THE DARK AGE
By @Johnny Turbo
Infiltrating the Enemy
The story of The Challengers begins with Randy Cole, otherwise known as "The Nitedevil". The Nitedevil was a sentry in the night, and he formed the Frontline with The Havok Brothers. But over time, that team dissolved and the Havok Brothers were sent on a classified suicide mission by Portal Corp. Without them, the Nitedevil withered away. When Red-Havok emerged years later, Randy Cole had established an organization known as "Orthrus Inc." He adopted former Frontline operative Liquidus as the director of Orthrus, and former SCORPIO agent Azure Tracer as the second in command. Orthrus operated from the shadows, seeking ways to bring down supervillains and stop crime all together. Cole, now adopting the moniker "Mr. Shade", knew that a team of the greatest superhumans could help him in his mission, and with Red-Havok back, the idea could be put to use.
The Infiltrators were Shade's elite team of superhumans, originally composed of Red-Havok, Foxy Ferret, Johnny Turbo, Nimbus, Cyberman, The Masked Renegade, TJ Quake, and Orthrus agents Sable Falcon, Armaments, and the new Nitedevil, whom the team believed to still be Randy Cole. The Infiltrators were tasked with taking down Council refugee "Cyborg Sinister" who was a brilliant technopath having been cybernetically augmented as the prototype for the Cyberman project. Cyborg Sinister controlled his own sect of the Council through mechanical manipulation, controlling and using the AI "Warcry" to tap into every Council robot's programming and bring them under his control. In the Infiltrators first outing, they arrested Cyborg Sinister and brought down his rogue Council operation.
Cyborg Sinister was sent to the hyper-advanced Longbow prison Strongwall, while the Infiltrators began dealing with other threats. Eventually, Sinister's telepathy allowed him to gain control of the prison's systems and release himself. The Infiltrators arrived on the scene, but were only able to capture the Warcry AI. Cyborg Sinister escaped. The Infiltrators also helped Orthrus director Liquidus deal with the threat of Pumpkin Face and Ghost Face on a Rogue Isles facility. Elsewhere, Phanto and The Blacklist give the Infiltrators trouble, rising up and uniting to fight off the oppressive hero juggernaut.
Sinister is tracked to an underwater Crey lab in the Atlantic, where the Infiltrators discover he is seeking information on "dark matter". Afterwards, the Masked Renegade reveals he and Phanto's partner, "Deadwringer", are mortal enemies, connected since Renegade's early days in Praetoria. In a clash between them in Atlas Plaza, Renegade shields the entire city from destruction but is sucked into the "Dark Matter Zone" (a region beyond the galactic border) via a wormhole. He enters suspended animation, and Shade recruits Rave Spider to replace him as an Infiltrator. Rave Spider is tasked with hacking into Warcry and discovering possible locations and plans that Cyborg Sinister may be putting into action.
Meanwhile, Nimbus has his secret identity outed by Phanto, Ripjaw, Magus-Mask, and Skunkette. Shortly after, his former sidekick "Kid Cloud" is murdered. The Infiltrators help Nimbus protect his family, but he is forced to finally reveal his secret identity to the world. Rave Spider succeeds in hacking into Warcry and deduces Cyborg Sinister's probable location is in Guatemala, at an ancient Mayan Temple that houses an ancient machine known as the "Mass Eradicator".
The Infiltrators discover that the Mass Eradicator runs on dark matter and is effectively a doomsday device. Cyborg Sinister and his technopathy is the key to activating it. The Infiltrators know he is trying to activate it and destroy the world and spring into action, but they are surprised to find Exadeus, the scientist that discovered dark matter and was driven mad by it, and Phanto also there, hoping to gain control of the Mass Eradicator. They all begrudgingly work together to stop Cyborg Sinister and destroy the Mass Eradicator, but Phanto and Exadeus ultimately betray the Infiltrators. They fail though, and are defeated. The two of them then turn against one another.
Red-Havok executes Cyborg Sinister, believing him to be beyond rehabilitation, and Rave Spider quits the Infiltrators, having seen his boyhood idol commit such an atrocity. His departure leads the team to fall into disarray and gives Shade an opportunity to mobilize and attack Foxy Ferret's orphanage, in an attempt to capture the potent psychic Epilogue. Red-Havok and a few others, including Gadgix, work together to save Foxy's orphanage and beat back Shade's forces. Armaments seeks the truth about Shade's apparent genetic engineering of Havok, and is captured and put into stasis. The Infiltrators are all disavowed by Shade and marked as enemies.
Rave Spider strikes a deal with Exadeus to bring back the Masked Renegade from the Dark Matter Zone. Exadeus then supplies the mobsters "Powerlaser" and "Showtime" with dark matter weapons in exchange for them helping him hunt down Phanto. Armaments is released from stasis by Adaptor. Powerlaser uses his new dark matter weaponry to kill hero Coldcrash, former teammate of Rave Spider. In honor of him, Rave Spider goes on CNN with Donald Fitzer and attempts to kill any nasty rumors circulating about Coldcrash. Donald Fitzer steers the conversation towards the mysterious events in Guatemala and Rave Spider admits to working with a team, but then covering for their illegal operations with Orthrus by saying they are "The Challengers".
Longbow Agent Slate sees the interview about the Challengers and believes them to be an incredible team capable of amazing feats. Longbow abducts Johnny Turbo and forces him to recruit his former teammates for a mission to take down Phanto, who they believe is in possession of pieces from the Mass Eradicator. Knowing that such a task would be a challenge like no other, Longbow also hunted down the recently returned hero Xanatos to help lead the operation. Despite being retired, Xanatos agreed. Noting that Red-Havok was; "one of the few men he would follow into battle." The Challengers then go undercover to the Warriors fighting tournament "The Olympiad" where Athena and her guards Kratos and Bia force the undercover heroes to participate in brutal fights against other villains to progress through a tournament, which Phanto is believed to be supplying the prize for.
Red-Havok wins the tournament after many long battles, and comes face to face with Phanto, who reveals he wants the winner to join him and the supervillain group ERA, led by Sebastian Kain. Red-Havok then reveals his true intentions and he and Phanto battle it out. Longbow sends the remaining Challengers to assault Athena's Island, where Agent Slate reveals himself to be Deceiter, who was also the man behind Kid Cloud's death. Deceiter reveals he is working for Exadeus, and re-organized the Infiltrators to go after Phanto so that they could deal with him once and for all. Deceiter escapes, and the Challengers battle through Athena's Island, where they eventually find Havok, who has knocked out and captured Phanto.
Phanto is quickly intercepted and broken out by agents of ERA however, and Havok knows that this fight is only beginning. Villains are growing in number and will only get stronger. The world was up against impossible odds, and somebody needed to challenge those odds. Tired of being a puppet for "deceiters" and "liars" like Shade and Slate, Red-Havok opts to form his own team...The Challengers.