Author’s Note: The following story takes place in 2003, shortly after the start of Book Six: Shadows of Evil.

 

Ultimate Beetle Borgs: One-Shot

Coming to Life

 

Residents called it “Chartersville,” a township east of Angel Grove that meshed with the city of Leawood as well as Crossworld City. The township was mostly upper class and boasted a high-quality education system, the state’s finest.

 

The students of Chartersville didn’t care much about their corporation’s standing. As far as they were concerned, Chartersville was the same as every other city in the growing county…except for one difference: Chartersville was home to the Beetle Borgs.

 

A local artist dreamed up a comic strip that appeared weekly in the paper, featuring a three-member team of super heroes called the Big Bad Beetle Borgs. The strip actually started as a political piece, a spoof of the strange happenings over the past two years. Multi-colored costumed fighters battling giant sized monsters, a man dressed like a spider swinging across sky scrapers, bug-armored warriors riding motorcycles…the list went on.

 

But Beetle Borgs took off and became a hit with younger audiences. The title went from political satire to popular kids’ icon in a matter of months. Marvel bought the rights to the Borgs and started producing a monthly series as part of its Mangaverse line. Small local businesses were quick to capitalize on the Beetle Borgs’ movement, and Zoom Comics was no exception.

 

The small comic shop was bustling with activity as kids and young teens got their hands on the latest monthly issue of Beetle Borgs and a new graphic novel.

 

Eleven-year-old Drew McCormick sat in the back of the store while flipping through the comic book pages. His eyes opened wide with wonder. “Sweet…” he said to himself.

 

Drew looked up to see that the young girl named Heather had heard him. She was looking at him and smiling. Drew blushed.

 

Heather was a few years older than Drew and had long blonde hair flowing across her shoulders. She helped out at the store and worked there a few hours a week. Drew had liked her for as long as he could remember. He often fantasized about becoming a Beetle Borg and winning her over through some heroic act.

 

“Check it out!” Drew’s younger sister Jo shouted while running over to her brother.

 

Ten-year-old Jo nearly knocked Drew over while flipping open her copy of the graphic novel. Jo idolized the Red Stinger Borg. She even wore a backwards red cap just as the comic character did.

 

“Check it out!” she said while flipping through the pages. “There’s a cameo by the Masked Rider!”

 

The Masked Rider series swept Japan after a hero of the same name emerged in 2001. Kamen Rider Black fought a terrorist cult within the shadows of Tokyo. He was shrouded in mystery, and everyone in Japan wanted to know more about him. This prompted the Kamen Rider manga, which came to America in the form of Masked Rider.

 

“Which one?” Drew asked while looking over his sister’s shoulder.

 

“RX,” she said.

 

“Sweet,” Drew said as he looked over the cameo appearance.

 

The doors to Zoom’s back rooms opened, and Drew’s friend Roland walked out, his grandmother following him with a lecture about putting school work before play. Roland rolled his eyes while walking towards Drew and Jo. Roland’s grandmother helped his father run Zoom comics.

 

Roland pulled up a chair and sat down next to his friends. “Hey guys…guess what?”

 

“Cameo,” Jo said while practically shoving the graphic novel in Roland’s face.

 

“Better,” Roland said while pushing the comic away. “I was thinking it’s time for an adventure of our own.”

 

Drew’s interest perked. “What do you mean?”

 

“You know that old Hilhurst mansion?” Roland asked.

 

Drew nodded. Everyone knew about Hilhurst. “The haunted place? What about it?”

 

Roland shrugged, a mischievous grin on his face. “We’re going there. Tonight.”

 

“Excellent!” Jo shouted.

 

Drew shook his head. “Bad plan…”

 

“Oh come on, Drew” Roland said.

 

Going to Hilhurst had always been a freshman orientation of sorts for Chartersville high school students. It was said to be haunted.

 

Drew glanced up and noticed Heather looking at them. He looked back to Roland and smiled.

 

“Let’s do it,” Drew said.

 

***

 

The kids pulled their bikes up to the old mansion later that night. The woods surrounding the old Hilhurst place were eerily quiet. The trees even seemed twisted and dark.

 

“After you,” Jo said as she ducked behind Drew and grabbed his arm.

 

Even Roland stepped behind Drew.

 

Drew looked back to his friend and arced an eyebrow. “You know, this was your idea…”

 

Roland shrugged, staring ahead at the mansion with fear.

 

Drew sighed and shook his head. “Let’s go…”

 

Drew led Roland and Jo into the mansion.

 

***

 

The floor creaked under their feet as the three friends walked through the dark hallways of Hilhurst. A supernatural wind howled through the dark corridors and nearly knocked the three kids off their feet.

 

Jo clung onto her brother’s arm. “Something tells me this was a bad idea.”

 

“Ya think,” Drew said as he struggled to stay on his feet.

 

The three kids turned and bolted towards the exit, but the inside of the mansion seemed to have reshaped itself. They were lost.

 

Roland shook his head. “I know this was the way we came.”

 

Drew shook his head. “This place is a too-”

 

The floor fell out from underneath the kids and they plummeted into the darkness.

 

***

 

A slight breeze woke the three kids up as they pulled themselves to their feet. They were in a dark basement with rotten wood panels and cobwebs.

 

Jo narrowed her eyes at Roland. “'Let’s go to Hilhurst’ you said. ‘It will be an adventure’ you said.”

 

Drew placed a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Calm down, Jo…we’ll be okay.”

 

They didn’t notice a small blue gem pulsing on the ground behind them. The gem held a swirling being of energy trapped inside. The being reached out with its mind and felt the three young ones outside. They weren’t like the other intruders at Hilhurst. They were…different.

 

Blue light danced across the crystal’s surface as the being reached out and felt the life force of the kids. Each was ripe with untapped power and magick. Each had the potential to become powerful mages. Each was what the being needed.

 

The energy being established a conduit between itself and the kids. It used the children to tap into The Power and draw energy unto itself.

 

Drew, Jo, and Roland let out a startled gasp as the crystal exploded. A blue cloud of energy burst from the shards and hovered in front of the three kids.

 

The energy being probed the kids’ minds for a suitable form and took shape. The cloud slowly twirled and formed a blue-skinned humanoid dressed in intricate robes.

 

The newly formed being let out a sigh of relief. “I cannot tell you how good it feels to be out of that thing.”

 

The kids took a step back, Roland and Jo hiding behind Drew.

 

“What?” Drew asked with a wrinkled brow. “I mean…what?”

 

The being tilted his head. “Did I not say that right? This language thing is such a pain.”

 

The humanoid snapped his fingers, and the group was teleported to the first floor of the mansion in a burst of light. The kids looked around in shock after making sure all of their body parts are still attached.

 

“What are you?” Drew asked.

 

The creature shrugged. “It’s complicated. That’s besides the point though.”

 

“What is the point?” Drew asked.

 

The being’s face lit up. “The point is…you saved me!”

 

He reached out and wrapped the three kids into a hug, his arms stretching like rubber.

 

The kids looked to each other with disbelief after the creature released them.

 

“Do you have a name?” Jo asked with suspicion.

 

The being shrugged. “Mike?”

 

Drew and the others raised their eyebrows.

 

“How about Stan?” the creature asked. “Kip? Joey?”

 

“Flabber,” Jo said.

 

Drew and Roland chuckled.

 

Flabber shrugged. “Whatever it wants. Now…you three kids saved me. I have to repay you.”

 

“How did we save you?” Drew asked.

 

Roland nudged Drew. “Don’t argue with the man…” he looked to Flabber. “Repay us how?”

 

Flabber looked thoughtfully for a moment and paced back and forth across the wooden floor. He snapped his fingers as a thought struck him. “I’ll grant you one wish.”

 

“Just one?” Jo said.

 

“Hey,” Flabber said while placing his hands on his hips. “I’m not some genie or something.”

 

Drew looked at the being with doubt. “So if we wished to….be Beetle Borgs you could just make it happen?”

 

Flabber wrinkled his blue brow. “Beetle what now?”

 

“Beetle Borgs,” Roland said as he pulled out an issue of the comic.

 

“Done,” Flabber said as he extended his hand at the comic. The book started to glow with blinding golden energy.

 

***

 

The spell was complex and yet simple. Flabber created a trio of transformation devices, molding them after the Beetle Bonders of the comic. Basic matter replication was well within the realm of the being’s magick. For Flabber could alter reality, which was why the simple, yet dangerous, being had been trapped. 

 

Flabber infused the bonders with energy from The Power. The Power would allow them to change. To transform into armor modeled after the Beetle Borg designs. Flabber began pulling images from the pages and using them as templates, using The Power to manipulate them into an arsenal for the Beetle Borg teams.

 

The process was exhausting, and unfortunately, Flabber’s fatigue came at a horrible cost.

 

A ship shaped like a twisted arm and hand of bark appeared in the skies above Chartersville. A red glowing orb was in the center of what would be the palm.

 

The ship and its inhabitants weren’t real. They were stripped from the comic pages by Flabber by mistake. They were organic holograms in a sense. Beings of light and energy contained by intricate organic force fields. Each organic hologram had a program based on the comics. They were programmed for destruction.

 

Inside of the ship was a chamber resembling a hollowed out tunnel. Lines of bug-like soldiers called Scabs kneeled on the chamber floor while facing a thick-white web.

 

A white-robed being appeared in front of the web. He wore a cone-shaped helmet and faceplate with a red visor that hid his face. His name was Vexacus.

 

“My loyal scabs,” Vexacus said, following the imperative etched into his being from the comics. “Go forth and destroy this world.”

 

Wedge-shaped fighters piloted by scabs left the ship’s lower hanger bays and spread across the city. Each fired crackling orange laser blasts that exploded against the streets below as citizens ran in panic.

 

Vexacus stood on the bridge of his ship and extended his hand. A blue gem was jammed in his palm, mirroring the ship. The ship’s maw gathered the flames and kinetic energy unleashed below and used it to strengthen Vexacus and his minions.

 

***

 

Drew looked down at the Beetle Bonder in his hand.

 

Roland rolled his eyes in disbelief. “Nice try with the light show, but I have this toy at home already.”

 

“Yeah,” Jo said with disbelief as she tugged at Drew’s shirt. “Come on Drew. This place gives me the creeps.”

 

Drew’s gaze lingered on Flabber before he followed his sister and friend outside.

 

***

 

Vexacus extended his hand again as the blue gem in his palm pulsed with energy. The ship mirrored his movements and sent a red energy pulse down onto the streets below. A three-foot thick layer of dry mud spread across the streets.

 

Scabs landed on the mud and began rounding up citizens as prisoners.

 

***

 

Drew pulled his bike to a stop along the forest path.

 

“I want to go back,” Drew said.

 

“Drew,” Jo said. “You didn’t even want to go in the first place.”

 

Drew nodded. “I know…” he pulled out his Beetle Bonder. “But what if this is real?”

 

“You go ahead,” Roland said. “I’ll take Jo home.”

 

Jo started to ride ahead with a smile on her face. “You mean I’ll take you home.”

 

***

 

Roland and Jo were riding their bikes into the city when they noticed a line of citizens being led forward by Scabs. They pulled their bikes to a halt and opened their eyes wide with horror.

 

“Do you see that too?” Jo asked.

 

Roland nodded. “We must have hit our heads pretty hard when we fell.”

 

A group of Scabs jumped onto the two kids from above and tackled them to the ground.

 

They were brought up to their feet and bound by the soldiers, and looked up to see another monster from the comics. He was dressed in gray black-and-red-trimmed metal armor fastened into place by screws and bolts. He had a large double-edged sword. The lower half of his face was covered with a black scarf.

 

“Bolt Blade?!” Roland asked with disbelief just before the monster signaled the Scabs to carry Roland and Jo away.

 

***

 

Drew stood in front of Flabber with his arms crossed.

 

“What do you mean accident?” Drew asked.

 

Flabber shook his head. “I’ll show you…but you’re not going to like it…”

 

Flabber created a holographic screen that showed the Scabs spreading across the city. They had Roland and Jo. They had Heather…

 

Drew’s eyes opened wide with disbelief. “This…this can’t be real.”

 

Flabber gave Drew a look of sympathy. “It’s what you wished for…just a little too accurate on my part.”

 

Drew nodded, his face turned towards the screen. “I have to stop them. Don’t I?”

 

Flabber nodded.

 

Drew narrowed his eyes as he watched the Scabs continue to spread. He ignored the swelling feeling of fear in his throat and ran outside. He stood with a grim look of determination on his face as he moved through a series of gestures he knew by heart.

 

He stood with his left leg forward and brought his right hand back near his right temple. He crossed his left arm over his body and across his right arm while shouting “Beetle Bonder!”

 

The newly created Beetle Bonder appeared in his hand with a flash of blue energy. He hesitated before finishing the process.

 

“Beetle Blast!” he shouted while raising the bonder towards the sky. Blue energy twirled around him as his armor came to life. The power armor made him appear taller and muscular. He could feel its strength. He was the Blue Stinger Beetle Borg.

 

***

 

Roland and Jo were led across the mud-covered streets by the Scabs and Bolt Blade. They were taken to the base of a tall building where the rest of the captives were being held.

 

“I’m scared, Roland,” Jo said.

 

“Me too…” Roland said.

 

Lances of golden energy suddenly cut through the air and exploded through several of the Scabs. Villains and citizens alike looked up to a nearby building in shock to see Blue Beetle standing with his laser blaster in hand.

 

“Let them go!” Blue Beetle shouted.

 

Citizens ran from the scene, anxious to escape. Roland and Jo stood stunned as Blue Beetle jumped down towards them.

 

“Drew?!” Roland asked in disbelief.

 

“Better Borg, guys,” Blue Beetle said.

 

Roland and Jo smiled wide as they turned towards the villain.

 

“Beettle Bonders!” they shouted as their bonders appeared.

 

Jo’s smile grew wider. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this…”

 

“Beetle Blast!” Roland and Jo shouted as they transformed into the Green Hunter and Red Striker Beetle Borgs respectively.

 

Blue Beetle stood in a defensive stance and shouted “Beetle Borgs!”

 

The Borgs slowly walked towards their opponents, standing tall and straight just as their heroes would.

 

Green Beetle pounced forward towards a Scab and crushed the soldier’s head between his hands. He twirled the Scab around and crashed its legs against its fellow soldiers before releasing it.

 

Blue Beetle leapt forward and double punched through a formation of Scabs. He turned and slammed an uppercut against a soldier’s gut.

 

“Beetle Magnum!” Red Beetle shouted as she raised her sidearm and fired lances of red energy that exploded against several of the Scabs.

 

The three Borgs regrouped.

 

Vexacus watched the battle unfold from his bridge. He extended his hand as the gem in his palm pulsed with energy.

 

Mirroring Vexacus’ movements, a hand of crimson energy reached down from the skies and grabbed hold of the three Beetle Borgs, pulling them into a pocket dimension.

 

“What now?” Red Beetle said as she rose to her feet within the dimension. It was covered with fog, and strange bubbles floated through the air.

 

“I know what this is…” Green Beetle said.

 

Blue Beetle nodded. “It’s the Battle Zone…not good…”

 

A ghostly image of Bolt Blade appeared behind the Borgs. They turned to face the monster, and it fired jagged bolts of crimson energy that exploded against their armor.

 

Bolt Blade appeared and swung towards the three Borgs while hanging upside down. He swiped his blade across their armor one-by-one before flipping and landing on the ground.

 

“Beetle Magnums!” Blue Beetle shouted as he and his teammates opened fire on the creature. Bolt Blade vanished, and the beams passed through midair.

 

The Battle Zone started to crack as the three Borgs were sucked through the opening, explosions sparking across their armor. They were tossed out into the mountains and thrown across the ground.

 

The three Borgs rose to their feet just as Bolt Blade’s saber shot towards them like a spear and cut across their armor. The three fell to the ground as Bolt Blade stalked towards them, another sword in hand.

 

“This is all our fault…” Blue Beetle said as he struggled to raise to his feet. “All my fault…”

 

The three rose and stood in fighting stances.

 

“Come on, guys,” Blue Beetle said. “We have to fix this mess we’ve made. Weapons!”

 

The three Borgs placed their hands behind their backs as their weapons flashed into existence.

 

“Stinger Blade!” Blue Beetle shouted as the wrist mounted blade wrapped around his forearm.

 

“Hunter claw!” Green Beetle shouted as the two-pronged claw weapon wrapped around his forearm.

 

 “Striker Blaster!” Red Beetle shouted as her weapon appeared over her arm.

 

Green Hunter pounced forward and grabbed Bolt Blade with his claw. He lifted the monster into the air as his weapon began to spin, twirling the creature out of control. Green Beetle released his grasp and threw the monster loose.

 

Red Beetle moved forward as her blaster started to spin. Tendrils of crimson energy crackled from her blaster and exploded against the monster as Blue Beetle moved forward.

 

Blue Beetle held his weapon back as the blade started to spin like a drill.

 

“Say goodbye, you comic book reject…Beetle Blaze!”

 

The energized saber cut across the monster with an explosive display of force.

 

The creature fell backwards and exploded in a burst of light.

 

The Beetle Borgs lowered their weapons and stared at the remains of their opponent.

 

“I can’t believe it…” Blue Beetle said to himself quietly. His fantasy had come true…only it wasn’t nearly as glamorous as he had hoped.

 

END