SideKicks

Issue 27: Citzen Zero II
Another Dick in the Wall(er).
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Issue 26: Citzen Zero I
Agent Zero and his BOIIS
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Issue 25a: Zeros, Titans, and Clones! Oh My!
Are they making a Haas Bot!?
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Issue 25: Plus-Minus Zero
The Future is Now. (Super Sonic Sasquatch!)

After trapping the Zeros in an alternative dream realm, Conundrum turns Teen Lantern to his cause, giving birth to the first deviant, Terrorlax. After a fierce battle, Condundrum and Terrorlax are stopped from opening a direct portal to a place called Zero Point, the exact center point of all convergent realities, though they do use a portal to escape capture. An independent sentient Violet is created in the aftermath of the birth of Terrorlax and joins the team as they are likely to run into Teen Lantern again.

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Issue 24: Less Than Zero III
Nihil awakes.
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Issue 23: Less Than Zero II
Underground Fights, Drugs, and T-Reichs. Oh My!
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Issue 22: Less Than Zero I
The Coming of Nihil

It’s been eight months since Batman left Gotham, four months since the Zeroes’ acquisition of ProtoCorp, Inc. and three months since the disappearance of Tom Albertson.

The Mayor’s office is embroiled in scandal after a memo surfaced suggesting that Gotham PD and members of the Mayor’s administration worked in collusion to willfully distort the city’s violent crimes rates. Leaked in the rash of some of Gotham’s most brutal murders, the media is tearing Janet West’s administration apart and the Mayor is desperate for a solution to save her political career. The media narrative is simple: the city is without its heroes, the crooks are no longer afraid, Batman is never coming back.

Mayor Janet West requests counsel with the Zeroes and proposes they become the new guardians of Gotham, that they restore faith and optimism to the city, that they join her in ushering Gotham into its new century and overshadow Metropolis using ProtoCorp technology to futurize the city, “to do what Wayne can’t!” West explains the first thing they need to do is to put an end to the recent series of murders being sensationalized in the media. The Zeroes respond with mixed reactions, some rejecting the Mayor’s proposal outright sensing West’s political intentions whereas others seem to agree conditionally. The Mayor’s phone rings abruptly with news of the latest murder having taken place at the Gotham American, an apartment in a revitalized district of the city.

Teen Lantern provides transportation to the Gotham American where the Zeroes meet with Gotham PD’s Bullock who noticeably smells like a cheap Italian Cold Cut. Bullock explains that inside the apartment they’ll find some grisly stuff, that he’s happy Gordon isn’t here to see it and that “even Batman would have the Boy Wonder cover his eyes for this one.” The lights are down and against the far wall facing the windows lies the body of a woman in her early 30s. The floor is dark with blood. The blood is smeared all across the floor and adjacent furniture suggesting she was wrestling with her assailant. She’s suffered obvious trauma to her head with clumps of blood and brain matter staining her once blonde hair. The woman has a terrible wound in her abdomen. Her eyes are wide open. Brainchild examines the body more closely determining that the victim was pregnant and that the fetus was crudely removed. Brainchild also recovers fragments of an uncommon material from the wound, likely material from whatever implement was used in the murder. Schism notices his lack of hunger around the corpse and feels a familiar presence in the scene.

The Zeroes quickly research the woman’s background identifying her as Talia Redding. They immediately suspect her husband’s involvement with the murder. Kinetic Kid speaks with the buildings’ facilities managers and reviews security tapes feeling fairly confident that he’s spotted the murderer and a potential accomplice. Unfortunately the tape quality is below average and only offers that the suspects are a man in his early 30s and a woman possibly the same age. Upon leaving the apartment the Zeroes notice the word, “Nihil” painted on the wall in Talia Redding’s blood. Bullock states that this is the sixth time that word has shown up at a murder scene in Gotham.

The party splits up: Pastor Ted Haas investigates the other murders and learns that in each case the victim lived in an affluent section of Gotham and that each murder has resulted in the removal of a body part or organ. Haas later goes to Gotham PD Headquarters to speak with Otis Redding, the husband of the deceased. Haas mindprobes Redding and confirms he was not involved in the murder, that Redding was on a business trip to Metropolis the night the murder occurred. He also learns that Redding is an accountant at ProtoCorp. Pastor Ted Haas asks if Redding is familiar with the term “Nihil.” Redding explains it means “nothing” and preceded the concept of “zero” in mathematical value.

Schism and Brainchild go back to Protocorp to analyze the materials found at the crime scene. Analysis shows that the material shares characteristics of both crystal and basalt – Brainchild is able to confirm the material is not from Earth. Schism recalls it as a “fundamental” material in his dimension but cannot remember what it was used for.

Kinetic Kid and Teen Lantern visit Harvey Dent at the old Zeroes hideout. Harvey is growing irrational and offers them nonsensical notes about investigations he’s been working on. He explains he’s failing Batman, that his poor mentorship of the Zeroes is evidence of that. Kinetic Kid suggests he takes a break and offers him the ProtoCorp suite.

Hybrid leaves the Gotham American, adopting canine features, and follows the scent of the murder back to the New Gotham Arts District. The scent terminates at a large sewer grate. Hybrid enters the sewers and becomes lost in the mazelike tunnels. Hybrid later obtains a map of the latest build out of Gotham’s sewer system.

Overnight, Brainchild has a disturbing dream reliving her interview with Prototor eventually having visions of him rigging up the explosions which resulted in her current state. The dream flashes again to a domestic setting where she’s in the Brainchild body, talking to Prototor when an adult Victoria Langely enters the dining room asking that Brainchild go help her sister. Prototor tells Brainchild that they can speak at anytime but that for now he would like for her to listen to her mother and help her sister. Brainchild is woken up by Vicki. Vicki gives Brainchild her mail and discusses, in brief, the invitation to the Gotham Archaeological Society gala saying they should really go, etc.

Vicki then informs Brainchild:

“I think I’ve cracked it. I won’t lie. I borrowed your hypothesis, not that it was genius or anything, and you’re probably right. Its mitogenesis. Proteus accelerates mitosis. Proteus introduces special proteins which engage in the cell division process, resulting in super cells of a sort. In short, it introduces new genetic material and tells cells to grow, BOOM, at a rate that even the FLASH couldn’t even keep up with….no telling when it stops either….we’ve had a culture going for 24 hours now….its unclear what short term effects are, combined metastasis and mitosis at this rate is in essence, cancer,…..there’s no way to predict its effects or what powers it gives; its dependent on the sample I would assume. We’ve heard of all sorts of effects…..The question is, if we can pinpoint metahuman qualities to these proteins then who the hell did they get them from to begin with?

Brainchild later researches the history behind the GAS event and uncovers a brief article written by Richard Tulley. She shares this information with the Zeroes who proceed to research the whereabouts of Will Herzog, the Department Chair of Anthropology at Gotham University who oversaw the archaelogical dig resulting in the findings to be exhibited at the GAS event. The Zeroes learn that Herzog committed suicide. They contact Joe Webb for information about Richard Tulley and learn that he’s a minor reporter at the Times and that he lives in the New Gotham Arts District and runs a personal blog covering the Gotham Arts scene. Joe assures Brainchild he can arrange for all the Zeroes to attend the event.

Later, Kinetic Kid is contacted by Captain Sylvia Savage of the ProtoForce. She checks-in to confirm whether or not ProtoForce should assist in any current operations. Kinetic Kid asks that she prep the troops for certain operational maneuvers. He also requests that Savage setup a security team for the Gala event and that she attend herself as Haas’ guest. Kinetic Kid learns that Tom Albertson left Savage as his first officer. She explains she was an external hire and that she wasn’t with ProtoForce until after the Zeroes took over. Kinetic Kid looks up her personnel record and learns she’s served in a number of private armies.

Teen Lantern has spent most of his time patrolling Gotham, preventing various crimes, and notifying Gotham PD of criminals he’s captured, etc. At some point he becomes overwhelmed with a strange focus of anger and determination emanating from a particularly crowded section of the New Gotham Arts District. Teen Lantern eventually narrows the source of this energy to a single individual and follows him to a sewer grate. When the individual attempts to lift the grate Teen Lantern seizes him, taking him to the rooftop of a nearby building for interrogation.

Teen Lantern picks up on behavior that suggests the hipster is possessed. He takes him to the lab for evaluation by the hipster’s own volition. Pastor Ted Haas successfully mindprobes the hipster and creates a mindlink which all the Zeroes tap into. Early visions into the hipster’s mind show his day-to-day activities followed by him entering the sewers. Haas and Schism eventually sense that a force is attempting to block their efforts, keeping the vision limited to the mazelike tunnels of Gotham’s sewers. Not everyone remains with the link – Schism collapses as he struggles to sustain the connection. Only Pastor Ted Haas stays in long enough to see visions of the hipster emerging into a lit opening where he sees a group of 30-40 persons congregated around something. The vision ends there. KK fashions a Psychic Field Disruptor with the hopes of being able to break any mass psychic link they encounter.

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Issue 21: Destiny Deferred
Screw Destiny!

Highlights:

  • Brain Child is alerted by Victoria Langley about an temporal anomaly detected by NOOTUN. She rushes to her counterparts lab to find that NOOTUN had pulled Schism from an alternate dimension. NOONTUN reports that this alternate earth is specified Earth 71, somewhere outside the 52. Schizm claims to be from a dimension where Earth has been ravaged. it’s rumored to have been ravaged by creatures he calls Caltrips, creatures that eat the dead, preferring the dead parts of matter, be it inanimate, organic, or souls. He also claims to be possessed by one of these creatures. Though weary of the newcomer, they offer him sanctuary until they are able to return him home.
  • Hybrid & Teen Lantern are brought up to speed with the goings on since they were captured as The Kinetic Kid infodumps the newcomer about the reality he’s currently in.
  • Days pass until the time for the arranged meeting with the mysterious ‘They’ at Gotham Century Tower arrives, Tom Albertson orders The Red Shirts to send a squad of twenty men in plain clothes out to patrol the area around the tower and Pastor Ted Haas orders a small group of plain clothed police officers to back them up. Victoria Langely tags along this time for reasons of her own.
  • They arrive at the tower and enter the basement. Inside, they find a smug young man, who looks around 15-16 years of age, waiting for them. He introduces himself as Geass and bids them follow him down into the depths below the tower.
  • Inside, they find a room with twenty one thrones, each numbered with a roman numeral. The Kinetic Kid looks over the room to see his mentor and step-father Captain Kinetic as well as his mother Friction among those seated in the thrones. Hybrid notices a teenage boy about his age laughing at him from one of the thrones.
  • Geass introduces the group as The 21. A group gathered by ‘The Hermit’ who sat in seat nine who will play a large part in the future to come. He claimed his lord has seen the destiny of the world where the 52 come together as one once again. In this future, The 21 shape and bring forth ‘The Hermits’ grand vision. He ‘offers’ the Zeros their seats among The 21.
  • Brain Child asks nervously about the whereabouts of Alexander Proditor as well as Christine Whaller & Joe Webb. Geass declares that Joe Webb is here, but unharmed. He orders him given over to the Zeros. He does express his condolences about not having Christine or Dr. Proditor. Proditor had taken Christine to “take back the company that he built.” Brain Child is alarmed at this, though doesn’t make a move to act.
  • The Kinetic Kid asks about Conundrum as he had been on one of the tarot cards they had retrieved from Proditor. Geass smiles and said he is here or he could not be here. Rather than being banished from our reality like was thought, Conundrum had actually taken refuge inside either Joe Webb or Christine, merging his existence with one of theirs.
  • Tom Albertson balks at all this talk about seeing the future and demands proof as well as the identity of ‘The Hermit’. Geass begins to dismiss Tom outright when ‘The Hermit’ himself stands and lowers his hood. Only a skull existed behind the hood. The Kinetic Kid immediately recognizes him as Dr. Destiny though quite changed since the last time Captain Kinetic and he had encountered him.
  • Destiny declares that Tom will betray the Zeros or that he shall be the martyr that bring The 21 together. Both outcomes he had seen. He urges the Zeros to join The 21 to take the benefits of the throne and help him usher in the future that he has foreseen.
  • The Zeros turn down his offer, but Geass glances at them and each feels compelled in varying degrees to join. Most shake off the influence, but Hybrid falls under his sway and offers to join.
  • As he ascends to take the thirteenth throne (Death), the teenage boy from earlier comes over to him, introducing himself as his brother. Hybrid balks at the idea, but has his identity confirmed by Victoria Langley. This takes Hybrid aback, but his new-found brother embraces him warmly.
  • Tom Albertson, not liking the situation at all, acts on his own. He fires a teleportation bullet at Hybrid sending him outside and into the waiting arms of the assembled Red Shirts. Hybrid quickly changes into were-chameleon form and escapes from his would-be captures.
  • Unable to bear the hunger anymore and on the teams urging, Schizm begins to feed on the hate, darkness, and death that had been shrouding the throne room. Captain Kinetic rushes forth to stop him, but The Kinetic Kid intercepts him, taking the shot from his mentor and father figure.
  • Friction steps down from her throne and begins to talk toward Tom Albertson. However, before anyone can act further, Hybrid busts into the room. He marches up to Destiny and Geass and demands his benefit from taking the throne. He wants the Zeros to be allowed to leave. The benefit is granted. Captain Kinetic steps down and Friction stops in her tracks.
  • The Zeros urge Schizm to keep ingesting as they try to stall a little longer. When Destiny notices this, he urges Friction and Captain Kinetic to take down Schizm, under the loophole that he wasn’t a Zero.
  • Meanwhile, Pastor Ted Haas has noticed the presence of Harvey Dent down below in the dungeons of the complex. He dashes off to rescue him. Brain Child, on the other hand, looks around for Teen Lantern worried about where he could be at a time like this. Her glance manages to find him in a dark corner, shivering and mumbling to himself. He is alternatively flashing between yellow and green as he attempts to control his powers. Though unsure why he was freaking out, though suspecting it had something to do with Destiny and the things Teen Lantern had been forced to see during his battle with Terrorlax in the Sea of Time, she knew quite well how destructive his powers could be if uncontrolled.
  • She tries to warn everyone when Teen Lantern’s tentative grasp on his powers loosens and everything and everyone is covered in yellow light. All but Schizm, Pastor Ted Haas, Hybrid’s brother, Friction, and Geass are affected. Yellow apparitions fill the throne room as each affect person begins to relive their greatest fears. Brain Child burns over and over again in yellow flame. Victoria Langley collapses and she’s overrun by a multitude of copies of herself. The Kinetic Kid is berated by images of his mother and step-father berating him. Hybrid is forced to be encased in a iron maiden made of silver. Captain Kinetic sees the grave of his step-son and falls to the ground weeping. Destiny is covered in a mass of transparent yellow flesh that melted from his bones over and over again.
  • The others suffered, but Tom Albertson suffered the most. Wrapped in yellow cocoon, he was forced to relive his personal traumas that turned him into what he was today over and over again, for what seemed like eternity. Knowing what was going to happen, but forced to watch anyway.
  • Unaffected, Schizm notices Friction heading toward him despite the chaos going on around them. He quickly turns his hunger on her. Eating the rotting and dead parts of her soul.
  • At the same moment, Pastor Ted Haas pauses at the entrance to the dungeons when sees the yellow light. He gives a quick glance back and notices Friction’s advance. He gives her a mindblast and she falls unconscious, at the feet of Schizm.
  • The Kinetic Kid finally comes back to his senses. Shaking off the affects of the apparitions and the fear, he sees his mother down lifeless in front of Schizm who was continuing to ingest the dead parts of her soul. Enraged and blaming Destiny for this, he races off to where Destiny sat in his throne screaming. He delivers a full powered double axe-handle
    blow directly to the skull of Destiny.
  • The frail skull cracks from the blow and Destiny screams louder and shriller than before. His body turns to dust leaving behind only his robe.
  • All those that had been under the full ‘contract’ of The 21 collapse into unconsciousness, Victoria Langley and Joe Webb included. Teen Lantern also collapses.
  • The Zeros begin to return to their senses when the fear effect was cleared away and begin to take note of what was going on. Pastor Ted Haas returns with Harvey Dent, having rescued him from his cell.
  • The Zeros stare at Geass, who just shugs and snaps his fingers. Any lingering compulsions they made have still had from unfinished ‘contracts’ were dissipated. Geass begins to leave from the front entrance as the Zeros watch him leave, wondering if they should attempt to cease him. Thinking better of it, they round up their casualties.
  • While the rest of the Zeros handle the clean-up, Tom Albertson calls Proditor on his private line. He is uncertain if he’ll answer or if the number would still even works. Proditor does answer and Tom demands to speak with Christine. Proditor is silent for a moment and informs Tom that she is dead. Not giving him a chance to explain, Tom shoot himself with a teleportation bullet and vanishes, leaving the rest of the team even more confused than before.
  • Upon their return to ProtoCorp HQ, they check-in with security to find that an attack had been staged against the building, but had been held off. Brain Child has the unconscious placed in medical with a 24-hour watch on them as well as a 24-hour watch on Tom Albertson’s apartment.

To Be Continued in ‘Less Than Zero’.

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Issue 20: A Feast To Die For
WE. ARE. LEAVING!

Highlights:

  • BANE ’XPLODE!
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Issue 19: A Case of Vertigo
The Kinetic Kid rises; Proditor falls.

TBA

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