Aurum has an AEGIS board meeting. Dr. Brennan, Maximilian Mars, Aurum, and the others discuss the direction they want to take AEGIS. Aurum was updated that a few of the other super teams had members down, some due to accidents, others were injured in combat. The other teams were learning, but still inexperienced compared to the Golden Gate Guardians.
Aurum has a meeting with Tyrone Black, the head of HOPE. Aurum flies them to Italy, where they discuss a partnership between AEGIS & HOPE. Tyrone mentions how helpful Wildheart has been to the organization, and that he hopes that their partnership will be mutually beneficial.
Firework gets a call from Darla, his stepmom. Darla tells him that Heather got detention at school. There was some “vandalism” that occurred that Heather was heavily implied in having a hand in. Turns out, a popular girl’s locker was “melted.” Darla is worried that if Samantha, Firework’s mom, finds out, she’ll throw a fit.
Firework has a heart to heart with Heather. Heather tells him of how the popular girl was saying “bad things” about Paranormals, and that she didn’t like the way she was spreading rumors. Firework tells her why she can’t use her powers irresponsibly, and that she has to learn to not only control her powers, but her emotions as well. They bond over video games, and Firework learns that Johnny 5 and Heather have become online friends.
Wildheart meets up with his brother Derek for the first time since he learned he was alive. They have a long talk, where Wildheart apologizes for acting the way he did, and Derek apologized for not letting both Wildheart and their mother know he was alive sooner. They catch up and his brother tells Wildheart that his dojo is growing, that he’s getting more students, and even has opened up an official dojo in a real building. Wildheart is proud of Derek, but tells him to be careful, that the martial arts his brother has developed is pretty intense and potent, and he doesn’t want people getting the wrong idea about him.
Wildheart decides he’s going to send Juanito to his brother’s class, so that he can improve his fighting skills.
War spends time at home, while Melody works with Johnny 5 on the computer systems. After a workout, Rosa asks to have a word with him. After many flirtatious innuendos, War demands she get to the point.
Rosa wants War to put in a good word with her with AEGIS. She says that she’s been “a good girl” and has been doing everything AEGIS has wanted her to do, including helping analyze the Power Corp armor. She wants to join an AEGIS super team. She wants to be able to wear the suit again, and “fight the good fight.” She says this with a smirk. She mentions that War wasn’t always a good person either, and if he can find redemption, why can’t she?
War admits that she’s good at what she does, and hopes that she is being on the level. He says he’ll talk to AEGIS and see what he can do. She blows him a kiss and struts away.
Johhny 5 speaks up “Was it necessary that Rosa be in her nightgown when she spoke with you?”
War tells Johnny to shut it.
Bouncer gets a call from Jackson, the resident Technopath. Jackson asks Bouncer to come to his lab at AEGIS HQ, that he has something he wants to show him. Bouncer arrives and heads into the little shack off to the side of the AEGIS bungalows.
Bouncer arrives and sees various tools and mechanical parts strewn about. He keeps walking further in until he arrives at a set of stairs, going downward. He goes down and finds a vast warehouse filled with equipment, tools, spare parts and ACME devices galore. Various half completed projects from guns to power armor to gadgets & gizmos aplenty lay on all manners of tables and shelves.
Jackson calls out from near the back of the warehouse. Bouncer sees a large black monolith looking contraption, 9 feet tall by 5 foot wide. Jackson pokes his head from behind the machine and motions for Bouncer to come over.
Jackson tells Bouncer that he is almost finished with the device and that he needs Bouncer’s help. Bouncer moves to where Jackson is standing and sees a monitor inside the machine, along with various control panels, knobs & buttons.
“What is this thing?”
“No clue,” Jackson responds. “Half the time when I’m building something I don’t’ know what I’m building until I’m done. And I’m almost done. I know what I needed to do to get here, and I know what I need to do to finish.” Jackson hits a button and a CD tray like part spits out. Instead of a circular hole, it has a cube shaped one.
“So…remember those cubes we got from The Huntmaster’s mechanical pooches? Well…I believe that if we insert them into this machine, we’ll be able to do…something…cool…?”
Jackson tells Bouncer that he has been analyzing the cubes but that the tech inside them is very, very advanced. He’s managed to keep them contained in a secure location, where they can’t broadcast any signal and can’t be free. However, he needs Bouncer’s help to actually grab a hold of one, since they are constantly flitting about and are very strong.
Bouncer agrees and goes into the armored room that the three cubes are being held in. After some failed attempts, and almost getting zapped by multiple cubes, Bouncer is able to grab onto one, and keep it from flying away. Jackson leads Bouncer back to the machine, and Bouncer slams the cube into the slot.
The cube ceases to try and escape and just lets itself get sucked into the machine. The screen on the machine immediately comes to life. Images of alien landscapes appear on the screen, with weird looking foliage and creatures roam. Jackson hits a few buttons and turns a lever and the video changes, to another landscape, this time a dessert. And then a alien forest, and so on. Jackson stops on the shot of what looks like a metropolitan city in ruins, with buildings and structures broken, covered in vines. It looks ancient, but modern.
Jackson hits a few more buttons and the two agents hear a WHOOSH come from around the back of the machine. They walk around and see that a doorway has opened. Past the doorway, through a barrier, is the city that they were just looking at.
“So…that’s cool, right” Jackson says.
Bouncer calls in the team, telling them that something big just happened. Everyone comes, except for Jesuit, who is down in San Jose, helping out the Church of Jesus Christ, Paranormal.
The team hypothesizes that the machine is able to “see” all the worlds the cubes have explored, and with the cubes advanced technology, it’s able to open up a doorway to other realities.
Jackson admits he hasn’t really told anyone in AEGIS about his findings.
Firework is very hesitant about the whole situation. He knows just how dangerous and unpredictable dimension hopping can be.
They decide the only way to be sure is to go through the doorway. After taking some precautions (including using an ACME bubble suit to protect from the low levels of radiation) the team walks through the portal. All except Aurum, who realizes that magic doesn’t work on that world.
The team crosses over and Firework knows the world. This is a world where World War 5 ended poorly, causing radiation to spread out throughout the world. Most of civilization collapsed, except for in a few places where small tribes of humans and mutants are able to survive.
The team discusses what this could mean. They’re not sure if they should tell AEGIS since this could prove to be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Firework knows all about the dangers of reality hopping, and sure enough, within a few moments, the sky cracks with thunder and red lightning. He knows that if they stay in the wrong dimension for too long, the whole universe could unwind.
As they’re about to walk back, they are attacked! A group of…human…? Humanoid for sure, creatures start throwing barbed poles at them. They quickly go back through the portal.
And realize that the whole world is under attack.
The team realizes they’ve been gone for two days.
Aurum catches them up quickly, since he was around. After a few hours, Aurum took off. He was still in contact with Firework via their mental link, so he wasn’t worried. After about a day or so is when they appeared. Shadows emerged from out of nowhere it seemed. Shadows similar to the ones that had possessed the various beings that came through the rifts. Millions of them, swarming over every major city in the world. Smaller towns and villages reported seeing them as well, but in smaller numbers. None have attacked, but just their presence was enough to get the world on high alert.
Aurum scanned the shadows and with the help of Eldritch, the master mage of their dimension, and realize the shadows are actually souls! As they contemplated on how to handle the situation, Aurum began to fall! His levitation spell had failed him! He was caught just in time by Eldritch, and they landed in front of…Wildheart? He stood there, in somewhat ragged clothing, and laughing.
Back at AEGIS, Bouncer was in the command room. All agents were being called in, and all news reports were being monitored. As Bouncer contemplated what to do next, everyone in the room stopped dead in their tracks. The news kept coming in, the computers kept making beeps, but the people just froze. As he looked for whatever was causing it, he heard someone. Someone speaking in an Irish accent. A female.
Speaking inside his mind.
“Well now, this should be fun.”
Bouncer recognizes the voice. Collective was back.
War went outside to scope out the shadows. As he was loading up on weapons, the ground underneath him shook and he fell to his knees. The earth had shattered underneath him. From a dozen feet away, Bouncer was there, with his fist was on the ground. He had caused the earthquake. Bouncer was wearing a dirty and torn up AEGIS uniform. Bouncer said, “Let’s just get this over with.”
Wildheart had gone to the communication room, ready to contact Juanito and to check in on his mom. As he was about to make a phone call, he heard yelling. Someone was plowing through the soldiers outside. Wildheart was about to check when someone came crashing through the walls next to him, sending him flying.
A figure made of rock stood in the newly created hole. It cracked its neck and shifted. It was Spartan! Or someone who looked like Spartan. In a heavy country accent he said, “Alright now. I’m gonna punch you, and you’re gonna fall down. Make it simple, alright?” Wildheart stood up and braced himself. Spartan touched the metal beams jutting from the hole, and he shifted into steel.
Firework stayed with Jackson in the warehouse. He explained to Jackson just how dangerous dimension travel could be. As they were debating on what they would do, a swarm of the shadows wrapped themselves around Firework, and teleported him away.
Firework emerged in nothing. He couldn’t tell if he was in a dark room or world. He used his sparks to light up the place and saw that he was in a sphere made up of shadows. Firework talked to his sparks, asking if they had ever seen anything like this. They all spoke up, in union, “We thought he was gone.”
At that moment, the shadows parted and he flew in, Firework. Or, another version of Firework. Firework’s sparks all yelled out, “Him! It’s him! He’s back!”
The shadow Firework said, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t want it to be like this, but…but it has to be.”
Firework said, “Let me guess. Your universe is gone?”
The other Firework nodded. “And we need your universe to…bring it back.”
Firework yelled, “Can’t you just, I don’t know, merge with it, like the other one did?”
“No. But that’s why we need your universe. It’s just the right one, the one that can handle what I plan to do with it.”
Before he can continue, Firework teleported out. Back to The Nevernever, back to The Lair.
Shadow Firework followed him. “Listen, I don’t want to…”
Before he could finish Firework said, “Caretaker! We have an intruder!”
A cage appeared, made up of golden energy, trapping Shadow Firework.
“Well well, what do we have here?” Caretaker said, emerging from one of the rooms.
Firework told him what he knew. Shadow Firework stood there, looking at Caretaker. “Huh, you’re younger than our Caretaker.”
“Oh yeah? Probably more handsome too, right?”
Firework looked at Shadow Firework, really looked at him. He could see the weariness in his body, the sadness in his eyes. More importantly, though, he could sense the desperation.
A desperate man, with literally nothing else to lose.