Imbued with power by the Hun Lords of the Feuer, Tropic performed their evil bidding: the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the Great San Francisco fire, the firebombing of Dresden, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and countless other acts of war and destruction. Finally he freed himself from their hold and fights the good fight for all mankind...




HIDING BEHIND A 5TH COLUMN
By Josef Koelbl III

Colonel Commander looked out at the rows upon rows of his men gathered in the great cavern. Uniforms crisp, lined up and standing at attention, they looked ready for the coming battle. The Colonel stepped forward, followed by his bodyguard, and addressed his battalion.
“Men…Warriors…” The Colonel considered for a moment before he spoke again. “Brothers! Our time has come. Soon we will take this city. Units such as ours are everywhere! We will take Talos Island! We will take Independence Port! We will take Atlas Park! WE WILL TAKE IT ALL!!!”
The gathered minions cheered with every declaration. Colonel Commander raised both arms high above his head. The 5th Column soldiers fell silent immediately. “But we must rely on stealth and cunning. To show our hand now would be ill advised. Plans are formulated and the time approaches rapidly. The foolish heroes have no idea what they will be up against. AND THEY WILL NEVER RECOVER!!!”
The gathered soldiers raised their weapons and cheered their leader. High above, in the rafters that supported the great cavern, two eyes glowed white with the power of a thousand thousand suns .
Tropic crouched there taking in the Colonel’s speech. He looked down at the 5th Column soldiers and frowned. Of all the conquers he had been forced by the Hun Lords to help in the almost 3500 years of his long life; Alexander, Attila, Napoleon, he hated the Nazis the most. They were simply…evil. This group had to be stopped. The tunnels, offices and caverns leading to this spot were littered with the unconscious bodies of 5th Column scum.
However, Tropic had come upon them in groups of three or four. Easy enough to handle but here was a cadre of well over twenty. Too many for even one as powerful as he to attack and still be victorious. His eyes scanned the cave trying to find anything that would give him some type of advantage. Suddenly, his white eyes narrowed.
Towards the rear of the cavern appeared to be a doorway carved into the solid rock. A germ of an idea began to circle in Tropic’s mind. First he had to get there and see where that door lead. Tropic glanced again at the Colonel and the assembled men. Commander was still ranting and the soldiers were still enraptured by it. Tropic stepped off the rafter and flew as fast as he could to the back of the cave, skimming the rock ceiling. When he arrived at the back wall he dropped like a stone to the floor, flew to the doorway and inside. No one noticed and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Tropic immediately went on the defensive. Flying blind into an unknown environment was not wise but there was no other option. Luckily, he was alone. Tropic scanned the place and realized he was in some type of storage room that was almost completely empty. A few boxes remained stacked against the walls but for the most part the small room was empty. Or perhaps it’s contents had already been moved. “Mystery for another day”, Tropic thought.
However, the most important feature of the room was another door almost diagonal to the first. Tropic ran to it and peered around the corner. An empty tunnel stretched out before him. He smiled grimly. “This could work”, he whispered under his breath. “And I could die trying, too.”
He went back to the entrance and looked out at the assembled soldiers still enraptured by Colonel Commander’s speech. If Tropic could attract the attention of a 5th Column soldier individually, that would be perfect. But things in a heroes life rarely went perfectly. The hospitals were full of superheroes whose plans went south in a heartbeat and Tropic himself had experienced a few missions where events had gone horribly wrong. Unfortunately, a hero is a hero is a hero and evil never takes a vacation. Tropic sighed. “Let‘s get on with it”. .
Tropic stood at the entrance to the storeroom and picked a soldier standing at the end of the row. If things worked well he would be the only one attracted by Tropic. Sometimes the tactic worked sometimes it didn’t. Tropic gathered his energy, his hands began to glow with the mystic fire granted him by the Hun Lords of the Feuer. The power of the sun itself flowed through him and he unleashed a fire blast directly at the unsuspecting soldier. The blast hit him directly in the back.
The soldier turned and saw Tropic standing at the doorway. He rushed towards him firing his weapon. “Come on”, Tropic whispered. And then the soldier standing to his comrades left turned and then the one next to him, and then the one next to him until the 5th Column gathered in the cavern were all rushing toward Tropic. And Tropic thought, “Oh…Crap!”. And hell was unleashed
Tropic stood his ground, throwing fire blasts and fireballs at the oncoming soldiers. Some fell quickly, others took damage, some were missed entirely. Slowly he retreated into the storage room and waited until the first 5th Column soldier reached the doorway. Tropic prayed his timing was accurate and waved his arm at the man. Suddenly a rig of fire surrounded the soldier at the threshold of the room effectively blocking the way for the rest of the enemy. They bunched up behind him and Tropic stood there throwing blast after blast at them. He raised his arms high in the air and called down fire from the heavens burning the men left in the cavern.
Tropic worked quickly trying his best to cut down the soldiers behind the trapped man. He knew his ring of fire would not last long and he had to “cull the herd” as best he could and as quickly as possible. Bullets covered the storeroom sending shards of rock from the walls everywhere. Most melted from the heat that was being generated. Tropic felt a sting in his side and another in his shoulder. He knew he had been shot but was too involved in the battle to worry. He knew the bullets would melt in his system not even leaving a scar. “One of the benefits of not being human anymore”, he thought.
He had cut down about twelve of the 5th Column when the ring of fire around his unwilling doorstop failed. The soldier rushed in but the damage done by the ring was too great and he dropped after a few steps. His fellows practically fell into the room. Tropic sent one more great blast at them and rushed to the doorway diagonal to the first. If the tactic worked once it should work again. When he was outside the room Tropic turned and tried to catch another enemy in the trap but it sprung too soon. The soldier was caught just inside the doorway leaving room enough for the enemy to get past.
Tropic stood out side the room firing blast after blast, using the natural restrictive properties of the doorway to his advantage. Only one or two of the soldiers could get past at any given moment and they were caught in the wall of fire that Tropic set at them. Their weapons seemed to be firing constantly but the flame and confusion prevented their bullets from finding their mark. Tropic was lucky in that regard but fatigue was beginning to become a factor. It was taking longer and longer for his flame to regenerate and he was becoming increasingly tired.
One solder fell and another rushed to take his place. Tropic raised his arm to shoot down the advancing man and nothing happened. The soldier raised his rifle and bore down on him. “Great”, Tropic thought, “going to have to do this the old fashioned way”.
He rushed forward into the storeroom and grasped the barrel of the rifle with his left hand, pushing it upwards toward the ceiling. At the same moment his right fist connected, shattering the faceplate of his helmet. Tropic struck the soldier again, driving his elbow into the man’s face breaking his nose. He quickly grabbed the 5th Column henchman’s uniform pulling the dazed soldier down into Tropic’s rising knee. The unlucky soldier dropped like a stone.
Finally, Tropic gazed around the storage room. For the first time he realized he was alone. This had been the last and the room was filled with the bodies of unconscious 5th Column soldiers. He dropped to his knee and rested for a moment trying to regain his strength. He still had to deal with Colonel Commander and he vowed that it would end here, tonight.
Colonel Commander tugged impatiently at his uniform. The sounds of battle coming from the back of the cavern were at last quieting and he wanted to get his speech over and done with. There was still much left to do and, as always, world domination left little time to do it in. He was pulling his tunic tight when he heard his name.
“COMMANDER!”. A blast of heat blew past him hitting his bodyguard squarely. The man dropped without making a sound. The Colonel looked towards the back of the cavern and saw his enemy. Tropic stood there glowing, engulfed in flame. “It ends NOW, Colonel”, Tropic said simply.
The Nazi tugged at his gloved hands as he stepped off his stage. “So, Tropic, I see that, once again, you have insinuated yourself into matters which do not concern you.”
Tropic circled the man cautiously. “Well, it seems to be becoming a habit.”
The Colonel snorted. “A habit that will get you killed shortly.” He continued to pace around the cave, pulling his gloves tight. “But really, Tropic, how will this end? You’ll throw a blast of flame at me, perhaps it will strike me. Perhaps not.” Commander brushed some imaginary lint from his sleeve. “Where is the satisfaction in that?”
Tropic raised an eyebrow. “What are you getting at , Commander?”
The solider smiled beneath his mask. “You and I, of course. One on one. End it now with finality.” He paused. “It really is the only way.”
“We fight, no powers or weapons, until…” Tropic stood waiting.
“…Until it’s finished, dear boy.” The voice dripped venom.
Colonel Commander leapt forward, his boot striking Tropic in the chest. “You see, boy, your time on this earth”, Commander struck a blow to the side of Tropic’s head, “is almost at an end.” Tropic staggered, his head ringing. Commander kicked him in the side driving him back. Tropic saw another kick on its way. He managed to get his arms up to block it but the Colonel dropped the leg and fired a savage kick from the opposite direction. It caught Tropic square in the back propelling him forward. Commander followed the kick with a vicious right to the stomach. The air blew from Tropic’s lungs.
“You heroes always amaze me”, the Colonel calmly stated as he continued his unrelenting assault. “You believe no one can stand against you. You believe that you will always be victorious.” Each statement was accompanied by a wicked blow to the head and body. “But in reality victory belongs to those who take it. And luck is a commodity for the foolish.” The pronouncement was punctuated by a spinning kick that caught Tropic in the head lifting him from the ground and sending him crashing to the cold hard floor of the massive cavern.
The Nazi stood above Tropic calmly tugging on his gloves . “I hope you have learned a valuable lesson tonight, hero.” Colonel Commander sneered beneath his mask. “You will never win!”.
“IDIOT!” Tropic vaulted to his feet landing directly in front of his enemy. He struck the madman with both fists straight into his chest driving the villain back. “Do you think I know nothing of war and destruction!?!” Jab, cross, hook, uppercut - all four punches landed cat quick striking the Colonel’s head.
The Nazi swung with a right. Tropic ducked and hit him with a left hook to the ribs and a straight right to the body. “I have been alive for millennia! Do you know who I’ve learned from?!?” The Colonel staggered as Tropic stood and hit him again with an overhead left to the temple.
“The Spartans, the Greeks, the Persians!” He grabbed the scruff of his foe’s uniform and pulled the Colonel’s head into his upcoming knee. The Nazi fell back dazed. He threw a roundhouse right which Tropic blocked easily. “The Romans, the Vikings, the Visi-Goths!” Holding the Colonel’s arm Tropic delivered two hard strikes with his elbow to the man’s temple.
‘The Huns, the Chin, the Japanese!” , Tropic kicked at the battered villain’s thigh and with the same leg kicked him in the head cracking the side of his helmet. “And do you know what I’ve learned?!?” He stood in front of his beaten opponent.
“I’m sick of war.” The statement was followed by a straight kick to the gut doubling over his enemy.
“I’m tired of fighting.” Tropic’s right elbow came up and connected under the chin of the man all but shattering his faceplate.
“AND I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!” And in that moment it was as if someone had taken the sun and placed it in the cavern with them. Blinding light filled the cave and every tunnel leading to and from it. The light escaped from the sealed rock faced entrance to the base and through the fissures of the rock walls themselves. Seven miles away people traveling over the bridge from Talos Island to Founder’s Falls saw what looked like a thousand searchlights blaze for second then go dark.
Tropic, standing at the heart of a star, clasped his hands together and sent a beam of intense white flame at the Colonel. Commander crossed his hands in front of his face as the white fire engulfed him. Then the light died and the Nazi fell like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Tropic looked at the twitching body of his foe. He wiped his chin and stood over the defeated solider. The Colonel’s helmet was cracked and broken. The pale blue eye of the madman stared at him. “It’s finished.”, Tropic sighed.
Colonel Commander laughed. “Ha *cough* Finished? It’s only just started. *cough cough* Events proceed apace. They cannot be stopped. *cough* Soon. You think you have achieved anything? Ha *cough cough* You have accomplished nothing! All you have done.. is waste your time!!” Commander’s eye closed and he fell silent. Tropic waited for a moment then turned and made his way from the base.
Outside Tropic willed himself up and floated above the grassy hill which served as the entrance to the 5th Column installation. Soon the Paragon City police would arrive to round up any soldiers left. Then the technicians would follow, swarming over the Column’s computers and equipment.
But Tropic’s thoughts were restless. His head still ringing with the Colonel’s words. “Events proceed apace…Accomplished nothing…Waste your time.” Tropic frowned. Something big was happening and he didn’t know what it was.
He finally noticed that the night sky had lightened. He had been in the base for many hours and now it appeared that the night was giving way to the appetite of the sun. Looking upward he saw some of the heroes of Paragon City soaring through the dawn. He smiled a small smile. Whatever was happening he realized he could not be the only one investigating it. With all the super powered folk in the city it stood to reason. And when the time came they would band together and fight. And win like they always did.
He rose slowly and faced east. Perhaps WillowWind was home, or just getting home, or just waking up. She was a powerful warrior in her own right and she knew many more of the cities heroes than he did. If something was brewing she would know or at least know who to ask. Besides, a cup of coffee sounded pretty good about now and she was easy on the eyes and she was a lot of fun as well. And if he was going to “waste his time” he was going to waste it having a good time.
He flew in earnest now streaking across the new born morning, leaving a contrail of flame behind him.
And he looked forward.





FIN
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