A City in Flames:

Perez Park was thick with Hellions. Smoke billowed into the skies, blotting out the afternoon sun. Several buildings still burned ferociously, surrounded by the gang members, others smoldered as fire teams of heroes and firemen fought the blazes. Here the Hellions proved to be strongest, offering the greatest resistance to the Heroes that fought to put down the rioting gang members. Normally equally matched with the Skulls, Lost, and fledgling Circle of Thorns mages, the Hellions were pressing all of the other groups of villains back, taking control of Perez.

In an abandoned church, the demon spoke to the massed Hellions. Several of the gang leaders, the Damned, surrounded Xeqatl.

“Bring me one of the stronger humans,” the demon instructed. “My brother needs a body to cross over.”

“As you wish,” one of the Damned said.

Xeqatl’s power was growing by the minute. The body the demon possessed barely resembled the Hellion leader it had once belonged to. Now the man’s veins stood out in stark contrast to his skin, blue on a death gray hue. It seemed as though the skin had turned to old parchment, and may begin to flake off at any time. The body’s eyes were completely red, devoid of any iris, pupil, or color differentiation. When the demon spoke, the voice was harsh, raspy, as though the vocal chords where being chewed up by the demon within.

Within minutes the Damned had returned with a struggling man, the ten Hellions holding him having trouble containing his strength. The gang members dragged the struggling man to the front of the old church, binding his hands to the wall below a huge, cracked stained glass window.

Xeqatl ripped the man’s shirt away from his chest, then began to carve arcane symbols across the bare skin, murmuring words of power. The fires burning around the city, the lives being taken, all fed power along lines that the demon had spread out from itself like a spiderweb. Xeqatl used that fed on that power, his body gaining strength with every moment. That power was now poured into the symbols being drawn in the struggling man’s chest.

The Hellions watched as the man thrashed in his bonds, screaming in defiance and pain. Slowly the man’s skin began to change, darkening to a deep ebony, so dark that it seemed almost a void. The veins tracing through the man’s exposed skin began to pulse red, glowing brighter with each symbol and word spoken, until the roadmap they traced along his chest pulsed a bright crimson.

* * *

PhoenixHawk led his team through the tunnel from Steel Canyon into Perez Park. Other members of the Onami Strike Force and the Archangels of the Apocalypse came with him. The scene before the team stopped them in their tracks.

Smoke covered the sky. Street lights illuminated the unnatural darkness, ash falling like a light snow. Hellions filled the area battling Heroes and Villains alike. The Skulls and other gangs were falling back to the growing presence of Hellions. Heroes fell from all sides on the embattled gang members.

Thauma Guard and Skida Marink stopped inside the gate and concentrated. Thauma held up her hand, eyes closed, dark energy radiating around her fingers. She opened her eyes and looked to the west. Glancing at Skida, the smaller woman nodded in agreement.

“That way,” Thauma said.

“How do you know?” Guido asked.

“We can feel it,” Skida said.

Moving through Perez, PhoenixHawk recognized several of the heroes battling the army of Hellions. Big Puerto Rico and his team were holding a line in front of a brick apartment building that the gang was trying invade. Another block over he past Solanum, and Deathbringer leading another team against the Hellions amassed in the street.

As the group of Heroes followed Thauma and Skida along the lines of power, Guido stopped moving. The NyteHawk noticed his friend falling behind and called the group to wait.

“What’s up?” NyteHawk asked.

“I know where we’re going,” Father Stug said quietly, his demeanor very out of character.

“Where?” PhoenixHawk asked.

“The church,” Guido said.

“What church?” Celsius Bane asked.

The church. Where I was attacked.”

“How can you tell?” NyteHawk asked.

“I just know. It’s where we’re going. The Master is there.”

PhoenixHawk pulled his cellphone from a pocket in his armor and spoke into it briefly, the put it away.

“The others are on the way. They’ll meet us in the general area, we can give them specifics when we get there.”

Father Stug leapt ahead of the group. His Technologically enhanced legs allowed him to jump extraordinarily far. He moved from street to rooftop, regardless of the flames leaping from some of the buildings, or the Hellions gathered at the street. The rest of the team rushed to keep up with the small former priest. Guido moved without hesitation until he stopped on a rooftop overlooking an old church, the brick bell tower cracked, the stained glass windows broken.

The rest of the Heroes congregated on the rooftop. Thauma and Skida confirmed that the lines of power radiated to and from the church. PhoenixHawk again spoke briefly into his cell phone, and soon another group of Heroes joined the first. Skida and Celsius led the Archangels, PhoenixHawk the Onami; they had taken the warning Thauma had received from Numina and called on their teams to help.

Khazm and his wife Ginger Blaze, Nova 1, NyteMuse, EverNight, Thundering Takai, Remedy Hart, and I Doctor joined the other Onami members. Guinnes Prime, Tirus, Lady Emily, Sir Kit, Kemchi, Tifal, and Thaddeus joined the other Archangels. The two teams together would compliment each other, Tankers and Scrappers taking the front line, Blasters holding back lashing out severe damage from a distance, Controllers working to immobilize enemies and Defenders keeping watch over the rest of the team for support. The Coalition of the two Super Groups worked so well together that it seemed impossible that the Hellions would be able to stand up to the tide of Heroes that would wash over them.

Looking around at the large group, NyteHawk asked, “Is this thing really going to be this bad?”

Throughout Perez Park the Hellions were massed, but the gathering seemed sparse compared to the mob around the church. The Damned held the area around the door en masse.

“We need to get inside,” Thauma said. “Something is going on in there.”

Guido jacked a grenade into the launcher on his Assault Rifle. “Then let’s go.”

PhoenixHawk and Celsius agreed, and the Heroes leapt from the rooftop to land amidst the mob of Hellions. Shotguns boomed out, fireballs flew, knives and handguns came out. Any manner of weapon possible attacked the Heroes.

Thauma Guard spread force fields around the team members, the other Defenders using their powers to augment the other abilities of the Heroes. Celsius Bane, Guinness Prime, and Tifal moved forward, creating a shield with their bodies. The Heroes lashed out at the Hellions, moving forward in a wedge, pushing an opening towards the door to the church. The Scrappers from both groups surged forward to press the attack, backed up by blasts of fire, electricity, and energy from behind. The Defenders held the rear, working in concert to keep their teammates injuries minimal.

The battle was fierce. The Hellions should never have been able to stand against the might of so many powerful Heroes, but the Master within the church fed them power, making them stronger. Being massed at nearly ten-to-one against the Heroes pressed the Heroes to their limit.

Reaching the door proved to be easier than breaching the door. The Damned that held the door were the most powerful of the Hellions. The fires of Hell flew from their hands into the groups of Heroes, who retaliated in kind. Slowly the Heroes whittled away the number of Damned at the door, while fighting to hold back the mass of Hellions minions that pressed at them from the sides.

Guido moved forward and launched grenade after grenade into the group of Damned. Finally one got through the Hellions’ defenses and hit the door, taking it off the hinges and knocking several of the Damned away from the opening. Celsius and Tifal moved into the doorway, forcibly holding the Hellions back so that the Heroes could surge forward through the small opening.

PhoenixHawk and Thauma Guard moved through the greeting area of the church, followed by Shadow Pain, Skida Marink, NyteHawk, Father Stug, and Celsius Bane. The remainder of the Heroes held back and fought the Hellions through the doorway.

In the main cathedral the Heroes found several more Damned around a distorted looking thing that obviously was once a man. The pale figure radiated power. In its hand was an ornate blade, carving symbols on a bound man. The man’s skin was ebony, his veins glowing red with energy. Horns began to sprout at the sides of the man’s forehead, and spread out, curving wickedly upward. The transformation was obviously painful, the man struggled desperately against the power being worked on him.

As the Heroes rushed in, the Xeqatl looked away from his struggling vicitim.

“Do not let them interrupt me,” the Master ordered.

The Damned rushed the Heroes who were already weary from the fight to enter the church. The Heroes were pressed back towards the entryway where their companions battled the Hellions outside, working to keep the massed gang members from entering the church.

“We can’t fight both groups,” Skida said.

PhoenixHawk, Celsius Bane, and Guiness Prime moved back towards the doorway, the scrappers shifting around to hold off the Damned. Celsius spread his hands low, an ice slick formed in the doorway, moving all the way up around the door frame. Guiness and PhoenixHawk backed him up, raising a wall of flames, one on top of the other, inside the doorway. Ginger Blaze stood beside the door, the Controllers hands working in circles as she contained the area of flames within the ice shielding the doorframe.

“That will hold for quite a while,” she said. “Nothing should be able to come through.”

Without the threat from outside, the full might of both Supergroups fell on the Damned. Fires blazed from both sides. Evernight spread her arms wide, a bright flash blinding many of the Damned.

A mental scream from Remedy Hart filled the heads of the remainders. Thundering Takai blasted those whose minds were already nearly overwhelmed by Remedy’s psychic attack, a shockwave of piercing sonic energy rattling their brains.

Kwang Ghe, Khazm, and Kemchi fought back to back, the two martial artists hands and feet flying, Khazm’s dark power flowing around his fists. Shadow Pain and Thaddeus whirled through the Hellions, katanas moving in a blur.

The fight pressed the Damned back into the cathedral, where Xeqatl was finishing the ritual upon his victim. Guido stepped forward and poured a constant stream of hot lead from his rifle into the Master. The bullets tore the demon’s flesh, but did not penetrate the body. The force of the attack was enough to drive the demon from his victim, the ornate dagger the demon had held spun across the floor.

Enraged, the demon threw its arms wide and shouted, a hideous sound that filled the air. A wall of energy hit the Heroes and Hellions alike, scattering them like leaves. Everything left in the cathedral that was in front of the demon flew away as though it were weightless.

The Heroes were flung against the far wall, several being stunned by the impact. I Doctor and Skida Marink worked frantically to get the other empaths back on their feet. Once the healers were up, they quickly had the rest of the group standing.

The Damned were out of the fight.

“I think this could be bad,” Kemchi said, still seeing stars from hitting the wall.

The man who was tied to the front wall lay slack in his bonds, blood running down his now ebony skin. The glow in his veins remained, but he has ceased his struggles.

The Master had retrieved the dagger from the ground, and was moving back towards the bound man.

“Don’t let him finish what he started!” Thauma shouted. “If he does we’ll have to fight two of them!”

Guiness, Celsius, and Tifal moved forward, blocking the Master from its victim.

The demon thrust its hands forward, a darkness surrounded the Tankers, holding them in place, their bodies writhing in agony. I Doctor moved forward, the implants spread out through his body glowing green, a healing energy spread over the Tankers.

Thauma cast a wide dispersion field around herself and the others, warding off as much of the Master’s energy as she could. Tirus raised his hands, ice crystals forming around his fingers and encasing the Master in a block of ice.

Shadow Pain flashed forward faster than the eye could see, her katana slicing through the ice and cutting into the demon’s flesh below. As she turned to make another cut the ice exploded from the demon, sending razor shards in all directions. Shadow Pain’s ability to move at blinding speeds helped her dodge many of the flying shards, but not all, several slicing long cuts deep into her flesh.

Remedy Hart teleported Pain away from the demon, placing her hands on the small woman’s bleeding arms. Though it was rare the Remedy spoke aloud, her voice filled Shadow Pain’s head with a soothing voice, her healing powers pouring over the ragged wounds until the bleeding stopped.

Lady Emily stood behind Remedy, using the Tech gadgets her grandfather had invented and past along to her, doubling the healing energy flowing through Shadow Pain’s body.

The Defenders response had been so quick that Shadow Pain never knew how badly she’d been injured. Only the sheen of sweat on Remedy’s brow showed how hard the task of healing Pain had been.

The Heroes battled back and forth with the demon, inflicting minor damage when they could. Time and again they were hit by unbelievably strong attacks, scattering them like rag dolls. Ice, energy, electricity, and fire poured over the demon, but still it stood on its feet, its haunting voice sending chills through the Heroes.

Father ‘Guido’ Stug was speaking softly, almost if in prayer. He had been a priest in this church, now he returned to fight the Hell that had been unleashed here.

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