A City in Flames:
Talos Island
By Josef Koelbl III

Hellions don’t belong in Talos Island.

That was just one of the rules, unwritten as they were, that governed the criminal element in Paragon City. Hellions had Atlas, Galaxy and Perez Park. The Warriors ruled Talos.
Of course, the Tsoo maintained a presence on the docks, ran them actually. The Circle of Thorns had the outer islands. And the Freakshow could be seen here and there, mostly just to finalize some deal. But for all intents and purposes, the Warriors ruled Talos Island.

Today, the Hellions broke the rules. They had struck in Atlas and buildings still burned there. They were running wild in Perez Park, burning, attacking, destroying anything in their path. Not enough today. Not enough. Something had set the Hellions off, removed the shackles that had bound them and turned them loose, screaming to the sky with voices of flame.

The Warrior boss exited the gateway from Dark Astoria, glad to be in the fogless light once more. He hated dealing with the Banished Pantheon. Their shamans were too unstable to be trusted. But business was business and even an Elite boss like himself had superiors to answer to.

"Hyde!" his lieutenant exclaimed, eyes wide as he looked at the two skyscrapers ahead. "Are those…"

Hyde followed the man’s pointing finger and his brow furrowed in confusion. At least fifteen Hellions had run through the doors of one of the buildings. "Hellions?" he looked at his crew, eyebrows raised in question. "What are they doing here? They know not to…"

He was cut off by a large explosion in the distance. In Talos Island proper, beyond the train station, Hyde could see fire lighting up the sky. Five tall buildings had gone up simultaneously. The Warrior boss stared at the fires in the distance. Then his gaze fixed on the building the Hellions had entered.

"Hellions," he whispered, sharp and short, practically spitting the word out. He frowned and looked over his shoulder. "C’mon," and Hyde and his men walked deliberately to the tall structure.

Tropic stepped off the train in Talos mere seconds after the blast. He rushed out onto the platform, his eyes drawn to the buildings burning like candles in the center of the city. Already the sirens of the emergency response teams were heralding the arrival of fire and police personnel and several heroes in the vicinity were making their way to the site.

"What the hell is going on?" a woman’s soft voice asked from behind and above.

The fiery hero turned calmly and looked up at the hovering figure. "I think the Hellions are branching out." He smiled crookedly at the girl.

Ms. Moxie slowly floated to the ground and absently pushed a raven hued lock of hair from her face. Her thick black hair fell to her shoulders, her ruby red lips standing out in stark contrast. A powerful tanker, she was almost as tall as he and she waited expectantly for him to continue.

Tropic’s eyes were fixed on her, looking her over from head to toe. She wore a one-piece catsuit looking type uniform, cut open like a keyhole to below her navel and held together with a simple silver belt buckle between her large breasts. He raised his eyebrow. "New suit?" he asked with pursed lips.

"Yes," she preened, arching her back and turning slightly to each side, modeling her new clothes. "Like it?"

"It’s…hard to take your eyes off it," he grinned. The red-skinned blaster continued to stare at the silver clasp. "What? Does that buckle have magnetic taunting properties?"

One corner of her lips curled up in a smile. "No…hey, eyes up here!" She watched with a bemused expression as he literally tore his gaze from her chest. "Hellions?" she reminded him.

"Yes…Hellions," he smiled and began to tell her what was happening. He told her about the fight in Atlas Park alongside PhoenixHawk and his team. He told her about his super group patrolling other areas of the city. "I just got off the train," he said looking at the blazing buildings. "The explosion must have just hap…"

He was cut off in mid-sentence by another hearty boom, this time near Dark Astoria from the sound of it. Tropic and Ms. Moxie spun around, their eyes glued to the fire erupting from the middle of the huge skyscraper. They looked at each other and wordlessly took to the air, heading towards the flame.

They landed moments later near the blazing structure. Fire blazed out from windows at about the twentieth floor. The two heroes saw that fire teams were already there, beginning to work at containing the crowd and the flames.

Tropic and Moxie searched through the chaos until they found the fire captain. Tropic called out to him as they approached. "What can we do, chief?"

The fireman turned at the sound of the hard, raspy voice. He stared for a moment and then an expression of recognition flashed across his face. "Tropic, isn’t it?" he said extending his hand. "Saw you on the news the other day," the captain said as he pumped the heroes hand vigorously. He turned towards Ms. Moxie, his eyes meeting hers momentarily and then almost immediately pulled to the buckle on her chest.

Tropic turned his head and held his hand to his lips, fighting to stifle his laughter. Ms. Moxie sighed loudly and said, "Chief…CHIEF!" The man finally looked up. "What can we do?"

The Chief shook his head as if trying to clear it. "Yes…right…ok." His gaze began to drift again to Moxie’s chest. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the frown forming on the heroine’s face. He caught himself and turned to Tropic, figuring it to be the safest course of action. He gathered himself and spoke again. "Right…well…we got a real burner here," he gestured at the blazing skyscraper. "We got fire all over the city and we’re spread pretty thin. The bad news is our tall ladders and the equipment we use for these HBE’s are already involved at other sites."

"HBE’s?" Tropic asked.

Ms. Moxie smiled as she answered. "High Building Episodes."

Tropic raised an eyebrow. She simply shrugged.

"Yeah," the Chief continued. "That’s the bad news. The worse news is one of the businesses up there had a child care facility for their employees." He looked at the heroes, frowning, a very worried look on his face. "And some of the kids are unaccounted for."

"Kids?" a voice exclaimed from behind them.

Tropic turned and stared at the Warrior, he could tell it was one of the gang’s elite bosses. The fiery hero’s eyes flared brightly as he regarded the gang leader. Tropic looked calmly at the fireman. "What floor is it on…the kid’s thing?"

The Chief looked up at the building. Thick smoke was pouring from high windows and tongues of flame could be seen licking their way up the walls of the structure. The firemen gripped the hoses tightly, spraying water and foam, but without the high equipment it was a losing battle.

"16th floor," he said as he stared at the building. "But it’s almost certain that no one…HEY! YOU! STOP!…Don’t go in…!"

The two heroes followed the Chief’s gaze and Tropic saw the Warrior, the Hewer Elite that had been listening to them, rush up the steps and into the smoke filled building.

Tropic’s jaw dropped slightly and he turned to Ms. Moxie whispering, "Damn."
The two heroes knew where the Warrior boss was heading: the 16th floor, the child care center. Tropic and Ms. Moxie looked at each other. "Damn fool," the fireman was muttering. "He won’t make it."

Moxie shot straight up into the sky, about twenty yards away from the side of the building. She could feel the heat radiating from its walls as she rose higher, trying to count the floors, looking for a way in to save whatever children might be left inside…of retrieve their bodies.

Ms. Moxie shuddered at the thought and willed herself faster. Suddenly, as she passed what she calculated was the 12th floor, she heard a loud, tight clattering. She felt the hard sting as the machine gun rounds pounded against her. Her powers made her impervious to the shells but they still hurt and she hung suspended in the air, trying to cover up as best she could, her body jerking spasmodically under the lead rain.

Tropic was only a few floors behind her when he saw the Hellions unloading their weapons at Ms. Moxie. He flew up passing her twitching form, his hands full of fire. The fiery hero shot a huge ball of flame through the window and into the gunners. Their weapons practically melted in their hands and they fell back into the hallway.

"You alright?" he asked his friend.

Ms. Moxie hovered in front of him and looked herself over. Her face deepened in color and her eyes widened in anger. Her outfit was ruined. Riddled with bullet holes, ripped and torn, it was now no more than a rag. She looked briefly at Tropic then turned her attention to the building and the Hellions inside. She hissed through teeth clenched with rage, "This…was… NEW!" She crashed through the wall. It exploded inward and Tropic watched through the huge hole as the enraged tanker tossed Hellions about like rag dolls.

The blaster sighed and, knowing the Hellions didn’t stand a chance, flew quickly upward until he reached the floor he hoped the children could be found. Tropic arced out then crashed through a window, landing in an office. Smoke billowed out the shattered window and it was hot and getting hotter.

Tropic was a creation of fire but even he had his limits. Knowing he had to find those children he rushed out the office’s open doorway. "KIDS!" he cried, "WHERE ARE YOU?!" He strained to hear through the conflagration but the only sound was the loud crackle of flame and the groans of the dying building. "WARRIOR! ANSWER ME!" he screamed, trying, hoping to find them all but becoming more fearful by the second that this day would end in tragedy.

He moved as quickly as possible down the floor’s corridor, stopping at every door, checking every room. A beam crashed down from the ceiling, landing directly behind him. Tropic gritted his teeth and moved faster, searching for the children…or what was left of them. "KIDS!" he cried out again. "WARRIOR!"

The fiery hero entered a large reception area. Flames were already licking at it’s walls as he moved. To each side a staircase loomed, leading to a second floor within the floor. He went right, up the stairs, calling out again. "KIDS! PLEASE! ANSWER ME!…please!"

Tropic ran across the balcony, frantically looking into the smoky abandoned offices when suddenly he heard a tiny cough. He turned in the sound’s direction but only silence remained. Eyes wild with fire and fear, the hero ran towards the cough’s origin. Ahead, a closed door blocked his path. Tropic never slowed. He put his shoulder down and crashed through the threshold.

The blaster hurriedly looked around the room and smiled with relief. There in a corner of the small office three very young and frightened children were huddled about one very relieved Warrior. The gang boss sighed. "Took you long enough."
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