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From the Ashes

D Heikes

Chapter 7

          

            The click from the heels on Thauma Guard’s boots echoed through the cavernous entryway to City Hall.  It was after hours, and the place was nearly deserted.  The City representative, of whom one was always stationed in the lobby, nodded to the Heroine as she turned into the Hero Assignment corridor.  Light poured from the open doorway to the Magi office, but Thauma past by, heading for a meeting room several doors down on the right.

            Seated around a long conference table were several Heroes, all in costume.  At the head of the table stood a huge being.  Half man, half drake, Occam’s Razor stood looking relaxed, his massive shoulders and bare barrel chest denoting his strength.  Piercing eyes stared out beneath a mane of tan hair that flowed into thick sideburns, past a pair of sharp, upturned horns.  Years before Thauma had seen one of his Crey mechanical arms ripped off by an Envoy much like the one that had killed PhoenixHawk.  That had been they day they had lost News Flash, as well as Occam’s Bow.  Next to Razor was a man dressed full medieval armor, a great broadsword upon his hip.  Thauma could feel the dark aura around the man.

            Like Thauma’s brother, Rosh, Razor’s modern life had begun as a Paragon Protector, but the part of the program that used Heroes Crey thought they could control gave way to the cloning discipline the corrupt corporation had followed since.  After freeing himself of the hold Crey had over him, Razor had taken to mentoring the upcoming new Heroes in Paragon, many of whom took part of his name as a tribute.  The younger ones had pushed Razor to form his own SuperGroup, vowing to follow him if he would lead, but he always refused.

            After his recovery and arm replacement, Razor had gone on a journey that his Drake half had allowed, traveling to pay respects to the family of Occam’s Bow.   Thauma had accompanied him on the journey, a step that had been instrumental in her recovering grief at PhoenixHawk’s death.

            Thauma had received a call from the half-drake the day after her encounter with Tropic on Peregrine Island, asking to see her.  She had set up a meeting with Azuria to talk about Tropic, and had set up the time with Razor as well.

            “What have we here?” Thauma asked, looking at the assembled young Heroes.

            “I see the Onami has started to regain its feet,” Razor said.  In the months since the group had come back together word had spread.

            “Dr. Ward said it was like falling off of a bike,” Thauma said.  “We still have some issues, but we are helping each other through them, making ourselves speak up, instead of holding things inside.  We are a family, whose bonds have never broken.”

            Occam’s Razor nodded.  “I have always believed the group had the strongest of foundations.  The honor and integrity of the group give you strength.”

            Thauma nodded and said thank you.

            “It is for that reason that I’ve brought these good people here before you.  My friend Spectreblade has helped me mentor the others.”   Occam’s Razor went across the table, introducing the Heroes one by one.

            Port Call, encased in a Tech suit built to withstand huge punishment and giving the Hero the ability to manipulate fire.

            Dis Miss, a young woman who reminded Thauma of Shakti and her cousin Nova 1, could also manipulate and hurl blasts of flame.

            Wrayth, a muscular man with broad shoulders, a fighter whose hands could shroud themselves in dark energy similar to that which gave Thauma Guard her powers.

            Cerrated, another fighter with claws similar to the ones Occam’s Razor had built into his robotic arms.

            Radiant Night, clothed in black with white highlights and a hood covering his head and face, white outlines around his eyes visible underneath.  He was skilled in using Radiation and its energy against his foes.

            Another young looking woman, with short blond hair who had been near death until one of the alien Kheldians, who had come to earth fleeing what they called The Nictus, had bonded with her.  The joined being having the ability to shift between human and Kheldian form, took the name Vindea.

            “I have watched the Onami for years, since I first met PhoenixHawk, and was deeply saddened by his loss,” Occam’s Razor said.   “I was equally saddened by the dark time the Group has weathered for the past five years.  So I watched, and I waited.”

            “Waited for what?”

            “To bring you my charges.  They would like to petition for membership to the Onami Strike Force.”

            “And what about you?” Thauma asked.

            Razor shook his head, the mane of hair that spread down from his horned head shrouding his face in a somber halo.

            “My Hero Corps license has been revoked.   I am unable to work with their contacts throughout the city, and were I to take action in many cases I would be arrested as a vigilante.”

            “We may be able to do something about that,” Thauma said.   “If you wish.”

            Razor nodded, almost giving into a small look of hope.  “I will leave my fate in your capable hands.”

            Thauma nodded and looked to the faces and masks of the Heroes.  All looked on expectantly.

            “Spectreblade?”

            “My lady,” the knight nodded.

            “You’ve been with us for years, through thick and thin.  You vouch for all of them?”

            “Wholeheartedly,” Spectreblade replied.

            “And the rest of you?” Thauma asked.

            Nods came from every head at the table.

            Thauma smiled.  “You honor me, and the Onami Strike Force.  It has been five years since we added new members.  It was always PhoenixHawk’s wish that new members work with the group on a trial basis, then be voted upon by the rest.  I think we will continue with that tradition.  If you give your best, live and work with honor and integrity, it will be the Onami’s pleasure to have you aboard.”

            “Thank you,” Occam’s Razor said.

            “It is my pleasure.  Give me a day or two and I will work up some assignments for you all, teams for you to work with.”

            The Heroes around the table stood, and one by one shook Thauma’s hand and thanked her for the opportunity.  When all but Occam’s Razor had left, Thauma said, “For a big, scary guy, sometimes you surprise me.”

            Razor smiled.  “It has been many years since I was awakened, but still human speech and mannerisms seem a bit foreign.  However, I believe I understand your meaning, and am glad to bring you a surprise.”

            Thauma smiled, and placed a hand upon Razor’s huge shoulder.

            “Thank you, my friend.  It will be nice for the Onami to have some new blood after so long.”

            “I look forward to hearing from you,” Razor said with a smile, then walked out.

                                                                             * * *

           Azuria was seated at her desk reading from an opened tome.  Numina stood behind her reading over her shoulder. 

            “So it would seem,” Numina said to Azuria, nodding toward whatever Azuria was pointing to in the book.  When Thauma Guard entered the office, Numina came around and leaned on the front of the desk.

            “I think it’s as bad as you feared,” Thauma said without preamble.

            “The Freakshow incident?” Azuria asked.

            Thauma shook her head.  “Still no proof, but I assume you heard about the battle on Peregrine Island two days ago?”

            “Tropic defeated a large number of both Malta and Nemesis minions, correct?”

            “Defeated isn’t the word.  He incinerated them, and the store he drew them into.  It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  I felt him draw the power into himself, just like I did when Aaron died, then he let loose a blast that turned the shop to dust.  I don’t think there were any civilians in the blast area, but if there were they’re gone now, too.  The sand and brick around where the building were all burned to glass.”

            “His power is greater than I thought,” Numina said.

            “How powerful did you think he was?”

            “As I said when you were put upon your mission, he had the power of a demi-god forced into him.   The gods that helped forge the world as we know it today, Zeus, Hades, and the like, by whatever name they are known, fought thousands of years ago against the Titans.  When their battles were done, they knew their own power unleashed upon the world could destroy that which they sought to build and nurture.  So they placed limits upon this plane of existence, limits not even they can break.  They can manifest themselves here physically, but their strength is not one tenth of what it actually is.  Even then it dwarfs the most powerful of humans.

            “Having tapped such a powerful being to give Tropic his power, they have pushed his abilities beyond what most mortals could ever possibly achieve.  That coupled with the manner of his death, let him gain even more strength than he could have held before.  I fear that his power is approaching that of even Statesman.”

            “He said he was a God,” Thauma said.

            “So he might believe,” Azuria said.  “And so he might actually be, but he has no inkling of the true power of the Gods.  Were he able to manifest all of his power, no human alive could stop him.”

            “What did you mean ‘the manner of his death let him gain more strength’?”

            “When he died, he drained his life force entirely,” Numina said.  “I used the analogy before of his body being a shell.  They all are.  That is how I survive.  My body died, but my power was strong enough that I can manifest myself physically from just the energy that made me.

            “When Tropic died, he burned out all that the shell could hold, as well as gave all of the energy that bound him together, like emptying a cup, but of more than it could hold, thus taking part of the shell of the cup with its contents.  Since he has returned, there is a greater capacity for his power than he had before.  And, as I said, he has embraced that power, instead of fighting it, again making him that much stronger.”

            “If you knew he was so strong, why haven’t you done anything about it yet?”

            “As you stated, there is no proof that he was the one that killed the Freakshow leaders.”

            “But I saw with my own eyes what he did to the Malta and Nemesis.”

            “And that is the first step.  Now we must decide upon a course of action.”

            “Course of action?”  Thauma asked, almost exasperated.

            “We cannot just attack and arrest him.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because the public looks to us as saviors,” Azuria said.  “We must uphold some of that.  Unfortunately, image and publicity must be considered.”

            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Thauma said.

            “Sadly, I am not.”

            Anger flared in Thauma’s eyes.  “You’ll just let him fly around incinerating people instead of bringing them to justice, letting them stand the trial they are granted by our Constitution, to save public image?”

            “It is part of our job,” Azuria said.  “Not one that I like, but we must mitigate things like this so that public perception allows us to help the people.  Something of this magnitude could foster the distrust in us that the Countess Crey has tried to build for years now.”

            “If you weren’t going to do anything about it, why did you send us out there to poke around in Tropic’s business in the first place!?”

            “Because I knew you must,” Numina said.

            Thauma threw her hands up in the air.  “Great!  Here we go again with that crap.  You’re cryptic answers are getting old, ghost.”

            “Thauma Guard!” Azuria barked.

            “What?  You are just as guilty as she is, having the Onami Strike Force stirring up problems within another Super Group to cover your own tracks.  And now you’re just going to cover things up to maintain your ‘public perception.’”

            “I understand your anger,” Numina said.

            “You don’t understand a damned thing!”

            Numina bowed her head.  “I understand more than you think.  I know you are angry because we forced you to bring your group back together, even though there is still grief over the loss of your leader.  I also know that you resent me, because I was able to live through the loss of my physical body, yet PhoenixHawk was not.”

            Thauma’s voice dropped to nearly a hiss.  “Yes.”

            “If there was a way for me to bring PhoenixHawk back, I would, and not just for you.  Still, I knew it had to be you for this task.”

            “Why did it have to be us?  To bring us back together?  Because we had fallen so far apart, you used this as a catalyst to reunite us?”

            “No,” Azuria said.  “That was merely a much needed bonus.”

            “Well, at least I agree with that.  I am glad we are working together again.  Things have been going well, the air is beginning to clear.  I feel as though my family has reunited.  But that is still no excuse to force the situation upon us.  Things would have worked themselves through in their own time.”

            “Perhaps,” Numina said.  “But that is not why we chose the Onami for this mission.  The Onami has some part in a greater play than all of the small parts we are dealing with.  This is one part, and only the Onami can accomplish it.  Your work with this is still not finished.”

            Thauma’s brow furrowed.  “I still don’t know that the hell you’re talking about.  What greater scheme of things is going on, and what part are we supposed to play in it?”

            “That I cannot say,” Numina said.

            “Why not?”

            “Because I do not know.”

            Thauma let out an exasperated sigh.  “You’re killing me here.  What the hell are you talking about?  Can you make sense for once, please?  And don’t give me anymore of the cryptic crap about ‘it had to be you’.  I just want to known what you aren’t telling me.”

            Azuria looked as though someone was holding a dead rat under her nose.  Apparently someone addressing Numina, a famed member of the Freedom Phalanx, in the fashion Thauma now used, was incomprehensible to her.

            “I have told you all that I can,” Numina said.  “There is a misconception about my powers, one that you apparently are unaware of.  I am not a seer of the future as many believe.  There are some things in the world that I come across, and simply know, in the core of my being, that they must be.  Whenever I’ve come across these feelings, they have never been wrong.  I do not see the future, do not know what is going to pass, but I do know that the Onami will play a big part in it, as will Tropic.  This is why we must find a solution to this dilemma.”

            “Fine,” Thauma Guard said.  “If our work with this is not done, then we’ll start working on some solution.  I’m going to bring the Top Ten into this.  I will not go working around behind their backs anymore.  We’ll meet this head on, and talk to them.  They know something is not right, and it’s causing tension over there, I felt it.  We’ll bring the groups together, see if we can work something out.”

            “I don’t think they will be as receptive to this as you hope,” Azuria said.

            “Why not?”

            “Because I have worked with them, as I have worked with your group.  External sources upsetting an already tense internal situation rarely blends smoothly.”

            “Well, it’s a first step, and one that I’m going to take, whether you like it or not.  If you want the Onami Strike Force to finish this, you have to let us do it our way.  There is no honor in sneaking around behind the Top Ten’s backs.  If we have something to say to them, we will say it to their faces.  With luck and some negotiating skill, maybe we can bring Tropic back around to our side.”

TO CHAPTER 8 >

        


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