A City in Flames:
By four o’clock in the afternoon
Paragon’s Heroes had begun to get the crisis under control. The Hellions
were being taken into the police jail cells in droves. The reduction
in sheer numbers helped lessen the pandemonium the gang had begun,
but that was offset by the fact that the Hellions were getting stronger.
Large in numbers, the gang was still weak by comparison to many of
Paragon’s many criminal organizations. The fledgling Heroes in Atlas
Park and Perez Park often encountered them, but the Hellions rarely
strayed into the zones held by their more powerful counterparts. Rarely
challenging groups like the Warriors or the Outcasts, many battles
were occurring when the Hellions began stepping outside of their normal
boundaries. Before the Day of Fire, what the media had begun calling
the crisis, those battles would have been over quickly, the stronger
groups rolling over the Hellions easily. That had not turned out to
be the case.
Heroes had begun working together in ‘Fire Teams’, laboring
to quell the conflagration that much of Paragon had become. The Hellions
had been pushed back, contained in three zones of the City: Atlas
Park, Perez Park, and Steel Canyon. Where the remaining groups of
roving gang members rushed into buildings, Heroes fell upon them en
masse. When the Hellions actually got another fire going, those Heroes
that could fly were helping out the fire fighters by taking up hoses
and water guns developed so for them to fight the blazes above the
heights of the fire truck ladders.
All throughout Paragon, the results
of the burning spree the gang had waged was evident. Buildings smoldered
or continued to burn in Kings Row, the Hollows, and Talos Island.
More Heroes than perhaps had been seen since the Winter Lords attacked
the City during the winter snowstorms patrolled the streets and skies,
making sure all of the zones besides the three in which the Hellions
still fought were clear.
Members of the Onami Strike Force and Archangels
of the Apocalypse gathered in Steel Canyon, battling a group of Hellions
near the Green Line train station. Flames rocketed out of the windows
of a five story apartment building that was literally surrounded by
a mass of Hellions. PhoenixHawk hovered above the group, blasting
the leaders with bright blue bursts of energy. The air around him
shimmered through the protective force field that Thauma Guard wove
around the group members. Bullets rattled off of his chest armor,
bits of Kevlar and composite material chipping away like gnats in
the air around him.
Celsius Bane had recovered from the nearly point-blank
bomb explosion that had rattled him enough to send him to the hospital,
and was back in the fight. Standing in the middle of the group of
gang members, he had raised an ice-slick around him, causing the Hellions
within close range to slip and fall over one another. He struck out
about him with a blade formed of ice, smashing the crystalline weapon
down on the head of one of the Damned, knocking the boss from the
The Hellions lashed out almost as if possessed, using anything
from handguns, rocks, and their teeth to attack the Heroes. What would
have been considered an annoyance hours ago seemed to be a real problem
as the Hellions strength grew. A Fallen Gunner stepped forward from
the group, able to somehow keep his footing on the ice, and blasted
Celsius at close range. The shotgun boomed over the chaos of the battle.
Much of the buckshot was turned by the shield of flames Celsius surrounded
himself with, but not all. Enough penetrated to stagger the Hero.
PheonixHawk knocked the Gunner back with a shove of power, following
it up with small, quick blasts from each fists.
A green aura spread
out around Celsius as his wife, Skida Marink, enveloped him in her
The sheer number of Hellions, along with the scorching
heat of the building burning around them, was slowly becoming a problem.
PheonixHawk knew that eventually he and Celsius could inflict enough
damage on the gang members to subdue them, but the inferno behind
them, and the bombs he knew were in the building, made the matter
Thauma Guard and Skida Marink shared similar abilities
at manipulating dark energy, drawing power from what they described
as a ‘nether world’. The women spread out and drew on that dark power,
opening overlapping rifts in reality, summoning dark howling tentacles
from the ground that wrapped themselves around the legs of a large
group of the Hellions.
PhoenixHawk, seeing the gang members trapped
and struggling against the howling terrors, dropped into the middle
of them and spread his hands low, a wide patch of flames leapt up
from the ground. Celsius followed suit, opening another burning patch
close enough that nearly all of the trapped Hellions were now dealing
with the flames as well. PhoenixHawk leapt back out of melee range,
hovering above the Hellions, and was surprised to see that the gang
members were not quick to succumb to the attack, that they regained
themselves and once again lashing out at the Heroes in any way the
Something must be guarding them, giving them strength, he thought.
From over PhoenixHawk’s shoulder another wave of cerulean energy blasted
into the trapped Hellions. The NyteHawk landed near his former mentor,
slashing his hand backwards at the gang members, and arc of power
sending several sprawling.
The gunfire from the Hellions was answered
suddenly by a constant staccato as Father Stug opened up on the group
with his assault rifle, sending a long stream of slugs into the Hellions.
The power that sustained them protected them from the deadly effects
of the bullets, but not entirely from the impacts. Gang members spun
and dropped as the high velocity rounds slammed into them.
and Shadow Pain ran by and blinding speed. Both were difficult to
see from their skill at deception, moving as fast as they were it
was doubly hard.
“I told you we’d find them!” Shadow Pain said as
she sped past PhoenixHawk.
The tide of the battle quickly turned as
Shadow Pain and Kwang Ghe waded into the fray. Kwang Ghe’s hands and
feet lashed out at lightning speed, kicking and punching his way through
the group until he fought back to back with Celsius Bane. Shadow Pain’s
katana swept around in a wide arc, cutting a circular swatch around
PhoenixHawk dropped beside his sister, a blade of flames in his
hand. He leapt up in a circle similar to what she had just done, and
drove the flaming sword into the ground, the energy and flames spreading
out in burning shock wave around them. The combination of the two
attacks dropped six more Hellions to the pavement.
With the combined
might of the Heroes, it wasn’t long before this group of Hellions
was taken down. A team of firefighters moved in quickly, spraying
the burning apartment building from all sides.
“Keep your men back
as far as they can,” PhoenixHawk told their chief. “We can’t get in
there to defuse the bombs. There’s not telling how long they’ll hold
up before going off.”
“I think this building is going to be another
wash,” the chief said. “Not the first of the day, I’m afraid.”
probably not the last,” Celsius Bane said, joining the two.
Guard stepped away from the group, taking her cell phone from her
“We’re kind of in the middle of a crisis,” she said into the
phone. Her eyebrows went up, and she nodded once. “Ok, I’ll be right
“What’s up?” Skida asked.
Thauma shook her head, almost in
disbelief. “Azuria wants to see me at City Hall. Now.”
“Maybe it’ll be something to help us sort all of today’s mess out.”
“Maybe,” Thauma said. She spoke a word of magic, and leapt off to
the south, towards the tunnel to Atlas Park.
“Have you found out any
more about this Master?” PhoenixHawk asked the NyteHawk.
they believe they are gaining power from him.”
“They are,” Father
Stug said. “They are stronger than they’ve ever been.”
* * *
Guard walked under the three story high dome of Paragon City Hall,
the heels of her books clicking off the marble floor, echoing from
the dome above. Very few people were in the atrium aside from several
police officers guarding against any intrusion by the Hellions. A
sign over a hallway said “New Hero Assignments”, leading to offices
kept by the Federal Bureau of Superpowered Affairs. Each of the five
divisions of the Government agency was represented.
The Magi office
was lined with bookshelves. Books from recent theories of magic to
ancient tomes filled the office with a musty smell. Azuria sat at
the desk, next to which stood a slight woman in purple with flowing
“Numina,” Thauma Guard said, nodding to the legendary
empath. A member of the Freedom Phalanx, Numina’s physical form had
been destroyed years before, but her consciousness was so strong that
her astral body maintained its form. She also was a powerful seer.
Thauma waited several moments, wondering when she would find out the
point to be pulled away from her friends in the middle of the crisis.
“Well, what’s so important?”
“We have some matters to speak of,” Numina
“So I gathered. We’re kind of in the middle of a problem today,
in case you two didn’t notice. My group needs me.”
“They will need
this information as well,” Azuria said. “The lines of power are alive
throughout Paragon today. Something is pulling on them like a spider
on its web.”
“I believe so,” Numina said. “Power is
flowing along the lines of power to and from the Hellions. They have
spoken of their ‘Master’, which lends strength to the theory.”
“Perez,” Azuria said. “Somewhere blocked from us, but the lines lead
“When you get there, you should be able to trance the lines.
Feel them, they will lead you where you need to go.”
“What will we
find when we get there?”
“That is what we cannot see,” Numina said.
“But I believe it will be powerful. You should make sure your team
is well prepared.”
“We never rush into anything. Well, none of us
except Guido. If this thing is so dangerous, why isn’t your team taking
care of it? Where are Statesman and the rest?”
“Lord Recluse has been
stirring up trouble in the Rogue Isles. The Freedom Phalanx has moved
in that direction to keep the spider in check.”
Thauma turned towards
the door. “We’ll take care of it.”
“There is more,” Numina said. “The
visions your third eye gives you can be warnings of things to come.
Pay them heed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You will know when
the time comes. It will be years before you understand, but when we
meet again, you will understand what I mean. You must hold your team
together. When times seem dire, like you have lost everything, you
must hold true to one another.”
Thauma turned back and faced the astral
woman. “You drop that kind of bomb on me and expect me to leave it
Numina looked up into Thauma’s eyes. “It is all I can say.
I truthfully do not know more, or I would tell you. But my feelings
on this are true. You and the Onami Strike Force will face the darkest
of hours, yet you must remain”
Thauma read the truth in Numina’s gaze.
“We will always remain true to one another. More than honor binds