Kings Row : The Midnight hour

“Do you understand what I ‘m asking of you?” For the last ten minutes, Chromium Man had been putting together a plan, using the inner display of his helmet to pull up maps and schematic plans of the Kings Row district, to help him locate what he had been looking for. Being the son of one of the wealthiest man in Paragon had its perks, and one of those included access to private information, of which he was making good use at the moment.

“Yeah, I got you.” Answered Xanthion. “Not that I like it much, but I think it can be done.” He was a fierce one for sure, born and raised in Kings Row, Xanthion was a former Skulls leader, and would still be if his mentor of then hadn’t killed his parents to put him back in his place. Unforgiving in nature, ruthless to the core, Xanthion had been the natural choice to lead this mission. At first, he had flat out refused, stating that only Cavalier could give him orders, which was followed by an exchange of a few choice words, but he came to see things the way Chromium Man did, and complied. “How many can I take with me?”

“Twenty, anyone you want is yours, but no more.” Franklin Winter knew that sometimes you had to hand out orders that would jeopardize the lives of people, and he knew this was such an order, but if Xanthion’s team succeeded, the tide would finally turn in their favour.

“All right, twenty it is. But remember this Chromium, you ain’t fooling me with this mission, it’s suicide and sheer lunacy, if we make it out in one piece, you’re gonna owe me big.” Xanthion had a feral look in his eyes just then, reminding Franklin how much of a predator he was, more so than a hero… The perfect choice for this.

“You do what you have to, but you get it done.” Sometimes, being locked behind a mask had advantages. If Xanthion had seen his eyes he would’ve known that he didn’t believe much in the success of the mission he was giving them. “One more thing, we won’t be able to come to your help, once you guys go in there, you’re on your own.”

“And this message will auto-destruct in thirty seconds, I know the drill tin can.” Xanthion turned around without waiting for a reply, already debating who would volunteer for this mission. Choosing who would live or die, was a new thing for him. But then again, he expected to live through this, but who among all the heroes that were here, would have just the right amount of nastiness and deadliness to make it home outside the body bag? Debating to himself, he looked around the make shift barricade, eyes going from person to person. He walked towards a small group, standing a round a fire barrel, warming themselves and talking quietly.

“Care to go for a hunt guys?” He didn’t smile or look friendly, but decidedly deadly when he asked them. Sun Kil Moon, Needels, Hyaxia and Stigmata stood there, listening to him explaining what they were going to do, if they came along. Some shook their heads in disbelief, and at one point Hyaxia laughed aloud, until she realized that Xanthion was serious. They agreed to come with him, understanding the importance of his request, and he ordered them to feed themselves and get some supplies from the Red Cross people before they left. “We leave in ten minutes, be ready.”

He resumed his walk around the camp, stopping to look at a blaster reunion, debating whether to bring a few along or not, he decided against it, too mushy and besides, the barricade needed the firepower. Wandering over to the tanks, it was obvious that the frontline people were needed here more than anywhere else, he sighed softly, wishing he could’ve brought one of them along. Waving to Hammerhand, who was busy patching up a fellow tanker, he moved on. The controllers, now that would’ve been an awesome addition, but then again maybe not. Controllers had a tendency to attract unneeded attention to a group, the damned pets they summoned would hinder this mission. Moon Psyche looked at Xanthion, and wondered why he felt like a piece or raw meat for a second, then dismissed the notion, as he returned to the conversation, him and the other controllers were having about the nature of Ghost Starr. Xanthion came to stand close to the defenders, looking at each of them in turn, debating if one of them would come along and keep the team safe. Then he looked at all the injured present, and knew where the defenders belonged this night, too many were in need of them here. Scrappers it would be, only scrappers.

He talked with Machine and Comatoast, of the FRONT, Nether Spirit, Razorbane, Cabaret and Douro, they all agreed to come along. He then spoke with Saiphon, Secret Skull and Sulene, and they spoke in unison that they too, would come. Skye Knight, Silver Girl and Razora High weren’t hard to convince either, courage was in the heart of these guys, and calling upon it had been a formality. Sir Langley joined the lot, mostly due to peer pressure, as he was the only one left out of it, and he didn’t want to be known as the guy who had backed down. Scrapper lock was more than a fighting situation, it was the way of life of this archetype. Just a few more, and they would be set and ready to go.

“Nah, you got it wrong bro, Back Street Brawler would kick Miss Liberty’s arse all over the place for an hour.” Marrowsnap said to Shadow-Step. They were both sitting on the ground, eating and drinking while debating who was the most powerful amongst the legendary heroes of Freedom Phalanx.

“Pffffffftttt, Miss Liberty would pound him into submission, and there’s nothing he could do about it, and besides, I don’t think the Brawler could bring himself to hit such a babe.” Shadow-Step said with a mouthful of food, chewing loudly, while imagining Miss Liberty wrestling the huge Brawler to the ground.

“You two, you’re coming with me.” Xanthion remembered Marrowsnap from back then, back when he was a Skulls Lieutenant, and he too remembered him. They had never met officially, but both knew of each other from stories told and word of mouth. With Xanthion standing in front of them, Marrowsnap and Shadow-Step felt adrenalin rush through them, something exciting was up.

“Ok, where we going, the strippers?” Replied Shadow-Step while taking a long gulp from a bottle of water.

“Or better yet, we going bowling?” Asked Marrowsnap with a sly smile.

“No, we’re going into Kings Row, to locate the portal that most certainly brought the Ghost Army here, and we’re gonna destroy it. We’re gonna go in there, kick arse and take names, until we get the location, and after we do, we’re taking it down, permanently. When the sun rises, Ghost Starr and his minions will have nowhere to run. And you two are coming with me, because you know the grounds as well as I do.” Xanthion spoke softly, whispering almost, so as to not be overheard by anyone but them. Behind him, stood the rest of the team, smiling ruefully at the pair of unlikely heroes. Marrowsnap and Shadow-Step both leaned to the side, to look behind Xanthion, and saw them. They then looked at each other and nodded.

“All right, but come the morning, you let us go, me and Shadow have no intention of becoming love dolls in cell block C, we ain’t going to prison.” Replied Marrowsnap.

“That was my intention.” Answered Xanthion.

“Bane!” Screamed General Hammond, pointing a gun directly at his head. The Firebase Zulu commandant had been injured during the battle, he was limping on the railway that leads to the portal. The base itself was in ruins, building blown out and engulfed in flames, bodies littering the ground and injured by the dozens were calling for help.

“Too late general, you can’t stop me now.” Replied the old controller while turning around to look at the general. He used his char power on him, at the same time that the gun fired. The bullet entered his left shoulder and lodged itself in it, obliterating most of the shoulder joint as it did so. Choking and coughing, reaching for air, the general fell helpless to his knees, while Voyager was sent spinning and falling to the ground.

The battle that had taken place here had killed many a good man. The base had reacted promptly when the radars picked up the Rulaaru host in the distance. Gun turrets and missile towers had been manned, weapons had been given to any who could wield one. Civilians were evacuated, sent back to earth through the portal, accompanied by the sound of the alarms. Hammond had sent a call for help, asking all heroes that could come to the rescue to do so, but had received the answer that most of them were already involved in a situation back home, that required their presence. Left to fend for themselves, the army had prepared as best it could. Combat helicopters and planes had taken to the sky, extra ammunition had been passed, and all stations were secured. General Hammond knew that loosing this position would close the portal for a long time, and make it nigh impossible to return, and his orders were clear, hold your position at all cost, no retreat was allowed.

Voyager and Wild-Star watched from a safe distance as the first volleys streaked the sky from both sides, followed by explosions and more fire. The Rulaaru moved in regardless, taking the brunt of it without slowing down. The combat helicopters and fighter jets were bombarding them from the side, ploughing through their lines in a deadly manner, but still they came on. When the first ground troops landed, hand to hand combat and close proximity fire took over the ranged fighting. Screams and yells were overheard, while soldiers from both armies fought each other, granting no quarters to the enemy, both lines merged into a deadly dance. So many were the Rulaaru, that the humans were soon overtaken on all positions, buildings and firing stations were being destroyed. But the humans fought bravely and without a fault, not allowing themselves to die without taking an enemy along.

“Let’s go Jaden, and stay very close, be prepared to go nova.” Voyager took Wild-Star’s hand in his own, and they flew towards the fighting. The two fighting armies were mingled now, and it was very difficult to discern who was in control of the base anymore. It was clear that soon, the humans would fall, and the old controller knew that the Rulaaru would not take any prisoners. Timing was everything in what they were about to do, if he screwed it up, they were both dead. Closer and closer they flew, their trajectory now putting them between the ranged fighters of the Rulaaru host and the combat helicopters, as they passed between missiles and energy projectiles.

“General, an Exiled!” The radar operator was pointing to his screen, where amongst too many red flashing dots, was a lone blue one heading straight for the base.

“Camera view, soldier.” Replied the general, and the soldier pushed on a switch that changed the picture on one of the monitors in the bunker, to show the oncoming target. “Voyager…” The general clenched his jaw, fear creeping into him. He remembered well what the former hero could do to an army, and knew that he had to be stopped. “Bring him down!” Orders were given to the helicopters pilot to shoot them down from the sky.

The combat helicopters fired missiles towards the pair of incoming former heroes, aiming to kill. Wild-Star used his area of effect blast, and the missiles were destroyed before hitting them, which created a wall of flame and smoke that helped them go further and closer for the base. The helicopters tried to reposition themselves, so as to fire another volley, but by doing so, were left open to the enemy, and were fired upon at point blank range. Chunks of burning metal were now falling for the battle ground, where they crushed and killed the fighters that stood there. Hammond hit the communication console with a fist, frustration and anger surfacing. He knew they were loosing, and giving the order for the choppers to concentrate fire on Voyager and Wild-Star, had sealed their fate, the base would fall, and they would die. But, in his heart of heart, he recalled the events of last year, and of all threats present here today, the fulcrum shifter was the greatest. Hammond knew what was going to happen next, and had tried to prevent it, but the fates were against him when it came to Voyager. If only the authorities had let him execute him, when they had him subdued last year. But no, it had been judged more important for the peace effort, to let the Rulaaru keep him as they had asked, to let him live so that one day he would kill again.

“Sound the general retreat, everyone that can make it, to the portal, abandon base.” Hammond watched the monitor showing Wild-Star and Voyager, coming closer to the thousands of fighters on the base grounds, a few seconds away. He had given the order too late, it would happen again, and there was nothing he could do to stop it now. Yelling to the people in the command bunker, he said : “Take cover.”

Voyager and Jaden landed in the middle of the fighting armies, as soon as his feet hit the ground, the old controller raised both arms in the air, and shifted the power present on the battle ground. A little more than fifteen thousand soldiers, humans and Rulaaru, felt their strength drained from them, all were weakened and some even fell to their knees. Jaden felt the surge in his powers, as Voyager did, but he didn’t know and wasn’t ready for so much, his whole body was shaking from it. Next to him, Voyager was shaking as well, fists closed and teeth grinding, muscles tensed and veins throbbing all over, he let out a long scream, rage and power emanating from it.

Next came the explosions, the first from Voyager, the next by Wild-Star. The shockwave sent everyone and everything flying in all directions, the closest targets turning to dust, the farthest burning like wildfire in the air. The surrounding buildings were melted, the combat vehicles and gear also, everything within five hundred yards cease to function or died, huge chunks of debris lapidated the base grounds, going as easily through reinforced structures as it did through flesh. Those that were lucky enough to be outside the immediate vicinity, were thrown off their feet, to be sent crashing into walls and structures, while others were seen going helplessly over the edge, to fall into the void. From the complete chaos of the ongoing battle that took place here, only quiet and silence remained. Nothing was left around Voyager and Wild-Star, a clean circle had been created around them, as both were on their knees trying to regain their senses. Such power they had expanded, that they were now in a weakened state, reaching for breath.

Wild-Star was clutching his chest, his heart was beating too fast, as he felt a sharp pain coming from it. Unable to speak, he grabbed Voyager by the sleeve, to signal his distress. The old controller removed the blaster’s hand from his forearm, and slowly stood up, not looking at him.

“You’re having a heart attack Jaden, I’m sorry, but it had to be done.” Spoke the former hero, while trying to regain his balance, he walked away from Wild-Star.

“H-h-h-help me.” The blaster replied, and soon fell to his side, clutching his chest and trying to will his heart to slow down.

“I can’t kid. In order to survive this attack, I had to channel more power than I could handle through you, and it’s about to kill you.” Voyager looked down at the blaster, then turned around and started walking amongst the ravaged base, towards the still opened portal that lead back to earth, and left Wild Star to die. In the distance, the Rulaaru had retreated to a safe distance, trying to regroup itself before the final charge on the human base. In the command bunker, Hammond was slowly rising from the ground, ears and nose bleeding, a piece of sharp metal had lodged itself in his leg. He reached for his hand gun, verified that a bullet was in the chamber, while looking through the window at Voyager setting foot on the ramp.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment, Hammond.” The helpless general grabbed his wrists, trying to break free of the iron grip the old controller had on him.

“Justice… Justice will prevail, Bane… You go to hell…” He told the arch-villain, and then spat in his face.

“I’ll tell the Countess to look you up, when I send her there.” Replied Voyager who then set General Hammond’s body on fire. The man screamed and writhed for a few seconds, then went limp in his hand, life abandoning him. He let the body go, turned around, and came to stand in front of the shimmering portal.

“I’m going home.”
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