Song recommendation: Stars - Fairytale of New York

Author's note: Chapter-long fight sequences are kinda tough to do in text. Seriously, it's hard to expand people punching each other to 2500 words. I padded it with some dialogue. And look! Sentence-long cameos from a few people! If this were a comic, I'd be able to fill an entire two-page spread with cameos. As it is, it took a paragraph. Ah, well. If this were a comic, I doubt I'd be posting an entire issue every week.

February 14, 2013

They looked around. They were in Manhattan, in Times Square, and things were not good. There were demons of all shapes and sizes running around, and people were running panicked. They seemed to be coming out of nowhere. There were cops shooting at the demons, but the bullets weren't doing anything good. Up in the sky, they saw a winged hero – too far up to tell who, but it looked like Guardian Angel – fighting flying demons.

"It's your show, Warlock," Valour said. "Where do you want us?"

"Time's Square has the highest concentration of demons," Warlock said. "For now, simply fight them. Try to keep them back as they come through the tear. I will need time to prepare before we go through."

"Right. No problem. OK, team, just stay around here and try not to kill them."

"Not all of them are possessing people," Warlock added. "Many of the demons here are as they are. Some are possessing inanimate objects, as well. So anything too big to be human, you can safely destroy."

"Good to know," Tiny said, "because I think that one used to be a bus." They looked behind them, and saw a demon towering above them. "I got this one."

"No time for plans," Valour rose up. "Just fight until Warlock gives us the all clear!"

The giant demon brought its fist smashing down on Tiny, who caught it in his own hands. He twisted it and threw it to the ground. Before it could recover, he ran over to its head. His punch shattered its skull, and it stopped moving.

"Hey, Unreality," Granite said, knocking out a normal demon. Unreality was wrapping a lamppost around two more. "Turn the street into a wall." He hit two more attacking from either side of him, then grabbed another and threw it at one who passed by him.

"No problem," Unreality said. "I take it you want to be on the wrong side of the wall?" The street rippled in a wave, knocking over all the onrushing demons.

"Wouldn't wanna be anywhere else, man."

"All right then." Unreality raised his hands, and the street rose up underneath him, from one side of the street to the other, to a height of ten feet, blocking the demons from easily passing by. He stood on top of the wall to watch and help where he was needed.

"Perfect," Granite said with a smile. He readied himself. "Bring it on, ya bunch'a heavy metal rejects! I'll take on every single demon in the city!" A dozen of them were on him as soon as he finished shouting, clawing and biting. He punched, flung, and slammed them. But every time he took one down, another was soon taking its place.

Three more large demons attacked Tiny. He was pretty sure they were cars. They were smaller than the big one, anyway. He punched the first to reach him hard in the chest, his hand going right through. He used its body to block the next one's claws, which shredded the body. He grabbed it and slammed it into the third one, then threw it at another group of normal demons down the block, knocking several of them out. The third big one got back to its feet just in time for Tiny to grab it and pull its head off.

"Hrah!" Tiny shouted, and flexed his muscles. "That all you pussies got?!"

Elastic Woman stretched herself up to 40' tall, and attacked the demons crawling over the buildings. She punched them through windows, or wrapped her arms around them and flung them across the street into the side of another building. She also kept an eye on the ground. Any time a small demon got past Tiny, she kicked it with an enlarged foot, sending it flying back. She did her best not to inflict any permanent injuries, in case they were possessed humans. But it wasn't easy.

"Hey, Warlock!" she shouted. "Any way for us to tell which demons are possessed people and which are just plain demons?"

"This close to the tear," Warlock replied, "they are all normal demons." He spoke quietly, but his voice still reached her clearly.

"Really? Well, that makes things easier." She enlarged her fist and slammed it into a demon crawling a wall. It fell to the ground below. "Much easier."

Valour flew to another corner of Times Square to stop the horde there. He caught glimpses of other flying heroes in the air, but he didn't have the time to fill them in on the situation. He swooped down and tackled a large group of demons, then turned to face more coming at him. "Piece of cake," he said. "I'm not afraid of you bastards."

An energy blast took down three at once. He punched two more that reached him, and fired another energy blast. Some went past him, so he flew first to his right to slam them into the wall, then fired a blast at the other side to take those ones down. He glew up into the air, then charged straight down to slam into the middle of the street as a trip of demons passed by, knocking them all out.

"Hey, Valour!" someone called out from above. He looked up to see Guardian Angel coming down for a landing. "Do you have any idea what the Hell is going on?"

"Yeah, just a demon invasion," Valour replied, letting loose another blast to take down two of them. "Don't worry about it, we're handling it."

"Who's 'we'? I thought the Champions broke up."

"Yeah, we did. I'm in the West Coast Knights now." He punched another demon.

"Who?" Guardian Angel bashed a demon with his wing. "Never heard of them."

"What? We saved LA from undersea invaders!"

"Oh. I mostly pay attention to local news. Sorry."

"Just . . . keep the skies clear. I'll handle things here." I hope, he added in his head. The demons weren't tough, but there were a lot of them flooding through the invisible tear. They seemed to be endless.

The street around Granite was littered with piles of demons, but they kept coming. But what bothered him was that, as long as he was busy fighting them, he couldn't help anyone else. He knew the day would be won or lost in the other dimension, but it didn't make him feel any better about all the people who were probably dying.

A blur rushed past the demons and stopped beside him. "Hey," the woman said. She blue costume with red stripes on the sides and down her arms. She had aviator's goggles, which she pushed up to her forehead, but the rest of her face was uncovered, and her brown hair hung loose. She also held a rod in each hand, which she used to bash any demons that got close to her.

"Uh, hi," Granite replied. "Where do I recognize you from?" He swung his arm and three demons were sent flying.

"I'm Velocity. With the Protectors. I used to be Speedster."

"Oh, yeah! I remember readin' that you changed your costume a couple months back, but I forgot. Sorry 'bout that."

"No problem. So, do you know what's going on here? We called D-Force, but they didn't know yet. And we haven't figured it out."

"Some weird magic dimensional thing. That guy Warlock's behind this wall, an' he's fixin' to take the Knights – the new team I'm on – into the other dimension so we can stop it."

"Do you need help? The Protectors are just over there," she pointed to another street, "since Doc Light told us this is where the highest concentration of these things is."

"Nah, we'll be good. Jus' keep fightin'."

"All right, I'll go spread the word." She rushed off, knocking out six more demons as she went.

All over the city, heroes were fighting the demon invaders. Defence Force were near their headquarters, battling possessed citizens. Dr. Light put them to sleep with hypnotic strobes, Cloud engulfed them as a cloud of chloroform, and Lightning Lass shocked them with just enough force to render them unconscious. Gabriel was in the air, dealing with the ones who could fly, and Brute smashed the bigger demons.

The Protectors were just as busy. Justice was in the thick of the fighting, striking out in all directions at once and avoiding the claws of the demons. Gadgeteer blasted them from afar, and hoped his force field generator had enough power to last. Velocity was everywhere. Her brother, Mage, moved little as he cast his spells. The robotic Gold – so named for his colour – lashed out with fists and eye beams. The newest member of the team, a red-skinned alien warrior named Havran, fought with a sword in his right hand and a blaster in his left.

Elsewhere, in the Bronx, Wildcat and Force simply tried not to die. Waves of energy burst from Force's hands to take the demons down, and Wildcat jumped and slashed to keep them away from her.

It wasn't just New York, either. In LA, Psyche had obtained a hunting rifle and tranquilizers. In London, Big Ben saved the Queen herself from possessed Buckingham guards.

But New York City was getting it the worst, and the biggest problem was in Times Square. Unreality knew some of the demons were getting past, and terrorizing other parts of the city. He'd always wanted to visit New York, but it wasn't quite what he'd imagined. For one thing, he hadn't expected to be attacked by the subway. On the subway, maybe.

A half dozen huge demons burst out of the street ahead of Granite. Unreality was sure they were possessed subway cars. He was also sure they were going to be a problem for Granite, so he'd need to help out. He couldn't use his powers on them directly – he could only affect inanimate objects – so he'd have to attack them indirectly. That wouldn't be a problem.

The street rose up above the demons, forming into a fist as big as they were. Then, it punched the first of them, slamming it back into the street. It grabbed the second one, lifted it up, and smashed it into the third. It rose up again and crashed down on the fourth. Then it split apart into a pair of spikes and impaled the last two. Exhausted from the effort, Unreality had to sit down on top of his wall.

Tiny stood atop a large pile of demons. He held one in each hand, and swung them at any others that came after him. He had a few scratches, but nothing serious. He may not have been made of stone, but that didn't mean his skin wasn't tough. Of course, he had always been a firm believer that the best defence is a strong offence, so he mostly tried to keep the demons from touching him.

He had help from Elastic Woman, back to her normal height. She watched his back, and struck down any demons who tried to blindside him. She'd avoided any injuries herself by simply being quick enough to bend her body away from attacks, then flexing it back hard enough to knock the demons away. She also watched Warlock, waiting for him to finish whatever it was he was doing. As far as she could tell, he was just sitting and meditating. He had a bubble around him repelling the attacks of any demons who went after him, so at least he was safe, even if she did want to slap him herself.

"How we doing?" Valour asked everyone through the comms.

"Jus' peachy!" Granite replied, lifting a half-dozen demons above his head and throwing them to the ground.

"Exhausted, but recovering," Unreality said.

"Annoyed at how long Warlock's taking," Elastic Woman said. "If he doesn't do something soon, there's not going to be much of a city left to save."

"And Tiny?" Valour asked.

"Oh, he's having a blast. He's taken some hits, but not enough to slow him down yet."

"We need to convince him to get his own comm unit," Valour muttered as he blasted another trio of demons.

"Just get Psyche to talk him into it," Unreality said. "He can't say no to her."

"Yeah, that's probably what I'll do."

"Hey! There's a girl coming over here!" Tiny shouted.

"What?" Elastic Woman stretched her neck up to see. Sure enough, a beautiful woman was walking towards them. She was dressed in white, with a blue cross on her chest, and she had blonde hair and blue eyes. "Dammit, I'd better help her before the demons tear her apart!"

She rushed over, but strangely, the demons seemed to be avoiding her. She did seem to have an aura about her, as though she were graced by something divine. Still, they couldn't stay away from her forever, so Elastic Woman grabbed her and brought her back to Unreality's wall.

"Are you insane?!" she yelled at the woman. "You could've been killed out there!"

"At the hands of demons?" the woman replied. "Never. God protects me, and keeps them back."

"Faith is great, but punching them works a lot better!" She couldn't believe how calm the woman was. How serene. It enhanced her beauty, but it was also a little irritating, under the circumstances.

"What's your name?" Unreality asked.

"You may call me Faith," she said. "I'm here to help you."

"Help us how?" Elastic Woman said. "What can you do? You're wearing a costume, so what are your powers?"

"Miracles."

"Miracles. Really. Of course it's miracles."

"What sort of miracles?" Unreality asked.

"It's difficult to explain. But when I'm around, things just seem to . . . happen. Things fall into place. Guns misfire. Or someone with a knife will trip and fall. Or a woman will drop her purse before she can step off the curb in the path of a car."

"So, coincidences?" Elastic Woman said. "You cause freak coincidences."

"They seem like coincidences. But I know, in my heart, that it's God acting through me to protect others."

"It sounds like probability manipulation," Unreality said. "She basically controls luck. That's one hell of a power."

Tiny let out an angry shout, and Elastic Woman looked over to see he'd just been attacked from behind. "Dammit," she muttered. She turned back to Faith briefly. "Let's see you start busting out those 'miracles' and help us out." She turned back to Tiny and returned to covering his back.

"Do you believe in God?" Faith asked her. Two demons jumped off a building towards Tiny, collided in the air above him, and fell harmlessly to the ground.

"Yeah, I do," Elastic Woman replied. "I just tend to be sceptical of people who think they can talk to him."

"We can all talk to him." Faith sounded amused. "And she listens to us all. And he talks back, if we're willing to listen."

"You know what I mean."

"I do. And I'm not one of those people. I'm not saying that God and I get together for drinks every Friday. I'm just saying that-"

"I'm ready," Warlock suddenly said, opening his eyes. He climbed to his feet.

"You're ready?" Unreality said. "That's good."

"It's about time," Elastic Woman said. "Every minute we wait, people die."

"Then we shouldn't tarry," Warlock said. "We need to go through the tear, into the other realm. There, we'll face the king of these demons. It won't be an easy fight, but we must defeat him if we are to save our world."

"You catch that, Valour?" Elastic Woman asked.

"I did," Valour replied. "Be there in a sec."

"I'll open a hole in the wall for you guys," Unreality said. Warlock walked through, followed by Faith. Elastic Woman knocked back the demons around Tiny, giving him a chance to run for the wall while she went over. Valour joined them beside Granite.

"So your name is Faith?" he said to the new girl. "I'm Valour. Nice to meet you."

"Likewise," she shook his hand.

"It is a difficult battle ahead," Warlock warned. "We will be fighting through an endless army of demons, through regions where the very land and skies themselves will be trying to kill us. And the king of these demons is a being of incalculable might. If any of you wish to stay here, this is your last chance."

"Back down from a fight?" Tiny said. "You think I'm some kinda pussy?!"

"My place is where the fightin's heaviest," Granite said. "I'm in."

"I think we're all in this until the end," Valour said. "Let's just hurry and finish this."

"Very well," Warlock said. "Alea iacta est!" He thrust forward his staff, and a beam of light shot forth. It seemed like the sky was being torn apart. When the beam ended, the tear the demons had been coming through was visible.

"Let's go," Warlock said. He walked towards the tear, and the others followed him.

Next: Out of the frying pan into the Inferno.