A bit nonplussed, they landed near a barn, and pushed the doors open. Inside the doors were not a barn, but the Scorch HQ. They were greeted by The Doorman who told them that they needed to talk to The Archivist and pointed them in the right way.
The Archivist told the group that he had been looking through the papers they had secured, and there were two problems. One he had known without the papers: the special facility in New York had been a trap, and all the heroes that had ventured in there was now trapped in an Illusion Maze ritual. Second problem, that he had uncovered through the papers, was that the facility was also the site of a ritual which would open up a gate to hell, probably swallowing up the entire city. This second ritual seemed to be powered by the Demon Heart that Firestorm had stolen. Scorch already knew that the “Demon Heart” that had been secured during the raid on Firestorm’s lair had actually been an illusion.
The Archivist wanted to place a ritual on Mirror Man that would allow him to see through the Illusion Maze, while simultaneously stabilizing it so that the rest of the group could react more or less reliably to what they were seeing. Then they were to go in and stop the Hell Gate ritual, while saving any heroes they encountered along the way. The group hesitated, but agreed after the Archivist promised to have “the monkeys” fly their ship (and prisoners) back to HQ.
So, the doorman opened another door, and the group found themselves in New York, where they quickly crossed the street to an utterly mundane building that might have been an office, warehouse or factory, but so aggressively non-interesting that they were sure it had to be their goal.
Inside the building was more or less a labyrinth in its own right. The group wandered through an office section of the building, with names on the doors such as “Warmonger, Head of Extortion”. Soon they found some stairs down, and the illusions began. Mirror Man acted as a touch-stone, since he could see through the illusions, but the rest of the group found themselves inside an Egyptian Tomb, and followed the screams until they found Snake being assaulted by a swarm of scorpions, pouring out of a sarcophagus.
Trickshot solved the situation by modifying one of his trick arrows, so that emitted a noise that caused the scorpions to scurry away. Snake was a bit worse for the wear, covered in illusory scorpion stings as he was, but he set out to find the rest of his group, which he had gotten lost from when a mummy had attacked them.
Venturing on, the group found the tomb change to jungle, and heard roars and sounds of fighting ahead. Hurrying forward, they found Darkmancer, Paladin and his Krayeen henchmen fighting a massive gorilla. Mirror Man informed the group that while the gorilla was an illusion, it was also a figment, capable of dealing actual damage. This was punctuated by Paladin being flung across the jungle clearing.
The group went into action, and with judicious use of various trapping techniques, such as Light-Speeds light wall, Mirror Man conjuring an illusory cage, and Trickshot using his foam arrows to good effect, the gorilla was brought down, mostly by the attack of Red Baron.
After the fight, the situation was explained to Darkmancer and Paladin, and Darkmancer immediately took charge, leading the group onward.
The jungle turned to space ship corridors, and some stereotypical grey aliens were killed, though it wasn’t much of a fight after the gorilla. Then the space ship turned into underground caves, and finally into a large underground room with a catwalk around the wall.
In the exact center of the room was suspended the Demon Heart, with cables leading to the corners. Below it was a sizable portal, and the floor of the hall was filled with demons of various kinds.
Darkmancer immediately started barking out orders. Light-Speed was handed a bunch of acid arrows, and within a split-second used them on the cables on the opposite side of the hall. Once the acid had eaten through the cables, the demon heart would swing towards the catwalk that the group was standing on. Trickshot hooked the heart so he would be able to pull it up once the cables were cut. Paladin, Darkmancer, Mirror Man and Rainbow Runt prepared to defend against the demons that were already swarming up the walls, or taking to the air. And Red Baron ignored all orders and just jumped straight into the swarm.
At first things were going okay. Mirror Man started taking out the flying demons with a variety of illusions, Red Baron ripped through the demons on the ground, and the rest fired into the horde, paying special attention to the ones crawling up the walls. Mirror Man dissuaded a seriously large demon from making its way through the portal. The cables that held up the Demon Heart were almost eaten through, when the horde surged forward, overcoming Red Baron’s defenses, and started ripping him to pieces. Quite literally. In the end, one demon rose with the glowing soul of Red Baron in hand, and began to make its way back to the portal.
The demon was immediately shot dead, Rainbow Runt tried to grab the soul, but found his hand passing straight through it. To buy time, Light-Speed ran down, and erected a lightwall around the soul, while the others attacked the demons around him, to try to keep them from ripping him to shreds as well.
And then the cables broke, and the demon heart began to swing towards their side of the room. And the portal followed. Right towards the spot where Red Baron’s soul and Light-Speed were, beneath the catwalk. Light-Speed quickly tried something new, attempting to form a light-bowl of sorts by moving his hands at the same speeds he normally moved. It worked, and he scoped up the soul and skedaddled just as the portal swept over the spot that he had been moments before,
Light-Speed evacuated the battlefield to watch over the soul, while Trickshot hauled up the Demon Heart. As soon as the Heart was over the railing, Darkmancer enveloped it in a magic sphere, and began trying to disrupt the portal ritual.
While he did this, the remaining heroes were busy trying to keep away the demons. Things quickly got much more hairy. Though catwalks and demons alike were blasted away, the horde kept inching closer and closer to the heroes position, as Darkmancer worked and the portal flickered. In the final seconds of the fight, the demons came in close, on one flank seriously pummeling Mirror Man who had to flee to the air, and on the other engaging Trickshot in melee, until he manually triggered a foam arrow in a spray to tie up all the demons closest to him. Meanwhile Rainbow Runt and the Krayeen blasted for all they were worth, and Paladin slew demons left and right to keep them off Darkmancer.
And then, the portal closed. Without the portal sustaining them, the demons all turned to sand, and in a massive whirlpool returned from whence they came. In the same stroke, the Illusion Maze ritual was ended.
Darkmancer judged the rest of the teams efforts as “adequate”, teleported the Demon Heart away, and dismissed the rest of the group. He had to secure the other arcana in the basement, and didn’t need them around any more.
So the rest of the group ventured upstairs to help, since they needed to bum a ride home, what with their own air skiff being crewed by a bunch of monkeys (presumably) in another state. Mop-up duty progressed without any problems.
For the organization as a whole, the mission was slightly underwhelming. Though Madam Yings overt gambling dens had been taken out, it appeared that none of her secure facilities had been found, what with the New York base being a trap and all. And the American government was not pleased that Bulwark had taken it upon themselves to stage the raid, without telling anyone. This combined with the Anonymous attack and the anti-meta legislation up for vote again within a couple of days did not bode well for Bulwark.
Bulwark had however received an offer to relocate to the Pacific island of Monguam, home to some 200 natives who had all turned meta in a single undisclosed event (apparently involving a sea goddess). They invited Bulwark to relocate their HQ there.
Given the situation Bulwark took the invitation, and moved overnight stripping their HQ of everything of worth. Some of the new heroes, unwilling to relocate to the middle of the Pacific, returned to civilian life in and around Boston.
Once located on Monguam, Bulwark started seizing on the other opportunities around the world. Many nations had requested either help with training their own super hero teams, or having a Bulwark team permanently stationed.
In the end, permanent teams were established in Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Japan, Canada, Costa Rica, England and Germany.
In addition consulting the heroes not on teams were spending most of their time on consulting jobs. Bulwark were hesitant to help Israel, as it seemed the Israelies were disinterested in the ethics code that Bulwark were trying to spread. On the other hand, they jumped at the change to train an Iranian team. Whether the fact that Arabia had declared metas to be devil-spawn had any influence there is unknown.