“The Boston Stranglee Part III” or “SG wipe?”

Anna Palmer awoke with a start, sweat dripped from her forehead, she couldn't remember what she'd been dreaming about but it can't have been good. She'd seen so many strange and peculiar things since she arrived in Paragon. It had been so long ago that she had arrived and met Oppressor and Hib, and joined the Army of Heroes. Well actually it wasn't that long ago, it had only been a year, but so much had happened in that year. The Army had split in two when Reev Jax had started down his sad path of madness. She thought of her former leader and how she'd last seen him, sitting in a padded room, wearing the prerequisite straight jacket, drooling and muttering to himself about A.S.H.. From time to time he'd ram his head into the wall, over and over again, until the orderlies could get in and stop him. The doctors could do nothing for him, they said that his mind had just snapped under the pressure of leadership, all they could do was keep him as sedated as possible. Anna had never though of being a leader herself, but when the time had arrived for someone to step forward, she had, and so the Alliance of Heroes had been formed from the ashes of the Army. Yes, there had been some troubling times, some of the old timers had resented a 'kid' being in charge, so they'd left for the other former Army group - The Impossibles - but most had stayed, the core had stayed, and more and more heroes had joined their ranks as their exploits became known. The Alliance was now regarded as one of the top super groups in Paragon City and, as A-Zay, she was known throughout the city as a wise and trusted leader. What a difference a year had made in her young life.

Alarm bells began ringing, and the emergency lights began flashing in her room. A-Zay leapt out of bed, landing perfectly in her pink fuzzy bunny slippers. Her long white nightshirt swooshed as she moved, the coin on the necklace rattled against her chest. Running out of her room, she turned down a corridor, and raced towards another door. Entering the ops room she looked at the bank of TV screens on the wall to see what had triggered the alarm. The portal at the entrance to the Alliance headquarters was glowing. Someone was trying to break in. As she watched she saw Harry Hellander and Ricochet Rocket come running into the entrance zone. Both were dressed in their civvies, and took up a fighting stance in front of the portal. Ricochet clicked his communicator "Unauthorized entry confirmed, all available heroes to the portal. We don't know what we're dealing with yet, but get here NOW.". A-Zay clicked her communicator "Rico, Harry, I'm in the ops center. I'm going to try to boost power to the..." She stopped and watched as the large horned Praetorian villain known as Infernal stepped through the portal, holding his ax. "LOOK OUT" she screamed. But it was too late, with one swipe he sliced Harry across and through the chest. Almost in slow motion she watched the blood spurt out of the wound, as his legs buckled and he fell to the ground. Behind Infernal she saw other figures emerging from the portal, Neuron, Bobcat, AntiMatter, BattleMaiden, BlackSwan, Chimera, and finally their leader, the evil version of this world's greatest hero - Tyrant. She saw Ricochet move in a blur activating the defense systems, which began to whir and buzz as they fired on the intruders. A-Zay concentrated on Harry and tried to pull his body to her, as she had done countless times, so she could heal him. Nothing happened, she heard no drums in her head, Harry still lay where he fell. She tried again, with the same result. The sounds from the TV sets intensified, then stopped. She looked up, the Praetorians were all there unharmed, but Rico... oh no!... she saw his body pinned to the wall, a multitude of arrows protruding from his chest. She tried to port him out, again nothing, she tried to port to him, nothing. Turning she headed for the door. It wasn't there, where the door had been was a solid wall. What the hell was going on? Concentrating she tried to create a phantasm to blast a hole through the wall. Nothing happened. She felt despair, what was going on, why weren't her powers working? She fingered the A-Zay coin on her necklace. Noises from the monitor bank made her turn her head. She watched the Praetorians rip through her teammates one by one. Tears began to well as she watched Akin, Mani, Monkey, Raz, Statik, Nightchill, Gremlin and others fall. Some tried to use their communicators, but obviously whatever was blocking her powers was also jamming them. Horrified she watched as Bobcat entered Mortambo's room, that guy could sleep through an earthquake. There was a flash of light and she saw Bobcat stagger backwards from the room clutching her eyes. Hope began to well within her, then quickly faded as she saw BattleMaiden charge into the room, sword drawn. A few seconds later she emerged with blood dripping from her weapon. A-Zay sank to her knees. Muffled screams came from the room that Drama shared with Nightheat, then they too were silenced.

A-Zay reached up to turn off the sound, she could bear no more. As her hand reached up for the dial she heard a voice yell "Leeeeeroooy Jenkins", looking up at the monitor showing the entrance to the building she saw a blue and gray figure come barreling through the portal and charge at Tyrant. The Praetorian leader went flying through the air, landing in a heap in the corner, his helmet skittering away in the opposite direction. Leone' stood there grinning. American Steele, Penny Farthing, Azat, NightWhispers, Snippet, and the Crosses stepped through the portal to join him. Hope again leapt to A-Zay's heart. Tyrant stood up, and wiped his hand across his mouth. "This is going to be fun" he snarled. "My thoughts exactly, Chuckles" grinned Leone' back. Then she watched as he caught sight of Ricochet & Harry's bodies. His grin faded. He watched White Cross move over to Harry's body. After a moment she shook her head. Leone' turned back to Tyrant, who was watching them as a cat watches a bird. "Tyrant, you're about to star in your very own snuff flick". "Do your worst little man". The assembled heroes, the last hope of the Alliance charged the villainous leader of the Praetorians. The battle had barely begun when the rest of the Praetorians entered the fray. There were just too many of them. Again, A-Zay watched her team, her friends, her family die in front of her. She screamed soundlessly, feeling full of despair and sorrow, yet still she watched, try as she might she couldn't turn her head. After what seemed like an eternity, there was just American Steele and Leone' left. Cross Cowboy was laying next to his wife, their hands almost touching, together in death as they had been in life. For once Leone' was out of wisecracks, standing back to back with Steels, he fought and fought, taking blow after blow, until inevitably they both fell. A-Zay felt nothing, all emotions had been drained. Now what? They would surely find her, and she couldn't even protect herself, heck even if her powers could have worked she wouldn't have lasted a minute against them.

The door opened behind her. The door? It was there again? What the heck? Dakota Jones staggered through. He wore neither his shirt nor his trademark hat, and his pants were ragged and torn, soaked in blood. His claws were out, but she noticed that on his left hand one of them was broken in half, and the two surrounding the gap were bent at odd angles. "A-Zay, we need to get out of..." a green blast vaporized his stomach, sickeningly A-Zay realized that she could see through Dakota's body, and there stood AntiMatter, behind whom stood Tyrant, and the others. "Kill me then" she spoke through gritted teeth, and tear stained eyes. The reply was a laugh, at first from just Tyrant, then the others joined in. He stopped, and they followed. "NO" he spoke "Do you think that we would kill the great A-Zay? No, Dominitrix has a special place put aside for you. You're going to make her very happy for a while. Personally I'm interested in seeing how long you live. I've instructed her to try and keep you alive for as long as possible, and in as much pain as possible. It'll be an interesting experiment to see how long you can adapt, and how much you can endure." A-Zay noticed out of the corner of her eye that the stomach wound on Dakota was slowly sealing shut, as his body healed the damage. Tyrant saw some flicker in her eyes, and looked down. He reached out and Inferno handed him his ax. Hefting it he cleaved Dakota's head clean off. Handing the ax back he gave instructions that the body be vaporized, and any matter left to be scattered throughout the dimensions. Bobcat stepped forward and reached out to A-Zay. She flinched, and as she did so, began to hear the faint sound of drumbeats in the back of her mind. The drums became louder. Bobcat touched her arm and howled as light shot out from the coin on A-Zay's necklace. Bobcat's hand vanished. The pounding in A-Zay's head intensified, a larger beam shot from her the coin and hit Bobcat. She vanished completely. Inferno swung his ax round in a large arc directly at A-Zay's head. The ax disappeared when it should have hit her. A-Zay felt herself lift off the ground, her fuzzy bunny slippers falling from her feet. The coin spat out more beams of light, and the Praetorians were all gone. The coin began to glow white hot and spin. The noise in her head became unbearable. Then the coin exploded and the noise subsided. The walls were gone, the monitors, the headquarters, her fallen comrades, everything. She was in a white misty place, unlike anything she'd ever seen before.

Something was wrong. The emotions had been strong and worthwhile, and she would have made a good sleeper, just like the other 6 He'd gathered so far. Then she had broken the dream, and was outside His reality. How? The only one with power like that had been Her, but surely She was not here in the form of this mortal. Whatever the reason she would be His, and serve Him. He was strong now. He directed a blast of pure thought at her.

A-Zay spun around at the sound of energy heading towards her. She saw a loathsome, repulsive creature, composed of pure darkness, pointing at her. In the space between them, something the air rippled. The blast hit her, or rather her coin. Darkness danced on the surface of the coin, then the coin started to glow white, until the darkness was gone. Instantly the pounding in her head started again, and she felt herself begin to rise in the air. Around her entire body the air began to crackle and turn a familiar shade of bluey-white. Turning her head, she saw arms to either side, and legs below her. She realized that she was inside a giant phantasm.

It was Her, She was here. Hope is lost. Flee. Run. Hide. No, She would find Him and imprison Him again. He had to fight Her in His realm on His terms, it was His only chance. Pulling on the emotions of His 6 bound sleepers, He increased His size and charged at Her.

A-Zay saw the repulsive figure suddenly grow to match the size of the phantasm, then charge at her yelling in some strange tongue, which she somehow had a feeling she knew. The pounding in her head was still there, but she was now accustomed to it. The figure closed in on her. Instinctively she raised her arm, the giant phantasm did the same. They collided, both fell to the ground. A-Zay swung her arm, which swung the phantasm's arm, it connected with the ear of the vile monstrosity, momentarily stunning it. A-Zay stood the phantasm up. The dark creature scrambled up next to her. A-Zay felt a compulsion to swing the phantasm's arm upwards, as she did so a torrent of energy rippled through the air and hit the creature, which went flying backwards, with bits of blackness falling from it, leaving a trail in the ether, when it landed it was back to the same size that it had started off as. The creature screamed a phrase over and over in the same tongue as before and didn't move. A-Zay found that by concentrating she could understand the words "Mercy. Mercy. Have mercy on Me". A-Zay heard her own voice speak in the same language, although she wasn't the one speaking "No, this world is not yours to toy with. You do not deserve to be free. You will be returned to your imprisonment". The creature seemed to back away, almost cowering, A-Zay felt fear emanating from the beast, and felt pity. Light shot from the coin and hit the creature. It vanished. At the same moment the giant phantasm vanished, and A-Zay felt herself falling.

She landed heavily on grass, the wind was knocked from her lungs. Gasping for air she felt a warm glow from her left side, and smelt the familiar smell of sage waft towards her nostrils. Rolling over she saw the old Indian woman sitting there cross legged, her face cracked in a smile. "Hmph, shows what I know, the ancestors were right about you after all.". A-Zay sat up, she was in her costume, but something felt wrong. The necklace, the coin... she fumbled around. They weren't there. "You won't find the A-Zay. It's now a part of you. You are now the A-Zay. Would you like some tea?". A-Zay nodded meekly. She sat with the old woman for a while, neither saying anything, sipping at their drinks. Then, when they had both finished, the old woman smiled again, her crackled face lit up "Time for you to go, you have so much more to do".

A-Zay awoke with a start, sweat dripped from her forehead, she couldn't remember fully what she'd been dreaming about but... then it hit her... they were all dead... was it real? She leapt out of bed, landing perfectly in her pink fuzzy bunny slippers. Her long white nightshirt swooshed as she moved, her heart beating against her chest. Running out of her room, she turned down a corridor, and stopped as she heard the loud snoring coming from Mortambo's room. Quietly and slowly, the Alliance of Heroes leader and mother figure, peeked in the rooms. Most were asleep, a couple still awake, but everyone was safe, everyone was alive. It had just been a dream. She headed to the kitchen, for some reason she had a craving for a nice cup of tea...
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