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Chapter 13: Not In This Alone, Kad

Praetorian Earth, five minutes later

    “I-I’m telling you the truth! His fortress is just two miles that way! I swear it!” The Praetorian soldier shouted, dangling several hundred meters above the bay where Valor Bridge was on Primal Earth.
    The man in brown, holding him by his right ankle, stared at him intently. He wasn’t lying, which was a plus. However, Kadmon was hardly in anything that could be considered a good mood. “I believe you. However, you know that I’m here, and the last thing I’d want would be more of Tyrant’s men coming to interrupt my job here. I would hope you understood, but in truth I don’t care either way. Goodbye.”
    A look of pure terror spread across the soldier’s face, “No! Please!” The hero’s arm swiftly elevated above his head, then shot back down, catapulting the helpless soldier into the water below. Without even looking back, he took off to the east. He would storm the fortress, kill anything that got in his way, and return with Sera before the night was out.
    Kadmon stood in the ruins of Praetorian Earth’s Kings Row. A large raised portion of Oranbega had gutted the district’s center. It clashed against the more modern architecture of the zone around it, sticking out rather plainly against the destroyed buildings. His eyes burned with brilliant green flame as he looked upon it. Sera was in there, he could feel her mind reaching out, trying to find a means of escape. Ombra was there too, but no longer did his force cause that sickening sense of vertigo. Now it awakened a terrible rage deep within the hero, one that he struggled to suppress just enough so that he could think clearly. Between him and his friend, there were scores of armored ghost warriors. Lightning struck into Kadmon’s hand, and Sturm gained form from it.
    From within the citadel, Kadmon could hear Sera’s mind calling for help. He could hear her crying, wishing that she had the power to resist the spell she was being used to fuel. Across the expanse of the psychic plane, the swordsman did his best to answer her. “I am coming. Nothing can or will stop me, of that you can be certain. I need only for you to hold on, Sera. If I know that you have hope, it will give me all the power that I need to tear this place to pieces.”
    Though quiet at first, her answer came to him. “Kadmon, I don’t have the strength that you do. With what I have I can’t hold against Ombra’s magic.” He could hear her sobbing against the background noise of her troubled mind, “I have faith, though. I believe in your strength, and that is all that I need to continue on.”
    “That knowledge brings me no end of joy. I will give you a gift, something to help you hold onto your faith. Open your mind to mine, allow my thoughts to mingle with your own, let my strength sustain you. Have no fear, take all the power that you need from me.” The instant his message reached her, there was an interruption in the flow of power exiting the ancient walls of the risen city. Prima Ombra could tell something was wrong. No, he knew that more than simply a vague ‘something’ was wrong. The monster that was Kadmon’s duplicate could feel that his plan had just run into a major snag, to say the very least. From the mound of rubble where he now stood, Kadmon counted a dozen armors guarding the entrance. The only thing that stopped him from charging then and there was the familiar crack of a portal opening nearby.
    “You didn’t think we were going to just let you do this alone, did you?” The familiar snarky voice of Jack Zodiac came out over the portal, “Seriously, why would we just up and let you have all the fun?” Behind him stood Feral Kat, Tayuya, Stampead, MadBorg, Thomas Vesper, Atomic No. 90, Max Kampfer, Miss Informed, Icey Guy, Mjolnir, Dbomb, Thor’s Assassin, and no fewer than a dozen other heroes. “Honestly, storming a fortress by yourself? That’s reckless even for a Scrapper!”
    Kadmon didn’t acknowledge him for a minute. He was still thinking of the best way to get in there by himself. Unfortunately for him, ignoring the people behind him wasn’t going to make them go away. “I don’t need help.”
    “Yeah, well, you’ve got it now,” Stampead said, slapping the shorter hero’s shoulder, “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime fights, Kad. I don’t know about all of these guys, but you know I can’t pass up violence on this scale!” There was a grin with a touch of insanity on Stamp’s face. This, he knew, was par for the course, of course.
    Kat stepped up next to Stampead, “That’s right! Besides, I love these hopeless causes. So you should just stop being so dramatic about this and lets get on with it!”
    Behind his muffler where he knew no one else could see it, Kadmon smiled. It was good to have friends. “All right, fine, if you guys really won’t leave, I guess you can come along. He only has until the full moon drops behind the horizon to complete the spell, and I’ve already tripped him up.” He looked up at the sky. Cloudless. That would have to change. “I expect the inside is going to be just as well guarded as the outs-“
    “Blizzard!” All eyes turned to D, who had run forward and cast a storm of ice spikes onto one of the guard groups. Understandably, they weren’t happy about that. As he was leaping away, Dbomb caught a fair amount of fire and fell to the ground not far from Kadmon’s feet. “Hey! Throw me back in there, I wanna show them one of my other tricks!”
    A vein popped out of Kadmon’s forehead. “Well, there goes any semblance of surprise.” With no small amount of annoyance, he picked up the fallen blaster, “Believe me, I had every intention of throwing you back in there whether you asked me to or not. Happy landings!” His throw was spot on, landing D right in the middle of them. What happened next, though, he didn’t expect. A fiery bird exploded toward the sky, and where its tail feathers brushed the ground, he saw Dbomb running out of the mass of now-melting armors. Kadmon blinked in disbelief at what he’d just seen, but decided to simply forget it for now and get back to the task at hand. “Alright gents, lets have at ‘em! I have no regrets!” The mass of heroes rushed down over rubble, scything through whatever armors remained.  The ones stationed outside, they discovered, weren’t bound to a summoner, and as such, when destroyed, stayed that way.
    Chapter 14: Earth-Shaking

    The ones inside were a different story. Several heroes broke off and engaged the minions while others, led by Kadmon, continued on through the fortress. Four summoners barred the path, complete with their array of armored fiends. Tom stepped forward and created a trio of explosive semi-sentient energy balls. In a flash of blinding Kheldian light, three summoners ceased to exist. Both Thor’s Assassin and Mjolnir electrocuted the last into submission simultaneously. Two more summoners came out behind them, but were brought down in a hail of gunfire by, what looked to Kadmon, like Council troops.
    “I just seem to be getting all kinds of support from sources I never asked.” Kadmon grinned at the Nictus leading them, “Why did you decide to help me, Requiem?”
    Requiem looked at him and shook his head, “I’m not here to help you, hero. I’ve come to make sure that your other self doesn’t make it back to my Earth. Allowing him to do whatever it is he’s planning is certain to be detrimental to my plans.” He gestured to his soldiers, many of which were carrying large backpacks, “My men will be destroying this fortress. If you value your continued existence, I’d advise doing whatever it is you came here to do within the next hour and a half, or so.” With that, the Nictus walked away, and Kadmon double-timed it down the next corridor. “Alright, get those bombs set near the power crystals, teleporters, and anything else that looks important! Get to it!”
    A man in a white mask appeared from nowhere to block their advance. “Just as I expected, here you are, Kadmon.” Before his sword was even drawn, a boot to the head sent the wraith flying to the other side of the room. “Kampfer!” Garlanus shouted, “If you wish your own total destruction, you should’ve just said so!” The ground around the Ordinator caught fire. A blast of dark energy flung the assassin into a wall.
    “I don’t have the time to waste on a small-time assassin, so I’ll let Max have your head for a trophy,” Kadmon continued on his path, an unstoppable force of devastation, followed quickly by half a dozen more heroes. Garlanus attempted to teleport after them, but was quickly knocked down to the ground again by Max’s titanium foot.
    In the casting chamber, Sera took in her surroundings while considering her options. Kadmon was decidedly closer now than he was before, and the flow of power to her was now substantially greater than the energy being sapped. The chains that bound her arms didn’t feel very heavy at all anymore. Beyond that, the only truly threatening being in the room with her was Ombra himself. One of the wizards walked over to her with a ceremonial knife. If she was going to act, now was the only chance she would have. Sera took a deep breath then exhaled the loudest scream she could. The entire room shook under the force, and the wizards around her were thrown from their feet. The knife clattered to the ground, and was soon smashed by the pylon that had once held the chain around her left wrist. The chains themselves had shattered under the force of her vocal cords.
    As the nearest wizard moved to stand again, the singer planted a foot squarely in his chin. The force of the blow rocketed the unprepared wizard skyward, far higher than she knew to be physically possible for herself. By now, two other wizards had gotten to their feet in spite of the rumblings. With a grin and a laugh, Sera put her training to good use. The one on the left found himself flying into the sacrificial altar. There was enough power behind the kick to send him flipping over and off a sizable cliff into the water below. The other had enough time to summon one of his armored minions. Unfortunately for him, another shout from the singer removed all the structural integrity from the animated suit of armor. A solid kick turned it into shrapnel. Two more rose to take its place, but were drained of all semblance of life as Sera unleashed a wave of black energy, disintegrating some of the surrounding ground and killing the wizard from the shock alone.
    “My, my. Something has lit a fire under you, hasn’t it?” Ombra hovered down from his high pedestal, “Where was all this fight earlier, I wonder?” His feet touched the ground, and black smoky energy curled away from where he landed. Each step toward Sera produced more, “Do you think I don’t know where it came from? I’m not so dim as you might think.” He stopped for a moment and looked around, “What the HELL is that noise?” The ground under him convulsed under the force of a second Liquefy, and launched him high into the air. Instead of crashing back to the ground as his wizards before him, Ombra hovered in the air a moment and waited for the rumbling to subside. “I hope you realize I’m going to have to hurt you badly for that one.”
    “You were going to kill me anyway, so I figure I don’t have all that much to lose here,” Sera quipped, picking up a chunk of the pylon she was chained to mere minutes earlier and throwing it at Ombra, “Just what are you trying to do, anyway? Why is it so important for you to get my blood?”
    Ombra caught the rock, and hovered down to a few inches off the ground, “You’re standing in it. This room is actually the cockpit of an old Mu airship. It has the destructive force to bring almost anything to its knees.” He began laughing a bit at this, “It is my desire to use this to take your world before that fool Tyrant can marshal his forces for a full invasion.” He crushed the rock then landed. The air near his hand became colder than solid nitrogen for a moment then formed into his sword, Garm. “Anything else you want to know before I slice you to pieces?”
    “Just one thing.” She said.
    “And that is?”
    “How does the ground feel when I do this?” A third casting of Liquefy rocked the room, bringing parts of the ceiling crashing down and forcing Ombra from his feet a second time. Through the new holes in the roof, she could see clouds forming. It looked like a storm was brewing.
    Chapter 15: Tastes Like Burning

    Max tossed his undead opponent through a stained glass window, and followed quickly after. Garlanus swung his katana to meet the leaping hero, but was stopped as the zombie jumped off of the sword, kicked off from the ceiling, and smashed the wraith into the ground with his own weight. “Don’t you ever get tired of getting beaten up? Honestly, I don’t really where you learned your assassin skills, but whoever taught you them, well, they must’ve REALLY sucked at what they did.”
    The Ordinator teleported out and away from the soldier, stopping atop a statue, “My master was one of the best killers of men ever to walk the face of Primal Earth. Unfortunately, dying doesn’t do much for retaining one’s skill.” He leapt from the statue just before Max turned it to rubble with a hydraulic-powered kick. “How did you die, if you don’t mind my asking?”
    “I stayed in an exploding volcano.” Max responded, just before throwing the statue’s head right where Garlanus was standing, albeit hidden by magic, “The rest of my team fled the instant the self-destruct siren went off. I wasn’t exactly superhuman, so I wasn’t fast enough to reach the exit, and I knew it. So, I stayed there and stood my ground to the bitter end.” A sword blocked his titanium foot this time, “Perhaps you should’ve trained harder when you were alive. You might’ve retained something more when you came back.” The other came up and over, striking the assassin’s head and knocking him clear through the wall. “How did you die?”
    He stood back up from the impact, dusted himself off, then collected his sword, “I was killed fighting a demon. The monster wasn’t exactly corporeal, so I couldn’t hurt it. Unfortunately for me, it could hurt me.” His sword swung out, but was caught by the flesh-and-blood hand of Max, who quickly pulled it from his grip and threw it away, “Well, I came back as you see me, was released from my place of death by a wandering spell caster, and was promptly picked up by Ombra during his very first excursion into our Earth.” He vanished and quickly dove past the martial artist, “I do not intend to stay Ombra’s servant. There are hundreds of people who would’ve filled the role that girl is in perfectly, but she has something special,” As swiftly as he could, Garlanus collected his sword, “She has a guardian angel who is willing to swim through a sea of blades for her!” Max’s titanium fist rocketed through the air, smashing fully into the wraith’s face, but not before the katana pierced his chest, “Kadmon is Ombra’s match. Their battle will tear this place apart more surely than any amount of explosives. I would advise returning back through the portal that brought you here. I’ll be taking my chances with it myself.”
    Elsewhere, a blast of Nictus energy tore through several armors, sundering them with its awesome force. Requiem’s soldiers were notably uneasy being surrounded by as many heroes as were in the room, but a temporary cease-fire was in effect between them as they worked toward a common purpose. A Warwolf pounced on one of the summoners, tearing him to shreds with its powerful claws. Several of the wolves had been let loose, and they had served their purpose admirably thus far. Those few that actually got past them were destroyed utterly by Requiem’s own dark power. The bombs were almost all set now. Then it would be time to pull back his soldiers to fight another enemy another day.
    “Kadmon, none of us can see in there.” Atomic No. 90 said, doing his best to peer down a totally lightless hallway, “Are you sure she’s down this way?”
    Kadmon ignored him for a moment. He, unlike his companions, could see perfectly in the dark. He thought a moment on what he could do. “Aidan, give me your lighter.”
    “Err… All right…” Aidan eyed him suspiciously, “Wait, you’re not going to set yourself on fire, are you?”
    The swordsman turned to him, “What in the name of heaven would make you think I would set myself on fire?”
    90 scratched his chin, then said, “Well…”

A party three months earlier
    “Hey guys, come here!” Kadmon yelled, waving his armored arm in the air, “All right Jack, light me!” The wizard shook his head and tossed a fireball at his friend, as requested, “Hahaha! That was friggin’ AWESOME!” The fire didn’t last long, and everyone looked like they were about to return to what they were doing. “Do it again! Let’s try to make it last twice as long this time!”
    This went on for two hours.

Present time

    “That was at a PARTY, Aidan!” Kadmon growled, “I just want to light a torch with it so I can lead the way! I’m NOT going to light myself on fire!”
    His fellow hero, though skeptical, complied, “Be careful with it, it was a gift from-“ Before he even finished, Kadmon grabbed his hand and forced the lighter into his own chest, setting his costume aflame. “I thought you just said you weren’t going to light yourself on fire!”
    “I said I wouldn’t light myself on fire. From my point of view, YOU set me on fire!”
    Atomic No. 90 groaned and looked at Tom, who simply shrugged his shoulders, “Fine, it doesn’t really matter. Just don’t expect me to ever loan you my lighter again.”
    Kadmon chuckled, “I’ll just have to take it next time. Anyhow, follow me, we’re going in.” The hallway illuminated as the burning hero walked through it, some of his closest friends trailing not far behind. With his mind, he was probing the area ahead. Sera was close now, but she was in more danger than before. “Just hold on a bit longer,” He thought, hoping it would reach her.
    Chapter 16: Dark Armor’s Limitation

Blasts of negative energy, Sera discovered, were of little use against one who could mold darkness around himself as armor. The only time she could get close enough to use the Nacht Fist combat style to fight Ombra was when she could muster the magical energy for Liquefy. Her right arm was bleeding badly from one attempt to plant a foot in his chest. Of course, Sera knew to count her blessings that her arm was still attached at all. If she hadn’t dove backwards when she had, there was a good chance Ombra’s Garm would’ve sliced her in two. That didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt terribly, especially because the sword splintered off some razor-sharp ice shards that had served to make the wound that much worse. Already the blood loss was making her lightheaded. She could swear she heard Kadmon calling to her, but couldn’t tell from where.
    “Your bleeding like this doesn’t do me any good if you don’t at least try to get some on the altar,” Ombra grinned maliciously as he walked slowly over to his injured prey. By now, the wind was whistling loudly through the holes in the ceiling. “I will admit, you’ve fought admirably, but you knew as well as I did that it was in vain from the beginning. Just give in, you’re only causing yourself more pain.”
    Sera fell back against a large stone block. Giving in, she knew, would bring an end to the excruciating pain, but it would also end the lives of many others. “That’s an interesting deal you’re offering me. An end to the pain you’ve caused.” Her right hand slipped to the block behind her, and she smiled, “Too bad I don’t like what the fine print says.” A faint blue glow was visible emanating from her eyes. Ombra stopped a mere four feet from the wounded singer, “Sorry, Prima Ombra, but a girl needs her space.” Waves of imperceptible sound shot from the stone, blasting the construct away, “So shove off!”
Kadmon’s increased regenerative powers were, unfortunately, largely absent from the powers he was transmitting to her. It was a very good thing, she decided, that she remembered to lift his Medic device before going out for training. With her captor temporarily unable to reach her, Sera took the time to stem the flow of blood from her arm. It still hurt like hellfire, but there was no mistake that it was better than bleeding to death. Maintaining the sonic repulsion field that was presently preventing Ombra from getting close enough to hurt her was somewhat more taxing than Sera had originally anticipated. She hoped that her last thought as she drifted from consciousness would reach Kadmon. It consisted of just one word. Hurry.


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