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[ArchEvil] Gestalt Theory (IC)

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After cloaking herself from the mind's eye of her fellow heroes, The Scarab flew up through the labryinthine corridors of her Lair, to her secret backup control rooms. Once her keen psychic awareness was satisfied that she had not been followed, she opened the secret doors that no one, not her former comrades on the Freedom League or Viktor Archeville or any living soul but Sofia Cruz or her mother knew about. Then she hastily activated the extra layers of redundancy in the security systems which she hoped had evaded the "Good" Doktor's notice during The Lair's refit. [bg=#BF0000]I doubt any of this will stop him. But it might delay him, and right now, every second counts.[/bg]

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Once her final countermeasures were in place, The Scarab flew down to the teleportal junction room. She wasted a few precious seconds taking in her surroundings with an air of finality, looking at each memento collected from a hundred lifetimes and sighing, as though it were the last time she would ever see it. She traced her fingers along the Egyptian pictographs etched into the faux-limestone walls as she soared by. [bg=#BF0000]This refuge was hard-won. But there is more at stake right now than a clubhouse and a few dusty souvenirs.[/bg] She punched the coordinates for the roof of 1 Pyramid Plaza, flew through the portal which flared to life in the stone arch in front of her, and slammed it shut behind her with a press of the button hidden in her epaulet.

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The Scarab reached out to touch the mind of her closest confidante. [bg=#BF0000]Sofia, is everybody out?[/bg]

Yes. The evacuation went surprisingly smoothly, considering how many people just saw your friend on the news. We're putting up all the tenants at other hotels. Which is not going to make us any friends at the next shareholders meeting.

[bg=#BF0000]Take it out of my salary. What cover story did you use?[/bg]

Chemical leak. A hazmat team has us on their to-do list, but they've got bigger fish to fry right now. The towers are empty, and they'll stay empty.

[bg=#BF0000]Perfect.[/bg]

So what now?

[bg=#BF0000]I find him, and end this. Give my regards to Bob and the kids.[/bg]

Be careful, Elena.

[bg=#BF0000]"Careful" is my middle name.[/bg]

You don't have a middle name.

[bg=#BF0000]I meant in another life.[/bg]

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From the highest point in Freedom City, The Scarab searched for her wayward comrade. Using her telekinesis to hover a few feet above the ground, she folded her legs under her in a lotus position and closed her eyes. The huge mantle anchored around her shoulders and back flapped up and down around her like a pair of crimson wings. She loosened the bonds which kept her mind anchored to her body. Free from her earthly bonds, her mind's eye soared between the gleaming canyons of glass, steel, and stone looming over the streets.

[bg=#BF0000]Where are you, Viktor? What have you done?[/bg]

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Scarab's mental senses soon found the man she once called friend, and the team of heroes he had secretly assembled, now slaved to his mad will. She saw some of them run into the home of Avenger and Phantom (though those two, and their unusual child, had apparently heeded her warning and were long gone).

"Auffängers, assemble!," ArchEvil barked. "This prize may have escaped, but there are others. Scarab will be coordinating the efforts against us," he released Fulcrum, flipped open a panel on his left gauntlet and began inputting commands, "but I know where her little dung mound is. We-"

She knew an attack was a likely outcome, and had prepared. But what she saw next was the first glimmer of hope: Archeville the Hero asserted itself, briefly, just long enough to free the Interceptors from his Mad Other's control. The tide of madness swept over him again, silencing his conscience once again, and he attacked the team, but their skill and teamwork saw them through, and he was swiftly knocked out and his armaments removed. Now they discussed what to do, and cooler heads began to dominate, despite the sudden appearance of a lightning-calling warrior goddess.

Hope remained, though. As deeply as he had finally fallen into his madness, Viktor Archeville's heroic nature was not completely gone. If it could be brought up once, it could be brought back up again.

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The Scarab flinched, then sighed and shook her head at the sight of the smoldering pile of rubble that used to be The Brownstone. At the site of the still-precarious situation at the Faretti mansion, she turned eastward and burst into flight. Maintaining her clairvoyant link to that spot so many miles away commanded the lion's share of her formidable concentration, so much so that, for once, she soared across the Freedom City skyline without expending an ounce of psychic energy to mask her presence from onlookers. The Scarab flying above their heads in a crimson streak across the sky, her fists held out in front her her while her enormous cape whipped and billowed in her wake, was a rare sight indeed, though she was so high above their heads that few of the panicked citizens still left on the streets took notice, let alone documented it.

Her lips pressed shut tightly behind her mask in an outward display of the grim determination which had been steadily taking hold in her mind since she first saw Viktor Archeville don the black armor he wore when he murdered her former teammate...his former teammate. [bg=#BF0000]I'm coming, Viktor. I'm going to get you the help you need, one way or the other. And I'm going to stop you, one way or the other.[/bg]

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As Scarab raced across, she saw Deep Ones attempting to raze the city below, using the rivers to strike from multiple points around it. She also saw the Grue Drones, wielding what she now realized were the powers of the Interceptors, attacking and taking people. At several spots she saw these 'Metaceptors' and Deep Ones fighting over a victim -- perhaps these fish-men were not part of Mad Archeville's plans, but were just taking advantage of it. She knew magic as in his blood (and his brain), the same type of weird, preternatural magic the corrupted Atlantean/Serpent People hybrids used, and his new appearance implied such magics had surged within him somehow, warping his body to match his mind.

As she crossed over the river, she sensed the arrival of scores of minds to the area, converging on the spot where she had seen Archeville. Soon after, she was almost overwhelmed as a psychic explosion heralded the emergence of a terrible mentality, both new and immeasurably old.

I AM

She still sensed Archeville, but it was like a single matchstick inside a star.

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For Phantom, finding the locus of the problems was easy. It was a pulsing wound on the fabric reality and even had it not been personal, she would have been drawn there by the weight of the jewel around her throat. The guardian of the dimensions would be on the forefront of this battle no matter what. The fact that it was a one-time friend, the fact that her home, her child, had been targets and only the warning given at speed of thought had prevented that... Oh, it was so very personal.

In a crack of eldritch lightning, reality parted and the long folds of Phantom's cloak unfolded from the Void itself, not at the forefront of the battle but high where Scarab's astral presence was floating. She'd already dropped Avenger off to deal with the physicality of the assault. She would be more effective undoing the twists of magic and insanity that had brought this monstrosity to be.

Rage crackled off of her psyche, dancing along her skin like the lightening she called but it was cold, controlled and boundless. Like Avenger, she did not handle threats to her home or family well.

Your mystical knowledge is formidable, my friend, but I think in this task we can be of aid to each other, Phantom didn't bother speaking aloud but she did extend her ephemeral hand towards the Scarab in silent offer of combining her powers with the psychic.

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The Scarab smiled behind her mask as Taylor Chun's mind touched her own. [bg=#BF0000]Phantom! I was worried my warnings might not have reached you in time. Is your family safe? I'm glad you're here. I made a grave mistake, underestimating the extent of this abomination's influence upon its descendents. Even the faint traces of its blood acted as a gateway through which it could ascend to power upon this plane, and I doubt any mortal mind, even my own, could stand alone against it.[/bg] She closed her eyes and opened her mind, surveying the battlefield around the formless horror that was once Viktor Archeville. [bg=#BF0000]No, we need all the help we can get...[/bg]

Ferros felt the hundred voices of The Scarab echo inside his mind. [bg=#BF0000]You fight with valor, Young Hero, but this is a beast of magic and chaos, not steel nor stone. Your talents are best applied elsewhere. Withdraw to the hill behind you. While your teammates attack the creature's body, your serenity and strength of spirit will help us attack its mind.[/bg]

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The bodies of Scarab and Phantom remained still, but their minds raced forth into the core of the beast before them, the beast that had once been their ally. Scarab, sensing some vital quality to the task in one of the new arrivals, brought Ferros along on the mental journey.

Scarab had been in Archeville's mind several times before, so she had some idea of what to expect, even with these terrible new changes. Where before there had been countless points of light, a galaxy of thoughts and ideas, now there were innumerable flickering points of chaotic flame. Underneath this was Archeville's sprawling mind-mansion, where ideas were stored, catalogued, and turned into action. Spiders crawled all about it now, and dark and boneless things slithered through its corridors.

At the core of this was Archeville's Ideal Laboratory, as beyond what his real laboratories were as his workspaces were beyond those of normal science. The place was in shambles now, simultaneously flooded and aflame, with two titanic figures fighting in the center. One, so inimical to rational thought it hurt to even look upon, a fathomless and formless mass that refused to be recognized as any definable shape, was the mind of the creature which rampaged in Freedom City, here rampaging through Archeville's mind with equal abandon and devastation. Locked in combat with it, spewing forth a string of curses and invectives, was Archeville -- or, rather, part of him. Scarab knew this was Archeville's dark Other, all the fears and hates and prejudices and jealousies and other negative impulses that were normally not even whispers in the minds of others, but for Viktor they had been an insistent voice for so many decades.

"Get out!," the Mad Doktor screamed, both to the beast and the newly arrived heroes, as he pushed on with an impossibly serrated laser-zweihander.

But if that was what was fighting the beast, where was the Viktor they knew?

"Elena? Taylor? Jin?," a weak voice said from somewhere off to the side. The source was soon found: Viktor, the Archeville they knew, lay in pieces, torn apart yet still (barely) cognizant, strapped to operating tables, locked in cages, suspended over vats of boiling chemicals.

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"ä»æ…ˆçš„諸神"* Jin prayed in his own language, when he saw the horrors of the inner control room. His eyes strayed from the obvious threat, to the subtle one. If this truly is the mind of Dr. Archeville, he thought as his eyes came to rest on the operating table and the cages where the Viktor Archeville that he remembered had been dissected, Then his spirit is very nearly broken.

The expression on the mask of Jin's costume hardened. He strode to where the pieces of Dr. Archeville lay strewn across the tables. As he gazed into what used to be his eyes, before they had been removed, the expression softened and grew peaceful, "Hey now, Doctor, ya gotta listen to me, ya know?" he spoke softly so as not to upset the severed head's bleeding ears, "None of this is real. Your spirit is dreaming. Your soul wanders from your body, broken and alone. But have no fear. You are not alone any longer."

The Mad Doktor charged forward with the massive sword of pure light. Ferros threw up a hand, and blocked his advance. The chaos that reigned within the maddened mind before him was strong, but it could not compete with the serenity that flowed through Ferros' blood.

He turned back to the pieces of the broken Archeville, to see that the head now had eyes and it's ears were no longer bleeding. "Good, you have eyes. Close them, relax, and let my words guide your mind back to us. You have walked long within a valley. A valley cut by a glacier of chaotic thoughts and madness instead of reason. Such valleys exist within nature. As do the glaciers that created them. But even nature sees fit to let such glaciers melt after they run their course. Lest we would not have our peaceful lakes and our pure mountain streams. Lest we would not have science and reason. Lest we would be without a great mind like you."

The Mad Doktor was at war with Phantom, the two fired energy blasts back and forth at each other. Ferros saw an opening. As the Mad Doktor raised a hand to launch an attack, Ferros tugged at the metals in his gauntlet clad fist. The lobstered steel of the gauntlet pulled to the left, sending the blast into the floor rather than it's intended target.

Ferros turned his attention back to the Viktor Archeville that he knew. He saw that the head was now affixed to his torso, which only moments earlier had been suspended above a vat of acid on a large meat hook. Good, Ferros thought, It is working.


*Merciful Gods

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Phantom & Scarab fought on against both the formless alien intelligence and the Mad Doktor as Ferros spoke to the man at the ceter of it all. Viktor was hesitant at first, "Is... you... you are real? Really here? The Other, it can be... very clever in its torments."

"Cleverer than you'll ever be, you naive child!," the Mad Doktor screamed as it deflected one of Phantom's blasts with its sword.

"I no longer control this mind... this life. The Other gained control when I read from Phantom's book, has been exerting control these past nine months... but I am guilty! I bore him, I am to blame!"

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Ferros continued reciting his koans, and Viktor did hear them. Slowly he pulled himself together; the processes quickened once his eyes were restored and he could see Phantom and Scarab there with him. But his eyes saw more: they saw through the myriad eyes of his now-warped physical body, and the devastation it wrought upon North Bay and the Interceptors.

"Mona?"

In a flash of blue-white light and swirling equations, Viktor stood, whole, before Ferros, something the Mad Doktor instantly noticed. It broke off from the fight with Phantom, Scarab and the alien intelligence, leaving them to fight amongst themselves, and stalked towards Viktor.

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"Fool! Without me you would have no 'life'! You are an Archeville! Born of a line of geniuses and conquerors, yet you lick the boots of those lesser than you!" The Other backhanded Viktor, knocking him towards a wall made of screaming faces, but the hero stopped in mid-'air' and faced his counterpart down. "You betrayed yourself, relied too much on others, and as a result grew weak and stupid!"

"I... I have relied on others," Viktor said, his voice strengthening with his resolve, "and I think... you are about... to find out why."

Thousands of bolts of crimson lightning arced throughout the mental laboratory as "Dokthulhu's" body was cleaved by an orbital maser. Once the outburst subsided, Viktor flew off, towards a tear in the starry sky above.

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"You cannot run!," the Mad Doktor screamed. "Whatever I am come from you! You made me! I am your every anger and foul thought made manifest!"

Even as the Mad Doktor raged against the heavens above, Phantom and Scarab realized the truth as they fought the alien intelligence, and saw the faintest traces of connections between it and the Mad Doktor. It was shaped by Viktor's darker impulses, but it was given autonomy by this thing, long before the vile tome in Taylor's care broke the dam in Viktor's mind. Archeville's "Other" was not some split personality, it was more like an interface the alien intellect had created through which it could interact with and experience the world. Lacking both the familiarity with arcane matters (specifically pseudonatural threats) Phantom has, and the experience with mental matters Scarab has, Ferros did not realize this, and was at something of a loss regarding Viktor's departure.

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Ferros watched, bewildered, as Dr. Archeville departed. He had thought he knew what was going on. He had thought that the Archeville that lay in pieces was the doctor's good half. He had thought the Archeville with the sword was his bad half. He had thought the two were entwined as Yin and as Yang.

When the good doctor left, Ferros discovered that he was entirely wrong. He also discovered that he and the two other heroes were now alone with the Mad Doktor and the giant alien intelligence that's still lashing out at everything!

"You cannot run!," the Mad Doktor screamed. "Whatever I am come from you! You made me! I am your every anger and foul thought made manifest!"

The mask that Ferros wore on his face turned up a smile.

"Although it is true that we humans cannot run from our problems, you forget one other thing." Ferros thrust out hand, and began exerting an inward pressure on every bit of metal that the mad doctor wore or carried. "We humans have the power to bend our malignant thoughts to our will." The sound of metal wrenching filled what was left of the chamber. "Though it must remain a part of us, we can always choose to ignore our anger and foul thoughts as Viktor has just done."

Ferros didn't truly know what was going on. But he believed what he believed thanks to the way he had been taught. Taoism teaches that there must exist a balance in all things. Tip a balanced scale of good and evil too far in one direction, and the other side lashes out, rising back up with a powerful force. He believed he was seeing that concept take form before his eyes. Viktor's evil side had grown too powerful and thrown the balance out of whack. What was left of his good portion had just been waiting to be set free so that it could restore the balance.

Even as Ferros brought the mad doctor to his knees with the alchemical magic that flowed through his veins he knew that he did not need to. What the three heroes had entered the mind of Dr. Archeville to accomplish had been taken care of. They had set free Dr. Archeville's good half in it's spiritual form. It was seek another nearby body to return to. They had succeeded in what they had come to accomplish.

"Scarab!" Ferros called out as he did his best to keep the mad doctor in check for as long as his power would allow, "We should probably leave, ya know?"

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Phantom gathered herself. Floating within the voluminous folds, it would have taken a discerning eye that knew the Guardian personally to see the signs of exhaustion. After this was all over, she would teleport to those that loved her and have a well earned collapse but at the moment, none of it showed on her shadowed features. Silent as the ghost she was often mistaken for, she raised steady gloved hands from the depths of her cloak and eldritch bindings that seemed to pour from within the cloak itself lashed out, manacling both the Mad Doktor and the titan he fought.

In a hollow voice that burned the ears and blistered even Phantom's tongue, she spat words of binding that were never meant to be uttered by human mouths... but then, few would say Phantom was human any longer. They would be right. She existed outside of time and space, in the places Between and hers was the right to call on and banish that which dwelt Beyond.

Only once that was done did Phantom thrust a hand out in a slashing gesture. "Now we go." Her voice echoed oddly even in the mindscape. The portal she offered Ferros was black as night and shattered with eldritch lightning streaking across the sky - the Void for those who could recogonize it for what it was - but it would take them out of the nightmare realm of the doctor's mind and back to the dubious safety of home.

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For Ferros, faith was not blind, and he'd be the first to tell how much Phantom's portal rose the hairs on his back. But there was no alternative. Their job here was done, and to stay meant meeting a strange doom far too early for his tastes, for he was too young to die.

With but a single backward glance, Ferros stepped through the portal, placing his trust in the dimensional guardian. He hoped it would allow him to put a great distance between himself and this awful place of nightmares.

~fin~

continued in ArchEvil: Aftermath

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