With a flash of light, a black VTOL jet with the logo of the International Threat Assessment Bureau appeared hovering above the ruins.
“Holy shit, the TAB,” Tipping Point said.
“If the Bureau is involved, we’re talking Nightmare-class,” Paragon said, his voice wary.
Guardian Angel simply stared as Cobalt Tower exploded into scintillating fragments that rained onto the city below. A tiny figure smashed through the building, knocking it away from the undamaged parts of the city.
Is that Jet?
“Translocator, do you copy?” Paragon said into his Warden communicator.
“I copy. Is that Paragon I hear?” came a voice from the comm, difficult to understand through the speaker’s thick german accent.
“It is. I’m here with Tipping Point and his crew. Is there anything we can do?”
No mention of me? Guardian Angel thought, then felt guilty. Doesn’t matter.
“Find whoever is causing this and kill them, if you can. We already have a death warrant.” Guardian Angel shivered at how casually Translocator was able to say that.
A death warrant? That really exists? Fuck, I can’t do this.
“Don’t worry about the collateral damage,” Translocator continued. “We have a team managing that, and the area has been evacuated. You just focus on ending this.”
“Got it. What kind of effect are we looking at?”
“Monitor designated it ‘Marée du Ciel.’ Macro-scale telekinesis, among other secondary effects. It seems to be a field that negates gravity to an extent and applies constant force to anything in its radius. Most of the initial damage was cars being forced off the roads into buildings and internal damage caused by shifting furniture, but a lot of the larger buildings aren’t meant to withstand this kind of force. They’re breaking up, and the flooding is not helping.”
Marée du Ciel? Guardian Angel thought, thinking back to french class. Tide of sky? Tide of heaven? That does not bode well.
“Davy Jones,” Paragon said, voice aghast. “He’s become a Nightmare. How is this possible?”
“This was a known meta? We know it’s possible, ever since Foresight became Dream of Tomorrow, but if we could isolate the cause-“
“I have a theory on that, but it can wait,” Paragon interrupted. “When this is over, we need to talk.” He spoke to the other heroes in the sub. “For now, Tipping Point, get us to shore and see if you can conjure something to give us mobility while we’re in the bubble. I’ve experienced Davy Jones’ power, so believe me when I say it’s easy to get swept away. It’s-” he paused. “It’s more like swimming, actually. And be warned, it will become difficult to breathe, if what I experienced at the Maven building was any indication.”
“From what it sounds like, he makes the air behave more like water,” Pitfall said. “Denser, more viscous, less compressible.”
“That’s accurate,” Paragon said. “The wind becomes more like ocean currents, or a riptide. If you’re not careful, you’ll drift away.”
Guardian Angel was finally able to tear his gaze away from the city. He felt like he was still running behind the others.
They’re already strategizing. I’m still recovering. I can’t do this.
“So some kind of tether system?” Tipping Point said. “I’ll work on that.”
They made it back to shore along with an escort of some of the coast guard boats that had responded to Paragon’s call. Behind them, Guardian Angel spotted a few of the Anchor Boys’ minisubs that had surfaced. He could make out figures climbing out to stand atop some of them, staring at the wreckage that had once been their gang territory. They exited the sub, stepping out into knee deep water at street level.
“He wasn’t kidding about the flooding,” commented Basilisk.
I’d thought Herald Square was a mess, but this… Guardian Angel shook his head. How can the city recover from something like this? I can’t imagine. And from what I heard, the Rose of Thorns event in 2000 was even worse. He shuddered at the thought. I can’t do this.
He hadn’t been in the city for that. He’d been maybe 13, 14, he didn’t remember, but he still remembered the news reports. A few images stood out in his mind: a gaunt-faced, haunted reporter describing the scene as every subway train in the city derailed at once. The images of the destruction around the Dextro tower where the sub-regulation roofing nails had shredded the entire building. The highways strewn with destroyed cars. The carnage in the office supplies store. He had been afraid of paper for months after that.
But as he looked around the wreckage, somehow it hit harder than the images he’d seen on the news a decade and a half ago. Though it had only been a few weeks, he’d come to know the city, he was able to recognize the different neighborhoods- the docks, the hill, herald square, the campus. But now?
He couldn’t even recognize the area, but one piece of rubble stood out- a sign emblazoned with a massive crow: the logo of Maven Shipping.
How could one person do this? How can we stop someone who can?
“This was the Maven building,” Guardin Angel said, his voice coming out rough.
Is this the first thing I’ve said since we surfaced? He cleared his throat.
“Whatever he is now, he’s not who he used to be,” Paragon said, scanning the swathe of destruction leading deeper into the city. “The Jones I knew was jealously protective of his territory. He didn’t care about people, it was real estate he wanted.”
Behind them, the water flowing over the banks into the city sloshed as the yellow minisub vanished. Glowing blue lines started to form around Tipping Point.
“If we’re outside his range, it must not be as large as I’d feared,” Paragon said.
“Or he’s moving faster than we thought,” Pitfall said. “Not to be a pessimist or anything.”
“It is possible,” said Paragon. “Look at the way the water’s flowing. If he gets over the hill, the damage will be catastrophic.”
Guardian Angel looked down at the water around his feet to see that it flowed into the city. He followed the flow with his eyes to see it flowing uphill up the street a few blocks away.
“Woah, weird,” said Basilisk. “I’m assuming it doesn’t normally do that.”
“How are we going to find him?” Guardian Angel said.
“Almost all Nightmare powers are confined to a sphere,” Paragon explained. “If we can find how large the area is, we can use that to find him.”
“Ugh, geometry,” commented Basilisk.
“But how are we going to figure out his range?” Guardian Angel protested. “We don’t have time to take measurements.”
“We don’t have to,” Paragon said, and pulled out his cellphone. “Because Dr. Mind already did.” He dialed a number on the touchscreen. “I should have called him earlier.”
Dr. Mind picked up before it had even rung twice and spoke over the speakerphone. “Paragon, where the hell are you? There’s a Nightmare in the city, and Jamisson’s panicking because you weren’t reporting in.”
“I was dealing with the Anchor Boys situation with Tipping Point, and I am aware of the Nightmare. It’s- it was Davy Jones.”
“What?” Dr. Mind sounded more angry than surprised. “Dammit, if the we’d dealt with this a month ago when Randwulf first showed up we wouldn’t have to deal with it now.”
“We can talk later. For now, I need to know what Davy Jones’ range is.”
“From one side to the other, the trench is a good ten city blocks, so my estimate is a radius of about half a kilometer.” Dr. Mind Paused, then added, “That’s 1650 feet.”
“He shouldn’t be hard to find, then,” Guardian Angel said, relieved. “Since he’s moving, he must be out in the open. We just need to find the street five blocks in from either side of the damage and follow it right to him.”
“You will still have to get through 500 meters of the effect, Paragon. I doubt that’ll be easy, even for you.”
“Fuck.” It took Guardian Angel a moment to realize that he’d said that out loud. “Guys, I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this.”
“Guardian Angel?” Dr. Mind sputtered. “Oh, I mistook- your voices are so similar-”
“Well that’s just about all we have in common,” Guardian Angel said, the panic that he had suppressed before starting to escape. “He’s fucking invincible! How can I live up to that? I have powers for beating up muggers, not for taking on fucking nightmares.”
“Woah, calm down,” said Tipping Point.
“Guardian Angel, you’ve been at this a week,” Paragon said. “When you’ve been a hero for twenty years, come talk to me about filling my shoes. By then, you’ll have shoes of your own to be filled. When I first started, I could keep up a full-body force field for three seconds, and I couldn’t fly. Now? I can keep it up all day if I have to, as long as I don’t run out of air.”
Basilisk chuckled under his breath.
“Seriously?” Pitfall chided Basilisk.
Guardian Angel ignored them. “Really?” he asked Paragon.
“Yeah. That’s why so many metahumans are drawn to one side of the good fight or the other, according to Dr. Mind. It’s addictive. That’s why the oldest villains are the scariest. That’s also why Atomic never uses his powers, because he’s afraid once he started he wouldn’t be able to stop.”
“That and the ITAB has a standing death warrant drafted just in case he ever goes bad,” Tipping Point said.
“But my point is, you’ll get better,” Paragon continued. “You’ll learn more about your powers, more about yourself. Every time you overload, you’ll get a little stronger.”
“We’re like the ultimate adrenaline junkies,” Basilisk added.
“How can you all be so calm about this?” Guardian Angel asked.
“Look around for a moment, will you?” Paragon said.
Guardian Angel glanced around the wrecked buildings.
“Do you see any other people?” Paragon continued.
“Since it looks like Monitor caught this one early, almost everyone was evacuated.” Paragon explained. “This is all just buildings- expensive, sure, but nothing really important. No people. In the grand scheme of things, this could have been much worse.”
Guardian Angel looked around again. It was hard to imagine how it could be worse-
No, scratch that, it’s easy to imagine. His memory flashed back to the Rose of Thorns event again. More than a thousand dead, thousands more injured. He’s right, he realized.
“I wish…” Guardian Angel paused, unsure what he was going to say. “I wish there was someone we can blame for this, for the Rose of Thorns, Dream of Tomorrow, all of them, they can’t help it. This is all just… accidental.”
“I think we do have someone to blame,” Paragon said, voice turning hard. “Randwulf. And when this is done, I’m going to hunt him down. You think you can help me do that?”
Guardian Angel searched himself for some of the steely resolve his uncle possessed, and was surprised to be able to conjure the strength to say, “Damn right.”
“Alright, done,” said Tipping Point, hoisting what looked like an armful of climbing harnesses. “Sorry that took so long, I had to make five.” He handed them out, each harness trailing a cable back to him. “They have to be connected or they’d just vanish, and it’s safer this way anyway,” he explained. “What we have here are van der Waals grappling guns with a built-in ascender,” He brandished one of the five grappling guns. “We’re not getting loose anytime soon. The fact that we’re tied together will make things a bit more interesting, but we should be able to figure it out.”
The heroes started to step into the harnesses.
“Always wanted one of these,” Pitfall commented as he inspected the grappling gun. “You know how fun it would be to yank someone through a portal with this?”
“You know you can buy these online, right?” Tipping Point said.
“Yeah, but they’re expensive, and I’m cheap. The government doesn’t pay me enough for that kind of gear.” He addressed Paragon and Guardian Angel. “You city folks have it lucky. Fuckin’ UMBRA screws over us rural hero types. Cover four times the area for half the compensation.”
“Can it, Pitfall,” Tipping Point reprimanded. “They invited us, and we have bigger things to worry about right now.”
“Sorry. Nightmare’s got me on edge I guess,” Pitfall said.
“Plus, UMBRA is better than the shit going down in Brazil. It’s like the goddamn apartheid down there,” Basilisk said. “And for that matter, this is better than what happened in Germany recently with Träumen von Morgen. At least we could evacuate the area.”
“Woah, too real man,” Pitfall said.
Guardian Angel finished adjusting the harness and holstered the grappling gun. The others were all ready, except Basilisk, who had gotten tangled in the line leading back to Tipping Point and was busy extricating himself.
“Once more into the breach, my friends,” Tipping Point said, tone sobering.
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