Sayia smiled as he heard the second cry, this time so loud it could be heard above ground. He knew he’d made the right decision. Sayia looked down to his wrist and pressed a button on contraption that looked like a watch, but wasn’t. In a sudden flash of white, he was gone. When he reappeared he was in front of Portal Corp on Peregrine Island. “You! You can’t be here!” an armed guard barked and instantly opened fire. Sayia simply walked forward, letting each bullet sear into his torso as he got closer and closer. The guard’s eyes widened. He re-aimed and opened fire again. Sayia just kept going until eventually the man whimpered and dropped his assault rifle. He was met with a punch square to his jaw and fell unconscious to the tarmac. Sayia shook his hand, the pain of a cracked knuckle quickly going away; he’d already forgotten the pain of his chest pushing the bullets back out and sealing the holes behind them. He didn’t look at the guard as he stepped over him and walked straight inside the Portal Corp building.
He was met by more than that one guard before he reached his destination, but he didn’t let any of the others come close to stopping him either. With a singular vision, one he hadn’t felt in a long time, he just kept walking; taking bullet after bullet and putting guard after guard down to the ground. It didn’t take him long to reach the main portal room. “Jesus Christ!” a terrified scientist, on night duty took one look at him and fled straight by. Sayia smiled to himself, at least that was one guy he didn’t have to punch. With utter clarity of thought, Sayia made his way to the portal console and started to type in a series of commands he’d repeated in his head so many times they had become second nature: Initiate portal warm up. Set home address. Set destination. Set duration. Set capacity. Initiate power flow couplings. Open portal. He looked up as an explosion that appeared to be somewhere between an imploding star and a whirlpool burst into life in the giant metallic ring towering over the rest of the room. Sayia straightened up and walked to the only door that led into the room. He took aim at the door locking control panel and punched it as hard as he could. He broke four knuckles that time, but he didn’t care. The panel sparked, fizzled and then died, sealing him in and everyone else out. Sayia shook off the pain in his hand and walked towards the portal. He took one single, last breath and then stepped through.
“…unconfirmed reports are coming in from all over Paragon City that Rikti attack flyers have been spotted off the coast.” A young, blonde and very leggy anchor on The Nightly News with Annie and Tom took a breath to continue speaking but then put her fingers to her earpiece and fell silent. Her eyes darted from side to side before she looked to the camera “We’re taking you live to a Nightly News drone in the Talos Island region of Paragon City. Tom?”
Tom, a man in his 30s with painted white teeth and hair so perfect it could be from a mannequin looked stressed as he stood by a large screen. On it was a grainy and slightly bobbing image of warehouses and the coastline of Talos Island feeding in straight from a news drone. “Thanks Annie.” He nodded. He looked very serious. Goddamn, this was the story of his career and he wasn’t letting her have all the airtime “We’re seeing live images from Talos Island. This quiet neighbourhood is normally home to shipping companies and commuters but tonight” he paused for dramatic effect, imagining that news anchor of the year award in his hand “tonight it is the scene of what could be the start of another Rikti War.” He was good, he thought. War made headlines. War made people tune in their TVs. War made people watch the Nightly News with Annie and Tom. Fuck! It should be the Nightly News with Tom and Annie. How did that bitch get her name first? He knew how. She was good with her mouth. Real good with her mouth… He almost grinned. Tom caught himself. Serious journalist face. No. Serious anchor-man face. News Anchor of the Year face. He walked in front of the large screen, drawing the viewers’ attention with him to the night sky, torn open by green light that was spewing Rikti ships like flies out of a nest. “What scientists confirmed as Aurora Borealis appearing un-seasonally early and too far South earlier this month, has now shown itself to be another cruel twist in the Earth / Rikti conflict. Washington has just released a… Oh goddamit!” he yelled at the top of his lungs as the studio went dark. “What the fuck people?! This is the fucking story of the goddam decade and you can’t even keep the power on?!”
“Tom…!” Annie called through the darkness
“Shut the hell up Annie! Adjust your cleavage or something! Where the Hell is the power?!” This couldn’t be happening to him. This was his News Anchor of the Year moment going down in flames!
Jain’s father smacked the side of the TV “Stupid thing.” It wasn’t unusual to lose the TV signal this far into the middle of the nothing that was Iowa’s corn fields. But this was really inconvenient.
“I’m sure it’ll be back.” his wife’s voice cooed from the kitchen, saying the same thing she always did when he got himself het up over nothing.
“Stupid, goddamn…” he grumbled gruffly, smacking the side of it again before leaning over to check the cables.
“Grandpa look!” Sophie squeaked from the sofa where she was sitting with a huge bowl of Choco-Corn Heroes between her legs, staring at the television. “It’s Mommy!”
“For Christ’s sake this is…!” The lights came back on in the studio. Tom instantly became the epitome of professionalism, but then curled his head down and moved his fingers to his ear as someone spoke to him. On the large screen behind him sewer covers were bursting right out of the street and figures were streaking out from the holes left behind. The news drone tracked onto one of them. A white and black clad female trailing an electric blue and violet static charged cloud behind her. “…viewers. We’re seeing what appears to be meta humans leaving the sewers underneath Talos Island…” Tom started to watch the screen as slack jawed as the 350 million people who were one by one turning their TVs on to join the live feed “…this isn’t confirmed but… That’s Triblaze!”
Tara could feel the speed even with her eyes closed as she climbed higher above the city, fists clenched and at her sides. As she burst through the chilling wetness of the cloud line her body relaxed and slowed. She hung just above the sparse cumulus below her, one leg bent, the other staying straight for balance and opened her eyes. Her heart stopped. Everything stopped. There it was; the largest Rikti inter-dimensional rift she’d ever seen. Tara had been much younger the last time one of these had opened and so young the time before that she hadn’t even found out she had meta powers. It was beautiful, in the same way fire is beautiful; rippling colours even an artist couldn’t recreate but holding such threat and terror, there were no words that could describe it. The rift wasn’t even fully opened yet and already two or three hundred ships had come through. She recognised the pattern. First through, a compliment of fighter ships designed to pick off any early threats. They already owned the sky, taking down drones that didn’t know not to get too close. Now the carriers were coming through. Each would have fifty or so Rikti ground troops inside, armed and ready to attack anything that moved at city level. Anyone who could fly and fight back was with her. One by one they burst through the clouds too and took their place by her.
“…What are we going to do…?” An inexperienced member of a junior supergroup whimpered at her side. He wore bright orange and had a flame logo on his chest. Flamerush, the kid who’d led the crowd only a few minutes earlier.
“We do what we’ve been trained to do.” She nodded at him, keeping eye contact all the time “We…”
“…Triblaze…?” The young hero’s eyes went blank and his fingers curled out to her. Horror suddenly spread across Tara’s face and her hands shot forward to try and grab him. But she couldn’t. It was too late. Where the flame logo was there was now a gaping, singed hole tinged green from Rikti plasma weaponry. He dropped, punching a pipeline through the cloud and then slamming into the concrete below so hard it split. The news drone focussed in on his face; an utterly expressionless mask with the tiniest dribble of blood leaking from one eye over his mask. Tom hurriedly moved in front of the image in the studio, just as his producer started to bark at him through his earpiece. He felt sick. “The Nightly News would like to apologise for the graphic nature of this report…” his voice shook “…as I said…we’re coming live from Talos Island…”
For a moment, Tara couldn’t react. He looked as if he’d barely been out of high school. The other flyers hung with her, despite the Rikti blaster shots that were now blasting around them, all staring at the hole in the cloud that was gradually knitting itself back together as if nothing had happened. “We do… what we’ve been trained to do…” Tara nodded. Now wasn’t the time for reactions. She’d find out his real name later and make sure everyone knew it. “Take down those ships.”
Continued here in Chapter 6
Continued here in Chapter 6