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Tropic’s head swiveled right and left, his
eyes darting over his surroundings as he tried to gain his bearings. He
saw the hills covered with grass and dotted with boulders. Further down
the slope were tall buildings and canals fed by the river. Red River, he smiled. He was in Founders Falls. And, he thought, I’m in Louis Forest. Where I…died…
The hero shook his head, attempting to loosen some
of the cobwebs that remained when he noticed the monument. He began to
read the raised silver inscription below the burning flame on the gold
and silver veined slab of black marble. “On this
spot…,” it started. Tropic frowned and raised an eyebrow,
turning his fiery gaze some three hundred yards to the left toward a
shallow grass covered indentation shaded by a small tree. They didn’t even get the place right, he mused.
He then noticed he was naked…again. He sighed
heavily, the exasperation evident in the slumping of his shoulders. He
jumped, startled, at the voice almost directly behind him.
Tropic spun around, fire forming over his clenched
fists and came face to face with two elderly women, both appearing to
be in their seventies. The trip they had taken to Hero Park, as it was
now being called, had not prepared them for the nude, red-skinned man
that had leapt from the monument‘s flaming urn. Their mouths were
open in shock and their eyes were glued to a point below his waist.
Nonplussed, the fiery hero quickly gathered his
wits. He smiled, one corner of his lips upturned. “Ladies,”
he nodded and rocketed over their heads in the direction of
The women watched silently as he disappeared in the
distance. One murmured, “Well, you don’t see something like
“Yes. It…he…looked every heroic.”
Tropic zoomed between the tall buildings, emerging
over William’s Square and gaining altitude. Her apartment was
just on the other side of the square, past the rising spire that rested
in the center of the grand fountain. He could just make out the windows
of WillowWind’s home when he noticed the shattered sliding glass
door at her balcony. His lips set in a hard grim line, the fiery hero
willed himself faster, a contrail of smoke and flame splitting the
“WILLOW!” he bellowed as he landed at
the broken window. He rushed in, hands engulfed with flame, and quickly
scanned the empty apartment. Broken and overturned furniture littered
the large room. Plants, dirt, broken pots and glass were scattered
everywhere. Tropic bent and picked up a four sided spiked piece of
metal. “Caltrops,” he whispered. Imbedded in the walls were
shuriken - throwing stars, their sharp steel points extended like
He frowned angrily. “Knives of Artemis,”
he said softly. “Willow!” he called again and made his way
into the bedroom. It was relatively untouched and much the same as he
remembered it. The black carpet, black and iron furniture, the black
tile in the bathroom, the huge closet. His eyes were drawn to the crib
at the wall and his dark countenance softened. The hero looked in,
almost expecting to see the little girl resting there, but it was empty.
Tropic tugged at his goatee’. There were only
three possibilities. Escape, capture or death. He focused on the first
two. If it were the latter…his right hand drew itself into a
fist. Make this city scream, the voice whispered at the base of his skull. And Tropic answered, “Yes.”
He sighed and caught his reflection in the large,
full length mirror beside the bathroom door. He smiled at himself and
his nakedness, realizing he couldn’t go floating through the city
in the nude. Tropic opened the doors to the closet and began to rummage
through the formidable amount of clothing, hoping to find something to
wear. After several moments he pulled out a pair of black spandex pants
with leather inserts covering the thighs and calves. He pulled them on
and was surprised to find they were just stretchy enough to fit,
although the legs only extended to mid calf. He also found a large
black leather trench coat, oversized for WillowWind, but it fit him. He
couldn’t button it over his chest, but it fit across his
The hero walked back into the ruined living room,
shaking his head. His eye caught something on the floor and he picked
up a small, black and white stuffed monkey. He stared at it, squeezing
it in his hand. My baby, he thought. How do I find her? He slipped the stuffed animal absentmindedly into the coat’s pocket. How do I even start?
Then the voice spoke up again. You are Power. You are All. You are One.
And Tropic answered, “Yes.”
“MY BABY! MY BABY!” Willow screamed, her
arms outstretched towards the receding figures. She tried to take to
the air but was still dazed from the explosions. She fell heavily,
ripping her glove and scrapping the skin of her right palm and her chin
as she hit the rough street.
Suddenly, a shadow leapt over her. “Goddess!
Guide my hand!” Hecate whispered in prayer, and flung her arm
forward. A small silver disk sped after the baby and her kidnapper. It
struck the Protector on the boot behind her ankle and, as it affixed
itself, shimmered and blended into the same color. It was not
unnoticeable but if one wasn’t looking for it, it would not be
seen. Hecate’s momentum carried her to the ground. She rolled and
came immediately to her feet, a heavy sigh escaped her lungs.
“MY BABY!! WE HAVE TO GET HER!! WE HAVE
TO!!” Her eyes wild, Willow turned her tear streaked face to the
assassin. “WE HAVE TO!!!”
Hecate grabbed the heroine’s shoulders and
shook her. “That disk was a homing beacon! We can track her!
We’ll find her!”
“WE HAVE TO!! MY BABY!!!” WillowWind was
nearly hysterical, ignoring the voice of her new friend, not feeling
the hard fingers at her shoulders.
“We can track her!” Hecate said again,
more forcefully. But the words had no effect. Willow continued to
struggle, screaming, staring at her child disappearing in the distance.
The Hand of Artemis chewed her lower lip for a moment, her eyes growing
hard. Then she slapped the distraught woman hard across the cheek, the
crack echoing against the buildings.
Willow’s eyes opened wide, at last calming slightly. “We can track her?”
“We can track her.”
“Yes,” Hecate said again.
WillowWind stared hard at the Knife assassin.
“We can track her,” she repeated. She rubbed her face where
Hecate had struck her. “Don’t you ever hit me again,”
she said flatly, her voice dangerous and devoid of emotion.
Hecate smiled and nodded. From behind her, another voice said, “Sister?”
The mercenary turned, her expression darkening.
Before her stood what remained of the Knives of Artemis who had,
moments ago, been trying their best to kill her. Hecate drew her sword
and sighed, “So…who’s first?”
Tropic moved to the balcony and extended his arms
out. He closed his eyes, the red glow burning hot behind his eyelids,
and saw the city…differently. At first there was blackness, a
void of ebony filling his mind’s eye. Then, lines of brilliant
blue extended out, racing away into the psychic dark, forming as they
went the buildings, the streets and rivers, the people.
Now came the feelings, the impressions, the touch of
fire. He felt the planet’s molten core rolling beneath his feet.
Here and there dotting the black blueprint in his mind, tiny spots of
blazing white light formed. Every person, hero or villain, in Paragon
City whose powers were based in fire, was now know to him. Whether
their origins were in magic or technology, mutation or natural, their
light sparkled and danced within his mind’s sight. He was Power.
He was All. He was One. Lord and Master of the Fatal Primeval.
In Founders’ Falls he saw a heroine named Fire
Stroke. In Talos, a villain named BurnSide prepared to rob a bank. Heat
Wave entered City Hall. Flux tackled a Freakshow boss in King’s
Row. Tropic saw all of this, everyone of them and more, and still he
Then he saw her, glowing like a star in the
distance, the power emanating from her bringing a smile to his lips.
Slowly his grin faded, replaced by stern lips and angered brow. Tropic
could feel the waves of fear crashing from the child, staggering him
like a slap across the face. The little girl was in the air, flying
over…Brickstown, he thought. But where…?
The fiery hero expanded his thoughts, reaching after the tiny captive.
And then the destination became clear. Tropic dropped his hands and
opened his eyes, staring now in the direction of his daughter.
“Crey’s Folly,” he whispered and
launched himself from the balcony, a vengeful comet splitting the
The remaining Knives of Artemis looked warily at
Sister Hecate. They held their weapons halfheartedly at the ready but
their expressions were more confusion than menace. Hecate noted the
looks on the girls faces and lowered her sword a fraction. She had no
desire to kill any more of her sisters and, she reasoned, talking cost
her nothing. Except time, she thought, sparing a glance to the now empty sky.
The Knife mercenary who had spoken earlier stepped
forward. “S-Sister?” she stammered, “I,” she
looked briefly at her comrades, “…I…we
“Explain,” Hecate said, looking down her
nose at the girl. She was tall and athletic, her black hair parted in
the middle and falling over her ears to just above her shoulders. Her
eyes were as dark as her hair, the doubt within them causing her brow
“The Oracle said that the…the child was
unwanted…abused.” The girl regarded WillowWind quickly.
The heroine had calmed a bit but stood silently, staring at the barren
sky, the baby‘s cries still echoing on the wind. Willow’s
eyes welled with tears, her face streaked with their sorrowful tracks.
The Knife soldier knew enough to know this was not the reaction of a
woman who had no love for her child. This was the look of a woman whose
heart had been torn from her chest.
“The Oracle said this?” Hecate asked.
“Yes, when she told us of the…”
“The Oracle said this?” Hecate
interrupted, lowering her sword completely and fixing her pale blue
eyes on the young woman.
The dark haired girl lowered her eyes in thought as
the other mercenaries gathered closer, their minds all trying to wrap
themselves around the question. Hecate waited silently, allowing the
women to come to the answer on their own. She mused that this was the
fundamental difference between Helene and herself. Her enemy wanted
unquestioning warriors, robotic soldiers to carry out any task no
matter the relative right or wrong of it. Hecate wanted them to think,
to adapt to any situation and to stand up for ideals beyond their
training. Things like honor, duty and the right and wrong of things.
While she knew she could not be called a ‘good guy’, honor
had a way of pushing one in the correct direction, sometimes in spite
of missions or events or even fate. The Hand of Artemis was broken from
her reverie by the voice of a warrior.
“No,” the woman said. “Sister Helene said the
Oracle told her.” She was tall, a coiled spring with thick, curly
red hair cascading over her shoulders, some pulled into a top knot.
A girl in the back spoke up. “The Oracle lied
to Sister Helene?” The thought that an elite sister could deceive
them was still a foreign concept.
Dark Hair spoke again, this time her black eyes flashed angrily. “No. Sister Helene lied to us.”
The silence accompanying the statement was a deep bottomless hole the
Knives of Artemis could not now ignore. Confusion rent the faces of the
Sisters, having no experience at betrayal of this magnitude.
“But…but why?” the assassin said, her voice sounding tiny and close to tears.
Hecate shrugged and shook her head. “I
don’t know, child. Greed, power, envy…any one or all of
those plus a thousand more. I cannot say.”
“We shall tell the sisters of this
treachery,” the redhead spat. “We’ll find Helene and
make her pay for…”
“No,” Hecate ordered. “You shall not.”
“What? Why?” The Knives looked at each other in grim confusion.
Hecate’s gaze fell on each of them.
“What proof do we have? Will they believe us? Helene has her
followers. Who are they? And what of the Oracle? Is she alive,
dead?” She shook her head again, sighing. “We must be
smart. If not there will be war between us,” she looked at the
dead Knives of Artemis laying in the street, “and I have killed
too many of my children today.”
The remaining Knives stood quietly, their eyes
shifting between each other when the Dark Hair spoke again.
“Honored Sister.” The Knives of Artemis dropped to one knee
in front of Sister Hecate. “What will we do?”
Hecate smiled sadly at the women before her.
‘Honored Sister’ was a title worn like a medal. It was
rarely used and reserved for the bravest, the best of the Sisterhood,
the highest honor they could bestow - a name. The assassin shook her
head. “First, get up.” When they were all standing, she
nodded at the dark haired girl. “Rilla, yes?”
The girl bowed slightly in acknowledgement. “Yes, sister.”
“Gather up our dead, return home with them and
make sure they are sent to their rest with the highest accolades.”
“Even Sister Mari?” Rilla asked.
“She was Helene’s lieutenant and stood
“Yes, she was…misguided…but she
fought well and died bravely. She deserves her place.” Hecate
nodded to the women. “I’m sure Sister Helene has returned
to our island and woven a fine tale. Protect yourselves. Tell them that
we,” she gestured at WillowWind, “disappeared in the
“Understood,” Rilla said. “But
what about our sisters? They are following one not worthy. How can
Hecate waived her hand at the women. “Do
nothing until I return. There will be a reckoning, have no fear.”
She chewed her lower lip for a moment. “You know my
The Knives nodded and several voices answered:
“I spar with Sabine.” “Drea has taught me
striking.” “Vicca has aided me with the bow.”
Sister Hecate raised her had to silence them.
“Good, good. Seek them out and tell them this: ‘The truth
is not forsaken, only delayed.’ Then keep your eyes open and
watch for my return.” She smiled warmly. “Go.” As
one, the Knives of Artemis saluted. Within seconds, they were gone, the
living and the dead. Not a trace remained of their presence or passing.
Hecate stood beside Willow, who had not moved, still
staring silently into the sky. The assassin’s hand opened a
compartment on her belt and drew forth a small device which looked like
a mp3 player. She pressed it several times with her thumb then held it
at arm‘s length . It beeped once.
“Crey’s Folly,” the Hand of Artemis said quietly.
“Crey’s Folly,” WillowWind
whispered, then grasped the mercenary by the arms and leapt into the
air, rocketing across the ether, energy crackling furiously in their
Tropic landed on the roof of the nondescript brick
building, the flame surrounding his body snuffing out as his feet
touched its surface. He quickly eyed the roof and the surrounding
buildings. Scaffolding crisscrossed between and around the nearby
structures, round silos of red metal dotted the landscape, their coned
points poking into the sky like sharp pencils. The building he stood on
was approximately six stories high. Exhaust vents were placed every few
feet, white vaporous fumes escaped from the round holes in rapid waves
The whole zone, from the moment one entered until
the moment they left, filled the nostrils and lungs with the acrid
taste of copper. The water stood still and tepid, a misty green devoid
of life except for the unnatural monstrosities calling themselves the
Devouring Earth, horrid perversions of flora and stone, loyal only to
the land and only existing to reclaim it from its affliction: humanity.
The fiery hero frowned, lips pursed with anger. He
stalked across the roof to what appeared to be an air conditioning unit
squatting almost at the rooftop’s center. It stood waist high,
silver with vents cut into the metal exterior and was a bit wider than
his shoulders. Teeth clenched, Tropic gripped the sides of the
construct. Waves of heat radiated from his hands and, as his fingers
touched the hard surface, they sunk in, melting into the cold steel.
With a grunt, Tropic ripped the unit up and away, the screech of torn
metal echoed over the building. He tossed it to the side and without a
glance, dropped into the jagged hole that remained.
He landed at the end of a polished corridor. Its
bright metal walls curved up from the bright metal floor. Its grayness
was awash with florescent light, long bulbs that ran continuously down
the ceilings center. Perhaps twenty feet ahead the passageway bent to
the left and he marched purposely around the bend, without fear or
Three Crey personnel looked up in surprise at the
hero. A Cryo tank, a Voltaic tank - through their armor able to
generate withering cold and limitless electrical current respectively -
and an Operations Engineer - a weapons expert possessing the ability to
construct an auto-fire machine gun turret in less than five seconds.
A pregnant silence filled the hallway and then
Tropic screamed, fire erupting from his lips. “WHERE’S MY
The Voltaic tank was the first to react, leaping
into the air, arms stretched above his head. His armor crackled, great
arcs of electricity spun over him, white against silver. As his feet
touched the ground, the tank swung his arms down, slamming them into
the polished flooring. A cone of energy flowed forth, buzzing hotly
over the metal, frying everything in its path.
But Tropic was too quick. When the Voltaic
tank’s arms hit the floor the fiery hero was already in the air,
heat spiraling over his hovering form. Red fire blasted from both
hands, concentric circles of flaming force rippled out, impacting the
floor directly in front of the electric minion.
`The tank was unprepared, smugly assuming his power
suit could handle the barefoot hero. He was swept off his feet, roughly
striking the gleaming corridor’s deck. The armor clad villain
slid uncontrollably down the hall, the burnished metal suit not
allowing any purchase for his flailing arms and legs to stop the
Ahead was an intersection of passageways. At its
center three columns stood around a computer console. The Voltaic tank
rumbled directly into them, his helmet clanging against a column. The
sound of a small crack went unheard and the armored man lay still, his
head at an unnatural angle.
“HERO INCURSION! I SAY AGAIN, WE HAVE
META-HUMAN INCURSION AT LEVEL EIGHT!” The Operations Engineer was
screaming into his radio. He dropped to his knee and suddenly an
Auto-turret took shape and chattered to life. The hall was filled with
the crisp braka-braka-braka of automatic fire.
The Cryo tank took aim and fired a blast of super
cooled air at the hero. Tropic grunted as icy cold surrounded his
chest, instantly turning to huge chunks of ice. Bursting into flame,
the ice melted from him immediately. He felt a sting in his left side
followed by another in his shoulder. Fire erupted from the two holes
where the .50 caliber slugs struck him. The lead melted inside his body
and the tongues of flame snuffed out, healing the wounds and sealing
the red skin, leaving it unmarked.
Tropic threw his arm out, an arc of fire leaping
from his palm and rolling over the low ceiling. The Cryo tank ducked
out of the way and the Operations Engineer screamed
“NO!” leaping to the side. Unfortunately, he leapt
directly into the path of the auto-turret, its barrels sweeping up,
bullets churning from its dual muzzles. The man hung in midair, his
body jerking wildly as the cartridges slammed into him. His flak jacket
stopped the slugs at his chest, but the turrets kept moving, the lead
chewing up his legs and arms, finally moving to his head which seemed
to simply disintegrate. At last the chattering stopped, its magazine
spent, and the engineer fell mercifully to the floor.
Near the prone body of the Voltaic tank, two more
Crey minions appeared from the passage intersection. Tropic could see
one was a Crey Medic, the other was a Research Assistant. Of the two,
the Researcher was the most important. If there were any experiments or
projects active within the facility, he would know. The hero grinned
slightly, the small smile disappearing as he ducked a wave of frigid
air. He saw the Medic kneel beside the motionless tank and the fire
blaster realized he had to act quickly, unwilling to risk the healer
being able to revive the downed man.
From Tropic’s hands two razor-like beams shot
forth. One struck at the Cryo tank, piercing the man’s armor at
his left side. The other hit the Medic at the back of his skull and
exited almost exactly between his eyes. The man fell forward onto the
Research Assistant, knocking him over and momentarily pinning him to
the shiny floor.
The Cryo tank grinned beneath his helmet. The beam
had missed his body altogether, only striking his armor. His hidden
expression turned to confusion, then to slowly dawning horror as the
heads-up display near his left eye noted the rapid loss of liquid
nitrogen. He quickly became aware of the mist rising from his side and
his jaw dropped in open mouthed terror. The hero had ruptured the
suit’s carefully balanced nitrogen power cell and the
super-cooled air surrounded him in a deadly white haze.
Tropic stared for a moment then, lips sneering,
fired an enormous ball of fire at the tank. It rolled towards him, a
churning sphere of red, yellow and black, filling the corridor with
waves of hellish heat.
“NO!!!” the Cryo tank screamed and threw
his arms over his face, trying in vain to shield himself from the
inevitable. When the blistering, violent heat met with the raw, glacial
cold only one thing could happen. The Cryo tank shattered into a
thousand red-misted pieces which fell to the cold metal floor with a
Tropic looked at the remains of the tank briefly
then turned his phlegmatic gaze to the Research Assistant. The man was
just kicking the dead legs of the Medic from him. He looked at the
blazing eyes of the hero and kicked a little faster.
The fiery hero bounded toward the researcher and
stood over him, teeth clenched, his countenance set in hard anger.
“Where is she?” his voice rasped, little more than a
whisper, but filling every bit of the corridor.
don’t…I…,” the Research Assistant stammered,
eyes wide and casting about fearfully.
Tropic frowned and gripped the man by his shirt,
hoisting him from the ground and holding him face to face and almost
nose to nose. The flame flowed hot and red from his eyes and the air
around him wavered like hot Arizona asphalt. “Listen to me, you
little, little man, and you may well end this day as you began
it…alive.” He pulled the helpless man closer, the heat
around his body intensifying. “Where…is…the
The researcher’s jaw opened, his mouth moved,
his eyes wide. “She’s…she…two…two
levels down…but I’m…I don’t…,”
he finally croaked out.
The hero released the terrified man, throwing him
roughly aside. The Crey minion skittered away until his back was
pressed against the cool steel wall. Tropic gazed for a moment at the
elevator at the end of the passageway then, with a brief glance at the
frightened man, said, “For your assistance, I give you this
advice. Run…and don’t stop.” Without another word,
the red skinned blaster stalked deliberately to the bank of elevators.
The Research Assistant sat unmoving on the floor. After a while, he stood. And then, he ran.
WillowWind and Hecate landed on the roof of a tall
building, the small tracking device pinging and pointing to the brick
building across a debris cluttered street. The two women hurried to the
roof’s ledge and looked over to their target’s entrance,
their mouth’s turning to grim frowns. The doors were guarded by
several Crey minions: two Crey Protectors - hard to hurt armor clad
soldiers that carried enough firepower to stop a tank, a Crisis Unit -
well-equipped munitions handlers able to handle any situation, plus a
variety of Riot and Patrol Guards - security agents armed with standard
law enforcement weapons. At least eight clustered around the doors
talking, walking back and forth or just generally in the way.
The hero and the assassin watched as a man in a lab
apron fled the entry and ran headlong down the street, the eyes of the
guards trailing behind him. Lips set, Hecate nodded, “All right.
You wait here and I’ll deal with this. When I’m done
“What?” Willow asked through clenched
teeth. “Why? I’m not going to wait up here!”
“No. Its just that…”
“What? Are you going to betray me?!? Is that
it?” Energy began to crackle over the heroine’s hands.
“Is that what this all is about?”
Hecate’s jaw dropped. “No! That’s ridiculous. I just don’t want…”
“Then why? I can take them…and you if I need to. That’s my baby I have…”
“No, its because…”
“Why?” WillowWind’s eyes flashed white. “Why?”
killer…and you’re not.” Hecate looked away from the
woman, staring unseeing at the enemies below her.
Willow’s head moved back a bit, her raised
eyebrow making the question mark shaped scar around her eye more
pronounced. This was not the answer she expected. She paused for a
moment then stepped forward speaking softly, “I think the time
has come for truth between us.” The assassin looked up briefly.
“Why are you doing this…helping me?”
Sister Hecate sighed, a slight shrug of her
shoulders dancing over her. She chewed her lower lip and then stared
over the nearby buildings. “I was born in the year 1544 after the
death of the Christ, as time is reckoned. Whether it was my own path
that led me to the Goddess or if she found me…I cannot say. I
first met him…Tropic…a year after your states’ war
“The Civil War?” Willow asked.
“As you say. We were at cross purposes. My
Sisterhood and his masters had sent us both after the same target. He
was unlike any man I had known up to that point, not only in appearance
but in manner and ability. He made an…impression. Our paths did
not come together again until a decade later, in Moscow. We…we
were together after that for more than thirty years. I think it
was…we were happy.”
“And the Knives didn’t object?”
Hecate smiled. “There were rumblings but by
then I had rank and rank has privileges. And there are very few people
who can tell an Elite Sister what to do. Besides, there were those who
recognized he could be a powerful ally.” She shook her head at
her tightly held memories. “But there comes a time when a woman
wants more and the decisions of her youth seem reckless and thoughtless
with the passage of time.”
Willow remained silent, unwilling to interrupt the
warrior. She was learning a great deal more than she anticipated about
her new friend and the father of her child as well. “Go
on,” she said quietly.
“I have power, strength, skill, long
life,” Hecate looked wistfully into the sky, “but there
was…the Goddess…there was a price to pay that meant
nothing to me then but now…” Sadness rippled over the
assassin’s face so quickly if Willow had blinked she would have
missed it. Sister Hecate shook her head once then said. “I cannot
Suddenly it all made sense to the heroine.
WillowWind stepped closer to the roof’s ledge, staring intently
at the building that held her daughter. “She’s what might
have been,” the heroine said softly, turning her head to look at
the Knife warrior.
Hecate shrugged. “In a way, I suppose, but
what I said before is true. Tropic was an honorable man, a fine
warrior, foe and friend alike.”
“You were in love with him,” Willow smiled.
Sister Hecate smiled in return. “I’ve
loved him since before you were born.” She looked at the building
across the street silently.
Willow sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead.
Finally she looked at the assassin and said, “You’re right.
I’m no killer. But I have killed before and, because of what I
do, I’ll have to make that decision again.” The heroine
eyed the guards below. “But my baby is in there and I’ll
kill anyone who gets between us. If I have to I’ll pull that
building down around their ears.” WillowWind stared directly into
Hecate’s eyes, an intense no-nonsense glare that almost caused
the assassin to take a step backward. “We do this together or
I’ll do it alone, but you’re not going to do it on your
Hecate met Willow’s glare and nodded.
“All right. Prepare yourself. We are not going to try to arrest
them, hold them for the authorities or render them unconscious. They
will be doing their best to kill us so if we can, we will kill them
first.” She looked over the ledge at the enemy. “I’ll
take the two Protectors. You take the Crisis Unit and we’ll
eliminate the soldiers as we go, clear?”
Willow nodded grimly, staring at her feet.
“Remember,” Hecate placed her hand on
the girl’s shoulder. “Careful dies, reckless kills.”
WillowWind nodded again then looked up at Hecate,
her lips smiling crookedly. “And Hecate was the goddess of
fertility,” Willow chided.
The Hand of Artemis raised an eyebrow. “Well, I never said the gods didn’t have a sense of humor.” Hecate glanced at the street below. “Can you carry me again?”
“You have a plan,” Willow grinned.
“…so you just give me the money,”
the Crey Protector was saying, weapon dangling loosely from his hand as
he talked to the Riot Guard. “I got a guy in Brickstown. He got a
line on a pony, man…easy money.”
The guard shrugged, “I don’t know.
It’s a big risk. My girlfriend’ll kill me if she finds out
“Ahhh, whipped, that’s what you
are,” the Protector laughed. The other soldiers snickered in the
background. “Grow some stones, buddy. You’ll never see no
woman push me around. They know not to mess wit…” His
voice trailed off as a shadow passed overhead and oddly seemed to grow
larger. The Protector looked skyward and scrambled to raise his weapon.
Above, WillowWind had grasped Hecate by the wrists
and flew over the street. She dove straight down, skirting the edge of
the Crey facility. When she reached the third floor, the heroine
released the Knife mercenary.
Hecate drew her sword and slipped her knife into her
left hand as she fell. She hit the ground rolling forward, ending
directly in front of the gambling Protector. With a flick of her wrist
she sent the knife across the sidewalk into the head of his partner.
The assassin rose to her feet, the sword trailing up before her,
slicing the Protector through his Kevlar armor, into his body and out
past his neck, a crimson arc following the silver-metal path.
Willow landed before the Crisis Unit, his silver
armor gleaming in the late afternoon sun. She let the momentum of her
fall push her into a crouch and she sprung up, her right hand encased
in a nimbus of rippling white energy. The heroine willed it to come to
a point extending from her fingertips. She drove up, the hard crackling
energy striking the Unit below his chin, into his neck and through his
Behind her she heard steel on steel and flesh, the
grunts and cries of the Crey minions and the silence of the assassin.
Willow began to turn when pain exploded through her back. Stars danced
darkly within her head and from the corner of her eye she saw the
Patrol Guard raise his police baton for another strike. The heroine
spun around and drove her left fist into the man’s midsection. A
white cone of energy was clearly visible bending back over her fist as
the concussive force of the blow flung the guard careening across the
street and into the sixth floor of a building. The impact sent bricks
and mortar crumbling into the sky and tumbling to the street along with
the flopping body of the Crey operative.
The heroine grimaced, flexing the muscles in her
back, ready to rejoin the fight. She watched as Hecate’s shoulder
barely moved, her palm driving up almost imperceptibly into a Patrol
Guard’s jaw. The man dropped motionless at the assassin’s
The street was littered with the bloody dead and
unconscious and the groaning wounded. Hecate pulled her knife from the
forehead of one of the Protectors and wiped it on his uniform. She
looked sidelong at WillowWind, a questioning look on her face.
Willow shrugged. “You’re quick,” she said, gazing at the downed enemies.
“An admirable quality in assassins,” the Knife of Artemis smiled a little evil smile.
“Heh,” Willow snorted and turned to the Crey lab’s door. “Ready?”
Sister Hecate nodded and two women wearing the same cold expression entered the building .
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