ahead of them. They had less than a minute to act!

"What do I do?" Miri shrieked, anxious as ever. "What do I do?"

"Calm down and think of something!" Marcus shouted back (not because he was angry; one just has to shout to be heard when falling from a great height).

"Like what?" Miri shot back.

"A mattress, a trampoline, a parachute, ANYTHING!" the bandaged agent told her. He thought it best to keep quiet about the fact that if they died here, both of their bodies would be catatonic forever.

Miri flailed in the air and just kept staring at the ground. "I-I can't think of anything!" she yelled. "I'm too nervous!"

Marcus rubbed his temples in frustration, but knew that this was no time to berate her for this. The ground was less than a hundred feet away and if they didn't do something fast they'd just be a mess of bloody scattered parts.

"Hang on tight!" he commanded.

Miri raised an eyebrow, but wrapped her arms around Marcus' waist and held on with all of her strength as Marcus held his sword tight with both hands, raised it over his head, and thrust it into the nearest cliff face.
The sword flat-out resented its wielder's course of action, sending out sparks galore and pushing back with all its might, but Marcus held firm, refusing to relinquish his hold.

After a while, the drag slowed the duo's fall considerably and they hit the ground. It wasn't exactly a graceful landing, but at least all of their bones were intact.

"Thanks," Miri panted, letting go of Marcus' waist.

"Don't mention it," Marcus replied, staring at his sword. That last action had dulled it down to the hilt. It was useless now, so he chucked it aside. "Now, where do we go from here?"

Miri stared at the solid cliff walls all around her. "Beats me," she sighed. "It looks like we're trapped here."

Marcus rolled his eyes, though of course Miri didn't see it. "You really need to keep up," he lectured. "As I keep telling you, you have the power here! You can make us an exit if you just will it! But this time, please think of a destination as well, because from here on in, I can only provide ideas and moral support. I've exhausted my supply of tools, so you'll have to be the hero."

Miri gulped, but nodded, trying to show some confidence. "Right," she said. "So how do I wake myself up?"
"Honestly?" Marcus responded. "I have no idea. Perhaps you should just will it? That certainly seems worth a try."

Miri shrugged and closed her eyes tight and focused all her willpower on forcing herself to awaken, but, upon opening her eyes, nothing had changed.

"Any other ideas?" she asked.

"A couple, actually. It occurs to me that since the Elementals did this to you, there may be some slight traces of them in your mind maintaining the nightmare world and keeping you trapped here. So, in theory, if you purge the traces of the Elementals, you can lift the nightmare, and then you can wake up, either on your own or with gentle stimulation from the waking world."

"Sounds difficult."

"Unless you remember that you're all-powerful here, whereupon it should become a cakewalk. Still…" he paused. "I think your first goal should be getting your clothes back…"

Miri blushed, but then nodded. She closed her eyes and concentrated, and before she knew it she had her own clothes back.

"Much better," Marcus sighed. "Now, how about an exit?"

"Okay," Miri replied. She was getting the hang of things now. All she had to do was focus and the mouth of a tunnel appeared before them.

Without a word, the two wandered in.


Back at the fight, Breeze and Typhoon had become a perfect matchup. Whenever one attacked, the other blocked. Whenever one airbent, the other dodged. The fight was action-packed, and near-symmetrical to boot. At first it was really cool, but the novelty quickly wore off.

"Who would've guessed seeing Gust fight himself would be so boring?" Cascade groaned, pushing her blonde locks out of her face in boredom.

"Can't argue there…" Tash sighed, watching Breeze and Typhoon grapple.

"It seems that we are evenly matched, brother," Breeze commented.

"In speed, power, and abilities, yes," Typhoon observed. "But you're forgetting one thing."

"What's that?" Breeze inquired.

"I'm not afraid to play dirty!"

That being said, Typhoon kneed his good half in every man's biggest weak spot, forcing him to gasp in pain while Typhoon began his beatdown.

Tash smirked. The end was near.


The tunnel was long and dark, lit only by the dim flame of a lantern Miri had provided. Neither of the two knew how far or long they had walked, or how much farther or longer they would have to.

"Where are we going, anyway?" Miri asked.

"Beats me," Marcus shrugged. "As I keep saying, it's your dream."

"Oh, there's no knowing where you're going," a voice called out, echoing off the tunnel walls. It was strangely familiar…

"Or which way this dream is flowing!" another voice said. This one was female, and even more obnoxious. "Is it raining? Is it snowing?"

Suddenly, drops of water began to fall from the tunnel ceiling and pelt the two Society agents. It lasted only a second, though, as the rain quickly turned into freezing snow, and then stopped altogether.

"Is a hurricane a-blowing?" a husky male voice chuckled. His voice had an eerie cheerfulness about it.

With these words, a wind whipped up. At first it was a weak breeze that just put out Miri's lantern, but it quickly strengthened, becoming impossibly strong. Miri and Marcus were picked up and thrown forward through the inky blackness of the tunnel.

"Are the frames of Herr a-growing?" said yet another voice, this one with a heavy Japanese accent.

"Eez ze greesly Reaper moweeng?" a fifth voice cackled. It had a heavy French accent.

The voices were growing louder, and echoing more and more.

Out of the blue, the cave was brightened (barely) by eerie lights of every color, and gruesome images sprang up—terrible monsters and scenes of sick torture methods flashed by, each more horrifying than the last. Miri shrieked, and Marcus stiffened up in fright as they continued to hurtle forward at over seventy miles per hour.

"Yes, the danger must be growing!" shouted (you guessed it) another voice. Like the first, third, and fourth ones, this was male, but higher and even less sane. "FOR THE BLOWERS KEEP ON BLOWING!"

The wind sped up even more, recklessly tossing Marcus and Miri through the air, and out of nowhere the tunnel ended and the two were thrown into a large room and up against the wall.

Marcus barely saved the duo from breaking every one of their bones by snatching Miri's staff and letting it hit the wall first.

The two agents fell to the floor, gasping from the terror they'd barely escaped. Marcus handed Miri back her weapon as they surveyed their new location. It was a hellish place, filled with demonic statues, evil portraits, and medieval torture devices, and lit by torches with eerie purple flames.

And there, by the entrance, were the Elementals.


Breeze was taking a serious beating as his evil counterpart used every dirty trick in the book—"your shoe's untied", "look, something distracting", noogies, purple-nurples, wedgies, wet willies, pink bellies, and even Indian burns.

Finally the good half fell to his knees. He couldn't take much more.

"That's it, Typhoon!" Tash cheered. "Finish him!"

"Don't tell me what to do!" Typhoon snapped, but nonetheless he ran forward to deliver the final blow.

"We can't ret this happen!" Sol panicked.

"Well, we cannot use our powers to influence a bendeeng battle!" Luna snarled.

It was Cascade that found a solution.

"Hey, Typhoon!" she laughed. "Check this out!"

Quick as a flash, her nightgown was off.

Typhoon's reaction to seeing the hottest girl on the team naked was a cartoon cliché. He beat his foot against the ground, his eyes bulged, and he started howling like a wolf, completely forgetting about the fight.

Seizing the opportunity, Breeze got to his feet and blew a powerful wind at Typhoon, throwing him against the temple wall and knocking him out cold.

Tash nearly burst a blood vessel.

"I can't believe you would stoop so low!" she shrieked at Cascade. "Stripping to distract your opponent! That's just vile!"

"And I suppose encouraging your player's dirty tricks was perfectly fine, then?" the Elemental of water countered, slipping her nightgown back on. "Besides, you're just jealous that you'll never have a body worth showing off. Now, put Gust back in one piece and get lost!"

Tash growled, but obeyed, reuniting Breeze and Typhoon into one being, then opening a portal to the Library Arcanium and leaping through.

"This isn't over!" was all she was able to say in her rage.


"It's about time you showed up," Flare smirked, staring Miri right in the eyes. "We've been waiting for so long…"

"Sure, these nightmares were entertaining," Gust shrugged. "But just finishing you off will make Willowe so happy! And using their own precious gadgets, too!"

"What are you talking about?" Marcus snapped.

Volt snickered and pulled something from behind his back. It looked like a strange golden gun with a purple dot on the side, swollen to the size of a baseball near the butt of the gun, and narrowed like a mosquito mouth near the head.

"A Big-Lipped Alligator Moment?" Miri exclaimed.

"That would explain what happened in the tunnel…" Marcus muttered. "Right out of 'Willy Wonka', though I think you forgot a few lines…"

"Had the same effect, didn't it?" Cascade shrugged.

"But that gadget is still in the design stage!" Marcus asserted. "We don't even have a prototype yet!"

"Yes, it's amazing what you can find lying around in someone's head," Volt chortled. "And we know how to find all the dark corners and hidey-holes. After all, Creator," he said with an evil grin. "We lived in yours for years, before you cruelly discarded us!"

"And now we get the pleasure of turning not one, but two of our enemies into braindead organ sacks with their own weapons!" Gust whooped. "It's like Christmas came early!"

"We're not going down without a fight!" Marcus shouted.

"Good," Flora sneered. "The last thing we want is for you to…" here she trailed off for some reason, trying to remember what was going on. "Uh… what was I… oh, yeah!" she realized, her eyes lighting up. "To ruin our fun!"

Miri raised an eyebrow and turned to Marcus. "What's up with her?" she whispered. "Did she get brain damage in the saga or something?"

"No," Marcus replied, keeping his voice low. "Her speech was totally normal in my ideas. I have no idea what's wrong with her."

"What's going to be wrong with you is what you should be concerned about!" Flare snarled, raising his hand and sending a fireball their way.

Marcus and Miri barely dodged in time.

"Okay, Miri," Marcus coached. "Now's the time to use what you've learned! It's time to purge your mind of these repulsive ideas just like I did!"

"Right!" Miri agreed, before looking considerably less confident. "Uh, you'll help, right?" she asked.

"Of course!" her fellow agent answered. "That's what I'm here for!"

The Elementals laughed even harder.

"The two of you alone against all of us?" Flora cackled. "Oh, we don't stand a… um, what're we… oh, yeah, chance!"

"We're not alone!" Marcus shot back, pulling his secret weapon out of his pocket and tossing it to Miri. "We have the whole Society on our side!"

Miri looked at what she had just caught. It was the anti-Nightmare deck—the one made with a combination of the entire Society's cards.

"Go on, Miri!" Marcus urged. "Summon reinforcements!"

Miri smiled and focused as hard as she could on getting help. The cards levitated out of her hand and up in front of her, and then began to transform. One card became a giant golden phoenix that let out a shriek before turning into Tash. Another formed into a colossal armored dragon that roared and turned into Michael. All around the room, Society agents formed.

"You're not touching Miri with us here!" Adrian proclaimed.

"We'll protect her with our lives!" Claire announced.

The Elementals laughed and blasted all of them to smithereens.

There was a long pause.

"Well, that was anticlimactic," Marcus finally said, still sounding eerily calm. "But I'm still here."

"We'll soon fix that!" Volt snickered, pulling out another gadget. It looked like an old-fashioned toy wind-up soldier with a little toy blunderbuss.

"A Running Gag?" Miri gasped.

"Fresh off the design phase!" the Elemental of lightning sniggered. "And it's sure to keep you busy while we deal with the Creator!"

With gusto, Volt turned the Running Gag's key and set it on the floor. The little gadget rocketed off and began circling Miri in a seemingly chaotic fashion, firing off its blunderbuss every so often and sending her reeling back.

Miri pulled out her pole and tried to strike the Running Gag, but it was just too fast, and its movements still too unpredictable.

"Stay calm, Miri!" Marcus called. "The Running Gag can't do much damage, and as it goes on it becomes more predictable and less effective! You'll get it soon enough!"

"And by then it will be too late!" Gust boomed. "Now, Creator, it's finally time we took our revenge for casting us aside! Prepare to die!"

Sadistic as ever, the Elementals advanced in on their creator and prepared to finish the job.


"That was a nightmare!" Tash complained as she flopped down on one of the monitor room's sofas.

"Yeah, we saw," Drake commented. "We really need to stop underestimating those guys."

"It is becoming a problem," Doug agreed. "But still, who would've ever guessed that Cascade would do that for Gust? She can't stand him ogling her!"

"I'm afraid that it is too late for that information now," Cristoph sighed. "The challenge has ended in our opponents' favor."

"Well," Willie shrugged. "May as well see what happens next."

The group was quiet as they turned to the screen and watched the rest of the story unfold.

As the Elementals slept, they (sans Terra) were suddenly encased in hardened mud and transported to the palace basement by Gregor, who was now decked out in his new armor. When they'd all been dumped in a large pit, Gregor forced Terra awake and violently escorted her there, too, and used his armor to place a colossal rock over the pit containing the Elementals, saying that in less than twenty minutes it would slip down and crush them unless Terra agreed to fight him.

Terra demanded to know why, and Gregor cackled and told her that he had to know for sure who was truly stronger: Terra or Geo-Force, the new name he had given himself. He'd always been jealous of Terra's powers, and after she disappeared he ordered the construction of a suit of armor that allowed him to do the same to her. After imprisoning his mother and older brother to assume the position of king, his only goal in life left was to prove himself superior to the original.

As the fight went on, it became clear that while Geo-Force was equal in power to Terra, he had much better control of his abilities, giving him the advantage.

Terra became more and more stressed with time, but with the moral support of her team she was able to harness that anxiety and finally access her elemental form, and even better, her memories!

It turned out that Terra was the illegitimate daughter of the king, and had been banished to the outskirts of the city with her mother. Gregor didn't even know they were half-siblings and was always snobby and obnoxious to her simply because he was royalty and she wasn't.

When Terra was thirteen, her mother died of a terrible illness, and she shared the secret with her daughter. Terra became enraged at this, and her powers activated, causing city-wide disasters. In time, she attempted to destroy the palace, but her lack of control ended up killing the king instead. Terrified, she fled the country and began seeking a place where she could do no harm.

From there the fight became considerably more even, and it ended with Geo-Force levitating a giant boulder to try and crush Terra, and instead being killed when the armor malfunctioned due to all the damage it had taken.

Silently, Terra retrieved her teammates, and in the morning they alerted the citizens of Gregor's death, and leadership of the country was assigned to Gregor, who, in the future, proved to be a great leader.
When that was done, the Elementals got back in the E-jet and vowed never to return to Markovia.

"Wow," Rhia commented. "That was…dark."

"The saga's getting heavier," Ben said with a nod. "Marcus really went all-out."

"Where is Marcus, anyway?" Tash inquired.

"Haven't seen him since you left earlier," Drake replied.

"He'd better not be goofing off…" Tash seethed, clenching her hand into a fist.


This was the single most serious moment of Marcus' life. It was seven superheroes against one teenager with incredibly limited fighting skills. This was not the time for goofing off.

Cascade started things off by firing a barrage of icicles at him. "Hell knoweth no fury like a superheroine scorned, Creator!" she cackled.

Marcus leapt aside and took cover behind a statue of a devilish creature with dragonfly wings, antlers, and a shiny silver trident.

"'iding weel do no good!" he heard Luna cry, with Sol laughing in the background.

Behind Marcus, the statue took on an aura that seemed to combine light and darkness as it was lifted into the air and sent crashing back down. The bandaged agent rolled out of the way just in time as it hit the floor with awesome force, shattering to pieces.

Seizing an opportunity, Marcus grabbed the trident and used it to block as the duo flew at him. Though they pushed up hard, Marcus turned their own strength against them by loosening his grip and sending them hurtling aside into an old-fashioned stretching rack.

Seeing this, Marcus quickly locked their hands into the shackles.

"You rittre brat!" Sol spat, along with several words that simply can't be printed. "Ret us go!"

"Yeah," Marcus replied sarcastically. "That'll happen."

Suddenly, Marcus was struck hard in the back of his neck and knocked to the floor. "What the—?" he gasped.

"One good suckerpunch deserves… uh… um…" he heard Flora drawl.

Just as Flora was about to deal a finishing blow, a long rod suddenly struck her in the side. Miri had escaped from the Running Gag!

"Thanks," Marcus panted as he got to his feet and grabbed the struggling Flora. "Open that stockade for me, would you?"

Miri nodded and pulled open one of the torture devices, a sarcophagus-like thing with an interior full of sharp spikes. Marcus threw Flora right in and Miri slammed it shut and locked it.

"Three down, four to go," Marcus commented. He never saw Gust as he snatched him from behind and held his arms tight.

"Don't fight it, either of you," he warned the two agents. "I can snap his arms right off if I want."

"Great work, Gust!" Volt laughed, stepping in front of Marcus and holding up the BLAM. "Let's give our great Creator another taste of this thing's power so we can wipe out the real threat here!"

Volt held the gadget up and pointed it straight at Marcus, but just as he pulled the trigger, Miri tackled him from behind and messed up his aim, causing him to hit Gust instead!

From what Marcus could tell from Gust's raving as he broke free, the portly Elemental was desperately trying to escape from a hungry singing lizard.

"Oh, enough gimmicks!" Flare spat as he shot a fireball that turned the BLAM into a puddle of hot goo. "Weapons can change hands! We'll just finish them with our own abilities!"

"Right!" Cascade and Volt agreed.

Miri gulped as the three remaining Elementals surrounded her and Marcus, backing them up against a wall.

"This is for all our suffering!" Flare snarled, holding up a hand as a white-hot fireball appeared within it.

"And all our waiting!" Cascade added, sculpting a spear out of solid ice.

"And all your apathy!" Volt raged, electricity coursing through his palms.

The three Elementals attacked the two agents with everything they had, and Marcus braced himself for the end when Miri grabbed him by the collar and pulled him through a doorway that definitely wasn't there before and escorted him up a long, winding staircase.

"Free the others, Volt!" he heard Flare order. "We'll hold them for you!"

Marcus and Miri dashed up the stairs and through another doorway, finding themselves in a very large room with an immensely high ceiling. The room was filled with complex machinery attached to an enormous, evil-looking tank in the middle. The machines were processing something in all sorts of evil ways, and shrieks and moans could often be heard within them as they pumped their finished products through pipes that led out through the walls. There seemed to be something alive within the tank, as it constantly rumbled and roars could be heard inside. The tubes feeding its contents appeared to be leaking slightly—every so often an ugly, transparent ghost-like thing would eke out and screech before disappearing.

"What is this place?" Miri squeaked, her voice tinged with fear.

Marcus didn't have an answer, but Cascade did.

"This is the Nightmare Fuel refinery," she laughed, seeming very eager to talk about it as she and Flare advanced on the agents. "This stuff isn't easy to get ahold of, and the Pro-Cliché and Mary Sue Protection Society is researching about a thousand different ways to use it! We've already sent them over 600 drums!"

"It just so happens that Miri is a gold mine of this stuff," Flare continued with a smirk. "Ever since this nightmare began it's been flowing like a river, and once we wipe out the last piece of optimism over there—" he pointed to Miri "—this stuff will flow forever and the Protection Society will have enough Nightmare Fuel to accomplish anything, including wiping out your Society once and for all!"

Miri tensed and Marcus had to pull her out of the way of another attack from Flare.

"I'm not equipped to fight them," Marcus told Miri as they raced through a maze of ghastly machines. "I need a weapon of some sort. How about a katana?"

Miri nodded and concentrated, and Marcus found himself holding an outdated pop culture idol.

"Madonna," he observed. "Try again."

"Sorry," Miri apologized as the woman vanished. "It's hard to concentrate in a situation like this. How do you do it?"

"Me?" Marcus chuckled as they sped along. "I think about homemade pizza."

"Homemade pizza?" Miri echoed, clearly very confused.

"Sure. There's no endeavor in the world more rewarding when it's done well."

"Interesting," Miri replied as they ran. "If I make it out of this, I'll have to try it."

"That's the spirit," Marcus grinned. "Now, we just need a way to get rid of those Elementals so you can make it out of this! Any ideas?"

"I can help us dodge better!" she said. "Just a second."

Miri stopped and concentrated, and Marcus soon found that his feet were no longer touching the ground. Miri had conjured them each a pair of big, feathery wings.

"It's a start," Marcus said as he flew up higher.

"Oh, so you're airborne now?" Volt observed. He and the other four had arrived. "Well, you're not the only ones who can fly!"

In the blink of an eye, Project Icarus sprouted from Volt's back and he took off, Gust, Sol, and Luna close behind, each trying to strike at the two agents as Flare and Cascade took aim from the ground.

Marcus and Miri did everything they could to dodge, bobbing and weaving to avoid the shots when something very interesting happened—Cascade struck the tank with a large icicle.

"Careful!" Flare shouted at his teammate. "We can't afford to damage that tank!"

Marcus and Miri paused and smiled at each other.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Marcus asked.

Miri grinned and conjured up a bazooka, firing it straight at the tank, which burst in a fiery explosion.
The result was highly unexpected. A black hole appeared underneath where the tank had once stood, an evil vortex of terror that threatened to suck in everyone in the room. Marcus and Miri grabbed onto a nearby pipe as the Elementals fought to stay out of it.

"You fools!" Volt cried. "That tank was the only thing keeping the nightmares from reaching full power! Without it, we're all dead!"

One by one, the Elementals were sucked screaming into the vortex, until only Marcus and Miri were left to fight it.

"What do we do?" Miri screamed, clinging desperately to the pipe.

"You have to taint the nightmare fuel source!" Marcus yelled. "It's our only hope!"

"Taint it?" Miri repeated. "What does that mean?"

As they spoke, the machines began tearing out of the floor as they were pulled toward the black hole.

"You have to introduce it to something so good that it will lose its power!" the bandaged agent screamed. "Otherwise it'll consume your whole mind and kill us both!"

"Something good?"


Miri thought and thought as her fingers began slipping, and then she had what she needed. She conjured up the anti-Nightmare deck and threw it into the hole. The vortex gurgled and moaned and screeched and roared, and then it began to consume itself, slowly at first, but then it disappeared altogether.

Miri and Marcus each let out a huge sigh and they dropped to the floor.

"Nice work, Miri," Marcus complimented. "And a good lesson, too: Your friends will always be there to help you in a pinch. And now, you're free to wake up whenever you like."

"Thanks," Miri grinned. "I really owe you for helping me here."

"Don't mention it," Marcus said. "And I mean that literally. When you wake up, don't tell anyone about me being here. I… kind of broke some rules to do it…"

Miri looked confused. "Uh, okay," she agreed.

"Thanks!" Marcus laughed. "I'll see you in the waking world!"


Five minutes later, Marcus was back in the Library Arcanium hearing about how the challenge had been a total flop when Valerie's voice came over the PA saying that Miri was waking up.

The Society rushed over and bombarded Miri with questions as she rose from her bed, but the only thing she said was this:

"You mind if I explain it over dinner? I'm craving pizza. Homemade."

"I'll help her," Marcus volunteered. "After all, it's not like I've done anything else today."


"—then, while the deckhands are busy trying to overpower the mutant cacti, we'll escape to Yemen disguised as a swarm of bumblebees! It's perfect!"

"That's a great plan for getting out of your dentist appointment, Aster," Tash complimented. "But this think tank is for the discussion of how to stop the Elementals. After all, we have only three stories left."

"Yeah, and we're running low on agents and ideas," Michael agreed. "Whatever we do, we need to do it quickly!"

"But we also mustn't panic," Marcus said, calm as ever. "I've formulated a plan for our next challenge, and the challenger has been preparing for it for quite some time now."

The rest of the think tank (Tash, Harriet, Adrian, Michael, Lauren, Aster, and Valerie) turned to Marcus and stared at him in perplexion.

"You know," Harriet said. "It wouldn't kill you to let us in on these plans of yours."

"Too many hunters spoil the scent," Marcus said with a shrug. "Besides, I don't like to get your hopes up. If it fails, you'll just be more disappointed. Besides, this is the last plan I have. If this doesn't work, I'm winging it."

"Not exactly the most confident in your colleagues, are you?" Lauren frowned.

"Hard to be with all our past failures," the bandaged agent replied. "Still, no matter what, we must keep trying."

"Hear, hear!" Adrian concurred. "So, when do we make our move?"

As soon as Adrian had closed his mouth, Miri's voice came over the PA announcing the start of the next story.

"That was uncanny," Tash commented as the group walked down to the monitor room to see where the story was headed.

According to the monitors, the Elementals had returned to Jump City—and they weren't the only ones. Every other Titan in the world had gathered in the original Titans' hometown. The reason: the second Tournament of Heroes!

Unlike the last tournament, which was just a trap set up by a maniacal villain, this one was just an excuse for all the young heroes to get together and show off, as well as a televised publicity stunt to earn money for worldwide charities.

Marcus opened his trench coat and pulled out a bunch of bronze medallions on red silk loops. "Put these on," he instructed, passing them around. "They'll keep you from disrupting canon."

The Society members nodded and slipped them around their necks.

"Pardon my suspicion, Sir Marcus," Cristoph spoke up. "But why must we wear these to watch the story?"

"Because," Marcus said, pulling out his portal gun and opening a portal to the Teen Titans fandom. "This is one story you'll want to see up close and personal."


The Society exited the portal in the gymnasium of the Jump City community center, where the heroes had come to meet and greet.

"Look around," Marcus chuckled. "Take everything in. The relationships are quite elaborate."

The Society members nodded and split off in different directions to investigate. Thanks to the medallions, they had no trouble moving through the crowd. The canon characters couldn't see, hear, touch, or smell them, and the psychic ones couldn't sense them, either.

"Sol, Luna!" Valerie's team watched Kole greet the Elementals of the sun and moon, embracing Sol in a big hug. "Nice to see you again!"

"Gnaark, gnaark!" Gnaark laughed, mimicking Kole's action on Luna.

"Uh, yes," Sol chuckled nervously, blushing hard. "I-it has been quite a whire…"
Luna just wrenched herself out of Gnaark's grasp and threw Sol a dirty look. "I can see zat you two would prefer some time alone, so au revoir!"

Angrily, Luna stormed off.

"Ugh," Monika groaned. "I hate when guys do that!"

"I know!" Stacey agreed. "It is so rude!"


Over by the buffet table, Tyler's stomach grumbled as he watched Gust and Cyborg shovel down food.

"So," Gust asked, his mouth full of chips and dip. "How's Volt doing as part of your team?"

"Oh, he's great!" Cyborg replied. "He upgraded the Tower mainframe, increased the fuel efficiency of the T-sub, gave BB his motorcycle, and is still cranking out new inventions to help us fight crime! But…there's just one thing about him that's slowing us down…"

"His lack of upper body strength?" Gust joked.

"Nah, we got more than enough muscle. It's just… he's not as determined to put baddies away as he was when I first met him. You know, when he was on your team."

"Weird," Gust commented. "When he wasn't building stuff for us, putting criminals in the slammer was all he could think about back then."


Michael and Claire, meanwhile, watched over by the corner as Beastboy and Terra finally had their reunion.

"Yeowch!" Beastboy yelped as Terra slapped him across the face with all of her might.

"That was for going gaga when Flora kissed you!" the Elemental of earth scowled…before pulling the changeling in close and giving him a long, passionate kiss of her own.

"And that," she said when she was done. "Was for never losing faith in me."

"Uh-ub-buh-da," was all that Beastboy could get out.

"Don't get too used to it, though," Terra smirked. "Not just yet, anyway. I may have my memories back, but I'm still sticking with the Elementals, at least until we find that Tome."


On the other side of the room, Ben and Shirley saw Raven have her happy reunion with preschool heroes Melvin, Timmy Tantrum, and Teether, and their giant teddy bear bodyguard, Bobby.

"Auntie Raven!" Melvin and Timmy cheered, as all four of them hugged their favorite Titan.

"Hey, guys," she replied, grinning bigger than she had in weeks (maybe years), before she thought about what them being here meant and frowned slightly. "Wait, you're not competing, are you?"

"No," Timmy replied huffily. "We're too little for that. We're just watching."

"But Bobby's fighting," Melvin added happily as the giant teddy gave Raven a thumbs up.

"Aw, how cute," Ben commented.

"FOCUS!" Shirley screeched, bashing him over the head. "We're here to work!"


After a while, Marcus herded everyone into the nearest locker room to see the most plot-important event of the story.

At first, the group didn't see anything, but then Marcus gestured to a corner of the ceiling. Up there was—.

"A spider?" Michael said, raising an eyebrow. "What, is the place infested?"

"It's not a spider," Marcus said calmly as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a magnifying glass. "Here," he said, handing it to Michael. "Get a closer look."

The senior agent rolled his eyes and held the lens up to the not-spider, then stepped back in surprise.
"What is that?" he cried out.

"That," Marcus smirked. "Is the Master of Games."

Several agents nodded, but far more just looked confused.

"Who's the Master of Games?" Tash inquired.

"He was a villain in the second season," Adrian explained. "He threw the original Tournament of Heroes as a plot to steal their powers for himself."

"But he looks really different now," Willie commented, examining the villain up close. "Before he looked like some kind of white alien gorilla thing, but now I can barely recognize him!"

It was true—in addition to mechanical spider legs, the Master of Games was now sporting (among numerous other things) a thick metal plating, a yellow and black shield with a big "H", feathery wings, green antennae, sharp claws on his hands, and a red and blue Mexican wrestling mask. As always, he wore a large red gem around his neck.

"The Society of the Vine unfroze him and Brother Blood brainwashed him to attack during the tournament and capture all the heroes," the bandaged agent construed. "And to give him some extra muscle, the Society let him absorb a whole bunch of other villains—Mammoth, Gizmo, Private H.I.V.E., See-More, Billy Numerous, Kyd Wykkyd, Angel, XL Terrestrial, I.N.S.T.I.G.A.T.O.R., Wrestling Star, Cheshire, and Steamroller—which is why he looks so different."

"Yikes," Tyler shuddered. "Overkill much?"

"I'll say," Rhia agreed. "So, why isn't he attacking?"

"He's waiting until after the first round, when the heroes will be at their weakest," Marcus answered, leading the group back out of the locker room. "Until then, we have some matches to watch. Just sit back and enjoy."

The Society got back just as the event went out live. Cyborg and Bumblebee, the hosts, greeted their audience and explained the rules—two heroes would be randomly selected and hooked up to a virtual reality program and fight at a randomly selected location. The last hero standing would move on to the next round until they had a champion.

Cyborg and Bumblebee assured the audience that the heroes would not suffer any actual injuries, the only side effect of fighting in virtual reality being severe exhaustion, and reminded the viewers that they would accept all donations, and all the money went to benefit numerous worldwide charities.

From there, the action started. The first match was between Tramm the fishboy and Wildebeest in a city park. Tramm tried to take advantage of a nearby pond, but Wildebeest caught him in a choke hold, only to be surprised when Tramm swelled up his muscles and broke free. After a short wrestling match, though, Wildebeest came out on top.

Next, Mas y Menos (who were allowed to fight together because their powers only worked when they were touching) faced off against Terra on a rocky beach. The twins used their speed to circle around the Elemental of earth and create a vortex, depriving her of precious oxygen, but Terra mustered up her strength and conjured a small rock in their path, tripping them and sending them flying apart, after which Terra trapped the two of them in stone cages.

After that, Sol was matched up against Kole on top of Titans' Tower, and Sol found himself not only very distracted by his opponent, but also at a severe disadvantage—when Kole transformed into crystal, his powers just bounced off of the reflective surface. He finally lost when Kole torpedoed down and struck him right in the stomach.

Volt had an interesting match against Bushido at a construction site, where Bushido overwhelmed Volt with his excellent agility and strong swordplay. At the last second, though, Volt caught the blade in his hands and sent a strong current down the conductive steel sword, electrocuting Bushido.

More fights rolled around. Kid Flash redirected Speedy's own heat-seeking arrows against him. Raven trapped Thunder in a soundproof bubble. Bobby clobbered Pantha. Aqualad shorted out Lightning. Bumblebee was nearly squashed by Beastboy in elephant form, but then she shrank down, flew in his ear and stung him mercilessly, then finished him off when he resumed human form. Cyborg was welded to a jungle gym by Hotspot. Gnaark was highly confused by the Herald's trick of opening portals and attacking from different angles, but then shrugged and punched him out. Jinx beat Larry with one swift kick. Starfire knocked out Killowatt with her star rays, and Red Star, after an impressive midair duel with Argent, went off with the power of a supernova and obliterated New Zealand's greatest hero.

"This is really good," Rhia commented, munching on the popcorn that Cristoph had fetched.

"It gets better," Marcus assured. "There are still three matches left, and they're some of the best."

In the next match, Luna vented her anger at Sol by pounding away on Jericho in a dark cavern. Using her ability to blend into the darkness, she was always able to catch him by surprise, and even when he finally caught her, he was unable to possess her because he couldn't look her in the eyes. Knowing a hopeless situation when he saw one, Jericho forfeited the match.

Afterward, an enormous amount of tension was brought to a boiling point when Gust fought Cascade in the Gobi desert. It started out as intense, and quickly became downright furious. Cascade shaped weapons and shields out of ice, as well as firing icicles from a distance as Gust fought from the air and soon whipped up a sandstorm, and even then the action escalated when the two simultaneously accessed their elemental forms, bringing about a confrontation the likes of which had never been seen before.

Finally, the two simultaneously ran out of energy and transformed back, then each grabbed one of Cascade's icicle javelins from earlier and charged each other. Afterward, one hero fell—Cascade had defeated Gust.

"Eh, saw it coming," Miri commented.

"Still good, though," Drake shrugged. "Very suspenseful."

"That was pretty much the best fight of the tournament," Marcus told them. "But the next one's pretty good, too, and satisfying as the last of the round."

"Who's fighting?" Tyler inquired.

"The only two who haven't already fought, of course," the bandaged agent replied.

"And they are?"

"You're kidding, right?"

Just a few seconds later, the final match was declared: Robin vs. Flare, and the two surprised everyone by promising not to use any powers or gadgets, making it an old-fashioned martial arts faceoff.

The two team leaders entered the virtual reality program and found themselves, amazingly, in a martial arts dojo, and they wasted no time in wailing on each other in a fight worthy of a Bruce Lee movie.

In the end, it was Flare who fell, but still he couldn't be happier. The two shook hands and congratulated each other, Flare wishing Robin luck in the next round, and Robin hoping that they could have another match like that real soon.

"Okay," Marcus said, clapping his hands once. "Now's our narrow window of opportunity."

"FINALLY!" Cascade complained. "I was getting really tired of pretending to ignore you!"

"Yeah, bring on the beatdown!" Gust agreed. "Who's challenging whom to what?"

The Society agents removed their medallions. All canon froze, and Kyle stepped forward.

"Oh, so you want a rematch, eh?" Flare taunted, flexing his muscles.

"No," Kyle replied. "This time I'm challenging Sol."

"To what, exactry?" the Elemental of the sun inquired.

"To an all-out brawl in the Super Smash Bros fandom!"

At the mention of this, Volt started smirking evilly.

"Okay," he said. "That works for us—but let's make it a little more interesting."

"How so?" Tash asked with a scowl.

"Kyle gets three lives, and fights three different Elementals with one life each."

"At once?" Tyler gasped.

"One at a time."

"Okay…" Kyle agreed. "But I get to choose my opponents. I want you, Sol, and Cascade!"

"Deal!" Volt replied. "But we get to choose the order that you fight them."

"Deal!" Kyle shot back. "But all of the fights have to take place on the same stage!"

"Deal!" the Elemental of lightning snapped. "But we get to choose which one!"


There was a long pause.

"So…" Volt finally said. "We're, uh, we're good, then?"

"Yeah, we're good," Kyle replied.

"Right," Marcus said, rolling his eyes. "Well, anyway, you know the deal: Kyle wins and the Master of Games succeeds in his mission."

"And if Volt, Sol, and/or Cascade wins, then Kyle can't challenge us again," Gust finished.

Sighing, Marcus pulled out a Crossover and threw it to the floor. After a short quake, the Jump City community center became a gigantic room filled with comfy armchairs and famous video game characters, all of whom looked moderately surprised at the arrival of guests.

"Newcomers," Captain Falcon grunted.

"Uh… where are we, exactly?" Beastboy inquired.

"Looks like another dimension or something," Bumblebee said.

"Sort of-a," Mario informed them. "You're-a in the Super-a Smash Bros fandom-a."

"Relax," Flare assured the Titans. "We're just here to watch a quick fight—with the emphasis on 'quick'."

"Okay, then," Robin said. "We've got time for that."

"The characters in this universe know it's a fandom?" Claire whispered to Adrian.

"Super Smash Bros is a nexus fandom that links together about two dozen others," Adrian told her. "In a fandom like this, fourth wall breaks are commonplace."

"I'll start," Cascade announced, before turning to Link and asking "How do I get into the arena?"

"The arena controls, item controls, and transporters are over there," the Hylian replied, pointing to a computer monitor and four large cylinders on the other side of the room.

Volt wandered over to the monitor and punched in a few commands. "Okay," he announced after a second. "The stage and items are set—and to make it more interesting, items will be few and far between, and none of them will heal."

"Fair enough," Marcus consented, before turning to Kyle. "Destroy them, Kyle."

"Don't worry," Kyle replied, walking into the first transporter. "I will."

"We'll see," Cascade smirked, walking into the one next to his.

"Ready?" Volt asked when they were in place. They nodded and he said "Then let's brawl!"

The Elemental of lightning hit a button and the two vanished, transporting to a new location.


As soon as Kyle felt himself solidify from a very bizarre experience, he looked around and saw himself standing across from Cascade in front of what looked like a fairy tale castle.

Okay, he thought to himself. Hyrule Castle—I can work with this. Nothing difficult happens here, and there's plenty of room to maneuver. No problem.

He and Cascade took battle stances, and a booming voice yelled out "READY? BRAWL!"

Cascade wasted no time firing a jet of freezing water at her opponent, sending him reeling back. Kyle retaliated by transforming his Omni-weapon sphere into a boomerang and chucking it at her. She jumped to dodge it as it came, but it struck her in the back when she hit the ground, knocking her aside as the weapon returned to its owner.


Meanwhile, the Society and the Elementals were watching the fight on a colossal-screen TV. Some of the Titans and Smash Bros were watching, too, though others were digging into a gigantic buffet table that kept refilling itself, and a few had stricken up conversations. Samus and Starfire were noting the similarities of the Chozo and Tameranian races, and Marth and Bushido were comparing blades.

"Kyle's off to a good start," Rhia commented.

"Yes, Kyle made some good snap decisions on his opponents," Marcus noted. "Volt and Sol have very limited physical strength, and Cascade exhausted her inner water supply during her match with Gust, leaving her with almost nothing. The Elementals have their work cut out for them this time."

In response to this, the Elementals laughed out loud.

"And what's so funny?" Willie demanded, a scowl on his face.

"The fact that you think you have an advantage!" Gust snorted. "The transporter virtualizes the brawlers as it takes them to the arena, so Cascade's fighting fit!"

"And on top of that, strength and endurance are adjusted during fights!" Flare added. "If they weren't, Peach and Zelda wouldn't stand a chance! Face it—once again, we're gonna dominate!"


In the meantime, Kyle's fight was beginning to intensify. Kyle morphed his Omni-weapon into a mace and rushed forward, only to be knocked down by a jet of water from Cascade. Not wasting any time, the Elemental of water sculpted a javelin out of ice and threw it at the Society agent, nailing him in the chest. To his surprise, though, it didn't even tear his shirt, let alone break the skin. Now that he thought about it, his clothes weren't wet, either, and, even stranger, the javelin disappeared as he was thinking about this.

Weird, he thought, climbing to his feet and avoiding another javelin. This might be tougher than I thought.
Angrily, he morphed his signature tool into a trident and charged at Cascade, only to have her jump onto a platform over his head, then run left and hit him with a big block of ice.

Just as Kyle was getting frustrated, he saw an opportunity: a red and white sphere—a Pokeball—had dropped down on the far side of the arena. Cascade spotted it at the same time, but Kyle was faster. He started to sprint over to the item, only to be hit by a small (but still very powerful) tidal wave, which knocked him into the air and allowed the Elemental of water to surpass him. Kyle just smirked, though, and morphed his Omni-weapon into a mace and beaned Cascade on the noggin, gaining a momentary advantage and overtaking her, snagging the Pokeball for himself.

Not even a second after Kyle had the item in his hand, he hurled it at Cascade, doing a little damage as the ball burst open, summoning a black, catlike Pokémon with sharp claws and a crown of pink feathers on its head. The Weavile rushed eagerly forward, slashing right through Cascade, then pirouetted on the spot and ran back through her again. It did this seven or eight times as Cascade stood there, trapped, until it vanished in a flash of light.

In his head, Kyle suddenly knew the score: his KO percentage was at 49, while Cascade was at 72! That last move had taken a lot out of her! Smiling, he jumped down and morphed his Omni-weapon back into a trident, but Cascade countered with her bare hands, knocking him further back with each blow.

Summoning up his strength, Kyle once again changed his Omni-weapon into a mace and slugged Cascade with all of his might, sending her flying to the far side of the battlefield, then turned it back into a boomerang and tossed it, dealing still more damage.

Cascade scowled and leapt up to the top of an arch on the far left side of the stage and sent out another barrage of icicles that pummeled Kyle, but he just got back up and tossed his boomerang again, slowly bringing up her KO percentage.

Now visibly angry, Cascade sent out another tidal wave that knocked Kyle further backward. Regaining his composure, Kyle jumped up and forward with all of his might, but was stricken by another jet of water and sent tumbling back yet again.

Kyle gritted his teeth, cursing inwardly as he instinctively felt his KO percentage rise slightly above Cascade's. It was becoming obvious that he was never going to win unless he got in close. Realizing that, he came up with a strategy.

Swiftly, the Society agent leapt over to the gap in the ground just to the right of the castle and fell into the hole, then ran over to the small piece of land under the stage.

Once there, he did absolutely nothing.


"What's Kyle doing?" Claire mused. "He can't attack Cascade from down there, can he?"

"Show some faith in him," Marcus smirked. "He tied last time, remember?"

"Yes," Flare replied. "But he won't be so lucky this time—I guarantee it," he finished ominously.


Kyle's plan worked like a charm. Betrayed by her own sadistic and impatient nature, Cascade hurried down at top speed to attack her opponent, only to be countered when Kyle morphed his Omni-weapon into a grappling hook, snatching Cascade, pulling her in, spinning her around, and ultimately tossing her off the left side of the screen, killing her on impact.


"Wow!" Fox McCloud cheered. "Nice maneuver!"

"I'll say," Speedy admired. "But… uh, can we go home now?"

"A leetle longer," Luna sighed, watching Cascade emerge red-faced from a transporter and another Elemental take her place. "Ze best eez yet to come."


Kyle had time to climb up to the platform where he'd started before his next opponent materialized on his right. It was Sol, radiant and glowing.

Instantly, Sol held up his hand. A beam of light shot out of it, but Kyle jumped and dodged just in time. To his incredible surprise, though, the light bounced off of the arch on the far side of the stage and struck him in the back, knocking him down hard!


"What just happened?" Drake gaped, staring at the screen (Kyle's KO percentage had just broken a hundred).

"Sol's B-button attack, apparently," Gust chuckled. "Dr. Mario's bounces along the ground, Pikachu's clings to walls and floors, Samus' can be charged up, and it looks like Sol's ricochets off the arena."

"But it wasn't even a reflective surface!" Marcus argued.

"We told you that the rules were different here!" Gust shot back, still laughing snidely. "Kyle will just have to start expecting the unexpected."


Sol turned out to be a remarkably speedy brawler. Before Kyle even hit the ground, he lunged forward and began pummeling him with a barrage of Karate chops, and then, before Kyle could even blink, struck with a vicious uppercut and sent him flying until he was nothing more than a speck in the distance.

Dying was surprisingly comfortable for Kyle. As he was flying through the air, he suddenly felt himself disappear and reappear on a floating white platform in the center of the battlefield. In mere seconds, the platform disappeared and he dropped down, ready to brawl some more.

Well, he thought, at least my KO percentage's reset.

Eager to start smashing again, Kyle charged Sol, his Omni-weapon back in the form of a mace. Sol smirked and shot of another ray of light, but Kyle was too fast for him this time, leaping up and over the Elemental of the sun and striking him down from the other side as the beam flew harmlessly into the sky.

Just then, Kyle noticed another item drop down, landing just on the other side of the pit that led to the stage's lower level. He jumped over, but overshot it, landing too far away and watching helplessly as Sol grabbed it instead. Smirking, the Elemental tossed the small item at Kyle, who expertly dodged as the device flew past him and seemingly disappeared somewhere around the far right edge of the stage.

Relieved at the item's apparent uselessness, Kyle resumed fighting with renewed vigor, changing his Omni-weapon into a naginata and knocking Sol into the air, then jumping up and hitting him with a mace, sending Sol careening left, where Kyle met him on the ground with a trident. He opened his mouth to jeer at the Elemental, but found that his lips refused to part. It made sense—many characters don't talk during a fight, even when using their taunt.

While Kyle was distracted by this, Sol recovered and demonstrated a new move: he held out a book and it emitted a bright light that sucked Kyle in, trapping him within the book. Sol then used this opportunity to move in and hit Kyle with a barrage of slaps, slowly raising his KO percentage.


"He sealed him in a book?" Bowser exclaimed. "That is a new one!"

"Well, Sol did use it on Malchior," Kid Flash remembered.

"Somehow, I think this will be less effective," Harriet said.


Harriet's hypothesis was soon supported when, in the middle of one of Sol's slaps, the book burst open and Kyle reappeared, striking Sol hard with his mace.

The Elemental of the sun reacted angrily to Kyle's swift counterattack, seizing him with his telekinesis and hurling him across the stage. Kyle was prepared to hurry back over when he saw another item drop down, this one a black ray gun right in front of Sol.

Sol seized the weapon and fired off three quick shots, damaging Kyle further, but Kyle learned from this and moved forward, dodging the next four shots before taking another. That did little to slow him down, though, as he instantly recovered and jumped to avoid the next two shots, finally reaching Sol and hitting him with a newly-formed trident and then a naginata. Still, Sol had a good lead—his KO percent was at 39, while Kyle's was 71!

Eagerly, Sol fired another shot from his blaster, stunning his opponent, and then conjured a big, glowing orb of light and flung it forward, sending Kyle flying past the far right edge of the arena.

Flailing, Kyle jumped as far over as he could, and then jumped again, just barely catching hold of the stage's edge and climbing up, only to catch two more shots from Sol's gun, but he took them stoically, jumping as far left as he could to get over to Sol.

This isn't working, he realized. The Omni-weapon just isn't gonna cut it this time! I need more options! Hey... he thought. I wonder…

Concentrating hard, Kyle found himself undergoing a change. His clothes became heavier and more durable, and the Omni-weapon shrank down and turned into a tiny pendant on a necklace.

Eager to test his new theory, Kyle leapt at Sol and delivered an extremely strong two-handed punch that knocked both him and the Elemental in opposite directions, both of them suffering damage, but Sol's much worse. It had worked!


"What's going on?" Beastboy asked. "One minute the kid's fighting with weapons, the next he's bare-handed!"

"He's using his innate abilities!" Willie cheered. "I bet Sol didn't predict this!"

"But… how is it done?" Popo and Nana, the Ice Climbers, inquired.

"I think it's like Zelda transforming into Sheik," Marcus surmised. "At least, that's my theory."

"Yeah… let me know when things start making sense again," Aqualad said.


Sol had been forced to the far left edge of the stage, but he immediately recovered and shot off another laser, striking Kyle in the chest, and followed up with another orb of light. Kyle dodged that, then leapt over to the left side of the arena and slammed down his foot, sending off a series of explosions from him to his opponent that threw them both into the air, but suddenly Sol teleported up and right, landing on Kyle's other side and hitting him with two more gun blasts when he landed!

Sol tried to fire the gun again, but found that no more shots remained. Annoyed, he simply chucked the item at his opponent for a little more damage before it vanished in a puff of smoke.

Getting angry, Kyle held his hands together and conjured a glowing, rainbow-colored sphere of energy and flung it at Sol, blowing him way off to the right, but Sol teleported back up and shot another orb of light at his opponent.

That was too much for Kyle. He was blown off of the stage, breaking the fourth wall as he hit the screen and fell to his death.


"Two lives down, and just one to go," Cascade smirked. "Sol's doing great work."

"Much better than you did," Gust sneered.

"Perhaps," King DeDeDe commented. "But look at his KO percentage. He's at 113%! One good attack'll send him flying!"

"Whatever," Flare shrugged. "We still have one fighter left in reserve."

"Just-a don't-a end it-a too soon," Luigi laughed, shoveling popcorn into his mouth, his moustache drowning in butter. "This-a's a great-a show!"


Kyle reappeared on a floating platform in the center of the stage, then eagerly leapt down and to the right, then moved in on his opponent with a two-handed punch, but Sol erected a red energy bubble around himself to block it, nullifying the effect, then removed the shield and used his telekinesis to toss Kyle into the air, only to have Kyle come down with a strong punch, knocking Sol back.

Out of nowhere, there was a huge explosion, and Sol was blown to kingdom come. The item he'd thrown down earlier was a motion-sensor bomb, and he'd just set it off!


"Beginner's mistake, kid," Falco laughed as Sol emerged from the transporter. "Remembering the traps you've set is day one stuff!"

"It was pretty bad, man," Cyborg agreed.

Volt rolled his eyes and turned his back on the group, letting out a huge flash of lightning, probably in frustration. "Looks like I'm batting cleanup," he grumbled, walking into the transporter.

The Society agents looked at one another.

"Did his voice sound different to you?" Lauren inquired, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, no," Marcus groaned, clapping a hand to his forehead.


Kyle was stunned when he saw the form that materialized in the center of the stage. Volt's armor was there, but Volt himself wasn't! It was just an empty suit, moving and fighting on its own!'

After a second, Kyle realized what was happening: Volt had accessed his elemental form and withdrawn into his armor to reduce his vulnerability! Now he'd be even tougher to beat!

Determined not to let this stop him, Kyle moved in for another two-handed punch, but Volt met him head-on with a strong electric charge. Then, while Kyle was stunned, he ran over and slashed through him with a sniper attack, and then he did it again, and again, and again.

Kyle disrupted the pattern with one good blow to the armor's chest, then sent out a flurry of small, fast punches, slowly racking up damage before sending Volt flying to the left side of the arena with another stomp-generated explosion.

Volt came to quickly, then ran directly under Kyle's platform and conjured a huge bolt of lightning that knocked the agent into the air, but Kyle came down with another explosion, then another rainbow-colored sphere that knocked Volt further back. Volt retaliated with a sniper attack, but Kyle countered with a basic punch. The score now stood with Kyle at 52% and Volt at 44%.

Volt sent another electric charge at Kyle, then swept low with a Karate chop to his legs. Kyle struck back with yet another two-handed blow that sent them both into the air, but then, out of the blue, Volt's armor sprouted metallic wings! Volt jetted up and slammed right into the Society agent, but Kyle let off another ground explosion when he got down, racking up both of their KO percentages.

Suddenly, on the far left side of the stage, an item fell down—one that both players were very happy to see. It was a starman, a glowing, star-shaped item that could spell victory or defeat in this match!

The starman bounced along merrily as the two fighters rushed to get it. Volt was ahead, but Kyle hit him from behind with another energy sphere, blowing them both into the air. The both made mad swipes and—


"KYLE-SAN GOT IT!" Aster whooped in ecstasy as she saw Kyle enveloped in a rainbow-colored light. "HE'S INVINCIBLE!"

"FOR NOW!" Cascade snapped. "The starman's effect is very temporary! This isn't a victory—it's just a momentary advantage!"


Temporary or not, Kyle had never felt better than the moment he'd absorbed the starman. He felt like he could climb Mt. Everest, dive to the bottom of the ocean's deepest trench, and take on a rabid mountain lion, all with one hand tied behind his back!

His spirit strengthened, Kyle leapt down and beaned Volt with another two-handed punch, then let loose another flurry of punches and finished with a ground explosion, sending Volt careening off the far right side of the stage. It took him both of his jumps and the help of Project Icarus to get back on, only to have Kyle come at him with another ground explosion, but this time Volt protected himself by conjuring a red bubble identical to Sol's.

In perhaps his only free second, Volt used Project Icarus to escape to Kyle's other side and made a run for it, jumping to dodge the rainbow sphere that Kyle sent after him.

Then, just a second later, Kyle returned to his normal, fully vulnerable self, and worse, when he checked the current KO percentages, he discovered that even when invincible he'd been taking damage from his own attacks!

I can't afford to keep damaging myself like this! he thought desperately.

In an instant Kyle was back in his old clothes, the Omni-weapon clutched tight in his hand, turning into a mace as he lunged at the Elemental of lightning, only to be caught in another electric charge. Quickly regaining his composure, Kyle struck with a trident, knocking Volt back, and then threw a boomerang for further damage.

Just then, another item fell into the arena. It was a huge mallet, right on the other side of the pit that split the stage in twain. Kyle was closer, but Volt tore ahead of him with a sniper attack. Just when Volt jumped, though, Kyle hit him with his naginata and scooped the item for himself.

As soon as the hammer was in his hands, Kyle's movements went into autopilot, swinging it up and down at top speed. He could jump and slowly move left and right, but that was it. Something else was wrong, though. The weapon felt… lighter than it should have. Kyle quickly realized why—the hammer's head had flown off when he'd started swinging, leaving him with nothing but a useless handle!

Volt seized his opportunity, moving over and snatching up the hammer's head and hurling it at his opponent. Kyle tried to avoid it, but his movements were too limited. It struck him dead-center and sent him flying into the stage's far left boundary, killing him on impact.


Back in the lounge, the Society agents groaned in unison as the screen shifted scenes, now displaying Volt's armor striking a confident pose, Project Icarus spread out, and Kyle in a small box beside him, clapping sarcastically.

"THIS GAME'S WINNER IS… VOLT!" the bodiless voice from before boomed.

Angrily, Tash stomped her foot. "Could this get any worse?" she screamed.

"I think you just squashed Captain Olimar," Marcus told her.

A second later, the screen went blank and the fighters emerged from the transporters, Volt to cheers and applause from Titans and Smash Bros alike, Kyle to silent disappointment and half-hearted reassurances from the rest of the Society.

"Sorry, guys," Kyle sighed.

"It's too bad," Marcus told him. "The Crossover was just seconds from—" Suddenly there was a short quake and all signs of the Super Smash Bros fandom disappeared, and all canon froze. "—timing out."

"Let's just leave," Kyle grumbled, opening a portal to the Library Arcanium and leaping through. Silently, the others followed.


Back in the Library's monitor room, the Society watched the story unfold.

After all the first round matches, an intermission was declared, giving the heroes time to rest, or at least it would have had the Master of Games not attacked. Quickly, one by one, he absorbed the heroes into his magical jewel, stealing their powers, snatching about half of them in the course of a minute. Some of them resisted better than others—the Herald kept teleporting around, Jericho tried to possess the Master of Games and failed miserably, and Sol redeemed himself with Luna by defending her from one of the Master of Games' attacks, though they were both taken soon after. Then, to assert his supremacy, he turned on the cameras to broadcast a worldwide message of his superiority as he single-handedly eliminated all the Teen Titans.

"What an egomaniac!" Tash groaned.

"Perhaps," Cristoph said. "But it does not seem fully unfounded."

Though a fearsome battle raged on, the Master of Games continued to steal more and more Titans until only a small handful remained: Beastboy, Jinx, Thunder, Bumblebee, and Larry, all of whom were becoming anxious, even after Jinx accessed her elemental form for the first time.

Suddenly, the Master of Games began to show signs of weakening. The Titans didn't know it, but this was because when the Master of Games had absorbed Cyborg, he'd broken free of Brother Blood's mind control, and without it he couldn't take the stress of so many heroes inside of him. The remaining heroes took advantage of this and did everything they could to split his focus, which these five heroes were particularly good at doing. When he finally collapsed, clutching his head in immense pain, they broke the gem and freed heroes and villains alike, and, after a quick tag-team brawl, carted the villains off to prison, discovering that their defeat of the Master of Games had been broadcast worldwide, and had raised over two billion dollars for charity.

The story ended ambiguously, not showing any of the rest of the tournament matches, or indeed, the winner. All that was shown was the heroes preparing to continue the event.

"Weird ending," Michael commented when it was over. "Kind of petered out, didn't it?"

"Yeah," Tyler said. "Who won?"

"It doesn't matter," Marcus sighed. "The story was about the teamwork and friendship between the Titans, not proving who was superior."

"Then why'd you write all the first round fights?" Drake inquired.

"Boredom, mostly. But we're getting off-track. We have only two stories left, and we're officially out of ideas! If we only had more experience battling teenage superhero Sues…"

Suddenly, the more long-standing agents exchanged significant looks.

"Marcus," Tash said. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"I think I am," he replied with a grin. "And I think it's our best shot!"


"Are you kidding?" a girl's haughty voice laughed from within the high-tech thermos when the agents explained their situation. "What makes you think I'd ever give you any help?"

Adrian smirked and began shaking the thermos up and down as hard as he could.

"OKAY, OKAY!" Spirit screamed. "I'LL TALK! Now, if you want to take down a teenage superhero Sue, here's the best advice I can give you…"


"So, how long, may I ask, are you expecting to remain in my humble abode?" the Replicant asked Tash, currently mimicking her form, but with a full head of hair.

"As long as it takes," the Society leader replied, staring at the motionless Slade, Brother Blood, and Cinderblock. "As long as you're interacting with a non-canon character, canon will remain frozen. I just need to stay put to buy us some time before the next challenge."

"Yes," the Replicant responded, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "And I'm sure my old nemeses will never catch on!"

"Of course they will," Tash sighed. "But at this point every second counts."

"Yes," the villain replied. "I've noticed that the Elementals have been getting stronger with each completed story. Soon they could become unstoppable, especially here. Even Blessed Prohibitors won't affect them in their home fandom."

There was a long, boring silence between the two before Tash finally spoke up.

"So… what's it like in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas? Living there, I mean."

The shapeshifter looked nonplussed, gaping at the Society leader and eyeing her quizzically. "Why do you want to know about that?" he inquired incredulously. "After all, it's not as if you'll ever end up there!"

"Just bored," she shrugged. "And a little curious about how the Elementals became what they are. There are some pieces missing from the picture, you see."

The rogue Elemental (in the story's sense; to Tash he was the only one who hadn't turned) continued to stare at her with his piercing yellow eyes, but he smiled and recited a poem.

"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags,
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?"

"Langston Hughes was wrong on every guess," he said with a shake of his head. "First and foremost, the Vault of Abandoned Ideas is a terrible and depressing place. There are an infinite number of ideas wandering aimlessly around an endless pocket dimension, each giving off the distinct impression of a dream denied, an opportunity forsaken. Most of these are mere wisps that only just skated across a dreamer's mind. They lack substance and, because of this, are not self-aware. Furthermore, many of them are exactly the same idea, and those travel in groups, becoming even more indistinguishable from one another. Those are the lucky ones, with no sense of self and plenty of company—a bit like bees without duties or a queen."

"And… the unlucky ones?" Tash asked.

"Well, there are somewhat luckier ones that were only slightly more developed ideas, having definite physical forms, but little sense of self. They're like animals: aware of their surroundings, but incapable of sentient thought and complex emotion.

"Above those are even more detailed ideas, abandoned after their creators started writing them, but were never finished."

"Ideas like you," Tash said with a solemn nod.

"Not quite. You see, these ideas went unfinished in both writing and planning. There are large chunks missing from them, never to be revealed. These ideas are fully aware of their existence, and are quite unhappy with it, but at the very least understand that there was a somewhat justifiable reason for their desertion, though they all feel that had their creators kept at it, their stories would've ended up completed.

"And then, at the very top of the totem pole, are ideas like the Elementals: fully planned and detailed stories that, for some reason, were never finished, even though the author had everything figured out. These ideas are completely aware of their existence (or lack thereof), but very, very rare, and their loneliness makes them all the more bitter. They hold unparalleled rage at their creators for being too lazy or too apathetic to simply write them down, for those are the only reasons for their abandonment."

"Just a tick," Tash vocalized. "The only reasons? What if the author died mid-project?"

"Such ideas are not truly 'abandoned' by the creator," the Replicant said, shaking his (or Tash's) head, a wistful look in his yellow eyes. "So they don't end up in the vault."

"Mm-hm," the Society leader said. "So, why aren't you mad about being sent there?"

"I was at first," the shapeshifter replied. "But then I realized, as the villain of the saga, I would just end up washing out in every attempt I made. Furthermore, the vault's interior is stocked with every story ever conceived, finished or otherwise, so there's always something to do—it's just that most of the vault's residents never get over their fate and enjoy it. And, on top of that, as a finished idea, I had considerable popularity among the incomplete for some reason. Honestly, it wasn't a bad life for an idea destined to fail, but I was an incredible minority there.

"Oh, and of course, being a villain, I revel in the misery of those around me, so the Vault of Abandoned Ideas was more like heaven than hell to me."

"Uh-huh," was all that Tash could manage. The Replicant may have been her ally, but she couldn't help but feel contempt for his savagery.

"Well, enough about me," the shapeshifter finally said after another long, awkward silence. "How about you? What's it like running that Society of yours?"


"And a couple of minutes after that, the Elementals busted in and told me that if I didn't leave or provide a challenger, they wouldn't hesitate to kill me."

"We know, Tash," Harriet sighed. "We saw the whole thing on the monitor.

"That's why we sent in Camille to hold them off with a challenge in Dragonball GT," Michael reported. "The giant board game in Sugoroku Space ought to buy us a little more time."

"And the Elementals will be slightly less challenging since the story just started," Claire added. "Even if it's only a few seconds in."

"As long as it buys Adrian time," Harriet nodded. "Though, of course, winning would be nice."

"Maybe I should check on him…" Tash suggested.

"No!" Harriet insisted. "That kind of distraction is the last thing he needs at a time like this! He needs to focus more than ever before!"


Over in another, far quieter section of the Library Arcanium, Adrian sat amidst mountainous piles of books, poring over each one in turn as Marcus, Valerie, Danielle, Stacey, Terrie, Monika, and Rhia occasionally carried in more and more from the shelves around them. Adrian had lived a long, long time, mostly within the confines of this very library, but even he hadn't read all of the books within it, or even one one-thousandth of their vast numbers, but now he was forced to not only read a considerable number of them, but memorize them as well. Even for him, it was quite a strain.

"You sure we can stall long enough?" he asked the nearest agent (which happened to be Rhia) without looking up.

"I don't know," she replied with a shake of her head. "But Camille is holding them off now, and Doyle will be in later to challenge them to a fight in slow-mo mode in Viewtiful Joe, and then the Darkness is up for a straight-up brawl in its home fandom, so those should buy us at least an hour, right?"

"If we're lucky," Marcus sighed, having been standing right next to her. "There's no denying that the Elementals are tough, and they may well be onto us by now. If so, they're sure to stop showboating and fight fast. We need to be prepared."

"I'm doing the best that I can!" the Librarian snapped. All this cramming had made him quite testy. "Now, will you all keep it down and let me prepare in peace?"

Marcus, Valerie, Danielle, Stacey, Terrie, Monika, and Rhia all nodded and rushed off to find more relevant books.


Forty-five minutes later, Harriet called everyone into the monitor room.

"I take it that our stall challenges had little success?" Valerie inquired when she arrived.

"Well… yes and no," Lauren reported. "We didn't win, obviously, but we held them off as long as we could."

"That's all we can ask for at this point," Marcus told her. "As it is, we just don't have any more time."

"Can we at least see the story's setup?" Tyler pleaded, eyes glued to the screen.

Marcus sighed, but nodded.

Apparently, the second Tournament of Heroes had just ended (it was revealed that, surprisingly, Bobby had won), and most of the teenage superheroes were going home, but the Elementals were staying behind to brainstorm with the Titans over the location of the Tome of the Elementals. They didn't make much progress until Malchior mentioned past lives, which gave Raven the idea to contact an Elemental's past life through magic. The Elementals drew straws and concluded that Volt would be the spell's guinea pig.

Using this ancient magic, the heroes accessed Volt's past life from 5,000 years ago, whom Cyborg was shocked to discover he knew. It was Sarasim, a barbarian with whom Cyborg had shared a short but very meaningful friendship.

At the team's request, Sarasim gave a brief summary of her tenure on the ancient Elementals. Like the current ones, they were a team of do-gooders that traveled around to wherever they were needed, solving problems, but with a few differences—most importantly, there weren't eight Elementals: there were nine—fire, water, lightning, wind, earth, sun, moon, luck, and life. It turned out that the Replicant was an Elemental as well (unlike the audience, the Elementals didn't know this yet), and was originally a barbarian named Trott, brother of Cyborg's old enemy Krall. He had the ability to combine the powers of the team in himself or another, but had gotten greedy when he'd inadvertently taken a piece of Sarasim's power.

Trott's alteration went unnoticed for a while, thanks to the terrible threat of Malchior, the wicked dragon that had hoarded spellbooks, destroyed the Elementals' magic power-focusing artifacts, and, worst of all, recently gotten his talons on the Tome of the Elementals, the key to understanding their powers and keeping them united in future incarnations.

The team invaded Malchior's base, attempting to steal back the book, but failed miserably. Not only did they fail to retrieve it, but Fataea, soothsayer and Elemental of the moon, perished that day, shortly after predicting that one of their team would turn, and they must be wary.

In his rage, Rorek, battle-mage, Elemental of the sun, and Fataea's lover, fought Malchior on his own the next day, managing to seal the wicked wyrm in one of his own spellbooks and retrieve the Tome. The Elementals rejoiced, but not for long, as Trott soon attempted to steal the rest of Sarasim's powers, despite the fact that they used to share a love as deep as Rorek and Fataea's. The team repelled him and Rorek used a spell from the Tome that reversed Trott's power flow, making him unable to steal any more powers without ending his own life.

Apoplectic, Trott lethally injured Rorek, then fled. Kaume, the current Elemental of water, tried to heal him, but the grief of losing Fataea caused Rorek to die that day.

Knowing that Trott (who then and there became the Replicant) could steal the Tome and use it to reverse the others' power flows, the team decided to have Yosef, the klutzy Elemental of luck, the only remaining good Elemental with magical ability, and Rorek's apprentice, use a relocation spell to hide it. Unfortunately, just when he was to set the Tome's location, Yosef sneezed, losing the Tome forever.

After that, the only advice that Sarasim could offer was that the Tome was likely to go where it would belong, like a magical library. Unfortunately, the only one that they'd known existed back then was Malchior's, which they'd searched time and again and found nothing.

Raven, however, found that she knew of another magical library that had existed even then, and could take the Elementals right to it!

"Oh, no way!" Michael shouted. "They are not about to enter the Library Arcanium!"

"Of course not!" Marcus sighed in exasperation. "I didn't even know what the Library Arcanium was when I conceived this idea! Now, just keep watching!"

It turned out that the magical library was the ruined one that the Titans had investigated just before Trigon had come to earth. It was revealed that this place had existed since the beginning of human civilization, as it was prophesized that it would set up the portal for the coming of a higher being.

Unfortunately, the Tome of the Elementals wasn't there, either. Everyone was disappointed, until they discovered that a plentitude of books were missing from the ends of the shelves in long rows. The Titans realized that when the portal to Azerath had opened, some of the books must've fallen through—maybe even the Tome!

Raven offered to open a portal to her home dimension, but warned that it would only be strong enough to bring her and one other, and there was no telling what they might find there. Flare volunteered, and the gateway was opened.

"Now?" Rhia asked.

"Just a second," Marcus replied with a wave of his gloved hand.

Upon stepping through, Raven and Flare saw something that Raven thought she'd never see again—her mother, Arella.

Arella, as it was revealed, had survived her evil ex-lover's attempt to murder her, although she was terribly weakened and might never recover.

As Raven endeavored to use her powers to heal her mother, she and Flare explained their reason for visiting. Then, to their incredible shock, Arella reached into her robe and handed something to Flare.

They had found the Tome of the Elementals.

"Okay," Marcus said, clapping his hands together. "Now's the time. Michael, Doyle, Drake, Ben, and Cristoph, stay behind and help me with something. Everyone else, get in and declare the challenge."

Everyone nodded as Tash opened a portal to the Teen Titans fandom and most of the Society jumped in.


The Society agents blinked in amazement as they gazed at the dimension of Azerath. It was beyond description: light and dark, chaotic and orderly, alive and dead. The only thing that could be said for certain was that it was incredible that anyone could live here without going completely bonkers.

"Oh, great," Flare said, not even bothering to turn and look at the agents as Raven and Arella froze. "I wonder what's going to happen now?"

"Yes, yes, we're all tired of the process by now," Tash sighed. "But it's the only process we have, so let's just get on with it."

Just then, another portal opened and the six remaining agents emerged. Drake and Ben were each holding a strange brown seashell and a ham radio, and Marcus, Michael, Cristoph, and Doyle were struggling to carry a booth made of solid glass, just big enough to hold two people, with a door on the front and speakers mounted on the outside. Gingerly, the agents set down their loads next to Flare.

"And… what are these?" Flare inquired, staring at the strange deliveries.

"They're for the challenge," Marcus said simply, trying to wring the sweat from his bandages.

"Uh-huh," Flare said, rolling his eyes and finally turning to face his enemies. "And, uh, what exactly would that be?"

Smirking, Adrian stepped forward. "It would be a game of riddles against me!" he announced. "First to answer incorrectly loses on the spot!"

"Riddles!" a voice rang out, just before Gust popped in. "I'll take this one! I have the most creative mind!"

"But not the best!" Volt snapped as he appeared. "I have an IQ of 265!"

"IT WAS A TYPO!" the entire Society shouted, but it went unnoticed as Sol, Luna, Cascade, and, surprisingly, Jinx materialized next to their teammates.

"I have the best grasp of riterature!" Sol asserted. "I should take this one!"

"You do not!" Luna snarled at him. "I 'ave studied far more leeterature zan you, and I can see zee future to boot! I can foretell answers!"

"Hey!" Flare boomed. "The bookworm challenged me, so I'll be the one to beat him!"

"Have any of you considered that Jinx is still our slave, and sharp as a tack?" Cascade sneered. "She'd do just as well as any of you losers!"

"Would not!"

"Would too!"

"I'm the smartest!"

"I'm the most creative!"

"He challenged me!"

"I want to face 'eem!"

"Fat chance!"

"Man, you're popular today!" Miri muttered to Adrian as the Elementals squabbled.

"They all want to be the one to crush our last hope," Marcus told her.

"This challenge is mine!"

"No, it's mine!"

"You're both wrong!"

"Yes, it wirr be mine!"

"No, it's Jinx's!"

"SILENCE!" a new, terrifyingly loud voice screeched above them all, forcing everyone, Elemental and agent alike, to hold their ears in pain. It kept echoing off the walls, and the tone and pitch kept changing, making it impossible to identify. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR BICKERING! YOU ARE A CRACK TEAM OF SUE MERCENARIES, AND IT'S TIME YOU STARTED ACTING LIKE IT!"

"B-but—" Gust stammered, but he was swiftly cut off.


"Oh, really?" Tash shouted to the sky. "And just who in the multiverse do you think you are, barging in on a private matter like this?"

"WHO AM I?" the voice jeered. "WHY TASH, I'M DOWNRIGHT INSULTED!"

"Just show yourself!" the Society leader interrupted, in no mood for games.


With that, a new form began to materialize just in front of Tash. Unlike the Elementals, who had appeared in the blink of an eye, this one took its time, starting as a faceless, perfect-skinned, and totally androgynous figure, about 5'7", but even then it radiated a godlike level of perfection.

Slowly, delicately, the figure began to change shape, becoming decidedly female, about 23, and very curvy. It had ample breasts, a slim waist, a toned stomach, perfect thighs, and a bottom that any woman would commit murder to have. Her feet shrank to a size that Barbie would envy, and her hands shaped into a flawless manicure.

As the figure sprouted flowing auburn hair down to her ankles and her face formed, she decided to toss her hair back and open her mouth wide to display her sparkling, flawless teeth as she let out a sweet laugh that brought to mind angels singing in perfect harmony.

Then the figure's clothes appeared—barely. All she had on (aside from a trendy rucksack and a lime green iPod Nano) was a tiny pink miniskirt and a matching miniscule tube top that revealed not only the figure's midriff, but a great deal of cleavage as well.

Finally, the figure stopped laughing and moved right up to Tash, forcing the Society leader to stare into her newly-formed eyes, which were a deep shade of violet and carried much mystery and pain of a savage past—as if their owner had, say, had her parents tragically killed by Lord Voldemort aboard a pirate ship. How these eyes could be so clear and yet still carry mystery seemed impossible, but they did anyway.

"Hello, Tash," the figure said.

"…no… way," was all that Tash could manage.

"Way," the figure replied, for it was indeed the Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society's oldest and greatest foe: Willowe Diamond Honeysuckle Alisonette Ravenne Hyacinth Aurelia Sakurelle Dewdrop Arwennia Heliotrope Appleflower Sandriline Delilah Aphrodite Bob Yuffiana Swainsona Vipertooth Foxblade the Third.

"Liberator!" Flare breathed, just before kneeling and bowing down. The other Elementals followed his lead, save for Jinx, who hesitated for a couple of seconds, then mimicked the others.

"Can I get you anything, great Liberator?" Cascade offered. "Tea? Brandy? Ambrosia?"

"Not right now," Willowe Diamond Honeysuckle Alisonette my fingers are too sore to retype the whole name anytime soon replied. "And sheesh, just copy and paste it!"

"She's a goddess, commanding the narrator like that," Volt sighed, his voice thick with lust.

"Oh, you're sweet, Volt," she said, blowing the Elemental of lightning a kiss. "It's too bad I'm spoken for. Anyway," the vision of perfection continued, flipping her gorgeous locks as she turned to face Adrian. "As I've made quite clear, I will be taking this riddle challenge in my trainees' place.

"You've got a lot of nerve showing your face in front of the entire Society like this, Willowe!" Harriet seethed. "And you're about to regret it!"

Numerous agents pulled out their Prohibitors, but Ben was the quickest. He lunged at Harriet's creation, but in the blink of an eye Gust had restrained him.

"I'm sorry, buddy," he hissed in Ben's ear. "But I'd be a pretty lousy soldier if I allowed you to capture my commanding officer."

There was a loud CRACK!, and Ben's eyes filled with tears of pain. Gust had just broken his arms.

"You monster!" Shirley screamed. "Only I can do that to Ben! Unhand him this instant!"

"Of course," the wind Elemental responded, dropping Ben to the ground, where he cried out in pain.

"Let that be a lesson to you," Willowe sneered. "If you ever dare to attack me, my army will make you wish you were never born—just the kind of gratitude I expect after freeing them from the vault and spending months training them."

"We shall 'eed your every command, great Leeberator," Luna muttered.

"Yes, yes," Willowe said absently, before addressing the Society again. "Now, as you've probably guessed, I have as much control of this saga as any of the Elementals, and more than some, and I've been watching from the sidelines since the very beginning, wondering at my protégés' progress. Now, however, I've begun to tire of these constant interruptions, so it's about time I intervened. This time, Adrian, the wager will be different, and I'm open to haggling, so let's talk turkey."

Adrian growled, but finally spoke. "Valerie," he said. "You, Camille, and Shirley take Ben back to the Library Arcanium. Se what you can do for his arms."

"Of course," the empath responded, shooting open a portal. Then, with Camille's help, she carefully carried their injured friend back to their base, with Shirley close behind.

"Okay," Marcus said when they were gone. "Now, what is it that you want, Willowe?"

"What is it that I want, you ask?" the Sue replied thoughtfully. "Oh, an interesting question. I, like everyone else, want many things. I want you Society twerps to stop meddling in my affairs, but we all know that that isn't going to happen. I also want to become the unquestioned queen of the multiverse, and I want a diet soda that doesn't have that gross aftertaste. I want candy. I want a new drug—one that won't make me sick. One that won't make me crash my car, or make me feel three feet thick. I want—"

"Get on with it!" Harriet ordered, going red in the face.

"Oh, you did not just interrupt our great Liberator!" Cascade snarled, growing razor-sharp, claw-like icicles over her fingers.

"Silence, Cascade," Willowe said calmly, tossing her hair again just for the heck of it. "My old friend Harriet just wants to get down to business."

"Too true," Harriet replied. "Except for the 'friend' part…" she added under her breath.

"Now," Willowe continued. "I'm sure the planned wager for this challenge was that if Adrian won, the saga would end, and if he lost, he couldn't challenge the Elementals again. That's all well and good, but I think we're long overdue to sweeten the pot, don't you?"

"And what exactly do you have in mind?" Adrian inquired, still staring Willowe down.

"Oh, just a quicker, easier solution. Tell you what: If you win, I'll not only end the saga, but the Elementals will allow you to take them prisoner without so much as a fight."

"WHAT!" Sol and Luna cried out.

"You would serr us out for a mere contest!" Sol gasped. "How could you!"

"I thought zat we were your greatest accompleeshment, great Leeberator!" Luna added.

"You are, my little cherubs," Willowe chortled. "And you'll be my key to victory when my next plan comes to fruition."

"Plan?" Tash echoed. "What plan?"

"Oh, nothing you need to worry yourself over right now, but while we're on the subject, I haven't made clear the conditions should I win this little bout. Not only will no Society agent be allowed my beloved protégés again, but Adrian will give me a certain something that I want."

"And what's that?" the Librarian scowled.

"Oh, just a minor prize," was Willowe's reply. "A trifle, really. You see, I've recently gained an interest in a few odd items, but they've proven hard to research. I managed to snatch up a couple of things when I invaded your library, but I still need a lot more.

"So, obviously, if I win, you have to hand over every last scrap of information you have on these subjects."

"Forget it!" Adrian snapped. "I'd never give away any of the Library Arcanium's data to a disgusting creature like you!"

"HOW DARE YOU!" Volt raged, his face purple and contorted with ire. "You have some nerve, insulting the most perfect being of all time!"

The Elemental of lightning leapt at the Librarian, but Willowe effortlessly held him back. "No, Volt," she told him. "They're right. Maybe that price was a little too high. I guess I could settle for a different trophy—perhaps…Tash's head on a plaque? That seems fair."

"Absolutely not!" Adrian shouted over the collective gasps of his allies. "Something like that is never worth the risk!"

"Well, you'd better choose which wager is more dangerous, because unless you ante up one of my demands you'll never stop this saga, and the Elementals and I will take both of them by force!"

There was a long, angry silence before Adrian finally spoke again. "What, exactly, do you want information on?"

Willowe smiled her dazzling smile and moved over to whisper something into the Librarian's ear. When she was done, his look of rage was replaced by one of perplexion.

"What do you want with those?" he gaped.

"That's my business," she replied, still smiling. "Frankly, I planned to get my hands on that data the last time I was in, but, well, fate had other plans—" at this, the Elementals grinned and nodded "—and instead, I found a strike force with more Sue potential than I'd ever seen—even if it took a few months of merciless drilling to bring it out. As it is, I was only able to steal a small piece of the information I needed, and this is the perfect chance to get the rest.

"So," she finished. "Do we have a deal?"

Adrian turned and looked into the eyes of each Society agent, from Tash's determined glare to Emily's understandable cowering to Jess' hopeful glance to Aster's vacant stare. He finally stopped on Marcus, whose bandages and clip-on shades made his expression completely unreadable. The Elementals' creator gave the tiniest nod, and Adrian spun around to face Willowe.

"I'll do it."

"Excerrent!" Sol commented. "Then the game is on!"

"So… what are zese theengs for?" Luna inquired, pointing to the odd items that the agents had delivered.

"They aid in the challenge," Marcus explained. "I had the idea just recently…



"No! No flashback!" he suddenly shouted. "I was in the tub when I came up with it! Anyway, the booth is where it will take place, since, when the door is sealed, it's completely soundproof. The speakers on the outside will allow the spectators to hear what the competitors say, but the competitors won't be disturbed by the fans' talking. Furthermore, the viewers will stand behind the competitor they support so no visual signals can be sent."

"Wouldn't the people in the booth eventually run out of air and pass out?" Volt queried, raising an eyebrow.

Upon hearing this, Marcus clapped a hand to his forehead and groaned, "Oh, I can't believe I forgot about that!"

"That's just like you, Creator," Cascade sighed, shaking her head. "To have all the minor details figured out, but to leave a major problem unsolved.

"No, no, it's fine," Willowe said. She snapped her fingers and a number of flowerpots appeared inside the booth, each holding a big, leafy plant with lots of colorful flowers. "There," she said. "We'll supply the plants with carbon dioxide, and they'll give us oxygen in return. It might be a little cramped in there now, but other than that, no problem."

"Okay, but what are those for?" Gust asked, pointing to the radio and seashells.

Marcus chuckled slightly at this. "Those," he said. "Make things a lot more entertaining for the spectators. Take a closer look at these shells and you'll understand."

Flare raised an eyebrow, but picked up one of the shells and gave it a long, hard look. "It's the Mind-Reader Conch from Xiaolin Showdown!" he realized.

"Not exactly. They're actually magical copies, similar to my tiger talisman, made especially for this challenge. I've wired them into these radios, so once we find the right frequencies we can listed to Adrian and Willowe while they ponder their riddles. After all, it would be pretty boring for everyone if we just sat here, waiting for them to answer. Instead, we'll just turn on the radio when it's that person's turn to answer so we can hear them work it out, then turn it off for their opponent's turn. Cool, huh?"

"I'll say!" Aster smirked. "Let's find those frequencies right now!"

Marcus and Flare each took a radio and turned them on.

"Is it wrong that I keep sneaking peeks at Cristoph's junk?" came a female voice from Marcus' radio. "I mean, they're skin-tight! It's like he wants me to!"

"Ninja garb isn't just good for movement," said the other radio, this voice male. "I can tell it gets Lady Rhia in the mood."

"Wrong frequencies," Adrian said. "Just keep adjusting the dial. We'll get them eventually."

Marcus and Flare turned the radios' dials and new voices came from both of them.

"Mirror, mirror, in my hand, I'm the prettiest in the land."

Willowe glared at Cascade, who was admiring herself in a compact mirror. "Uh, after you, of course, great Liberator!" she hastily apologized.

"Why do people order a burger, a large fries, and a Diet Coke?" the other radio pondered. "Would a regular Coke officially put it over the edge?"

"You've gotta admit it's a decent question," said Drake, for it had been his thought.

Marcus shook his head as he and Flare tried new frequencies.

"I wonder if I'll get to see Cascade stripping down again," Flare's radio said.


"…I'm guessing Gust and the Darkness…" Marcus said, and a dozen people—agent and Elemental alike—sighed in relief.

"I wonder what that stringy wig Tash wears tastes like?" one radio wondered. The other blasted out Japanese pop music.

Tyler and Aster raised their hands.

"Welcome to Doyle's brain. For Doyle's opinion, please enter a topic."

"What could Willowe possibly want with information on—?"

"Hey, that's it!" Marcus announced. "I've got Adrian's thoughts on this one! Now we just need Willowe's."
Perhaps annoyed that Marcus had achieved his goal before him, Flare began to turn his radio's dial more and more furiously. Among the thoughts that everyone heard were Claire hoping that Adrian could pull through in this challenge, Jess trying to remember where she'd last seen Leonard, Emily wishing she could just return to her room (which Adrian let her do), and Luna wondering why she could only think in French in French, but finally Flare arrived at Willowe's frequency, broadcasting her sadness at the world's cruelty toward everyone but herself.

"Okay, we're all ready," Marcus declared. "Now, the rules are simple: Adrian and Willowe will take turns asking each other riddles. A competitor has exactly five minutes to give their final answer after hearing their riddle. In the event of a lateral thinking puzzle, the answering party is allowed three 'yes or no' questions. The first to answer incorrectly or be unable to think of a riddle loses. Clear?"

Adrian and Willowe nodded.

"Any final questions, comments, or concerns?"

"Just one," Willowe answered, a sly look in her violet eyes. "This challenge is awfully different from all the others—there's no physical activity or strategy at all. What made you come up with this?"

Tash chose to answer this one. "If you must know, Willowe, it was your old cohort Spirit. We broke her down and got some very useful information on how to fight superhero Sues."

Willowe scowled, but then tossed back her hair and shrugged. "Spirit, eh? I never liked her much—too cowardly, and too easily broken. But it's of no matter now—I'm no superhero Sue.

"Now, enough talk—let's get started."

Adrian reached into his trenchcoat pocket and pulled out a Crossover, but just before he could throw it down, Marcus grabbed him by the arm.

"Not this time," he said, taking the device from his boss.

"Why not?" Adrian asked, puzzled.

"We use the Crossovers to delude the Elementals' powers by merging the fandom where they gain their strength with another. Willowe, however, is another story. She draws power from all fandoms, so it may make her stronger, especially since that particular fandom was her original home."

Adrian nodded and opened the door of the booth. Willowe went in first and sat down on one side, and Adrian entered right after, sealing the door tight before taking a seat opposite his opponent.

The Society agents all gathered behind Adrian's side and the Elementals did likewise with Willowe's.

"Okay," Adrian said, his voice emanating from the speakers. "Who's asking the first riddle?"

Willowe smiled and produced a gold coin with the face of the Greek god Zeus on one side and the Empire State Building on the other.

"Call it!" she cried, tossing it into the air.

"Heads!" Adrian said, just before it landed.

"Tails," Willowe smirked, pointing out the drachma's position and returning it to her pocket. "That means I ask first.

"Let's see… I think I'll start easy and work my way up. That seems more exciting, doesn't it?"

Adrian rolled his eyes, but said nothing, so Willowe gave him a tiny smile and recited her first riddle.

"Which animal goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at midday, and three legs in the evening?"

Instantly, Marcus turned on his radio.

"Is she serious!" Adrian raved inside his mind. "I know she said she was starting easy, but come on! That's the most famous riddle of all time! Everyone knows the answer! Oh, well—it's her funeral."

"Man," the Librarian answered. "He crawls on his hands and knees during infancy, walks erect as an adult, and uses the aid of a cane when elderly."

"Correct," Willowe replied. "And I'd be very disappointed if you weren't. Your turn."

"Okay," Adrian said. "I'll start easy, too. Where does tomorrow come before yesterday?"

Marcus turned off his radio, and Flare turned on his.

"He's saving his tougher riddles for later," the Sue noticed. "Clever boy. I'd expect no less from the master of the Library Arcanium. Still, a riddle this simple is child's play for me, as will be anything else he can dish out."

"In the dictionary," she replied, and Adrian nodded. "Okay, here's a slightly tougher one: What must you give before you can keep?"

"So far, so good," Cascade commented as Adrian once again mentally remarked on how easy this riddle was. "The Liberator won't let us down."

"So you think," Michael told her. "Adrian's been studying every book of riddles he could find for days on end. He can't lose!"

"The answer is your word," Adrian divulged, which was indeed correct. "Now, what is so fragile that the moment you utter its name, it breaks?"

According to the radio, Willowe actually didn't know this one, and actually had to ponder it for a few seconds.

"Okay," she was thinking. "That's kind of tricky. What breaks when you speak its name? What breaks when you speak, period? Oh, wait, I've got it!"

"Silence," the Sue said, and Adrian nodded. "Good one. Okay, what do you throw out when you need and keep when you don't need?"

Adrian wasn't sure on this one.

"Let's see…what do I use by throwing away? A baseball? A garbage bag? Toilet paper? No, none of those seems right. Maybe if I think about the other part, how I retrieve it when I no longer need it. Oh, hey!"

"An anchor!" the Librarian declared.

"Right," Willowe grinned. "Nice work."

"Thanks. Now, what goes around the world, but stays in one corner?"

"That one's easy. It's a postage stamp. What gets bigger the more you take away from it?"

"A hole, of course," Adrian said, without even thinking. "Now, I think that's enough of a warm-up, don't you?"

"Agreed," Willowe responded. "Feel free to crank up the difficulty."

"Oh, I shall. Try this one:

"When young, I am sweet in the sun.
When middle-aged, I make people happy.
When old, I am valued more than ever.
What am I?"

"Ooh, tough one," Monika commented. "I don't think I know that one."

"Apparently, neither does Willowe," Harriet pointed out.

"What gets more valuable as it ages? Antiques? No, I'd never describe them as 'sweet' when new. Cheese? No, lots of cheeses become worthless with age. Oh, hey, I think I've got it! It's—"

"Wine!" Willowe said aloud, and Adrian confirmed it. "Okay, my turn.

"What has roots that nobody sees?
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows."

"She does know that I'm a librarian, right?" the Librarian pondered. "She can't possibly expect to stump me with riddles found in famous works of literature. I know she's toying with me, but still…"

"A mountain, Willowe," he said aloud. "Now, here's a good one:

"Not born, but from a mother's body drawn,
I hang until half of me is gone.
I sleep in a cave until I grow old,
Then am valued for my hardened gold."

"Hmm…" Willowe replied, and inside she was cautiously pondering.

"An egg comes from a mother," she was thinking. "But it doesn't 'hang until half of it is gone', and the 'gold' inside isn't 'hardened'. What else comes from a mother but isn't born? The only other thing I can think of is milk, and—oh, duh!"

"It's cheese!" she shouted, causing everyone to cringe slightly, and Adrian nodded. "All right, try this one!

"My first part is found near a door.
My second part is a type of bread.
My third part is what most people want.
My whole is a united state."

According to the radio, Adrian didn't know this one.

"Okay, okay," he was thinking. "So I didn't run into this one while researching. I can still figure it out, one step at a time. What's found near a door? A knob? No, that's on the door. Maybe a mat, or a bell? No, no states start with those. Oh, I'll figure it out later. Type of bread is next—no, too many choices. I'll get to that last. What most people want, though, I know best. The five great motivating forces are love, hate, money, revenge, and power. Problem is, no state in the US ends with any of those. This is a real head-scratcher. I'm positive that this state ends with love, hate, money, revenge, or power, so—wait a second! I think I've got it!"

"Very clever, Willowe," he said aloud, a broad smirk across his visage. "Very clever indeed. You wanted me to think it was one of the United States of America to trip me up, but really it was something else entirely. The answer is 'matrimony'—mat-rye-money—which is definitely a 'united state'!"

Willowe's eyes went wide at this, but then she nodded and smiled. "Highly impressive, Adrian," she told him. "I was beginning to think I'd won, considering how close you cut it."

"I don't give up so easily," the Librarian replied.

"Darn it!" Volt snarled, stamping a foot in frustration. "I really thought my lo—I mean, the Liberator had him that time!"

"No way, Volt!" Tash snapped. "My beau can take your girl any day!"

"That remains to be seen, baldy!" Volt exploded. "The Liberator is the greatest Sue, teacher, and lover there is! She won't lose!"

"Will both of you shut up?" Michael shouted. "Adrian's about to tell his next riddle!"

And indeed he was, having finished his own banter with Willowe.

"Riddle me this, Ms. Foxblade," he said. "What could this be?

"A lady with a crown of red,
A dress of darker green,
With daggers hidden all around,
Yet all are easily seen."

"Seems simple," Willowe was musing. "What's red on top and green below it, with sharp things all around it? Oh, that's easy."

"A rose, of course," she vocalized, plucking a red rose from a nearby planter. "That's a simple one. Now try this:

"First, think of a person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, think of what's always the last thing to mend,
Middle of the middle and end of the end.
Next, think of a sound that is most often heard
When searching for a particularly hard-to-find word.
Now, string them together and answer me this:
What kind of creature would you not want to kiss?"

Adrian frowned, and his thoughts were broadcast to everyone.

"She's doing this again!" was his first thought. "Does she really think that I, a librarian and a member of the Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society, won't know a riddle straight from a famous book series! She must be nuts! Unless… since she lives her life jumping from fandom to fandom, maybe she doesn't know many more than the famous ones! Advantage: Adrian!"

"He might be onto something," Willie voiced. "Willowe might not read many nonfiction books."

"Bullcrap!" Gust shot back. "The Liberator knows all! She's just toying with our old caretaker like I did!"

"We'll see," Harriet replied.

"The answer is a spider," Adrian said with a wide grin. "You really need to try harder, Willowe. Try one like this:

"Soldiers line up spaced with pride.
Two long rows lined side by side.
One sole unit can decide
Whether the rows will unite or divide."

"Willowe raised an eyebrow, but her thoughts were frantic.

"Think logically, Willowe!" she urged herself. "There are two rows of… something, side by side, and something makes them come together or separate. Picture it, girl. Come on!"

There was a short pause, but then the thoughts started up again.

"No good. Maybe from another angle? Maybe from above?"

Willowe's eyes lit up. "It's a zipper," she announced, and Adrian actually applauded.

"Brava, Willowe," he said. "That was one of my tougher ones. I can tell things will get a lot harder from here on in."

"You're right, Adrian," Willowe replied. "Here's my next one:

"What is the beginning of eternity,
The end of time and space,
The beginning of the end,
And the end of every race?"

"I was wrong," Adrian thought, somehow managing to groan inside his head. "Yet another fandom-extracted riddle. This is child's play."

"The letter 'E'," he said, without enthusiasm. "Really, Willowe, give me a hard one—like this:

"I herald the darkness that descends on all creatures.
You will know my approach by moans and wracked features.
I visit the hippo, hyena, and horse,
But never go near snails and spiders, of course.
I would circle the globe, leaping one to another
Should all the world's people clasp hands with each other."

Willowe just rolled her eyes, but once again it was merely a façade.

"Where is he getting these!" she asked herself, much to the Elementals' fright. "Oh, I'll find out later! Right now I need to win this!

"Now, what heralds darkness? The moon? The stars? They'd circle the globe, too, from people's perspectives… oh, but those visit everyone, including snails and spiders. Whatever it is, it isn't just something you see—but how would it travel the world? Maybe… it's a disease, like rabies! That only affects mammals, and it's contagious, spread through bites and scratches, so if everybody held hands… no, wait, it doesn't herald darkness. What else is contagious and happens to hippos, horses, hyenas, and people? It might not even be a disease, either!"

"Tick-tock, Willowe," Tash murmured, though of course the Sue couldn't hear it.

"What's contagious and doesn't happen to snails and spiders? It doesn't even have to be a disease! Wait—contagious and not a disease? Heralds darkness? Visits mammals and can be predicted by moans and wracked features? Of course!"

"It's a yawn!" she shouted, making the Librarian cringe, but then nod.

"Very nice," he replied, holding his ear. "If a little loud. Now, I believe it's your turn."

"Very well," she replied. Then she slowly spread a grin. "And let's try something a little different, shall we?"

"Oh, really?" Adrian chuckled. "Bring it on."

"Gladly," the Sue answered. "Here goes.

"In a kingdom, an elderly king dies, and his fortune is to go to his only son, who was sent to live abroad as a baby. A summons is sent for him, but word is leaked about the inheritance and a con artist from a foreign village who has perfectly disguised himself as the prince arrives to claim the fortune for himself. There is much debate over who is the real prince, but finally the prince's childhood doctor proposes a test that would identify the real one. The impostor readily agrees to it, feeling he can easily fool them, but the actual prince flatly refuses. Then, the doctor shocks everyone by insisting that the one who refused is indeed the real prince! The question is, what was the test?"

Marcus gulped at this.

"What is it?" Tash asked him, noticing his behavior.

"Adrian mostly studied books of riddles, not lateral thinking puzzles," he told her. "He knows a few, but if Willowe keeps these up he might lose."

Indeed, Adrian's mind was racing.

"Why did I taunt her? Now she's giving me brain-busters! The answer to this could be anything!"

"Wait," he said aloud, perhaps a little less than calmly. "For lateral thinking puzzles, I get to ask three questions, right?"

"Yes or no ones, yes," Willowe replied, mildly annoyed. "Why? Do you have one?"

"Of course I do. Was the real prince unable to perform the test because of a childhood injury?"

"No," Willowe answered with a smirk.

"Interesting," Adrian thought. "But I guess it wasn't the best assumption, anyway. The test is probably something that would've killed him, or at least that he was deathly afraid of. Oh, maybe…"

"Was it a test that could've been conducted in the Middle Ages?" he suddenly inquired.

Willowe looked taken aback, but quickly replied "no".

"Enlightening," Adrian's radio broadcasted. "It was probably medical, then—but what kind? The key to that is finding out why the real prince refused. It would have to be something wrong with him, like asthma, or diabetes, or—"

"Was the prince a hemophiliac?" he burst out.

Willowe scowled. "Yes," she told him.

"That's it, then. It was a blood test, and the real prince was a hemophiliac. If he'd done it, he could've bled to death."

"That's… correct," Willowe sighed, and the Society agents cheered. "But there's more where that came from! I saw you struggling, and next time you won't be so lucky!"

"Luck had nothing to do with it, Willowe," the Librarian replied nonchalantly. "And I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the meantime, try answering this!

"What brute force alone cannot break through
I, with a gentle touch, can do
And many on the threshold would stand
Were not for I, a friend in hand."

"That one seems… older," Willowe was thinking. "Centuries old, even. But what could it be? Some sort of tool, obviously, but what kind? It lets you get through an obstacle gently when violence won't work. Oh, I know!"

"It's a key!" she remarked, and the Elementals applauded when Adrian told her that she was right. "And now, another lateral thinking puzzle.

"While digging a garden a woman unearthed a large metal box filled with money and jewelry. For seven years she spent none of the money and told no one of what she had found. Then she suddenly bought a new house, a new car, and a fur coat. How come?"

"An interesting conundrum," Adrian was thinking. "She had all that cash, but she didn't spend it for seven years, and then she splurged. Did she have to wait that long to prove that it didn't belong to someone else? No, she would've told a lawyer or a cop about—hey, wait a minute!"

"Was she trying to avoid the attention of any certain people?"

Willowe shook her head.

"Darn!" the Librarian deliberated. "I thought I had it there! Well, she could just be a miser…nah; I don't think it's that simple. Perhaps…"

"Did she wait so long because of some sort of bet or deal?" he inquired.

"I'm afraid not." Was Willowe's repartee.

This made Adrian fairly anxious, though he was determined not to show it. Despite that, his cat ears were twitching from the pressure.

"Another idea out the window!" he mulled over. "And I only have one question and two minutes left! Come on, think! While digging a garden, she finds buried treasure—how unlikely is that? I mean, stuff like that only happens in—"

"Wait!" he exclaimed. "Was it a pirate treasure?"

"Of course," Willowe reacted, looking a little surprised by the obvious question.

"Then I know the answer! She didn't spend it because she found it while she was stranded on an island! She waited seven years because that's how long it took for her to be rescued!

"Of course, the facts are all wrong in this puzzle—only one pirate, the famed Captain Kidd, was known to have buried his treasure. The other pirates spent it right away. Still, I'm sure this is the answer. Am I right?"

Willowe looked considerably irked, but she nodded.

"Nice work, babe!" Tash cheered, although her boyfriend couldn't hear.

"Indeed," Cristoph added. "Cool use of logic in the face of fire is a rare skill, indeed. I am proud to serve beneath him."

All of the agents nodded, and Cascade stuck out her tongue at them.

"Speaking of fire," Jess spoke up. "Anyone else noticing how sweaty those two are getting?"

It was true—both Adrian and Willowe were beginning to perspire.

"Hey," Lauren shrugged. "It's a stressful game."

"Impressive puzzle, Willowe," Adrian said. "You truly are a worthy opponent."

"Oh, stop your patronizing and give me your next riddle!" Willowe snapped, her temper growing shorter by the conundrum.

"As you wish," the Librarian exhaled.

"Only one color, but not one size,
Stuck on the bottom, yet easily flies,
Present in sun, but not in rain,
Doing no harm, and feeling no pain."

Willowe didn't bother to hide her bewilderment this time. Her eyes bulged and she began tapping the floor of the booth with her perfectly manicured nails.

"Where is he getting these?" she asked herself again, but then began unraveling the puzzle harum-scarum. "Oh, who cares? Now, what 'flies on the bottom' and is found in sun, but not rain? Whatever it is, it probably isn't physically there, because it 'does no harm and feels no pain'. Okay, picture it: It's a sunny day—it always is when I'm outside—and I look at the ground. What do I see? Dust? That gets wet and turns to mud in rain, and it 'easily flies' with the wind…no, no, no, that does harm if it goes in your eye. What else is on the ground, and isn't technically matter? Oh, right!"

"It's a shadow!" she gasped, and Adrian gave her a thumbs-up, at which she scowled. "Oh, don't do that! It's degrading to us both!"

"Stress getting to you, Willowe?" Adrian inquired, quite joyously. "You're the last Sue I'd expect to fly off the handle."

"Oh, shut up and answer me this!" she barked.

"A boy at boarding school ran short of money, so he wrote to his grandmother asking for a small contribution. The response was a letter containing a lecture on the evils of extravagance, but no money of any kind. Nevertheless, the boy was very pleased. Why?"

"An interesting puzzle," Adrian thought. "But the answer seems as easy as first-grade spelling. Still, I'd better make sure…"

"Was the stamp valuable?" he asked.

Willowe laughed at this. "Of course not!" she tittered. "That would make it too easy! Really, Adrian, did you actually think that that was the answer!"

"It'd be even stupider not to ask," he shrugged, still keeping his cool.

"But it didn't make things any easier," he reported to himself. "Now, why else would he be glad to get a letter with a stern lecture, but no cash? I doubt that she got through to him that easily. Well, better check. I'm running out of time!"

"Was he somehow able to get money from what she sent him?"


"Okay, at least I know he was happy to retrieve something of monetary value from that letter—but what in a letter could be valuable besides a stamp? There's nothing valuable about a written lecture, and there was nothing else in the letter—WAIT! Yes, there was! I think I've got it this time!"

"Was his grandmother famous?" the Librarian blurted out.

Willowe stared at him, but nodded.

"Oh, good," he chortled. "That makes this easy. The letter contained his grandmother's signature, which he sold as an autograph for some extra cash! It's so clear now!"

Willowe grunted, but then spoke up. "I didn't think you'd get that one, Adrian. Yes, she was indeed famous, and, for the record, this is a true story—the grandmother in question was Queen Victoria, and he sold her autograph for five pounds sterling, which was worth over twenty US dollars back then."

"Huh," Adrian replied, wiping sweat from his brow. "You know, I think I might have read about that at some point. Anyway, here's the next riddle:

"In hallowed halls as white as milk,
Lined with walls as smooth as silk,
In a fountain crystal clear
A golden apple doth appear.
No doors are there to this stronghold,
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold."

"Okay, seriously, WHERE IS HE GETTING THESE!" Willowe mentally asked herself. "I mean, I know he reads a lot, but still! Oh, whatever. Got to figure out this riddle. Now, what has white, smooth walls with no doors, and something gold in something clear that people take? Okay, picture it, Willowe—white, smooth walls. A clear pool. A bit of gold—oh, duh!"

"It's an egg!" she laughed, and Adrian nodded. "Oh, that was easier than I thought it'd be. Well, try this!

"One day, while thinking to himself, a manufacturer realizes that if people told the truth more often, he'd sell a lot more of his products. What does he manufacture?"

Adrian frowned. "Not a lot of information on this one," he thought. "But it seems familiar somehow… I think I've heard it before. What was the answer again? Come on, what would people buy more of if they were more truthful? Something embarrassing, obviously, but what? Laxatives? Lie detectors? I need to narrow it down."

"Would he sell more if people were more honest about their appearance, health, size, or weight?"

"No," was Willowe's reply.

"Crap!" he thought. "Oh, what else is there? I need more info on the product!"

"Is his product used by people of all ages, even small children?"

Willowe smiled and nodded.

Still the Librarian was puzzled.

"It seems that our old landlord is finally at the end of his rope!" Volt cackled.

"Yes," Sol agreed. "I think, after arr our hardship, victory is finarry ours!"

"Think again," Marcus retorted, pointing into the booth. Despite all his sweat and heavy panting, Adrian didn't look defeated at all. Quite the contrary: he looked like he might just have figured this puzzle out. "I know he knows this one!"

"Would he sell more of his products if people were more honest about their age?"

"Yes," Willowe told him.

"Then the answer is birthday candles," he grinned. "I'd almost forgotten—Marcus posed that very puzzle to me when I first met him. Good thing, too, or you'd have stumped me. Lucky, huh?"

Willowe just scowled.

"Yeah, life sure is funny that way. Well, here's your next riddle:

"With pointed fangs I sit and wait.
With piercing force I dole out fate
Over bloodless victims proclaiming my might,
Eternally joining in a single bite."

Willowe looked at him suspiciously for a second, then got to thinking.

"It can't be a vampire!" she insisted. "There's no way he'd be that obvious! Besides, the victims are 'bloodless'. So, that leaves the question, what else joins things together with its bite? Some sort of compactor, like they use on trash? No, no fangs. A nail? That could be—oh, wait, that's only one fang. He said 'fangs'. Plural. But I think I'm on the right track—I think it's some sort of tool. Now, what 'bites' and joins things together?"

"Oh, it's a stapler!" she concluded, and the Elementals cheered when Adrian confirmed it. "Very good, very good. That was quite a taunt, making it seem so obvious."

"That's the point," the Librarian nodded, once again wiping the sweat from his face. "Hey, um, what do you say to a short break? I'm starting to feel kinda cooped up in here."

"Yeah, me, too," Willowe complied. "Okay, a quick five-minute break, and then it's back on."

The two competitors moaned as they stood up, and Adrian unsealed the door and opened it for the goddess Foxblade (even after all the animosity between them, the Librarian still managed to be cordial). Willowe went through without thanking him and walked over to the Elementals, where Cascade and Gust instantly conjured a water bottle and a miniature fan.

Adrian, meanwhile, went to rejoin his own side.

"You've gotten through a dozen riddles each," Marcus reported. "How are you feeling?"

"A little wiped," the Librarian reported, his tail and ears twitching. "This challenge could turn a man's brains to fettuccine if it goes on to long. And I'm having a hard time remembering the riddles I memorized, what with all the pressure."

"You're still taking it better than Willowe, Adrian-kun," Aster told him, pointing over at his opponent.

Willowe was indeed beginning to burn out, reclining in a padded chair that had miraculously appeared a few seconds ago. The Elementals were doing everything they could to help: Gust was cooling her off with the fan, Cascade was holding up the water bottle for her to drink, Flare was rubbing her shoulders, Sol and Luna were taking turns whispering in her ears (whether they were words of encouragement or new riddles was impossible to say), Jinx was filing the Sue's nails, and a delighted Volt was massaging her feet. She looked like a high priestess on her throne, but the only temples she had were the ones she was gently rubbing, as if to relieve a headache.

"She's weakening much faster than you," Marcus told the Librarian. "You can outlast her. I know it."

"We all know it, man," Michael agreed.

"You have a good heart and a strong mind," Cristoph stated.

"And you have this!" Marcus said, with an unseen twinkle in his eye. He reached into his pocket and handed his boss a dark blue notebook.

Curiously, Adrian opened it and gasped.

"Your secret riddle archive!" he exclaimed, and Marcus nodded. "You've never shown this to anyone!"

"This is more important than petty flaunting toward teammates," the bandaged agent sighed. "Now, hurry and skim it before the break ends! I doubt it holds any you haven't already read, but it'll remind you of enough to beat Willowe, no problem."

"And let me contribute something, too," Tash spoke up. "Namely, a little motivation."

Tash leaned in and gave Adrian a very long, very passionate kiss. It went on for at least thirty seconds before Marcus cleared his throat and the two blushed and separated.

"With this," Tash whispered. "And you'll never have to see me in this ridiculous hairpiece again."

Adrian smiled and delved into Marcus' notebook, deftly flipping through the pages until Willowe called "Okay, time's up! Back in the booth!"

Adrian nodded and handed Marcus back his archive, then allowed Willowe first passage into the booth, walked in, sealed the door, and finally took a seat opposite Willowe.

"Good luck, boss," Rhia whispered.

"What she said," Tyler added.

"Victory to the Liberator," Flare prayed.

"Grant us sanctity at last," Cascade begged.

"I believe it was your turn, Willowe," Adrian said, snapping the viewers backed to their deluded perceptions of reality. "Go ahead. I'm ready."

"Very well," Willowe sighed. Here's one you may find interesting:

"A woman gave a man something to eat. It caused him to die. It wasn't poisoned or poisonous. Why did he die?"

Instantly, Marcus flipped on Adrian's radio. "This one's rife with possibilities," it broadcasted. "I've already got a couple of ideas."

"Was the man allergic to the food?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not," the Sue replied.

"Okay…did he choke on it?"

"Also no."

"Well, that's no good," the Librarian could be heard thinking. "Those were my best shots. What's left? Was there a bomb in the food? No, that's stupid. Maybe it was rancid or covered in germs? Heck, it could've even been undercooked! What's the answer?"

In desperation, Adrian's eyes began to wander, finally resting on the contents of the soundproof booth and the indecently-dressed girl in front of him.

"Oh, no. No way! Absolutely not!"

"Did the woman eat the food and die, too?"

"Yes," his opponent sighed. She saw where this was going.

"Then I know the answer. The man and the woman were Adam and Eve, and when they ate the forbidden fruit, God took away their immortality, and expelled them from the Garden of Eden. Am I right?"

Willowe frowned and nodded.

"Oh, good. Well, it's my turn now. What is it that God never sees, a king rarely sees, and a normal man sees every day?"

"What kind of question is that!" Willowe thought to herself. "God sees all, and a normal man sees only what's right in front of him! Oh, I get it—it's a matter of perspective, not eyesight! They all look at the same thing, but each see something different! And if they all look at a normal man, then—"

"The answer is an equal!" she shouted, just in time.

"That's correct, Willowe," Adrian told her. "Your turn."

"Right," the Sue answered, panting hard and drenched in sweat. "Right. Well, a boy walks up to his girlfriend and hands her two tickets to a movie she's been dying to see. Before his eyes, she rips up the tickets and tells him to enjoy the show. Why?"

Adrian stared back at her and began to massage his temples.

"What would make her rip up the tickets like that?" he was thinking. "Did she—oh, man, this headache is really getting to me! I haven't felt pain like this in years! Well, at least I knew that this would happen. I can only imagine what Willowe's going through right now. So, why would this girl—"

"Marcus," Tash suddenly said through gritted teeth. "What did Adrian mean when he said 'he knew this would happen'?"

Marcus gulped, but told her everything. "Well," he confessed. "Adrian and Willowe are two of the most powerful beings in the multiverse, you see, and with them competing against each other in that tiny enclosed space, there are rather… adverse effects…"

"Like what?" the Society leader demanded.

"Well, Tash," he explained. "You must understand that this is more than just a battle of wits. It's a battle of wills, as well. Their incredible power, focused by their super-strong wills, is building up in that puny little enclosed space, subjecting them to severe pressure, threatening to… well… break them."


"He knew things would get dangerous. We figured that when he faced Flare, his superior body, mind, and will, combined with the knowledge of what was coming, would allow him to easily outlast his opponent, but then Willowe arrived and threw everything off! Now his only advantage is understanding what's happening to him!"

"But… that's enough, right?" Tash inquired, her anger replaced by sheer terror. "I mean, he can still outlast her, can't he?"

"Of course not!" Volt insisted, brimming with fury. "The Liberator is unbeatable, unstoppable, and unbreakable!"

"That remains to be seen," was Marcus' grim reply.

The Society fell silent. Adrian's thoughts became the only sounds.

"So, she wasn't angry at him," he recapped, for that had been his first question. "Okay, what other reason could she have to rip up… oh!"

"Was the girl at work when he gave her the tickets?"

"Hm?" Willowe repeated, distracted by the pain. "Oh, yeah. Yeah she was."

"Then I know the answer: the girl was a ticket-taker at a movie theater, and the guy was taking a friend or family member to the movie. Am I right?"

"Uh, yeah," the Sue replied miserably. The stress seemed to have dulled her competitive nature. "That's right. Your… your turn."

"Okay," Adrian groaned. He had a pained expression as he wracked his brain to come up with another riddle. "Let's see… oh, here's one:

"Lighter than a feather
Or the petal of a flower,
But the strongest man can't hold it
For a quarter of an hour."

The Elementals stared in concern as Willowe scrunched up her face and urged herself to keep going.
"It's really light, but even the strongest man alive can't hold it for long? That makes no sense! And what's with this migraine! Sue's don't get headaches! No, no, focus! What's something light that can't be held for long? Why measure how long he can hold it, anyway? Wait! I think I've got it!"

"It's his breath!" she guessed, and Adrian nodded. "Oh, good. Now, how about—ow!—this:

"Tim and Tom are playing in the yard. Suddenly, Tim offers Tom a challenge. 'Hey,' Tim says. 'I bet that there's something that I can put in that wheelbarrow and roll it across the yard and back that you can't!' The boys are in equal physical shape, but Tim turns out to be right. What could he put in the wheelbarrow and move that Tom couldn't?"

Adrian gave her a funny look, but started thinking immediately.

"Okay, I've got to end this, and I've got to end it quick! I can't remember many more riddles! I've got two, maybe three left! No, no, focus on the current one: What could one boy put in the wheelbarrow and roll across the yard that the other couldn't?"

"Was it something that only Tim could put in the wheelbarrow?" he asked weakly.

"Nope," Willowe told him, wiping perspiration away from her eyes.

"Darn! Well, what—oh, the headache!—could it be? I just need to know why Tom couldn't do it!"

"Was it something that only Tim could put in the wheelbarrow and roll across the yard and back?"

"Sorry, no."

Tash began to bite her nails in terror as the Elementals grinned wide.

"Come on, come on! Think! What could Tim roll across the yard and back in a wheelbarrow that Tom couldn't? They were equally strong, so it's not about weight—maybe about positioning? Oh, duh!"

"It was Tom! Tim could put him in the wheelbarrow and roll him across the yard and back, but Tom couldn't because he'd be inside the wheelbarrow at the time! It's so obvious!"

"You're right, Adrian," Willowe moaned, growing weaker. "Your… turn…"

"Okay, okay," he said. "Here's one:

"I can sizzle like bacon, and I'm made with an egg.
I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg.
I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole,
And I am long like a flagpole, but can fit in a hole."

"Tough… one…" Willowe thought, her mind going fuzzy. "It comes from an egg, that's a good start. It's clearly alive, then. And it… it can be long, but still fit in a hole. What does that? Okay, figure it… figure it out. It peels away layers, but doesn't lose pieces. Sounds reptilian, or maybe an insect. And it… it 'sizzles like bacon'—oh, of course!"

"It's a… a snake," she whispered, barely sitting up now, and Adrian winced as he nodded. "Good. So it's… it's my turn now, right? Well…"

A minute passed, but she didn't speak up.

"Go ahead, Willowe," the Librarian told her. "I'm—OW!—ready."

"Hang on, hang on!" she snapped. "I'm just… it's kind of long, and I'm… I'm having a hard time remembering the whole thing, okay? I've got most of it, but…"

"Well, hurry up," Adrian told her with a pained grin. "If you can't think of one, you lose."

"JUST GIVE ME—YEOW!—A SECOND!" the Sue snapped. "Hold on… okay, I remember the whole thing now. Just… just don't ask me to repeat it, okay?

"'First, the fish… the fish must be caught'
That is easy: a baby, I think could have caught it.
'Next, the fish must be bought.'
That is easy: a penny… a penny, I think, would have bought it.
'Now cook me the fish!'
That is… that is easy, and won't take more than a minute.
'Let it lie in a dish!'
That is easy, because it is already in it.
'Bring it here! Let me… let me sup!'
It is easy…easy to bring such… such a dish to the table.
'Take the dish-cover up!'
Now that is so hard that I fear I'm unable!
For it holds… holds like glue—
Holds the lid to the dish, while it… while it lies in the middle!
Which is easiest… easiest to do,
Un-dish-cover the fish, or… or dishcover the riddle?"

Agent and Elemental alike stared open-mouthed at Willowe, flabbergasted that even under all this pressure she could still remember such a long, detailed poem.

Only one person wasn't impressed. Despite Willowe's intimidating endeavor, he began to laugh. It started as an innocent chuckle, but grew louder and more maniacal, until his very sanity was called into question.

"Nice try, Willowe!" he whooped. "But that riddle's no good against me! All through the game, you've been pulling riddles from famous literature and pop culture—Oedipus Rex, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and even Jackie Chan Adventures, and I knew them all, just like I know this one! That riddle was posed to Alice by the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the answer is simple!"

"Oh, really?" Willowe spoke up, wincing in agony. "And it would be…?"

"The answer is… that there is no answer! It was just a nonsense poem that Carroll wrote into the book, like Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter! He never intended for there to be an answer!"

"Really?" Willowe asked again, her whole body clenched up. "Is that really what you think?"

"I don't think! I know! I'm a librarian, a master of literature, and I know my classic novels! There. Is. No. Answer."

Willowe stared right into Adrian's deep, confident eyes, and there was a long, long pause as the two struggled against the straining environment. Then, finally, Willowe cackled at the top of her lungs.

"WRONG!" she screamed, shocking the Librarian to no end. "Completely and utterly WRONG!"

"No, it wasn't!" Adrian insisted, his tail twitching in indignation. "It's right and you know it!"

"It is NOT!" she shrieked. "As it happens, that riddle did have an answer, and it was simply never written in the book! And that answer is… an oyster!"

"An… oyster?" Adrian echoed, confidence shaken.

"It could be removed from its bed by a baby, could be bought for a penny in Carroll's time, cooked quickly, sat in its own dish, and could be hard to open! Don't you see? That's the answer! You lose!"

"NO!" Adrian screamed. "NOOOOOOOO!"

And, at that moment, the two super-powerful beings' powers built up too far. The booth shattered into a million pieces, sending shards of glass and potted plants everywhere. The agents and Elementals ducked for cover, suffering only minor cuts and scratches as their leaders were blown apart in opposite directions and sent skidding across the floor, crying out in agony before going limp and silent.

"ADRIAN!" Tash cried, rushing to her lover's side.

"LIBERATOR!" Volt cried, hastening to aid Willowe.

The minutes passed, and it was Willowe who awoke first, and upon seeing Tash crying over Adrian she burst out laughing again, and her laugh was now in no way invoking merriment in those around her. It was cold and heartless, overjoyed at her enemies' misfortune.

"Come on, Adrian!" Tash urged. "You can pull through this! You're stronger than Willowe!"

"He is not!" Volt insisted. "And he'll never wake! The great Liberator has broken him!"

Tash turned and glared—but not at Volt or even Willowe. It was Marcus who had earned her wrath. She lunged at him and seized him by the throat, shaking him wildly. "YOU DID THIS!" she bawled, her eyes still full of tears. "IT WAS YOUR HORRIBLE CREATIONS AND YOUR STUPID PLANS THAT DESTROYED THE LOVE OF MY LIFE! NOW LOOK AT HIM—HE'S A VEGETABLE!"

"Stop…" Marcus managed to choke out. "I can help." He reached in his pocket and pulled something out. It was a tiny, green bean, totally ordinary in appearance.

"Is that…a Senzu bean from Dragonball Z?" Michael asked.

"GT, actually," Marcus said as Tash's grip relaxed. "While Camille was there, I decided to fetch one for later. I don't know if it'll fix destruction of the mind, but…"

"Give me that!" Tash demanded, and without waiting for him to offer it, she snatched the bean, dropped her colleague, dashed over to Adrian, and dropped the bean into his mouth. She massaged his throat and waited, moist-eyed, for a reaction.

After about ten seconds, Adrian coughed and opened his eyes, and Tash embraced him tighter than she had since they had first hooked up.

"You're okay!" she whooped, and he nodded weakly.

"Yes," he replied, Tash helping him to his feet. "And don't blame Marcus. I knew this might happen. I was willing to take the risk."

"Oh, at least you're not comatose!" his lover shouted, weeping into his trenchcoat.

"He is for now!" Willowe snarled. "He may be back on his feet, but he still lost the challenge, which means that you Society chumps will just have to stand by and let my beloved Elementals rise to power—and," she added, licking her lips like a hungry hyena. "You have to grant my wish!"

"And if we don't?" Michael demanded.

"We don't have a choice," Marcus told him. "Thanks to the spell on this fandom, the wager is binding. He doesn't have a choice."

"Exactly," Willowe smirked. "Now, Adrian, be a good little librarian and get me the information that I desire! Chop-chop!"

Angrily, Adrian pushed Tash away, shot open a portal to the Library Arcanium, and leapt through. Then, two minutes later, he returned holding a heavy stack of papers, all tied together with black twine. He tossed it to Willowe, who, despite its weight, caught it in one hand and laughed hysterically.

"You've got what you wanted, Willowe!" Adrian snarled. "Now get out of my sight!"

"Hey!" Volt screamed, electricity coursing through his armor. "Don't you dare speak to the Liberator in such a way!"

"No, Volt," Willowe told the Elemental of lightning. "It is time that I took my leave. But hear this, Society twerps: the next time that you lay eyes upon Willowe Diamond Honeysuckle Alisonette Ravenne Hyacinth Aurelia Sakurelle Dewdrop Arwennia Heliotrope Appleflower Sandriline Delilah Aphrodite Bob Yuffiana Swainsona Vipertooth Foxblade the Third, it will be as your unquestioned master, and possibly with an even longer name!"

And with that, Willowe Diamond Honeysuckle Alisonette Ravenne Hyacinth Aurelia Sakurelle Dewdrop Arwennia Heliotrope Appleflower Sandriline Delilah Aphrodite Bob Yuffiana Swainsona Vipertooth Foxblade the Third exploded in a burst of roses and cherry blossoms.

"Wow…" Cascade gushed. "She sure knows how to make an exit…"

"As for you," Gust said, turning to the Society agents. "I think it's time for you to leave."

"And I think it's best that you don't keep these!" Flare added, crushing the ham radio and Mind-Reader Conch in his hands and then using a fireball to burn Marcus' to a crisp. "Now, get out of our fandom. You've lost."


Back in the Library Arcanium, everyone (including Ben, whose injuries Valerie had reduced to minor fractures, easily fixed by keeping them in casts for a week or two) gathered in the monitor room to discuss the challenge and its results. Despite that, though, nobody said a word. Instead, they all just turned on the monitor to watch the story play out.

It was revealed that Arella had been holding the Tome since Trigon crossed over, waiting for the Elementals to come to her. She would've sent it to them, but that would've taken an immense amount of power, far more than she could've produced, especially after placing a blessing on two souls that she knew inside could play a pivotal part in saving the world.

"Save it from what?" Flare asked, and Arella sighed and opened the Tome to a bookmarked page. Flare took it and read a poem aloud.

"The Gem was born of evil's fire.
The Gem shall be His portal.
He comes to claim, He comes to sire
The end of all things mortal."

"That prophecy already came to pass!" Raven objected, but Flare kept reading.

"Once defeated, but just sealed away,
The world shall yet feel His wrath.
He shall rise again on the darkest day,
The now all-powerful Scath."

"Okay," Raven gulped, looking close to screaming, which is almost definitely a first. "So he's coming back even stronger. It could be worse."

"It is!" Flare replied, and he read the last verse.

"A great force shall arise, not one but a team,
And beckon the demon to fight.
They shall clash against the evil supreme,
But alas, they shall fall to His might."

Normally that would've drawn the agents' reaction, but the Society remained silent.

Raven and Flare were terrified to learn that not only was the most terrifying demon of all time fated to return, but that he would defeat them and rule the universe.

Arella told them that their only hope was to prevent Trigon from coming, and the key to doing so was stopping a spell that would summon him. Ghostly spirits of Azerath, servants of Trigon, had recently escaped to earth, and needed a suitable host to bring forth their master. However, the only appropriate host would be somebody who had seen the face of Trigon, but not been singled out by his powers. They had to find the person and exorcise them before the solar eclipse ("the darkest day") in two days' time.

Flare and Raven returned and alerted their teammates to this turn of events, and the group agreed that only one person really matched the description they got—Robin. They got to work exorcising him immediately, but found by sunset the next day that he absolutely wasn't possessed. This unnerved them, but they decided that perhaps the upcoming eclipse wasn't the time. They could have decades, maybe centuries to go before Trigon reared his ugly head. This eclipse probably wasn't the one, anyway—after all, it could only be seen in parts of Africa.

But they were wrong. There was another person who had seen the face of Trigon and not been singled out by his powers, and for the last sixty hours he'd been setting up the spell for the demon's return. Jericho had seen the monster's face in Raven's mind, and, when the eclipse became full over Mount Kilimanjaro, he became the portal like Raven had done before him and set Trigon free.

As the monitor faded out ominously, the Society still didn't speak. Finally, though, a member said something.

"Okay," Willie sighed, standing up. "I'll be the first to say it: We're boned. We have no chance of saving this fandom. Soon the saga will be finished, the Elementals will rise to power, and Willowe will use them to lay waste to fandom after fandom until she conquers the multiverse. We. Are. Boned."

"Yeah, pretty much," Harriet agreed. "In a matter of days, the Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society will fall."

"Maybe not," Marcus whispered, and everyone turned to stare at him. He'd been deep in thought since they'd left the Teen Titans fandom.

"You have another plan?" Aster inquired.

"Maybe," the bandaged agent responded, his voice barely audible.

"Yes, well, after what happened last time, I'm not too eager to go through with any more of your plans, Marcus!" Tash snarled, holding Adrian tight.

"Look," Marcus insisted, his temper growing short. "I know things went bad back there, and I'm sorry, but it's not as if anybody suffered permanent damage, right? Well, now I have a couple more ideas and—I won't lie to you—their chances of working are very slim, and yes, they could be quite dangerous, but really, what choice do we have but to try? If we do nothing we'll lose for sure!"

There was yet another long silence.

"You know, he makes a good point," Kyle admitted.

"Yeah," Doug agreed. "We'll never win if we don't do something."

"I'll give him another shot," Danielle spoke up.

"Me, too," Aster said.

One by one, the Society agents showed their support, until only Tash was left.

"Nobody will get hurt this time, right?" she inquired with a scowl.

Marcus shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "But we'll all be in trouble if the Elementals succeed."

Tash sighed. "What do you have in mind?"

"Some semantics," he stated simply. "If there's one thing that Marcus Pate knows how to do, it's exploit a loophole."


"Well," Michael summarized as he watched over a dozen people limp through the plothole into the monitor room. "It's official. We are completely out of agents to challenge those monsters."

"Not agents, Michael," Adrian corrected. "Freelancers. They could only issue challenges by quitting the Society."

"Yes, well, you're all reinstated at your previous ranks as of now," Tash told the freelancers, who were collapsing all over the chairs and sofas.

"Nice consolation prize," Valerie chuckled, before clutching her side in pain. "OH! Ugh, who would've guessed that a game of Capture the Flag would get so brutal?"

"Or that Jinx would have such a mean uppercut?" Harriet added, rubbing her jaw.

"It was pretty bad," Ossa agreed. "And now nobody who was ever in the Society can challenge them! What's left to be done?"

"Not much," Marcus admitted. "I have one final idea, but it's a long shot. Frankly, this may be the end, and since it is, I'm going to do something I've wanted to do for months."

"Oh?" Tash commented. "And what's that?"

"Break my diet. I'm gonna grab a custard éclair, and then we're going into the fandom to wait things out. Everybody get your medallions while I stuff my face."


Five minutes later, Marcus walked into the monitor room, his bandages stained with chocolate and custard, with a medallion around his neck and a big box of chocolate-covered strawberries in his hand.

"All right," he sighed, pulling out his portal gun. "Let's see our last hope and the story's last moments up close and personal."

With that, he shot open a plothole to the Teen Titans fandom and walked through, his teammates close behind.


The Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society emerged on Titans Tower island just as something very strange occurred. The sky changed from a bright, cloudless azure to an eerie crimson, and the sun turned an ugly black. The roads cracked and buildings collapsed, and the entire city went utterly silent, and, out of nowhere, Kid Flash turned to stone.

Then, terrified screams came from every one of the original Titans, even Raven.

In a flash, the Titans and Elementals (sans Kid Flash) were taking the E-jet over the city, the Society agents having barely climbed in in time.

"It can't be!" Beastboy panicked. "It just can't!"

"I hear ya, BB," Cyborg agreed. "I hoped we'd never, ever have to fight this guy again!"

"Let's not jump to conclusions," Terra said, trying to sound confident. "It might not be him, right?"

"Doubtful," Robin responded, his face dripping with sweat. "This is exactly what happened to the city the last time he came."

"Don't you have other enemies with access to powerful magic?" Gust inquired hopefully.

"Like who?" Cyborg snapped. "Mother Mae-Eye's still under her own spell, Mumbo only wishes that he could do something like this, and Sol's holding Malchior right now! Face it—he's back and badder than ever!"

"Okay!" Flare sighed. "So, what happened to all the people in the city?"

"They have been petrified by a powerful spell, just like Kid Flash," Starfire informed him.

"And why haven't we?" Terra asked.

"The five of us are still protected by the same magic that allowed us to survive last time," Raven elucidated, gesturing to the Titans around her.

"And, as far as I can tell," Malchior added drily. "You Elementals were immune because you're destined to fight him."

"And lose…" Luna muttered, rereading the Tome's prophecy for maybe the hundredth time.

Everyone's expressions grew even grimmer, save for Terra, who was staring out a window.

"Hey, guys?" the Elemental of earth queried. "If we're the only ones left, then who are those people down there?"

Confused, the superheroes (and the Society) moved over to the window, where two little black dots were leaping from rooftop to rooftop on the buildings below. They were moving forcefully, yet gracefully, as if in some sort of lethal dance.

"I'm bringing us down to check it out," Volt announced from the cockpit, for he'd overheard the whole conversation.

The E-jet lurched downward and gently landed on a rooftop just as the two figures leapt on, and the Titans gasped when they saw who they were. The first was Red X, mysterious and wishy-washy as ever, and he was fighting with all his might against a girl whose name they didn't know, but whose costume was very familiar—it was designed to look like Slade's, complete with a one-eyed mask. Despite the new arrivals, Red X and the girl remained locked in mortal combat as the thirteen heroes disembarked.

"Ugh," Red X grunted, leaping to avoid a swing from the girl's bo staff. "You guys have no idea how glad I am to see you right now! The world is ending and this chick still can't get her mind off rubbing me out!"

"Who the heck is she?" Cyborg asked, watching the girl spin her staff to stop a bunch of red X-shaped shuriken.

"Slade's newest apprentice, as far as I can tell," the thief answered, jumping onto the E-jet's wing to avoid his own returned projectiles. "Calls herself the Ravager. She's been chasing me for weeks on Slade's orders."

"Why didn't you tell us about this?" Robin snarled.

"I don't bother people with my problems. I've been keeping her at bay on my own, but the girl's persistent!"

"My master will have your skin as a rug, Red X!" the Ravager shrieked.

"Ya see what I mean? Now, while you're here, a little help?"

Gust and Cascade nodded and rushed the girl, who threw them off as if they were nothing, then beat down Starfire and Jinx without any provocation whatsoever. It took a fireball, an electric disc, an exploding X, and the combined telekinetic powers of Sol, Luna, and Raven to pin her down, and still she refused to accept loss, spewing language that cannot be printed.

"Oh, give it a rest, girl!" a new voice said in a slightly bored tone.

Everybody turned and saw a portal appear on the rooftop, and gasped when three figures emerged from it. The first was Slade, sinister and dignified. The second was Cinderblock, massive and silent. And the third was also Slade, but a little different from the last time the Titans had seen him—he was taller, stronger, and, oddly enough, younger-looking.

"Slade," Robin snarled.

"In the flesh," the taller Slade replied. "Well, more or less. I've undergone a few changes since we last met, Robin. At any rate, why am I not surprised that you remain when all other life is gone? Why, even dear Brother Blood has been turned into a museum piece."

"Don't tell me that you're behind this!" the boy wonder accused.

"Now that is insulting. Do you really think that I would be foolish enough to help Trigon return to this dimension after his previous betrayal?"

That shut Robin up.

"What about you?" Flare demanded, pointing at the Slade look-alike.

"As much as I'd like to take credit for the apocalypse, this is not my doing," the Replicant answered. "I may be evil, but I'm not stupid. Summoning a demon from another realm always ends in a double-cross."

"Trigon is more than a mere demon, Replicant," Slade corrected. "He is a malevolent godlike entity, claiming dominion over several dimensions. We have our work cut out for us."

"Too true," the shapeshifter agreed. "Fataea prophesized this very event millennia ago. Still, I have to wonder, if you didn't call him, Slade, then who did?"

"All we know is that the spell had to have been cast under the shadow of the eclipse, and the person casting it had to have seen the face of Trigon, but never have been touched by his powers," Malchior reported.

"Well, that certainly narrows it down," Slade commented. "No visual record of Trigon exists in any book, and Trigon usually brought instant death to anyone who so much as made eye contact with him. Who in Africa would even know the accursed monster's name, let alone what he looks like?"

"A fellow Titan might," Starfire suggested. "We have relayed to them many of our adventures."

"Let's see…" Robin pondered. "African Titans… well, there's Wildebeest, and Hotspot, and…"

"JERICHO!" Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, Beastboy, and Volt suddenly shouted.

"He collapsed after looking into Raven's mind!" Volt recalled.

"It must've been from the terror of seeing his face!" Sol exclaimed.

"Jericho's behind this?" Red X hollered. "That's impossible! He'd never do something so stupid!"

"You know him?" Jinx asked.

Red X paused. "I did once…" he muttered after a moment.

"Well, you never will again," Slade sighed. "The boy's long gone by now."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'GONE'?" the thief demanded.

"Why not ask Raven? She knows what I mean."

Raven's eyes went wide. "He's in limbo…" she muttered. "That's what happens to the one who acts as his portal."

"'LIMBO'?" Red X repeated at the top of his lungs.

"Yes," Slade confirmed. "And he won't survive there for long, either."

"Well, we gotta get him back like we did with Raven!" Beastboy insisted.

"And why should we?" the Replicant inquired. "The boy was weak in body, will, and courage. What help could he be in conquering a foe so powerful?"

"He was an innocent victim!" Robin snarled.

"We have to help him!" Gust agreed.

"No, I do!" Red X insisted. "Tell me where to go, and I'll find him myself!"

"Oh, no!" the Ravager spoke up. "Where you go, I go! Nobody ends your life but me, Red X!"

"Is she serious?" Rhia asked Marcus as she stared at the masked girl. "How can anybody be so single-minded?"

"There's an explanation for that," Marcus assured her. "You'll find out later."

Robin and Raven, meanwhile, had pulled Red X aside to give him directions through the portal from which Trigon had emerged to where he'd hopefully find Jericho, warning him that the poor hero might not even be there, and that in fact all of the information they'd given him may be entirely wrong.

At the same time, Slade declared the Ravager to be his full apprentice, and she took an oath with her very blood, swearing to take over for Slade should he perish. In addition, he ordered Cinderblock to go with her, saying that it would provide a healthy body for Jericho in which he could travel.

With that, Robin gave everybody (even the villains) Titans communicators to keep in touch, and Slade opened a portal to the zenith of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Titans, Elementals, villains, and Red X stepped through, and the Society followed suit.


Everyone arrived at the peak of the mountain, where there used to be a small hut and a verdant field, but now there was only death and ruin. Trigon, the terrible monster, was sitting comfortably at the bottom of the mountain, leaning against its base. He was a horrific sight, a giant large enough to use Titans Tower as an armchair (in fact, he'd done just that the last time he'd come to earth), with magenta skin, antlers, and four blood-red eyes. He seemed to be asleep at the moment, but still he radiated immeasurable power.

Raven pointed to a deep pit next to the remains of Jericho's hut. "There's your doorway," she told Red X. "Just know that once you go in, there's no guarantee that you'll come out."

"I know," the thief replied. "But I have to risk it."

"Fight hard, my apprentice," Slade told the Ravager.

"I will, my master," she assured him.

Slade and Cinderblock exchanged looks, then nodded, and Red X, the Ravager, and the walking brick leapt into the portal.

There was a long silence.

"Well, now seems like as good a time as ever, all things considered," Marcus shrugged, removing his medallion and freezing canon. "Let's play our final hand."



"Hardly," Marcus replied, pulling out a Crossover. "I regret to say that this is our last gambit. After this, we're officially out of challengers and challenges."

"Good to hear," Volt replied. "But just in case, if our side wins this one, no more challenges. Ever."

"And if our representative wins, then Red X, Cinderblock, and the Ravager perish before they can reach Jericho."

"Yeah, that won't happen, so okay," Sol said with a yawn.

"What, eexactly, eez zis final game?" Luna inquired.

"A final brawl in the most badass American cartoon yet," Marcus answered with a smirk. "The very fandom that inspired your original concept."

The Elementals' eyes went wide. "You mean—?"

"That's right, Flare. Samurai Jack. And, even better, the fight will take place in a highly unstable rift in the time-space continuum. Every so often you'll leap to another time and place and be forced to fight with their garb and weapons. The last one standing will be the winner.

The Society just stared at Marcus in awe of this awesome challenge.

"Sounds exciting," Sol commented. "But one rast question arises."

"'oo eez your fighter?" Luna asked.

"We already picked apart every one of you Society twerps," Cascade reminded. "Or have you been hiding a newfound wringer?"

"Not at all. This guy's been around since you escaped the vault."

"Then who is it?" Volt hounded.

"IT'S ME, YOU THICKHEADED BRATS!" the Replicant cried out. "Honestly, I knew this was coming since your first challenge! Why didn't you?"

The Elementals all stared at their nemesis, then laughed hysterically, even Jinx!

"You?" Cascade cackled. "You actually think you can win? You've never beaten us!"

"Not as a group," Marcus insisted. "But as your creator, I know for a fact that none of you has ever beaten the Replicant in a one-on-one fight!"

That shut them up quickly.

"Fine," Flare said after a short silence. "I'll face him, and I'll destroy him. So, if there's nothing else—"

"But there is!" Marcus interrupted. "I have one last rule to make things interesting.

"In this challenge, Flare can't use his fire powers, and the Replicant can't shapeshift."

The Society and the Elementals all stared at the bandaged agent, perplexed, but then they shrugged and nodded.

"Whatever," Flare said. "I've never relied on my powers, anyway. My fighting skills are enough. Now, if you're—"

"Almost," Marcus interjected again. "The Replicant just needs to pick his form for the game."

"I'll stick with Slade's form, thank you," the shapeshifter said dismissively. "It has a nice mixture of speed, power, and agility."

"Okay, then," Marcus said, raising his Crossover high in the air. "It's time for our final confrontation to begin."

Everyone's face grew hard as Marcus threw the green X to the ground. After a short quake (perhaps a bit more violent than the others, though, Mt. Kilimanjaro merged with an immense futuristic city bustling with life, and the art style had altered drastically, with no visible outlines on anything. Right in front of them was a very odd octagonal machine that stood upright. It was about eight feet tall and wide, but no thicker than a penny, and the hole in the center depicted a strange, shifting image you might find in a kaleidoscope.

"Welcome, travelers," greeted a creature that looked like a camel with the head of a bat, standing upright and dressed in Buddhist robes. "Have you come to study the acts of the past and—OH MY GOODNESS!" it shrieked upon catching a glimpse of Trigon. "WHAT IS—?"

"Sleep," Volt said, snapping his fingers.

Immediately all canon characters were catching Z's.

"Can't believe I'm saying this, but thank you, Volt," Tash said. "The last thing we need is Trigon wiping out this whole fandom."

"Yes, yes, whatever," the Replicant snapped. "Now, how do we start this challenge? Just jump in the machine?"

"That's right," Marcus answered. "And good luck to you. Now, in on the count of three. One…"

Flare and the Replicant got down on their hands and knees (or Slade's in the Replicant's case).


The two challengers tensed up their muscles.


Flare and the Replicant leapt into the portal, unsure of what would come next.


The two combatants hit the ground in a past era hard and swiftly got to their feet. Scanning their surroundings, they found that they were now standing over a hundred feet apart in the dry, arid American Southwest, and were wearing only breechcloths with tomahawks held in the straps. There were bows in their hands and quivers full of arrows slung on their backs. In addition to that, the Replicant was wearing a mask made from a coyote skull at an odd angle to hide everything on Slade's face but the left eye.

"Looks like we're starting as Navajo archers," the villain shouted out.

"You don't say," Flare replied, rolling his eyes. "Let's get started, already!"

"As you wish," the Replicant told his nemesis.

The two simultaneously notched an arrow, took aim, and fired them into the air. When they came down, the two easily sidestepped and dodged.

"Just a warm-up!" the "hero" cried, pulling out half a dozen arrows and firing them one by one, but the Replicant just chortled and sprinted off to the right, narrowly avoiding each one.

Just when the shapeshifter thought it was over, though, another arrow came whizzing down straight at his heart. His visible eye went wide for a second, but then his current form's highly developed reflexes kicked in and saved him from a lethal shot with only a small cut on his forearm.

Provoked, the Replicant retaliated by running forward with his own volley of arrows, but Flare just did some evading of his own, leaving the villain unable to land a hit.

From there, the two began running around in a giant circle, firing off arrows and missing at every shot.

Eventually the archers found themselves completely out of arrows. Shrugging it off immediately, they took out their tomahawks and charged at each other, but just as they were about to clash there was a bright surge of light and everything changed. The dry desert had become frigid tundra, and they thanked goodness that their clothes had changed to match it. They were now wearing ridiculously heavy mail made of solid iron with leather garb underneath. Their heads were adorned with matching helmets (the Replicant's coving all but Slade's eyes, one of which had an eyepatch), and they now held weighty iron and leather shields in their left hands and massive battle axes in their right.

"Looks like this stage is northern North America, circa 1000 A.D.," the Replicant commented.

"The age of Vikings?" Flare guessed.

"Correct, and though people often simplify the Viking culture, thinking them oversized brutes without acknowledging their success in trading and sailing, I'd be lying if I said they were never bloodthirsty!"
With that, the shapeshifter took a mighty swing of his axe at the "hero", which he blocked with his shield just in time, though he was still a little shaken from the blow.


"He's right, you know," Marcus stated as the crowd watched the fight pick up in the portal's viewer.

"Hm?" Claire mumbled, watching Flare aim a chop at the Replicant's (or Slade's) neck, which was narrowly dodged.

"The Vikings accomplished quite a lot. In fact, they may have been the first board of tourism—they gave frigid and semi-hospitable lands names like Greenland and Vinland to get people to journey there."

"And this matters because…?" Gust asked, rolling his eyes.

"Just an interesting factoid," the Elementals' creator said with a shrug.


"Leif Erikson wasn't the hero people imagine, you know," the Replicant chuckled, slamming his shield into the side of Flare's helmet to stun him. "I was with him on his journeys. He was a good planner, but terrible in battle. He could never live up to the reputation of his father, Erik the Red—at least not while he was alive."
"And I should care why?" Flare snarled, scarcely blocking a blow to his leg.

"Because you're just like him!" the villain laughed, attempting yet another blow, this one to Flare's side. This time it succeeded, and the Elemental of fire was knocked on his back. "The Elemental of fire from my time was superior to you in every way! You're nothing compared to your predecessor!"

With that the Replicant lifted his axe high, ready to finish the Elemental, who was hopelessly immobilized thanks to his heavy armor.

Unfortunately for the Replicant, that was the exact second when the era changed again. In the blink of an eye they were on the bow of a massive wooden ship in a tropical sea. Their axes were gone, replaced by long double-edged swords, and their shields have vanished into thin air. Their armor had disappeared, too, substituted by scratchy blouses and pantaloons, and the Replicant was now covering most of Slade's face with two black bandanas (one over his hair and ears, the other his nose, mouth, and chin), with an eyepatch still over the right eye.

The Replicant at this moment forfeited his win to a new distraction—he had just noticed the dozens of shaggy and very unhygienic pirates all around them.

Flare took this opportunity to leap to his feet and, taking notice of the distraction, snapped his fingers and made the pirates vanish.

"I take it this is the pirate era?" Flare inquired, taking a defensive stance, his sword placed diagonally in front of his torso.

"Bingo," the Replicant told him. "1717 A.D., to be exact. I'd recognize this ship anywhere. It's the Queen Anne's Revenge, the vessel of the infamous Captain Blackbeard, the fiercest pirate of all time. I served on his crew for a year."

"Very informative," the Elemental of fire replied, and then, quick as a flash, he leapt and sliced his sword at his opponent, but the Replicant instantly parried the blow and made a stab of his own, but Flare blocked that and jumped in front of the base of the closest of the three masts (the foremast), the Replicant close behind.

"Try following this, old man!" the teenaged Elemental jeered. He clung tightly onto the rope tied to the sail and chopped it in twain with his sword, hoisting him up into the air before he landed on the third of the five horizontal bars that bisected the foremast. "Catch me if you can!"

"I'll fight pirate movie cliché with pirate movie cliché!" the Replicant snapped, and then he dashed down to the mainmast and mimicked the move perfectly. With a boastful roar, he sliced through the sail and leapt up onto the rope connecting the two masts, dashing up with perfect balance.

Flare, however, just snickered and cut that very rope. The Replicant barely had time to leap back to the previous bar, where he clung onto the sail for dear life.

Flare laughed hysterically, but karma kicked in right away as the wind changed and nearly blew the "hero" from his perch, leaving him to clench onto his sail like his opponent.

Angrily, the two sheathed their swords and scurried to the top bars at inhuman speeds before finally stopping to rest and stare each other down.

"Go on!" the Replicant sneered from the crow's nest. "Come and fight me!"

This time, the two of them both raced forward on the rigging, ready for a sky-high swordfight when there was another flash of light and the era changed again.

The first thing that the two fighters noticed was that though they were still off the ground, their feet weren't balanced on a rope anymore—they were riding unicycles on a tightrope!

Taking a look around, they saw that they were now inside a giant circus tent, positioned on a tightrope above the center ring in front of a huge cheering crowd of at least 10,000.

And, in terms of appearance, the two had become…


"CLOWNS!" Tash squealed, her eyes wide and teary with fright. "I HATE CLOWNS!"

It was true—Flare and the Replicant had both been decked out in baggy pants with big red suspenders, white gloves, rainbow wigs, puffy polka-dotted shirts, white pancake makeup with bright scarlet lips and cheeks, giant shoes, and, of course, big red noses. The Replicant still wasn't wearing a mask—Slade's right eye was now covered by a purple bandana, and they were holding rubber chickens instead of swords.

"Really?" Marcus asked, sounding only mildly interested as he nibbled on a chocolate-covered strawberry. "I never knew that. I absolutely love clowns. My sister was a clown for a short time, and I found her very entertaining, which is ironic considering that Marilyn is responsible for most of my fears, like spiders, roller coasters, men who braid their beards, the hu—"

"MARCUS!" Valerie interrupted, whacking the bandaged agent upside the head. "A little compassion, please? Now, Tash," she told her boss. "Go ahead back to the Library Arcanium. We'll call you when this is over."

Tash nodded nervously and reached for her portal gun, but Volt beat her to it, knocking the device out of her hand and then grabbing her in a bear hug from behind. "Oh, you're not going anywhere, Tashy," he snickered in her ear. "You're staying right here and watching the show!"

"Let her go, Volt!" Marcus snapped. "Your grudge is against me!"

"Not a chance, Creator!" the Elemental of lightning retorted. "I'll earn big points with the Liberator by giving one of her sworn nemeses a panic attack!"

Just as he said that, Tash's condition grew worse. She started hyperventilating and grew very twitchy.

"Let go of her, Volt!" Harriet screamed, but the Elementals just laughed.

"Hang in there, boss!" Miri encouraged. "It'll be over soon!"


"What sort of era is this?" Flare shouted, doing all that he could to maintain his balance. "I'm no history buff, but this—"

"Is a future era of the Samurai Jack fandom," the Replicant interrupted. "Clearly some time and place where circus clowns are a type of warrior."

"How could this ever be considered dangerous?" the Elemental of fire replied.


The rogue Elemental smacked Flare as hard as he could on the cheek with his rubber chicken, knocking him off the highwire and into a hundred-foot drop.

Not missing a beat, Flare threw his unicycle into the crowd (narrowly missing a few spectators) and landed harmlessly in the safety net, then rolled out of it and found himself balanced on a giant star-patterned rubber ball. Taking advantage of his situation, Flare took the time to look around. In one corner of the stadium (metaphorically so, as the arena was circular) there was a tiny car painted pink with yellow flowers. In another, a giant swirling cotton candy machine. And, directly across from him, a popcorn popper popping away. Then, staring at the wall in front of the bleachers he found several clown-style weapons—more rubber chickens, nitrous oxide bombs, playing card throwing stars, air horn cannons, etc. He decided on a set of juggling knives and began a routine as the crowd honked their bicycle horns in approval. Then, without warning, he tossed all of them up in the air, missing the Replicant, but slicing the tightrope to ribbons!

The Replicant took control of his fall and managed to catch hold of the pole attached to the highwire on one side of the arena and slid down it like a fire pole, landing perfectly on his unicycle in front of the tiny car.

"You'll have to do better than that, boy!" he taunted. "Try this!"

Then, in one of the weirdest sights ever in a battle scene, the Replicant pulled back his lower bandana just far enough to fit his hand behind it and pulled out a handkerchief—but it didn't stop there. That handkerchief was tied to another, and that was tied to another. This went on until he'd pulled out about a dozen in assorted colors, then brandished it in both hands. Then, a sadistic look in his one visible eye, he sped forward and used it as a whip to strike Flare.

Flare recoiled from the pain, nearly falling off of the ball. That had hurt a lot more than he'd thought it would. Still, he didn't stay down long. He grabbed three grenades from the wall, removed the rings, juggled them for a few seconds, then hurled them at the wicked shapeshifter, who batted them aside right into the crowd, which screamed and scattered just before the explosion and went back to cheering a second later.


Tash, meanwhile, had gone quite still, save for her quick, heavy breathing. Her fight-or-flight reaction was going nuts from fear. She had tried to close her eyes, but Gust had sauntered over and pried them open, earning some foul language from the Society agents, which only managed to entertain the Elementals.

"Quit your whining, Tashy!" Cascade sneered. "We all had to endure our worst fears during the Liberator's training, and we managed just fine!"

"Are you saying you're weaker than us?" Volt snickered. "Because if you are, speak up!"

"You're monsters!" Valerie hissed, but the Elementals just laughed harder.

"Can't… take… much… more…" Tash huffed, tears streaming down her face.


The Replicant honked his nose a couple of times and let out a maniacal cackle, then gave Flare a couple more lashes from his handkerchief whip. On the third strike, though, the Elemental of fire was ready, snagging the end of the whip in his hands and pulling it taut.

A tug-of-war began between the two Elementals, but the Replicant had a distinct advantage: While the shapeshifter's unicycle had pedals to help pull backwards, Flare's ball was much harder to control and had no real traction. The Replicant remained in control and with one mighty yank Flare was pulled off of his ride and tangled in the whip.

"Pathetic, boy!" the Replicant laughed over the crowd's cheers as he swung his opponent around and around. "This fight is mine!"

Still chuckling, the villain snapped the whip and untangled Flare from the weapon, sending him flying headfirst into the cotton candy machine. Swiftly, he abandoned his ride and raced over just as Flare was climbing out, forcing the "hero"'s face into the swirling sugar.

Flare tried to scream, but his voice was muffled by the surrounding sweetness. Desperately, he began kicking his feet, and, by pure blind luck, scored a hit in Slade's gut with his giant shoes, knocking the wind out of the criminal.

Flare took advantage of this moment by leaping out, ready to attack when there was another bright flash of light and the era changed again, but the two were still in an arena surrounded by cheering fans. These fans were all men, decked out in togas and tunics, and, in the middle of the stands on his own special throne was a fat, smiling emperor.

The Replicant was now wearing a bronze armguard on Slade's right arm, heavy padding on his legs, a pair of high greaves reaching to mid-thigh, a loincloth, and a bronze helmet modified to cover every part of Slade's face but the left eye. He had a round shield strapped to his left arm, and a spear clutched in his right.

Flare, too, had a loincloth and an armguard, though it was made of linen, not bronze. He also had a leather belt, a gaiter on his right leg and a thick wrapping on his lower left. His helmet had a broad rim and high crest, making it resemble a fish of some sort, and he had a larger, rectangular shield with rounded edges strapped to his left arm, and a short, straight-bladed sword in his right hand.


Tash had nearly passed out when the scene changed, but she sighed in relief and Volt and Gust dropped her, bored.

"Thank goodness!" Adrian gasped, pulling his girlfriend to her feet and embracing her, and the rest of the Society exhaled in relief.

"Have a strawberry, Tash," Marcus offered, holding out his box of treats. "It'll make you feel better."


"Ah, Roman gladiator fights," the Replicant sighed wistfully, his breathing instantly restored. "It's been quite a while. I had such a wonderful time training up-and-comers in the gladiator school."

"Then you'll be glad to die in one of your favorite times!" Flare cried out, swiping his sword, which the Replicant easily blocked with his shield.

"In each era you fail to match me, Flare!" the villain mocked attempting to stab Flare in the thigh with his spear, but the Elemental of fire moved his leg just in time, leaving the spear to hit nothing but padding. Just when he did, though, the shapeshifter slammed his shield into the side of Flare's helmet, stunning him and allowing the Replicant to take another shot at Flare's thigh, this time nailing the target dead-on!

Flare howled in pain, but soon regained control of himself and made a thrust with his blade, only to have the Replicant parry it with the shaft of his spear (wow, that sounded dirty, didn't it?).


"Wow, the Replicant really knows his stuff," Tyler commented, having turned back to the match once Marcus had finally wrestled the box away from Tash.

"What do you expect?" Marcus told him. "Necessity is our greatest weapon, and besides, he taught gladiators to fight in ancient Rome, hoping to find an Elemental among them."


"You may think you're a Stu, Flare," the Replicant goaded over the roar of the crowd, effortlessly blocking a flurry of swipes from Flare's sword. "But I know the truth: You're a loser! That's all the idea of you ever was, and that's all it ever will be! That's why Marcus gave up on you and you know it!"

"I'm not a loser anymore, old man!" Flare argued, never letting up on his assaults. "The Liberator put me through training, and once this saga is complete, I'll be her top general and right-hand man!"

"You act as if that makes a difference. You're a spoiled little brat throwing a tantrum just because things didn't go his way, nothing more! Be a man and accept your fate!"


"Then die!"

Once again the Replicant stunned Flare by banging his shield into the side of his helmet, then latched the shaft of his spear behind the "hero"'s shield and, using the spear as a lever, yanked the shield off of Flare's arm!
The crowd roared in appreciation, and the emperor applauded wildly.

"I! Won't! Lose!" Flare bellowed, grabbing his sword with both hands and swinging it with each word.
Like before, the Replicant moved his shield to block the strikes, but this time he found himself thrown backward. Regaining his balance immediately, he instantly realized what had gone wrong.

"Silly me," he chuckled. "I forgot to account for the extra power from that two-handed attack."

"Just like a villain," Flare smiled, raising his sword for another strike. "Always forgetting a crucial detail!"

And, just as Flare did that, the Replicant delivered a solid whack to the Elemental of fire's chest with the shaft of his spear. The overconfident "hero" clattered to the ground, his sword flying out of his grip.

"And just like a hero to expose weakness!" the wicked shapeshifter laughed, and then he raised his spear and held the point down at Flare's neck, just inches away. "Now," he shouted at the top of his lungs. "What say you, emperor?"

The crowd went silent as the emperor stood and held out his fist with his thumb out. Then, in very dramatic slow-motion, he tucked his thumb into his fist.


"Wait, rewind!" Doug objected. "What was that signal? I thought a thumbs-up meant 'let them live' and a thumbs-down meant 'kill them'!"

"A common mistake from those who learned about gladiator fights via Hollywood," Marcus told him. "In actuality, a thumbs-up meant 'kill' and a thumb tucked in a fist meant 'spare them'. The thumb represented a sword, drawn or sheathed."

"Huh," Adrian commented. "I never knew that."


Just as the Replicant thrust his spear downward (again, sounding a little dirty…), the era changed again. Now they were decked out in medieval armor and visored helmets (Flare's polished silver in color, the Replicant's the purest obsidian black) on a lush field in front of a stable full of noble stallions next to a giant castle, and the Replicant's spear was now a lance, which struck harmlessly against Flare's now armored throat.

"Blast it," the rogue Elemental griped. "These shifts are becoming a nuisance!"

"Not to me!" Flare laughed, eagerly delivering a kick to his opponent's shinguard. As the Replicant stumbled back, off-balance in his new attire, Flare grabbed his weapon (which had become a lance as well), used it to push the Replicant further back, got to his feet, and awkwardly lumbered over to the stables, his enemy close behind.

Luckily for the "knights", the horses were already outfitted for riding. Flare chose a powerful roan and climbed aboard. With a crack of the reins and a loud "HYAH!" he was off into the field, the Replicant following suit on a sleek ebony gelding. Amazingly the two still had their lances, and the Replicant his shield.

"If it's a joust you want, it's a joust you'll get!" the shapeshifter called. "I was known to win a few matches in this era!"

"I'm so sick of your bragging!" the lead Elemental snarled. "I don't care how much experience you have! I won't lose to you!"

Flare tugged at his horse's reins and turned it around, rushing at the Replicant with his lance raised, only for the villain to pull aside and dodge it at the last second.

"Weak effort, boy," he jeered. Then he directed his horse around and sped at Flare.

Flare grunted and steeled his nerves, and when the villain's lance came close he pushed it aside and allowed his opponents to run right past him, then turned around and gave chase.

The two began circling each other, looking like some sort of deadly merry-go-round with their lances out in front of them, until the Replicant finally broke free of the cycle and charged the other way, but instead of spearing Flare with his lance, he plowed it into the "hero"'s horse (okay, that was the dirtiest yet!)!

Flare's steed whinnied and reared back in alarm, its back-left thigh punctured and bleeding. The Elemental of fire barely managed to stay on, but the Replicant showed no mercy, pulling back his lance and preparing for another blow when the period changed again.

This epoch was very similar to the one two eras ago. They were once again in a big arena (this one oval-shaped) surrounded by a screaming crowd, back in bronze helmets (the Replicant's with one eye covered, as usual) and heavy padding on their arms and legs, but now with bronze breastplates. Their horses were still there (Flare's had even healed from its injury), but there were two of each, and they no longer had riders. Instead, they were pulling the competitors' customized chariots: Flare's orange with red flames, the Replicant's half black and half bronze, like Slade's mask.

Oh, and there were now two of each fighter, a driver and a passenger.


"O-kay," Gust remarked. "This just got even weirder!"

"No arguments here," Rhia told him.


Flare and the Replicant actually took their newfound duplication quite well. It was instantly decided that one would focus entirely on driving while the other fought. The fighters' lances had become javelins, and the Replicant still had his shield, which he instantly used to block a jab from Fighter Flare. They both had a couple of extra javelins in their chariots, too.

"I suppose you were a chariot racer once, too?" Driver Flare shouted out.

"For a short while, yes!" Fighter Replicant chuckled.

"It's just like riding a bicycle," Driver Replicant chimed in. "A deadly bicycle where at any given moment you run the risk of being speared, crashed, or trampled!"

"How about all three?" Fighter Flare sneered.

Fighter Flare threw his first javelin and narrowly missed Driver Replicant, managing to distract him and make the villains' ride a bit bumpier, then pulled out his second weapon and slammed it into Fighter Replicant's, trying to knock it out of his opponent's hand, but Fighter Replicant was prepared for this, meeting it with equal force and knocking it aside.

"Get in closer!" Fighter Flare screamed at his counterpart. The driver nodded and yanked his horses' reins, pulling up a foot away from the Replicants' chariot's right side, and then Fighter Flare pulled exactly the same move he just did, but now with a twist—when Fighter Replicant blocked it, Fighter Flare pulled out his final javelin and jammed it down into the enemy chariot's wheel!

This was too much for the Replicants' chariot, which was, after all, very flimsy to make the race more entertaining. The wheel broke off after a powerful blow to the axle through the space between the spokes and was completely removed when Fighter Flare used the javelin as a lever, wrested the wheel off and threw it away with a smug look.

The audience gasped and cheered as the Replicant's ride began veering to the right, slamming into the flame-patterned chariot, but Driver Flare simply smiled and snapped the reins and began pressing his chariot harder and harder against his opponents', finally upending it completely.

Driver Replicant's reins slipped out of his grasp as he and his fighter counterpart were thrown into the air and landed painfully on the other side of the hippodrome, Fighter Replicant's javelin and shield flying away as their horses barreled into a wall with the chariot in a spectacular crash.

The shield actually landed on a man in the audience's lap. He held it up triumphantly like a foul ball at a baseball game.

Meanwhile, the two Flares skillfully navigated around the crash site at the track's first turn, their horses now charging right at the two Replicants!

Driver Replicant managed to get to his feet and leap aside, but Fighter Replicant wasted valuable time retrieving his javelin and was pulled out of the way of certain death by his counterpart with only seconds to spare.

Now visibly enraged, Driver Flare gave a war cry and steered the horses around again. The two Replicants tried to dodge, but their thick leg padding made it difficult to move properly. They braced themselves for impact.

The impact never came. For the seventh time, the era changed, and this time they went farther than ever. They were now on a terrain very similar to the first one, dry and arid in front of a cliff face, but there were a few caves in the side. There was only one of each fighter again (thank goodness), but their skin had turned a dark brown and their javelins had morphed into three-foot stone clubs.

If all that wasn't enough for you to guess the era, then their clothes should cinch it: They both had modest loincloths made of thick fur, and the Replicant wore a cloak made from a bear's pelt, with its head over his and its front-right leg wrapped around Slade's face to hide all but his left eye.

"Kyaa~," Aster gasped. "They warped all the way back to the Stone Age!"

"They've devolved into Neanderthals!" Tyler added.

"No, they're Cro-Magnons," Adrian corrected. "Neanderthals lived at the same time as them, and were offshoots of the same extinct species, but they looked totally different. They were shorter, hairier, more muscular, and had large ridges on their foreheads."

"Not to mention that Cro-Magnons were much smarter," Marcus added. "They were far quicker to master tools and hunting methods; the Neanderthals couldn't keep up. Eventually they died out, while the Cro-Magnons evolved into modern-day man."

"Well, there's an interesting idea," Volt commented. "I can see history repeating itself now—the Sues wiping out you Society pests and starting a whole new era!"

"I can't wait!" Cascade cheered.


"Finally!" Flare yelled triumphantly. "Something even you aren't old enough to have experienced, old man!"

"True," the Replicant responded. "Old as I am, I'm a spring chicken compared to Vandal Savage. Still, this form of combat should be child's play for—OH!"

His speech was interrupted when Flare gave him a club to the side of the head.

"Nice shot," he chuckled, recovering instantly. "Try this!"

The wicked shapeshifter laughed and took a mighty two-handed swing with his club, but Flare moved back and dodged it by maybe two inches, then retaliated with a low swipe of his own, which the Replicant intercepted and parried.

"Gotcha!" Flare laughed.

Then, to the Replicant's utter bewilderment, Flare mimicked the shapeshifter's own move from the gladiator fight, using his club to send his opponent's flying!

"You—you brat!" was all the villain had time to say before Flare gave him a strong blow to the ribs that sent him reeling back. "That's it! No more holding back!"

"Oh, come on!" Flare grunted. "You actually expect anyone to believe you were never really tryi—!"
In that moment of disbelief, the Replicant tackled him to the ground.


"So… he was holding back?" Jess asked.

"Not really," Marcus replied. "More like biding his time. I met with him during the game of Capture the Flag and helped him prepare for this game."

"How so?" Michael inquired.

"Oh, you'll see."


Enraged, Flare raised his club to attack, but the Replicant jammed his hands into the Elemental of fire's armpits and tickled him into submission.

"Tell me, Flare," he asked, an evil glint in his one eye. "Do you know what early man was most famous for?"

"Easy," the "hero" said between laughs. "HAHA!—hunting—HAHAHA!—making stone—HAHA!—tools, and—HAHA!—burying their dead!"

"Yes, that's all true, but not what I—really? They buried their dead? Oh, whatever. The answer I was looking for was… their quest for FIRE!"

The Replicant laughed maniacally as he grasped his opponent's sides tight in Slade's hands and activated his siphoning ability. Flare could do nothing as his power over fire was drained out of him and into the villain. The Replicant's one visible eye turned from yellow to bright crimson.

"No…fair," the once Elemental of fire groaned. "No superpowers. That was… the rule…"

"No, my boy," the Replicant cackled. "The rule was that you couldn't use your powers! I just couldn't shapeshift! I'm perfectly free to take your powers and use them as my own!"


"If there's one thing that Marcus Pate knows how to do, it's exploit a loophole," Marcus said with a nod.

"But you didn't exploit it!" Gust argued. "You created it!"



Flare quickly recovered from the shock of having his powers drained out of him. With a primal yell, he swung his club and sent the Replicant flying several meters backward, right into the depths of a dark cave, then leapt to his feet and followed the villain in, which turned out to be a big mistake. The cave went much farther back than the "hero" would have guessed, and the Replicant knew to journey to the very end of it. Flare was about to back out when the Replicant spoke up.

"And the Replicant said 'let there be light'!" he laughed maniacally, his voice echoing endlessly as he produced a large flame from his hand that lit up the entire cave, exposing every painting on the wall. Flare had no time for art appreciation, though, as the Replicant began throwing fireballs and the "hero" had to go into overdrive to avoid them all.

"A change of scenery would be nice right now!" he screamed to nobody in particular.

A second later the "hero"'s prayer was answered, and with a bright surge of light the era changed again. Now they were inside a Buddhist temple crowded with training dummies, and the Replicant and Flare were in black and white gis, respectively, with black belts. Slade's face was now covered by a multitude of bandages (much like Marcus'), save for his left eye, and Flare's club had morphed into a bo staff.

"Finally!" Flare exclaimed. "The ball's in my court now, old man! Kung fu is my specialty!"

"We'll see if that's enough, boy!" the villain snapped. "I still have plenty of tricks left!"

With that, the Replicant conjured two long, fiery whips that extended six feet out from his hands and slashed through the air with amazing speed.

Flare's finely tuned martial arts skills were all that kept him from burning alive as he constantly jumped back to avoid the whips, struggling to find an opening, but even that couldn't protect him forever. Eventually a whip nailed him directly on his left pectoral and set him ablaze. Panicked, the "hero" stopped, dropped, and rolled, putting out the fire and slamming his head into a training dummy.

Flare stopped for a second. It wasn't because of pain—the dummy was remarkably light—but because he'd been hit by an idea. He swiftly jumped to his feet and roundhouse kicked the doll directly between the fiery streams and into the Replicant's (or Slade's) bandaged face. Temporarily stunned, the Replicant extinguished his whips, and Flare used this moment of weakness to deliver a wicked flying kick to the evildoer's chest and knocked him to the floor, then picked him up by one leg, spun him around, and finally tossed him into a wall.

Despite what should've been substantial pain, the Replicant picked himself up forthwith, let out a snarl, and created two giant arms of fire ending in hands as big as cymbals!

Not missing a beat, Flare used his bo staff to pole-vault over a hand when it came at him and landed three feet from his foe, but the villain surprised him once again as he pulled both hands in, wrapping the "hero" in a flaming embrace, only for Flare to retaliate by delivering a two-handed blow to the shapeshifter's face and doing a perfect backflip to escape the fire.

"Surrender, old man!" he commanded. "Give in to your fate! Our saga will become canon, and we will be immortal! Why fight it?"

"Just like an impudent brat to think only of himself!" the Replicant shot back, forming a pair of flaming buzzsaw projectiles and tossing them forward, where they quickly dissipated and vanished after Flare dodged them. "I'm not about to be stuck losing to you twerps for all time in endless reruns!"

"Everybody loves a good villain!" Flare asserted, leaping forward to give the Replicant a super-strong punch. "Your fanbase will be enormous!"

"That makes it worse!" the Replicant replied, stepping aside to let Flare hit nothing but wall. Flare recovered quickly, but then the Replicant ignited a good-sized explosion in front of Flare's chest that blew them both to opposite sides of the room. "Do you realize how many disgustingly emo fanfics there will be about me, past and present? And did it occur to you how many fans would crank out homoerotic romance fics pairing me with Slade, or worse, Volt, just because I was his past life's lover?"


"Huh," Volt murmured as the Society agents simultaneously turned to give him nauseated looks. "I didn't think of that. Still on board, though."


But the Replicant wasn't finished. "How can you be proud to be a part of this saga?" he continued. "There isn't a single original villain aside from myself—don't tell me that the Ravager and Geo-Force count, because they don't—which isn't nearly as pathetic as the heroes themselves!"

As he spoke, the Replicant sent serpents made of fire from his hands that reared up to strike Flare with their burning fangs.

"Gust and Cascade have far too much angst and sexual tension toward each other to function as teammates! Volt only joined the Titans to keep them in the saga! Jinx and Terra have done almost nothing, and Kid Flash has done less than that! Sol and Luna are romantic clichés, and you, Flare, are nothing more than a muscle-bound, fire-spewing, possibly homosexual clone of Robin, and now you're not even fire-spewing!"

Flare couldn't break his focus by arguing at this point. He just raised his bo staff and caught it in the serpents' mouths to block their attacks, only to have it reduced to ashes in seconds.

"And do I even need to mention that luck and life aren't elements?"

Before Flare's eyes, each snake grew four more heads, and each of them reared up to strike, but just as they did, the "hero" hit the floor and slid forward and past them on his belly, then leapt back up and kicked another training dummy at the Replicant, but one of each of the snakes' heads turned around and caught it in their mouths, then twisted back and spat the now flaming projectile back at Flare, slamming him into a wall.

"And sun and moon?" the Replicant continued, still monologuing. "Please! Those are utterly redundant! The sun is a massive ball of fire, the moon a chunk of rock!"

The serpents began slithering around the room, scooping up more mannequins and spitting them at Flare, who was using all of his focus just to kick them aside.

"Fire isn't an element, either! It's a chemical reaction! This whole saga is little more than a steaming, freshly-laid, tightly-coiled mound of dog—"


"Okay," Marcus said stiffly. "I've been a good sport with the Replicant, but now he's just denouncing any quality that the saga has!"

"Begeeneeng to sweetch sides, Creator?" Luna chirped with a smile.



"The fans will reject this!" the Replicant raged. "It's not about the Teen Titans! It's just a lousy spinoff!"

All ten of the serpent heads reared back and struck Flare from ten different angles with so much force that it blew the once Elemental of fire right through the wall and sent him flying out onto a fresh green lawn, badly injured. With a nod, the Replicant sent his puppets out after him.

"This saga isn't worth finishing! Just give up and spare yourself the agony!"

With a great deal of effort, Flare pushed himself to his feet and let loose a loud string of curses.

"You will not beat me, old man!" he spat when he was done. "We've worked too hard and come too far to lose now!"

The Replicant burst out laughing again. "You say that like you have a choice, boy!" he snickered.

Once again the burning snakes attacked, but this time Flare moved right into it, karate-chopping the heads and dispersing them, slipping back through the hole in the wall, leaping into the air, doing a triple somersault, and finally landing with a powerful kick to the Replicant's (or Slade's) rib cage—or at least trying to. The Replicant caught Flare's foot in midair, spun the "hero" around, and tossed him across the room with a cackle.

Flare got up just as the period shifted again. He was outdoors again, in the middle of a forest of cherry trees that were in full blossom, which would've made for a perfect Kodak moment if it weren't the site of a battle.
The once Elemental of fire was decked out in a red and orange o-yoroi—the traditional armor of a samurai shogun—and he had a sword in each hand—in the right, a gleaming katana, and in the left, a slightly shorter but otherwise identical wakizashi.

There was only one thing that threw him for a loop: The Replicant was nowhere to be seen.

Flare's ears perked up when he heard a cracking sound behind him, followed by a very loud profanity. He whipped around, but saw only a dark blur.



"He's right," Marcus said with a nod. "There is always a twig."


Then something came whizzing out of the tree directly in front of Flare and embedded itself into his helmet. Annoyed, the "hero" pulled it out. It was a small, star-shaped projectile made of stainless steel known as a shuriken—definitely not the weapon of a samurai, who always fought fair.

"Ninja tricks, Replicant?" he groaned, staring into the tree for signs of movement. "Have you no honor at all?"


"I resent that remark," Cristoph objected.


"Why don't you tell me?" the villain hissed back, and then two more shuriken flew out of the tree. Flare managed to deflect one with his katana, but the other sliced right into his cheek as it whizzed by.

Flare put a hand to his cheek and winced in agony. That shuriken wasn't just sharp—it was white-hot! Despite that, though, he was determined not to show any signs of weakness. Not now, not ever.

"Come out and fight me, you coward!" the buff adolescent cried, raising his swords.

"No," the Replicant retorted from within the confines of the cherry blossoms. "I don't think I will. I'm not one of those gullible Society agents. I won't be so easily baited. Now, take this!"

More and more wicked burning projectiles flew out of the depths of the foliage, and not just throwing stars, either—there were knives and needles as well.

Undaunted, Flare gritted his teeth and began swinging his swords, using his kung fu master reflexes to deflect the oncoming weapons in all directions, and, as Stu luck would have it, a few were sent right back into the tree, and a huge, dark form came tumbling out.

The Replicant's outfit in this time period was almost completely identical to Slade's, lightweight and flexible, all dark grey except for the chest and groin coverings, which were black. He also had a belt with tons of pouches, clips, and holsters for weapons, almost all of which were now empty. In fact, the only difference was his mask, which had been replaced by a less fancy version of Flare's that had been (you guessed it) modified to cover all but the left eye, and even then it was still colored bronze on the left half and black on the right, just like Slade's mask.

"Good to see you again, old man," Flare joked. "It'll be even better to see you SLICED IN HALF!"

Pumped up, the "hero" ran forward, intent on slashing his opponent to ribbons with his blades, but the Replicant retaliated with catlike reflexes, pulling out two small daggers and using them to catch the swords just in time. Despite this surprising move, though, Flare pressed onward, and in a few seconds the daggers flew from the Replicant's hands.

Once again, Flare raised his swords to kill the shapeshifter, but the Replicant wouldn't allow it. He shot a fireball right at the Stu's face to blind him and bolted at top speed, Flare giving chase as soon as he came to. Onward the two wove through the cherry trees, and it soon became apparent to Flare that he wasn't going to catch his quarry anytime soon. Although the "hero" had never been slow on his feet, the Replicant's outfit was far lighter and more flexible than his own, allowing for much more speed and agility. Still, having no better options, he continued sprinting forward until the string of cherry trees reached an end and the two fighters found themselves at the edge of a cliff over a three-hundred meter drop into a massive white-water river. Spanning the gap to a cliff opposite this one was a gargantuan, masterfully-carved wooden bridge, a good hundred meters in length and at least five meters wide, supported by hundreds of crisscrossing beams that extended from cliff face to cliff face and all the way down into the river below.

Suddenly the Replicant shot a blast of fire right at the ground, propelling himself high in the air, and then discharged another and flew all the way across the gorge to the other end of the bridge. He landed gracefully, then turned and beckoned Flare over with his hand.

Not one to pass up a challenge, Flare sprinted onto the bridge, his swords raised, expecting a barrage of fireballs, but he was utterly astounded at what came instead.

The Replicant truly outdid his use of Flare's powers this time as he conjured up an all-new opponent for the Stu: A life-sized mirror image of Flare made entirely of bright crimson flames! Then he made another, and another, until there was an entire army of fiery samurai standing between the two fighters.


"That's… new…" Rhia noted, mouth agape as she stared at this new trick.

"Glad he's on our side," Claire gulped.

"Typical Flare!" Volt spat. "All that power and no creativity! It's always just fireballs and fire streams with him! Why the Liberator chose him to lead, I'll never understand! How could she, in all of her glorious wisdom, not choose me and my massive IQ?"

"IT WAS A—" Marcus roared, before catching himself. "Oh, you didn't say it that time…"


The fiery samurai warriors screamed a battle cry in unison, sounding like coals crackling in a hearth, and then rampaged forward. Oddly enough, the wooden bridge didn't burn, although their footsteps did leave scorch marks.

With a primal scream of his own, Flare entered the battle, hacking and slashing his doppelgangers apart one by one.

"YOU! WILL! NOT! BEAT! ME!" he bellowed, taking down a blazing Flare with each word, but even then it seemed his loss was inevitable. There had to be at least twenty of them left, and the still-rising temperature was becoming unbearable. Nonetheless, the Stu refused to surrender, fighting off the monstrosities even as he began to cook in his own armor. Through pure grit, he brought their numbers down to five.

"Very impressive, boy!" the Replicant taunted. "But I still have a few tricks left!"

The villain brought his hands together in a mighty clap, and all of the remaining fire soldiers slammed together, forming a horrible abomination—a ten-foot-tall, six-armed, four-legged, two-headed atrocity that shook the bridge with a wicked roar!


"Aw, crap," was all that Flare could say, but then he leapt into action, but this time he found far more of a challenge. This terrible monstrosity was so much stronger, so much more substantial than those before it. His swords could barely penetrate it.

Slowly but surely, the colossus gained the upper hand, pressing Flare up to one side of the bridge with nowhere to go but the water below, and still it kept pressing him back, knocking the Stu over the side. Flare was forced to drop his wakizashi into the river so he could cling precariously to the railing of the bridge with his left hand.

Cackling evilly, the abomination raised all four of its swords for the kill when, completely out of nowhere, it vanished!

"What the—?"

"Surprised, Flare?" the Replicant asked. With Flare distracted, he had come a lot closer. He had been standing right behind the monster when it had disappeared. "I figured that after all this, I'd finish you with my own two hands. So," he chuckled maliciously, walking right up to the helpless Elemental and looming over him. "Any last words?"

"Yes, actually," Flare replied. At the top of his lungs, he screamed for the Replicant to do something to himself that cannot be printed, and then, with a mighty arc, he swung his katana directly where the villain's right eye should've been!

Unfortunately for the drained Elemental, he hadn't noticed that the battle with his fiery doppelgangers and their wicked amalgamation had warped his sword, making it hopelessly misshapen and blunt, and the helmet, instead of being pierced and killing the Replicant, simply shattered from the forceful impact and sent the pieces tumbling into the river below.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Flare thought he saw something that was decidedly not metal with the pieces of the mask. It looked familiar, but before he could identify it the villain had seized him by the chin and forced him to look at his face—or lack thereof. You see, since the Replicant had no idea what Slade really looked like, his transformation was an imperfect one. Behind that helmet, the Replicant's transformed skin was eggshell-white and completely hairless, and aside from that one eye he had absolutely no facial features—not the meanest sign of ears, nose, or mouth. His one eye glowered down at the "hero".

"That," the Replicant snarled, despite not having a mouth. "Was a mistake. Just for that, I'm going to make this as painful as possible."

Flare gulped. "It gets worse?"

"Oh, yes, Flare," the villain laughed menacingly. "Indeed it does."


"Got to admire quality work," Marcus commented. "I've never seen Flare so terrified—or the rest of you, for that matter," he added, eyeing the rest of the Elementals.


The Replicant continued to laugh more loudly and wickedly than ever before, and as he did he erupted in flames. The fire spread all over his body, and then, even stranger, it became his body, and even then the change continued as the flames burned brighter and hotter, changing from red-orange to a bright sky blue edged with white.

"Now this is how you use an elemental form, Flare!" he boomed, rising up into the air. "And now, this game ends!"

"Not while there's life in my body!" Flare objected, and then he shocked everyone by letting go of the bridge and dropping into the supports below!

"Works for me," the villain said with a shrug. He flew over the edge and down to chase his quarry. He found the Stu thirty meters below, balanced on a wide horizontal beam, clutching a diagonal one in his left hand and brandishing his katana in the right.

Still laughing, the Replicant flew forward, sending waves of fire in all directions, igniting dozens of supports. As he flew by, Flare swiped at him with his katana, but the already damaged sword became completely useless when the blade melted into nothing simply from exposure to the villain's impossibly high body temperature. Frustrated, Flare chucked the worthless handle into the distance and leapt up to catch hold of a support beam a couple of feet above him, then swung forward onto another one below. Every second he found himself thanking the Liberator for her training as he leapt from beam to burning beam, moving steadily downward, evading the Replicant as the flames intensified, preparing for his final gambit.

It couldn't last forever, though. In just a couple of minutes the fires had become too strong, leaving the "hero" nowhere to go, and when Flare was cornered the Replicant swooped down in front of him.

"Time to teach you a lesson, boy!" the villain bellowed, and then he let loose a massive wave of fire that completely engulfed the once Elemental of fire.

Flare let out an unholy scream of agony, and for good reason. The pain that he felt was so intense that it was impossible to describe. His armor was turning liquid and the molten metal was seeping into his skin, searing every inch of his body. A few droplets even got in his eyes.

Finally, it all became too much. Drastically weakened, Flare loosened his grip on the already pitifully weak support beam, lost his balance on the one beneath him, and plunged all the way into the river below with a tremendous splash.


"That's game, you rejected manuscripts!" Tash laughed, sneering right in Cascade's face. "It's all over for you!"

"Not yet!" the Elemental of water snapped. "Flare's as tough as they come, and the Liberator trained us well! He may still be able to fight!"

"He just fell over four-hundred feet into a river!" Adrian argued. "Not even Flare could survive that, especially with his injuries!"

"There's only one way to find out," Gust asserted. "Let's wait and see."


The Replicant couldn't help but stop and admire his own handiwork when he heard a series of loud cracking sounds, becoming more and more frequent, and a second later he saw Flare's head—just a tiny dot –break the surface of the water a short distance downstream. Suddenly it came to him what Flare had been doing all this time: The sneaky Stu had let the villain burn through the bridge's supports, drastically weakening them! He had jumped just in time to avoid the structure's inevitable collapse!

The instant that the Replicant got this, the bridge finally buckled under its own weight, crashing through countless blackened beams.

Cursing at the top of his lungs, the villain let loose an explosive blast from his hands, propelling himself backward and away from Flare, avoiding sure destruction by, oh, half a centimeter.

Swelling with evil pride, the Replicant watched as the debris hit the rapid-flowing river. Flare's plan was utterly snafu'd as he was endlessly pummeled by driftwood, slammed into a cliff face, plunged underwater, and washed away by the river's swift current as the Replicant cackled like a madman.


"Okay, that's game!" Michael asserted as the Elementals hung their heads.

Just then there was a bright surge of light and a brief earthquake, and then agents and Elementals found themselves in the plain old Teen Titans fandom with the Replicant and Flare right in front of them. The former was still in his elemental form, burning bright blue, and the latter was sprawled on his belly, breathing heavily, and back in his original clothes. His hands were clenched in tight fists.

"And that's that, boy!" the Replicant sneered. "Your saga is finished!"

Marcus and Adrian high-fived each other when, out of the blue, a voice cried out.


It was Flare, barely conscious and so weak that he couldn't even tilt up his head. Still, there was more than a little determination in his voice.

The Replicant, however, paid it no heed. "I've had quite enough of your insolence, boy!" he barked. "We hand a wager and you lost! Now it's time for you to pay the piper!"

"I… would…"Flare replied, struggling with each word. "If… you… hadn't... cheated!"

"CHEATED?" everyone else exclaimed in utter disbelief.

"That's… right…" Flare insisted.

"If this is about me using that elemental form, you know that that doesn't count as shapeshifting!" the Replicant insisted.

"Not that!" the lead Elemental snapped. "Another rule… was broken…"

"Oh, really?" Valerie sneered.

"Yes, really!" Flare snarled, gaining momentum from anger as Luna and Cascade grabbed him by his arms and hefted him to his feet. His face was a hideous sight—bright red and totally covered in blood, bruises, and blisters. He could barely even open his eyes, and his nose and lips were purple, swollen, and hideously misshapen. "I thought I saw something strange when I smashed your helmet, old man, and during my little swim, I got proof! I found this wedged between two rocks!"

He opened his right fist for everyone to see a very familiar octagonal stone depicting two tigers in a yin-yang pattern.

"The Creator's tiger tarisman copy!" Sol gasped.

The Replicant, however, remained impassive. "Yes," he said. "Marcus slipped it under my mask during your game of Capture the Flag when he told me to steal your powers as soon as I got a good grip on your skin. It moved around constantly, but it always stayed secure until my helmet was destroyed. What of it?"

"We had a bet, that's what!" Gust bellowed. "After my duel with myself in Avatar: The Last Airbender, it was declared that the tiger talisman's powers couldn't be used against the Elementals again!"

"But he didn't use it on Flare!" Michael objected.

"Unless it was during the chariot race…" Claire pondered. "They did duplicate themselves there…"

"That wasn't the talisman," Michael replied, shaking his head. "It might have split the Replicant, but there's no way that it could have split Flare without the Replicant taking it out!"

"No, that was some powerful magic in the fandom and an example of piss-poor writing," Volt admitted, and oh, how I wish I could smack him in the face. "Oh, get over yourself, narrator! Anyway, that wasn't the infraction of our previous wager."

"Then what is?" Tash raged. "The Replicant never used the bloody talisman on Flare! He never split him!"

"I didn't say he used it on me!" Flare snapped. "I said he used it against me!"

"You said neither!" Tash shrieked. "And besides, the Replicant didn't split himself, either!"

"No…" Marcus piped up, sounding very forlorn. "They're right. Oh, I can't believe I didn't make the distinction! 'Against' instead of 'on'! This has to be the most embarrassing—!"

"What are you talking about, Marcus?" Harriet demanded. "That bloody villain of yours didn't use the talisman!"

"Yes, Harriet," Marcus responded. "He did. The true power of the tiger talisman is not to divide, but to balance. Whosoever wields it gains mental and spiritual balance."

"Invaluable traits for any warrior," Flare added. "That's why he put up such a tough fight!"

"Oh, give me some credit, boy!" the Replicant snarled. "For all you know, I never even used the talisman!"

"Tell the truth!" Cascade commanded, snapping her fingers.

"I used it," the villain confessed. "DAMN IT TO HELL!"

"Which means that Flare wins by default!" Volt cackled. "You're not the only one who can exploit a loophole, Creator!"

Marcus didn't reply. He was still in shock. He just watched Flare snap his fingers, retrieve his powers, reconstruct the Replicant's mask, and wave the Society agents away, tossing back Marcus' tiger talisman copy on their way out.


Five minutes later the entire Society was gathered in the monitor room in silence, watching hopelessly as the story unfolded.

As Red X, the Ravager, and Cinderblock journeyed into the underworld, the Titans, the Elementals, the Replicant, and Slade tried a combined sneak attack on Trigon, which failed miserably. The demon just laughed and told them he was stronger than ever, and they weren't worth his time to deal with them personally. Instead, he used his near-endless powers to scatter them across the globe, and worse, conjured up beloved and/or feared people from their pasts to fight them. Beastboy fought Mento of the Doom Patrol in the Amazon. Cyborg clashed with his father in Tokyo. Starfire battled her k'norfka Galfore in Los Angeles. Raven skirmished with Malchior (not the real one, and an apparition in the paper form she had given him, which kept reforming) in Carlsbad Caverns. Flare brawled against Chi Hui in Honolulu. Volt wrestled with his brother in Beijing. Cascade and Luna collided with their fathers in Sydney and Paris, respectively, while Gust and Sol grappled with their mothers in Chicago and Kyoto. Terra was matched up against Beastboy in Markovia. Jinx went up against Kid Flash in Madrid. And the Replicant and Slade, the only ones who'd stayed together (Slade had seen Trigon's "divide and conquer" strategy a mile away and grabbed onto the closest ally), ended up back in Jump City fighting Sarasim and a beautiful but deadly woman whom Slade only referred to as "Addie".

After a long, brutal fight, followed by a change of opponents, Slade and the Replicant destroyed each other's evil memories, and then used Warp's portal generator to track down the heroes with their communicators.
The first one they found was Robin in some big city that was never named, having already beaten an opponent who, oddly enough, was never shown, although the Society did see the corner of a black cape.
Meanwhile, down in the underworld, Red X, the Ravager, and Cinderblock were fighting their way through countless fire demons. More than once the Ravager saved Red X's life, assuring him that she would be the only one to end it. The thief always just shrugged it off and even repaid the debt several times. With time, they made their way to Jericho in limbo, where they found him half-dead. Red X actually became afraid to move the mute hero, and it ended up being the Ravager who retrieved him. This stunned Red X, as, according to both Raven and Slade, only a blood relative or someone emotionally close to Jericho would be able to cross the invisible barrier to him, but she refused to say which she was. Nonetheless, they soon woke Jericho, convinced him to take control of Cinderblock's strong body, and sent a message to the others that they were on their way back.

Back in the world above, the alliance began to reunite as they warped around the world. Most of the heroes needed no help fighting their personal demons, but some, like Gust, Cascade, and Beastboy needed to be reminded that they weren't real. Terra even refused to fight back until she saw the real Beastboy with her own enormous eyes. Still, soon enough they were all in one place again, and warped to Mt. Kilimanjaro to meet up with their last four allies just as they emerged.

"Want to watch this part up close?" Marcus suddenly asked.

Several people jumped. This was the first time that Marcus had spoken since they'd left the Teen Titans fandom, and it was rather loud. Everyone looked at him and shrugged, then donned their medallions, opened up a portal to the Teen Titans fandom, and walked in.


The Society arrived just as the battle against Trigon began. The Elementals accessed their elemental forms, and everyone else prepped themselves for the battle in any way they could. Then, all at once, they leapt at the terrible demon.

For the second time in a row, Trigon swept them aside with minimal effort. "Surrender, gnats!" he boomed. "You are no match for me!"

"Yeah, real original banter," Valerie said, rolling her eyes.

"It, uh, it doesn't get better," Marcus sighed.

Obviously, the Titans, Elementals, villains, and Red X refused, then tried again, with about the same results.
"You realize that this is never going to work, right?" Malchior spoke up from within Sol's backpack after their fourth attempt.

"And I suppose you have a better idea?" Red X snapped.

"Just accept your fates and lose gracefully," the ancient dragon sighed. "The prophecy has clearly ordained that you will lose. The lovely Fataea predicted it 5,000 years ago, and it will hold true today. You cannot win."

The Titans and Elementals frowned at this, but to everyone's surprise, it was the Replicant who spoke up.

"Oh, don't be an imbecile, Malchior!" he snarled. "Fataea may have had an astounding success rate, but even she was wrong in her predictions from time to time! No matter how bleak the future may seem, you can never give up on it! Honestly, if I'd given up on my goal—THAT'S IT!" he shouted triumphantly.

His temporary allies all stared at him, confused.

"What's it?" Cascade asked suspiciously.

"Isn't it obvious? Separately our powers are no match for him, but combined…"

"We are combined!" Volt insisted.

"No, combined in one body!" the villain corrected. "Mine!"

The Titans and Elementals could only gape as they retreated from one of Trigon's attacks.

"Give our powers to you?" Jinx sneered. "After everything we've done to keep them away from you?"

"We're all aware of the irony, Jinx," Slade commented.

"I understand your feelings about this," the Replicant sighed. "But this is exactly why the Elemental of life has these powers! When an enemy is too strong, I can borrow the abilities of the other Elementals to defeat them! It's our only chance!"

"Yeah, and I'm so sure you'd return them when this is over, if it even works!" Terra snapped.

"It will work!" the Replicant asserted. "And you can worry about the aftermath when the time comes!"

"FORGET IT!" Sol and Luna told him.

The unlikely alliance fought on, making absolutely no progress against the terrible demon and, over time, more and more people began to agree that the Replicant's plan was the only way. At first only Malchior and Slade took his side, but then Red X and the Ravager joined in, and even the Titans were slightly swayed. Finally the Elementals had no choice.

Elated, the Replicant morphed into his true form: A barbarian warrior very similar in appearance to his brother Krall, but taller and slightly less muscular. He had likely been quite handsome at some long-ago date, but his visage was marred by countless scars, and he was missing at least three teeth. "All right," he laughed. "It's been quite a while since I took this form, but the occasion is too good to pass up. Now, who will be first?"

Gust stepped up and allowed the shapeshifter to grab him by the wrist, then gritted his teeth as his powers were drained away.

The Replicant's eyes flashed bright green.

Next, the Replicant took Flare's powers, and then Terra's, Sol's, Luna's, Cascade's, Jinx's, and finally a very reluctant Volt's, and by the end he simply radiated power, and his eyes were changing color every couple of seconds.

Trigon laughed when the Replicant leapt into battle with his new power-up, but was quickly silenced when the villain accessed an amalgamation of all eight of the others' elemental forms and blasted the demon with eight different attacks. That had actually hurt him!

"Insolent fool!" the demon raged, regaining his composure almost instantly. "You have sealed your fate! You may think yourself strong, but compared to the might of Trigon the Terrible, you are nothing more than a very strong gnat!"

Trigon may have been exaggerating, but he was also right. When the abomination put his mind to it, even the Replicant didn't stand a chance.

"We can't just stand here and watch!" Cyborg declared, arming his sonic cannon. "We gotta help him!"

"Hey, I just realized something," Tyler said. "How come Slade doesn't have any cool weapons? He's a cyborg, too."

"Two reasons," Marcus replied. "First, Brother Blood didn't want to give him any, since his natural skills were already enhanced, and second, and more importantly, can you even imagine Slade using a weapon? It's against his very character!"

"Good point," Tyler said.

"No kidding!" Robin agreed (with Cyborg). "Titans… and, uh, allies… GO!"

Everyone nodded and leapt into action, desperate to help in any little way that they could. Beastboy, Raven, and Starfire attacked the demon's neck from the air; Robin, Red X, and Cyborg used their weapons to strike at his torso; and Slade, the Ravager, and Cinderblock (still possessed by Jericho) hacked at Trigon's legs. Even the powerless Elementals joined in, chopping away at the abomination's mighty toes.

"You're weakening, Trigon!" the Replicant declared as he fired a barrage of icicles at the demon's face, and he was right. Trigon had numerous puncture wounds, and was secreting a thick purple liquid. "You know you can't hold us back forever!"

"Blood?" Michael commented. "You're telling me that the censors will allow the showing of blood?"

"There'll likely be a few changes when it becomes real—new, unrelated episodes involving the Titans and the like," Marcus explained. "When the saga ends, it will officially be real, but it'll have been reviewed and slightly altered by a team of producers and animators. They'll probably edit out the blood."

The banter went back and forth between Trigon and the Replicant, but it was obvious that though Trigon was indeed tiring, he was still far more powerful than the entire team, and to prove it, he swatted and kicked every one of them (save for the Replicant) into the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro, then charged up a blast that would destroy the nuisances once and for all, but, shockingly, the Replicant intercepted it and focused the majority of his power and energy into a shied. Trigon's blast still broke through, but enough power was held back to save them all by the skin of their teeth, though with severe damage to all of them.

Trigon growled and simply sent out another blast. "Stop delaying the inevitable, gnats! None can stop me now! Not Arella, not my disobedient daughter, and not some upstart with the power of the elements at his command!"

"This isn't working!" Red X snarled, leaping through a portal to the other side of the mountain that Slade had opened up for a retreat, with the rest of the alliance following suit. "We'll never beat him at this rate!"

"I hate to say it, but he's right!" Volt agreed. "We're barely staying alive here! How are we gonna beat him!"

"And on top of that, that shield I raised took a lot out of me," the Replicant added. "I can't hold my own against him for much longer!"

"Perhaps you have an idea, master?" the Ravager asked Slade.

"I'm afraid not, my apprentice," Slade sighed. "But whatever we do, we must do it soon, before Trigon recovers."

"Robin?" Starfire inquired, turning to her boyfriend.

"Well…" the boy wonder suggested. "If the rest of us could keep Trigon busy and weaken him just a little more, then maybe the Replicant could recover a little—"

"Then gather all of his energy into one mega-powered attack and beat him for good!" Flare finished. "Good idea!"

"But it won't work," Slade told them. "With his newfound power, Trigon could block any attack—even one of that magnitude—with minimal effort."

"But if he didn't see it coming—" Volt said.

"There's no way that Trigon could miss that much concentrated power. He sees things differently than you or I, and now that he knows what to expect there is absolutely no way to catch him off-guard."

"You cannot hide from me!" Trigon bellowed. "Trigon the Terrible sees all!"

"You see?"

"I can think of a way," said a deep, gravelly voice.

Everyone turned to find the source of this comment, and their eyes settled on Cinderblock. They looked confused until they realized that Jericho was still possessing him.

"Jo—" Red X exclaimed, before catching himself and starting over. "Jericho, you can't be serious! That'll never work!"

"I can handle it."

"It's suicide, boy!" Slade insisted (oddly enough, he actually raised his voice and showed some real emotion).

"We don't have a choice. Besides, it's because of me that Trigon was revived in the first place. I'll do anything to see him destroyed."

"What exactly is this plan?" Malchior asked, and from the tone of his voice it seemed clear that he didn't think that it would work.

Sol's eyes flashed upon hearing from his hostage. "Hey," he chuckled, pulling Malchior's book out of his bag. "Maybe we do have some surprises reft…"

"I theenk you are right," Luna agreed.

"Trott, how long do you think it'll take you to gather power for that attack?" Raven asked the Replicant.

"Not long," the shapeshifter answered. "A couple of minutes, at the most. But I'll need a clear shot, and I won't be able to move while I collect all that power."

"We can hold him for that long," Terra said. "We have to."

"You guy's'll need these," Red X said, conjuring up an arsenal of red X-shaped weapons and handing them out to the powerless Elementals.

"Anyone else noticing the similarity to Dragonball Z?" Valerie spoke up.

"You mean where all those times where everyone distracts the bad guy while Goku charges up the spirit bomb?" Tyler said. "Yeah, I noticed."

"I'll be at the mountain's peak," the Replicant told the alliance. "Even Trigon will have some difficulty getting to me there. Just keep him away until I give the word."

Everyone nodded and Slade opened a portal to the top of the mountain, which the Replicant leapt through, followed by Jericho (in his own body). Slade then conjured another portal to the other side of Mt. Kilimanjaro, behind Trigon's back, and every one of them leapt through and attacked. Surprisingly, they actually did some damage when they caught the great Scath off-guard, but, as before, he just turned and swatted them away.

"Insolent vermin!" he bellowed, in a very supervillain-y way. "Why do you refuse to stay down? My victory in this battle was prophesized eons ago!"

"Just because it was prophesized doesn't mean it'll happen!" Red X insisted, firing a massively wide X in an attempt to tie the demon's legs together.

"Nothing will stop me from fulfilling my mission to kill Red X!" the Ravager agreed, striking the demon's shin with her staff. "Especially not some ancient prophecy!"

"The Titans have never surrendered before, and we aren't about to start now!" Robin cried, tossing a barrage of exploding discs.

This time, the Titans, the Elementals, and even the villains showed remarkable teamwork. Volt hooked his armor up to Cyborg's power cell to activate Project Icarus, which had enough horsepower to carry both their weight, and Cyborg attacked from the air with his sonic cannon and detachable rocket arm. Starfire and Raven hoisted Cinderblock high into the air and tossed him at the abomination to maximize the power of the brick-man's punch to the fiend's gut, after which Cinderblock fell fifty feet to the ground, made a good-sized crater, and repeated the whole thing without any sign of damage. Red X and the Ravager rode on the back of Beastboy in pterodactyl form, striking from any angle they could, and even Robin and Slade found a nice combination: Robin opened wounds on the demon's skin with his projectile weapons, and Slade struck at the weak spots with his fists soon after, but Trigon only saw this as an annoyance until he saw what came next.
The Elementals swooped in, weapons brandished, riding atop the colossal black dragon Malchior!

"Saw it coming," Rhia said simply.

"Totally," Willie agreed. "But how did Sol free him so easily? It took Raven tons of time and effort to free him last time!"

"Most of that was research," Marcus explained. "She needed to find the spell to release him first, and Sol already knew it."

"Yeah, but didn't he give his powers to the Replicant?" Willie continued.

"His magical ability is part of him being the Elemental of the sun, but not his actual powers. His magic is his and his alone."

As the rest of the Elementals attacked in every way they could, Sol and Malchior bombarded Trigon with super-strong magical blasts, which, combined with the Titans', villains', and Red X's attacks, actually got him on the defensive!

"ENOUGH!" Trigon shouted soon after, sending a wave of energy from himself in all directions, similar to an atomic bomb, and blowing all of the rebels away. "I WILL NOT BE BESTED AGAIN BY INFERIOR BEINGS SUCH AS YOURSELF! I AM TRIGON THE TERRIBLE, SCOURGE OF THIS AND ALL DIMENSIONS! I WILL CONQUER AND DESTROY ALL THAT I ENCOUNTER, AND ELIMINATE ALL WHO OPPOSE ME! I AM OMNIPOTENT AND OMNISCIENT! I AM—!"

"ABOUT TO MEET YOUR MATCH!" the Replicant screamed, flying right in front of Trigon's chest with Jericho on his back. "NOW, JERICHO!"

Jericho nodded and leapt up, staring straight into the terrible demon's four red eyes, then absorbed himself into the fiend's head.

Trigon winced and began wildly convulsing as Jericho possessed him. "OUT, GNAT!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, and then, in the same voice but clearly not his words "HURRY! I CAN ONLY HOLD HIM FOR A COUPLE MORE SECONDS!"

The Replicant nodded and focused all of his power, creating a spiraling beam of energy that combined all eight of his borrowed elements. The beam struck hard, slamming Trigon's massive form against Mt Kilimanjaro's side.

"MORE POWER!" Trigon screamed at Jericho's beckoning, but just then the demon regained control and the young hero was expelled from his body and sent careening hundreds of feet through midair.
He crashed to the ground before anybody could catch him.

The Replicant ignored the tragedy, instead cranking up the power of his attack as Trigon struggled and slowly inched into the ever-widening beam, but the shapeshifter let out a primal scream and pushed himself to his very limit, and then even further. The beam cranked up to five times its original size and, with a final scream of "NO!", Trigon was vaporized.

Like magic (well, okay, it was magic), the world immediately reverted back to its true state, and all of the people went from stone back to flesh.

Exhausted, the Replicant reverted back from his elemental form(s) and plummeted to the ground.

At once, the Titans, Elementals, villains, and Red X rushed to the sides of their injured allies, and soon discovered that though both of them had suffered critical injuries, they were still alive—barely.

"I'll make you a deal, Trott," Raven told the battered and exhausted Replicant. "Return the Elementals' powers and I'll heal your injuries."

"You'll find that quite unnecessary," sneered a hissing voice from behind. Raven turned to find the grinning face of Malchior. "If you'd studied the Tome, you'd know that when a vessel carrying an Elemental's powers dies, any powers he may be borrowing are returned to their proper bodies.

"I suppose I'll just have to get my revenge before that happens."

"Agrenon enrenthrener von soros rirus nor," Sol uttered, actually sounding bored.

"Son of a—!" Malchior hissed as he was sucked back into his book.

"…So…" Raven said after an awkward silence. "Like I was saying—"

"Don't bother," the Replicant told her, causing everyone to do a double-take. "The damage is too severe. Frankly, I don't think that you could heal me if you tried, and I don't want you to."

"Replicant," Slade sighed. "Please don't tell me that you're going soft."

"My apologies, Slade, but facing down Trigon the Terrible made me realize something: No being should be omnipotent. I could have, and indeed would have, taken control of all the elements of the world, causing earthquakes, hurricanes, solar flares, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions, had I not needed to concentrate my full potential on Trigon, but now, after battling someone even more powerful and evil than myself, it just seems… unimportant."

"So you're just giving up evil?" Volt asked, sounding like he didn't believe a word of it.

"I'm giving up everything. I've lived for over five-thousand years, and I've lost most of my sanity along the way. I've lied, cheated, stolen, assaulted, kidnapped, murdered, and committed dozens of terrorist acts, and I wouldn't change a moment of that, but now… I just want to rest. There's only one thing I want to do before I go."

"And that would be?" Robin asked.

"You. Girl." The shapeshifter said, turning his head just slightly. "Ravager. Come here. I have a gift for you."

The Ravager gave him a hesitant glance, but then turned to her master, who gave her a curt nod. Slowly, she walked up to the villain's mangled form.

"Take off your mask," he instructed.

"WHAT?" the Ravager exclaimed. "Never!"

"Cut the secrecy, runt! I know who you are. I've always known. Now take off that mask and show me that pretty face once more, Flora."

The heroes gasped as the Ravager pulled off her mask and revealed that she was indeed the Elementals' old companion—sort of. She looked completely different now, and not just because her left eye was missing. Her once soft, attractive features had grown stiff with hatred.

"So that's where she went!" Willie realized.

"Of course," Marcus told him. "I'm amazed that none of you realized it earlier."

"FLORA?" the heroes shouted, shocked.

"Don't call me that!" she snapped. "That's not my name! And it's not Rose, either! I gave up both of my previous lives! I'm a different person now! I am the Ravager!"

"'Rose'?" Tyler repeated, confused.

"Flora's real name," Marcus told him.

"But if her powers have to do with plants—"

"Some of them do."

"—then why bother changing it?"

"It's a rule in the Elementals that you can't use your real name. Read the epilogue of the first story. It mentions her frustration."

"Unbelievable!" Beastboy cried. "Every time—every single time!—I start to like a girl, she ends up helping a bad guy!"

Raven and Terra deliberately avoided looking at him.

"How did you know, anyway?" the Ravager asked the Replicant, ignoring Beastboy.

"I'd recognize your enhanced speed, strength, and agility anywhere, my dear. Besides, I'm the one that made you the way you are now."

"'The way I am now'? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Your single-mindedness and determination. You weren't like this before."

"That's for sure," Gust commented. "What happened?"

"Haven't you noticed that those same qualities are missing from Volt?"

"Of course we have!" Cascade snapped. "But how—?"

"My powers go beyond simply borrowing the powers of the other Elementals. I can also transfer personality traits from one person to another. It's one of my lesser-used abilities, but it comes in handy from time to time.
"I did it nearly a year ago, in that xenothium refinery in Siberia. I needed Volt off my back, and figured that though Flora didn't like me either, she had bigger beefs with people in her past.

"It took me all of two minutes to deduce the Ravager's identity when I first met her. I figured that she'd be eager to become stronger to deal with her enemies, and Slade even said she'd make a fine apprentice when they first met."

"And where, exactly, is this going?" the Ravager asked impatiently.

"You want more power, don't you? I can give you that. Remove your glove and take my hand."

The Ravager hesitated for a moment, but did as he asked.

"That cave witch granted me eternal youth in exchange for my ability to reincarnate," the shapeshifter chuckled. "But what she didn't know was that the Elemental of life is the one Elemental who doesn't need to reincarnate. He can grant his power to another, although I don't think it's ever been done before."

The Ravager's one eye went wide as the Replicant transferred his powers into her body, but she didn't say a word.

"There," the Replicant said when it was done. "Use them however you see fit.

"Of course," he added with a dry laugh. "Without my powers to regulate the rest of them, my body can't take the other Elementals' conflicting abilities.

"Farewell, my old nemeses. It was a pleasure opposing you."

Trott's ancient body thrashed and convulsed wildly, and then went completely limp. Eight differently-colored wisps flew out of his chest and into the eight Elementals.

There was a moment of silence between the groups, which Red X ended up breaking.

"Yeah, this is all very touching," the thief said. "But MY BROTHER IS DYING HERE!"

"'BROTHER'?" everyone else exclaimed, even Slade!

"Oops…" Red X gulped. "Can't believe I let that slip… but yeah, Jericho and I are brothers."

"Impossible!" Slade barked, to everyone's surprise. "Jericho's brother died years ago when he tried to escape the H.I.V.E.! His body was recovered and buried!"

"That's what I wanted everyone to think, old man! The only way for a guy like me to stay out permanently was to make them think I was dead."

"Well, Grant," Slade snarled. "It's time we made that lie a fact. Ravager, kill them both!"

"Gladly," his apprentice said, replacing her mask, but just before she could strike, a massive form seized her from behind!

"Release her, Cinderblock!" Slade ordered, but the behemoth didn't react.

"Now, Cinderblock!"

The concrete man showed no sign that he'd even heard his master.

"Let go of my apprentice, Cinderblock, or there will be consequences!"

Cinderblock gave no reaction.

"Fine. Disobey. Ravager," he ordered. "Use your new powers. Turn into a snake and escape."
Finally the giant did something.

"Bud," he said. His voice was stiff, but otherwise soft and kind, and it seemed to have taken him an immense amount of effort just to say that one word.

The Ravager gasped in shock. "What did he just say?" she demanded.

"Bud," the behemoth repeated, more confident now.

"'Bud'?" she repeated. "The only one who ever called me that—"

"Enough!" Slade snapped, actually raising his voice as he opened a portal to the Society of the Vine's hideout. "Ravager, it's time we took our leave! Cinderblock, get over here!"

This time Cinderblock obeyed, carrying the Ravager with him through the hole in space.

"Until another day, Titans… and Elementals," the masked villain jeered, when suddenly Red X shouted out to him.

"Wait!" he cried. "You can't just leave us stranded here! We've got no way back home, and Jericho needs to get to a hospital now!"

Slade stopped and put a hand to the side of his mask and pondered this request. "All right," he finally agreed. "For a price."

"What do you want?" Robin demanded.

"The Tome of the Elementals. I need to know my enemies, and my young apprentice needs to master her powers."

Amazingly, Sol immediately agreed, pulling the Tome from his bag.

"Hey, guys," Marcus spoke up, getting his colleagues' attention as the Titans tried to talk the Elementals out of this payment to no avail. "The final part happens in two different places. You mind going with the heroes to theirs? The Ravager part… well, I always kind of wanted to see it, and I'm… well, I'm a little sentimental. I'd really like to go it alone."

Adrian and Tash stared at him for a second as Sol handed Slade the Tome of the Elementals.

"All right," Adrian told him. "I understand. Just don't do anything crazy, okay?"

"No promises," Marcus replied.

Slade opened a portal to the Jump City hospital for the heroes and Red X and they departed without a word, secretly taking the Society with them. Then Marcus took a deep breath, let it out, and jumped through the other portal.


"What happened, Slade?" Brother Blood asked nonchalantly as the villains returned to their hideout in Sweden. "One moment we're here plotting our next move, the next I'm alone."

"Nothing big," Slade replied calmly. "An interdimensional demon was revived, he wiped out nearly the entire human race, the Replicant, the Ravager, Cinderblock, and I teamed up with the Titans, the Elementals, Jericho, and Red X, I made the Ravager my full-fledged apprentice, the Replicant got all of the Elementals' powers and destroyed the demon, restoring everything in the process, but went soft and let himself die afterward, but not before giving his own powers to the Ravager and revealing her identity. He died, and the Elementals' powers returned to them, but I got the Tome in the end. Oh, and I found out that Grant is alive."
"Sounds like a stressful day," Blood commented. "Wait, Grant is alive? But I saw the body myself!"
"Yes, I know, and you were wrong," Slade shrugged. "But one thing bothers me even more. Just minutes ago, Cinderblock talked, and worse, he disobeyed a direct order, and what's more, he still is. Watch.
"Cinderblock, release my apprentice."

It took a moment for Cinderblock to respond, but this time he managed two words.

"Bud bloom."

It didn't seem like he was talking to Slade, though, or anyone in particular.

"'Bud'?" Brother Blood echoed. "Is he trying to say my name?"

"I think he means me, actually," the Ravager spoke up. "But it doesn't make any sense. Only one person ever called me that, and—"

"I mean it, Cinderblock!" Slade interrupted. "Drop my apprentice!"

"Bud bloom," the behemoth repeated.

"Oh, I'll just slip out," the Ravager sighed. With only a small amount of effort on her part, she managed to morph into a garter snake (still with only one eye) and escaped from Cinderblock's oddly gentle grip, then slithered over to Slade and returned to human form, staring up at her master with her one piercing eye.

"Now, Slade," she demanded. "I want answers. How does that… thing know my old nickname?"

"Calm yourself, my apprentice," Slade told her. "Cinderblock is just spouting gibberish. He was bound to tap into his ability to speak eventually, and now he's testing its limits. Forget what he says, and forget your past. You're with me now."

"No!" Cinderblock suddenly insisted. "Bud mine! Bud good!"

"SILENCE, CINDERBLOCK!" Slade roared, an occurrence even more surprising than Cinderblock talking. "I'm in a bad mood, and I've had enough of your insubordination! One more word and you'll regret it!"

"Bud good!" Cinderblock said again.

"That's it!" Slade snarled, tossing Warp's portal generator and the Tome of the Elementals into the corner. "Ravager, stand aside. It seems my minion needs a reminder as to why I'm in charge."

The Ravager obeyed, moving over by Brother Blood.

"This should be entertaining," the former H.I.V.E. headmaster said with a smirk.

Slade started by jumping up and delivering a vicious flying kick to Cinderblock's left shoulder, creating a large crack. Cinderblock took it in silence, but, to Slade's surprise, this time he struck back, swinging a massive fist at his master, which Slade masterfully dodged.

The Ravager was prepared to jump in and assist when she found that she was completely immobilized.

"You want answers, don't you?" Brother Blood hissed in her ear. "This may be your last chance to get them. Just watch and wait."

The fight quickly escalated into a deathmatch, but there was never a moment when Slade wasn't in control. Still, Cinderblock could take a lot of hits, and he was furious.

"Bud good!" he hollered several times as his condition worsened.

"Ungrateful brute!" Slade retaliated, constantly evading the monster's fists. "I kept you fed and housed, protected you from the world! You owe me everything!"

"Bud mine!" Cinderblock screamed as Slade gave him a two-legged kick to the chest.

"My apprentice is none of your concern!" the masked villain raged. "You are to act, to fight when called upon, not to think!"

Slade's attacks continued to intensify, but just before he could strike the final blow, the Ravager found herself forced to swing her bo staff right into her master's back, catching him off-guard!

"Sorry!" she cried out, panicked.

Cinderblock took full advantage of this opportunity, grabbing Slade's right arm and tearing it right off (it was revealed to be bionic, installed when Slade became a cyborg).

"That," Slade said in a furious whisper. "Was your last mistake. You've out lived your usefulness, Cinderblock. My apprentice is far more competent and deadly than you'll ever be, and I will have no loose ends. Goodbye, old friend."

Slade leapt up with all the power that his legs had to offer, then came down with his one good arm, intending to split Cinderblock's thick head right open, but at the last second Cinderblock retaliated, delivering an earth-shaking punch to Slade's stomach, leaving a gargantuan hole rimmed with exposed circuitry.

Overloaded by pain, Slade crumpled to the floor.

"Bud good," Cinderblock said again. "Bud mine. You bad."

For the finale, Cinderblock bent over and, with a mighty yank, pulled off Slade's head. Blood and oil spilled all over the hideout's floor as he held the prize between his hands and prepared to crush it.

Just before the job could be finished, though, Brother Blood called out "That should do, Cinderblock. Bring the head here."

Cinderblock's expression went even blanker than usual as he stopped and delivered Slade's cranium right into Blood's open hand.

Suddenly, the Ravager found herself able to move again, and immediately she seized Brother Blood's robes and pulled him close. "What was that?" she demanded. "How did that answer anything? How could you force me to let my master get killed by that… that monster?"

"Relax, my dear," Blood told her. "Slade is a cyborg now. He may be damaged, but I can have him reconstructed if the need arises. I just thought you'd like to see something."

"Oh, yeah? And what's that?"

Blood chuckled and reached into his pocket, pulling out a key, then moved over to a safe and unlocked it. After rummaging around for a moment, he pulled out a strange cybernetic motorcycle helmet with a long cable trailing out of the back. "Put this on," he instructed, handing the odd device to the Ravager.

"Why?" she asked, turning it over in her hands. "What is it?"

"A special viewer," the villain replied as he reached into Slade's open neck, finally producing a black sphere, about the size of a small orange. He smiled and used a cable to link it up to the computer next to him, then linked the cable from the viewer to the computer as well. "I'm going to use it to show you Slade's entire life at hyperspeed. Put the helmet on, and soon you will know everything he knows."

The Ravager remained wary, but placed the helmet over her head.

With a snicker, Brother Blood typed a quick order into the computer, and the helmet lit up.

What the Ravager saw wasn't actually shown, but Marcus knew what it was. She saw Slade's pleasant childhood with his two loving parents and very familiar oafish brother Wade (the rhyming names were unintentional). She saw how Slade's parents died in a car crash when he was sixteen and Wade was fifteen. She saw how they lied about their ages to join the army because they were too old for adoption. She saw how Slade made friends with a man named Wintergreen at boot camp. She saw that over the next ten years, Slade became a highly decorated soldier with a strict moral code that never wavered, though the heat of battle drove him to smoking. She saw how Slade got taken down a notch at Camp Washington by his new drill sergeant, Adeline Kane. She saw how Adeline slammed Slade's signature mask (but with two eyes) over his face to make him kick his cigarette habit. She saw how Addie kicked Slade's butt in a guerilla warfare training session and took him on as her eager new student. She saw Slade and Adeline fall deeply in love and marry six months after their first encounter. She saw (and could never unsee) him conceive his first child. She saw him volunteer for a military experiment to create super-soldiers, along with Wade and a scrawny man named Otto von Furth, who mutated into a sludge monster immediately after the treatment and had to be contained in suspended animation. She saw how Slade and Wade's speed, strength, reflexes, and intelligence vastly improved. She saw the birth of Slade's first son, a beautiful blonde baby named Grant. She saw the conception and birth of his second son, Joseph. She saw Slade demonstrate his awesome abilities while retrieving Wintergreen in a rogue rescue mission. She saw how he got discharged from the army, became a celebrated bounty hunter, and eventually became a deadly assassin and never told his wife. She saw him go to Cambodia with Wade on one of his assignments, where Wade fell in love with a native named Lillian Worth, whom she instantly recognized as her mother, and decided to stay. She saw how Slade was often gone from his home for weeks at a time, but treasured his time with his family. She saw him receive a letter about his new niece Rose, whom Wade had nicknamed "Bud". She saw Slade's kids mature, how Grant excelled as an athlete and idolized his father, and how Joseph preferred music and art. She saw Slade witness Joseph first use his powers by possessing Grant. She saw (through letters and pictures) the growth of his niece Rose, and how she, like her father, had heightened natural abilities, as well as a few unnatural ones—she could speed up plant growth (which made her very popular with farmers), and she was immune to natural poisons. She saw how Joseph was kidnapped by a terrorist named the Jackal when he was six and used as leverage to force information out of Slade. She saw how Slade was forced to tell Addie about his secret life, and how the two of them went to rescue their son. She saw Slade refuse to give the Jackal the information he wanted because it violated his personal code of ethics. She saw him rescue Joseph before the Jackal could slit his throat, but after his vocal cords had been permanently damaged, rendering him mute. She saw how, that night, Addie seized a gun and tried to murder Slade for lying to her and almost killing their son, and how he was narrowly saved by his catlike reflexes, losing only his right eye. She saw him snap and abandon his strict moral code and steal his sons in the dead of night. She saw him constantly move the boys between boarding schools and apartments over the years to keep Addie from finding them as he delved further into insanity. She saw him receive notice that his brother had mutated into a concrete monster and had to be imprisoned. She saw Slade begin to worry about his own mortality, how long he had before he, too, became a monster, and decide that he needed an apprentice to carry on his legacy, settling on his son Grant. She saw how, when Grant was thirteen, Slade sent him and Joseph to the new H.I.V.E. academy for a few years of training. She saw how, only a few months later, he received word that Joseph had fled the school with the new teacher, Adeline Kane, and that Grant's corpse had been found, having been killed when he'd tried to escape with them. She saw Slade hunt down and kill the one person in whom he'd confided his sons' situation, his sister-in-law Lillian. She saw him see a report on TV about the newly-formed superhero team the Teen Titans a few years later and decide that Robin would be his new apprentice. She saw him retrieve his brother, now dubbed "Cinderblock" and set up a base in Jump City with Wintergreen as his right-hand man. She saw him give Robin various tests and deduce the thief Red X's identity as Robin himself. She saw Wintergreen realize Slade's insanity and try to back out, only for Slade to snap his neck. She saw him finally blackmail Robin into becoming his apprentice, only to lose him when the young hero threatened to kill himself. She saw him try again with Terra to a greater success, only to have her betray him and throw him into a pool of lava. She saw him strike a deal with the demon Trigon to return to semi-life with newfound powers in exchange for helping the demon make the journey to earth, with the final payment of Slade's flesh upon arrival. She saw him fulfill his end of the bargain, only to be betrayed. She saw him literally journey to Hell and back to retrieve his body himself, and team up with the Titans to defeat Trigon. She saw him choose the new Red X, a thief who had stolen Robin's old suit, as his new apprentice, and gain control of him through the use of bloodstream nanobots. She saw him meet and team up with the Replicant to accomplish both their goals. She saw him kidnap the amnesiac Terra and use her to lure the teams into a trap, then flee to safety and leave a robot replica of himself behind. She saw him take a special interest in her when she was captured, even commenting that she'd make a fine apprentice. She saw him watch as Red X betrayed his master and foiled his plan, and then watched him take over Titans Tower as his new base, only to be ousted from that as well. She saw him finally decide not to find another apprentice, and instead seek out Brother Blood to gain immortality by becoming a cyborg. She saw him team up with Brother Blood and the Replicant to form the Society of the Vine. She saw him attempt numerous plots against the Titans and the Elementals, and she saw his first encounter with the Ravager, where he reconsidered having an apprentice—if she proved herself first. And finally, she saw the events of this story.

She saw all of this in less than two minutes.

"Oh, God!" she cried, yanking off the helmet when it was over, tears streaming from her eyes. "He was my uncle! And he's the one that killed my mom! The one person I wanted to kill, and I agreed to work for him! And I—I've been trying to kill my cousin all this time!"

"You wanted answers," Brother Blood reminded her. "And now, you're ready."

"Ready for what?" the Ravager demanded.

"To take Slade's place, of course. As his apprentice, it's your duty, and besides, you're perfect for the position. You're young and fit and full of hate, and you have all of Slade's knowledge and memories. You have all the powers of Slade and the Replicant and, unlike them, you have no resistance to my control.

"So, my dear, what will it be? Will you serve me willingly, or will I have to force you?"

That was the line that Marcus had been waiting for. It was time to take action.


The rest of the Society, meanwhile, were standing in the lobby of the Jump City hospital, having heard Red X's whole story, about how he was Slade's son, and always looked up to his dad until the man risked Joseph's life and his mom shot his eye out ("To this day A Christmas Story fills me with abject terror."), and how he and Joseph kept moving around for years before they were sent to the H.I.V.E., where their mother finally found them. She and Grant took serums that temporarily gave them each other's appearances, and she deliberately got herself killed by the security system when they broke out to fool her ex into thinking his son was dead and she was still tailing him while Grant escaped with Joseph controlling him, and years later moved to Jump City when he found out his father was there, hoping to keep an eye on him.

In fact, the only thing he refused to tell the heroes was how he got his hands on the Red X suit, saying they should find the holes in their security grid themselves.

He did, however, show them an old picture from when his family was still together. Slade was actually quite handsome, especially since the photo caught him in mid-laugh.

Then, suddenly, while the heroes were staring at this photo, all canon froze.

"I told him not to do anything stupid!" Adrian groaned, clapping a hand to his forehead.

"He just refuses to admit defeat, doesn't he?" Flare said with a scowl, and then he tore open a plothole to the Society of the Vine's base. "Hey, Flora!" he shouted into it. "Is the Creator giving you trouble over there?"

"Not yet," she could be heard shouting back. "But I… uh, where… can handle him if he does. He says he just wants to talk… how?... to me alone for a few minutes."

She still had those odd patches in her speech where she drifted off for a second, then picked up again.

"You sure you don't want us there?" Gust asked. "He may try to trick you."

"I'll be fine. I'm smarter, faster, and stronger than… uh… him, and Prohibitors won't work on me. Just leave us alone… am I?... for a few minutes. I promise I'll be quick."

"All right," Flare told her. "But hurry up! I want to get this story over with!"

With that, Flare swiped his massive hand through the plothole, erasing it. "Just a few more minutes until our ultimate victory," he chuckled.


"Okay, Flora," Marcus sighed. "I think you know why I'm here."

"Of course I… do," the Sue replied. "You're here… how can I?... to beg me to change the story's ending so you can arrest… is it?... the Elementals, right?"

"Sadly, yes," Marcus replied, holding out his box of treats. "Chocolate-covered strawberry?"

"No thanks," she responded. "I'm a… strict carnivore now. You know that, Marcus."

"Ah, yes. I'd forgotte—wait," he realized. "Did you just call me 'Marcus'?"

"Well, that is… um… your name," she replied with a smile.

"The others always call me 'Creator'."

"That's because you are their creator. But you know… uh, who?... perfectly well that I am a bit more complex."

"Yes, I do," Marcus admitted. "You're half-canon. I read on a reliable website a long time ago that the creators of the Teen Titans cartoon planned on making a sixth season centered around the Ravager, but scrapped the idea because it was too similar to Terra. After that, I was inspired to change your original design and make her into what you are now. That's why I never bothered trying to talk to the Ravager before she removed her mask—you were canon then, so I couldn't interact with you."

"And why my speech is so… messed up," Flora added.

"Indeed," Marcus said. "Your canon half is completely baffled by the current situation, and it slows you down. I just figured that out recently."

"That's right," Flora replied. "Though… what was it?... oh, yeah! The Liberator's working on a cure for that."

"I'm sure," Marcus mumbled, before speaking up. "Now, let's get down to business. We both know that you're not truly an Elemental, and therefore (hopefully) open to discussion. What's it going to take to get you to drop this story and help the Society?"

"…you're serious?" Flora gaped. "You actually think I… uh… can be bought? Or that… you could possibly have anything to offer that I can't take by force? I was abandoned twice! The Liberator's intervention was a… what was it?... a godsend! I finally got my chance to become real! I will never, ever relinquish… this opportunity! I will serve the Liberator with every shred of… Sue-ishness in my body!"

"That's a pity, Flora," Marcus sighed, setting down his box of strawberries. "Because now you've forced my hand."

"What do you mean?"

Marcus said nothing as he rummaged through one of his coat pockets, finally pulling out a strange device covered in whirring gears with a dynamite plunger on top. "I really hoped it wouldn't come to this," he exhaled.

Flora's one eye went wide when she saw the odd object. "That's… that's Deus Ex Machina!" she exclaimed. "The Liberator told me… uh… about that!"

"Yes," Marcus responded, eerily calm. "The most powerful gadget in the Society's arsenal."

"But it's… it's, uh… completely unpredictable! You wouldn't dare risk making things worse!"

"That's astounding," Marcus chuckled. "You actually lived in my head for years, and you still don't know how I think."

Marcus reached his other hand over the plunger to activate the device, but Flora reacted fast, lunging over to try and stop him. Halfway through it, though, she was tackled aside by a large, familiar shape.

"Replicant?" Marcus exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"My part was finished, so I thought I'd catch the end," the shapeshifter answered nonchalantly.

"But you're dead!"

"I got better," the villain shrugged. "Now hurry and activate that thing already!"

Marcus nodded and concentrated hard on what he wanted to happen, and detonated the device. A ball of white light formed around the gadget and rapidly increased in size, washing over everything as Marcus pocketed the machine, replaced his medallion, and ordered the Replicant to hide behind something.


The Elementals scowled as the light passed through the hospital.

"What was that?" Sol raged. "What trick has the Creator purred now?"

"Deus Ex Machina," Tash groaned. "I can't believe he actually had the balls to use that!

"Well, nothing we can do now but roll with it and punish him later."

Cascade, meanwhile, was busy slashing her nails through the air. "We need to get over there! Why can't I open a plothole?"

"No plotholes can be opened for ten minutes once Deus Ex Machina is activated," Valerie explained.

The Elementals had no choice but to stand there, seething, as canon resumed.


"Sounds good to me," Flora told Brother Blood, instead of killing him on the spot and taking her leave with Cinderblock.

Then everything but the non-canon characters went wavy and clouded. The computer, the base, Brother Blood, Cinderblock—nothing seemed solid anymore!


"What the—?" Gust said, staring at this freaky new turn of events. "What's going on?"

"The Creator must've changed the ending somehow!" Volt screamed. "Since the saga didn't reach its intended climax, the fandom is struggling to comprehend the change!"

"Oh, dear God, I am loseeng my greep on ze fandom!" Luna panicked.

"Which means this is our chance to make things right!" Michael laughed, as all the Society members removed their medallions, freezing canon once more.

"Everybody scatter!" Flare ordered. "We'll regroup with the Liberator in nine minutes!"

The Elementals nodded and immediately ran off in all directions, a few Society agents chasing after each one, and one Elemental never made it out of the room—Luna was tackled to the floor by Monika, Terrie, Stacey, and Danielle, and Valerie swiftly slapped a Prohibitor on her wrist.

At long last, the fandom was restored to its former glory. The Titans and Red X vanished, returning to wherever they were supposed to be at the time, and canon unfroze for good.


The change on Marcus' end was even bigger, as not only did Brother Blood, Cinderblock, and Slade disappear, but so did the entire hideout! Now Marcus, Flora, and the Replicant were standing in the middle of a frozen wasteland in the middle of Sweden!

"No!" Flora screeched when she saw this change, nearly deafening Marcus. "Our whole… saga, undone! You'll pay for this!"

Marcus activated his umbrella shield just in time to block a shot to his groin from Flora's bo staff, then pulled his sword out of the staff with a smile. "Bring it on," he hissed.

Meanwhile, Tyler and Willie had stayed right on Sol's tail as he zoomed down the hospital hallway, doing their best to avoid his energy blasts.

Then, just as they were nearing a corner, Tyler held up his ping-pong paddle and morphed it into a wooden baseball bat. With a mighty leap and a wicked swing, he sent Sol careening through the door directly ahead of him—the entrance to a men's lavatory, and Tyler and Willie jumped right in after him.

"Dead end, Sol," Willie taunted, pointing out the surprisingly clean bathroom's lack of exits.

"No kidding," the Elemental of the sun replied. "The Riberator wirr rove the trophies I'm about to bring her!"
Sol shot out another burst of magic energy that struck Tyler right in the chest, knocking him into the side of a stall.

"You call that magic?" Willie laughed. "I'll show you magic!"

Willie put his hand to the floor and began chanting in an unknown language, and half a dozen shadows appeared on the tiles around him. The sound of high-pitched laughter filled the room as six diminutive but very rambunctious demons emerged from the shadows.

"Get 'im, boys," Willie sneered.

The gruesome imps eagerly obeyed, charging Sol mercilessly as he desperately tried to fight them off with his telekinesis.

"ENOUGH!" the Elemental of the sun finally cried out, emitting a blinding surge of light. Then, while the beasts were down he vaporized them one by one, and once that was done he shot a deadly streak of light at their master.

Willie's eyesight returned just in time to dodge. Unfortunately, that left the attack to strike the mirror behind Willie, which it ricocheted off of, now headed straight for Tyler!

Desperate to defend himself, Tyler raised his bat over his face and morphed it again, hoping for a shield, but, to his despair, got a large meat cleaver. Luckily for him, though, the cleaver's blade was reflective, and by pure dumb luck Sol was nailed in the ribs by his own attack and slammed into a wall, where Willie ran in and slammed a Prohibitor on his wrist.

"BOO-YAH!" the two agents cheered, celebrating with a high five.


Cascade, on the other hand, had fled to the hospital's basement, an immense storage facility stocked with all sorts of supplies from rubber gloves to tanks of nitrous oxide, but soon found herself facing down Rhia, Cristoph, and Miri.

Rhia made the first move, charging Cascade with her twin wakizashi, but Cascade repelled her with a jet of water. Cristoph tried next, getting in close with ninja speed, but Cascade formed icy claws over her fingers and slashed him across his chest, drawing a fair amount of his blood. Still, the two recovered instantly and rushed her again. The two fought hard, but Cascade was stronger, finally knocking the two out and sending waves of frost from her hands to freeze them solid.

"Pathetic!" she jeered, standing over her victims. Then, out of nowhere, the Elemental of water felt a sharp pain in the back of her neck, and then she went completely numb and collapsed on the floor. "What is this?" she wailed.

"A syringe full of morphine, that's what!" Miri gloated, fitting Cascade's wrist with a shiny new Prohibitor before dragging her teammates over to the boiler to defrost.


"You can't expect to beat me, Marcus!" Flora jeered as her bo staff and his sword collided once again. "You don't have the… the, uh… combat training!"

"Maybe so," Marcus retaliated. "But at least I'm not constantly leaving myself exposed!"

"And he has help!" the Replicant added, leaping over and delivering a karate chop to Flora's neck. Flora winced in pain, but soon retaliated by sweeping her leg under his and knocking him to the ground.

Despite that setback, Marcus and the Replicant began fighting as a deadly team, but Flora was still more than capable of holding her own. Still, Marcus couldn't help noticing that he was doing better than he should be.

"Your Sue level's gone down, hasn't it?" he realized. "It's down to four, five at the most!"

Flora replied with a savage roar and intensified her attacks, but Marcus screwed his courage to the sticking point and continued the brawl, sure that Flora would soon tire.


"You sure you're okay up there, Adrian-san?" Aster shouted to the Librarian on her back. The two were zooming over the city's skyline using Aster's power over the air currents to chase Gust. Adrian was standing upright on her back, and she couldn't help worrying for his safety.

"I'm just fine," Adrian informed her. "Don't worry, I've got great balance!"

"At the cost of speed!" Gust cackled over his shoulder. "You'll never catch me at that pace!"

"You heard him, Aster!" Adrian yelled. "Speed it up!"

Aster nodded and cranked up the mileage, and soon Gust actually began to fear for his safety. Finally, in a desperate attempt to lose them, he swooped down into the business district and began weaving through the maze of skyscrapers, but when he looked back he found Aster gaining on him, able to reach such a speed because Adrian was nowhere to be found!


Out of nowhere, Adrian appeared in midair, directly in front of the portly Elemental, and delivered a kick to his face so powerful that it sent both of them crashing through the window of a nearby office building and into a cafeteria, where Adrian finally snapped a Prohibitor on Gust's fat ankle.

"Victory is sweet," the Librarian said, retrieving a Starburst from his pocket to celebrate.

Speaking of speedy opponents, Tash and Kyle had their work cut out for them as Volt used his Electro-booster to race down the city's streets at a ridiculous speed. Kyle was keeping pace by using his Acceleration technique with Tash riding piggyback, desperately clutching her wig, but the technique couldn't last forever. In fact, Kyle was already pushing himself to the limit, and if they didn't act fast they'd lose Volt for good!

"I don't suppose you have any ideas?" Kyle asked his boss.

"Just one," Tash replied. "On the count of three, let go of my legs!


Tash grabbed her necklace and it morphed into her magic staff.


She gripped the staff with both hands (still clinging to her hairpiece) and held it over her head.

At the exact second that Kyle let go, Tash slammed her staff onto the ground and pole-vaulted over to Volt, slamming both of her feet into his back and following that with a wicked spinning strike with her staff.

"Give up!" she ordered, wrapping her wig around the Stu's neck and pulling it tight.

"Never!" Volt choked out.

Tash was caught off-guard when Volt activated Project Icarus, nearly getting thrown off once when the wings erupted from his back and again when he took off, but she gritted her teeth and held tight. Then, using the wig as a rein, she jerked his head back and forth, screwing up his flight pattern and sending them hurtling down into someone's backyard pool. Tash jumped off and landed on a lawn chair just in time to see Volt hit the water and short out his armor, and greeted him at the water's edge with a Prohibitor when he surfaced.

"You know," she commented. "I'd have thought you'd know to avoid water, what with that 265 IQ."

"It was a typo," Volt spat.


Meanwhile, Flare was fighting hard for his freedom as he accessed his elemental form and took to the streets against Michael and Claire. The two agents were forced to go on the defensive as Flare bombarded them with a variety of fiery attacks.

"Give it up, you two!" he taunted. "Even if you did manage to best me in combat, there's no way you can Prohibit me in this form!

"Tell you what: I'll give you one chance to walk away with your lives. You'd be wise to accept it."

"Not a chance!" Michael snarled.

"Okay," Flare sighed. "We'll do it the hard way."

Smiling sadistically, the Elemental of fire raised his arm and shot a wave of fire at Claire that eventually formed into a cage around her.

"One false move and the girl gets barbecued!" he warned.

Then, out of nowhere, the fire hydrant on the curb next to Flare exploded, dousing the buff teen with a super-strong jet of water, quenching the cage and reverting Flare back to human form, giving Michael the chance to move in and Prohibit him.

"I thought you guys might need my help," Jinx shouted to the agents from the corner.


Back in Sweden, Flora was indeed tiring from the two-on-one fight, finally resulting in the Replicant seizing her in a bear hug, permitting Marcus to fit a Prohibitor on her wrist, but, to his immense shock, Flora seemed completely unaffected! She simply reached over and yanked it off effortlessly and tossed it aside.

"What?" Marcus exclaimed. "How did you—?"

"I don't know," Flora answered. "But I'm not… uh… complaining!"

"Well, then," the Replicant seethed. "We'll just have to get rid of you the old-fashioned way!"

With an evil grin, the ex-shapeshifter began to tighten his grip on the Sue, determined to crush her, only for the current shapeshifter to morph into a bird and flitter several feet away.

"Another time, perhaps," she gloated upon returning to her own form. "But for now, it seems our time is…is, uh… just about up. Later days, Marcus!"

With that, she tore open a plothole and vanished into it, leaving Marcus and the Replicant alone in the cold.


An hour later, the captured Elementals had been locked away in the Library basement's highest-security cells, and the Society was getting some well-deserved rest on the couches in the room containing the Vault of Abandoned Ideas.

"Well," Marcus said, clapping his hands together. "All in all, I'd say this was a resounding success: Six of the Elementals are in Society custody, the Teen Titans fandom is back to normal, I got the Nightmare deck, Tash can magically regrow her hair overnight, and nobody died. Good job, everybody."

"Don't think you're off the hook for using Deus Ex Machina," Tash warned him. "It may have saved us, but there's always some terrible price!"

"Actually, Tash," Harriet spoke up. "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. I did a reading on the fandom earlier, and there were no changes."

There was a long, awkward pause before Aster spoke up.

"Maybe Marcus-kun used it right?"

"Somehow I doubt that, Aster," Adrian told her. "But setting that matter aside, there's also the fact that Flora's on the loose, and still immune to Prohibitors. We need to find her, and soon."

"Well, you'll be dealing with that without my assistance," the Replicant announced, for he'd been brought back to the Library Arcanium on his own wishes. "It's time that I returned to my humble abode."

"Of course," Marcus told him. "And thanks for all your help."

"I didn't do it for you, Marcus. I did it for me."

"You say that, Replicant," Marcus smirked. "But you still stayed and helped me after the fandom was restored."

"I am what you made me, Marcus," the Replicant replied mysteriously. "Nothing more, nothing less."

The Replicant walked over to the vault door and grabbed the handle. With a mighty heave, he cracked it open about two feet.

"Was that thing unlocked this whole time?" Adrian gaped.

"Oh, relax," the Replicant told him as he slipped through the opening. "There's no way to open it from the inside. Now, good-bye, my… well, just good-bye."

His last words before the vault door closed? "You really should invest in a padlock for this thing."


Back in Willowe's base of operations, Flora was kneeling down before the mighty Sue's thrown, flanked by guards on both sides, as Willowe addressed her.

"Normally, Flora, I'd punish such disobedience quite severely," Willowe said. "But, having been on the receiving end of Deus Ex Machina a couple of times myself, I understand that you are not to be held responsible for your actions under its control. Nonetheless, nearly every one of my beloved protégés are now being held prisoner, and I've gained very little from this six-month endeavor, save for some very useful data for my next plan and a new Lieutenant with an immunity to Prohibitors.

"So, my dear, it seems we'll both be working overtime for a while, but when we're done, you will be second-in-command to the queen of the multiverse!"

It was a long time before Flora answered.

"I don't think so, Willowe."

Willowe's eyes went wide. "'Willowe'?" she repeated. "What happened to 'Liberator'?"

"Oh, it's not what happened to her that matters. It's… uh… what happened to me."

"What are you getting at?" Willowe snapped. "And choose your words very carefully!"

"Deus Ex Machina did more to… what was I?... me than you know, Willowe. It gave me new powers, new ideas. And it made me realize… that I've become a greater Sue than you'll ever be."

"Oh, really?" Willowe sneered. "Well, think again! You will never surpass me!

"Guards, lock her away until she learns some respect!"

"Yes, ma'am!" the guards shouted, rushing forward and surrounding Flora, but the half-canon Sue just laughed and seized the nearest two guards by their necks, but before she could kill them, something very strange happened. The two guards began to glow bright gold, and in only a few seconds their bodies had been reduced to husks, withered and lifeless.

"Well, that's a handy new trick," Flora laughed, dropping the guards' remains. "Seems I can… I can, uh… steal the Sue-ishness of others. That's certainly good to know.

"Well, anyway, Willowe, I think I've… um… overstayed my welcome, so I'll just leave you with some advice."

Delighted, Flora tore open a plothole and leapt through, leaving her last words to echo around the hall.

"You have some dangerous new competition, Willowe. Beware, the Villain Sue."