28 Levels Later
By: LordNikon

It's the zone people don't talk about. It's the zone that even some of the
highest security level heroes didn't go into. There is just something about
it...it's just...unsettling. All MAGI knows is that the fog that now covers
Astoria had something to do with it. It's even rumored that some of the
higher-ups in MAGI know exactly what and why this happened but its all-just
speculation. If anyone knows for sure what happened it would be the dead
that now roam the streets in what was once a peaceful suburb of paragon
city.

Nikon flew high above the foggy streets that night, or was it day? You could
never tell in this place, it was always dark. Always. Even the brightest,
sunniest day in Paragon City only gave the mist an eerie yellow glow.

He knew the Banished Pantheon wouldn't touch him, they were not interested
in him, but he still kept his distance. Their heavy, lifeless footsteps were
unmistakable. He could hear them a mile away; you could hear anything a mile
away in this place. It was always quiet, the kind of quiet that creeps up
your spine and sends chills across your body. Nikon had learned to tune it
out by now though, he was here all the time, a lot more than he would like
to admit, but here enough to know what happens to new heroes who wonder in
to Dark Astoria unprepared.

Nikon flew past a large group of Pantheon, or PB's as the higher ups called
them, and he shook his head. It always got to him, these poor men who fought
and died for their country, men who sacrificed it all and now are forced to
walk the earth as mindless drones. Damn shame. PB's are slow moving but
don't let that fool you, what they lack in speed they make up in sheer
number. Its almost as if for every PB that is killed, another 2 crawl up
from the cemetery. No matter how hard the heroes work, they just keep
coming in never ending waves. The only thing protecting them from
overrunning Paragon City is a 7-foot thick, 8 story high concrete wall, some
razor wire, two very well paid Paragon City SWAT members, and heroes like
Nikon, who patrol Astoria to keep things in order and to keep other heroes
safe.

The cold night air felt familiar to Nikon as he flew down the streets, or
was it night? "Damn fog, you can never tell in this place!" he thought to
himself. The murky air made it perfect for an ambush He had seen too many
heroes get cocky after dropping a few BP's and sprint around the corner only
to find themselves quickly surrounded and out numbered. It was the scream of
a young girl that pulled him out of his thoughts and back into reality, back
to work.

He couldn't see the girl who was screaming but he could sure hear her. The
drone of the BP mob that was pursuit of her dulled her screams for help. He
tightened his fists trying to squeeze every bit of speed out of his body he
could. It never took long for a large group of BP to finish off a helpless
hero, and that's without help from one of their witch doctors. Shamans were
not quite human, but not quite zombies like the rest of their minions, they
had somehow mastered the elemental powers many heroes had giving them a very
nasty advantage in battle.

He flew hard and fast, knowing that at this speed he would run right into
anything before he could see it through the fog, but he didn't care. Someone
needed his help and he was not going to let that someone down, not again. He
strained his eyes trying to see something, anything, any sign of the girl he
knew he was flying towards when suddenly he saw her, the faint golden glow
given off her hands as she ran. Then he saw her. Her body strained for
energy as she sprinted. She looked as if she had been running for days, on
the brink of exhaustion. He knew he had to work fast. Ahead he could see the
back of the BP's as they chased the girl. No Shaman's just as he hoped.
"Perfect, they will never see it coming" he thought. He felt the warm energy
surround his fists as he prepared his first attack on the trailing
abomination. He clinched his fist tightly as he flew dead on to the back of
the dry husk. He smiled as he watched him go flying into wall with a loud
THUD. This certainly got the attention of the other pantheons "that's it,
focus on me, give the girl time to get out of sight and rest for a minute,"
He pondered if he should end it now with his Nova attack but then he decided
to hold back, take it slow for now, besides the girl was kinda cute and it
couldn't hurt to show off a little. As he pondered this he didn't see the
large rotting chamber come up behind him and slam his club down on his back.
He should have gone with the Nova.

He quickly recovered but knew Miyaka would have to work out the pain later
that night, of course he would tell her he got it fighting BP but he decided
it was best to leave out the part where he was trying to impress another
girl. He didn't feel like another night at Brads house, the couch sucked and
the Cheetos Bags were always half gone.

The next attack he saw coming, this time he was ready for it. As the chamber
swung his club straight for Nikon's head he easily dodged it and answered
with an Energy Blast. The crash of the undead monster against the windshield
of the car behind it brought a smile to Nikon's face. "Ooo property damage,
that's extra points on the weekends" He couldn't take to much time to enjoy
his random property destruction as the rest of the mob, now VERY upset at
him began to charge. He smiled knowing what was about to hit them, and how
they had no idea. Closing his eyes and reaching deep inside himself he began
to focus, boosting his damage and upping his accuracy. He opened his now
glowing eyes, waiting for it...not yet...almost there...NOW! He drew his
arms in close to his body as he massive amount of energy began to suddenly
build up and with a loud scream he looked towards the eternally black sky as
the the energy exploded outward violently, sending anything not heavily
bolted down flying back, Pantheon and debris alike. He felt his body relax
and he looked around to see only smoking bits of pantheon and burning debris
lying on the ground around him. He took a quick moment to catch his breath
before he calmly walked over to the young girl cowering behind the dumpster.
"Are you OK?" he asked softly and extended a hand to her. "So many of
them...they just kept coming.... I...I...tried to" he cut her off before she
could finish. "Shh, its OK your safe now." He helped her up and then
realized she couldn't have been more than 17, 19 tops. So young and yet so
high in the hero ranks already. "Wait right here, were not far from the
gate, I can teleport you" He hated to leave her but knew she could hold her
own for another 30 seconds, he was amazed she lasted as long as she did at

He came to a stop near one of the Paragon City SWAT members standing at
the gate. "Got another new one incoming, she is alright a little shaken up
though" The guard smiled "No problem sir, we can watch her." Holding his
hands out to the side he closed his eyes, concentrating on the girl then
suddenly pulling her through the zone to him and with a flash of light there
she was again looking up at him with those big blue eyes. It hit him like a
chunk of earth thrown by a Quarry. Those big blue eyes. He knew he had seen
them before...a long time ago. She gave him a puzzled look "Are you OK? Why
are you looking at me like that?" He shook his head and snapped out of his
trance like state quickly "Oh uh, sorry I zoned out for a second. Well I
have to be going. Stay safe out there." He gave her a smile and a pat on the
head before heading through the security checkpoint. There was something he
had to do tonight.

It was another beautiful evening in Talos Island and Nikon smiled as felt
the sea mist splash against his skin. He was at peace here on the small
island just off the Talos coast knowing this was always her favorite spot,
small but just enough room to sit and watch the sunset over downtown. It was
always beautiful this time of year. He looked down at the small headstone
that was surrounded by tulips, her favorite flower. He kneeled down and
traced his finger along the engraving. "To a trusted friend, a loving
mother, and a true patriot of Paragon City. May you forever watch over us
and keep us safe." the headstone read. He could recite it from memory by now
but he still said it out loud every time. "Don't worry Dayane, I will watch
over her for you." He felt his eyes water up as he placed the single white
rose on the stone.

With the setting sun to his back he stood up straight and gave a stern
military salute to the grave, said a quick prayer and then quickly
disappeared into the orange tinted sky. He pushed the small ear bud into his
ear as he heard miyaka's voice. "Yeah, I'm on my way home baby. I love you to.

" As he headed back to the mainland he turned his head and watched the
Dark Astoria gate disappear into the distance. Knowing he would be back,
because there will be more heroes who need his help tomorrow and he will
always be there to help them. Always.
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