The group drew towards the main desk and we clumped together. "Ok, the girl we're looking for went off in the direction of the Hilton. She could have moved on by now, but we're closing in on her. If we're lucky, she'll be easy to find. Everyone ready?"
The Ghostbusters looked amongst themselved, checked their weapons and nodded. Andrea gave her new toy gun a twirl and flashed a grin. "As long as I get to shoot something, I'm all set."
I pointed a finger at Andy, "There will be no killing if we can help it. I know that's a long shot, but we're trying to save people. And absolutely no disintegrations!"
Chris came around the desk and stood beside me. "That would have been funnier if there was a Boba Fett here."
"Be careful what you wish for. I saw one earlier," said James. "Hopefully no one has put a bounty out on our heads."
I started to walk towards the door, but my foot hit something that clattered across the tiles, before spinning to a stop about two feet away. Leaning over, I picked up a bloody, broken cricket bat. I looked around for Shaun, for Marc, but couldn't see him anywhere. I laid the broken chunk of wood back on the ground, and thought a silent hope that he was ok, somewhere, in all this.
The rest had already reached the door that the Phoenix had used earlier, and each went through it. Before I entered the revolving door, Pac-Man stopped me by biting on my shirt and tugging at it. The change in momentum almost made me fall backwards.
Once I had managed to steady my footing and looked down at the floating orb, he spoke. "Look, I think I'm gonna stay behind. I can smell something tasty. I'm not doing you guys any good, and I'll just slow you down, trying to protect me. Go, do your thing, and I'll see you when this is all over with, ok?"
I went to pat him on the back, and stopped with my hand hovering over him, wondering just where that would be. Settling on the top of his head, I gave him a pat and kneeled down. "Stay out of trouble. And you really gotta kick the habit, if my plan doesn't work. Take care, Pac."
The surreality of the moment was not lost on me, as I watched the arcade creature head off with his familiar, almost ancient by today's standards, Atari 2600 noise.
He disappeared down one of the passageways into the connective areas between the hotels, and I left him behind, passing through the doors and rejoining the rest of the group.
I looked over the people who'd stuck with me so far, "Anyone else thinking of leaving? Now might not be a bad time."
Everyone shook their heads, or said no. Chris came up to me and gestured down the sidewalk with her purloined Predator weapon. "Lay on, MacDuff."
With everyone at my back, I led the group down the sidewalk and around the building towards our new destination.
As we rounded the corner to cross the street, yet another gun was presented in my view. The sight had not become any less annoying, and no less frightening. Staring down a barrel had lost its novelty, though.
The person holding the weapon didn't even finish shouting, "Halt!" before Chris had swung her spear through the air and sent the gun spinning through the air. The metallic blue hand of the man dressed as Robocop shot out at inhuman speeds and caught it with his free hand.
Chris reacted almost as fast, and had the weapon ready to strike again, when the girl I saw much earlier dressed as Shadowcat grabbed the cyberntic police officer. Just as Chris was about to hit him over the head, and instead a resounding clang of the two metals colliding, all that was heard was a swishing whoosh as the spear swung through an immaterial man.
I grabbed Chris's spear before she tried again, and held my palm up to the other two.
"Hold it, everyone, we're all on the same side here. None of us want to hurt anyone." I glared back at my own companions, and Andy lowered the weapon I knew she had out, and was itching to use.
A panel opened up in Robocop's leg, and with a twirl on his finger, he returned it to the internal holster.
"My sensors indicate you are speaking the truth," a cold, mechanical, yet human voice said.
Shadowcat pulled her black gloved hands off the man, and she stood next to him, holding her hands behind her. "Hi there! I'm Kitty, or Liz, I'm not sure. It's been a confusing day."
"Your name is really Liz," I said, and explained again to the newcomers, giving them the 3x5 notecard version, and bullet points.
Robocop didn't seem to recall his own identity, but did recall Officer Murphy. Too many personalities in one head, for his true self to find it's way out, and computer programming would make it all the harder, I suspect.
"How did you two meet up?"
Kitty, or Liz rather, fielded the questions, as Murphy - it felt more natural referring him to some sort of name - was going on programming and doing the protect and serve thing.
"After what happened, that flash, I stayed out of the way, keeping phased and hidden where I could. I helped people if I could, and helped a bunch of folks being attacked by zombies that looked like people I recognised, but they were all wrong, you know? Anyways, once they moved on, so did I. The people I saved were in shock, and just wanted to crawl into a bottle, so I went looking for others that could use help. I found Robocop here, stopping some girl in cat ears from stealing someone's jewlery."
A look of disappointment flickered over what little of Murphy's face was left visible by his helmet.
"She got away, but we've stuck together and helped others. There was a large group of supervillains we saw, but stayed out of their way, since they were way too many for us."
"They were breaking the law," interjected Robocop. "They must be stopped."
Kitty smiled and gave her associate a pat on the shoulder, which was higher up than her own head, the towering metal man dwarfing the young mutant. "Next thing, we were running into you guys. Good thing I recognised you from taking my picture this morning, or things could have gotten ugly."
"Thanks for that," I said. "As for stopping those guys, that's just what we are trying to do. We're heading to the Hilton to look for someone to put an end to this. If you'd like to join up."
"There is strength in numbers," nodded Murphy, as he stomped over to the others behind me, looking them each over.
With the new additions, we crossed the street, making sure to use the crosswalk, for fear of the ersatz police officer decided to write us up.
We walked as a large cluster, no sense in trying to be sneaky anymore, not with the tromping of Robocop's feet, and the number of people now following me. Anyone in the hotel who was watching could see us approaching the doors across the paved entry.
The group flooded through the doors, and we passed through the small oddly shaped room that all the doors opened into, and proceeded through the inner doors and into the foyer of the Hilton.
Any thoughts of this being easy were washed away in an instant. Filling up the lobby was Luthor and his band of not so merry men, and he had brought friends.
While before it had just been him and a gaggle of supervillains from across the comics, now he had even more help.
The Marvel Zombies they would have encountered inside the Hyatt were with them, and I could see some of the villains that had accompanied Luthor before had been infected, including Bane.
Luthor himself was sealed up within his armour, a glass-like dome covering his head, almost mirroring the fallen Mister Freeze. However, I theorised that it was less to do with temperature, and more with keeping the zombie virus away from him. Just how he had convinced the zombies to join up with him was beyond me. He offered them food and resources under his rule, if they'd serve, would be my best guess.
Along with the zombies, he had also met up with the Cobra soldiers, and even Cobra Commander had joined them, reflecting us in the shiny surface of his mirrored faceplate. The Baroness stood at his side, her lithe body covered in black leather. Her eyes watched us as we entered, watching through her glasses, taking our measure.
While the Cobras filed behind one side of Luthor and his main forces, on the other side were the 607th. I couldn't tell if they were the same group we'd seen earlier fighting the Cobra troops, but at this point it didn't matter, since they were all on the same side, against us.
Figuring it was worth a try, I stepped forward from the rest of my friends, and called across the lobby to where Luthor had arrayed his small army by the elevators. "So, have any of you seen a redhead, wearing green, and maybe on fire?"
A zombified version of the Punisher returned my shout, "We see a redhead right now, and she's looking like dinner!"
I stepped back, and could feel Chris tensing up by my side. When I looked over, her hands were tight around her spear, gripping it so tight that her knuckles were white. The barest shaking could be seen by someone looking close enough. She looked stern, and ready for battle, but I could see the fear.
"You got lucky before," shouted Luthor, his voice booming, likely with aid from audio systems in his impregnable armour. "But this time, you are very outnumbered, and no superheroes will be swinging in to save you this time, not in here. Don't make this any more difficult than it needs to be. Lay down your weapons, and we'll let you live."
The zombies collectively glared at the man under glass within their midst. They looked hungry, and were being denied food from his own forces, and now the promise of not killing us was not sitting well with their already shaky alliance.
I watched the army across the lobby, and considered my options. Surrender might buy us some time, maybe find the Phoenix, but the odds were better that we'd be killed anyways, either by Luthor himself, or when the zombies made their inevitable betrayal.
"Fine then, be difficult. We'll just stand here until you surrender, or my new allies get hungry."
"We already are, bub," grumbled the zombie Wolverine.
Luthor snapped his armoured hand, and continued, ignoring the undead creature. "But in the meantime, a little entertainment.
At the snap, one of the Cobra troops ducked into the elevator alcove, and came back dragging a person with larger than usual eyes, and very thin and lanky. A red gem floated over his head, which a chalky-angular faced Bizarro regarded with curiosity.
I suspected I knew where this person's costume was from, and I was certain of it when I heard him speak the familiar gibberish from the Sims.
"Wah-sinakay," he shouted in a made up language that meant nothing to anyone but himself.
Luthor grabbed the poor guy with both hands, two oversized purple fingers pinching him around the neck. "I don't know what he says, or what language that is, but he's clearly not happy."
"No pala," the Sims man kept shouting. "Ooh kay kay keelah!"
Without another thought, Luthor snapped the young man's neck. Everyone around me was shaken by it, and weapons were drawn, causing an equal response on the other side.
Before things spiralled any further out of control, I held up my hands. "Fine, I surrender, but let the rest of them go."
Luthor never got a chance to accept or deny my offer, as the doors behind us burst open, and thunderous footfalls surrounded us.
"There shall be no surrender here today, my friend," came another familiar voice. I turned my head as my hands lowered, and saw Leonidas and his remaining soldiers, still alive but scarred more than before, entering the lobby, and putting themselves between us and Luthor's forces.
Not to be outdone, the angled glass wall above us exploded open as a blurry form fell through a hole and landed nearby. As it landed, a small fist shot up into the air, "Pac Power!"
"Pac-Man returned," said a shocked Kate, forgetting about our troubles.
"And he has arms," boggled Chris.
I blinked at the sight myself and added, "I don't even want to know where he found power pellets here."
"Excuse me," shouted Luthor, returning all our attention back to him, and the situation at hand. "I don't care how many do-gooders you have on your side, you fall today. We still out number you."
A clattering of weapons could be heard, and I struggled to look past the Spartan warriors. Once I got a view, I could see the Stormtroopers had raised their weapons, and just as I saw that, they turned and open fire upon the Cobra troops, several of them falling dead in the first wave of blasts.
As if that all wasn't surprising enough, it opened the floodgates and chaos spilled out amidst Luthor's troops, and they all turned on each other. Many of the 607th moved away from them, and made their way around and towards our own people.
Over the din of the brewing attack, I called out, wanting to know why.
One of the troops called back over his shoulder, "We never liked their tactics, or the company that guy was keeping with the blue suited losers. And we owed them from earlier. And...I don't know, it seemed like the right thing to do. Now, can we get a little help here?"
That was all the Spartans needed, at least, and dove into the battle gleefully.
Andy also joined the fray, staying behind most and firing off blasts from safety when she could.
I huddled with a few of the others, watching as Pac-Man, powered up and ready, also jumped in, and gave a zombie a good chomp.
"Guys, I've got an idea, but I need as much of a distraction down here as possible. The less of us there are running off, the less we'll be noticed. I need to do this alone."
Chris shook her head, "I've stuck with you this far. And you need at least someone to protect you, in case one of those goons comes after us. Or you see something else along the way."
I knew better than to argue, and agreed. I thanked the Ghostbusters for their help, and wished them luck.
They went over to Andy, and added their firepower to her own, using their blasts to control the crowd, more than actually shooting people with them. Keeping the fight contained was a good idea, as Chris and I had other plans.
I led Chris down the side corridor that led away from the lobby, but also doubled back behind the elevators, and the bulk of Luthor's forces.
Before we got too close, I closed my eyes and concentrated. It was iffy anywhere else, but this close to where I was hoping to find the Phoenix, I hope she would hear my mind calling out to her. I kept my thoughts simple, mentally shouting Phoenix, and Jean, and sending images of what was happening.
Just as I was ready to give up hope, a fire lit inside my head, and I nearly passed out from the pain of the vision that entered it. Chris grabbed me and steadied me before I fell to the ground.
When the pain subsided, and I could focus on reality again, I knew where to go. "She's on the 13th floor, she's here, she heard me. Wow."
I was out of it from the experience, and Chris stood watch, as the fight continued on without us. After a few moments, and regaining my composure, I looked for a staircase. While I knew there was one at the back of the Hilton lobby, that meant sneaking behind Luthor's group, and risking being seen. I knew there was another stairway further down the hallway, and led Chris towards it.
We moved up to the second floor, and doubled back from there to the elevators. The power seemed to still be functioning as it should here, and it was the quicker way. We could see the fight continuing on below us over the railings around us. The good guys seemed to be holding Luthor's forces at bay, and no one was laying on the ground yet, for either side.
Continuing upwards, and leaving the fight below, we got to the 13th floor, and looked around. I'd never been up to the rooms of the Hilton. Unlike the other hotels that had long, dropping views to the lobbies below, they had kept a more closed idea, and each floor was a series of hallways, and no deep pit in the center of it all.
The image that had flashed in my brain was of a door, and a specific room number, and when we stood in front of 1339, I recognised it as the same door, even if they all looked the same, I could feel this was it.
Just as my hand was about to knock, I didn't know what to do to try and get a cosmically powered mutant to open her door, it opened all by itself. Or more likely, the Phoenix opened it for us.
Inside the door, the room was completely dark. The lights were all turned off, and the curtains drawn so tight somehow, that not even light was seeping in through any cracks.
Once we'd passed over the threshold, the door slammed shut behind us, and I dread that we'd walked into a trap. My hand groped the wall, and found a light switch, filling the room with a dull glow, and dispelling the shadows.
In the far corner of the room, poking out from behind the desk, I could see a gold boot. I moved closer, and hunched over, looking into the corner.
Sitting between the wall and the side of the desk, curled up into a ball, was what I had been looking for. A young woman, red hair, and dressed as the Phoenix.
The girl was clutching at her head, the thick crimson locks pouring over her golden-covered arms.
"Phoenix? Jean?" I tentatively reached out, placing a hand against her knee, and she recoiled at the act. "Please, we need your help. Can you help us?"
She looked back at me through her hair, her sparkling emerald eyes which were brighter than the green of her costume almost lost behind the veil of her own hair. "No, no I can't. Too many voices, too much pain. It's all too much. Can't think. Can't hear. Go away!"