CHAPTER 3: Into the Deathtrap
"There you are" said Multi-Shot as Dr Fright and the others returned to the abandoned church where Fearstorm was holding Ci hostage. "Is it too much to hope for that you found our query?"
"No such luck" replied Zap. "The old fool hid it well. And anyway, we don't know for sure he hid it in his house. It could be anywhere."
"No worries, I'll make our esteemed guest talk yet" said Fright. "Brave as he may be, I am bound to eventually find his weak spot."
"I certainly hope you're right," said Weaver, "because I don't want to report to Control that we couldn't finish a job he gave he us! Say, any of you got any idea why he wants that jewel anyway?"
"I imagine it is not because of its price" said Fright. "But who knows why Control does anything he does anyway?"
"True 'dat" said Risk-Runner. "Guy always gets what he wants, but ya don't always know what he wants. Go figure."
"Whatever" said Zap. "Completing Control's task isn't the only thing we have to worry about...It cannot be much longer before the Care Bears find this place."
"Too true" said Fright. "Thankfully, the deathtrap that will spell their doom will soon be complete; our victory is at hand!"
"Mine certainly is, you insufferable blood-sucker" Zap whispered to himself.
While Fearstorm was preparing for battle, the Care Bear Family was attempting to find the battlefield.
"We have over twenty cloudmobiles and rainbow rollers combing the area", Tender Heart said over his communicator to Brave Heart; "it's not that big; we're bound to find them sooner or later. Don't worry about that part, Brave Heart; after all, they want to be found."
"You're right, but I'm worried about Mr Ci. We went to his house, and there was blood on the tatami. Scorch marks, too. Bright Heart thinks the scorch marks were from Zap's lightning, but the stains...He thinks these were bullet wounds. We don't even know for sure if Mr Ci is still alive."
"We'll just have to hope for the best...Also, we should think of an attack plan. Now that Warren's explained who Fearstorm is, we can plan something."
"Do we really trust him?"
Brave Heart was lost in thought for a moment. "He said he was sorry for what he did, and he certainly didn't seem like he was lying to me..."
"On the other hand," admitted Tender Heart, "if he was trying to fool us, we'd probably have no way of knowing. He's too smart for that."
"Then what? Do you trust him?"
This time it was Tender Heart who remained silent for a short while. "I guess so. Pretending to have had a change of heart just doesn't seem like him. Even so...I guess we can't tell for sure if he's on our side, or manipulating us. I think we might just as well assume he is on our side. I mean...I'd rather trust someone too much than not trust someone who's really trying to help."
"You're right" said Brave Heart. "We have to give anyone a chance..."
The search resumed, as the champions of caring searched throughout the zone. Their search came to an end as Bedtime examined an abandoned church.
"Tender Heart, this is Bedtime speaking. I think I've just found them!"
"Good work, Bedtime! Where are they?"
"It's a church...I didn't go inside, but I could see from one of the windows...There's an old Chinese man tied to a chair in the middle of the church."
"Does he look all right?"
"Now that you mention it, he didn't seem that well..."
"As long as there's life, there's hope. Bedtime, use your tummy symbol to create a beacon high in the air, so that we can find you."
"All right. Let's roll!"
As Tender Heart headed toward the new crescent-shaped beacon, he marveled again at how much more energetic Bedtime was at night than during the day...
Only a few minutes later, all the Care Bears and Cousins who had shown up for the mission were present and accounted for, regrouping in front of the church's entrance.
"All right everyone," Tender Heart said, "we have to decide quickly how we do this. There are five villains inside; the only one we've fought before is Dr Fright. We know he's good with traps, so there will probably be a lot of these in there."
"Don't forget the fear" said Brave Heart. "Dr Fright loves using fear."
"Right. So we'll need not to panic, no matter what happens."
"I'm worried about the four others" said Bright Heart. "Weaver has poison darts, Multi-Shot and Risk-Runner have guns, Zap has electrical weapons...Any of them could hurt us very quickly, even lethally."
"So we'll have to make sure none of them can shoot first" replied Tender Heart. "I say we make two groups of five scouts, who will slowly walk up, one group on the right, the other on the left, and try to find any hidden villain. The rest of us will walk 30 feet behind them, ready to use the Stare if anyone from Fearstorm pops up."
"Sounds like a plan to me!" said Brave Heart. "I'll lead the scouts on the right!"
"And I'll lead the ones on the left" said Tender Heart. "Cheer, can you lead the rest?"
"All right. Does anyone have anything else to say?"
"Only this" said Proud Heart: "Good luck, everyone."
"Then let's get inside!"
As the defenders of feelings knowingly rushed into the deathtrap, they failed to notice a familiar figure observing from behind a nearby house's corner: Checkmate Warren.
"Hm. Hardly a professional strategy, but their experience does show. They may not survive this fight, though I've arranged them some pretty good odds...Of course, once I truly step in, I will be in complete control of events...For now, however, Fearstorm and the Care Bears are on their own."
As the Care Bears entered the church, a worrying sight unfurled before their eyes: All the benches had been amassed toward the church's other end, forming a barricade of sort; they couldn't see what was on the barricade's other side, but right in front of it was Mr Ci, bound to a chair, a gag on his mouth, wounds on his legs...and a noose around his neck, the rope going between the wall of benches and behind the improvised barricade.
"Oh my stars" said Cheer. "They might kill him if they pull on that rope!"
"So we can't just use the Stare on the barricade and be done with it" said Bright Heart. "But what is that smell of gasoline...?"
His question was answered as the first trap sprung into action: A bottle of gasoline placed near the church's entrance spilled its content on the ground, and some unseen mechanism set fire to the liquid. In an instant, the entrance was blocked by a wall of flames.
"I guess that means we can't retreat", said Tender Heart, as he led his group of scouts onward. While they wondered why most of the floor was wet with water, behind the barricade, Fearstorm was preparing the next move.
"I will add a dash of fear to the recipe," Dr Fright cackled as he sat in front of an organ. "The second trap will allow Zap to electroshock the entire family at once; when it does, Weaver, your contraption must allow Multi-Shot and Runner to fill our foes with lead!"
"Count on it", replied Weaver, securing the harnesses on the backs of the two others.
Dr Fright began playing the organ. An ominous, ill-boding music suddenly filled the church.
"Don't pay attention to it" Brave Heart told his group of scouts. "They're only trying to scare you..."
In the main group behind, Bright Heart suddenly shouted: "The water! Look out for the water!"
"What do you mean?" asked Brave Heart, looking worriedly at the wet floor they were all standing on.
"Water is conductive to electricity!" shouted the raccoon. "Zap uses electrical weapons! He could shock us all simultaneously!"
"Exactly!" Dr Fright told himself behind the barricades. Now he only needed for Zap to launch his attack...Any minute now...Come on...
"What's taking him so long!" the vampire was getting worried.
"I don't see him coming out of his position" replied Weaver. "We can't wait any longer. They're almost here!"
"Blast it!" said Multi-Shot. "Well, send us!"
"On it!" replied Weaver, activating the mechanism. Immediately, the harnesses climbed at great speed on metallic cables, which carried them across the wall, then the ceiling...but leaving Multi-Shot and Risk-Runner behind. The idea had been for the mechanism to carry them across the ceiling too fast for the Care Bears to have the time to aim their Stare at them, allowing the two gunslingers to shoot their enemies while they were still under the effects of the electroshock. However, in addition to there being no electroshock, the harnesses had failed, going across the ceiling without carrying the two Fearstorm members.
"What...what happened?" asked Dr Fright, so stunned he failed to even notice he had stopped playing the organ.
"That's never happened before!" said Weaver, shocked. "I...How...Sabotage!"
"Zap" said Multi-Shot calmly. "we're going to need a different tactic."
"I can handle that" replied Risk-Runner, still unfazed by the events. Before the others could ask him questions, he climbed on the motorbike he had brought inside the church, and sped through the tight space between the barricade and the wall. The Care Bears were too surprised to react as, without even coming down from his bike, he grabbed Tender Heart, then drove back behind the barricade. He threw Tender Heart to the ground; the Care Bear got up and stared at his assailant.
"Howdy. Risk-Runner is my name, crazy shooting is my game" said the criminal, as he pulled a gun and aimed in the Care Bear's direction. "Let's see them rush to your rescue and into range now!" And with those words said, he began shooting.
As far as Care Bears went, Tender Heart was relatively nimble and athletic. True Heart said he was a real little daredevil as a cub. Even so, dodging bullets was not within his ability...He knew his only chance was to move fast and erratically, too much so for Risk-Runner to aim correctly. He took a quick step to the left. A bullet passed right next to his stomach. He took a step to the right. A bullet hit the wall only two inches to the left of his head.
On the other side of the barricades, it was Cheer's turn to do some fast-thinking. "Swift Heart, remove the noose! Everybody, prepare to Stare!" While the main group followed her command, the scouts under Brave Heart as well as Tender Heart's group rushed toward the barricade.
Tender Heart crouched as fast as he could. This time, he could actually feel the bullet touch the fur on the top of his head. Turning to his left, he did a quick somersault, hearing the sound of a fourth shot.
Moving almost too fast for the naked eye, Swift Heart reached Mr Ci, removing the noose from the old man's neck. Over a dozen tummy symbols were glowing.
Tender Heart threw himself to the ground. A fifth bullet passed right above him.
"Um, I'm not sure..." Multi-Shot began expressing doubts concerning Risk-Runner's strategy when the combined Stares hit the barricade at full force. As Risk-Runner turned his head sideways to see what was going on, his face only registered some surprise when the makeshift barrier collapsed on him. The rest of Fearstorm dodged the falling benches as well as they could.
Grumbling about his teammates' incompetence, the armored Multi-Shot managed to get out of the way without any serious troubles. Seeing Brave Heart's and Tender Heart's groups approach them (with the lion shouting his signature "Chaaarge!"), he raised his arms, ready to shoot them all down...but a Stare hit him from behind, causing him to lose his balance. Tender Heart. The mercenary quickly regained his balance, only to see a monkey – Playful Heart, he corrected himself – jumping at him with a...can of spray paint? Before he could react, Playful Heart had sprayed his visor, blinding him.
Tumbling out of harm's way, Weaver was getting worried. It looked like all their heavy hitters were being taken out of commission. She considered escaping through one of the windows...A bit high, but she was positive her acrobatic skills could get her there. She doubted, however, that she could do it fast enough to avoid the Stare. Perhaps it would be better to stay and fight. Reaching for her belt, she pulled out a poison dart, and threw it toward the monkey...only to have Brave Heart use his Stare on the dart at the last second. The projectile fell on the ground. Brave Heart looked past Weaver and, seeing Dr Fright attempting to make his getaway, began running after him and shouted an order at his elephant companion: "Lotsa Heart, don't let her do anything else!"
"Right!" came Lotsa Heart's reply, as he charged at Weaver. She was already reaching for another dart when they collided. She had never imagined a Care bear Cousin could be that strong – he actually managed to cause her to fall, and her second dart rolled on the floor harmlessly.
Dr Fright couldn't believe how quickly things had gone sour. The plan seemed like it couldn't go wrong! What had happened? Did Zap really betray them? Not that he would put it past that arrogant human, but what for? Now, not only was Zap nowhere to be seen, but Risk-Runner was buried beneath a mountain of wooden benches, Multi-Shot was blinded, and the Care Bears were all here. Better run. He heard a "thump" as Lotsa Heart collided with Weaver, and kept running. There was no way he was letting himself be caught by the Care Bears, or anyone for that matter!
Suddenly, he felt a sharp tug from behind – Brave Heart had managed to catch his cape. Using both his paws and jaws, the lion was pulling as hard as he could. Dr Fright, still carried by his inertia, lost all balance as his upper body remained it place while his legs went forward. The vampire fell on his behind, and felt as Brave Heart pulled him even further back. Turning around, Dr Fright hoped to get up, but froze when he found himself face to face with the angry lion.
"This time, you've really done it, Fright!" Brave Heart seemed nothing short of furious. "You hurt all those people, you kidnapped Sarah, you did this to Mr Ci...You've gone too far, and we're going to make sure it's for the last time!"
"It wasn't me!" Dr Fright was panicking. "It was all of Fearstorm! You can't just accuse me...I mean, I only did a few small parts...I mean..."
While Dr Fright was desperately mumbling, Multi-Shot was removing his helmet. Stupid Zap. Stupid Fright. Stupid assignment. He should have just located the Gemskull and run with it. Now, getting out of this mess would...
His thoughts didn't get much further than that. When he finally managed to remove the helmet, he saw numerous tummy symbols aimed in his way. Fast as he was, even he couldn't do anything as Tender Heart gave the order:
"Care Bears, Stare!"
While the rest of Fearstorm was losing the battle, Zap was running away from the church. Sabotaging the harnesses had been simple enough...And since he had a crucial role in the battle plan Fearstorm had drawn up, he imagined victory would probably go to the Care Bear Family. That is, until Checkmate Warren got involved.
Zap still had trouble believing the mastermind to end all masterminds had actually hired him. Checkmate Warren was the only villain in a bigger league than No Heart or Cold Heart...with the possible exception of Control. Well, a million dollar never hurt, and Fearstorm was still going to get the credit for defeating the Care Bears. Really, a flawless victory, if only he could find the Gemskull and give it to Control. He'd find a way...
"Zap. There you are."
The self-proclaimed master of electricity turned around. It was Checkmate Warren.
"I trust you've completed your part of the bargain."
"Of...Of course. They can't win this fight without me."
"Excellent. The Care Bears can handle themselves, and I trust they can defeat a quartet of minor villains under such conditions."
"I wouldn't exactly call us minor villains" protested Zap, his pride ruffled. "We are not just anybody, I'll remind you."
"I know what your group is capable of. I am unimpressed."
Zap prepared an angry protest, but held himself. This wasn't Dr Fright or Risk-Runner – this was Checkmate Warren. Getting into an argument with him might not be the wisest move.
"Never mind that. You have the money?"
"Well, I'd like to see it."
"Not until it's over."
"Well, if you want to kill them, the fight's inside the church."
"Oh, I'm afraid you are mistaken. I did not come here to end the lives of the Care Bear Family."
"But you said..."
"I said I would handle them. You interpreted that as I knew you would."
Zap was suddenly feeling very, very worried. Quickly, he raised his arm, aiming his electrical weapon at the mastermind. "What's going on, exactly? What are you trying to do?"
"You are not a complete imbecile, Zap, so why don't you at least attempt to answer that question?"
"I...I don't know...You said..."
"I said things that were both correct and misleading. I believe the term is half-truths."
"To protect the Care Bear Family while taking a few chaotic elements out of the equation. Fearstorm is now dead."
Zap was sweating heavily now. This...this wasn't how he had planned things at all! As the mastermind took assured steps in his direction, he took his aim, preparing to fry the super-genius where he stood – when suddenly, something exploded to his right. He looked to his side, but couldn't see anything except a little smoke – too late, he realized it was just one of those toy bombs children used; Checkmate Warren must have placed it there as a distraction of sort before their conversation had even begun. He stared forward again – but this time, Warren was too close, and put his hand on his arm, lowering it. Panicking, Zap shot the highest voltage he could muster at the mastermind. Normally, he would never have zapped someone who was touching him – even if the machinery on his arms was an isolator, he would still receive a dangerous fraction of the current himself. Right now, however, he was too panicked for such considerations.
The electric lightning hit Checkmate Warren directly in the torso. Such a current would kill any human being, leaving nothing but charred flesh. But this time, the target seemed completely indifferent – as if the mastermind hadn't felt anything. For that matter, neither did Zap.
Without wasting another second, Warren tore the machine apart and away from Zap's arm. The Fearstormer stumbled a few steps back. This was impossible...Then he remembered, he kept a gun in his pocket in case his batteries were ever empty. He grabbed the firearm, and quickly aimed at the mastermind, only to have Warren slip his finger between the gun and its hammer. Zap pressed the trigger several time, but no bullet would go. With his other hand, Warren gave Zap a breath-stopping punch in the stomach, then an uppercut. Losing grip on his gun, Zap fell on the ground.
"How on Earth...That amperage should have killed you!"
"True, were it not for a little system of my creation...Threads of a highly conductive material sewn into my clothes, safely leading the electric current into the ground. The portable equivalent of a lightning rod. All you've managed is making a burn in my shirt."
"I can't believe it...How did you..."
"How did I beat you? Simple: I'm a top-notch mastermind, possessing the keenest intellect in the History of mankind, who has spent most of his life fighting. You're an average lab technician who stole a prototype weapon. Do the math, Zap."
"You...you betrayed me!"
"I promised you a million dollars, and I have them here, in cash. Of course, whether the police lets you keep it is another matter altogether. And don't complain about treason...Even putting aside the fact that technically I never lied to you, you have yourself done far worse over the last 24 hours. Not to mention the last decade. Now, it's all over. Checkmate, fool."
Dr Fright looked around. This wasn't good. Risk-Runner was out cold, pinned beneath the benches; Weaver and Multi-Shot had been taken out by the Stare; Brave Heart wasn't letting him out of his sight. Not. Good. At all.
Swift Heart removed Mr Ci's gag.
"Mr Ci, are you okay?"
"I'm alive enough, thank you very much. While I wouldn't mind a trip to the hospital for my legs, I imagine I'll make it."
While Swift Heart was impressed with Ci's calm response to bullet wounds, Tender Heart was more worried about what to do with Fearstorm.
"There's still one missing. Zap. Where is he?"
"I don't know", admitted Fright fearfully. "He was supposed to attack you earlier on, but I haven't seen him since the fight started...Even a bit before that, I guess."
"Well, until we find him, I suggest we call the police" said Bright Heart. "They can arrest these people, and we can look for Zap."
Others were about to agree when a completely unexpected event took place: Before their very eyes, Dr Fright rose in the air.
"Wha...Stop him!" shouted Brave Heart...Though, judging from the look on the vampire's face, he was just as surprised as they were. Before anyone could do anything, some thick smoke filled the church, seemingly coming from nowhere. It wasn't too hard for the Care Bears, using their Stare, to clear the smoke – but by the time they did, Dr Fright had disappeared.
"All right," said Brave Heart, "this may be a stupid question, but I've gotta ask: What on Earth just happened here?"
A short while later, the members of Fearstorm (minus Dr Fright, naturally) were being taken away by the cautious police, while Mr Ci was being loaded into an ambulance.
"Thank you for coming so quickly, officer" said Tender Heart, "but who is that?"
"You don't know? That's Zap!"
"What? What happened to him?"
"From the looks of it, someone broke his legs, gave him the beating of his life, and handcuffed him to a suitcase full of cash. He also taped this letter to his back; it's addressed to you."
Intrigued, Tender Heart opened the envelope and read the letter to the rest of the family:
"Dear Care Bear Family,
By the time you read this, I'll need to be on my way due to other commitments, so I'm afraid we'll have to chat another time. You have, understandably, refused to take my advice concerning the strategies to adopt vis-à-vis Fearstorm. A pity, as my strategies would have allowed you a clean and easy victory...But, I understand. Nevertheless, I preferred ensuring you had somewhat...better odds in this fight. While Fearstorm may not be the cream of villainy, they are deadly, and were well-prepared. I reduced the threat by paying Zap a hefty sum of money to sabotage the deathtrap. I have paid him...In cash and in blows. By my estimations, that ought to leave you approximately 95 odds of surviving without a single casualty. I'd have preferred better odds, but your wishes were clear on the matter.
Checkmate Warren, Ruthless Mastermind."
"That Warren...What a guy" said Good Luck, amused. "I guess we'll have to thank him next time we meet."
"Yes, but I think he was a bit too rough on Zap" admitted Tender Heart. "He could have arrested him without beating him up like this..."
"Of course, Warren's never been known for moderation" said Bright Heart.
Cheer, in the meanwhile, was having a quick discussion with Mr Ci and the paramedics before they took him to the hospital.
"Is he going to be all right?"
"I'm not a doctor, but it looks like it."
"Thank you for your concern", said Mr Ci, "but I must ask: What about everyone else? What about the criminals?"
"Sarah is fine" replied Cheer. "As for Fearstorm, we caught all of them except for Fright."
"Then it shouldn't be too much of a problem. He struck as little more than a coward who strives to control other people's fear because he cannot master his own."
"You're right. Well, we'll be sure to visit!"
"Why thank you. Farewell, friends."
Dr Fright was following a mysterious stranger around, still trying to make sense of the situation. "Look, I'm grateful for pulling me out of that mess – not that I couldn't have done it myself, of course – but who are you?"
"You will see that soon enough, my vampiric friend. In the meanwhile, I suggest you wear these clothes."
"...I don't think a hobo would wear that."
"Well, at the moment, running around this neighborhood in your habitual costume might not be a very goo idea now, would it?"
"Point. Speaking of which, what was it with those magic spells you used back there? Moving me around like that? The smoke? That must have taken a week to prepare!"
"Actually, I did it all on the spot, with instantaneous power."
"Right. No-one is that powerful, except for No Heart of course."
"You'd be surprised. Ah, it appears that we've reached our destination."
"The hospital? What for?"
"Some patience, and you will see."
Still disguised as a bum (he was hoping the shadows from the hoodie would conceal his green face), Dr Fright followed the stranger as they navigated through the hospital. They were accosted by a nurse one time, but she simply addressed the stranger as "Dr Stanson".
"You're a doctor here?" asked Fright after they had left the nurse.
"Not at all. I simply know that Dr Stanson has taken the day off, and as such, I felt I could safely borrow his face."
"Borrow his...You're using a shape-shifting spell?"
"Correct. Ah, here's the room."
Inside the room, Sarah was talking with her wounded but recovering uncle:
"I can't believe it" she laughed, "you actually finished that with a Benjamin Franklin quote?"
"It seemed appropriate enough. Of course, all my talking wasn't enough to defeat them, but thankfully I received some highly-competent help."
"Yeah, thank God for the Care Bears. Say, I know the doctors said you'll walk again, but won't that still be a problem for your kung-fu lessons?"
"Maye it will, maybe it won't. If it doesn't, then so much the better; if it does, then I do believe I have attained a respectable age for retirement."
"That's my uncle: The Amazing Unfazeable Man."
"Oh, how imprudent of me. Should I wear a cape?"
"Charming conversation", said the stranger as he and Fright entered the room, "but I'm afraid I must interrupt it."
"Who are you?" asked Sarah.
"My exact identity is unimportant. What is important is what I want. Namely, the Gemskull."
"How do you know about the Gemskull?" said Sarah, surprised, before coming to a realization: "You're with Fearstorm!"
"Not quite, though my companion is. I merely hired them to retrieve this little bit of family heirloom."
"You little piece of...You're responsible for all of this!" said Sarah, taking a combat posture.
"Actually, I only wanted the Gemsull. Unfortunately, Fearstorm got greedy, and messed up the assignment I gave them, mixing it with a wholly independent plot" the stranger gave Dr Fright an angry glare. Dr Fright gulped. This man – this man was the dreaded Control, kaiser of the underworld? The mysterious voice Fearstorm had so often worked for?
"Whatever, jerk." Sarah was nothing short of furious. "You're going to jail for this."
"I seriously doubt it. As your uncle may tell you, I am not within your league."
Sarah turned toward her uncle. Mr Ci didn't seem impressed so far. "Pardon me, my good man, but I do not recall ever having met you before."
"Oh, you have, but I was using a different face at the time. Which was it...Ah, yes."
In front of Sarah's and her uncle's amazed eyes, the shape of the stranger's face began to change, until it took a wholly different form.
"There it is. Has that refreshed your memory, Mr Ci?"
For as long as Sarah could remember, her uncle had always been a calm, courageous man. She didn't recall ever seeing him this pale, breathing this heavily, or sweating this profusely.
"I see that you do remember me, old friend. Well, I have but one question to ask you. Let me assure you, not answering it correctly will have far more horrible consequences that the alternative, no matter what you do. Even if you were to give me a false answer and kill yourself before I came back, I'd still make sure it wasn't worth it. The question is: Where is the Gemskull?"
Mr Ci seemed to hesitate for a moment...But in the end, decided the threat was, indeed, accurate: "In the cellar...We have spare gas bottles for the kitchen. One of them has a small mark. It's a fake; the Gemskull is hidden inside."
"A clever hiding place. I am not surprised. Farewell, Mr Ci."
As the stranger and Dr Fright left, the astonished Sarah spoke to her uncle:
"That...That was the real place! You told him where it was! Uncle, you always said never to let it fall into the wrong hands, no matter what!"
"So I did."
Suddenly looking very tired, Mr Ci gazed into his niece's eyes. "Sarah...I do not fear death nor pain. I fight for what I believe. I can honestly say that there are very few things in the world worth being afraid of. That man...or whatever he really is...has managed to become one such thing."
As they got out of the kung-fu school, Fright watched the gem-encrusted skull sculpture.
"So...This is what you wanted us to find?"
"Correct. Of course, you went ahead and ruined it, forcing me to step in."
Dr Fright gulped uncomfortably, when a limousine stopped in front of them.
"Ah, there it is. Get inside, Dr Fright."
The vampire complied. The stranger sat right next to him.
"Quite the amazing deduction, Fright."
"If Mr Ci is so scared of you...Why didn't you just go to him in the first place?"
"The less I act directly, the better. I need for there to be as little information on me as possible."
"But why was he so scared of you?"
"What did I just tell about information? Suffice to say, he has had the occasion of seeing how badly I can twist a soul when I want to."
"Fine. Well, what can you tell me?"
"You mean, what can I tell you and afford not to kill you afterward? Well, for starters, Fearstorm is History. Your silly little scheme has backfired, and the rest of your mob is under lock and key. I only bothered saving you, Dr Fright, because your skills may yet be useful to me."
"You mean, my talents when it comes to fear." said Dr Fright smugly.
"That, and your knowledge of Avalon."
Dr Fright stopped smiling. "You know about Avalon? Oh, right – anyone who's made serious research into magic would know a bit about it."
"In my case, no research was necessary. But to help you understand, Dr Fright...I am going to allow to see my true face."
Dr Fright looked on as Control's face shifted again. This time, it also changed its color, turning green.
"You're...You're from Avalon yourself!"
The vampire looked more intensely. Suddenly, a chilling realization dawned upon him:
"By all the gods...You're Quenos! No Heart's brother!"
"Call me Control."
"Y-yes sir...your honor..."
"As I said, you work for me exclusively from now on."
"Yes sir Control. But what about the Gemskull?"
"Ah, that. Well, you see, I have tracked an ancient legend concerning this little artifact...It tells of an evil Chinese sorcerer who, in order to achieve immortality, locked his soul in the Gemskull."
"You mean...Like our Spirit Book?"
"Precisely. As you may imagine, I couldn't let such power go untapped – you've seen what the Spirit Book is capable off. The artifact was under the Ci family's care – they were not to let the sorcerer come free. They probably doubted the legend's authenticity, but wouldn't take any chances..."
Control then made a few gestures, casting his spells. A moment later, he spoke again:
"Well, it would appear that it was only a legend after all."
"What do you mean?"
"There isn't a trace of magic on this thing. It is only a piece of jewelry."
"What! You mean we lost everything for nothing?"
"You lost everything because you bit off more than you could chew. Had you stayed focused on the task given to you, Fearstorm would still exist. You can only blame your own stupidity."
"I can't believe this", Fright slumped in his seat. "Now what?"
"Now, you will help me find more elements for my own plans to progress..."
Back in the Forest of Feelings, one of the Care Bear Cousins who had taken part in the battle with Fearstorm was finished explaining it to one of those who had missed it.
"That's quite a tale" said Noble Heart. "I'm proud of how quickly you all solved the crisis."
"Thank you," said Brave Heart, "but it's not completely over...Dr Fright is still at large."
"Be careful, Brave Heart. You don't want to start developing personal grudges against our enemies."
"Sigh...You're right. But I'm also worried about Checkmate Warren..."
"You think he's up to no good?"
"Well, anyone can tell he's up to something. I don't think he means to do anything wrong, but..."
"...but he didn't really mean to do anything wrong when he made the C-bomb, either."
"...Yeah. I mean, I hope he's learned his lesson and all, but I'm a bit uneasy after the beating he gave Zap."
"He was a villain..."
"Yeah, but still! He didn't need to hurt him so much. I think Warren can be trusted, but if I'm wrong...I really don't want to have to fight him again."
"Me neither" Noble Heart shuddered at the thought, remembering how helpless they had all felt against Checkmate Warren. "But maybe what we need to worry about isn't fighting Checkmate Warren, but helping him instead. After all, we know he's not a really bad person..."
NOTES: Well, there it is – the complete, all-original Fearstorm interlude. I hope people enjoyed this addition to the Extended Edition! Next up, the second season: Power Plays.
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