“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?”

“It 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?”

Sara shook 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?”

“About three hours.”

“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?”

Lady 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 breathless.

“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.

“Here’s your cat, little girl. Maybe you should get a leash for her.”

“Uh…thanks?” the girl asked, unsure of what to think of this superhero.

Lady Persephone 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 unlikely.

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.

Brushing 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 soon 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.

With that 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 comlink.

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 eulogy.

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.

Tropic, 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 stranger.

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, 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 in?”

Lady Persephone looked the young woman over. “No.”

“Well, what’s 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.

The receptionist 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?”

“Yes.” 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 said hesitantly.

“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.
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