Kings Row : hour 6

Onward they moved into the night, going from one dark place to another, scouting the Gish for signs of the enemy. They crept their way close to the train station, which stood offline and breathing a dark smoke still, the flames that had been raging here a few hours earlier, were now gone. The distant flashes of the battle towards the Independence Port tunnel were still lighting up the sky now and then, reminding them that their mission was crucial, and most certainly had to be completed before the sun came up.

“I hate timed missions, seems we always have enough time, and yet we have to rush to it just to spare the important seconds.” Said Silver Girl in a hushed voice to Skye Knight. That last simply nodded in agreement, along with some of the others. They were all hiding behind crates, turned over cars and debris, Xanthion had chosen this spot for the ambush. They were all positioned in a circular pattern around him, he would serve as bait to draw the enemy in their deadly trap, where he hoped to capture at least one or two enemies for interrogation purposes. The four chimney stacks between the buildings, just north of the station had crumbled to the ground, taking with them part of the buildings and balcony ramps. Silver Girl thought to herself that Kings Row looked more alien now, than ever before, everything she knew about this area of the city, had definitely been rearranged in a destructive manner. How many had died here in the first hour, how many were still alive, had her friends made it out, were they still here? She felt anguish running through her mind, on their way here, they had crossed many a dead body, left in the street, or hanging partly from windows, the Circle of Thorns had killed all that they had found so far.

She looked at Xanthion once more, unphased and steady, standing by the information kiosk of the train station. She envied his nerves of steel, his hard as nails attitude that most certainly shielded him from all this. As she watched him, he suddenly got distracted by something on the ground, near the ramp access of the station. He was walking towards it now, looking around like a wolf for signs of the enemy, he bent down to pick up an object. She couldn’t see what it was, for he stood with his back to her, but she looked around for the others, and all eyes were glued to the ruthless scrapper. He then flipped opened his Apocalypse radio and made a call. The conversation was muffled and too distant for her to hear anything, but as he started to walk back towards the ambush position, she clearly heard him say : “We’ll find her Moon, no worries.”

In his hands was a purple hat, partly burnt and crushed.

Her train of thoughts was broken by the sounds of footsteps close by. The scrappers were suddenly brought back to reality, and readied themselves for the enemy. All of them were hungry for a bit of payback, and most of all Xanthion. He dismissed the hat and let it fall to the ground, looked at his team, each of them in turn, to make sure they were ready, the animal that slept in him had awaken, and he screamed. There was no denying the boldness of it, the rage and disdain in the long battle cry he let out, was calling out the enemy. Xanthion was letting the killer instincts take over this night, hero code and ethics be damned. Around the corner, to the east, a full unit of acolytes, accompanied by a Demon Lord and a few ghosts appeared.

The leading mage, a death mage, was at first surprised to find Xanthion there, all alone in the middle of Kings Row. But, the Master’s orders were clear and he wasn’t one to argue with them, to sacrifice everything in Kings Row, had so far been an easy order to follow. But, they hadn’t met anything alive in the last two hours, patrolling the Gish district, no one had been found, and now this. “Get him.” He simply said to the troops, as he summoned the dark powers to aid his fellows.

“Yeah… Get me…” Answered back Xanthion as he made ready for them. Forty to one were not good odds, he knew this, but they had to come in the trap, then the others would help, so he only needed to hang on for a few seconds. The crescent moon swords they were using looked painful and deadly, and he also noticed the ghosts vanishing from normal sight. He knew this enemy well, fought it often in the past, he wasn’t afraid. They came for him running, expecting him to run away and save his life, so when he jumped ahead into their ranks, growling like a tiger, some of them actually stopped dead in their tracks. He took down two of them right away, using his arms like a wrestler would to push them back onto the pavement, making sure the back of their heads were crushed on impact. He followed by rolling on himself, passing under the slicing arc of a blade. Standing up, he threw an uppercut under the chin of an acolyte who literally flew off the ground and over his comrades, jaw broken and unconscious before he hit the ground.

But there were many of them, and he knew he would have to take some damage as well. The burning sensation of a blade cutting through his lower back and another deeply carving into his left arm, had him abandon all reason. The beast within took over, survival instincts kicked in. The warm sensation of blood on his skin, the sweet pain that accompanied those wounds brought him back in time, when he first met Cavalier two streets down from here.

The others scrappers jumped in, screaming their battle cries, to attract attention away from Xanthion. By doing so, the Circle of Thorns mob gave him the few seconds he needed to take down one more opponent. Using his two hands, he twisted the neck of a surprised attacker, who turned around to look at what was going on. The acolyte fell to the ground, lips already blue. Ensued a deadly dance between the Circle of Thorns and the scrappers, but two to one put the scrappers at the advantage, and they killed all of them with a certain ease. Silver Girl had knocked one out, and was now standing with a foot on his chest. Shadow-Step had taken position next to Xanthion and they were almost done with the last ghost, truly the scrappers had shown no mercy.

The Death Mage, when he saw that the battle was lost, had run to sneak into the alley north west of the station. He was hoping to reach the other patrol, and bring them back here. Turning north, he exited the alleyway, passed the dumpster and was now running across 2nd street, towards the grain silos. Hugging the concrete walls, he went on towards 4th avenue, less than four hundred yards from the other patrol, he turned into another alleyway, still going north. As he turned, he felt the blunt end of a shotgun hit him square in the face, his momentum sending him flying both feet forward, to land flat on his back, wind knocked out.

“Xanthion said he wanted survivors, you poor bastard.” Said Marrowsnap, as he pointed his shotgun on the right knee of the death mage, as he shot it at point blank range, separating the lower leg from the body. The mage screamed in pain and disbelief, looking down at his obliterated leg, he turned pale and weak.

“Shut up.” Said Marrowsnap, as he administered another blunt end blow to the face of the Circle of Thorns, who passed out. Marrowsnap quickly untied his belt, and garrotted the bleeding leg to prevent more blood loss, for now. He then swung the mage’s body on his shoulder and headed back to wards the train station, to regroup with the team. He felt good about himself.

Back at the station, the scrappers were gathering the two surviving acolytes and tending to their wounds. Xanthion was already healing up, he only wished at times that scars would vanish as fast as his wounds.

“Where’s the Demon Lord?” Asked the mechanical scrapper, Machine.

They all looked around for it, suddenly realizing the situation wasn’t quite contained. Then the sound of a shotgun close by was heard, firing repeatedly. .Xanthion ordered Machine and Comatoast to remain with the prisoners, while he, Shadow-Step and the others ran in the direction of the gunfire as fast as they could, finding the alley the Death Mage had used earlier. Upon reaching it, the first thing Xanthion saw, was the Demon Lord holding Marrowsnap in one of his hands, while the other one was raking him across the chest, carving into the flesh and ripping him apart. The scrappers moved in, and destroyed the ghostly being, which had to let the infamous Skulls lieutenant go.

“Yo, Snap, you ok buddy?” Asked Shadow-Step to his friend, as he crouched down to ascertain his injuries. The deep gashes in chest and belly exposed the organs in some places, and some of his ribcage was visible also. He was badly injured, blood flew freely from his mouth, as he tried to speak.

“This hurts like a bitch man.” He gurgled to Shadow-Step.

“Be still bro, we brought along some first aid kits, we’ll patch you up and you’ll be ready to get drunk in no time.” Replied Shadow-Step as he looked up at Xanthion.

“I don’t know bro, it…” He went still, breath leaving his lungs for the last time. The scrappers all remained quiet, for a few minutes, and paid respect that way to a fallen hero, even as unlikely a hero as Marrowsnap had been.

“All right, grab the mage and let’s move on people, nothing more we can do here.” Said Xanthion to his troops, as he turned around and started walking to wards the station again. Shadow-Sept looked at Marrowsnap once more, then gently laid him down on the ground. He then grabbed the shotgun, and cocked it.

“You were not much of a hero, Snap, but you stood by your friends. I hope god will recognize this.” Whispered Shadow-Step as he turned around and followed the team.

“We need to find a safe place and interrogate them. We also need to be on the look out for someone else. I think she’s still here somewhere, at least I hope, and I promised Moon Psyche we’d try and find her.” Spoke the ruthless scrapper, as he picked up one of the unconscious acolytes.

“Who are we looking for?” Asked Skye Knight, while looking around to make sure they weren’t being observed by the enemy.

“Sun Heat… I found her hat by the train station earlier.” Said Xanthion in a flat voice.

“Why aren’t they attacking Jade?” Asked Metal Core to the radiation defender.

“I don’t know, but it’s kind of eerie to watch them, if I were them I’d get it done and go home.”

She was looking at the Rulaaru army, holding position about one mile away from the military base, they hadn’t moved in or attacked since Voyager left the dimension, as if his departure had somehow cancelled their need for the total control of their dimension. Granted, the humans of the base had been beaten, they were now gathering themselves and going back home through the portal. The murky orange sky was still tainted with the black smoke of the fires, and the quietness that had followed, since the end of the battle was only here and then, broken by an isolated explosion from overheated ammunitions. The Rulaaru looked on without moving, observing and waiting, like a patient predator. Why weren’t they moving in for the kill? The human base was theirs for the taking, nothing would stop them from destroying the portal and close the access permanently. Were they actually giving the surviving humans the chance to leave before they acted?

After they had regained their freedom, Jade Rade, Takeo and Joseph were watching from a small island floating about four hundred yards from the base. Huddled behind the rock, to hide themselves from the Rulaaru host and also from the humans, they had never made it so close to the Firebase. At least not since they were deported here, to be abandoned in the zone as prisoners, unable to return home and branded with transponders that would indicate their position at any time. When they gathered themselves up in the cave they called home, almost twenty minutes after Voyager and Jaden’s departure, the battle was already started. Jade had assumed that if the base fell, then the radar tower that could home in on the transponder frequency would more than likely be destroyed. And with that in mind, they made all haste towards the base for the first time in months, hope in their hearts that they would find an opportunity to make it home, and start their lives again with more restraint and wisdom than the first time around.

And Jade’s gamble paid off, the radar tower had been blown away almost to the ground, very little of the initial structure was left standing. But, there were still people down there and she was now worried that when they made their move, they would open fire on them. And after that, if they made it through the portal, they would be right in the heart of Portal Corporations, where countless heroes when to and fro to different dimensions for missions and exploration. What would await them on the other side worried her more than anything at the moment.

“I say we take our chances with the devil and go for it, Jade.” Metal Core was always one for action, he wasn’t a firm believer in thinking things through too long, or debating his ideas.

“Well, either way we go, we’re looking at trouble Jade, but I’d rather be a prisoner on earth than here.” Replied Lil Smoke who had been quiet since they had made it here, his eyes were glued to a circular explosion mark on the base grounds, and in his heart, he hoped that Jaden was still alive.

“Ok guys, but we do this my way. We’re not going in there to fight, or to start a fight, we’re going straight for that portal, no stopping to smell the flowers. And once through we run like the wind for the exit. I know a place where we can go, and we should be safe there.” Went on Jade, as she looked at the shimmering blue portal in the distance.

“A safe place in the city, now that’s priceless. It’s been almost a year, who knows you anymore or would want to harbour criminals on the lose?” Replied Takeo with derision in the voice, not believing one second she told the truth. They were criminals in the eye of the law, to be arrested on sight. Granted time had went by since they were last seen in Paragon, but some heroes were known to be zealous bastards, that preyed on the criminals like honey to a bear.

“Well, the hard part will be making it there, but once we do, there should be no problems about him helping us. He will listen to us, and will use our story against the city. I never thought it possible that the general population of Paragon knew what Crey Industries and councilman Parkinson were up to, by sending super powered beings here as prisoners. And I think my friend will help us bring this to light. It should be protection enough for us, at least for a while. Besides, it’s my intention to turn myself in as soon as the story hits the newspaper, and testify as a states witness in this, I hope you guys will do the same, to prevent this from happening to anyone ever again.” She looked a them both, hoping they would help her in this, for the odds that Crey Industries would let her testify were slim, but if there were more than one witness at the trial, chances are that killing them all would be more than a coincidence.

“We’ll see.” Replied Lil Smoke not yet convinced going public would be such a wise idea. He saw here an opportunity to bribe one of the richest consortium of the city, for a very hefty retirement fund, far away from the Paragon. “For now, I just want to get out of here.”

“Yeah, let’s get moving guys, before we think too long and see the portal closed or destroyed.” And whit that, Takeo stood up and, made a run for the geyser that would propel him towards the base. He was sent ungraciously through the void, feet and arms dangling for balance, to land a few seconds later on the firebase grounds.

“Where’s this friend of yours anyways?” Asked Lil Smoke to Jade, as he stood up and made ready for the jump.

“He has a secret base under Kings Row.” Replied Jade as she ran for the geyser
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