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A Life Unrelenting: the Saga of the Dark Harrier
Chapter 1


Rolling Stone Magazine, Volume 27, Issue 6, page 46

Unrelenting: an interview with the Dark Harrier by Thomas Weiderman


Although I was scheduled to interview him almost two months ago, I recall seeing the Dark Harrier for the first time in person, at his award ceremony at the Paragon City city hall, when he was awarded the Atlas Medallion after the massive Council terrorist attack on that city’s Steel Canyon, the “Day that Steel Canyon Burned”. As a journalist, I recognized at once that the event itself was severely underplayed; whereas most big time heroes get large banquets and full catered lunches provided by the city for such occasions, the “gala” thrown for the Harrier that morning was a study in understatement:  I noted only five journalists present. A green room was provided, but no real space for seating, just a long table laden with coffee and other light beverages, plates of cookies and fresh fruit trays, cheese and crackers. I remember him coming into the room, and seeing the features of his face drop a wee little bit. I could further see his disappointment at the awarding itself. The Statesman wasn’t even there for it; only Manticore {as if I should be able to say “only” for that worthy’s presence} arrived, he himself looking a tiny bit apologetic, laying the ribbon over the younger hero’s neck. For his part, that small shrinking in the green room was dispelled once that medal draped over the Dark Harrier’s own rampant white eagle blazon. It remade him, I thought then, the disinterest or callousness shown by people he had helped save, wiped from him. He pumped Manticore’s hand as if it really had been Stateman there as it should have been, or perhaps if Manticore himself had requested to be the one to give him his award.

It didn’t matter, at the last. To this guy, to the Hero in Black, someone had given him his bit of glory, and that was enough.

After all, we’ve been hearing about the legendary Dark Harrier forever, haven’t we? Often glimpsed at trouble spots, I mean really big ones, a caped flying figure all in black, the white bird on his chest picking him out as he dives headlong right into the thick of things. Really thick things: the Clockwork attack in Steel Canyon back in ’03, the Ziggurski breakout and riots in ’04, the Hellion arson wave that same year, the defeat of a poisoning plot by Doc Vazhilok and the aforementioned Day that Steel Canyon Burned only last year. How many times in between, have we seen his grin, the everpresent dark sunglasses over the domino mask, the enthusiastic thumbs-up, in pictures in every magazine, in 10-second soundbites or voice-over videos on nightly newscasts?

This is a guy who really does throw himself in front of bullets for other people. And what do they give him for rescuing victims buried in the rubble of exploded buildings, for helping disarm a bomb that bloody afternoon inside a bank by shielding the technician with his own body in case things went wrong, for disrupting the Council attack that day so it got no worse? A table with coffee and cookies and a substitute’s handshake?

You’d never know this guy had been emotionally wounded that day at city hall, if you met him in person.

We’d arranged to meet in Atlas Park, that famous hero gathering place in Paragon. I was dressed pretty low-key that day, and was pretty much ignored by most of the other heroes and wannabe-heroes who flock to that place like blousy showgirls did outside Radio City Music hall in the 40’s praying to be discovered.

He came in out of the East, nice and slow so I could get a few good shots of him [see inset], and settled to the pavement with is grin already in place. The guy’s face beams at you, like you and he are in on some joke, and you can imagine his eyes sparkling even behind the dark Ben Franklin round-framed glasses he affects, and wears even at night. He shook my hand heartily, like we’d known each other in college and had run into each other again at a reunion, where we were the only guys who hadn’t gotten fat or wound up in jail. And we were happy about that.

TW: I want to thank you for giving me this interview.

DH: No problem, man!

TW: I’d like to get into some origin stuff with you, if that’s OK. You’ve been in the public eye a good long time, and yet, there really isn’t a consensus about where you came from or when people first started seeing you.

DH: Yeah, well, like I mentioned over the phone, there’s a lot of stuff I simply can’t tell you. A lot of my early years workin’ for the government –

TW: When you were sidekicking with the Golden Soldiers.

DH: Right, right, but some other stuff too. I warned you, remember? Some of it’s too close to home, and I won’t give any details.

Remember, the Dark Harrier is one of many heroes who maintain a secret identity to this day. Yes, I remembered he’d said this, but as a good reporter, well, I have to ask him anyway, in case he decided to relent.

No dice for me this time.

DH: So, yeah, I did bang around with the Golden Soldiers in the late eighties and early nineties, that’s true. I was their pet project, the troublesome kid they needed to smooth out and make an acceptable hero. I was basically a punk from New York, just coming into my powers and on a bad road. Got into some trouble in my younger days, you know, abusing my abilities, did some things, got some people after me. I went and joined up with the government as a way to make it up, you know? Do good for the country, let them train me a bit too, you know, take advantage of that situation. Not gonna lie, I figured I could work as a spy, maybe, you know, Super James Bond, that sorta thing. But once I gave them a bit too much attitude, they passed me off into their unofficial sidekick program.

TW: Pass the troubled ones off on proven Supers, and if they can’t make them, they break them.

DH: Right.

TW: And they passed you off on two pretty big hitters.

DH: [proud] Yes they did! Two of the toughest old coots to ever beat ass for Uncle Sam. 

TW: The Golden Gunner, and Golden Eagle. The Golden Soldiers.

DH: Right! Those two old World War Two vets didn’t want anything to do with having some young kid shoved onto them and to have to babysit, and I know I gave them hell, or thought that I could at first, but they put me through it, too, let me tell ya. They’d lived all the way to the 1980’s, and the Gunner, you know, he didn’t age as fast as the ‘Eagle did, but they were both shitkickers who didn’t take any crap from the likes of me. They set me straight, taught me how to be a real hero. They were the greatest men I ever met.

TW: You must have been heartbroken when they both died.

DH: Yeah, I mean, the Golden Eagle… as an Amerindian, a Sioux, you expected him to live to be real old, all leatherfaced and wise and mysterious and crotchety, and pass away quietly in his sleep, like he did. And that’s how it went for him, pretty much. Me and the Gunner buried him on his people’s land like he wanted. But, for the Golden Gunner to die like he did-

TW: To drown?

DH: [pause] Yeah, to drown. One of the strongest, greatest invulnerables ever to fight for America, to drown on vacation with his family, it’s just….

TW: You were barely out of your teens when he passed away. When you got the news of his death, what did you… how did you go on?

DH: [pause] I went on, because I had to. He would have wanted me to. ‘Never stop till you win, kid’, that’s what he’d say, and he said it to me, many times. That’s why he gave me that name, the Dark Harrier-

TW: Golden Gunner gave you your hero name?

DH: Yes he did. Because he said, I was the first person to ever actually listen to him and do exactly what he told me. And he said, I made tenacity an art form. I worry at ‘em until they have to give up. Never let up, never stop.

TW: But, why not the Golden Harrier?

DH: [chuckles] Ah, now, gold was never my color. Plus, you know, I think those two old boys had to keep something for themselves, you know? The Golden Soldier Brigade, that was some serious shit in World War Two, man. And I mean, I wasn’t any part of that. I needed my own color. I never begrudged them not making me a Golden Something-or-other. It fit. I respected them, that was their idiom, their thing, you know? It was all good.

TW: They’d be proud to see you got the Atlas Medallion.

DH: Yeah, I think so too, maybe. Wish at least one of ‘em could have lived to see that, but, [shrugs]. So it goes. I wanted to make ‘em proud of me, though.

TW: I think they would have been, not to patronize you –

DH: Yeah, you better not! [both laugh]

TW: I remember seeing you on the TV during that big break at the Zigguraut-


This is what TVs all across the city and several local networks were showing at that moment, if they happened to be tuned to channel 4, WPAR-News:

A popular anchorman, Dirk Tungsten, standing on the outskirts of the Ziggurski yard, outside the moat area, amid a cluster of other newsvans and similar personalities, all with microphones in hand. The Zig figures prominantly in the background, with its skirt of flashing lights, amassed military and medical vehicles, smoke, and people milling about with individual purpose. The air above is hazy with smoke, still rising from the site, the prison's silhouette jagged on one end, lopsided, only partly familiar now. Helos and heroes crisscross the sky above. Tungsten is somewhat haggard, having been on the air from the moment the crisis began, talking nearly non-stop. His face slightly smudged with grime, his jacket open, tie askew; but his famous hair is still perfectly coifed.

"...still converging on the site, even though the crisis seems to be over for now. All roads into Brickstown are now officially closed. We have both police and military vehicles blocking all access, and they've asked me to repeat: stay away from the Brickstown area. People with hero clearances are being allowed access on a case-by-case basis."

Scene change: Tungsten now appears in a graphical box beside Nia Ching, a dreadfully beautiful anchor woman. Her exotic features and, again, perfect hair [it is rumored the station's hairstylist once worked for M.A.G.I.] have won her 'TV's Sexiest News Personality' 3 years running. A banner running beneath their faces ticks off the names of heroes sighted at the Zig lending a hand.

Nia says, "Dirk, it's the top of the hour, I know you could use a rest, but can you just recount what we've been seeing and give us some set-up for the video we're about to roll?"

Dirk says, "Sure thing, Nia. We have for you now the latest footage directly from the attack on the Ziggurski Prison. I was on location talking to the Big Red Button on an unrelated story on Colton Street, when we heard the first explosions..."

Cut to Sound-on-tape, upper graphic bug stating- A SHORT TIME AGO: It is Tungsten, looking far more composed, from earlier in the day. He stands next to the Big Red Button, a well-known fire tanker. A lower-third line of text shows his name with a tagline stating the same.

BRB: "So, these creeps are shootin' ice at me, and I say,'Hey! Don't push me!', and I-" the hero's voice is completely drowned out by the abrupt sound of screaming jet engines, so close by overhead they actually distort the recorded audio. The camera whips wide to show hero and anchor cringing, looking up at the objects passing overhead. The camera catches a glimpse of four sleek black aircraft with backswept topmounted wings over swollen cargo bellies. They are barely above the level of the closest rooftops. Their passage shakes the cameraman.

DT: "Oh my! Those aircraft are very low!"

BRB: "Yeah, what the hell..."

The explosions coming next drown the audio even further. Flashes can be seen in the sky, behind which the Zig's pyramid disappears in sullen smoke bursts.

DT: "Oh my God! Did you get that, Tom? Ladies and gentlemen! We have just heard explosions in the area of the Ziggurski Prison, home to some of the world's most dangerous criminals! Oh my God, are they attacking the prison?" The cameraman has already begun running forward, the image shaking furiously. "Come on, let's get closer!" Tungsten says rather unnecessarily. The Big Red Button can be briefly seen vaulting through the sky toward the trouble.

More footage of running is cut to show the beginnings of the siege. The cameraman is stationed relatively close to where Sgt. Riley would later come to rest. The aircraft have taken up station over the yard. Tiny guard figures can be seen running frantically across the ground as prison alarm klaxons sound. The black planes fire rockets down at strategic points of the Zig, taking out generators, opening walls, and removing pockets of resistance. One of the planes veers on it's vectored engines, as a flaming human figure leaps upward at it. The airplane fires a missile as it heels over; the Big Red Button's leap is interrupted, and he falls, still flaming, to the ground.

DT: "Oh my God! The Zig is under attack! I can see four planes bearing some red emblem, firing missiles and bombs at the prison! If any heroes can hear me, we have a large-scale attack on the Ziggurski Prison!"

For several moments, more footage from various moments in the battle, from different vantages, rolls while Tungsten does his best to narrate obvious facts of the action. Soon, heroes begin arriving, and the camera zooms in when it can to show them in detail.

DT: "We now have squads of US Metaforces on the scene! I am seeing two, no! At least three squads getting out of vehicles and running though the yard. There are prisoners coming at them, there are blasts! Yes! Fire and energy being thrown at the soldiers! Shooting! They are shooting back! I see prisoners going down... let's get closer, Tom.." The camera appears to rise and begin moving forward. There is a skeet! noise as a sniper bullet ricochetes across the tarmac directly in the path of the news man. The camera crabs backwards. "No! No, let's stay back Tom! This is getting deadly out here!"

The footage skips forward in time again; more friendly units have arrived, there is far more smoke, more figures locked in combat plainly seen in the frame. The aircraft can no longer be seen, they have settled somewhere lost in the fog of war.

DT: ”Alright, I am seeing at least one civilian hero team assembling in the yard, they appear – oh! Look out!” A motorcycle tears down the street right past the camera, engine chugging in a roar as any Harley does; the rider looks over his shoulder as he passes. ”I can’t be sure, was that Kid Valor?” Shakey footage shows the rider’s entry into the yard, and the loss of the bike as the rider uses it to run down one of the rampaging criminals. Kid Valor, however, rises from the tangle and seems untouched.

DT: "OK! Yes! I see a hero team going in now! Several figures, can we identify them? I can't tell at this range..." Tungsten goes on, as the camera zooms in on War Club. Later editing has placed a frozen video frame from this stream of his face in closeup in a smaller graphical box in one corner, a news 'baseball card': it lists War Club's name, with no other real data aside from his Platinum status; he has not been a fame seeker, and the content editors have little to give for him, perhaps until now. Another zoom, and a baseball card for Blood Wolffe; he was listed as Hero of the City. Kid Valor is also shown, and the still is his over-the-shoulder glance from his motorcycle drive-by. His list of fame is long enough to require scrolling script. A clear face shot cannot be gotten for Detective Frost, though the camera pokes around for it; however as an actual police detective a minimum is given for his department rank and assignment. The Dark Harrier’s card declares him alternately Destined for Valhalla and Plague Stopper, while HCA 01’s says Advisor and Hero of the City. Soon afterward, the camera catches a glimpse of Jack and Simone; she is carded as Simon-Says, Manticore's Ally [inactive/Maternity Leave] and he, as Straight Jacket. Together, they forge ahead, clearing a way into the prison. A darting white figure flies in after them after an abrupt teleport into the yard, and she or he also cannot be identified from the brief glimpse. Never identified even afterward, Zenitheon is an accomplished but delicate, waiflike female healer.


TW: -going in at the head of a hero team, taking out the crooks trying to escape.

DH: Yeah, that was a pretty crazy day. Great day for us heroes, though. That’s the kind of mess that really makes me feel alive.

TW: Is it really true that your team faced down both Tyrant and Dominatrix inside?

DH: Oh, now… yeah, that IS true, but it was almost a wipe out on our part. Let me start from the beginning though.

TW: Is this going to be a good hero story?

DH: Heheh! You tell me!

We had Tyrant on the ropes, we really did, and Dominatrix came out of nowhere and nearly knocked us all out permanent. She was gonna put me down herself, and a Metaforces soldier, some grunt inside with us and way out of his league, well he shot that bitch and saved all our asses, no lie.




The Dark Harrier paused briefly at the threshold, staring almost longingly at the sleek black Arachnos aircraft that had pulled up stakes and was hovering, rope ladder extended, awaiting a final passenger before it lit out. No chance to get that thing now. It wobbled on vectored thrust engines as the lone figure struggled aloft.

"Dammit! We won't get to those planes.. Did Metaforces, anyone, get a homing beacon on one of them or something?"

War Club seemed winded, and a bit worse for wear as some of his own handiwork had scraped him. With his incredible strength and mystic club, he’d filled several gaps in the wall by smashing and tumbling structures down atop the holes. Eric nodded at the guy, thinking, You can carve holes in prison walls, big guy, take all the damn time you want, as blasts of various energies from his team tamed small pockets of initial resistance. In one area, an overturned table from which some gunfire had come moments ago was now deserted; a single semiconscious man in a now-dusty Gucci suit and a stunning head wound all that was left of the Family troup. The Family thug held up trembling hands past eyes wide with fear, then keeled over in a dead faint.

There was still a bit of a brawl going on nearby though, with Blood Wolffe taking on a creep with a pipe. Eric blinked in respect as the prisoner bent his pipe over Wolffe's head, and Wolffe returned the favor in spades. "Whoa damn!"

From the back of the group, someone said, "Are you REALLY the DARK HARRIER?" at the most inopportune time: a Council fighter in half his original Cor Leonis gear had come jogging around a corner, seen the heroes, and was about to duck back. Hearing his name, Eric turned to look, and his heel skidded on some crushed plaster. He muttered "whups!" as he caught himself in a hover, but even in that short second the Councilman had darted away, lost back into the warren from which he'd come.

He glanced back again at the new female hero, as she also hovered with the group. He was momentarily perplexed. "Um, yeah, that's me!" He beamed, briefly taken up with a chance at the spotlight, however inappropriate the moment might be... but it lasted only a second. He gave her a brief, Hi, who are you? Have we met? kind of look, then without waiting for an answer, he ducked inside as the group was on the move.

The entry area was about as redecorated as one would think. Rubble overflow from War Club's work combined with the general detrius left by rioting made the floor an obstacle course. Prisoners still searching for a way out in this area stumbled past overturned desks and burning stacks of paper. Gunshots sounded occasionally from both deeper inside and outside. He turned as the armed agents Detective Frost had called upon set up a kind of blockade across the way the Hero team had come, and set to with guns and all sorts of interesting weapons pointed inward. With several new additions they pressed on.

The first area was the visitor's ward. Office walls and windows were shattered. Waist-high partitions blocked view into some of the areas but many had obviously been abandoned already. For a few minutes, the heroes played catch-me with several low-ranking thugs, mostly Warriors and Hellions, who'd gotten their hands on confiscated guns and set themselves up behind the half-walls, firing stupidly at a gathering of heroes who's front line were obviously impervious to their bullets. Blasts of fire and ice drove them from cover, the brawlers stomped them flat, and suddenly, the true entry to the lock up area yawned.

The light was dimmer this far in, fluctuated by flashes of cracked bulbs, exposed wires sparking, TV monitors playing only hash and emitting the annoying drone of unbroadcast signal. There was a split in the way, hallways leading off into separate cell blocks. It was obvious that all the gates were open.

The hero team spent some time mowing through clusters of prisoners surprised by the capes making their way in as they tried getting out. Eventually some members of the team ran out of arrest tab markers, forcing the rest to conserve in case they ran into high-priority dangers. Some thugs, beaten or blasted into unconsciousness, were simply left lying where they fell in the halls.

When they entered one of the deeper open cell blocks, a multi-storied affair, things reached a head. The sickly green peeling walls rose five stories straight up to caged windows with clouded glass.Each story was a cell block, cages for humans and things not human all standing open, save an odd door here and there. The smell of blood was strong, along with smoke, sweat, fear, conctrete dust and pheremones. Each walkway for the cells circled the entire room. There were no doors leading backward above them save at the topmost level; each level did have a door leading out directly across the floor from them on the opposing wall. Not many of the humanoids in this room had on much more than their prison oranges; these were the slow, the weak, the stragglers, the injured. All serious resistance had moved on, maybe, or were lieing in wait elsewhere. There were no guns at all, but some figures still glowed with their reawakened powers. Access from this floor to those above consisted of staggered spiral stairs in the corner. The first set on this floor was directly behind them; the next one one floor up, across the room forward of them; and so on, seperated to prevent a rapid rise or descent in just this kind of situation, forcing climbers on foot to traverse the entire room each time to reach the next level. A freight elevator in the room's center west wall lay open on this floor, issuing sparks, which lit a pile of bodies laying inside it's doors.

"OK, nothing of value here," the Harrier said grimly, quickly. "Everyone, straight up!" he said as he strode forward, ready to cover his team's rise if anyone should choose to come close. "Bypass this mess, make for the fourth level, hit that door opposite!" The fourth level had the least amount of occupants visible. It did have the most closed cell doors as well, but, time to puzzle that out as it came to it. "All heroes! Up now! Go go go!" He jerked a thumb upward to show where he wanted them to head, the strode forward another two steps as some thugs gathered their courage and prepared to charge.

The group was in the process of following his order when at the far side of the room, the square hallway emitted a furtive, scuffling sound. With no source visible, Kid Valor jumped from where he’d reached back to the floor leel. With his movie star grin he chirped, “I’ll go check that out!” and scooted into the threshold before anyone could argue.

In seconds, there was the sound of a impact.

"[Frag] me!" the Harrier choked out.

There was no mistaking the mocking parody of Statesman's uniform on the hulking figure dragging Kid Valor. The arch villain entered the cell block like he owned it, with Valor’s limp form clutched in one hand and dragging behind him.

Things unfolded rather rapidly after that, and suddenly, Valor was struggling to rise, and while the coupled heroes Simon-Says and Straight Jacket were slipping back as ordered at this kind of sign, everyone else, true to form, had gone forward, each giving their own version of "I'm going in, save yourselves!" Which meant that rather than an abrupt rout, it was basically a typical hero team dogpile on one of the city's greatest villains.

As the armored hero HCA 01 spun his axe to lead with the more lethal edge, the 'Harrier watched the Platinum-class' moves closely [request for /sidekick!] and followed suit. He found though that his blows initially were doing.. basically nothing. Attacking from Tyrant's lefthand side so as not to get in the way of the various blasts and weapons flying this way, the Dark Harrier spun, kicked high, kicked low, scraped clawed fingers across nigh-impenetrable tights.

"Shirt RIPPA!... dammit... Shirt .. RIPPA!"

It was almost ridiculous.

However, he was lucky in that for the most part, Tyrant kept his own hands full with the other heroes who seemed better able to give him a dose of pain. The Harrier remained off to one side, pounding and pounding for all he was worth, hoping at some point, one of his attacks would assist in the slow whittling of Tyrant's defenses.

Meanwhile, as he struck, in a calm voice jogged occasionally by the violent motions of his body, he spoke into the comm:

"Dark Harrier here! Metaforces, we are engaged inside... cell block Alpha-one-four with Tyrant, repeat, engaging Tyrant. Need all assistance you can provide."

Almost simultaneous with that spoken message, a team of bubble-shrouded figures in urban camo burst through a door on the second level above the brawl, rifles carried foremost.....

***

Staff Sergeant Blutarski’s perspective:
"Alpha-one-four, where is that?" I asked urgently.

"Did he say 'Tyrant'?"

"Shut it Shaw." I was looking at the digital overlay map of this level of the prison in my HUD, trying to find...

"My database indicates cell block Alpha-one-four to be only twenty yards due southeast of our position," the robot named Bradley told me. "This corridor leads there." He pointed a metal hand off down one of the dimly lit halls; at the same time, a new glowie waypoint appeared in my HUD..

"Lets go!" I said.

"I should mention that Tyrant is classified as a lethal risk.."

"Stuff it robot! Bubble us MK, we're going in!" I said, plainly. We were off.

***


In between knocking the others around, Tyrant had time for a shot at the Dark Harrier. As Eric leapt for yet another relatively ineffective kick, the Arch Villain backhanded the slim hero, and he rocketed back, turning slightly in the air. There was little left of the concrete holding up the walls, and Eric had the misfortune of hitting a set of bars instead. With a cry of pain he slumped to the floor, face first, and his health readings dropped like a stone.

Fortunately, another of Zenitheon's healing rays reached him, and as he gritted his teeth and grunted, he nonetheless pushed himself back up to a crouch.

If it weren't for this force field, I'd be toast right now he thought to himself. And yet, he was getting back up again. That was what he did, especially with the blessings of a healer.

Despite running back into an ever-renewing pile of heroes, who advanced and were flung back only to charge in again, the Harrier saw something he hadn't seen until now; Tyrant's grimace.

Tyrant didn't have a healer with him, only his own prodigious mettle. And the heroes, repeatedly refreshed, were wearing on him.

But then, as the Harrier retook his place, leaping and kicking, he realized HCA's armor was heating up. He'd pulled some kind of suicide ploy. The armored limbs were flying faster and harder, hammering with more force as the seconds ticked by, glowing and heating likewise. Pulling inspiration from this and the others, Eric got his second wind, and looked closer at Tyrant.

One of HCA's blows had torn the villain's costume just below his arm, across the rather meaty ribs. Into this spot, Eric suddenly commenced a severe pounding, throwing punch after punch and kick upon steel-toed kick.

"Go down you son of a [censored], GO DOWN!"

The Machine took over then, Eric's mind draining of thought, indigo wreathing him in flaring auras, chi following snow-white right behind, all the energy he could muster flooding him. His focused brain glowing with both his own energies and those given him earlier, tunnel vision narrowing to see only Tyrant's movements through space as he expertly wove and attacked amid the cluster of heroes. Eric pinned the area of the villain's short ribs in his eyes and didn't even give his customary cry as he clawed the fingers of his right hand into steely talons, all the summoned energy he had into the claw strike.

Given the exemplary guidance of HCA, the chi and invincibility of his mutation, and the inspiration of the unceasing struggle of his teammates, Eric struck, fingers bent to the likeness of a cobra.

And for a second, Tyrant wavered.



Staff Sergeant Blutarski’s perspective:  
As we trooped back down the hall toward the open area, I ran down my plan about as quick as it formed in my mind.

"OK, we are outclassed here, no [censored], so we gotta do what we can." I pointed to my human comrades. "The three of us will maintain fire on that huge guy for as long as we have bullets. If he ever clears the heroes from around him, we web him, and when that doesn't take, we grenade his [butt]. Mk-2, your job is to keep bubbles on EVERYONE in the room on our side, starting with the heroes. Save your power for healing and defense. Also, if you can, patch your eye into the HUD PIP network and show everyone where we are and what we're up against. Broadcast our GPS until you are destroyed. Bradley, split your time between healing us and blasting the bad guys. If things change, we'll adapt," I finished as we entered the area.

As a well oiled US military machine we scooted guns-leading into a situation that was much worse than we'd expected.

***

And just like that... the Dark Harrier found himself alone.

In a blinding series of thunderous, reckless blows, a flagging Tyrant had smashed his main attackers flat. HCA had crippled himself, releasing all the power cells in his armor in his own Hail Mary blast, and fell to the floor, unable to move his rigid exoskeleton, trapped inside his own super suit. Valor, War Club, and Blood Wolff were taken down, brutally clubbed by Tyrant’s might and desperation. Detective Frost’s ice armor lay scattered around the unconscious policeman. Leaving the Dark Harrier to face the great Praetorian leader, against whom his blows had been focused but negligible, by himself.

Or so he thought.

In any case, abruptly, Tyrant swelled with pride, his mighty chest heaving after the exertion he'd put out, and the relief he'd felt when his little kitten had come just in time to see the team of heroes wipe when he'd begun to feel vulnerable. He stood tall, towering now over the upstart left behind by the others, some surfer boy in outdated black leather and a gaudy cape.

Dominatrix slunk forward, and her mind amassed its dreadful strength, preparing to spear this lonely wretch like a squirming bug on a needle....

The Dark Harrier, also exhausted, stood straight, and surveyed his position. In particular, he eyed Dominatrix's body from top to bottom.

"Ya know," quothe he, "that's gotta be the worst costume choice I've ever seen on a chick."

Dominatrix's eyes shown the Nova that Blood Wolffe had decided against.

A lethal spear of horrid mental energy pierced through Eric's meager psychic defenses, pinning him in place on both the mental and physical plane. His body arched, eyes immediately showing all white, and a strangled sound escaped his throat as he rose slightly off the ground.

"YOU MISERABLE WORM!" Dominatrix, her ego slapped, shrieked, "I will twist you inside out and make your mother wake up screaming!"

"Careful, my dear," Tyrant cooed, suddenly sensing the teleport blocking net's immanent collapse, looking skyward as if through the prison's ceiling, "my escape plan is about to engage. Destroy him, but be quick about it, we have literally no time to waste.

Dominatrix opened her mouth to speak.

And Sergeant 'Brooklyn' Blutarski of the Third Unit, Metaforces, shot her in the head.

Blutarski had not passed the Sniper School tests. He'd gotten a bare 70% score, and was reassigned back to his original tank unit. So, this was not some movie-cliché headshot, where a tiny black dot appears in the center of the villain's forehead, and they simply keel over dead. No, Blutarski, crouched across the room, shoved his rifle up to his face as he realized the meta team had suddenly disintegrated around one lone hold-out, and fired after only a few seconds aiming.

His round passed into Dominatrix's open mouth as she articulated the word 'You', in preparation of saying "You will die shrieking", and the bullet drove in between her parted lips, scored her tongue with the heat of its passage, and exited her left cheek, taking with it two of the teeth from her upper jaw.

There was a blast of flesh and spray of blood as she shrieked at the pain of impact, and the force of the round spun her away from the Harrier. The wall behind her erupted in red. The Dark Harrier fell boneless to the floor. As did Dominatrix. Tyrant shrieked in horror, and leapt to her side.

He scooped her up, for an instant thinking her dead; then, her obvious blubbering brought the realization that she was gravely injured, and still alive.

The Zigg's teleport shield chose that moment to give up the ghost.

A rising bellow echoed throughout the entire prison. At the same moment, the Dark Harrier's senses, scorched in a manner of speaking, returned, and he immediately struggled to rise.

Sergeant Blutarski shouted "Open fire!" and his team filled the space where Tyrant crouched over Dominatrix's weeping body with bullets and M30 grenades.

There were blasts, flashes, and coruscating bolts of power from the military robots. Not only because of this though, the room began to collapse, and several figures were lost from the view of a feverishly transmitting Mark-2 robot's video feed.

Outside, the entrances to the Zigg not hermetically sealed by the efforts of heroes belched smoke and pulverized concrete powder, and then, grew still and silent. Fingers of dust rose, until at the last, the Zigg resembled nothing so much as an overturned spider, limbs curved over itself and twitching, in the glowering evening.


TO CHAPTER 2 >



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