World in Flux
by Terry

1997


Special Edition Sleepwalker


Sleepwalker sighed and remembered the last time he had been in this region of the Mindscape. He had been trailing Cobweb, trying to keep Cobweb from going into a human mind, and he had failed. He had ended up getting trapped within one of the minds he was sworn to protect. To make matters worst, his only ticket out of the mind, his Imaginator, had disappeared, seemingly as part of a dream of the human whose mind he had entered. It had taken him 3 years trapped within the confines of that mind, before he finally recovered my Imaginator from Cobweb, and returned home, to the Mindscape.

The battle to recover his Imaginator from Cobweb and the restoring of Rick Sheridan's mind right after had taken a lot out of him, so at first he had just floated outside of the portal area. By the time he had recovered, others of his kind, the true Guardians of the Mindscape, had found him, so he was unable to return and tell Rick he was OK.

Once the other Sleepwalkers had discovered him near the portal into Rick's mind, they returned him to their home base. There, Sleepwalker was allowed to recover his strength before being placed on trial to determine the results of his illegal actions within Rick's mind. After much deliberation, they concluded that his actions, though greatly pushing the limits of the rules, were allowable considering the situation. Sleepwalker was reinstated to the border patrol where he had been ever since. Border patrol was important, but there was little action on it, beyond stopping an occasional Nightmare. All things considered though, Sleepwalker welcomed the peace. He did his patrol over a region of the Mindscape where the minds of a new intelligent species were just breaking through, until the entire Mindscape was shaken by events happening on, of all places, Earth.

There was a part of the Mindscape that some beings can access naturally. On Earth, most who could access this place do so through telepathic powers or through study of the mystic arts. They call this place the Astral Plane. When the Sleepwalker council gathered to discover the cause of the disturbance, they discovered a being of incredible power, based on Earth, had taken over the Astral plane and was threatening the stability of the entire Mindscape. After much deliberation, the Council made their decision. They would send someone to Earth to discover what this being was. Only one Sleepwalker had ever been to Earth and back, so they summoned him at once.

And so, Sleepwalker found himself back at the border between the Mindscape and the Earth minds. Sleepwalker felt himself drawn to a mind that he had called home for three Earth years, and paused. He was about to go back into a human's mind, something that was against his oaths, but this time with the blessing of the Council. He glanced over to Key'lur, who has accompanied him to the border before he dived in.

Sleepwalker swam through Rick Sheridan's mind, finding it more chaotic than anything he had seen on the Mindscape, yet also strangely familiar and comforting. He broke into the surface of Rick's thoughts and found himself in a park. Rick was walking his dog, Rambo along a path. At Rick's side, his girlfriend, Alyssa Conover, walked with him. Sleepwalker felt a tug towards freedom that he hadn't felt for a long time, and realized that Rick was asleep and dreaming. Before the dream-Rick noticed him, Sleepwalker followed the tug and emerged into the real world from Rick's sleeping mind.

Rambo, asleep on the floor beside Rick's bed, woke up and looked at Sleepwalker, whining in confusion. He knew that Sleepwalker was once a friend of his master, yet Sleepwalker had also killed his master, and yet, on the third paw, his master was here and very much alive.

{Shhh, Quiet Rambo,} Sleepwalker said, holding a finger to his mouth in a manner he remembered seeing other humans do to quiet others. Rambo gave another confused whine and put his head back down, deciding to sleep away the confusion.

{Now to find out what could be powerful enough to shake the Mindscape from the outside,} Sleepwalker said to himself, opening the window and floating out.

He floated out into a city of chaos. The horizon was lit by fires, as sirens echoed down the streets. No electricity seemed to be flowing anywhere. Rising above the roof line, Sleepwalker could see that the bridges off of the island were blocked by giant blue and red robots. Others seemed to be roaming through the city. In the section of grassland he remembered was called Central Park, he saw the strangest building he had ever seen on Earth. There seemed to be some sort of field around the perimeter of the building, sufficient to keep the people around the edge locked out.

[Humanoid of unknown origin with unknown powers. Threat level: High. Orders: Terminate on sight.] a voice said behind Sleepwalker.

Turning in mid air, Sleepwalker saw one of those large robots had come up behind him, and had raised it's palm towards him. Sleepwalker dropped out of the sky just before a plasma blast tore through the air where he had been.

[Scanning records.... Humanoid identified as Sleepwalker. Threat level: Extreme. Orders: Pursue and Destroy.] the Robot continued, both palms raised and glowing with power.

Not saying a word, Sleepwalker used his eye-beams to warp the robot into a cube of metal, and sent it into the river.

[Designation: Sleepwalker Threat: Extreme. Term-] Sleepwalker turned around to see another robot had come up behind him. It's face was now covered with a web-like substance, muffling its speech. At first, Sleepwalker feared his rival, Cobweb had some how returned and entered the real world. Then he remembered one other who used a similar webbing.

"Those Sentinels always talk too much." a voice said from the wall beside Sleepwalker. More webbing quickly wrapped itself around the raised arms of the Sentinel, pulling them together and smashing them into scrap metal. "So, you're back in town, Sleepwalker. Can't say I'm glad to see you. But if you and your buddies are here to take over the city again, you'd better get in line. Onslaught's currently on deck, and knocking all us heroes out of the park," Spiderman said coolly, perched on the side of the wall.

{Spiderman! Perhaps you can help me. I have been sent to find out what is affecting the part of the Mindscape you call the Astral plane. Is this Onslaught you mentioned behind this?} Sleepwalker asked.

"Mindscape? Astral plane? You're talking to the wrong guy. Doc Strange would be the one you should be seeing. Besides, Sleepy, even though we've worked together before, you and your friends did try to steal the minds of all the good citizens of New York. In my books, that puts you squarely on the bad guy's side," Spiderman said, swinging over to the Sentinel with the smashed hands. He then proceeded to smash the robot's head with his own hands.

{Spiderman, those creatures that attacked this city were not my kind. They were pawns of one of my enemies, named Cobweb. In order to protect those I could, I needed to try and beat them from within. I am not on the bad guy's side, as you say,} Sleepwalker explained, warping steel cables that the Sentinel was trying to wrap around Spiderman's head.

"I'd give you a quarter to call someone who cares, but I'm all out of change right now," Spiderman replied, webbing up the robot's legs. Between him and Sleepwalker, the Sentinel was quickly permanently deactivated. Spiderman perched himself on the remains of the robot and looked at the green skinned, red eyed being floating in front of him. "Look, seeing as how a lot of the baddies are siding with the good guys against this Onslaught, if you're willing to fight with us, then join in. All the big guys are gathering at Four Freedom's tower to discuss our next move."

{Who is this Onslaught? He might be the one I am looking for.}

"Could be Sleepy. Onslaught is worst than anything I've ever come up against, and I've gone against the wor-." Spiderman stopped in mid-sentence, and jumped out of the way as a blast hit the remains of the robot. "Figures the mute Sentinel would come after me," he said, mostly under his breath, leaping from the side of a wall a split second before another blast hit the building.

Sleepwalker moved to destroy the Robot, but felt himself being pulled back into Rick's mind. "Sleepy why aren't you? Ah no! Not again. You always disappear at the worst possible moment, don't you?" Spiderman shouted, busy avoiding the Sentinel's blasts. Giving up on help from Sleepwalker, Spiderman swung around the corner and out of the Sentinel's immediate sight.

Just before he was pulled back into Rick's mind, Sleepwalker saw the Sentinel turn its sights towards him.

Back in Rick's mind, Sleepwalker returned to the edge of the Mindscape and rejoined Key'lur.

{Any luck Sleepwalker?} she asked.

{Some. I met one of Earth's protectors whom I knew, named Spiderman. He told me that the people of New York are under attack by giant robots called Sentinels, seemingly under the control of an entity called Onslaught. By the way he spoke, this Onslaught is extremely powerful; he could be the source of the tremors on the Mindscape.} Sleepwalker explained.

{But you are not certain that this Onslaught is the cause?} Key'lur asked.

{No, not completely certain. I did not meet this Onslaught in person, nor did I meet any of the many humans who use the Astral plane. Any one of those humans would be able to confirm or deny my suspicions.} Sleepwalker replied.

{Well then you must return to Earth at once and get that information!}

{I can not return immediately. Rick has awoken, so if I returned to his mind, I would not be able to walk the Earth until he goes to sleep again.}

{Can't you use another mind? The future of the Mindscape is at stake here!}

{I could, but I know Rick's mind the best. I can sneak in and out of Rick's mind without him noticing me. Any other mind though, I would need to search for the way out into the real world, which could reveal our presence. The Council ordered me to leave as little evidence of our presence as possible. Do not be concerned. The Mindscape has been around since the first intelligence arose in the Universe; no matter what happens on Earth, it will survive in some form until the last intelligence dies.} Sleepwalker turned and faced the light that was the portal into Rick's mind.

{I shall hide in Rick's mind until he goes to sleep again. Then I shall seek the one named Dr. Strange. We have met before, and though we are not exactly friends, he does know the Astral Plane and will be able to answer my questions,} he said to Key'lur. Without waiting to hear the protest he knew she was going to raise, he dived back into Rick's mind to wait.

Rick Sheridan coughed, rolled over and woke up. Reaching out, he tried to turn on the bed side lamp, but the light did not work.

{Oh right, Onslaught knocked out all the power,} he thought to himself, sitting up. Looking around his room with the flickering light from the numerous fires in the city. Smoke was blowing in through the window. Getting up, he closed the window.

"I could've sworn I shut this window last night," he muttered to himself, doing another check of his room to see if anything was out of place. Nothing was. "The only time my window has been left open was when Sleepwalker used to come and go..."

"ARF!" Rambo barked, looking at his master, tail wagging.

"What is it Rambo? Did Sleepwalker leave my window open?"

"ARF!"

Rick considered the situation. "Could it be? Could Sleepy be back? Nah, he's been gone, probably dead, for nearly 3 years now. Why would he come back now of all times? I probably just forgot to close the window... though I was sure I had!" Rick stood at the window and looked down at the street. Numerous cars were left in the middle of the street, left powerless due to Onslaughts Electro-Magnetic Pulse. Looking towards the end of the street, he saw the remains of one of the Sentinel robots.

"Figures, a superhero battle happens on my street and I sleep right through it," he muttered, trying to identify which hero's hands had done the job. By the webbing still dripping off of the Sentinel, he quickly concluded that Spiderman was one of the heroes, but there were other parts that are warped beyond recognition. "That looks like Sleepy's Warp Beam's work... It must be him!"

Rick stared out on the city skyline, considering the implications. "Sleepy's back, but do I really want him back? It's good to know he's still alive and all, but he did all but ruined my life before. Do I want to go through that again?" He saw some figures moving across the street, towards Central Park. Peering into the smoky air, he made out two costumed figures. From news reports, he recognized one of them as the Avengers Hawkeye, but the other one, seemingly made of ice, was a mystery to him. There expressions were very grim. "Then again, if I don't let him out again, my life will probably be ruined anyway and I'll be left with the knowledge I might've done something to stop it. <Sigh> OK, Sleepy, welcome back to Earth. Now let's see if I can get back to sleep. But first, let's see if I can get you to where you might be able to help...."

Before trying to get back to sleep, he dug out a map of Manhattan. He took a pad of Post-it notes, and, in the dim light coming from the window, drew a Skull on one note, sticking it on Central Park where he heard Onslaught's base was. On another note, he drew a smiling face and the Fantastic Four's symbol, with an arrow pointing to the exact place the Four Freedom's Towers were and another arrow pointing out the location of Avenger's Mansion. Rick figured that if anyone would know how Sleepy could help, either of those groups would. He taped the map with the notes on it to his window, with a rough Sketch of Sleepwalkers face next to it.

"Wish I had some power so I could leave him messages on the answering machine like we used to," he mused, climbing back into bed. After tossing and turning for some time, he finally drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

Sleepwalker was waiting for the moment when Rick fell asleep. Not wasting a second, he rose out into the room. The map on the window immediately caught his attention. {Thank you, Rick,} Sleepwalker said softly to the sleeping figure.

Map in hand, he climbed out the window and floated above the city. He was about to head towards Four Freedom's Plaza, when explosions from Central Park drew him in the other direction.

From his height, he could see a large number of costumed people surrounding an armored figure. Sleepwalker recognized many of the figures, though many of them have changed costumes and in other ways since his last few encounters with them. The heroes were hitting the armored figure with everything they have, but the armored guy wasn't budging. {{Must be Onslaught}} Sleepwalker thought, gliding towards the battle.

A wave of heat and a sudden brightness from above pulled Sleepwalker's, and everyone else's, eyes skyward. Above, they all saw a new star in the sky. Already, in the city around him, Sleepwalker could see the ground trembling under the gravity of the new star.

The heroes barely gave the new star a second glance before returning to the battle with renewed, nearly desperate, energy. They continued pounding Onslaught, first a big, green skinned brute Sleepwalker didn't recognize, and then the others. This time, Sleepwalker noticed Onslaught faltering. He had resumed his course towards the park, when the figure exploded, the force nearly knocking him out of the sky.

Sleepwalker used his warp beam to warp the antenna on a nearby building into a rope to grab onto until the force of the explosion dissipated. Regaining his footing in the air, he saw the heroes pulling themselves out from the debris that fell on them. A maelstrom of energy remained where Onslaught had stood. Sleepwalker shuddered, feeling the raw power of an evil mind that somehow bridged Earth and the Mindscape with ease.

The heroes quickly regrouped and decide on a course of action. Before Sleepwalker could join them, many of the heroes simply walked into that maelstrom. The remaining people, many with X's on torn yellow and blue uniforms, proceeded to attack the maelstrom with all the force they could muster. With all that power pouring into the maelstrom, it dissipated, leaving 3 men and a child on one side, the large green man, now unconscious, and the attacking heroes on the other, and no sign of the ones who had entered it.

Sleepwalker finally made it to the ruined buildings surrounding the park. Already, news reporters were on the scene, behind police barricades. The remaining heroes were standing, stunned, looking at the spot where the Maelstrom and the heroes had been. Before anyone could notice his arrival, Sleepwalker disappeared.

"Oh my god! It can't be! Not them! Anyone but them!" Screams from down the hall disturbed Rick's sleep.

Rick woke up and rushed into the hall of his apartment building, all thoughts of Sleepwalker far from his mind. He ran down the hall to his landlord's apartment. "What is it Mrs. Epstein" he asked, his landlady, entering the open door of the apartment. Other tenants followed behind him.

"It's the Avengers! Captain America! The Fantastic Four! They're dead! All dead! Those damn Mutants killed them! All of them!" she sobbed, drowning out the news announcer on the battery powered radio.

"Dead? What do you mean? They can't be dead! They're the heroes, nothing can kill them!" the tenants murmured between themselves.

"Shush! Quiet!" Rick ordered, trying to hear the announcer.

"We repeat, Onslaught has been destroyed, but at a great cost. Captain America and the rest of the Avengers, as well as Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four are among the many heroes missing and presumed dead. Member of the mutant groups known as X-men, X-Factor, X-Force, as well as other witnesses are currently being questioned to find out what exactly happened during those last few moments. Our on the spot reporter who witnessed the events says that the missing heroes actually went into the space where Onslaught was, moments before the mutants attacked. We will continue to be live, giving you the news as it comes in."

The apartment and the hallway fell silent, as each person came to terms with the loss. Rick slumped onto the couch in the room, his thoughts finally thinking of Sleepwalker. {Was I in time? Did Sleepy make a difference? Could he have made a difference?}

{Sleepwalker! What happened out there? The Mindscape just shook like a heard of nightmares stampeded by!} Key'lur confronted Sleepwalker as he left the portal to Rick's mind.

{I believe the threat to the Mindscape has been removed,} Sleepwalker replied, shaken by what he saw. Even though he had only met the Avengers once, and they had been on opposite sides of the law at the time, their impact on New York was well known to him, and he had just witnessed their deaths. {I did not confirm that it was Onslaught, but from what I witnessed, I believe that this Onslaught was the threat, and he is now dead.}

{I don't believe you Sleepwalker. Can't you feel it? The Mindscape is still trembling. I have also heard from those watching the Astral Plane; they say that the Astral Plane has split in two! Never have they witnessed such a thing.}

{The Astral Plane split? How can that be? I was certain Onslaught was the cause, and I did witnessed his death. As soon as Rick goes back to sleep, I shall return to Earth and investigate,} Sleepwalker said.

{Very well, I shall-} Key'lur stopped speaking, staring at something behind Sleepwalker.

Sleepwalker turned around and froze as well. Approaching at an incredible speed, was the largest, most chaotic Mindstorm either has ever witnessed. Before either of them can react, tendrils of the storm had already reached around them, sealing off their escape.

{That isn't like any Mindstorm I have ever seen,} Key'lur commented. Sleepwalker didn't say a word. Seeing no other escape option open, he grabbed Key'lur's hand and pulled her to the portal into Rick's mind.

He made it in easily, but just as he was pulling in Key'lur, the Mindstorm's winds grabbed her. Try as he might, he wasn't strong enough to overcome the powerful winds. He tried to brace himself as best as he could to pull harder, but it seemed as hard as he pulled, the Mindstorm pulled twice as hard. He soon felt his grip beginning to slip.

{Key'lur!} he shouted out as he lost his grip and she was torn away. Rushing to the portal, he could see no sign of her in the winds and energy tendrils of the storm.

He flattened himself against the bottom of the portal to avoid an invading tendril of the storm. Looking over his shoulder, he could see the invader disappearing deep into Rick's mind. Casting one last look into the Mindstorm, he left the portal and started trailing the invader. His concern about the damage it might cause in Rick's mind overriding his feelings about his lost companion.

Rick returned to his apartment, still somewhat shocked by the news of the death of the Heroes. He, as well as many other tenants, had stayed in the Epstein's apartment for hours after the battle, supporting each other in their mourning for as long as they could. Eventually, the miserable atmosphere in the apartment had finally got to him, and he left. Glancing at his window, he noticed the map was gone.

{Hope you were able to make a difference, Sleepy,} he thought, walking to the window, and looking out. The sun was just breaking over the shell shocked city. The few people on the street walked about with dazed expressions on their faces, many with tears on their faces. Police, Fire, Rescue and repair crews moved mechanically through the streets, doing the job they knew they had to do.

Rick noticed his faint reflection in the window. He raised a hand to rub his chin. "Shoot, I ran out of blade-OW!" he shouted in pain, feeling something scratch his chin. Lifting up his hand, he found each finger was tipped with a claw.

Rushing to the mirror, he stared dumbfounded at his reflection. His face was covered in a light covering of grayish fur, black around the eyes. Red lines under his chin indicated where he had scratched himself. His ears were still in the same spot, but they had become pointed. His nose was black, and pointing out further from his face than he was used to. Before he could examine his hands again though, a wave of dizziness briefly overcame him.

Looking into the mirror after the wave passes, he could see no real differences in his face. His nose had moved outward more, taking his mouth with it and forming a small muzzle. The scratches on his chin had disappeared, leaving only a few drops of drying blood on the chin fur. The fur had gotten thicker too, while the hair on his head was shorter and darker. His ears still hadn't moved, but they were definitely more pointed. Examining his hands, he found his fingers slightly shorter than before, but still usable. Gray fur ran up his arms, and across his chest.

"ARGH! Get them off! Get them off!" a scream echoed through the corridor.

Running out, he saw Mrs. Epstein screaming, pulling at a feathered hat on head. Rick did a double take and realized that she wasn't wearing a hat. The brownish feathers she was pulling at were attached to her head. Confused murmuring fills the halls as others noticed what is happening to themselves and others. Rick saw the lady from Apartment 2B, apparently turning into some sort of husky, going to comfort Mrs. Epstein.

"All right people, let's move on," the Husky's husband, apparently some sort of sheep dog, said, shooing people back into their apartments.

Rick left the hallway and returned to his room, his mind trying to come to terms with the return of Sleepwalker, the death of the heroes and now this Change. His step barely faltered as another wave of dizziness overcame him and a ringed tail grew. Rambo took one look at his master, and, deciding all the strangeness that night was too much, hid under the bed.

Alyssa! He suddenly remembered. He reached for the phone. At first he feared the phones hadn't been fixed, but the fears died away as he heard the dial tone. He dialed the number from memory and slammed the phone down when he heard the busy signal.

He looked out the window at the sunlit city. He didn't notice another surge which cover his arms and legs in fur. "OK, it's just a few blocks to Alyssa's house... it's not that far..." he said to himself. He got dressed as well as he could with his new form, his thoughts more on his girlfriend than on his own changes. He paused at the door to his apartment, seeing Rambo's leash.

"Do you want to come boy?" he asked the dog, still hiding under the bed. Rambo paused for a moment, then slunk out from his hiding spot. Rick snapped the leash on Rambo's collar, and together they left the apartment building.

Outside, the streets were nearly deserted. The few people on the street were all some sort of mixture of human and animal. The few stores that were open, were nearly deserted. A newsstand on the corner already had the new Daily Bugle, trumpeting the news of the death of the Heroes. Rick ran by, Rambo on his heels, not sparing the paper a second look.

Reaching the apartment of his girlfriend, Rick started pounding on the door. "Alyssa? You in there? It's me, Rick," he shouted.

The door slowly opened, revealing a humanoid hawk with wings on her back. "Is that really you, Rick?" a shaky voice asked.

Rick was momentarily taken aback, but he quickly recovered. "Yes it --" He needed to stop as the figure jumped at him. He let go of Rambo's leash in surprise.

"Rick, what's happened? What is going on? First the heroes die, now this... What else can happen?" she sobbed into his chest. Rick held her tightly, noticing that she was lighter than he remembered her.

"I-- I don't know what's going on, but we'll get through this, if all else fails, we've got an ace up our sleeves," Rick said, trying to comfort her and guide her into the apartment. Rambo followed them in.

"What? What do you mean?" Alyssa asked, looking up past her beak into his furred face.

"He's back."

"Him? But I thought he died!"

"He disappeared when I woke up in that graveyard, like he usually did."

"But if he's back, then what are you going to do? The last time he was here he ruined your life and our relationship." Alyssa said.

"I don't know if there's much I can do, except trust him. Despite everything, he is honorable; if I told him to leave me alone, I'm sure he would."

"Then tell him to!" Alyssa shouted. She paused for a second, sitting on the edge of the couch, her wings spread slightly behind her. She saw Rick looked uncertain. "Rick, we've finally got our lives straightened out from the last time he was here, do you want to put that in risk again? Especially after everything that happened today?"

"I know that, Alyssa, but all things considered, after everything that happened today, do I have the right to deprive the world of his services? The heroes are gone, Al, and they aren't coming back. Look who we've got left. A bunch of vigilantes who I don't know if I'd trust, Spiderman, and those Mutants, who just might've been the ones who killed those heroes. Sleepy might not be much better than those others, but I'd feel better knowing he's out there, watching our backs, than some of those others," Rick explained.

Alyssa sighed, and conceded defeat. "Fine, but I want to talk to him."

"Talk to him? But you know he can only come out when I'm asleep!"

"Then go to sleep," Alyssa said in a no nonsense voice.

"Go to sleep? I can't drop down and fall asleep. I could barely do it in normal times, and you expect me to do it now?"

"Rick, We need to find out why Sleepy's here, and if he's willing to help. And if he is going to help, then he needs to know the score. Now, shut up and go to sleep," Alyssa ordered.

Rick tried to say something else, but he suddenly felt extremely fatigued. He fought it as much as he could, but he quickly lost the battle. Eyes closed, he barely missed a surprised, fleeing Alyssa as he stretched out on the couch.

"Did I do that?" Alyssa asked herself staring down at the sleeping figure.

Sleepwalker tracked the invader from the Mindstorm through Rick's mind. The intruder often slipped away, but Sleepwalker always managed to pick up the trail again. Sleepwalker dived through a memory of an amusement park with Rick and Alyssa were walking down the boardwalk. Sleepwalker just saw the intruder disappear into the fun house. He dived into the fun house after it and stopped dead in his tracks.

In front of him was an energy barrier that he knew well. It was the border between Rick's conscious and unconscious mind. Sleepwalker had always slipped along this edge to escape Rick's mind at night, but he had never penetrated the barrier, even when he was under the thrall of Spectra's light ray. The intruder slipped inside without pausing.

Sleepwalker moved along the edge of the barrier, trying to see what the intruder was doing, but he was unable. Sleepwalker was still roaming when he felt the restraints preventing him from the physical realm fade away. After a quick pause, he decided that there is little he can do at the border, and rose out of Rick's mind.

"Rick was right. You have come back," a voice said from behind him once he has formed.

Turning, he saw some sort of humanoid bird standing beside a couch bearing a sleeping furred humanoid. {Excuse me, I somehow seemed to be in the wrong place. Could you tell me where I might find Rick Sheridan?} Sleepwalker asked the bird.

"That's him, asleep on the couch," the bird said.

{There seems to be a communication problem. I am looking for the Richard Sheridan who lives in New York City. He has a dog named Rambo.} Sleepwalker continued, looking around the room. He then saw Rambo lying on the floor in front of the couch, and got confused.

"And a girlfriend named Alyssa, you're in the right place, Sleepy. There have just been a few changes since last time you were here." The bird looked down at her feathered body. "Some of them stranger than others," she finished softly. "Come with me, Sleepwalker. I want to ask you some questions, and I am not letting you leave until you answer them."

She lead Sleepwalker into the kitchen where she had been brewing coffee. She poured herself a cup of copy, and stared at it, wondering, among other things, how she would drink it with a beak. Finally, she put the cup down and looked at the Mindscape alien. "All I want to know, is this. Why?"

Sleepwalker was confused. {Why what?}

Alyssa seemed to lose the control she had been using. Tears in her eyes, she started blurting out her questions. "Why did you come back? Why now? Why do you look like you always did, while I'm now a bird woman and Rick's some sort of raccoon? Why did the heroes need to die? Why is it villains always pick on New York? WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS RUIN OUR LIVES?"

Sleepwalker was still somewhat confused. He could answer some of those questions, but most were as much as a mystery to him as they were to Alyssa. He decided to answer what he could. He told her briefly why he was back on Earth, and all he had observed, including the heroes' final battle. He paused for a moment, then told her about the Mindstorm and the thing that had entered Rick's mind.

"So, not only does Rick have you in his head now, he's also got that... that whatever it was?" she asked, having recovered her control.

{Yes, that is right. I would take it out, but it is in a region of Rick's mind that I refuse to violate. I would suggest you watch his behavior, and see how that thing is affecting him. Do not worry, I will remove it as soon as I can find a way.}

Alyssa yawned, then closed her beak with a click. "I suppose you're right, I'll watch him like a hawk." She looked down at her body and realized the irony. "Go on, do whatever you need to do. I don't think Rick will be waking anytime soon. After last night, I don't think any of us want to wake up anytime soon..."

Sleepwalker went to say something else, but he noticed Alyssa had fallen asleep, standing up. The Mindscape alien quietly floated out of the kitchen and paused to look at Rick, sleeping peacefully on the couch. Finally, Sleepwalker left the apartment and, staying in the early morning shadows, started down the street. He suddenly realized he didn't know what he needed to do. He could go see Doctor Strange, and find out if Onslaught really was the cause of the Mindscape's problems, but Sleepwalker didn't even know where the Doctor lived. Besides, knowing that information would be useless until he could return to the rest of the Sleepwalkers, and that Mindstorm, which he could still sense was roaring just on the edge of the Mindscape, was preventing him from doing that.

Sleepwalker looked around himself. He found the lack of a cover of darkness to be unsettling, but he didn't want to waste this opportunity. Around him, no one gave him a second glance. The people of New York were slowly adjusting to a world of animal people without heroes. Two shocks within one day had left the Big Apple, and possibly the entire world, stunned.

Finally, he decided that his best course of action was still to find Doctor Strange, but he had know idea where to find the Doctor. Sleepwalker concluded that other Heroes might know and headed towards the ruins around Central Park where the remaining Heroes might be.

As he floated towards the park, staying in the shadows as much as possible, he noticed an Ambulance going in the same direction. When the ambulance stopped, Sleepwalker stayed back and watched from the shell of a building. A Saint Bernard morph was watching a section of the ruins intently, barely looking up as a hound dog morph and a bear morph got out of the ambulance. Sleepwalker saw a rat climb out of the ruins and walk over to the others. With a flash, it turned into a rat morph.

"There are three people down there, 2 kids and one bull morph. The bull's holding the wreckage off of the kids, but he's hurt and he's getting tired," the rat said.

"How are the ruins? Can we dig them out?" the Saint Bernard asked.

The rat shook her head sadly. "Those ruins are extremely unstable. I barely got in there and back. If we start digging, we'll likely bring what's left of the house down on them. I don't know what to do!"

Sleepwalker took that as his cue. {Let me help,} he said, floating down to the group.

"You!" the bear morph spat. "Come to take more minds, you monster?"

{No, I have come to help. Please move away.}

The bear looked defiant, until the rat touched him. "Please, those people down there are desperate. That thing might be just what we need to help get them out." The four rescuers move away from the pile. "Hurt one hair on those kid's heads though, and I personally will kill you," the Rat added coolly.

Sleepwalker ignored the threat and went to work. Using his warping eye beams, he started to carefully peel back the layers of rubble. He went slowly so as not to accidentally hit one of the trapped people with the beams. Finally, he revealed the three people and carefully formed a tower of rubble under them to lift them out of the ruins. The paramedics quickly ran over and examined the bull morph and the two human kids. All three were quickly loaded into the ambulance.

Sleepwalker, the rat morph and the Saint Bernard morph watched the ambulance drive away. As soon as it went around the corner, the rat turned to Sleepwalker. "Thanks," she said cooly before starting to walk down the street. "Come on, Louis, there are still people trapped that we need to rescue," she called over her shoulder. The other officer shifted to a full dog and started sniffing the air as he walked down the street.

{Wait! Could you tell me where-} Sleepwalker was cut off in mid-sentence as he faded away. The two rescue workers looked back, saw nothing.

To be continued... Maybe.



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