A City in Flames:
He had a loud
ringing in his ears. His head spun, his memory coming back slowly.
Newly recruited to the Hellions, his bosses had sent them out en masse
to destroy and burn Paragon City to the ground. The capes seemed to
come out by the hundreds, but that didn’t stop them.
his group had entered had gone up like a candle. His vision was returning,
and he could see the flames leaping from the upper floors, reaching
for him, smoke billowing out above the conflagration, but something
didn’t feel right. His arms were being pulled up over his head, but
nothing was touching them, and his ankle was killing him. The smoke
didn’t seem right either. The flames seemed to be burning down towards
him. And what the hell were the cars doing flying upside through the
air? Why was the street up above him, and the people, so far away,
walking upside down, almost as if they were on a ceiling. Why were
the clouds down below his feet, and . . . HOLY CRAP!
stood on the edge of the building, his right arm straining under the
weight of his captive, one of the Hellions that had lit the blaze
in this office building. One of the many office buildings that made
up Steel Canyon, he and Father Stug stood on the roof twenty floors
up, amongst the scattered and unconscious forms of the gang members.
“Wake up,” NyteHawk said, shaking his captive. The thick muscles in
his black-skinned arm bulged under the strain of holding a man suspended
over the edge of the roof by the ankle. His veins pumped glowing blue
energy through the Blaster’s body, the same energy radiating from
under the shroud that covered his head and his glowing blue eyes.
Finally the Hellion started to stir, then the realization of his predicament
hit him and he started to thrash.
“Don’t struggle,” NyteHawk said.
“I don’t know if I can hold you while you flail around, and if I can’t,
I’ll just let you fall.”
The thrashing ceased.
“Let me down!” The
“Yeah,” Father Stug said. “Let him down. Just drop
him and let’s go. I’m bored.”
“Not until you tell me what the hell
is going on,” NyteHawk told his prisoner. “Why are the Hellions setting
the city on fire?”
“B.b.b.b.because….death is our gift?” the gang
“What does that mean?”
The Hellion started to stammer
through the response again, but the NyteHawk silenced him with a quick
shake. A red aura sprung from the Hero’s black hand, followed by a
subtle, but discernable, crack. The Hellion screamed in pain.
was a hairline fracture of one of the bones in your shin,” NyteHawk
said. “The next time I squeeze will be a compound fracture. That will
leave only one bone and some flesh holding your foot to your leg,
and holding your body from the twenty-floor drop onto your head. If
I have to squeeze again after that, the last bone will snap, and only
muscle and ligaments will be supporting your entire body weight. I
can’t guarantee, or even think, that your foot will be able to withstand
the weight. Most likely it will just rip off, and you’ll drop, leaving
a trail of blood behind you. Of course, it will only hurt until you
hit the ground. You can save yourself that fall by telling me what
is going on.”
“I don’t know! I’m just doing what they said.”
A loud clack sounded as a round jacked into
the chamber of an advanced assault rifle. “This guy doesn’t know squat,”
Father Stug said. “Let me shoot him and we can move on to another
group. Let the firefighters get in here. There are more buildings
“Buildings will continue to burn until we find out why they
are being torched, and put a stop to that,” NyteHawk replied.
until we cap every Hellion in the city, which sounds like a better
plan to me.”
“But much more time consuming, and too many buildings
will be lost.”
“Yeah, but it would be a lot more satisfying to do
it my way,” Father Stug said. A diminutive man, he had entered the
priesthood and been helping run a church in Perez Park, before the
gang violence took over the area. The Hellions had broken into the
church, bent on some evil ritual that was supposed to bring about
‘Hell on earth,” which was, at the time, their highest goal. Father
Stug and the others in the church had resisted, and most had died.
One of the Hellions Bosses, known as the Damned, had attacked the
small priest, scorching him with a series of fireballs, incinerating
much of the priest’s upper body. Stug had lost both arms to the attack,
but doctors had replaced them with robotic prosthetics, stronger and
more agile than his original hands. His face he hid in a mask under
a large brimmed hat, but the scars there couldn’t match those in his
mind. He had never recovered, instead taking up arms and devices against
the Hellions and Paragon’s other gangs in the process. The ‘justice’
he dealt out was swift and final. Often considered a rogue by the
Hero Corp, Father Stug, called “Guido” by some because the hat and
priest’s collar made him look like an old television character from
the seventies, had met the NyteHawk while prowling the streets one
night. The cold-blooded streak both had immediately sparked a friendship,
and NyteHawk had talked PhoenixHawk and Thauma Guard into inviting
Guido into the Onami Strike Force. Sometimes hard to keep on a leash
during missions, often running in before the rest of the group was
ready, every member of the Onami knew they could always count on Guido,
Father Stug gone bad, to watch their backs.
“Should we just do things
his way?” the NyteHawk asked the Hellion.
“Then tell me why
you are burning Paragon down.”
“I don’t know!” The gang member was
almost begging. “They sent us out to burn and destroy buildings. They
said that every fire, every life, fed the Master more, and meant more
power for us in the future. They said we would be the most powerful
gang in Paragon if we burn enough buildings down.”
The strain of holding
the man’s weight at arms length was beginning to wear on the NyteHawk.
A light sheen of sweat beaded on his forehead, he could feel it run
down past his eyes.
“Who is this Master?”
“I don’t know that either!
That’s what they called him, ‘The Master’. They just said death would
be our gift to The Master.”
The NyteHawk flicked his wrist and the
Hellion spun off to the right, landing in a heap on the rooftop amongst
his fallen comrades.
“You’re on your way to the Zig,” The NyteHawk
said. “When you get out, I’d suggest you never put on gang colors
again. If I find you in Hellions garb again, I’ll let him have you,”
he nodded towards Father Stug.
The two Heroes leapt from the rooftop,
sailing to the ledge of another office building a hundred yards away.
Much of the fire that had taken Guido’s arms had also damaged his
muscular system. The Technology used to replace his arms had also
augmented his legs, allowing him to match the super leaps NyteHawk
made through use of a magic spell his sister, Thauma Guard, had taught
“PhoenixHawk, you busy?” The NyteHawk said into the team communicator.
The leader of the Onami Strike Force answered right away.
out of a building here in Atlas Park,” PhoenixHawk’s voice replied.
“Celsius went to the hospital, but I suspect he’ll be back in the
fight in an hour or so. Skida went with him. Tropic headed back to
Talos to meet his team, so Thauma and I are moving towards the Hollows.
What’s up in Steel?”
“Guido and I just questioned a brand-new Hellion
after we put his group down. He says someone called ‘The Master’ ordered
the Hellions Bosses to put the city to the torch. ‘Death is our gift’
supposedly refers to the power The Master gains from the destruction.”
“How is this Master gaining power through the fires?” PhoenixHawk
asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t know, and neither did
my new friend.”
“What did Guido have to say to all of this?”
‘let me shoot him. I’m bored.’”
“That sounds like Guido.”
looked at his small companion, but Guido was looking around for more
fires, more Hellions to fight, oblivious to the conversation going
on around him. Having started the day with Nova 1 in Independence
Port, he had gotten bored with the lack of anything of interest occurring.
The Family had tightened their grip when the Hellions went berserk,
making sure to keep their followers in line, knowing the city’s Heroes
would be out in droves. The Port being mostly quiet, Father Stug had
moved into Steel Canyon to meet up with the NyteHawk.
blocks a loud explosion rolled out. The buildings shook with the shock
wave, the ground rumbling underfoot.
“Looks like we’ve got more work
to do,” Guido said.
“Get to it,” PhoenixHawk told his teammates. “If
you can find out anything more about The Master, let me know. I’ll
start poking around that myself.”
The police in Paragon City had sent
out messages over every news broadcast and radio station, requesting
the citizens to remain in their homes, unless that home came under
the eye of the rampaging Hellions. Most people had heeded that warning,
but not all. A crowd was fleeing the falling debris around the building
where the bombs had just gone off. Paramedics were tending to police
officers and civilians alike who had been blown about by the blast,
or ripped open by flying shrapnel. A block over the flames from yet
another building could be seen.
While the police were trying to contain
the damage being done by the Hellions, the Outcasts, who ruled Steel
Canyon’s crime market, had taken the opportunity to fill their pockets
with goods from stores being neglected by the distracted police force.
Where they encountered the roving packs of Hellions, fights broke
out, gang member shooting at one another with hand guns, or the lieutenants
blasting back and forth with enhanced powers. The Outcast Shockers
letting loose with jagged bolts of electricity, only to have the fires
of Hell thrown back at them.
Members of the Hero Corp fell amidst
the embattled gang members, but more and more fights seemed to be
popping up. Paragon City had once again become a war-zone.
and Guido landed at the base of the bombed building, not stopping
or slowing down as they burst through the front door. The first floor
was empty with the exception of a single Hellion guard who hadn’t
seen the Heroes enter. A crashing blow from the butt of Guido’s assault
rifle had put the gang member on the floor.
The second and third floor
had bombs planted on them. Father Stug had become somewhat of an expert
at destructive devices, and easily disarmed the two timers attached
to the barrels of explosive fuel. The fifth floor held a small group
of Hellions, who fired weapons at the oncoming Heroes. Bullets pinged
off of Father Stug’s robotic arms, but a grenade launched from the
former priest’s rifle sent the group sprawling. The NyteHawk sent
blast after blast of bright blue energy at the Hellions, taking two
down as they tried to regain their feet. One Hellion rolled to his
feet, blasting the Heroes with a shotgun. The NyteHawk leapt at the
man, the red nimbus surrounding his fist at it crashed into the Hellion’s
face, sending the gang member flying backwards into a wall. The Hellion
hit the wall and landed with a dull thud in an un-moving heap.
building shook violently as more bombs went off on higher floors.
Slowly, more cautiously that Father Stug would have liked, the two
Heroes made their way up, fighting several groups from floor to floor.
The bodies of dead office workers could be seen in a few rooms, and
graffiti that looked as though it were written in blood covered walls
on three of the floors. It took quite a while, but eventually the
Heroes cleared the building of the violent gang members.
left to question, the two Heroes moved from the building, going in
search of the next crisis spot.
Sitting in darkness in the basement
of a burnt out church, Xeqatl fed on the lines of power, drawing energy
from every life taken throughout the city by his minions’ rampage.
His body, which had recently belonged to one of the leaders of the
Hellions, was covered in the blood of the Circle of Thorns mystic
who had been responsible for opening the doorway from Hell for him.
The mystic and Hellion had both thought to control Xeqatl, foolish
mortals that they were. It had been nothing more than a flick of his
mind to take the Hellion’s body, put the Circle mystic down and feed
on his corpse. The Hellions who had accompanied their Boss had easily
been swayed to do his bidding, and carried his message, and power,
into Paragon. Every follower of the Hellions, and even those who added
to their sacrifices unknowingly, passed energy and life force into
Xeqatl. He in turn fed a portion of that power back to his minions,
making them stronger, more able to fight the Heroes of Paragon than
the Hellions had ever been before. Death truly was the gang’s gift
to him, and he in turn gave them the gift of power. Soon the symbiotic
relationship would blossom, and Xeqatl would be able to leave the
basement where he dwelt, and move into the sunlight. After that, Hell
would come to Paragon City, and to all of the Earth.