Jain looked up from hundreds of feet below. He’d seen the kid fall. Flamerush he thought the kid’s name was. He’d wanted to join White7, he remembered that. From there all he could see was cloud and more and more flyers, teleporters and super jumpers making their way upwards into the sky. “Let’s go.” He heard Kai’s voice and nodded. He’d wanted to see Tara one last time, but he realised it wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t have time to be selfish. Jain pushed himself off the ground, manipulating a combination of super chilled air streams and energy waves to carry his body up and away from Talos Island. Kai followed shortly after, flames staining the sky behind him. He was just simply rocket powered, though to anyone watching that trail looked just a little like a Chinese dragon.
It didn’t take long to get to Terra Volta; the city’s power station. It was state of the art; a self-perpetuating energy source that never ran out and emitted zero emissions. It was also guarded more than Fort Knox. On the ground, Jain could see groups of Vanguard soldiers at every conceivable entrance. “Have you got any ideas?” Kai shouted to him over the wind. Jain looked in his direction. That fire around his face sure looked like a dragon head. Got to love the Tsoo’s flare at least, he thought to himself. “Yeah, I have.” Jain returned the shout and then started to dive. Kai raised an eyebrow, not asking any questions, and simply followed. A few second later, Jain’s feet touched the ground. He adjusted his coat over his shoulders and started to walk straight to the main entrance, getting instantly met with raised weapons “Don’t bother guys! I’m here on White7 business!” he called out.
The nearest group of guards looked between themselves “We’ve been told to stop you!”
“Why?” Jain smiled charmingly, still walking, arms held out.
“Orders say you’re a fugitive!”
“Do I look like one?” Jain’s smile grew broader.
“…no.” The guards looked at each other, clearly doubting themselves.
“That’s because I’m not.” Jain laughed jovially, making the guards smile with him, embarrassed they’d even asked.
“I am.” Kai swept through them like a hurricane of fire, not even giving them time to react to the fear that crossed each and every one of their faces. The force of the burning dust and wind carried them up and in an instant dumped them right into water just off the coast of the man-made island. Kai landed at Jain’s side and began to walk in, just as casually.
Jain smirked “Not bad.”
Inside, the power plant was dark, the manpower focussed outside to stop anyone getting in. Kind of easy, Jain thought. He should probably be worried. Then he remembered he was effectively a bullet proof tank accompanied by a psychic dragon and suddenly he realised everything was probably going to work out. He and Kai slipped through the darkness, avoiding any direct gazes of security cameras.
“How do we turn them on?” Kai asked quietly, after fifteen good minutes of steel corridor after steel corridor.
“There’s a control room. It overlooks the core. In cases of emergency, there’s these buttons that shut off the main parts of Paragon City’s grids to reduce stress on the place. It’s also the only place that has the on/off button for the War Walls. I was there when it got pressed last time…” Jain didn’t look proud of himself. Kai didn’t press him for details. After a few minutes they found a long set of grey stairs leading up to a single door. “This is it” Jain started to jog, moving faster the nearer he got to the door. Kai followed, keeping pace. When they reached the door marked only as “private” Jain lifted a boot and kicked it off its hinges. The control room behind was empty. Jain’s brow furrowed and he stepped in. It wasn’t a wide room, but it was very long with a strange, green ebbing glow to it. The side to his left was a glass panel and showed the control room to be at a dizzying height over the central power core of Terra Volta. The side to his right was a huge bank of computers “Come on…” Jain walked forward, carefully, but determined. He could tell Kai didn’t like this either. Moments later he was standing in front of the emergency control panel. It consisted of twenty or so buttons that all looked as if they should launch nukes. Nineteen of them glowed green. One was red. Jain reached his hand out.
“Too obvious, Acheson.” There it was. He’d been expecting it since they got inside; a White7 ambush.
Jain drew his fingers back and turned to look at the voice. There were two of them. One had his hand out, pointed like a weapon towards Kai. He was an illusionist, a good one too, known as The Conman. The other one could do something with plants. He’d laughed at that and had decided the moment they met to call him Pot Plant Guy. Jain had never liked either of them, so hadn’t really bothered to learn much more. He knew the second guy could control Devouring Earth if he wanted to and that was enough for him not to launch straight away into a fight. Also, there was something different about them… They seemed taller, broader… and something was up with their skin. It looked kind of grey and leathery… Shit… he guessed that Rikti makeover he’d escaped had worked.
“Give it up Acheson” Pot Plant Guy sneered.
“Or what?” Jain sighed. This was already feeling like a dick length competition.
“Oh, you don’t want to test us…” Pot Plant Guy sneered even more.
“Or what?” Jain sighed again. He really hated this guy.
“Or...” Pot Plant Guy looked to his friend, The Conman. He was twitching. Every part of his white spandexed body was twitching and then foam started to leak between his lips and his eyes began to bulge. “What the…?” Pot Plant Guy didn’t even get a chance to finish the sentence before the illusionist’s head exploded, splattering his pristine uniform with brain. Pot Plant Guy’s mouth fell open as he went to react but it was cut short as a pointed, black spike burst through his chest and lifted him from the ground. A moment later he was tossed aside like a doll, landing in a crumpled heap by a cold cup of coffee and a folded copy of the Paragon Times left on one of the work stations.
“Did we interrupt?” A low, almost metallic voice came from where the Conman was just standing. In his place was a woman in a black vinyl dress with starkly pale skin and a shock of white hair. Her black eyes stared coldly at Jain and Kai. But it wasn’t her who spoke. It was the large man with the fur collar and the eight black, curled legs protruding from his back, one of them dripping with blood. He spoke from behind a silvery helmet, not a long way away from the one Statesman wore. “Hello Frozen Phoenix, Pyrerain. What a happy coincidence.”
For the first time in his life, Jain was entirely sure how to react. Part of him wanted to kiss the giant spider-man for getting rid of the Conman and… hell; he really couldn’t remember Pot Plant Guy’s actual name. The other part of him mostly wanted to scream like a little girl, not because he was frightened of Lord Recluse, more because he really wasn’t fond of heads that simply explode and giant spider legs. There was a small smile on Ghost Widow’s face. He suspected she could tell what he was thinking, so he moved his eyes, forcefully, over her spandex dress and made himself imagine her in a bikini. She started to look like she wanted his head to explodetoo. He decided to never have a single thought ever again.
“This puts me in quite a quandary.” Lord Recluse spoke from behind his helmet “I could kill both of you right now and get rid of two more “Heroes” or, I could let you live…”
“No offense.” Kai chipped in “But no one in this room is a Hero. What do you want?”
“At this moment, the same thing as you.”
Jain raised an eyebrow “Ghost Widow in a tiny red…?” Ah shit, she was going to kill him. Lord Recluse put a hand out to stop the black shadow that was swirling out of his companion’s hands.
“We both want the Rikti out of my city.”
“Your city?” Jain was silenced by an elbow to the ribs from Kai.
“My city. We all want them gone. We all want the War Walls back where they belong.”
“Ok…” Jain could work with this.
“But my quandary is whether you would still benefit me once the War Walls are back up.” Lord Recluse had clearly already made his mind up, he simply enjoyed playing with his prey.
“Listen, bug brain, you can either kills us and turn on the War Walls or not kill us and turn on the War Walls. Just decide already.” Jain could feel the withering look from Kai. Ghost Widow had rattled him enough that all clever comments were failing to form in his mind and instead being replaced with “Things Idiots Would Say”.
“I believe that there is a time and a place for exterminating Heroes. This is not one of them. With one exception.” Lord Recluse looked between them.
“What’s the exception…?” Kai asked very carefully.
“White… 7…” Lord Recluse’s gaze moved to Jain.
“Hey hey hey, you may have noticed they were trying to kill me. The shitty white spandex does not make me one of them.” Jain’s head shook vehemently and for some reason he was holding his hands up as if someone was holding a gun to his head.
“I realise that.” Lord Recluse nodded “and so I propose a solution. We will turn on the War Walls and I will allow you both to live. This is on the proviso that we drive the Rikti away from the city.”
“We?” Jain lowered his arms.
“We.” Lord Recluse nodded again. “Your comrades freed mine from the Zig. In return, I am offering the full loyalty of my army until the Rikti are wiped out.”
“…call it a ceasefire…” Ghost Widow had the voice of a snake. Both Jain and Kai felt the hair on the napes of their necks stand on end.
“I’m good with a ceasefire. Kai? Do dragons do ceasefires?” Humour. Humour made it look like Jain wasn’t bothered by this situation, definitely.
“Yes… yes they do…” Kai rolled his eyes and folded his arms.
There was a long, awkward silence where the four simply looked at each other, no one wanting to make the first move. Jain began wondering how long it would be before guards came to cause trouble and resolved to be the one to break the stalemate. “Let’s do this then.” In good faith, he turned his back on Lord Recluse and Ghost Widow. 90% of him expected his brain to get plastered over the control room, or to get skewered by a spider leg, but neither happened. Instead, he simply walked over to the single red button. “This will give us 24 hours to do what needs to be done.” He held his breath and pressed the button.
“War Walls activated. 60 minutes to full city coverage.” a very polite computer voice piped out.
“That gives us an hour to divide out their forces and keep them away from residential areas.” Jain turned back to them. “Then 23 more to get rid of them in case some bastard tries to turn the Walls off again.”
“What about Talos Island and Independence Port?” Kai looked to Jain.
“The people in Talos can go underground, just like we were and we’re just going to have to hope anyone in Independence Port can make it through the tunnels.”
“The Rikti will make them all targets.” Kai replied.
“We will ensure that does not happen.” Lord Recluse interrupted.
“Arachnos saving the day. I can’t wait to see that” Jain half laughed and then stopped immediately as Ghost Widow tilted her head in disapproval. He cleared his throat. “Ok, well… I guess that’s that.” No one moved. This was getting awkward again. “We’ll be going then… Thanks for the… help.” He couldn’t help but look at the splattered remains of the half man-half Rikti team mates lying on the control room floor. He stepped over the Conman, followed by Kai and then sidestepped Lord Recluse and Ghost Widow to squeeze through the door. He’d never been so grateful to be on a staircase in his life. Tara was never going to hear about this. She’d never let him live it down. Trying not to move too quickly he descended.
“…seriously… I thought my balls were going to ride up into my throat when they appeared…” Kai spoke hoarsely. Jain remembered that, despite being the embodiment of Pyrerain, Kai had never had any dealings with anyone worse than street thugs.
“Don’t worry about them, just remember that if all else fails, setting things on fire goes a long way.”
“In a power plant?” Kai raised an eyebrow, stepping off the last stair.
“Ok, that mind fuck thing you did to that lawyer, do that instead.” Jain walked at a decent pace towards the exit. Kai didn’t want to be picky and point out that it wasn’t really him who broke Alan Barr’s mind; but he got the point.
“Are they following us?” Kai caught up with Jain.
“I don’t know and I really don’t want to find out. Let’s just get out of here and thank God they’ve decided to be on our side.”
“Best idea I’ve heard all day.” Jain and Kai burst outside into the sun beating down on Terra Volta and right into the middle of several hundred Arachnos soldiers rounding up the Vanguard men and tying them to anything they could find. “…he really wasn’t kidding about an army, was he?”
“You have no idea.” Jain shook his head “…Grandville is crawling with these guys…” He moved his eyes over the black, gleaming armour of the Arachnos fighters.
“Hasty exit?” Kai turned to look at Jain.
Both men leapt up and soared away as quickly as possible from the island now swarming with spiders.
Continued here in Chapter 7.