|The Legion of Justice
Author: Dullahan24 PM
My attempt at a weekly comic, super hero based story. It's a very dark world out there, even in a world of heroes. But when someone stands strong, suddenly light can really shine through. A group of teens stands to defend their little corner of the worldRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 8 - Words: 49,802 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 08-24-12 - Published: 03-22-12 - id: 3007268
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Issue 5: A Play for the Throne
The group stepped out of the Shadow King's portal, onto the street. The buildings here were better maintained, with the brick bright and clean. Trees lined the street, and everything was bright and calm. But at the intersection, a massive black dome stretched high above the buildings, and despite the fact that they were only about 50 feet away, there was no way to see in. Other than small swirls of dark cloud, there was no trace of anything from inside. Several people were standing around the outside of the dome, around various brightly colored tents and awnings. A young black woman approached the team, looking worriedly over her shoulder.
"Are you guys with the Legion?" She asked.
"Not exactly. We're the Urban Cohorts ma'am." Lightning Lad said. She didn't respond to the name, merely kept looking at the dome.
"What happened?" He asked.
"We were having our little neighborhood festival, everyone was having a good time, then this guy all dressed in black showed up. He said something about shadows takin' over or something, then, this dome appeared."
"How many people are inside?" Lightning Lad asked.
"About a dozen. One of them is my son." She said, still looking over her shoulder.
"Don't worry, we'll get him and everyone else out. People, I need you to step back." He called. Several pedestrians heard him, and obliged, stepping back away from the dome, moving up the street out of the line of fire.
"You to ma'am. We've got this under control." Lightning Lad said. She hesitated, eyes closed, and rubbed her arm absent mindedly, but walked down the street with the others.
"Alright. So, we have a dozen or so civilians inside the bubble. The Styxian will probably be working to sacrifice them." Lightning Lad said.
"Yes, that is true. Using them, he might try to unleash another great beast. I use them to protect my realm, and they are immensely powerful, not to mention massive. If one is called here, the destruction will be immense."
"Oh, great. More things like that turtle. Remind me not to summer in your world." Cinder said.
"Alright already. Shadow King, can you help us see when we get inside?" Lightning Lad said, keeping his eyes focused on the dome. Shadow King nodded, and waved his staff over the team.
"You'll be able to see in shadow as well as bright day. Be careful, I don't know what kind of spell he's cast over the area, and won't until we're inside. But suffice to say, he'll have his minions about." Shadow King said, rubbing his bearded chin in thought.
"Not to mention Lynx might be around. Be really careful about her." Lightning Lad said, and lifted off the ground, his cape flapping in the wind. "Our primary job is getting the civilians out. Once we do, we hit Styxian hard and fast, and take him down before he gets away again." He said, and took off, flying straight for the dome. Cinder and Arcana followed, while Insectera and Alpha ran towards it, with Cyaegha teleporting in ahead of them. They entered the dome of shadow, and Lightning Lad felt the temperature drop instantly. Goosebumps popped up along the exposed sections of his face. The dome stretched high above them, the edges where it met the light around it a dark purple, while the interior was dark and muted, the colors hard to distinguish. Small, wispy shadows moved around them like bits of fog. Around them, several of the shades they fought yesterday were all around, darting and twisting in the air. A young black man was running from three of them towards the team. He was pushing himself, leaping over the curb to try to gain more speed, but they were starting to close the gap. Lightning Lad channeled a bunch of energy, and fired off an arc of lightning that struck one of the shadows. It fell back, end over end. Cinder blasted a second with a burst of blue fire, forcing it to retreat, while Insectera wrapped up the last one in her webbing. She grabbed the webbing and whipped it over her head, slamming the shadow into the asphault. It disippated in a puff of shadow.
"Hit these shades hard enough, and they will turn into shadow and return to the Shadow Realm. So there is no need to hold back." Shadow King said. The young man looked at the shadows, unsure of what to do. A couple of shadows were wrapped around two older people, who couldn't escape or fight, and three other shadows were picking up a couple of women and hauling them off towards the center of the dome.
"Get out of here. This is probably going to get ugly, and we don't need to be pulling more civilians out of trouble." Cinder said to their rescuee. He looked at the madness in front of him, turned and ran out of the dome. The team turned to Lightning Lad, who sighed.
"Focus on getting those civilians out of here. Those shades are pretty harmless to us, so don't worry about taking them down. Besides, looks like there's plenty more where they came from." He said. The team nodded, and took off. Fortunately, the dome only covered a small block, so keeping close was easy. Lightning Lad took off after the two shadows attacking the older folks, and fired an arc of electricity. It struck one of them, and immediately arced over to the other one. Lightning Lad released the charge so it wouldn't hit the two civilians. The shades screeched, released their prisoners, and rushed at the human battery. Who immediately fired two blasts of energy straight into them. Upping the voltage into the hundreds of thousands, causing the shades to dance, writhe and screech. They dissipated, leaving nothing but bits of shadow. He flew down to help the man and woman to their feet. Nearby, Cinder was chasing down the three shades that were flying two women away. She blasted a blue wall of flames that cut the shades off, forcing them to pull up short. The shades released the two women they were carrying, and Cinder was forced to dive down and catch them. She pulled up under them, and grunted as they landed hard in her arms. She wasn't super strong, but she'd trained her body to be at the upper level of strength she could manage, so carrying these two was doable for her. Both were teenagers, one blond and one brunette. Cinder dived down and set them on a rooftop that had a rooftop hatch. Cinder turned back to the shades, who were diving down after her, while the girls ran away, their flip flops slapping across the gravel roof. Cinder blasted off a wall of blue fire that slammed into the creatures, and they faded away in an instant. Insectera swung over and clocked a shadow that had been diving for a woman and her baby in a stroller. The shadows that turned around in the air and the streets made it difficult to really gauge what was going on around her.
"Grab the kid, I'll get you two out of here right now." Insectera said. The woman picked her baby out of the stroller, and patted it when it started to cry. Insectera grabbed a hold of her, and swung off out towards the edge of the dome. Cyaegha teleported to an apartment rooftop, looking through the twisting shades. He thought it odd that they weren't attacking the group unless attacked, so what were they up to? Why call them if they weren't going to work? He teleported towards the center of the dome, and then spotted something. The shades were swirling around a circle, about 12 feet in diameter. Even with his new shadow vision power, he couldn't see through into what they were swirling around. But in the small gaps between the shades as they moved about like a flock of bats, he saw a circle with runes in it. He touched his earpiece. "Team, I think I found the source. Given how many people have to be hiding in the buildings, I think it's far better for us to focus on taking it down." He said.
"And what, just let these shades run wild?" Lightning Lad asked.
"Given how many of them there are, and our limited numbers, do you have a better idea?" Cyaegha asked back. He heard nothing for a moment, then a resigned, "Fine. You heard him." Cyaegha smiled, and watched the twisting tornado. He was still very confused by the point of this, it was almost as if they were in a holding pattern…wait. That was it. They weren't looking to spread out, but keep in. They weren't going after civilians in large quantities, because they were looking to pull someone or something in, or protect someone. In any event, things weren't as simple as they looked. It took only a few minutes before the rest of the team arrived, and joined him on the rooftop. The Shadow King looked at the shades.
"Let me go in first. Those shades are of no consequence to me." He said, and stepped onto the ledge. He leapt off, and landed softly at the bottom of the building. He walked towards the swirling mass of shades, and as he got close, it exploded outwards, the shades taking off into the darkened sky. The Styxian, in his pure black robe and haunting red eyes was standing there, gesturing with pointed fingers at five circles around him.
"Good afternoon my great king shadow. I knew you'd come." The Styxian said.
"You were counting on it, weren't you?" The Shadow King asked.
"Naturally. Why else would I set up shop in such an obvious location?" The Styxian asked.
"What is it you want with me?" Shadow King asked.
"The world my friend. Nothing less than the world." The Styxian said, his voice full of dark mirth.
"That still doesn't explain…" The Shadow King started to ask, but the Styxian cut him off. He waved a hand, and pointed at the staff the Shadow King was carrying.
"Ah, now I understand. The power of the Shadow Realm. You seek to combine both worlds, and using your mastery of the shadows, rule both worlds." The Shadow King said. The Styxian nodded.
"Well, if that is the case, there is no point in talking is there?" The Shadow King asked. The Styxian shook his head. The Styxian reached out, and thirteen dark circles appeared on the concrete. Out of them, like dark sculptures slowly taking form, rose shadows, but more defined ones than the shades. They were clad in some form of dark armor, and their shape resembled that of medieval knights. They carried long pole arms, much longer than the lengths of their bodies.
"What the heck are those things?" Lightning Lad asked, calling down from the rooftop.
"Shadow Knights. They are much stronger than the shades, and have the same abilities. I shall hold the Styxian. Deal with them." He said, through his communicator. Lightning Lad nodded, but before he could give orders, the team was already on the move. Cyaegha teleported down, and his tentacles reached out, and lashed out at two of the knights. Both of them blocked the attacks with their pole arms, smacking the tentacles away with the shafts. Lightning Lad landed nearby, and fired two blasts of electricity into two of the knights, but the blasts had no effect. Nearby, Cinder fired blue blasts of fire at two more, but the flames turned orange, and had little appreciative effect on the two. Alpha remained on the rooftop, and turned his thoughts onto one of the shadow knights. It took next to nothing to convince it to attack one of his compatriots. He couldn't make people turn against their own free will, so odds are those two didn't like each other to start with. The shadow knight swung at his compatriot, who blocked the attack with his own pole arm. Insectera swung down and slammed into another shadow knight, sending it flying back, but it retained it's weapon and regained It's footing quickly. It stalked towards her, but before it could get close, Insectera felt another behind her, and she was forced to leap off to the side to avoid the blow, rolling across the asphault as the blade slammed into the concrete where she was standing. Nearby, Arcana landed next to Shadow King, who had the last two shadow knights advancing on him. Despite this, he hadn't drawn his sword, or taken his eyes off the Styxian.
"Chains of the underworld, bind him!" Arcana said, pointing at the shadow knight. The familiar flaming chains sprung out from nowhere, and wrapped around the shadow, squeezing tight. He fell over, his weapon clanging to the ground beside him. He struggled hard, but had no way of breaking the spell.
"Good work. Nice to see your listening in your lessons." Shadow King said, smiling.
"What if I hadn't gotten here fast enough?" Arcana asked.
"I have total faith in your skills. You can handle these knights." Shadow King said.
"Where is he getting the power to do all this?" Arcana asked, ducking a strike from another knight. She didn't have the energy for another Chain spell just yet, so she was reduced to other tactics.
"Remember, the shadows take in all forms of energy." He said. Arcana had to duck another strike, then fired up a shield to stop another quick blow.
"Wait…the dome. He's using it to absorb sunlight and funnel all that energy down to him." Arcana said. "Wind, drill!" She called, and a whirlwind appeared around her arm, stretched out and slammed into the shadow knight, sending him sprawling. Against the dark surroundings, he almost blended in when he crashed on the dark asphault, his pole arm clanging to the ground beside him.
"Yes. I know this spell, I've used it myself before. Find and destroy the anchor points, and the dome will dissipate." Shadow King said.
"Easier said than done, because these things aren't staying down." Arcana said, as the shadow knight was already climbing to his feet, his metal armor clanging on the hard asphault.
"Yes, that is a problem." Shadow King said.
"You could help you know." Arcana said.
"And deny you the chance to test your new skills? I wouldn't hear of it. Besides…" He stopped when a shadow tentacle lashed a lightpost, severing it half with a metallic snap. He waved his staff, and a blast of pure light smashed the tentacle to nothingness. "I have another issue to deal with."
"Fair enough." Arcana said, and stamped her foot. "Earth, rise!" She called, and the ground under the shadow knights foot rose, turned and slammed him down, pinning him under it's massive weight. She was feeling good…until his dissipated into shadow, and flowed like water out from under the rock, and reformed, upright and ready for battle, pole arm pointed straight at Arcana.
"Your going to be very annoying, aren't you?" She asked. The knight nodded, it's red eyes almost seeming to be mocking her.
Nearby, Cinder and Lightning Lad were next to each other, and both had been reduced to hand to hand combat. Their attempts to use their powers had gone exactly nowhere, even Cinder cranking her heat up to nearly white hot levels had done nothing. Fortunately, both were highly skilled in hand to hand combat. Unfortunately…the knights were to apparently. Cinder ducked a blow from one, and pushed in, aiming a kick to the knights chest, but he blocked with the staff of his pole arm, and Cinder was forced to jump back as his friend slammed the blade down into the ground right where she just was. Lightning Lad grabbed the shaft of one of the knight's pole arms, and using basic momentum, forced the blad down into the ground, and kicked the knight in the stomach. He felt the armor receive most of the impact, and his own foot cried out in pain even through the boot. Before he could alter his strategy, he was forced to release the pole arm and dodge a strike from the other knight. He aimed a kick at that one, but he dodged easily.
"This isn't working bro." Cinder said, throwing up a wall of flames to block an attack from one of the knights. It slashed through it, and the flames dissipated as he absorbed the heat.
"Tell me about it. Got any ideas?" Lightning Lad said, delivering a sweep to one knight, and then nailing it across the face with a second kick, but he was forced to roll away by a massive chop from the other.
"If we could hit them with enough energy all at once, then we could overwhelm their absorption." Cinder said, and aimed a kick at the knight going after her brother. He easily blocked the high kick, with parry of his pole arm, but Lightning Lad hooked his leg at the back of the knight and with a pull, knocked him over, rolling out of the path of the fall and jumped to his feet.
"Nice theory, but they've taken pretty much all our attacks, what do you have in mind?" He asked.
"Plasma." She said. Lightning Lad smiled. If they could ionize the air around them with enough energy, it would turn to plasma, and it wouldn't matter how much energy they could absorb, they'd be cooked.
"Got it. Ready?" He asked.
"Oh yeah." She said. The two of them focused hard. The air around them crackled with electricity and fire, and waves of heat began to appear around them. The knights stood on the outside, and were clearly trying to absorb all the energy that was coming off the two, but it simply wasn't working. The energy built to the point that the air was starting to turn blue, and small licks of flame and energy were coming off all over the dome they'd surrounded themselves with. In a flash, the dome exploded. A massive wall of blue energy shot out, smashing windows, knocking over trash cans, even cracking the asphault and concrete under them, raising, splitting and roasting the road. The wave slammed into the shadow knights, who disappeared in a flash of energy and heat. When the smoke cleared, both Cinder and Lightning Lad were standing, but worse for wear. They were panting, soot covering parts of their faces. They looked around, and Cinder smiled. "That worked." She said, through gasps of air.
"Yeah. Let's never do it again." Lightning Lad said.
Nearby, Insectera grabbed a shaft on a pole arm, when the explosion went off. She looked over as the blue fire ball obliterated the shadows, and thought it was lucky it didn't destroy half the block. The knight tried to wrench the shaft out of her hand, but she easily ripped it out of his, and tossed it at the nearby brown brick wall. It slammed into the wall, and stuck there with a crunch and a twang. She then whipped out her stinger, and slammed it into the creature's stomach. It collapsed and faded into shadow. She then had to avoid another strike, and jumped back to avoid a wide swing. Those combat lessons she'd had obviously were doing their job, as she now had a better idea what to do. Those pole arms had a massive reach, but that was their only advantage. She fired off two strands of webbing, that attached to the shadow's pole arm, but it simply released it. She was taken aback, and had to readjust when it whipped out a sword from it's side, and advanced on her. She fired off two more strands, but the shadow knight dissolved, like water, and waved around the webbing, completely dodging the attack. It reformed right in front of her, and she was forced to raise her stinger to block the attack. It struck home, and she clenched her teeth as it did so. Her stinger was still part of her, and that still hurt like hell. She kicked at the shadow knight, but it easily dodged the attack, and pushed out on the blade, forcing her to jump back to avoid skewering. She had to find a way to stop this thing, and fast, she had to rejoin the team. But if it could just flow around her attacks…wait, that last one didn't. She smiled, hatching a plan in the last second. She fired two lines of webbing down at her feet, but kept them attached to her shooters on her wrists. She then said, "What are you waiting for? Bring it on." The knight hissed, and charged forward, black blade held high, ready to strike. Just before it got in range to hit her, she leapt over him with a great leap, and crossed her wrists in mid air, crossing the web lines at the same time. They fell over the knight, who didn't have time to react to being tied up. She landed in a crouch, and using the taunt line, she used the tension to launch herself at the shadow. It raised it's blade to cut at her, but she slammed into him far to fast and hard. The blade went twisting through the air, turning over and over before clanging to the street. Insectera slammed her stinger down, imbedding it in the knights stomach. It dissipated, leaving her alone. She got to her feet, then ran over to find the others.
Alpha was dealing with two more knights. The knight he'd turned on the other was going at it hard, but both were equal combatants. He saw the fire ball, and saw both Cinder and Lightning Lad looking pretty beat after the blast. Before he could call for assistance, he heard a voice behind him.
"Those two don't understand subtlety, do they?" Cyeagha asked.
"I guess not. Did you deal with those shadows already?" Alpha asked.
"Yes. The Shadow Realm has it's power, but my ancestors are much greater." Cyaegha said.
"If you could, teleport me down to Cinder and Lightning Lad. They might need help." Alpha said, ignoring Cyaegha's comment. Cy merely nodded, and grabbed Alpha's shoulder. In a flash, they were on the street in front of Cinder and Lightning Lad. Insectera ran up nearby.
"Are you guys ok?" Alpha asked.
"Been better, been worse. I'm fine." Cinder said, but was still panting.
"You don't look fine, looks like you guys overstrained yourselves on that last one. Hold on." He said, and reached into his bag. He found two small injectors. He grabbed them, and stuck one in each of the two heroes. He pushed the plungers, and instantly Cinder and Lightning Lad perked up.
"Modified adrenaline. Keeps heroes going." Alpha explained.
"Better than caffeine. Where's Katie?" Insectera asked. Looking back down the street towards the circle, they saw Katie fighting with the last of the knights. She was lashing out at him with various spells, but none of them were keeping him down for long. Nearby, Shadow King and Styxian were having their own fight. Styxian would attack with shadow tentacles, or some type of shadow weapon, and Shadow King would just destroy it, either with his own shadow weapon, or by blasting it with light from his staff. The two were apparently evenly matched. Nearby, Arcana ducked another blow, and threw up a blast of wind, knocking the shadow back, but only a foot or so.
"Katie's wearing down. We have to help." Insectera said.
"Natch. Let's move." Lightning Lad said. Cyaegha didn't even wait for orders, instead just teleported over. His tentacles stretched out and wrapped around the shadows pole arm. The knight, apparently smarter than his compatriots, flowed like the others and slipped him and the weapon out of Cy's grasp. It slashed at Cy, but Arcana shouted, "Wall, defend!" and a bubble of force rose up to defend him from the shot. Before the shadow knight could make a second attack, a blast of flame struck the creature in the chest. It didn't even flinch, even as a burst of lightning hit it. Insectera shot two strands of webbing that hit the creature's arm and chest. She yanked hard, pulling the shadow over. Before it could recover to escape, Cyaegha swung his tentacles over his head, and slammed them into the shadow. It faded in a flash from the impact. The team turned to face Styxian.
"It's over Styxian. Your surrounded, and you have nothing left to challenge us with." Lightning Lad said. The Styxian didn't respond, merely raised a hand. Around him, five smaller circles with arcane runes appeared. Inside each of them, was a person. In one, a young brunette girl, no more than 5. Inside another, a twenty year old man. Inside the third was an old woman with greying hair. The fourth and fifth held a pair of twin women of about 20. All were unconscious, and sleeping curled up inside the circle that held them.
"All I have to do is give the word, and each of them is sacrificed. With the energy of their souls, plus all the power I've been pulling from the sun, I can easily crack the wall between worlds. Valentor, the great shadow warrior will arrive." Styxian said. "Stand down, all of you, or watch these people die. Shadow King, that staff please." The Shadow King frowned, then said, "Give me a minute to confer with my team. I need for them to understand the importance of listening to what you have to say."
"if you feel you need a moment, fine. Just don't try my patience." Styxian said. Shadow King turned and whispered, "I can't hand over my staff. It is the symbol and source of power for my rulership. With it, he'll have complete power over the Shadow Realm, and may even bring it's dark power here. I cannot allow that, no matter the cost."
"But we can't just let him sacrifice those people." Cinder said.
"No. But perhaps we can get them out, if we act quickly, and have a distraction for him."
"Maybe. But what kind of distraction?" Lightning Lad asked.
"He may be the master of the shadows, but I am a master of both light and shadows. I'll use that. But I will only be able to buy a few seconds. Be ready once it starts." Shadow King said, and turned back to Styxian. The team split up, going around the circle, but not going anywhere near it.
"Play nice children. I would hate for our friends to get hurt. Now, the staff Shadow King." Styxian said, holding out his gloved hand, covered in a dark black cloud. The Shadow King looked down at his staff, at the hard wood, carefully inscribed in his land's language. He raised his head, and tossed the staff towards Styxian. As it reached the apex of it's arc, it suddenly flashed a dazzling white light, that almost seemed to beam directly at the Styxian. Taking this opportunity, the team acted. Alpha stretched out his mind, and entering Styxian's, got him to hold off on activating the circles for a couple of seconds, a piece of cake in his panicked state. Cyaegha teleported in, and grabbed one of the twins, and then teleported back out in less than a second. Cinder blazed in, feet flaming as she moved as fast as possible. She grabbed the other twin and pulled him out. Arcana waved her hand, and she managed to teleport the man out. She fell to her knees, totally spent. Lightning Lad flew in and took the old woman out, careful not to hurt her even as he flew by as fast as possible. And Insectera swung in and pulled the girl out by her dress. The Styxian roared as he realized what happened. He looked up, and the staff had teleported back to Shadow King.
"Clever. Very clever. But make no mistake, I will be back. That power will be mine, and there is no force in heaven, hell, or Earth that will stop me." Styxian said, and faded away into his shadow portal.
"That's a pain the ass. How are we supposed to catch him when he does that?" Lightning Lad asked.
"No idea." Insectera said, crouching down next to Arcana, who was panting rather heavily, her shoulders raising and falling quickly under her sky blue cape.
"She ok?" Cinder asked. Arcana stopped panting, and tried to stand up. She wobbled slightly.
"I think so. Sorry to worry you." She said, smiling. But even her smile was weak.
"She overstrained herself. Magic is incredibly draining, and she pushed well beyond the limits she's capable of." Shadow King said.
"But the stuff she did here was nothing…" Lightning Lad started, but Shadow King interrupted him.
"Compared to what she did last night, yes. But that was one large spell. And she used her own blood to enhance it. Here, she attempted many small spells, after several hours this morning of training. The combination has left her exhausted." Shadow King said. The team looked around, and saw that the dome was fading. Bits of blue and light were starting to fade away, and the 5 hostages they'd rescued were waking up. Lightning Lad stuck out his hand, and helped the old lady to his feet. The twins said nothing as they got up, but the young girl looked as though she was on the edge of tears, and started sniffling. Angela, seeing this, let go of Katie and walked over to her. The girl looked up at her, dubious and started to scoot back, but Angela said, "Hey, it's ok. I promise your safe now. I'm just a friend trying to help." She said. The girl just looked at her. "Look, I know your scared. But I promise, I'll get you to your mommy, alright?" She asked. The girl said nothing, but reached out her hand. Angela helped her to her feet, then picked her up in her arms. Around them, the dome was fading, allowing bits of blue and sunlight to poke their way through. After a minute, the dome faded completely. A crowd of people had gathered down the street, and they could see a couple of cameras. They started walking towards the crowd, who started to run up to them. The heroes were mobbed so fast they couldn't do much to stop it. Mostly it was vast amounts of thank you's a couple comments of how awesome they are, that kind of thing. The reporter was a youngish Asian woman, with flowing black hair.
"Excuse me, this is Mia Ling, with Channel 9 News. Who's the team leader here?" She asked, holding out a microphone. Angela, still cradling the girl in one arm, looked over at Lightning Lad, who sighed.
"That would be me." He said, stepping up to the front. The crowd cleared slightly, allowing a bit of room for him and the camera.
"Who are you guys?" Mia asked.
"We are the Urban Cohorts, a new team in this city." He said.
"Are you guys with the Legion?" She asked.
"No. We are a separate team. We may work with the Legion, and we welcome any support they might provide, but we do not work under them or their guidelines." He said.
"Who are the other members of your team? I don't recognize any of them."
"Well, you should recognize my sister Cinder. That is Insectera." He said, pointing to her. She waved with her free hand, but kept a tight grip on the girl. "Next to Shadow King is Arcana." He said, pointing to Arcana, who was leaning on Shadow King to maintain her balance. That is Cyaegha, and next to him is Alpha." He said, indicating the last two. "I'd like to continue this, but we still have work to do." He said, finishing.
"But I have…"
"Any further questions can wait until the press conference. He is right, we have much to do." Shadow King said. Mia thought for a second, then nodded. The two of them disappeared into the crowd, and the same black woman they'd seen when they went in walked up to them. "Is that…Sophie!" She said, running over to Insectera, the young man they rescued right behind her. "What were you doing in there? I thought you were playing with Megan!" She said, hugging the little girl and taking her from Insectera. The girl said, "I was…but then it got dark, and I got scared and tried to find you…" Sophie said, and started sobbing.
"It's ok honey, it's ok. Thank you, thank you." The woman said to Insectera, who could only smile.
"Don't worry about it, I'm just glad the both of them are ok." She said.
"Step back my lady, we need to get back to the tower." Shadow King said, and stamped his staff on the ground. In a flash, the team was back at the tower, in the living room. Panopticon was sitting at the bar. She turned around. "How'd it go?" She asked.
"Could've gone better, could've gone worse. And we got on the news." Lightning Lad said, stripping off his mask.
"Well, that's good. You guys are building up some recognition. Angela, if you don't mind, I'd like to speak with you. I want an update on what you saw out there." Panopticon said. Angela took off her own mask, then shrugged. "Ok." The two of them walked off, towards the downstairs computer area. Arcana walked over the bar, and sat down. Lightning Lad walked over to the fridge, and grabbed a few sodas, and passed them to the others. Shadow King refused, preferring to stand at the end of the bar and watch the others.
"Alright. So we stopped him today."
"Only just." Alpha said.
"What do you mean?" Lightning Lad asked.
"Well, to be honest, I had trouble with them. I'm pretty sure Katie did, and I know you and Melissa did." Zach said. Billy had to nod in agreement.
"Yeah, your right. They were faster, stronger, and they took every ounce of power we had. We'll need to be smart when we take on Styxian again." Billy said.
"Speaking of which, how are we supposed to find this guy?" Cinder asked. Katie looked up from the bar. There were lines of exhaustion written into her every feature.
"Well, I might be able to do something. Magic, especially big magic, costs a lot of energy, especially internal energy. This man would've left some trace of himself at each of the attacks he's launched. I can use that to make a magical trace to track him down." She said. Her voice quiet, and there was a slight gravelyness to it. Billy walked around the bar and put a hand on her shoulder.
"You've done quite enough for right now." He said. She looked up at him.
"But nothing. Yes, we have to find him, and fast. But your just exhausted. I can tell. A blind man could see it. You, rest." He said.
"He's right my dear. You've done great today, and now you must rest. I will do the tracking, and you can watch to see how it's done, but you are not allowed to help." Shadow King said. Katie opened her mouth to argue, but then shut it again, and put her head in her hands.
"Fine. But only because I really am that exhausted. I think I'll go lay down." Katie said, getting to her feet. She walked towards the hallway, before turning back. "If that's ok." She said.
"Yeah, go on. We'll need everyone at full strength, so please do." Billy said. Katie nodded, and walked down the hall to her room. She stripped off her costume, and slipped on her pajamas, enjoying the extra breathing room they allowed. She laid her costume across her desk chair, and flopped down on her bed. She was out in seconds.
In the kitchen, Billy was talking with the Shadow King.
"I still can't believe you said we'd be having a press conference, you know, without discussing it with me first." Billy said. The Shadow King merely regarded him with a smile.
"I assumed you'd be having one eventually. To more formally introduce this new team. Being public and honest is a requirement if your to earn the public's trust." Shadow King said.
"Well….you have me there." Billy said, scowling. He hated it when Shadow King was right.
"And there's something else we need to deal with bro. Our names." Melissa said. She'd taken off her gloves and mask, and had them piled in front of her.
"Oh, yeah, right." Billy said, snapping his fingers.
"What about them?" Zach asked.
"We've been using these names since were just sidekicks to other heroes. They were fine when we were kids, but now, we're full on heroes, and they just don't work." Melissa explained.
"What she said. Now that we're being introduced with a new team, this is the perfect opportunity to reveal our new names." Billy said.
"This will be your first opportunity to show the world who you are. To let the world know the name of the Urban Cohorts, and what they can expect of you. Let this be the dawning of a new age. I have seen the attentions of the Legion stray, to dealing with the threats that make the world tremble. And that is something that has to be done. But because of it, our attention to our original goal has been lost, the defense of all innocents against crimes big and small. Now, you can stand for justice in a way we simply cannot, against those crimes that have fallen below our notice. And I have the utmost faith that you will succeed." Shadow King said, looking from member to member as he spoke. None of them quite knew what to say. "I must return to my realm. But I will be back soon enough." He said, and faded away into a shadow portal.
"Well, he's overly dramatic isn't he?" Melissa said, eliciting chuckles out of the others.
"Do you think what he said is right? Do you think we can pull this off?" Cyaegha asked. Billy thought for a second.
"I don't know. I just don't know. But I don't know about you, but I intend to see it through, and see what happens." Billy said. Cyaegha closed his eyes, lost in thought for a moment. Then, he said,
"Interesting philosophy. I think I'm going to like this team." With that, he walked off down the hall. Zach watched him go.
"I almost wish I could read minds whenever he talks." He said. Melissa looked at him.
"A bit early to be saying stuff like that, isn't it?" She asked.
"I'm not making any judgments. I don't judge, it goes against my beliefs. I'm merely commenting on the fact that even when he talks, he doesn't say much. But then, he's done nothing but help us, so I can't say anything bad about him." He said.
"Hey, Zach, quick question, Angela said you were some kind of telepath…" Billy started, but Zach interrupted him.
"Only sort of. My power is more the ability to tap into the surface thoughts and feelings someone has. So I can calm and angry person, or get someone who's hesitating about doing something to not do it. But I can't read minds, and I can't get people to do things they wouldn't do, only push them to do things they already want to. That doesn't apply to animals for some reason though. I've never been able to figure that out." Zach said.
"Ah, interesting. And much less creepy." Melissa said. Zach smiled, and took a swig of soda.
Downstairs, Angela and Panopticon were talking. Angela was looking over her file, which Panopticon had so graciously given her.
"I just want you to understand, I keep files on every hero and villain. No matter how much I may trust them, I know things happen, and I have to be prepared for that eventuality." Panopticon said.
"Well, can't fault you there. But it still creeps me out." Angela said, setting her file aside. Honestly, there was nothing to it. Just a basic rundown of her powers, and what had happened since she and Billy had met.
"Well, I can't change that. I just want to be clear, I don't mistrust you. I just do this for everyone." Panopticon said, stamping out the cigarette she'd been smoking in a nearby ash tray.
"That's what I hear." Angela said, and instantly winced. But Panopticon merely sighed.
"I've always tried to do what's best for my family. Even if they don't understand that." She said. Angela didn't respond, and Panopticon decided to change the subject. She crossed her legs, her black pants riding up her leg as she did so. She picked up Angela's file, and closed it.
"Honestly, I didn't bring you down here for a debriefing. I already got all I need. I'm just curious about you." Panopticon said. Angela frowned.
"What about me is so interesting?" She asked.
"Several reasons. A couple revolving around the Valiance's interest in you. But mostly it seems that my son has developed an interest in you." When Angela gave her a weird look, she clarified. "I don't mean it that way. More that, he seems to trust you. And as such, I just want to learn more about you." Panopticon said. Angela's frown didn't change. She wasn't sure what to make of this, it almost felt like being studied under a microscope. But then, this family had taken her and Katie in so willingly, and given them so much. Answering a few questions seemed like the least she could do.
"Well, ok, I suppose that's fine."
"From what Billy's told me, you've been on the streets for awhile."
"Eight years. Or thereabouts, I found it hard to keep track of time at certain points." Angela said.
"Did you have any help during that time?" Panopticon asked. Angela smiled.
"Oh yeah. Dr. Vance was the biggest help of all." She said.
"I talked to him recently. I don't think I made a good first impression." Panopticon said, rolling her eyes. She lit up another cigarette.
"No, not so much. But like I was saying, he helped me out big time. He told local thugs to keep away from me, kept an eye on me, and when I was struggling to eat, he got me in at some of the local soup kitchens. And it wasn't even just that stuff. It was a sense that he...cared about me." Angela said, her voice starting to choke up a bit.
"Fact is, before this, I had a long string of people who just didn't care. My parents sure as hell didn't. And the foster parents, when they weren't useless, made it clear I was just something to be used. Dr. Vance… was different. He really seemed worried about me, and helped me as best as he could." Angela said.
"Never once called CPS or other such service though." Panopticon said, and blew out a bit of smoke.
"He knew I would've run away if he tried to. And he wanted me close to him, I suppose." Angela said.
"Do you know why he took such a large interest in you in the first place?" Panopticon asked. Angela shrugged.
"Well, he's always kind of had an interest in people lost in the shuffle. He runs the only free clinic in that neighborhood, and he's told me trying to get funding is a royal pain. A shame, because there's a lot of people need that help."
Panopticon remained silent for a moment. Then she said, "It seems you got lucky in finding him."
"No doubt." Angela said, and meant it. Panopticon nodded. "Alright. I don't want to keep you any longer, or turn this into an interrogation." She said. Angela got to her feet, but hesitated. Panopticon looked at her.
"Is there something else?" She asked.
"Yes. I wanted to thank you. For letting me stay. For all the other stuff you did. I know you didn't have to…" Angela said, but Panopticon raised a hand.
"It's no trouble. We couldn't very well let you wander around with all those people looking for you." Panopticon said, and turned her chair around, back to the computer screen. As she started hitting keys, she said, quietly, almost as an afterthought, "Besides, things have been a little empty around here." Angela didn't quite know what to say to that. She turned, and walked to the door. When she got there, she looked back. Panopticon was looking at a computer file showing the Styxian. But in a frame next to the terminal, was another picture she kept looking towards. While Angela couldn't see it from where she was, she remembered seeing it when she was sitting down talking to her. It was a picture of two people. A younger Panopticon, and a little girl, no more than five or six, in a little white dress, with burnt black hair. Panopticon was resting her hands on the girls shoulders, and both looked happy as could be. Angela walked out the door, feeling like she was intruding on something.
Across the city, the shadowy figure stood on a rooftop, overlooking the city. For to long, he'd been a lost shadow, drifting in this dark world. Hatred, violence, and millions that have fallen silent over the years, with no one hearing their cries. So, why shouldn't he plunge the world into a darkness that reflected it's heart? This was a dark world. He would no longer be just another shadow, pushed aside, forgotten. Oh no. He would be ruler of the shadows, of the entire world. And no one, not even the Urban Cohorts would stop him.