raised an eyebrow and said coolly, "You’re welcome." He stepped forward
and kneeled before the children, speaking to the gang boss. "We’ve
got to get out of here. The building’s not going to last much longer."
"Right." The Warrior stood up and the children clustered around his
legs. He regarded the blaster briefly. "Tropic, right?" The hero nodded.
"Yeah, Hyde," he introduced himself. "Let’s go." He took a step but
almost tripped over the kids that were practically hanging onto him.
Hyde looked down at their little soot covered faces. "We have to go!
We don’t have time for…" He stopped when he finally noticed the looks
of absolute terror on their faces. He looked at Tropic who had already
moved to the office’s smoky doorway. He looked back at the children
and said, "You, what’s your name?"
The little girl’s eyes opened wide
in surprise as she answered very matter-of-factly, "My name is Allison
and I’m four years old."
Hyde smiled in spite of himself. "Really?
Good, good. Who’s your favorite superhero?"
Tropic turned to the gang
leader, his brow furrowed in confusion.
Allison thought for a moment
then said, "I like Deep Phreeze."
"Yeah? What would she do to the
fire right now?"
"She’d…she’d make a giant ice cube and put it on
top of the building and when it melted all the fire would go out,
fwoosh!" the little girl explained, smiling at the thought her imagination
had conjured up.
Hyde nodded then turned to the little boy next to
Allison. "How about you? Who’s your favorite?"
"I like Statesman,"
the boy said and, not waiting for Hyde to ask, answered, "and he’d
just clap his hands and the fire would blow out!" The small fellow
clapped his hands together for emphasis.
"Wow!" Hyde nodded. He looked
at the last child, another little boy, and pointed at him. "Your turn."
The youngster was already talking before Hyde finished speaking. "Synapse
would run around the building real fast and the fire would float up
into the air and then go away and then we’d go have ice cream."
cream?" Hyde smiled. "Ok," he looked directly at Tropic and pointed.
"Ya see this hero here?" The children all nodded vigorously. "Well
this here is Tropic and he’s real good friends with Deep Phreeze,
Synapse and Statesman." Hyde smiled broadly at the shocked expression
on the hero’s face.
"Yes, he is," Hyde continued as the children
stared intently at Tropic. "And if you guys do exactly what we say
and follow us out of here, he’s gonna introduce you to them."
Tropic raised an eyebrow at the Warrior leader. "I don’t kn…," he
began then noticed the looks on the kid’s faces. Fear had been replaced
with hope: a hope to meet their superhero idols. The blaster sighed
heavily. He gathered himself, standing taller and putting his hands
on his hips, trying to adopt his best super pose. "That’s right, kids,"
he said with enthusiasm, "but first we have to get out of this building!
Can I count on you?" he exclaimed, pointing his finger at them.
the children answered quietly.
"What’s that? I can’t hear you!"
they shouted with a bit more conviction.
"Oh, you can do better than
"YES!" they screamed.
"Ok, now, you have to do exactly what
we say, all right?" Tropic looked at each of them in turn as they
nodded their little heads. He angled his head at the Warrior boss.
"Right. I have point, kids in the middle, you’re behind. We have to
go, right now." The fiery hero’s voice was hard and commanding and
Hyde could only agree.
Tropic lead them out of the office. The hall
was full of smoke and underneath many of the doors they passed a telltale
orange glow flickered. "We’re on 16, right?"
"14," Hyde answered.
"I got them down two floors before we had to stop."
"Stairs." He opened the door and the stairwell was full of smoke.
He tossed a ball of fire down the center of the stairway and the smoke
dissipated slightly. He looked back at his charges and saw the looks
of fear beginning to form. Tropic kneeled and looked the children
squarely in the eyes. "Don’t worry. We just have to go down some steps."
He smiled. "It’s going to be fine." He stood and stared at Hyde. "Let’s
go," and one by one they began down the steps.
On the 12th floor,
Ms. Moxie had almost cleared out the Hellions. Their boss, a Damned
named Necrosis, was being exceptionally troublesome. The blasts of
fire he attacked her with didn’t harm her, really. But he just would
not stand still and he would not go down. They had played a game of
cat and mouse throughout the floor and Moxie was getting tired of
it. And she also knew that the building would not last much longer.
She rounded a corner and stared into a large reception area. Four
square columns rose to the ceiling, their tops now concealed in a
swirling mass of dark smoke. Moxie pressed her back against the wall
at the entrance and crouched low, scanning the big room for movement.
She knew that the Hellion would never pass the chance to take out
a hero, even in the midst of this blaze.
So she waited for him to
come to her.
She saw Necrosis finally as he crept stealthily into
the reception area from one of its hallways. Moxie paused for a moment
then stepped from her hiding place at the area’s entrance. The Hellion
boss caught sight of her. The tanker stood shock still and beckoned
to him with her hand then she disappeared from his line of sight.
Necrosis fired a few blasts of flame at her but she had slid around
the corner. Every time he had her sighted, she would move out of view,
making it impossible for him to connect with his blasts.
kept taunting him, leading the villain on, until finally she reached
the office she had been searching for. She peered from around the
corner, allowed him to get a brief glimpse of her, then back behind
the wall. The heroine smiled as she gazed through the huge hole in
the buildings side. She had lead the Hellion right back to the room
the battle had started in.
Moxie needed to be there. The rest of his
gang lie unconscious about the room and the hole was a most convenient
escape route. She heard his heavy steps coming closer. Suddenly he
appeared in the doorway. Ms. Moxie struck hard and fast, jab, cross,
hook, uppercut, rocking the gang leader. She grabbed his dirty black
vest and roughly dragged him into the room and threw him against the
wall so violently the plaster cracked, leaving an outline of his body
and dazing him momentarily.
"It’s over for you," Ms. Moxie growled.
"This sick game you’re playing is finished."
The Hellion sneered.
"Is it?" Necrosis cackled.
Moxie raised an eyebrow. "What? What are
you talking about?" She slammed him once more into the wall. "Tell
me or you’re going out that hole." The tanker grinned a feral little
grin and began to drag the gang boss towards the opening.
lip curled. "It doesn’t matter. Nothing you can do will stop us…or
this building from going up! Nothing is finished. Nothing."
stared into the eyes of her foe. She turned her head, staring sidelong
at him. "What have you done?" she whispered.
"Bombs. Lots of them.
Everywhere. Every floor." Necrosis whispered, looking at a clock hanging
above the desk on the opposite side of the office. "And there’s no
time for you to do anything at all," he laughed.
"But…but why?" Moxie’s
eyes widened in horror as what the gang boss was telling her began
to sink in.
"Death is our gift." He said it calmly, devoid of any
emotion or humanity.
Ms. Moxie pulled the Hellion to her, her hands
gripping the front of his vest and lifting him so his toes barely
touched the floor. "Keep it," she hissed through clenched teeth and,
with a flick of her wrists, tossed Necrosis out the office door and
at least ten feet down the corridor. Then she zoomed from the broken
building to the street below crying out, "CHIEF! CHIEF! GET YOUR PEOPLE
The fire captain almost jumped out of his skin as the heroine
landed beside him. "What? Why? What’s happened?"
"Bombs! Lots of them!
No time to…just get your people out of there!"
The chief immediately
began calling out to his men, shouting for them to abandon the fire.
The radio became alive with chatter as the new threat was realized.
He watched as his men fell back, as the police called in their bomb
and crisis teams.
Ms. Moxie watched as the fire crews retreated, trying
as best she could to stay out of their way. It was then she noticed
something. "Chief!" she called. "Where’s Tropic?" she asked as the
man turned to her.
The fire captain stared at her for a moment then
turned to stare at the building, now almost fully involved in flame.
"He’s still in there," he said simply.
Moxie fixed her gaze at the
burning structure. "What? He has to get out of there before…" She
was cut off by a huge explosion near the top of the building. Looking
up she could see the top floors billowing smoke and fire into the
Paragon City sky. Then boom, boom, boom; a quick succession of blasts
on different floors at different locations. "Oh, no," she whispered.
Inside the building, in the stairwell at the fifth floor,
the little group paused for a moment. As they had came closer to the
ground, the flame and smoke had lessened. "Fire burns up," the blaster
had explained and he had become more and more confident that they
had passed the worst of it.
But when they had reached this floor he
could feel the heat from behind the fire door. Looking down the rest
of the flights of stairs, Tropic could see waves of heat radiating
outward like the asphalt on an Arizona highway.
"What’s the problem?"
the Warrior asked breathlessly. The children gathered about them,
looking up into the swirling smoke they had just come through then
into the heat below them.
Tropic cocked his head at Hyde. "It’s burning
down there. I can take it, but you and the kids…" He lowered his voice.
"We might be stuck."
Hyde looked below him and sighed. Suddenly, a
series of explosions rocked the building causing the little group
to almost loose their footing. The children cried out in surprise
and Hyde and Tropic had to reach out to the wall to steady themselves.
"This building is gonna go!" Hyde exclaimed.
Tropic nodded. The decision
had been made for them. "All right. Let’s get moving." He looked into
the faces of his charges. "We’re going to make it. We just have to
be very fast."
"TROPIC!" Ms. Moxie shouted as explosions rocked the
tall building. She started to run toward the entrance but the fire
chief grabbed hold of her arm.
"NO! Miss, you can’t." He looked up
at the structure. The tall building was burning like a Roman candle.
Ms. Moxie turned to him, her face a mask of anger and concern. The
chief cleared his throat. "If he’s in there I don’t…I think…The whole
building is fully involved now." He shook his head sadly and looked
at the double door entrance to the dying building. Thick black smoke
flowed freely from it now. "We’ll find them."
Moxie stared at the
entrance shaking her head. "What? They can’t be…I won’t accept that.
If there was a way to get…What’s that?"
She and the fireman focused
on the smoke churning out of the entrance. Slowly a form began to
take shape. Ms. Moxie started to laugh as Tropic, the Warrior boss
and three small children became visible through the thick vapor. "I
guess they found us, huh, chief?" Moxie smiled.
Crews still sprayed
water and foam on the smoldering building. Tropic and Ms. Moxie did
what they could but in the course of things found it better to stay
out of the way. The children had been reunited with their tearful
parents and thanks were offered to anyone who would listen. Hyde,
the Warrior leader, sat on the edge of one of the decorative pools,
draped with a generic blanket the fire department always seemed to
have at these emergencies, breathing deeply from an oxygen mask and
surrounded by his underlings.
Ms. Moxie sighed. "You live around here,
Tropic nodded, his eyes fixed on the Warrior boss, and said
absently, "Yes. Over the river, near the statue…huh? Why?" he asked,
finally paying attention to what she had asked.
"Well," she answered
with a raised eyebrow, "I look awful. I need a shower and I need something
to wear." The heroine looked down at her ruined costume. "I can’t
fly around the city like this." She saw his crooked smile then added,
"Plus…you stink." She began to hover, ready to go.
smiling. "All right. Just give me a second." He hovered slightly above
the ground and moved to where Hyde was sitting.
The Warrior’s crew
saw the hero coming toward their leader and stepped in front of him,
already drawing their weapons to protect him. With a gesture of his
hand, Hyde called them off and they moved to positions behind him,
still eyeing the hero warily.
"You get a free pass today, cape," the
Warrior boss said as Tropic came to a stop before him. "Because I’m
just to freaking tired to give a damn."
Tropic grinned. "Fine. But
let me tell you something." He looked over his shoulder to where the
children were, all in the arms of their families, mothers and fathers
crying in gratitude and relief. Hyde followed his gaze and grinned
slightly. "There are more things in this world than what you know.
You just have to open your eyes."
The fiery hero inclined his head
to the gang boss and then he joined the heroine. Together they took
to the air, gaining speed as they flew over the river.
them go and sighed. "I need a drink."
His lieutenant grinned. "Right.
I know where there’s this truck. Fulla brew, man. All we gotta do
"No," Hyde cut him off. He looked over at the children and Allison
smiled broadly at him. He looked to the sky at the retreating forms
of Tropic and Ms. Moxie. "I’m buying."