The City of Underwood

Two Years Later

The city had been rebuilt and it was like an alien invasion never happened. In the two years since the invasion, new businesses had come in, and people started returning to make Underwood a thriving Metropolis, thanks to the city's mysterious heroes, the Guardians.

No one knew who the Guardians were, only that the masked vigilantes were keeping the crime rate down all across the city. They disappear just as mysteriously as they arrive to save those in trouble.

Victoria was at the dress shop with her best friend Carol in the late afternoon as the two were enjoying the time off from fighting crime with their teammates.

"What do you think of this one?" Victoria asked as she looked at herself in the mirror while holding up a black dress. All around her were several bags of dresses that she'd spent the entire afternoon aquiring, most of which she'd probably never even wear.

"The same thing I thought about the last twenty seven," Carol replied as she admired a pink gown. "Too overpriced for something you're just going to wear once."

"You mean you can wear a dress more than once?" asked Victoria in a shocked voice. "I thought they were like napkins. You just throw them away after the first time."

Carol was about to reply as a screaming was heard outside. The two dropped the dresses and ran outside, seeing Automaton in a large mecha on a top a building, heading their way, having just robbed a scientific firm.

"So much for a day off," Carol said as she reached into her purse and pulled out a small piece that extended into a bow. Victoria sighed as the two got ready to fight the coming monstrocity. They ran up a fire escape to the nearest roof, and by the time they emerged, they were in their costumes as they saw Automaton coming directly for them.

"Alright, rust bucket, it's time to unplug you," Carol said, wearing a pink spandex outfit with a mask, with a pink hooded cape over her hair as she fired a light arrow, but it bounced right off the metal plating as the villain laughed.

"The two little girls think they can stop me?" Automaton said as he fired a grenade at the two Guardians, who dived out of the way as it exploded. Automaton used the distraction to shoot a net at Victoria, trapping her.

"That net is made of evemantium, the strongest substance in the world," Automaton said as he watched Carol try to free her friend. By the time she succeeded, the villain would already have gotten away. It was then that they saw a shadow flying over them.

"Was that Jesse?" asked Victoria. She was wearing a black bodysuit with high heels, gloves, and a black mask over her eyes. Her hair was put back into a ponytail and she carried a lasso.

"No, it's... someone else," Carol replied as she finally got Victoria out of the net. The figure, dressed in purple and black with a flowing cape flew towards Automaton. The villain scoffed as he shot a laser blast at the figure, who shook it off and flew forward, punching Automaton off the top of a figure flew down toward Automaton, who ejected out of the large mecha with his stolen merchandise.

"It's over, you metallic menace!" the person in the mask shouted as he was about to rip open the cockpit.

"Not today, boy!" Automaton shouted as he flew into the sky as the figure followed, but a blinding flash of light from Automaton sent him backwards, crashing toward the ground, where his mask tore off as he rolled several feet. Victoria and Carol caught up to the hero to see if he was alright. As he stood up, the two saw the young man under the mask was younger than them.

"Looks like we've got another invite to extend," Carol said as she walked toward the boy. "How would you like to join the Guardians?"


The Mall of Justice

Andy, now a few inches taller with longer hair, was sneaking toward the door. The headquarters was about to get a lot more crowded, and he was feeling boxed in enough. Making sure no one saw him, Andy short circuited the security cameras to make sure he wasn't seen leaving. As he ran out the door, he was spotted by Matt, who was in water form. Shrinking down into a puddle, Matt followed him.

The new Mall of Justice, dubbed Union Station, was now three stories tall, and twice as large as the last one. As Victoria and Carol returned with their new friend, Danny, he looked around at the large base. It was another abandoned mall that attached to an old train station. As the three walked out of the top floor of the parking garage towards the roof entrance, they were met by Jesse, who was floating in front of the group.

"Who's your new friend?" asked Jesse.

"Jesse, this is Danny," Victoria told him. "He's the mystery boy who's been flying around town lately. He just took down Automaton single-handedly after a science lab got robbed."

"In his own costume, I like it," Jesse said, wearing a red hooded sweatshirt over his hair, plus a black eyemask. "A lot of us have actually taken to wearing costumes to keep our identities secret. What did Automaton try to steal this time?"

"Some advanced AI equipment," Carol told him. "He got away with the stuff, though. According to the guys at the science lab, it was real experimental. We could round up a few of the others and go after him."

"We'll get him soon enough, after today this city's going to change for the better," Jesse said as he looked at the young man. "Are you ready to join the Guardians?"

"I don't know," Danny told them. "My sister isn't exactly a fan of yours. She kind of... tried to take over the city a few years ago when he enchanted everyone with her singing."

"Right, you're Melissa's brother," Jesse replied as he landed in front of them. "Started off with siren powers, but after damaging her vocal chords, she became a banshee. She's not exactly on the right of the law, you know. Which is what would make you a great addition to the team. You might be able to help her from leading a life of villainy."

"I doubt that, she tried to have me killed by throwing me off a bridge, remember?" Danny told him. "Before that, it was a first story window."

The group entered through the doors toward the food court as Danny saw the place was packed with several new members of the Guardians. There were at least a dozen new members with various powers flying and running around. As the group walked in, Sam came running up to Jesse.

"Everyone's here," Sam told him. "Everyone except Andy. He... took off early this afternoon, didn't say where he was going, but he rarely does anymore."

"Didn't expect Andy to show up, anyway," Jesse replied as they walked along. "Matt's with him, though, right? Lately Matt's the only one he even talks to."

"Matt's keeping an eye on him, just like you asked," Sam said as he looked at his watch. Sam was in his street clothes, as he rarely left the headquarters these days. Not since his last encounter with Scotty over a year ago. "Though a lot of good that does lately."

"Andy will get out of this mood eventually, we just have to give him time," Jesse said as he flew up to the stage.

"It's been two years," Sam said, not sure if Jesse heard him.

Several miles away, Andy was walking down the street when he suddenly stopped. "I know you're there, Matt."

A puddle rose up from the ground and took a human shape, but still remained in a watery form. "How'd you know?"

"It hasn't rained in weeks," Andy told him as he started walking again. "You get paid to follow me now?"

"I got a box of peanut butter bars from Jesse, but that's it," Matt replied as he caught up to his best friend. "Why aren't you at the Mall of Justice to greet the new members?"

"Because I don't care," Andy told him. "None of them are going to be Ace, so what's the point? Just another crowd of people who won't care."

Matt sighed as he kept up with Andy, who was visibly trying to get ahead. "I'm sorry Ace died, but the rest of us are still here. We're still your family."

"Doesn't feel like it," Andy told him. "Ever since Ace died, it just doesn't feel like anyone cares about me."

"I care," Matt said when Andy had gotten out of distance.

Back at the Mall of Justice

"Hello, everyone," Jesse said as he looked around the room, seeing all the familiar faces as well as all of the new ones. "Glad we finally got everyone together. As all of you know, two years ago there was siege on the city of Underwood. Darkheart used a psychic named Prometheus to enslave most of you and turned you into his personal slaves. The eleven Guardians who were here at the time managed to stop him and in the process altered the memories of everyone in the town. At the time we thought it best that no one remember an alien invasion that nearly killed us all.

But we also found out that those with powers would remember what happened when their powers re-awakened. A lot of you we fought previously before the siege, and we had hoped that when your powers did reactivate you would use them for good. A lot of you were given a chance to do the right thing, and you have, and I believe we can make things in this town better because of it.

However, there are some that still use their powers for wrong. They use them for personal gain and to bring misery and destruction to others. That's why we decided to expand the Guardian's ranks and make this city safe again, and hopefully not face another threat like Darkheart posed. Each and every one of you has decided to use your gifts for good, and I believe that now our world will be better for it."

The crowd started applauding as Danny looked around as he stood with Carol and Victoria. "I don't know if I'd fit into this place."

"Sure you will," Victoria said as Jesse rejoined them. "You just need the chance to prove yourself."

"And that chance is right now," Jesse replied as he looked at Danny. "We have a mission for you, if you want to accept it."

"What kind of mission?" Danny asked with a raised eybrow. "I'm not even sure if I want to join you guys yet. Or even if I want to do the whole superhero thing."

"Your sister's been spotted with others who started using their powers to break the law," Jesse told him as they walked along. "Someone's been recruiting them, like we've been recruiting for the Guardians, and I want to know why before something bad happens. So I'm sending a small team to investigate."

Walker rushed up to Jesse, followed by April. April had powers similar to Jesse's, only she was able to ignite her body into flames. As the flames died down, April was dressed in a purple and white cheerleader outfit. Walker was wearing a hooded orange sweatshirt, dark sunglasses, and black jeans.

"You three are going to find out who's expanding the bad guy's ranks," Jesse told them as he looked at Danny. "That is, if you're up for it."

"Melissa's my sister, even if she is one of the bad guys," Danny told him. "I have to help her before she does something to hurt someone."

"She was my best friend until I realized I could use powers for good," April replied as she looked at Danny. "I want to help her just as much as you do. Maybe that's why we were both selected to go on this mission."

"Come on, save the after school special jazz for later," Walker told them impatiently. "I want to go kick some villain rump."

"Remember, you just go, do the recon, and come back," Jesse told the trio as they started to leave. "I don't want anyone getting hurt. Not anymore."

Shortly, as Danny and April flew off into the sky, and Walker ran off behind them, the others watched.

"Is three going to be enough?" asked Carol as she looked at Jesse. "Maybe we should have sent the more experienced members to do this. Still time for you, me, and Sam to go do this. Walker would understand."

"We don't want to send too many people, whoever's recruiting might notice," Jesse replied. "The last time we underestimated the bad guys, we lost Ace."

An uncomfortable silence filled the air as they remembered the day that they realized Ace wasn't coming back.

"Besides, I need the rest of you here to help the new recruits learn their way around," Jesse finally said, breaking the silence. "We've got a lot of work to do to coordinate this team before we send them out into the field. Plus, I don't think Sam's ready to go back out into the field yet."

"It's been over a year," Carol told him.

"His first love broke up with him, can't blame him for still being down in the dumps," Jesse replied. "Let's go get the new guys settled in."

"Walker, you've been on this team longer than me," April said to Walker over the radio as she flew alongside Danny. "Any idea on who's bringing together a team of villains?"

"Could be anyone," Walker told her as he ran through the streets beloew. "Darkheart, Kartheiser and Jerrica were banished back to the Dark Dimension, but every other villain we knew bolted after we took back Underwood. There are several people who could be doing this. Maietta, Automaton, maybe even someone we've never even met."

"I remember the Guardians back before the siege," Danny said over the radio he was given. "How come I didn't see Ace or Andy anywhere earlier?"

An uncomfortable silence filled the airwaves before Walker spoke up again, changing the subject "We're almost there. We'll meet up in private and come up with a plan to infiltrate. There's no sense in charging there without a plan."

The three arrived and met up in the back alley of a large building where they watching a few costumed villains that the Guardians had previously fought walk in.

"I see that super speedster that I fought in high school," Walker told them. "Jimmy. I think he's still going by Fast Track."

"And I see Melissa coming up the street," April pointed out. "Along with Ivy."

"Didn't they used to be your best friends?" Danny asked as he looked at her.

"Used to be, before I came to my senses and joined the Guardians," April replied as she looked over at Walker. "So, what's the plan?"

"We get in, learn what there is to learn, and get out," Walker replied. "No one should recognize me or Danny with our costumes, and you should be able to fool people if you avoid Melissa and Ivy. Let's just be careful. In and out, no more than fifteen minutes. Let's do this."

The three headed across the street and walked into the building, being careful to avoid anyone who might be able to recognize Walker or April. As they entered, they were being watched by another figure on top of a building across the street. He had a purple hood covering a full black mask over his face.

The trio walked into a darkened room with several others and took the first seats they could find. They were sitting in what looked like a large ballroom in an abandoned hotel.

"Okay, we're in," Walker whispered. "We'll get the info and get out. There shouldn't be too many people here, if things go south we should be able to fight our way out no problem. But let's just try to get out unnoticed."

It was then that the lights came on and the trio realized they were surrounded by what looked like at least a hundred people, and all of them were villains that Guardians had previously faced two years ago.

"Yeah, we're screwed," Walker told the others.

A man walked up a podium, looking out over the crowd. He had a familiar look to him that Walker couldn't point out.

"I see all of you made it," the man said as he looked around. "I suppose you are all wondering why you were asked to come here this evening. It's because all of you have something in common. You all have been given great gifts and you realize that you can do so much more with them than just helping little old ladies across the street. I have been sent here by a much greater power to unite all of you with the promise of even greater power."

"I don't like where this is headed," April whispered over to Walker.

"Does that guy look familiar?" Danny asked as he looked at the other two. "I could have sworn I've seen him before."

"What kind of power?" a voice from the back asked, where Triple Trouble was sitting with Fast Track.

"The best kind," the man replied. "Infinite. And all that you have to do is swear your allegiance to my master, and the world will be yours."

"Is that it?" asked Maietta as he sat in the front.

"No," the man told him. "You will also have your chance to destroy those who seek to stop you from making the most of your gifts. How many of you would like to see the Guardians meet their end?"

The entire room started applauding in agreement at the thought of destroying the Guardians. Walker, April, and Danny started looking uncomfortable.

"I think it's time to go," Walker said as the trio started to stand up, just as Danny bumped into his sister as she was walking through with Ivy.

"Watch it, you brat," Melissa as April ducked under the table. Ivy looked over at Walker.

"You look familiar," she said, trying to picture Walker without his sunglasses or hood. "Where have I seen you before?"

"I, uh, used to be in the Fresh Beat Band before I juiced them," Walker said nervously.

"What are you looking at, you little punk?" asked Melissa as Danny gulped under his mask.

"Nothing," Danny replied, trying to make his voice sound deeper. "Nothing at all. Me and my friends have to be going now. Bye."

Danny started to run, when he tripped over April's leg which was sticking out from under the table. Ivy picked up the tablecloth and saw April underneath.

"April?" asked Ivy as she gasped. "But aren't you with-"

Walker got ready to run as Melissa pulled off his glasses. "YOU. The Guardians are here!"

Danny got ready to run when Fast Track cut him off and held him. Melissa pulled off his mask, seeing her little brother underneath. "What is going on here?"

"Good question, we'll write you a nice longer letter," Walker said as he scooped Danny up and ran for the exit. April turned on her flames powers and flew up, knocking the table over as she followed.

"Get them!" the man on the stage shouted. "They must not be allowed to leave!"

As Walker rushed toward the door, he was doing his best to avoid of the energy blasts that were heading toward him.

"Let me go!" Danny shouted as Walker tossed him up. Danny took to the air and followed, followed by April as the trio got close to the door, but as they were about to get through the door, it was ripped off it's hinges by Automan.

"Going somewhere?" Automaton asked as he fired a net at Danny, sending him to the ground. A foam blast from his arm cannon sent April crashing into a table. As he started blasting shots at Walker, the speedster avoided them, picking up his two friends, but Fast Track tackled him, sending April and Danny to the ground.

"I always wanted a rematch with you," Fast Track said as a superspeed fight broke out in the room. All everyone saw was a blur of orange and red as the two speedsters fought all around in the room, knocking over people and tables in the process.

"That's enough!" the man on stage shouted as he had April and Danny brought up. The fight stopped as Walker looked up at them. "Surrender, Guardian, or your friends die."

Walker angrily looked around as he let himself be captured. He was taken upstage, his hood still covering his hair and part of his face.

"Three Guardians?" asked the man with a laugh as he looked them over. "I was expecting something a bit more professional from the group I've heard so much about."

"Two of us are kind of new to this," Danny told him.

"So, you're building an army, so what?" Walker said as he struggled to get out of the grip of the goon holding him. "One or a hundred, the Guardians can take you all down, we've done it before, and that was just with nine of us."

"The last thing my master is scared of is a group of children," the man said as he pulled Walker's hood back and got a shocked look on his face. "No, it can't be."

"Take a good look, pal, 'cause this is the face that's going to kick your butt," Walker told him.

"Secure him," the man said as he turned to walk away. "As for the other two... make examples of them."

Meanwhile, at the Mall of Justice

"They've been gone too long," Jesse said as he paced around. "Maybe we need to send someone after them to make sure they're alright."

"It's just a simple recon mission," Leo replied as he stood there, sharpening his scythe, watching his friend pace. "They'll be back soon. Walker's one of the best guys we have, he'll keep an eye on the new kids."

"Now we have twenty kids to keep an eye on," Jesse told him as he shook his head. "How am I supposed to keep all of them safe if someone like Darkheart shows up again? Maybe forming this team was a huge mistake."

"Jess, give them a chance to prove themselves," Leo said as he put his scythe down and looked up at Jesse. "The first team trusted you, and so will these guys."

"That trust got Ace killed," Jesse said without turning around.

"Ace died fighting to save this town," Leo replied. "He died a hero. Stop doubting yourself, alright? We have 45 members of this team now to keep this town safe. Things should start getting easier."

Walker was chained to a wall as the man who had united all the villains entered. Walker was still struggling as the man laughed.

"Those chains are vibration proof," the man smirked. "We've prepared for all of you. Check him for it," the man told the two guards who entered the room. The two guards walked over to Walker and ripped his sweatshirt off.

"Who are you?" asked Walker as the man walked over and saw a birthmark on Walker's side.

"My name is Murray Burdette," the man answered as he stepped back. "Does that name sound familiar?"

"I think I'd recognize a dorky name like that," Walker told him as he thought he saw a flash of something in the catwalk behind Burdette. "And when I get out of here, I'm kicking your butt."

"I doubt that," Burdette told him. "You're going to be very useful to me, Walker. Very soon."

April and Danny were led to a room with several glass cages.

"Okay, Burdette said to put them in the cages designed for Jesse and Victoria," one of the guards said as he looked at April. "She must be Victoria. Put the boy in the one for Jesse."

They tossed the two Guardians into cages as they walked away. Danny stood up and looked around. "Jesse's power is over fire, like yours. So a trap for him would involve fire proof glass."

"And Victoria's strength would call for shatter proof glass," April said as she activated her fire powers to their full strength, melting through the glass. "So much for that."

Danny pulled his fist back and started punching the glass, shattering it before flying through. "Let's go find Walker and get out of here."

"Andy, it's getting late, we should really be heading home," Matt told Andy, not even recognizing the part of town they were in. "Where are we, anyway?"

"You can go home if you want," Andy said without stopping to look back. "I'm not ready to go back just yet."

Spotting a motorcycle, Andy smirked as a spark of electricity crackled between his fingers. "Want to go for a ride?"

"Wouldn't that be... stealing?" asked Matt with a raised eyebrow.

"Borrowing," Andy said as he got onto the bike and hotwired it. "I'll bring it back."

Thirty seconds later, the bike was in flames a half a mile away. Andy was standing over it as he looked over at Matt. "We'll put out the fire and I'll take it back."

"How did you know about my birthmark?" asked Walker as he looked at Burdette. "And how do you know me?"

Burdette was about to answer as his guards ran in. "Sir, the Guardians got loose!"

"What?" Burdette shouted in frustration. "Find them before they escape! And get Walker to a more secure location, I have... plans for him."

"I'd cancel those plans," said a voice as the mysterious figure from earlier dropped from the catwalk, aiming a wrist mounted mechanical crossbow at Burdette, who only laughed.

"You expect me to be afraid of that?" asked the man as the crossbow started transforming into a larger, wrist mounted hand cannon. The new hero fired, the blast shooting past Burdette and hitting Walker's chains.

"Now I do," the figure said as Burdette came to a realizaion.

"It's you," the man said before Walker started punching him at superspeed.

"The name's Overhaul," the figure said as the hand cannon returned to a crossbow. "And you never knew me."

Danny and April flew through the doors, followed by the security guards, just as Walker looked up from the ground where he had Burdette pinned.

"I think it's time we got out of here," Walker told them as he punched Burdette one last time. "So, Overhaul, you feel like coming with-"

Walker looked around, seeing Overhaul was already gone. As more security guards started filing into the room, Walker looked at the other two. "Let's get out of here!"

April held out her hands and created a fire wall between them and the security guards as Danny punched a hole in the wall. The trio looked out, seeing they were on the top floor. Walker ran down the side of the wall as Danny and April flew out into the night sky.

As soon as the flames died down, the guards rushed over to Burdette. "Should we follow them?"

"No," Burdette told them. "Walker will return to me very soon."

Later, at the Mall of Justice

"That's all we could find out," Walker told Jesse after the trio had returned. "Some nutjob I've never met is putting together a team, but we never found out the reason."

"Then it's a good thing we have a larger team now," Jesse replied as the two walked down the hall. "Do you think Danny's going to work out?"

"The kid's powerful, I think he'll fit in just fine," Walker said. "It's Andy that I'm worried about."

"We all are," Jesse told him as he saw Matt coming through the door. "Where's Andy?"

"Jess, we have a problem, and it's worse than we thought," Matt said.

April found Danny sitting on a bench, crying. She sat down and put an arm around him.

"She knew it was me, and still let them try to kill me," Danny said as the tears fell down his face. "Why does my own sister hate me?"

April put an arm around his shoulder and held the young man close.

Burdette walked into a room, seemingly alone as he made sure no one else was around. He walked over to a cloaked object and unveiled it, revealing it to the long frozen statue of Tubro. It's eyes were glowing red as Burdette listened to what it was saying inside his head.

"Everything is going well, father," Burdette told him as he listened closely. "Of course, the Guardians will not be a problem... Walker? No, he doesn't know anything. Not even when that unpure half-breed showed up and helped him escape... No, the other one wasn't with him, but I can sense that he's been in Underwood for at least a week. Soon, all of my children will come home to me... to us."