Sphidra, the embodiment of a nightmare, loomed over the motley crew of heroes on the dark rooftop.
“What funny little creatures to oppose the will of Sphidra!” its voice shrieked and cracked. “Why are you not already my servants?”
“I sense two minds,” Nyhtwulf said as he worked on healing Dreamseer of spider venom.
“Oh that’s great,” Agent Redeagle said. He stood near Nyhtwulf and Dreamseer with is dagger drawn to fend off attackers.
“Answer me, fools, or face the wrath of Sphidra!” Its voice shrieked even worse. The heroes had to cover their ears.
“Why would we serve you?” Electrode shouted.
“All in this realm have been formed to serve!”
“Oh, I get it,” Blacktide said, “We weren’t here when this idiot put the skull on his head.”
“And everyone who was here got mutated into servants,” Atomizer said. “Oh my God! I could become a spider creature!”
“Don’t make me shake you,” Blacktide grumbled, “Keep ahold of yourself.”
“I’m trying, Man, I’m trying.”
“You will all serve Sphidra!” Jets of webbing launched at them from its hind quarters.
Blacktide put up a wide disintegration field to stop the webs from engulfing them. Electrode and Atomizer fell back from the heat of Blacktide’s energy power. Realizing he almost burned them, Blacktide nearly froze but shook it off.
“Get further behind me!”
“Impressive, insect, but you will still succumb to Sphidra!”
“Oh come on! We don’t even know who Sphidra is!” Blacktide shouted, “We don’t know what Sphidra is! Why don’t you explain it to us? Or are you really just some moron who put a giant skull on his head?”
Nyhtwulf worked feverishly to counter the venom in Dreamseer. He could tell Blacktide was trying to give him time. They needed Dreamseer, but would they have her soon enough?
“Sphidra is not this curious fool! Sphidra is power and the god of all arachnid forms! Soon this puny being will be completely transformed and Sphidra will reign supreme! Cities will fall!”
“You know, maybe you shouldn’t tick it off,” Atomizer said.
Blacktide only shot him a half glare over a shoulder in response.
“No, let him be, I know what he’s doing,” Electrode said.
“Man I hope so,” Atomizer said.
“Go on,” Electrode prompted Blacktide.
“You aren’t a god! You’re a monster! We’ll never serve you! And I’ll tell you something else; referring to yourself in third person is really stupid!”
All of the heroes suddenly clutched at their heads as the psychic shriek filled their minds. Nyhtwulf was more resistant to it and kept working. It looked like Dreamseer was finally waking up.
“Ahh, I said not to tick it off!” Atomizer shouted, “Didn’t I say not to tick it off?”
“Shut up!” Blacktide shouted back.
Electrode launched a bolt of lightning in an almost automatic response. The shriek stopped as Sphidra was momentarily stunned. Sphidra brought one pointed leg forward and nearly skewered Electrode with it. Instead, it only pierced the rooftop. Electrode dodged easily but staggered to his knees from the blinding pain in his skull.
“If you will not serve, you will die!” it screamed. Its voice was now as painful as the psychic attack.
Blacktide clasped his hands into a double fist and lunged for the leg that almost hit Electrode. With a hard swing, a puff of smoke and a coughing sound, the leg had to leave its sharp tip in the roof. Sphidra screamed and the leg spewed liquid goo across the rooftop. Bits rained on all three of them.
“Again?” Atomizer yelled. “I still don’t have the last spider’s guts off of me!”
“Take it out on the damn spider, will ya!” Blacktide shouted.
Atomizer concentrated on the concreted corner of the roof nearest Sphidra. His vision blurred from the pain of psychic attack. The stone of the corner shuddered as if it resisted him but then exploded outward. Shards of debris sprayed across Sphidra. The beast screamed in rage and pain, but still wasn’t defeated. Injuries to the spider were superficial at the most. Atomizer fell to his knees with a hand to his head. As he touched his forehead he felt something odd about his hand. Something poked at him. Atomizer looked at his hand and nearly fainted. Tiny black hairs were growing from his skin.
Sphidra swung its other foreleg at Blacktide in rage, only to suffer the same fate as the previous leg. It screeched in rage and pain, using its psychic abilities to attack again. This time the heroes were thrown to the ground in agony. Blacktide’s power disintegrated through the roof and he fell through the hole. Electrode couldn’t move from where he lay, blinded by pain. Agent Redeagle couldn’t get up either. Colors flashed before all the heroes’ eyes and they thought their heads might explode.
On the floor below the roof, Blacktide landed on someone’s queen sized bed, only slightly charring it before some control of his powers came back. He screamed and clutched at his head. He was unable to decipher any of his surroundings until the pain stopped suddenly. In a half second the pain vanished totally. Blacktide jumped up and looked through the hole above. He noticed a slight hole in the upper corner from Atomizer’s previous attack attempt. Blacktide climbed and stood back on top of the bed and raised his hand towards that hole in the corner.
On the roof, Dreamseer stood with Nyhtwulf. It was Dreamseer’s own psyhic abilities that stopped the pain her teammates suffered. Now she brought herself mind to mind with Sphidra. In a psychic form she could see the true spider that was Sphidra. It was terrible to behold. Sphidra had fangs larger than any man and eyes that glowed with psychic might. This vision of its body was coated in an exoskeleton of psychic armor. Dreamseer could tell that Sphidra had more than the power to convert a city. Given time, the beast could convert the world.
“You cannot stop the will of Sphidra, little Elf,” its voice cracked in her head.
“I don’t have to stop you, Sphidra, only engage you.”
Nyhtwulf wasn’t seen leaving the rooftop. The lupine hero vanished into the shadows as Twilie demons are born to do. He flew through buildings and circled in behind his prey. When Nyhtwulf flew through the back of Sphidra’s body, it was taken completely by surprise. Nyhtwulf’s power to disrupt life force shook the great beast just as a beam of disintegration blasted through the abdomen. Blacktide, with mental direction form his partner, had focused his power through the upper corner he was staring at. Having a spiritual and psychic bond with Nythwulf was as good as having x-ray vision. A very large hole smouldered in the arachnid body. Sphidra screamed as Nyhtwulf reached the head. The shadowy wolf grasped at the head and skull of Sphidra while forcing his way forward. The skull became intangible along with Nyhtwulf and was wrenched free from Sphidra’s body.
Nyhtwulf landed on the rooftop with the Skull of Sphidra in his clawed hands. Behind him, the great body shattered and fell to pieces. Some parts burst into flames, some turned to dust; the rest just fell to the streets below.
Atomizer looked at his hands. The black hairs vanished. A spider came over the edge of the roof near him. Before he could react, it shrank before his eyes back to the average size of a spider.
“Oh yeah,” Atomizer said as he brought his foot down on it.
“Is everyone okay?” Agent Redeagle asked as he picked himself up.
“Just fine now,” Electrode answered.
Blacktide burst onto the scene from the rooftop door. He nodded to his partner, Nyhtwulf who held up the skull in triumph.
“Good job, partner,” Blacktide said.
“I guess now we can get out of here,” Atomizer said and he wanted to very badly.
“Help me,” a voice came from the destroyed corner of the building, “Help me, please!”
Redeagle ran over and found a man, drenched in spidery goo, barely clutching the edge of the debris. He rescued the man easily and brought him onto the roof.
“Who are you?” Redeagle asked.
“I’m Professor Isaac Middleton,” the man tried to say with dignity that just wasn’t there.
“You put on the skull,” Dreamseer said.
“Yes, as your friend said; I’m the moron who put on the skull. It was sent to me in a package at the University with a note. The note said it was the helm of a an ancient warrior chief. When I touched it, I was strangely compelled to put it on.”
“It does have a psychic pull,” Nyhtwulf said, “but it has little effect on me.”
“So you weren’t so much of a moron after all,” Blacktide said, “I was just trying to distract Sphidra anyway. It wasn’t personal.”
“So many people are dead now because of me,” the Professor said in anguish.
“Well, now you can do something about that,” Dreamseer said soothingly, “I sense that the other human beings are changing back. They will need someone to help the city heal. You can do that, Professor.”
“Yes. Yes. I suppose I owe that,” the Professor said as the psychic suggestion sank in.
“Then we have to go now, the rest is up to you,” Dreamseer said.
Practically on cue, a portal opened to take them back to New York. Dreamseer had mentally contacted Traveler with the news. They all went through the portal, leaving the Professor alone on the messy rooftop.
The Professor looked over himself. His shirt was gone and his pants were in rags. He was covered in goop. He slowly walked to the rooftop door where he noticed the little spider on the door frame. Then he noticed another, and another. Soon there were hundreds around him. Curious, Professor Middleton held out a hand and several of them scampered onto his palm.
“Oh my,” the Professor said quietly, “I think I see how this is going to start. I believe I shall have my own team of heroes to rebuild Chicago. Maybe it’s about time.”
Back in New York, Doctor Vampire took the skull and locked it away in a special box.
“Congratulations all of you,” said Dr. Vampire,” You wouldn’t believe how things went for use while you were gone.”
“What happened?” Dreamseer asked.
Doctor Vampire gazed at her with a solemn expression,“We died.”