Their rest period felt far too short. It seemed that Atomizer had only lowered the brim of his hat for a few minutes when the next perilous mission was upon them. Dr. Vampire addressed them.
“Dreamseer is my team’s best chance against anyone wearing the Skull of Sphidra. After allowing my scanner to analyze your powers I think that Atomizer, Redeagle, Electrode, Blacktide, and Nyhtwulf should be the ones to back her up. She will need your protection while she concentrates on our foe.”
“You scanned our powers?” Atomizer said, “You could just ask.”
“I’m sorry, but we have little time and I needed to know as much as possible about all of you. This way I can advise the best course of action for each artifact we will face,” Dr. Vampire responded.
“Don’t worry about it, partner,” Redeagle said, “Let’s just take care of this thing.”
“Since you know so much about what these things do, I’m going to allow you to make those suggestions,” Commander Larratus growled, “But don’t you dare get any of my people killed.”
“Understood, and I assure you, I will share an equal risk at all times,” Dr. Vampire said, “Now Traveler will open a portal to Chicago. She will try to land you as close to the artifact as possible. Dreamseer will be able to sense it from there. Good luck and be careful.”
With a wave of her hand, Traveler summoned a portal of bright light. The friends stepped through with confidence, even though they had no idea where they would appear.
The Chicago city street they stepped onto was drowning in silence. In the eerie glow of the street lights, no one could be seen. Cars cluttered the streets at odd angles. Even stranger was the sight of women’s purses or men’s briefcases lying scattered on the street. Sacks of groceries lay abandoned. It was as if everyone simply dropped all they were carrying and vanished.
“Everyone stay put,” Electrode said, “I’m running a recon.”
Electrode vanished for only a second or two before reappearing with a grim expression.
“Every street in the downtown area looks just like this one, guys.”
“I guess this means our artifact is active, but this doesn’t make sense,” Atomizer said.
“Yeah, I thought Dr. Vampire said it gives the wearer psychic powers. Even if that person is controlling every person in Chicago, how would you hide them all? I don’t even see anyone in windows anywhere,” Redeagle said.
“Unfortunately, there may be more to the skull than we know,” Dreamseer explained. “We know it can possess the wearer. We know it can control the minds of others. That’s all we know about it.”
“Great,” Blacktide said, “So, no one knows how it makes a whole city of people go missing.”
“Not missing,” Nyhtwulf said, “I can sense them. I sense life all around us.”
“Actually, I sense it too,” Dreamseer said. “The people of Chicago are definitely here, but something is wrong with their thought patterns.”
“Suddenly this is going into bad news land, I can feel it,” Atomizer said. “I don’t see anyone anywhere.”
“I hear something, a tapping sound,” Redeagle said. “It seems familiar somehow but I can’t place it. It’s getting louder though.”
“I agree,” Nyhtwulf said. “They are coming closer from all sides.”
“I don’t see anyone,” Blacktide said, keeping his aura active around his body and stepping away from his friends. He wouldn’t want to accidently hurt any of them with his disintegrative energy.
“Yeah guys, I don’t see anyone either. What’s…” Atomizer stopped short on the sight of Redeagle’s pistol, seeming aimed for his head. “Hey!”
“Duck!” Redeagle shouted and fired his weapon with an echoing shout. The bullet sped past his partner’s head and splattered into its target.
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The spider stood two feet off the top of the car roof it crawled over. It’s leg span could challenge Redeagle’s 7 foot height easily. It was about to sink its six inch fangs into Atomizers shoulder. The bullet splatted the spider’s head in all directions, and coated Atomizers right sleeve.
“AHHH! Geez!” Atomizer ripped off his jacket and threw it on the ground. He wiped some goo from the side of his face and jumped around in a panic, “Cripes! Freaking criminy gawd! Are you kidding me! Spiders? Really? I hate spiders!”
Redeagle’s pistol thundered again, destroying another spider from the top of a nearby truck.
“Get it together, partner, there’s more!” Redeagle shouted.
The men made a circle of defense around Dreamseer as the horde closed in. Electrode launched bursts of lightning that danced between cars and lampposts. The air immediately reeked of burnt spider flesh. Nyhtwulf savaged an approaching group with a roar. He shredded them with claws and smashed them against walls and cars. Blacktide pushed his aura outward, disintegrating any that came near. They were quick to learn not to approach him, however and worked to get around him. Blacktide struggled to make that very difficult. Atomizer saw more coming over the car he had been standing near.
“Oh no you don’t!”
He concentrated on the opposite doors of the car. When the doors exploded they destroyed all the spiders on that side of the vehicle.
“Die, spiders, die!”
“Electrode!” Redeagle shouted as he kept shooting, “I thought all the streets were clear!”
“They were! I don’t know where these things are coming from!”
“Oh no,” Dreamseer said in realizing horror.
“What is it?” Blacktide asked.
“We have to run. We need to get inside a building, right now.” Dreamseer looked upward toward the darkness, past the shine of the streetlights. She could see them, hundreds of them. Spiders were lowering themselves on their silken threads, eager for a meal below.