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From the Ashes

D Heikes

Chapter 6

          


            A day after speaking with Warblade Thauma walked into the Crey lab that had been the site of Tropic’s second rampage.  The majority of the damage to the walls was repaired, Crey tech crews working efficiently to rebuild.

            A Crey Security guard stopped Thauma in the lobby.

            “May I help you?”

            “I was hoping to look around.”

            “I’m afraid that won’t be possible.  We are in the process of completing our repairs, and an investigation is underway as to who attacked us, and why.”

            “May I speak to the administrator of the facility then?”

            The guard went to the phone and dialed a number, spoke briefly, then hung up.

            “Dr. Hermans is in a meeting right now, but should be done shortly if you’d like to wait.  He may have a very few minutes he can spare.”

            Thauma nodded and moved away, staring out the large glass doors.  After ten minutes a man in a black suit came down, accompanied by another in the dark blue uniform of the Malta Group.

            “Thank you, Doctor,” the Malta agent said.  “We appreciate you informing us of this situation.  It will be dealt with appropriately.”

            “I’m sure it will,” the other man said.

            The Malta agent left without glancing at Thauma.

            “I’m Dr. Hermans,” The man said, approaching her.  “What can I do for you?”

            “I was hoping I might be able to see some of the damaged areas, look for anything that might have been missed previously.”

            “I’m afraid that won’t be necessary,” Hermans said.

            “Because?”

            “Because our own Security will handle things from here.  The Hero Corp has proven yet again that it is inadequate to the task of keeping Paragon City safe, or even policing its own.  We will handle this situation ourselves.”

            “What do you mean ‘policing its own’?” Thauma asked.

            “Don’t insult me.  We both know it was one of your agents that destroyed this lab and killed the people here.  Yet again, the Heroes are above the law, and can act with impunity as they desire, at the expense of the freedom and liberties of Paragon’s citizens.”

            “Save your rhetoric,” Thauma said.  “I only want to get to the bottom of who did this.”

            “Then look to yourself,” Hermans said.  “And have a nice day.”

            He turned and walked away without another word.

            It was Thursday around midday, less than twenty-four hours after Thauma had visited the Crey lab, that Lady Emily called the Archangels base frantically calling for assistance on Peregrine Island.  Skida had answered the call, alone in the base but saying she’d put out the word and that she was on her way.  Emily made the specific request that Thauma Guard should be there.

            Thauma Guard had gotten to the base less than five minutes after being called, and followed Skida through the teleportation portal they had installed to Talos Island.  The ferry to Peregrine seemed to take forever, the two women leaping from its bow and over the water when they were within site of Peregrine.  Landing three hundred yards in front of the slower moving boat, the two women concentrated all of the energy they could muster, ducked under the water and kicked up as hard as they could, their ability to jump huge distances propelling them forward nearly as far as had they had a solid foundation.  Two times further and they were on the dock at Peregrine Island.   The task had been exhausting, however, and both Heroines needed to rest momentarily before continuing.  While they were catching their breath, Lady Emily quickly teleported them to her.

            The situation was indeed as drastic as Lady Emily had described, and it was readily apparent why Thauma should be called in.

            Tropic was engaged in a massive fight with not only several Malta Operatives, but a host of Nemesis minions as well.  Two other members of the Top Ten, a man whose martial arts skills lashed out around him at the Nemesis, along with a smaller Asian woman wielding a katana. 

            Pedestrians scrambled away from the war zone, two Police officers trying to keep everyone back.  Some of the more foolish souls tried to find a safe, but close, place to view the fight.

            Tropic hovered ten feet above the road outside of a two story storefront building from which several members of the Malta Group fired upon the Heroes.  Two Zeus Titans, the massive, incredibly armed and armored man-shaped Malta robots, blasted away at Tropic, along with the hail of slugs pouring at him from inside the building.

            Thauma leapt across the battlefield, casting protective shield spells around the two scrappers holding back the Nemesis as she arced overhead.  The Nemesis, in their nineteen-twenties military uniforms and rifles that appeared to be flint lock muskets, though actually high powered, modern rifles, fired a volley at Thauma as she past overhead, her own force field turning most of the energy of the slugs away.

            Lady Emily and Skida moved in to support the scrappers, adding their own healing energies to strengthen the line between Nemesis, Tropic, and the Malta.

            Tropic seemed to radiate heat, more than any other blaster Thauma had ever seen.  The air around his body shimmered as though she was looking across a desert.  A full barrage of rockets, launched simultaneously by the two Titans, spiraled on smoke trails at Tropic in a cloud.

            Tropic’s forearms crossed in front of his body, a wall of white-hot flame encasing them, shielding the Hero.  The detonations were incredible, pieces of shrapnel flew away in a cloud.  What should have blown him to bits only sent Tropic reeling and spinning backwards through the air.  Righting himself, he concentrated, the heat around him solidifying into an aura of white fire, which coalesced and shot away from his outstretched hand in a blinding beam.

            The ray of fire struck one of the two Titans just inside of the shoulder joint, the metal there glowing and running down the face of the robot like melted wax.  The robot’s arm slid down, then dropped to the street with a clang.  A cache of rockets stored in its body set off, the robot jerking back and forth, dancing through a series of growing internal explosions.  The pressure built inside of the machine until it ruptured in a huge explosion, knocking its twin from its thick legs.

            From behind the Nemesis gunners came a contingent of the small, four legged robots Nemesis himself had designed.  Though ancient, and thought dead more than once, the European mechanical genius still built and designed automatons bent on ruling Paragon City.  Fifteen of the squat machines marched forward forming a line, their twin-barreled machine guns coming around to lay down a volley at the Heroes.   Behind them lumbered a Warhulk, its cylindrical steel body armored against attack, one arm ending in a vicious bladed claw, the other in a flamethrower.

            The katana wielder from the Top Ten, yelled to Tropic who turned and saw the growing threat.

            “Back off and let them come to me,” Tropic replied.

            The two Heroes exploded away from the scene at blinding speed.  Seeing the damage dealers leave, Thauma, Skida, and Lady Emily retreated to a nearby rooftop.

            “He can’t possibly handle all of them himself,” Emily said.

            “I think he can, I’m just afraid of how,” Thauma replied.

            Having lost the majority of their targets, the Nemesis machines turned to Tropic, who also held the attention of remaining Zeus Titan as well as the Malta inside the store.

            The heat around the Hero again coalesced, lashing out at the side of the brick building, burning a huge hole through to the inside.  Tropic flew through the opening, letting the machines fall in behind him.

            Screams, gunfire, and blinding flashes of flame could be seen and heard through the hole.  The Zues Titan lumbered through after Tropic only seconds before the stream of Nemesis robots.

            When all of the villains had gathered tightly inside of the building, the flashes of flame stopped.  Thauma stood up and felt the air around her get noticeably colder, as though the heat were being drained away.

            Skida stood next to her, wide eyed.  “He’s pulling all of the heat out of the air.”

            A vortex of heat seemed to form around the building, pouring in through the opening, swirling around the building in an almost visible mass.

            “No,” Thauma said, moving forward.  “Tropic!  No!”  She leapt for the building but was tackled in mid-jump by Skida, who landed on top of her at street level.

            Thauma struggled to get out from under Skida, visions of PhoenixHawk’s death replaying in her mind.

            “Stay down,” Skida begged.

            The air filled with a bright blast, followed by a wave of searing heat.  The force field she kept around herself, and Skida by proximity, turned much of the heat that crossed the hundred-yard distance from the store.  Skida’s green healing energy poured over them in waves, washing away as much of the heat as she could as well.

            When their eyes cleared, Skida stood up, helping her friend to her feet.  Though both singed, neither had suffered any real harm.  Had they gotten much closer to the blast they might not have been able to say the same.

            The store was gone, a cloud of ash blowing away on the wind.  Tropic stood where the building had been seconds before, breathing slowly, yet not exhausted.  For nearly one hundred feet around the building all of the stone had been turned to glass from the heat.  Part of a nearby steel framed building sagged as its supports solidified from melted slag.

            “Dear Gods,” Thauma Guard said.  “Tropic, what have you done?”

            Tropic turned towards the Heroines as Lady Emily joined her friends.

            Johnny Cognito and Miyaka, the two Top Ten members, came forward as well.

            “I have done what I must,” Tropic said.

            “But, look at the destruction.”

            Tropic shrugged.  “I did as I saw fit.  The consequences are irrelevant to me.”

            “How can they be irrelevant?” Skida asked.  “There could have been civilians nearby.  Who knows who you may have just killed!”

            Tropic shrugged again.  “They threatened my family.  That I cannot allow.”

            “That may be so,” Thauma said, “but we cannot allow this!”

            “He said he did as he saw fit,” Johnny Cognito said.  “Who are you to question another Hero?”

            “I am a member of the Hero Corps, as are you all.  We have rules that we must live by, codes of conduct to uphold.”

            “What do I care of your ‘codes’?” Tropic asked.  “I live as I wish.”

            “And that means you can set your own limits, live without honor?”

            “I am not bound by your limits.”

            Tropic lifted himself into the air, preparing to leave.

            “You can’t just walk away from this!” Thauma said.

            “I can do as I please,” Tropic replied, flying off.  Carried by the wind, he could be heard saying, “I am a God.”

            “He has to be stopped,” Lady Emily said.

            Miyaka stepped in front of Emily.

            “Who are you to say what has to be done about one of our team?”

            “We’re all supposed to be on the same team.”

            “Well, it doesn’t sound like we are, the way you talk.  This is the second time I’ve run into members of the Onami poking in our business.”

            “Then you should get your business in order,” Thauma said.

            “And you should mind yours,” Cognito said.

            Lady Emily started to respond but Skida cut her off, saying that it wasn’t worth the fight.  Thauma and the two Archangels moved off to the south, heading for the ferry back to Talos Island. 

On the boat, Emily said, “Something has to be done.”

“It will be,” Thauma said.  “I just don’t know what.  I don’t know if we can stand up to him, or if he’d just kill us all if we tried.”

“We need to pull the teams back together,” Skida said.  “We’re talking going after another Hero. We’re going to have to go back to Azuria and Numina with all of this first.”

TO CHAPTER 7 >

 


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