Escape from the Bastion
by: David McFarland


“So, we want the wedding to be in two weeks, right?” Sky Burn asked his fiancé.


“Yes… but don’t you think that’s a little short notice to tell your fami-“ She cut herself off, forgetting his family was from a different dimension of Earth. “Oh… sorry.”


Ryan gave her a kiss on the cheek signaling he wasn’t bothered by it. They both smiled, and then leapt from the rooftop of an Independence Port warehouse onto the unsuspecting Family Button Men that had been shaking down an unsuspecting law- abided citizen. The latter didn’t know what hit them. In a mere four seconds after the two heroes landed at their side, it was over. Four hits. The two Button Men getting hit, then them hitting the ground.


“Nice work.” Sky Burn was rewarded by his a kiss from his future spouse, then was nearly blinded by a sudden flash of light. “What tha?”



“Oh, sorry sir. I’m a photographer. I just wanted a picture… sorry.” The man they had save showed his digital camera, and flipped it around to show the 16th of a second when the heroes were in mid-kiss.



“Its quite all right.” Kathy said nothing, and instead blushed and smiled. Sky Burn reached into a pouch on his side and pulled out a small white rectangle and handed it to the photographer. “Would you like a job for Saturday, two weeks from now? We still don’t have a photographer, our last one cancelled.”



“But I’m only an amateur.”



“From how well you took that picture of us so quickly, and the quality of it, I’d say your just fine.” Kathy finally spoke up.



The photographer looked over the invitation. “Your Sky Burn and Burning Barrier, right?”



“Indeed, we are.”



“And you don’t mind me knowing your names?”



“We don’t mind anyone knowing our names. In fact, we wouldn’t mind if a reporter published them. Our Super-Group has every villain in all of Paragon cowering in fear as it is.”

***

Ryan arose from his dreamless state. Considering the ways that most of his dreams went, it was a blessing. He yawned wearily, and laid back down and pulled the covers tight over him. The Hero didn’t want to get up; he was tired from a long raid last night on a Rikti stronghold. Nonetheless, remembering something, he bolted out of bed, tripping over a suitcase. Just before he hit the ground, he stopped in mid-air. “Thank God for flight…” he whispered. He righted himself, then let himself drop to the ground and went off to the bathroom adjacent his small bedroom.



After going through his morning routine, he grabbed his suitcase, which was rather large and heavy.



“Where are you going?” A voice asked from the couch as he exited his room.



“To Bragg.” Ryan answered Nathan without sparing him a glance as he sat the suitcase down nearby and headed off to the fridge for a glass of milk.



“You’re going somewhere to gloat? Why am I not surprised…” Nathan, the Zodian hero spat back with sarcasm.



“No, no. Fort Bragg! Its in California.”



“You didn’t inform me of your little escapade.” Nathan looked at him over a literally cold shoulder. After Chillbain sat anywhere, the seat and air around it could stay cold for hours, but his roommate had gotten used to living with a hero that had a knack for making ice-cubes on his own.



“Oh, sorry. I’ve been planning this for weeks. SOCOM, the SAS, the SASR, the DDSG, the GSG-7, and quite a few heroes are having a little war-games event at Bragg in two days.” Sky Burn apologized. When he got a strange look from Chillbain, he knew he should elaborate. “Special Operations COMmand, the Special Air Service, that’s the Brits, the Special Air Service Regiment, that’s the Aussies, the French DDSG and the German GSG-7. They’re basically all just Special Forces groups. All top notch. I’ve heard that even a few people from Delta and Force Recon have been invited.” Another odd look. “Delta Force and Marine Force Recon. Seriously, you haven’t picked this up from me yet?”



“No, we usually talk about hero stuff, not military stuff.”



“Oh, true.” Sky Burn sat down at the kitchen counter and sipped his milk. It tasted good, especially in the morning. He sighed after he swallowed the first gulp, then finished it, whipping a milk mustache off his face. “Anyway, yea. Their all putting on a little war-games thing. Some of us will play OPFOR, that’s the bad guys, and the rest will be the counter-terrorists or whatever. I’d ask you to join, but you’re only allowed to use equipment in military stock.”



“As fun as it sounds,” Nathan said, military stuff not sparking his interest, “I wouldn’t want to come anyway. I’ve got stuff to take care of for the Xtreme Warriors. But I wish you luck. And I wonder why you’re not spending your time out on the streets instead, where you’re needed? Whatever you will do at Bragg, I doubt it will be to fight crime.”



“That’s true, but it will help me enhance my combat skills. Stealth that doesn’t rely on technology or powers, accuracy that doesn’t require a targeting reticule, tactical movements that put Hollywood to shame. Et cetera.”



“Right. I still think your skills are better put here than helping to train Special Forces soldiers.” Nathan looked Ryan through eyes that said ‘Your irresponsible.’ “ And your wedding is so close. Shouldn’t you be helping out?”



“Whatever. We’ve got it all sorted out anyway, Kathy knows, and any arrangements I’m needed for have long been finished and perfected. Anyway, I’ve gotta go. See ya, I’ll be back in five days.” Before his friend could retort, Ryan was out the door, down the hall, and all the way out the door of the apartment. He loved super speed, but he wasn’t too happy with himself for blowing Chillbain off. Truth was, he needed some fun time. Even Chillbain had been granted that in the recent past. For Ryan, the only relief he had gotten was the occasional trip to the movies, a dinner with Kathy or two, and maybe a walk in one of the many parks or a flight over Circe Island.



Sky Burn ran to the Green Line, which only took a half-minute. From there, he took the train to Skyway, and then ran to Skyway International Airport, which lay just outside the War Walls. From there, he would get on a private flight straight to Bragg. Well, most of the other high level assault-rifling heroes would be on it too. Being declared a Hero of the City had its perks. Sky Burn would just as well have liked a simple second-class seat aboard a 747, but this was quicker and a little more relaxed, and he didn’t like being asked by half the population of the aircraft “are you a hero?” And that was only because the other half of the population were heroes, and heroes didn’t often ask if others were heroes. They simply knew. It was part of being a hero; spotting out your own kind. Many of them would have fought alongside each other too.



Sky Burn boarded the U.S.A.F. owned Learjet, and he was rushed to a seat by some of the crew who were already preparing for take-off. He was late, supposedly, but others came a full ten minutes later. As the plane took off, he wondered if any heroes had been so late that they would fly up to the private plane and open the door before it gained enough altitude that the air pressure would prevent that from happening. It did not happen, though Sky Burn could have sworn he heard someone yelling, “Wait!” as the landing gear rose, even over lull of the jets and raising gear.

***

Chillbain sat on a ledge overlooking the Talos Island street below. Nothing new from his contacts today. It was the always quiet before a storm, and the irony of Paragon was that it was never quiet and it was always stormy. But it was odd, no unusual activity from his five different contacts. The Circle of Thorns weren’t trying to rule the world with a massive demon. Tropic had thwarted that a few months ago.

The Council weren’t trying to build a giant robot. Sky Burn had destroyed that a half-year ago. The machine had destroyed everything in the volcano on Striga, meaning they couldn’t rebuild it there for a long while.

The Skyraiders and Family were still devastated over Chillbain’s last few raids. Chillbain deemed the recent fires of the Hellions too dangerous for him. As cold as he was, inside those buildings it could get extremely hot. Even with his mass of power, a towering inferno could weaken him.

The Freakshow had other problems. They were reeling over the recent arresting of Clamor, and rumors were some high level heroes had arrested Drake after finding him in another dimension.

His powers weren’t focused enough to take on the Praetorians, Malta, Carnival of Shadows, or Nemesis. Nathan was almost ready to take on Crey, but not quite yet.

Things were quiet on his end of the stick. That disturbed Nathan. Something was up. Something had to be up. A new villain group? No. There were already enough villains in Paragon. Any more and Chillbain would blow his top.

Was he finally getting time to himself? He didn’t need it, or so he claimed. He didn’t stress out like humans, he said. Ryan just thought it took more to do it. Sky Burn thought Nate a little prideful of his race. What did he know anyway, not even working on his own wedding when it was only two weeks away? There was always more to do.

He had to admit, Sky Burn had been busy. Taking on the Countess, Luska, a massive Titan, Tyrant – wait. There.

A Freak snatched up the purse of a benign old lady, sprinting with it. He stopped at the corner where his friends gave him a pat on the back, one of them forgetting he had a hammer as his hand, smashing his friend forward. They laughed the mishap off, and looked through the purse, not focusing on anything else.

“My purse! He took my purse! Please! Someone stop him!” The lady cried as a hero sped past the entire scene. One hero landed right next to the thieves, barely missing them, then he bounded over a sky scrapper with a single leap, off into the distance.

Chillbain sighed. The modern hero was this: not focusing on the common citizen. Only zipping around, saving the city from evil plots, rescuing senators and City Councilmen, leaving the lower levels to rescue the citizens from villains that were too much for them to take.



“Haha… look at this score. She must have twenty-eleven credit cards in here!” Like the Trolls, the drugs arming the Freakshow made them a little more stupid, though the change was not as drastic. Combined with the intellectual decline of the common thug, it was a scholastic’s nightmare.



“I suggest you be gentlemen and return the purse to the nice lady you took it from.”

“Whoes zat?” The three freaks turned around. One of them wasn’t even good enough for their higher-ups to give a cybernetic enhancement.



“This is your last warning. And while you’re at it, you better turn your life around, or they’ll do that for ya at the Zig.” Chillbain had his arms crossed, hovering a few feet above the ground.



“Get him!” The freak who stole the purse commanded and the others charged with him.



“I warned you.” Chillbain raised two hands. One spat out a blast of ice, sending the first one to the Zig after he was thrown to the ground. The other did the same. Chillbain fired an icy stare at the last one. The freak remaining was the one who had started the mess by jacking the purse. Chillbain raised his hand toward him, and a block of ice formed around him.



The lady had been watching the whole thing, her sixty-nine year old jaw hanging agape. “Thank you sir…” She picked up her purse, whacked the frozen freak with it, disconnecting a tooth from his jaw.



Chillbain laughed. The Freakshow chopper was at the mercy of an old lady with a mighty heavy purse.



When the lady had finished with a “hmmph.” Chillbain made sure the man was securely in place in his frozen chamber.



“Now, say you’re sorry to the nice little lady.” Nathan said.



The freak’s face was already starting to swell and turn black and blue, and he was actually missing a few teeth. Of course, he probably hadn’t brushed them in a few months and had none too much vegetables, fruit, or milk. The words came out sleepy, deranged-like. “Ibe sawby.”



“Hmm… I didn’t know that idiots like you could speak Japanese.” With that, Nathan sent him to the Ziggurat, where he would surely get a punishment from Bubba.



Kathy, also known as Burning Barrier, alighted beside him. “Nice work.”



“You saw?” Chillbain asked. “And didn’t help?”



“You had it under control.” Kathy gave him a pat on the shoulder. “So, Ryan’s at Fort Bragg right?”



“Yea, he just calls it ‘Bragg,’ kinda typical of him. He acts like he owns everything or at least has some claim to it before he even sees it. Or he was at least trying to fit in with the Special Forces crowd with none of them around.” Chillbain sorta sulked.



“Did you two have a fight? You’re not usually so critical of him, and probably taking it way out of proportion. But you’re right to some extent.” She noticed the lady was still watching them, and smiled.



“A little. I was telling him he needs to stay here in Paragon with your wedding two weeks away. He said it was all taken care of, and ran off before I could state my side of the argument.”



“It is… besides, he wasn’t doing so hot on the work I gave him, so I relieved him of his duties before he screwed it up even worse.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest.



Chillbain waved it off. “Must be a female thing.”



“And always wanting to finish the fight and win must be a guy thing. Its one thing you two have in common. Of course, Ryan’s realized that the two most important phrases in a relationship for a guy to learn are “I love you,” and “I’m sorry, it’s my fault.”



“Quite.” A scream sounded from another part of the city, and the two heroes flew off, leaving a dust ball of the street that had just been on.

***
“Where the heck are we?” Chillbain and Kathy stared around their purplish-blue cell. Through the small window they were given, they could see what looked to be soldiers dressed in black, silver, and red armor walking around, alongside several spider-looking creatures.



They had gone off when they heard the scream to rescue another civilian. What had met them was a sight to behold. Mechanical spiders had been kidnapping the person, dragging him off. When they tried to stop the beasts, they were stabbed with toxic poisons, rendering them unconscious and dragged off. That was all they knew.
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