I stared up at Doctor Fear, trying to shake off the paralysis of his magical spell. “Doctor, think about what you’re doing!” I shouted, struggling to make my voice be heard above the howling of the open portal behind him. “You’ll kill us all!”
“I don’t care!” the masked supervillain hollered back, his purple gauntlets glowing with eldritch power as he struggled to maintain the growing vortex. “They all made me suffer! Why should I let them live?”
Finally managing to clamber to my feet, I braced myself in a fighting stance, my eyes scanning around the room from behind my mask. Most of the furniture in the laboratory had been blown away, thrown against the back of the room by the opening of the nether gateway. The corpse of the shambling horror that Doctor Fear had conjured lay across the entrance. I could still smell the burned flesh from my searing Flame Bolts.
I leapt forward, ignoring the stinging pain of the slashes that had made it through my toughened spandex. “Don’t make me have to stop you, Doctor!” I called out. “Just stop the portal! We can all still walk away from here!”
“It’s too late, Mister Amazing!” Doctor Fear fired back. “I don’t deserve to live here – you all have made that abundantly clear. And if I can’t be a part of this world, no one will!” He spread his arms wider, and fresh surges of black magic flowed into the growing portal.
Around the edges of the shimmering gateway, I could see dark shapes, gibbering horrors that wanted nothing more than to spill out into our reality. On the far side of the opening, a long tentacle snaked forward, reaching down into our reality. I hurled a Flame Bolt at it, frying it into crispy calamari.
Feeling every injury, I staggered forward. Beneath his mask, Doctor Fear’s eyes rolled towards me, but he was directing every fibre of his being into opening the portal. “Please, Mister Amazing!” he called out, and now, closer, I could hear the undertone of fear and hurt in his voice. “The anger, the hatred towards me – it hurts! It cuts every second, like a million knives!”
Only a couple steps away, I stopped, torn. I knew what the other superheroes in the League of Justice would do. There was a deranged supervillain, and there was a portal to a nightmare dimension. Combine the two, and all the problems would go away. But while that approach would appeal to some of the grittier heroes in the League, like The Punishment, it just didn’t sit well with my conscience.
I glanced over my shoulder at the portal. It was nearly open, and more tentacles were spilling out, nightmares taking shape in our waking world. “Lord, I hope this works,” I muttered to myself, and then lunged forward, extending my fist.
My knuckles slammed against Doctor Fear’s head, and I saw the supervillain’s eyes roll back in his skull. He dropped, boneless, to the floor, and the glow of evil around his fists winked out. I spun around to stare at his summoned portal. With no more power feeding in, would it collapse? Or would it stabilize, converting our world over to a tortured hellscape?
Tentacles now extended out in all directions, thrashing on the floor and knocking the scattered instruments in the lab about. But as I watched, the circumference of the gateway began to slowly contract. No matter how the tentacles struggled, the closing edge cut into them, sending gouts of purple gore spewing across the floor and ceiling.
I slowly advanced on the closing portal, summoning the energy from my tired bones to throw Flame Bolts at the last few bits of flesh. I wanted every trace to be seared away, so that nothing could spread. A minute later, the portal shrank to nothing, winking out of existence.
I turned back to Doctor Fear’s prone body as, just outside the building, I heard the tell-tale roaring of the Justice Jet’s engines. The man was already beginning to come to, and his eyes blinked hazily at me as I squatted beside him.
“You should have let me die, Mister Amazing,” he rasped, the words barely audible. “It’s what I wanted.”
I reached down and laid my hand gently on his shoulder. “We all have struggles that we must overcome, Doctor,” I whispered, tenderness shining through my voice. “You have many demons, but I believe that we can overcome them. Together.”
I heard the booted footsteps of my fellow heroes approaching from down the hall. I reached down and slid a hand under Doctor Fear’s arm, hoisting him up to his feet and supporting him with my own body. I knew that the man would spend time in the Supertropolis Asylum, but the psychologists and therapists there were the best of their profession. And I believed that anyone, even a villain like Doctor Fear, could be rehabilitated.