Golem read over his plan for the fourth time. He and Arachne had spent the past six months planning and scheming, brokering deals and paying people off to look the other way. Except for the people present at the original meeting months before, no one knew of the groups plan, and it was truly the group’s plan now. Arachne had proven to be a truly adept organizer, coordinating the disparate and often conflicting members of their team into a cohesive, destructive unit.
Her shock troops were still sowing chaos. Worldwide, the discontent and terror had risen dramatically. Indigo and Glass worked in perfect concert, avoiding any cities where they might incur the wrath of the local gifted hero, and sometimes laying low for a week to allow people a sense of security before a new spate of terror began.
The Murder Zoo had remained active throughout, spreading horror and death in more remote areas and ensuring that the tales of giant murderous monster animals made the news. Golem chuckled; the ancient alien and cryptozoologist circles were excited more than terrified, and giving their stories more traction than possibly was warranted. So be it; it worked toward their ends, ultimately.
The final plan was a complete blueprint of their work to date as well as their goals going forward. The Chinese had launched a satellite that had been launched by a private corporation to monitor weather. Little did they know that it was in fact intended to create weather rather than predict it. It would enhance Cyclone’s powers to horrifying proportions.
Also, at Golem’s suggestion, Sponge had been retasked; not only would he be shadowing Psimon, he would also be doubling with Cyclone when the time came. The weather phenomena they would generate would devastate entire states, causing damage that had only ever been theorized as possible but no evidence had ever been found that it had ever occurred.
They would be stepping up things this very month, with attacks beginning on the more populous cities around the world. The actual attacks would be so powerful, so overwhelming, that the existence of any heroes in the areas would be moot.
His draft was ready. He would present it to Arachne, and when she finished it, the order would be given, and the end of the world would begin to unfold. Golem smiled. So many before them had come so close to what they were going to accomplish, but they would not fail. There was no squabbling or infighting to cause exploitable rifts. The unique talents of everyone involved were being harnessed and used to complement one another.
There was a bounce in his metal step as he strolled off to and his final plan to the six armed mastermind.
Hours passed before Arachne was ready to give Golem the news he so desperately wanted to hear; She knew he was eager to get started, and that was a major reason he was involved. His enthusiasm was clear in the brilliance and solidity of his design. She reread it several times, looking over his diagrams and blueprints, his selection of targets, exclusion of others, and the entire thing was as foolproof as possible in reality.
Her hand hovered for just a moment before she activated the intercom to his office. In a matter of minutes, with her words, the world was going to change, forever. She gestured and the line to his room opened. “Golem?”
“Yes, Arache?” came the eager reply.
“You may begin.” Both of their smiles were wide and genuine as she spoke. Their rule was about to begin in a storm of violence.
Carbon had breathed much easier in the past several months. Crater and Cavalier had not been seen by anyone since String Theory had spoken to them, and thanks to the efforts of the “remaining” heroes, the city’s crime rate had dropped dramatically. Suspects had been treated as suspects, not crippled prior to the commission of a crime, and releases of criminals once caught had dropped dramatically.
Gutierrez mused that she had actually spent more time doing actual police work than hunting down those that escaped justice. The system had been working it seemed. Too bad the rest of the world didn’t seem to be having as much luck.
Incidents of random murder and animal attacks were rampant. Major disasters like train wrecks, airplane crashes and major highway collisions were a weekly affair and their frequency and intensity was increasing. She had been contemplating calling String Theory to see if he had any inside news on why this was happening. She was getting a weird feeling that something huge was on the horizon, but couldn’t put her finger on what exactly it was.
Her intuition told her that something huge was on the horizon, and before it was over, there were going to be enormous changes, none of them good. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. Maybe she was overreacting. Maybe this trend would pass. What disturbed her the most was that for all the calamities in the world, none of them were occurring in the major cities like her own, Washington DC, Berlin, Peking, etc. It was as if they were being avoided on purpose, which to her spoke of something sinister.
Perhaps the disasters were a distraction, and while crime had dropped in the city and the world was looking out at the suburbs and countryside with their sudden spate of tragedies, maybe inside the cities themselves, something awful was hatching right underneath them. She decided to go with her instincts. At that point, Carbon had no idea what exactly she was looking for, but her gut made her more and more certain that something awful was about to happen, and everyone was looking the wrong way for it.
It began slowly, subtly. In the outskirts of many towns and cities, all around the world, people were being admitted to hospitals with a strange sickness. Some just seemed to get sick, while others had been attacked by friends or family members and bitten. The disease took hold quickly, causing a severe fever and vomiting, leaving the victim bedridden within hours.
Death occurred in one hundred percent of the cases, always within twenty four hours of transmission. And within minutes, the recently deceased rose up to kill and consume anyone they could reach. Carrion had worked for months with Plague, refining his disease and making it more powerful. The virus no longer died after the first generation of transmission. In its current form, it appeared to have no termination, it simply spread and continued to spread as any other pathogen.
They started small, sticking to remote villages and farming towns, allowing the disease to fester and overwhelm entire communities before the outside world was aware that anything was wrong. Pestilence had used blackflies to spread the initial wave. They were not so common as mosquitoes, but their bites exchanged more fluid and they were more aggressive, allowing the disease to get a stronger hold on the victim, quicker.
Soon, the isolated outbreaks weren’t so isolated. A man from the Ozarks had gone to visit family in New York City after contracting it. In two days, the entire apartment complex was crawling with ravenous cannibalistic cadavers. In Arachne’s lair, Carrion spent days watching the unfolding pandemic and giggling with unbridled glee.
Vicissitude had been equally busy preparing for the coming attack. He had been transported all around the world to remote sites, where the people were more superstitious and fearful, and crafting monsters designed to terrify. He and a small team of operatives that worked for Arachne moved into a rural area, then began systematically kidnapping people and stealing livestock.
Vicissitude would then merge their bodies into grotesque machines of murder and horror. The minds would be warped so that they could only think to hurt others. As many as twenty individuals could be molded into a single monstrosity. the faces of the humans would be twisted but left recognizable so that their families would know what happened to them.
The bodies would have gashes opened, often showing ribs or organs. Bones projected from makeshift limbs to be used as weapons, often shaped like spears or harpoons, but also spiked maces and hammers. the vital organs were either distributed evenly or concentrated and protected by bone, making the creatures incredibly difficult to kill.
The monsters were then unleashed on the unfortunate community. The pained, wailing voices of loved ones, mixed with the squeals and barks of livestock and wildlife preceded each attack. Often as many as a dozen such creatures, ranging in size from that of a bull to that of an elephant would descend on a town, it’s only goal to kill and to eat and to terrify.
Some people fought back, firing guns , lobbing molotov cocktails or ramming the beasts with cars and trucks. With few exceptions, these attacks only served to enrage the things, making their attacks more wild and violent. Mothers and fathers were impaled on the warped limbs of sons and daughters. Other people were driven mad by the chorus of twisted voices or the sheer, overwhelming shock of seeing a loved one suffering such tragic torture.
As if the appearance of Vicissitude’s creation weren’t enough, many of them had been infected with Carrion’s newly advanced virus. These creatures were even worse than the others, killing indiscriminately and spreading the vicious plague to their victims. Vic, as Carrion had started calling him, had been working non-stop for the entire six months of the operation, and his masterpieces were being deployed to the undergrounds of major cities around the world.
They’d captured armies of homeless people, who Vic then molded into massive engines of fear. Embedded with rats and filthy with disease, they were released as one into the subway systems of more than thirty major cities. Hundreds of mad, gibbering monsters rushed out of tunnels to terrorize and consume commuters. They would then wander onto the surface and destroy until they were ultimately killed.
Some in every city had been given Carrion’s rot, seeding an apocalyptic undead infestation in the world’s major urban centers. Vicissitude relaxed in the speeding stealth ship with Golem as he began his personal leg of the multi-pronged attack. A week into their plans, mainstream media was asking if the end had come.
They smiled, assuring the television that it had indeed.
Indigo Shift blazed through the streets of the city, wreaking her own unique brand of chaos. Ever since the full-on plan was executed, and zombies and other monsters were actively roving the streets of major metropolitan centers around the world, she and the others had been instructed to move into the more urban areas and cause as much fear and damage as possible.
Indigo had come up with a new trick; she would snatch a person, then run with them in hand until she was travelling at several thousand miles per hour, aim at a wall, then stop suddenly, sending the person hurtling at hypersonic speeds at brick and cinder block. The results were gruesome and horribly damaging. Similarly, in some cases she would push the person just outside her protective relativistic envelope, subjecting their fragile human form to the rigors of six times the speed of sound at ground level.
In the city, she was the first “supervillain” to attack in nearly two years. What she precipitated would have a profound effect on the outcome of Arachne’s plans.
It had been days since Carbon started her investigation, and it appeared as if her feeling had been right. The strange events now seemed to have moved out of the boondocks and into the more urbanized areas, with reports of grotesque monsters and even zombies being reported cities like LA and Johannesburg. She was watching things closely in her own city when she started noticing that unusual vehicles started showing up in the city’s central financial district.
After some surveillance, she was sure she had it figured out. A number of men wearing uniforms that appeared to be public works employees were unloading parts to something to the largest building in the center city. She was already suspicious, but when one of the workers appeared to be a small, hunched-over man covered in coarse hair, she knew they were in trouble. Although she’d never directly dealt with ratpack, she was familiar with him and knew he was bad business.
He was known as being chaotic and vicious, so the fact that he appeared to be working with others set off some very strong alarms in her head. She knew she needed help to apprehend him; all she could do was cut him to ribbons, which of course would only make more of him. She had to get String Theory; he might be able to do something to destroy the little man. Perhaps he could vaporize him; it was her understanding that he only reproduced after impacts. maybe burning him would kill him.
Carbon snuck into one of the few running subways and rode it to the outskirts of town to try and contact her friend. Things were about to get bad, she knew. She no longer doubted her feelings.