“I can’t believe you took
Evan clubbing.” Sara said as she drove down the highway in a furious
mood. “He’s not old enough to drink! What were you thinking?”
was his idea, Sara.”
“You’re thirty-two, Edward, not sixteen. That
excuse won’t work.” she stole a glance back at everyone else in the
SUV; no one seemed to be paying any attention to their conversation.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, we saved someone’s life. Turns
out there was a serial rapist in the bar who liked to drug his victims.
Evan stopped the woman from drinking her spiked cocktail. You should
be proud. What did you do last night? Polish your nails?”
her head and sighed in exasperation. Edward, for all his charm, looks
and intelligence, could be one gigantic pain in the rear. “I’m just
mad that you took him to a club.” she said.
“Well, like I said, some
good came out of it. How long until we get to Paragon City?”
“Great.” he said as he closed his eyes and leaned his
seat back slightly. “Wake me when we’re there.”
A crowd had gathered
around the tall oak tree in Prometheus Park, looking up. At the foot
of the mighty tree was a little girl, crying.
“Excuse me, miss? Can
you help us?” called out the girl’s mother. She had asked each superhero
who had passed by, but they were all too busy, either chasing crooks
or en route to an assignment.
A tall woman dressed in the skimpiest
of costumes moved toward them. Her black hair had been pulled back
into a long braid that fell down to the middle of her back. “Yes?
How can I help you?” she asked slowly.
“My kitty climbed the tree,
and I can’t get her to come down. Can you fly up and help her?”
Persephone gave the girl a cool look for a moment. “Unfortunately,
I cannot fly. But,” she quickly added, “I can bring your cat to you.”
“How? Are you going to teleport it?” the girl asked, wide-eyed and
“No.” she placed her hand on the tree as darkness enveloped
her hand. The tree seemed to convulse, as if trying to get away from
the life-draining touch but, being rooted firmly into the ground,
was unable to run. The leaves took on a sickly color and began to
drop, and a noticeable scent of decay was emanating from the tree.
Sounds of limbs breaking could be heard and soon the sound of a cat
crying was heard falling from the high branches.
Lady Persephone held
out her arms, catching the feline without even looking to see where
it was falling from. Handing the angered tabby to the little girl,
she smiled, a cold cheerless smile that unnerved all who saw it.
your cat, little girl. Maybe you should get a leash for her.”
the girl asked, unsure of what to think of this superhero.
moved out of the park. The last thing she wanted was anyone thinking
she was one of the good guys. She hoped no one else would need her
“assistance” for anything.
As Jon was trying to clean the house, he
felt a sudden surge of pain running through his tattoos, making him
drop the broom. As he picked it back up, he wondered what it could
possibly mean. The last time he remembered them hurting like that
was when they had fought Death’s Hand in Perez Park, but he knew that
the Banished had taken their Chosen into their realm, and escape was
Either way, he thought, this can’t be good. Kirk could only
see so far out, and after last night’s storm, everything seemed to
be back to normal. The weather was in the seventies, and the usual
calls were coming to the house for the heroes.
One, though, stood
out. Azuria had called and told Jon the bad news about Tropic, the
fire wielding hero whom Jon and the others had met not too long ago.
In a brave and truly heroic move, he had sacrificed himself, saving
the world by doing so, she explained. The funeral was to be in two
days, and all heroes were expected to attend.
Jon went to his room
after that phone call. He had felt a certain kinship with him; both
of them had received their powers from dark forces, yet had decided
to do good with them. He thought of the others, and how they would
take it. Bianca would probably be the most upset, he thought. She
and Tropic had become friends after a dinner party they had all attended.
The two both had an affinity for scotch, and would get together to
sample a bottle now and then.
Death was a fact of life among the city’s
heroes. Countless had faced death; some had lived to tell the tale,
others did not. The papers were filled every day with the obituaries
of the heroes who had fallen. Due to the influx of the superpowered,
keeping track of who was who was virtually impossible. But still,
Jon thought, you never expect it to happen to someone you know.
dark thoughts of death from his mind, he grabbed the broom and looked
at the clock over the stove. It read 12:30. The girls should be back
soon, and he had very little time to get the place finished.
as they saw the skyline of Paragon City, their comlinks came to life,
all of them ringing at the same time. The startled group fumbled in
their purses, looking for the devices. When they fished them out and
answered them, it became a conversational free-for-all.
many conversations going on at once, Evan woke up and gave the four
ladies an annoyed look. From what he could tell, Xandria was talking
with JD, Flora with Jon, Bianca to Delilah, and Heaven knew who Sara
was talking to. Edward sat in the front, refusing to pick up his beeping
After the girls had hung up, then he answered it. While he
was talking to whoever on the other end, Flora gave them all the bad
news about Tropic’s death. The announcement cast a pall over the entire
group, making the last minutes of the trip ones of miserable silence.
When they returned home, each of them embraced their loved ones, looking
for some sort of comfort in the midst of the tragedy.
The day before
the funeral was uneventful. They half-heartedly took on assignments,
and defeated their enemies with the lack of enthusiasm common to those
who were grieving.
The day of the funeral, everyone made sure their
costumes were clean and as presentable as possible. The only ones
who did not were Jon and Xandria. Jon had decided to wear his old
dark robe, the one that hid his face. Sara wondered if he had done
that to hide the fact he had been crying, and would probably do so
again at the service. Xandria opted to wear something that resembled
her costume, but was obviously maternity wear, and probably would
have to get her characteristic white leather bustier remade to fit
her once the baby had come.
At the funeral, the group was amazed at
the number of people who showed up. It wasn’t just heroes who had
come to pay their respects, but citizens themselves. Even though they
stood some distance away, they could still hear Statesman giving his
Bianca stood silently through her lover’s speech, his words
making her more and more angry as he spoke about sacrifice and what
constituted true heroism. As attracted as she was to him, she found
his self-righteousness equally, if not more so, repulsive. Edward,
picking up on her mood, which he always did, tried to console her.
She beat him back with a thought. While the twins were both gifted,
her psychic gifts were the stronger of the two. Edward’s talent, while
no less powerful, were more subtle in their operation. She could tell
her rebuff hurt his feelings, and for now, she didn’t care.
my dear, we never got a chance to sample that 18-year old import you
just bought, she thought sadly. Now I shall have to drink my Scotch
alone and in misery.
When the hearse, pulled by a solitary black horse
walked by, all bowed their heads in respect. Bianca saw WillowWind,
one of Tropic’s closest friends, stoically following it. She seemed
torn between wanting to be this pillar of strength and breaking down
crying over her loss. The rest of Top Ten seemed no less mournful.
Bianca sent her thoughts to WillowWind. While the energy-blasting
heroine at first mistrusted Psirene and her claims of just being friends
with Tropic, she gradually accepted her. WillowWind’s thoughts of
gratitude brought a slight smile to Bianca’s face. Then, with a slightly
devilish look in her eyes, she turned her attention back to the podium.
Statesman sighed heavily; he had lost count of how many times he had
to speak at funerals. Sometimes, he actually knew the hero, other
times, he just made some generic speech. It was more about helping
the grieving friends and family in those instances, he felt. With
the case of Tropic, Statesman had met him and had rewarded him with
one of his masks, so at least this time he wasn’t eulogizing a total
As he watched the hearse being pulled away, he felt a familiar
touch in his mind. He didn’t even have to scan the crowd; she was
here. He stiffened slightly, not too much to draw a suspicious look
from Ms. Liberty. She disliked Psirene intensely, and had gone on
after coming back from her trip to New York photo shoot about “that
horrible Psirene person and her mean friends.”
Nice speech, love,
came the thought. I almost believed it.
What do you want, Bianca?
my. Someone’s in a foul mood! What is it that I want? Do you really
have to ask, Marcus?
You’re depraved, Bianca. We’re at a funeral!
Typical male! Is that the only thing you think I want you for? Disgust
could be sensed in her tone, and he realized that there was some other
reason why she was poking around in his mind.
Whatever Ms. Liberty
told you is exactly what she wants you to believe. Personally, I don’t
know what you see in her…
We’re engaged, Bianca, he thought abruptly.
He could tell that bit of news angered her. His mind seemed to darken
with the psychic equivalent of storm clouds.
Well, then. I wish you
happiness, she told him with a coldness no ice blaster could even
match. Instead of gently pulling her mind out of his, she withdrew
so quickly, it made him gasp with pain.
Ms. Liberty looked at Statesman,
and the look in his eyes told her all she needed to know. Psirene
had just been talking to him. She scanned the crowd, looking for the
telltale shock of platinum blonde hair, angered that Psirene had dared
to attempt anything, and at a funeral, of all places! But either the
psychic was too far away to be seen, or too carefully hidden, and
Ms. Liberty gave up the search.
When the group returned to their home,
they each retreated to their separate rooms, as if solitude would
help them heal from the day’s events. Sara emerged shortly, changed
into her civilian clothes. Xandria looked at her with a puzzled expression.
“I’m going shopping. I need to take my mind off of this somehow. Coming?”
“Sure. Let me get my purse.”
The two women made their way to Regent’s,
one of the many department stores in the downtown area of Paragon
City. It was also one of the most expensive. However, with all the
money they made off of their modeling careers, in addition to royalties,
they could afford it.
Lady Persephone walked into City Hall. Now that
she was back in the flesh, she could exact some revenge. Although,
she admitted to herself, she wouldn’t mind trying to get a new body
as soon as possible.
The swarms of heroes in City Hall paid her no
mind as she looked around the place. She wondered how she would even
find Sara Shaughnessy among all the superpowered, let alone where
to start looking. She walked into one of the Departments, one that
had the word “MAGI” above the door.
The secretary looked her over
for a moment, before cheerfully greeting her. “Is there anything I
can help you with?”
“I’m looking for a particular hero. I need her
help with something.”
“Oh, I see. Do you know which department she’s
Lady Persephone looked the young woman over. “No.”
her name?” she asked as she sat down to her computer. “I can access
her information from the other Departments.”
Persephone thought for
a moment. She tried to remember the name that the Skulls had whispered
among themselves so long ago.
The blonde girl typed in
the name with instantaneous speed. She looked at the information on
the screen with an impassivity that belied her cheerful demeanor.
“Ok, Solanum is managed by SERAPH. That’s across the hallway, towards
the back, alright?”
“Thank you.” Persephone said, smoothly getting
out of the chair and going in the direction indicated.
in SERAPH was equally blonde, and equally chipper. Persephone gave
her a strange look as she realized that the other receptionists in
the other three departments looked just like her.
“She’s a mutant
who can duplicate herself. Quite a useful skill, actually.” explained
a man in a white lab coat. “I’m Dr. Smythe. How can I help you? They
buzzed me from MAGI. You needed to contact one of our agents?”
Persephone changed her expression. Her smile was more unsettling than
alluring. “I need to find information on Solanum. I need to discuss
something with her in person. If you could just tell me where she
is, I could go find her myself.”
“It’s not our normal procedure…”he
“Oh, but I insist.” she said, a strange light emanating
from her green eyes.
Oddly, he found himself giving in to her request.
Going to the computer, he began to give her the information she requested.
He handed the printout to her, which she took wordlessly and left
the office. As he watched her go, he was beginning to feel like he
had done something that he should not have.
Lady Persephone looked
at the paper, a smile crossing her face. So, she saw, they were still
together; White Diamond, Madam Medusa, Nightbringer, LiveWire, and
Stingray. She would be able to get her revenge on all of them, and
they would have no idea who she was.
As she headed out to Steel Canyon,
she thought how much fun this was going to be.