Disclaimer: You shall live again, City of Heroes. I vow it.
Author's Note: Been trying to write this for a while... need to find a right way to start it. Also note, this is the 'Clean Edit' of Day of Flame. Sailor Apocalypse can be a little... mouthy. I made her brush her teeth before this, though.
City of Heroes: Day of Flame
Red Campaign: Prologue
-Skies over Paragon City; November 30th, 2012 8:00 AM-
How the hell did I ever wind up in charge of this operation? I mean, okay, I know I probably hate Paragon City and what it stands for more then the next guy but... why me? I'm a... a nobody! Another cog in the great wheel of Arachnos... so why me? I sit in a helicopter surrounded by three of Arachnos' Power Players. In the seat in front of me sits the massive figure of Black Scorpion, his power armor bulking the man up two or three sizes larger then he usually would be. His helmet is off and sits in the half seat to his right. I watch his wire-riddled head glaring me down with his best 'I'm a badass' expression he can muster, all the while sizing me up as I size him up. I'm glad my eyes are hidden behind sunglasses, because this guy scares the tar out of me.
I don't look, but to my right sits a lanky, thin man with an egyptian vibe going. His name is Scirocco – yeah, it's as much of a mouthful as you'd think – and he's occupied with some logistics of micromanaging the sheer volume of troops we've dedicated to this little assault. We're only one of a thousand plus helicopters bringing troops over the seas from the Rogue Islands, so you could imagine how it would be a logistical nightmare to manage all these troops. He keeps to himself, his pallid skin barely offering any sign of life, save for the steady raising and lowering of his chest as he breathes.
The man to my left can barely be called a 'man'. This whole trip I've smelt nothing but fury and fish, and the latter can be attributed to the man called Captain Mako – a wereshark that is currently serving as our link to what passes as a navy in this organization. A dozen plus submarines are currently parked in Independence Port to stop all outgoing vessels from retreating once the main force lands – and also to bring more Spiders and Meta Humans ashore. Captain Mako spins a guilded hook around on one finger, a kind of good luck charm for the battle to come, I guess. I catch him looking at me out of the corner of my eye, his broad, shark-like lips curl into a smile as he nods knowingly at me.
“Five minutes from landfall.” A voice speaks curtly over the PA into the cabin. It was time to start the plan. It was a pretty damn good plan... pity I couldn't say I created it. I was just the poor sod elected... or volunteered - Voluntold? - to carry it out. I'd run it over in my head a thousand times... from liftoff in Grandville to now. I'd had the whole thing memorized, and it was a good thing too. I slowly reached up to my ear, trying to hide my shaking arm as I turned on the bluetooth headset on my ear.
“Thank you for calling Terabyte. This is Terabyte. What can I do you for?”
“Terabyte... it's Landslide-” My codename for this operation. I loved and hated it. “-We are five minutes from touchdown. It's time to do your thing.” I heard the little girl – a technical progidy Lord Recluse had contacted prior to the operation – answer with a dainty giggle. She had a very, very important job. Perhaps even more important then mine.
“Thank you so very much, Landslide. Let's not keep my Arachnos Benefactors waiting, shall I? Bringing the Hospital Grid down now.” Both Paragon City and the Rogue Islands made use of a system of transporters – stolen Rikti technology - that can bring a person from the verge of death to a single location outside of the combat zone. Most of these transporters were wired directly into the hospitals spread around both cities, but in rare cases, they can also be reprogrammed relatively easily to bring – say – a villain into a police cell instead of a hospital. In this case, we weren't just rewiring the Hospital Grid... we planned on bringing it down. Lord Recluse was sick and tired of defeated heroes fleeing to the safety of the Hospital whenever they were on the verge of death. No... no, this time there would be no retreat for them... no surrender. Most Medicoms – the small device that detected a near-fatal drop in vitals and initiated the teleport – were worn on a hero or villain's costume. In this case, no one in this operation had one. They all knew the risks and what's more... the reward.
Unlike the others in the helicopter, I wasn't dressed in my costume. I had pretty much just woken up before the helicopter picked me up but... more importantly I enjoyed the thrill too much... the thrill of going from mundane to maniacal... there was something... satisfying about it that I craved.
“Is no one else going to address the black sheep in the room?!” Black Scorpion finally belted. “Why the hell this gnat is in charge of this operation?!”
“Simply put, Scorpion...” Came Mako's answer. “...it is Recluse's decision she lead. Who are we to question?”
“That's not good enough! She's a nobody! She just... wipes Recluse's ass all day! That's all she does! That's all she's ever done!” I spent years in this organization working my way up to my position, and while it is nowhere near as high as any assembled around me... I will freely admit that I do spend what time I can cozying up to Recluse. And why not?! The man's a tactical genius and he is the leader of this organization. It makes sense to be on his good side. That's not to say I haven't questioned him before, of course. Though, I try not to do that with out good reason.
“Trust me, Scorpion. You are not the only one who questions the decision... but arguing about it is a moot point right now.” Scirocco responds coldly, as though I wasn't sitting right beside him.
“The most we can do is make the best of it.” I reach into my pocket and fish out the only thing that resides within my pants. It's a small, circular compact – like what most human women would carry to hold their makeup inside of. I've always taken guff from Black Scorpion and Scirocco. They've never liked me, that's no secret. I don't know why... but Recluse chose me to lead this operation for a good reason. And I'm not going to be taking that kind of chaff from either of them.
“Shut up, you two.” I finally respond. “Quit whining like little girls and put your big-boy pants on. We're going to be landing soon, and I don't think the Freedom Phalanx is going to give a hoot if you chip a nail.”
“You-” Black Scorpion moved to stand, my hand reaching out, a little fireball cradled in my dainty fingers.
“Careful. Did you know a scorpion surrounded by flames will sting itself... just so it doesn't have to burn? You wouldn't want that to happen to you... would you?” He seethed, huffing hot air and taking his seat.
“When this is done... I'm going to be tearing your spine out.”
“You can try, darling. Just focus on the mission.”
“Landslide, where do you want to be dropped? Lord Recluse has given you choice of landing zones.”
“I would like to be let off... oh... let's say Atlas Park.”
“Atlas Park?” Mako asked. “Why there?”
“Because... That's where the Freedom Phalanx has their Division of Super Powers... and let's face it. It's low crime rate makes it a hive of newer, less experienced meta humans. I shouldn't have a problem. Mako, secure Independence Port. I don't want a single ship coming or going.”
“Yes, ma'am.” He answered with a nod. I always liked Mako. I got the feeling he didn't like me, but he at least had the decency not to be openly hostile.
“Scirocco, I want you to secure Skyway City. All of you, your first targets need to be the Green and Yellow lines of the Skytram. If you can knock those out, it'll hinder response times.” Scirocco grumbled at my order, but I got the feeling he would listen regardless. He was pretty good at taking orders... just complained a lot. I looked to the beefstick in front of me. “Black Scorpion-”
“You can't order me, girl.”
“Recluse says I can. Steel Canyon. Don't mess it up.” He huffed another gout of steam before grumbling an acknowledgment under his breath. Reluctant agreements were the best. My first priority was to knock out the Hospital Grid – done - , then the Rikti Walls. I know it was kind of counterinducive, as the Rikti walls stopped Meta Humans from simply flying between parts of the city... but at this point, I had to levy the number of flying Meta Human we had on our side. Most of the Spiders – the Wolf Spiders and Tactical Spiders which were the strongarm of the Arachnos Organization – were outfitted with either Mark II Jumppacks or Anti-Gravity Repulsor Packs for this mission. Any Meta Human who didn't already have the ability of flight was also issued a Repulsor Pack. We literally had fliers across the board. We could spread across the city faster then anyone else. And we planned to. I raised my hand to my ear once more. “Terabyte. What's the status on the Rikti Walls?” I knew bringing the Rikti Walls down would be a bigger deal then the Hospital Grid. Rikti Technology was easy enough to fry – a wrong string of numbers here, a moved decimal point there and the whole system took a massive dump, just... crashed. A few more wrong strings of numbers, and it was down for good. Plus side, with a system that massive, it would take them months, literal months to figure out exactly where the problem was, and to fix it. We had time in spades. The Rikti Walls were another thing. They were designed to take all forms of attacks – physical or otherwise – so they were firewalled out the wazoo. Terabyte swore to us upside down and center that she could bring them down. She better, we were two minutes from landfall, and if those walls weren't down, we were going nowhere.
“Almost done, sexy...” She told me with a coo in her voice. I'm pretty sure she was too young for me... her dossier said she was like... fifteen. Then again, my dossier with Arachnos still had me listed as a Hero. Good times. “...don't want that sexy voice of yours getting splatted on a wall...” I heard a dull hum come over her end of the radio. “...and done! You'll send a helicopter to extricate me, yes?”
“Of course.” I told her. “What's your location?”
“Oh... I'll make myself known. Have your pilot on the lookout for a pink flare. That's where I'll be.”
“You heard the lass.” I told my pilot, who was on extraction duty once we were dropped. “Once we're off, look for a pink flare, and set down.”
“Yes, ma'am!” A pause as I looked out the viewport of the helicopter. Christ, this city really had a beauty to it. Sure, it was a hive of sin and decadence... but it was a beautiful one. Almost a pity I had to mess that beauty up. Another few moments passed. “Over Skyway City now. Drop now, Lord Scorpion!” Black Scorpion stood and went to the door, opening it.
“When this is over...” I glared at him.
“Get your butt off the damn helicopter!” I barked at him. He growled once and leapt out the door. Like the grunts, we were all equipped with repulsor packs or jump packs. Black Scorpion had requested a one-time use repulsor pack to break his fall... didn't like flying, I think. “Next time, I'm gonna kick him out.” I shook my head. It was Scirocco who stood next, going to the open door. Our helicopter turned slightly north and started towards the canal that separated Steel Canyon from Baumtown to the north. I took Scirocco's arm before he hit the door. “Hey!”
“If you can knock the bridges out between Steel Canyon and Baumtown, do so. Trap those sods on the other side.”
“I had intended, thank you very much.” He scoffed at me. I got the impression he didn't think of it until just now. Scirocco – like Black Scorpion, now that I think about it – were blunt instruments. They were good at their jobs, as long as their jobs were wrecking everything in sight. They didn't have heads for plans or strategem. Just... charge in and punch whatever was in your way. Useful, to an extent. Mako... I think that's another reason I liked Captain Mako. He was adaptable to the situation at had. If you needed a blunt instrument, he could do that very well... if you needed a scalpel, he could do that very well as well. Our pilot rattled off that we were over Steel Canyon, and Scirocco jumped off.
“Alright ma'am. You're next. Next stop, Atlas Park.”
“A word.” Came Captain Mako before I could take my position near the door.
“What is it?” I asked simply, turning to him. He fished something out of his pants pocket and looked at it. It was a small, corked test tube with a clear, pristine water inside.
“Lord Recluse wanted me to gift this to you, before we commence the mission. A... 'gesture of good will', he put it.” He put the test tube in my hand, and I pulled it up to my eyes to examine it.
“What is it? Spring water?” I chuckled. “I mean, it's sweet, don't get me wrong... but if he was hoping to give me a refreshing drink this is a little... dinky.”
“It's water from the Well of the Furies.” My eyes lit up. I had heard so many stories about the Well of the Furies! The ability to turn men into gods! And gods... gods into unstoppable titans. This was more then a simple 'gesture of good will'... this was an panic button that anyone would kill for. Of course, it was just as likely to kill me as it would make me immortal... but a chance is a chance. Most villains in Arachnos would give their organs for a drink of this.
“He's got a lot of faith in me, if he's giving me this...” Mako chuckled a little and nodded.
“Yes, he does. Try not to disappoint him.” His eyes turned deadpan as I put the test tube into my jacket pocket. “Now... I believe this is your stop.” He pushed me out the helicopter.
Now, if this was any other day; and I was any other girl, I would be cursing his name right now, probably screaming my head off. Today though, I just laughed at him... that was so Captain Mako it was just... too funny not to laugh at. Like Black Scorpion, I was also equipped with a one-time use Repulsor Pack. It was programmed to give a hard burn before I hit the ground to break my fall, then burn out. I could fly on my own, but not without being in costume first. I slimmed my profile down and dove towards the ground. Even this high up, I could see where I was going to land... oh, it was too perfect... too poetic for me not to laugh. I was going to land right on the steps of the Division of Super Powers – Formally the Federal Beauru of Super-Powered Affairs. Right where I had begun my career years ago. A few hundred feet from the ground, I flipped in midair and turned feet-down, my Repulsor Pack engaging and bracing my fall until I had reached the ground, narly a tap to my boots. Graceful, as always.
I shrugged off the Repulsor Pack and faced a pack of stunned newcomer Heroes – eager to make Paragon City safe – as well as their herder, Ms. Liberty. This figurehead. She looked at me, her hand on her blade. “Who are you!? Where did you come from?!”
“Darlin'... let me tell you... it is just... raining spiders today, ain't it?” On cue, everyone looked up to see the bloody massive fleet of helicopters dropping spider and spider on top of the city. “As for the first question... lemme shine some light on it for you.” I didn't care about keeping my identity secret. No one cared, and all of these wannabe's were fixing to be corpses soon anyway. I took the compact from my pocket and looked it over. Tossing it into the air, I caught it on the way down, and bellowed those words. “Apocalypse Chaos Prism Power! Make up!” Leaping into the air, I slammed my fist into the ground, the whole earth quaking beneath me. Ms. Liberty fought to keep her footing, and several of the stunned newcomers fell to their rears as they looked at me. My blouse and bluejeans vanished into embers as I stood – naked as I don't have to say – a plume of lava erupting around me and drenching me in it's molten embrace. Fading back within the earth, the lava had left behind a black sailor suit and matching skirt, a huge, black bow on my lower back and a tiara accenting my fire-red hair. Black boots with grey trimmings covered my feet and black fishnet stockings crept up my legs. Arching my back, a pair of bone wings exploded out, the pang of pain more then managable now – the blood dripping down to sizzle on the concrete.
“I am the Earth's fury given form. I am Ragnarok incarnate. I am the Tsunami and the Quake. The crushing glacier and the blazing volcano! I am War! I am Pestilence! I am Famine, and I am Death! I am the Sailor-Suited Soldier of Chaos and Destruction! I am Sailor Apocalypse!! Look onto me, Atlas Park! Look unto me and see your destruction!” The reaction was instant. Most had no description of me to go by – fleeting stories told over the news and fifth-hand by someone who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy who was at the scene of one of my many crimes... but none of these little adorable newbs had ever seen me in the flesh. Of course there was panic. Of course there was screaming. Of course there was havoc. I love havoc. Once the running started, I began to pick off targets. A little Scrapper here... a tiny Tanker there. The earth was mine to command, the very ground beneath their feet bowed to my will. I had mastered my abilities so that there was no one else who could boast the kind of control I had.
“Coward!” I heard a voice call, drawing my attention away from a squealing little Controller who was writing in a pillar of stone I had encased her in. “Haven't had enough murder, you have to slaughter those who cannot hold a candle to you!?”
“Well!” I responded to the woman – Ms. Liberty as it were – with a huff. “If you'd get off your high horses and fight me, I might not need to kill the kiddos. Well, for now, anyway. I give you five...” I inhaled sharply through my teeth. “...ten minutes tops. Unless you wanna run to Grandpa and-”
“I don't need my Grandfather here to stop you!” She unsheathed her blade and took an aggressive stance. I laughed openly at her.
“Come come, Ms. Liberty. Enough of these toys!” I motioned with a hand, and tossed a clod of earth at her, disarming the blade form her hand. “You and I both know it's more for show, anyway.” I rolled my neck, cracking a few bones in the process... damn that felt good... “So tell me... are you ready to die for your beliefs?”
“Are you ready to die for a fool who won't even lead his own attack.” I charged, connecting two solid punches across her face, both of which outwardly had no effect on her.
“You should really stop talking and take your pounding.” With a powerful backhand, I knocked her back, then picked her up by the collar and belt, lifting her high into the air, and dropping her powerfully onto the concrete below. “That was easier then I thought...” She writhed in place, groaning against the pain. “Come on, then.” I picked her up once more by the collar and drug her half-limp form over to the building behind her – the Division of Super Powers – where I knew the Freedom Phalanx liked to hang out. “Let's go see how hard I gotta squeeze you to coax granddaddy out of hiding, hm? Oh... and darling, do me a favor... not screaming... will only make me squeeze harder.” I slammed her – face-first – into the brickwork of the building, pinning her to the wall with one hand. For those of you with a weak constitution... may not want to read this next paragraph.
My fist connected squarely with the soft, squishy bits of her side. The first hit, of course, had no effect on her, the woman barely letting out a grunt in response. I figured she wouldn't do what I wanted on the first pounding, so I had to go farther. A second was given to the same spot, still tender from the first blow. This hit got a bit of a response out of her, in the form of a grunt followed by a pathetic whine. “I'll... never give you satisfaction... you... traitor.” I smiled at her comment, pleased that she remembered me so fondly. Balling my fist in such a way that cracked every knuckle in my hand, I smashed my fist once more into her side, this time getting a yelp of pain out of her. Progress! Maybe I wasn't taking the right approach to this... Pulling her off the wall, I spun her about and shoved her back-first against it, then gave her knee a swift kick. The sound of breaking bones and the satisfying, oh so wonderful sound of her agonized cry of pain brought a smile to my face.
“That got you talking, love.” I smiled to her, the woman collapsing and gripping her shattered leg. “Now that I know what can get you to sound off... do you prefer another leg... or an arm?”
“What do you want from me you... maniac!?”
“Oh... oh, darling, was I not clear enough for you?” I lightly kicked her broken leg, causing another roar of pained screaming. “I want you to scream... so your grandfather comes out here... to fight me.” I looked her over, a thin layer of stone covering my arms as my flesh turned to stone. “Mmm... think it'll be an arm this time.” Dropping to my knees, I pinned her arm down and lined up a punch. “Aaaaand...” Just before I let the blow fly, I was knocked in the side of my head, sent head-over-heels off a flight of stairs into a fountain.
“Back the hell up, Arachnos Traitor!” I was left loopy and dizzy after the hit, sitting in the fountain, my whole costume soaked.
“I'll take 'the number of the bus that hit me' for a thousand, Trebek...” I muttered in my concussive dilusion, quickly shaking the shock out of my head. “Well... party pooper...” I pulled myself out of the fountain to see Back Alley Brawler helping Ms Liberty back to her feet. “Hey! That's my punching back! I broke her leg first!” Speaking of, she found standing to be quite difficult. I know how this looks... fighting the entirety of the Freedom Phalanx myself. I know it seemed crazy... but there was a method to my madness. I'm not going to bore you with details... but it's a plan I've been plotting for a very long time... at least five minutes now. Shut up. I'm impulsive.
“Don't... worry about me. I'll heal up fine. Just... get her!” Back Alley Brawler faced me as Ms Liberty did her best to crawl away. Well, at least after I mop this bugger up, she'll be easy to find.
“Look who it is... I didn't recognize you past that veil of lies Arachnos filled yer head with, Sailor Earth.”
“Apocalypse... if you please.” I bowed to him, keeping my eyes on him. “Sailor Earth died with my father. She was a mistake... just like you are.” He stepped forward, cracking his knuckles ready for a slugfest.
“Yeah... we'll see how much'a mistake I am when I drag your sick hide to jail.”
“I'll see how tough you are when I'm digging your grave!” I shouted, breaking into a sprint to charge him. He met me blow for blow, his metal fists smashing mercilessly into my lithified flesh, chunks of stone chipping off and falling.
“You're failing!” He spoke after one particularly hard punch had knocked my armor loose. Shaking my head, I commanded it to come back thicker. Now, instead of a thin sheen of stone, I was covered in massive chunks of rock and magma. “I heard about'choo. 'Sailor Apocalypse, Arachnos' Rising Star'.” He mumbled idly as we began to size each other up. “Heard you're in line to take over once Old Man Recluse finally croaks.”
“Nothing I've heard of.” I shook my head.
“Really? You think that you'da heard that. I hear he's gonna split the organization amongst you generals and-”
“You're mistaken. I'm not a general. I'm just a grunt. And I know what you're doing, trying to make me distrust my generals in command. Well, surprise surprise, moron, I already do. When this is all over, I'm expecting a dagger in my back, a stinger in my chest and a nice shark-bite on my neck. You're not telling me anything I don't already friggin' know.”
“So then why support them?”
“As opposed to what? A-a broken justice system that lets wanted criminals go? A system that would rather set a million guilty men free, then let one innocent one go to jail? News flash you blind, ignorant fool! We're both fighting for the badguys here. The only difference is, I know what to expect. Do you know what seperates you and I?”
“Lies.” I answered. “You think you're a good guy, working for the good guys, as a good guy. You think I'm a bad guy working with the bad guys as a bad guy. The truth is... we're both bad guys. The difference bein'... I know it.”
“Enough talk. Are you going to fight?”
“Yep.” I slammed my foot on the ground and opened a fissure at his feet, the stocky man tumbling into the hole, catching himself on the edge. “Different bein'... I don't fight fair.” I closed the fissure, trapping him from the chest up, with minimal arm control. Dropping to a knee, I patted his head. “I always hated you the most.” I ended our conversation with a powerful right hook, which knocked him out. Ms Liberty was still crawling away, half-hobbling, half crawling really. “Oi!” I called to her. “And where, praytell, do you think you're going, missy?” She tried to speed up now that she knew I noticed her, closing the gap to her in long, lithe strides. Dismissing my armor, I grabbed her broken leg with one hand and hoisted her up, a pained wail leaving her lips the whole way. Christ, I bet that hurt like hell. “One last time, sugarlips. Where's grandpa?”
“He... he... jesus, this hurts!” I shook her, which only caused another yelp.
“He's in Steel Canyon! He's!... oh god just kill me... He's in a meeting!” I pouted.
“DAMMIT! Black Scorpion will have first dibs.” I huffed in anger. “Well, aren't you just friggin' useless to me now...” I looked around, looking for a place I could chuck her to get a giggle. A man with a camera caught my interest. He was a civilian, wearing a news shirt. There was another woman in front of him, talking about the news – probably my attack. Grabbing Ms Liberty by her neck, giving the poor lass' leg a break, I charged right over to interrupt the broadcast.
“...seems that Arachno agents have been spotted all over Paragon City. We are live in Atlas Park where one of their agents has been-”
“Oi! If'n yer gonna address me, at least give the folks at home a name!” I called to them, the reporter turning, her eyes lighting in fear. “Sailor Apocalypse. Two words, 'Sailor' as in the seifuku school uniform from japan – more commonly referred to as a sailor suit- , and 'Apocalypse' as in the end of the world.” I shoved her out of the way. “Outta the way, Lois Lane. I wanna talk to the peeps of the city.” I cleared my throat, still holding the squirming Ms Liberty. “People of Paragon City! My name is Sailor Apocalypse. And this is my ventriloquist dummy, Ms Liberty. Scream for the people, Ms Liberty.” I kicked her leg hard, causing her to scream bloody murder. “Good girl.” I grinned. “I have come to tell you fine people something very, very simple. If you all value your lives, you'll stay in your homes. Paragon City is about to become a warzone...” A pause. “Ah, hell, who am I kidding? Place is already a warzone! Point is, if you value your pathetic excuses for lives, don't get in our way. And a message for all you would-be heroes-” He started to pan away. “OI! Didn't your mother ever tell you not to cut a lady off when she's talkin'!? Keep the camera on my face or I'll shove it down your throat to give the people at home a look at your lower intestinal tract!” He did so, keeping the camera on me. “Good.” I cleared my throat again and continued. “A message for all you would-be heroes in Paragon City... looking to make a name for yourself in this invasion. Stay home. Because there's only one thing waiting for you.” To emphasis the point, I jerked my wrist just right, with just enough strength to snap Ms Liberty's neck, the woman going lifeless instantly in my grip. “Death.” I ended, dropping the body. “That's right, kiddos! No teleportation, no salvation awaits you anymore! You drop fighting us, we're going to kill you! And there ain't no comin' back from death.”