The Crusader emerges from the elevator with other super heroes onto the rooftop of the Hall of Heroes. Sitting on a helipad is a vehcile that looks like a hybrid between a helicopter and an airplane, with the Heroes' Regiment logo on the tailfin. They all go inside.

"Make sure to fasten yer seatbelts," says the pilot, a man weating a baseball cap.

"What's your story, dude?" asks a man with red hair and a red goatee. He is dressed in form fitting outfit with an image of a red wofl's head on the chest.

"Just someone looking after the people of this city," replies the Crusader.

The helciopter takes off from the helipad. The Crusader looks out the window and sees the skyscrapers and streets of downtown Los Angeles.

"So what is your name?" asks the red-haired man.

"Call me the Crusader."

"Call me Red Wolf."

"This plan of his sounds stupid," says a woman with long red hair, dressed in a yellow sweater and red miniskirt. aaburning H-shape on the front of the sweater. "I mean, we don't even know where he's been."

"And I suppose you have a better plan, Holly?" asks Red Wolf.

"I'd just tell him to give up or become cooked meat."

"We'll assess the situation when we get there," says the Dark Knight, a man in a black shirt, black pants, and a black cape.

oooooooooooo

Siphon sits inside the green Chevrolet Blazer as it travels southbound on Highway 111 in Riverside County, southeast of Coachella, California.

"It should only be a few miles," says Antonio Venace.

"Then we get our money, right? How do you know about this place?"

"I have a boat here."

Siphon reflects on the past few days. He had not gotten much respect due to his small size. It seemed that he was destined to be at the bottom of the shit heap.

All of that changed with that chemical spill he was exposed to. He sucked Trip dry and took over leadership of his gang. Now he is going to be rich. On top of that, he had captured one of the world's most powerful super heroes.

"We're almost there," says Venace.

The Salton Sea sits to the right of the highway. The surface of the lake is two hundred twenty-eight feet below sea level. The lake has existed on and off over thousands of years, the most recent incarnation began eighty-nine yeaers before. The local governments has made an effort to maintain this low-elevation lake.

"Pull over here," says Venace. "The exchange will be made here."

oooooooooooo

Back at the Hall of Heroes, Mindblaster monitors the situation.

"They've stopped over there," says the super hero. "Notify the Riverside County sheriff." He walks to a console and places a helmet on his head. He transmits a telepathic message boosted by the amplifiers.

ooooooooooooo

"They're at the Salton Sea," the Crusader hears.

"Did anyone say something?" he asks.

"It's Mindblaster," says Coldfront, a woman wearing a white sweater and miniskirt. "He's sending us a mind message."

ooooooooo

Niot far away, in another helicopter, Detective Lieutenant Donald Drake also hears the telephatic message.

"Who the hell is that?" he asks.

"It's Mindblaster, one of our telepaths," says the pilot.

ooooooooooo

The Chevrolet Blazer pulls in to a dirt lot next to the shore of the Salton Sea. The sun sets to the west. The only other vehicle there is a brown Cadillac.

"Are these your people?" asks Siphon.

"Yes," says Antonio Venace.

Siphon drains some more life energy from Lodestone. He and Venace get out of the Blazer.

Three tough-looking guys armed with AK-47 rifles greet them/

"So where's my money?" asks Siphon.

"I've decided to change the deal," says Venace. "Instead of giving you a million dollars, we're gonna give you a few hundred bullets."

Siphon looks at the barrels of the rifles.

Venace gives a hand signal.

The three thugs open fire on Siphon and the Chevrolet Blazer.

Antonio Venace looks as Siphon lies on the ground. "What a shame," he says. "He actually thought I would give him a million dollars."

Smiling, he gets into the back seat of the Cadillac. The driver starts the engine and places the car in gear.
Suddenly the engine shuts off. The driver turns the key, but the starter does not even turn.

"What?" asks the driver.

Suddenly, the Cadillac flips around, lying on its roof.

Venace's heart races in terror. He knows whom this is.

The door is ripped out, and Venace is puilled out of the car. He looks at the face of a man with blond crew cut hair, a face that reveals deep rage.

"You fucking piece of shit!" yells Siphon, lifting up Venace and then levitating a few feet above the desert floor. "You rich people are all the same, trying to cheat us out of what we deserve!"

Venace watches as the Cadillac is levitated above his head. Suddenly, the car crumples, as if an invisible hand just crushed it as if it is nothing but a piece of paper.

"I can't hold it up there forever," says Siphon. "here's the new deal. You give me ten million dollars, or I turn you over to the cops- after I crush you with this hunk o' metal and drain the life out of your shattered body."

"Ten million?" protests Venace. "That's more than three-fourths of what I have."

"Ten million," says Siphon.

"Listen, we can sneak across into Mexico. I can access my account and we can get you the money."

"I'll be watching you." Her then hurls the crumpled Cadillac, splashing it into the Salton Sea. "Another doublecross and you're dead."

"THIS IS THE RIVERSIDE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT!" yells a voice. "WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED! PLACE YOUR HANDS ON TOP OF YOUR HEAD AND LIE ON THE GROUND!"

Siphon watches as his plan goes to shit. Helicopters land. Uniformed sheriff's deputies come out. Also coming out are people in bright costumes.

Barking dogs come running towards the super villain.

"That's it," says Siphon, smiling.

One of the K-9 dogs tackles Siphon to the ground. Siphon drains the life energy. More dogs come to attack, and he simply drains the energy out of them.

He stands up, feeling more energized than ever before.

"bring it on!" he yells.

Three Riverside County sheriff's deputies rush the super villain. As they try to hold him to the ground, Siphon simply drains their energy, becoming stronger.

"This is BETTER than crack!" he cackles. He floats above thr ground.

"Let's do it," says the Crusader.

Hellfire, the red-haired lady with the yellow sweater and red miniskirt- goes first, firing a few flame blasts at Siphon.

"What's the matter, babe?" asks Siphon. "Poor aim!" He then flies down and picks her up. "I like this part." He then drops her on the ground.

A fireball forms at the tip of Siphon's finger. "Flame on!" he yells.

He then shoots flames at the sheriff's deputies and the super heroes. "HAHAHAHAHA!" he cackles.

He is then suddenly blasted by an icy gust.

"You can take the heat, but can you take the cold," says Coldfront, whose skin is now covered in frost.

The two of them start exhanging fire and ice blasts.

As Coldfront and Siphon battle it out, Antonio Venace takles the opprtunity to run. He does not have a plan; he knows that any place is better than here.

He then trips on a rock. Getting up, he looks to see two uniformed officers.

"Where do you think you're going?" asks one of them.

Meanwhile, Coldfront looks for Siphon. "Where'd he go?" she asks.

"Here!" he yells, as he grabs her, absorbing her life energy through her flesh. "HAHAHAHA!"

"I'm tired of your stupid laugh!" yells Red Wolf. His body undergoes a transformation, and he becomes a red-furred werewolf. He then leaps and delivers a punch to Siphon's face.

"So the doggie wants to play?" asks Siphon. "Do you like it cold?" He blasts Red Wolf with an icy gust. The werewolf lies on the ground shivering. "Aww, the poor doggie is feeling cold. He will need a little fire." He then fires a violent blaze at Red Wolf, scorching his fur. He fires more flames, surrounding the super hero with a circle of fire."Nowhere to run, eh? Don't want your fur to catch on fire." He swoops down and grabd Red Wolfg, absorbing his life force.

Siphon smiles and howls. Blond fur covers his body, his nose elongates into a snout. "HAHAHAHA!" he yells. "I hope you got some silver bullets handy!"

Suddenly he feels an impact on his now-lupine jaw and subsequently feels his back pressing against ths dirt.

"You have power but not the discipline to control it," says the Dark Knight, now in shadow form. "It will be your downfall."

"Cut with the bullshit," says Siphon, shootiung flame and ice blasts at the Dark Knight. Dark Knioght disappars into the shadows. "Where are you?" He looks around.

Suddenly he is enveloped in darkness.

"Where am I?" asks Siphon, flailing his arms around and not feeling a thing.

"you are in my dark dimension," he hears.

"So I'm inside you," says Siphon. "Then I'll just absorb you from inside!"

Siphon feels the rush of energy. In less than a minute he reappears back into the twilight. He looks and sees the Dark Knight lying on the ground.

"Who else wants to give a donation?" he asks. He looks around. The cops are still surrounding him. With his powers, he can easily break free.

"Right here," says a man wearing a black outfit with a white cross on the front.

"Oh, it's you again," says Siphon.

"I know you want it," says the Crusader. "The raw power of being able to smash things with your hands. You're a little guy, surrounded by people bigger than you. Sure, you can shoot fire and ice and turn into a shadow and stuff. But the kind of power you want is physical power."

"You..you're gonna make a nice addition. Let's play!"

Siphon flies up and starts firing fire and ice blasts at the Crusader, who jumps around in return. The Crusader looks up and Siphon suddenly disappears.

Then he feels an impact on his jaw.

"Can you see me?" asks Siphon.

The Crusader looks around.

"Here I am," says Siphon, suddenly emerging from the ground. "Come back get me."

the Crusader leaps forward with an extended fist. Suddenly he is engulfed in blackness.

"It looks like you are inside me," says Siphon. "I can strip you of your powers now!"

"I know you want to look me right in the eyes as you absorb my powers!" yells the Crusader.

The super hero is suddenly thrown into the water. He leaps up just as Siphon emits an icy gust. The icy gust is enough to freeze a few square yards of the Salton Sea's surface. The Crusader lands on the ice.

He looks at his foe, now a werewolf with fire, ice, shadow, and electromagnetic powers. He runs to his foe, dodging blasts of electromagnetic energy. He then delivers a kick right into Siphon's solar plexus. He follows up with a left jab and right cross.

"That has got to hurt!" yells the Crusader. "I know you want to power to defeat people with your hands and feet instead of that fancy bullshit!"

Siphon appears behind him and delivers a backhand. The Crusader turns around and then delivers kicks, which Siphon tries to block with his furry arms.

Suddenly Siphon disappears. He reappears a split second later, right in front of the Crusader. He grabs the super hero and they wrestle on the dirt. They trade punches even as they roll around on the ground.

Suddenly, Siphon presses his right hand against the flesh of the bottom of the Crusader's jaw. The Crusader suddenly feels weak.

"YES!" yells Siphon, looking the Crusader right in the eyes. "Finally."

The Crusader grans Siphon's right arm. "Grab all you want! It might be more than you can chew!"

Siphon pushes the Crusader off. He feels his heart beat very rapidly. He loses his balance and falls.

He wonders what is happening to him. His hands are trembling uncontrollably.

Suddenly, fire and ice and lightning are emmitted from him. Siphon howls.

And then the display is over. The Crusader looks at Siphon, now just a man with a blond crew cut, lying on the ground, drooling and shaking uncontrollably even as the sun finally disappears to the west.

"You did it," says Lodestone, walking up to the Crusader.

"I knew there was a limit to how much he can absorb," satys the Crusader. "He OD'd."

"I guess we won," says Red Wolf. "We'd better get an ambulance."

ooooooooooooooo

"And so Lodestone was rescued by the Heroes' Regiment, the LAPD, and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department," says a Fox 11 News reporter. "Antonio Venace was taken into custody where he is being held at an undiscloaed location pending his extradition into Italy. Lodestone and the other super heroes are all alive."

oooooooooooo

The Kenmore microwave oven beeps, and Andree Curtis takes out the frozen beef stroganoff dinners from Stouffer's.

"I hope you like this," he says.

"It's okay," says Rachel Hayes, a youing woman with brown hair tied in a ponytail. "We can't go out to gourmet restaurants every day."

"I hope you like inner and a movie," says Andrew as he places the microwave meals onto two TV dinner trays.

"What are we watching?"

"Speed. I rented it from Blockbuster."

Andrew inserts the VHS tape into the Sony VHS video cassette recorder. He pushes the play button and then sits down on the couch in his living room.

Rachel eats the beef stroganoff as she watches the movie. She feels something on her shoulder.

"You're sleepy?" she asks.

"I...I had a lot to do today," says Andrew. "I'm so tired."

Rachel looks at him. He looks so cute.

oooooooooooooo

Siphon lies down in his cell at the Los Angeles County Men's Centrail Jail. He had been here since his release from the hospital. He can feel it. He no longer has that extra energy or those super powers. He feels down.

"Nash!" someone yells, referring to his legal name, Buddy Nash. "Someone is here to see you."

Siphon looks and sees two sheriff's deputies clad in hazmat suits. They unlock and open the cell door and lead him out of the cell block. He tries to drain their life energy; it is clear that he can not do so through heavy cloth. After walking along a concrete hallway, they put him inside a small room lit by a single incandescent bulb. Another man clad in a hazmat suit sits down.

"Who are you?" he asks.

"I'm from the public defender's office, Mr. Nash," says the man in the hazmat suit. "I'm here to represent you. Tell me your story."

"My friends call me Buddy Nash. You can call me Siphon."