A Gate Too Far

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Hungry Like The Wolf by Victoria Victrix (Sunday, April 09, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Falling Forward by Communard (Monday, April 10, 2006)

(posted Sunday, April 09, 2006)

Perhaps the troops were holding their own, but communications had just gone--as the humans would say--"straight into the crapper." Waitron couldn't stand it anymore.

She whirled and stared at Callignous Storm. "Get me an external antennae," she ordered. "I care not how, but get me one!"

Storm looked around the safe room in every possible direction, including up. "Ah...comrade robot...is solid room. Is beink facist pigs above us. How--"

It was Shen, who had been staring fixedly into the corner of the room for the longest time, who suddenly pointed, mouth agape. "What is that?" he blurted.

They all whirled, expecting to see some Council robot drilling through the wall. Instead, he was pointing at an innocuous copper-colored pipe that went up through that corner of the room. Waitron frowned. Was there some sort of insidious poison dripping down it? Had Shen seen the vapors of noxious gas?

Domovoy, who lived under the boiler, shrugged. "Is just copper pipe from old WC in basement next to teleporters," he said indifferently. "Govno, boy, why you frighten old spirit out of his beard?"

"Copper!" Storm was up and out of his chair. "There is our antennae!"

With all of the tools in his kit, the supplies kept here for quick repair, and a room full of willing hands, Waitron had her working comm system again in a dramatically short period of time, she keyed her internal mic with a feeling that finally she had something under control.

"This is Waitron9000," she said crisply into the first gap in the babble. "I will be taking over and coordinating communications. Skyway team, report!"

The area around the Skyway entrance into King's Row looked no different from some sections of 'Boomtown' or 'Faultline'. Fissures and craters had opened up in the asphalt and concrete from the use of explosives and ground-rending powers. Shell casings from spent rifle rounds littered the ground, creating a field of light-pinpoints whenever a muzzle flash illuminated the area. The Council soldiers had entrenched themselves well in the short time they had occupied the gate; even assaulted from all sides, including from within the highway tunnel itself, they were able to repel any pushes made by the assaulting heroes and police.

A trio of Longbow Skiffs shrieked overhead, making a strafing run parallel to the War Wall that served as the backdrop for the battle. Booster looked around, surveying his team. Operative Talon was just being evac'ed to the hospital. He had caught a series of rifle bursts to his center of mass; it took everything their healers had to keep him breathing long enough to reach the established police barricades and safety. Everyone had picked up some sort of injury, ranging from scratches and bruises to full-blown wounds. Still more to come; they were making another charge for a weak-point in the ring of overturned cars that the Council were using for cover.

The Council wouldn't respond to any of the negotiators that were calling out to them over bullhorns; anyone that tried to approach was greeted with weapons fire. Doesn't look like we'll be doing this the easy way.

"We are holding our ground, Waitron," Titian Paladin was saying into the comm. "One casualty being evac'd now, Operative Talon. No response to offers of negotia--"

Fire Curtain, hovering above the hero-line, suddenly was silhouetted by a flare dropped behind him, and became the center of a barrage of energy and sonic weapons. He dropped like a stone.

"--second casualty being evac'd" said Pal smoothly without missing a beat, and responding to the barrage with a barrage of his own at the same time. "Fire Curtain."

Booster walked over, tapping Paladin on the shoulder. "Get everyone formed up. We're going back in; we've got another force coming through the tunnels. Gonna coordinate and hit the Council from both sides, see if we can break their lines." With a quick nod, Booster hunched over and moved to the next SWAT van to speak with the commanding officer for the police for this section.

"Independence Port, here, Miss Waitron," said Polite Boggart. "We have been driven back a trifle."

The Council force holding the Independence Port highway had crushed the resistance on the IP side; they were now receiving fresh reinforcements from there, along with the occasional resupply. They had caused a hell of a lot of problems; the Council were already strong in IP. If they could cement this incursion into King's Row, they might turn the entire port into a new launching point. The damage would be incalculable, both to the city and to any efforts against them. Paragon City did not need another Striga Isle.

Savina's team had to shift focus, from retaking the highway to simply containing the influx of Council. If they could push them back through to Independence Port, then they'd be able to devote more resources to retaking the other entrances.

One of the Council's great weaknesses was against magic. That was why Rory Hartlan was here.

Unfortunately, Rory was not exactly...in camouflage. To say he was a distinctive hero would, in fact, be an understatement. And the Council knew him very well indeed.

Which was probably why, when a full dozen Equinox vampires suddenly materialized inside the tunnel mouth as darkness closed in, they all fixed their eyes, their dark energies, and their mental powers on him.

He went down like a puppet with cut strings.

Brigit dashed forward, grabbing him by his collar. She pulled with both hands, trying to drag him to safety. Santorini finished off his last opponent in his current bunch and caught sight of her and her unconscious brother. With a wordless bellow, he jumped in between the Hartlans and the force of Nebulas and Penumbras bearing down on them.

"In fact," said Polite Boggart, hastily using the summoning spell to bring both Hartlans to his side, as Savina waded in beside Santorini, his sword glinting with power that the vampires most certainly did not like, "We could use a bit of help here."

"VOIDS!" came the warning shout from Blue Velocity on the other side of the team from the Murdock trio.

The twins, Aedan and Astra, along with their older brother JJ, had been razing the Council emplacement since the attack began, swooping in to loose a withering volley of Kheldian energy before the soldiers could train their guns skyward.

A huddle of four Void Mercenaries ---three Stalkers led by a Hunter--- burst from under concealment, their Quantum Array guns already tracking the family of Kheldians. Dark beams of energy laced through the air at the siblings, forcing them to break formation. Astra dodged a concentrated barrage, rolling hard to her left. She was grazed by the wrongness of the Quantum beams, designed to disrupt her Kheldian energy signature. She pitched back right, aiming to rejoin Aedan and JJ, who were presently climbing to get out of range of their enemies' weapons. Too low, I'm too low!

When the next barrage hit her squarely, all thought ceased. Up and down, right and left, all directions vanished in a maelstrom of pain and disorientation. She felt Kyne blank out; felt her own form shift abruptly into human, felt herself fall. Then, mercifully, as she hit the ground, felt nothing at all.

Aedan faltered in flight; his connection with his twin shook, and went quiet. He felt as if he had been punched in the gut, queasy and panicked. "Astra! JJ, we gotta get her!" Aedan looped in the air, inverting himself and rolling into a dive. JJ was a car-length behind him, trying to keep pace as his younger brother plummeted towards the ground. More Quantum blasts raced up to meet them; Aedan simply flew faster.

Pleasepleaseplease please be alright... He reached the ground, instantly changing from his Mefnanim form back to human. He was barely back to normal when he touched down, running at full tilt to Astra. She was sprawled on the curb, half in the street and half on the sidewalk. And one leg was bent in a direction even Aedan knew it shouldn't be going in.

Aedan slid along the ground, bullets and energy beams barely missing him. He checked his sister's neck for a pulse; it was there, but thready. She was still breathing, and he wasn't going to waste a moment more. Grabbing her right wrist, he concentrated, using his energies to open a tiny wormhole that would carry them back behind a brick building, safe from the Council onslaught. The tear in time and space materialized, pulling the twins toward it--- when Aedan's world went white with pain, and then black as he passed out. He'd been caught in the middle of his back with a trio of Quantum blasts.

JJ, the Unity Knight, was already swooping to earth when he saw his brother fall. A surge of rage, the likes of which he had never felt before, convulsed him. He needed to be powerful! He needed to be invulnerable! He needed--

::You need this:: he heard K'takei say in his mind, and his body suddenly writhed, and convulsed, and with an explosion of force he found himself in an entirely new shape...


He roared, and charged the Council soldiers bearing down on his unconscious brother and sister. With a mighty stomp of one foot, he knocked half of them off their feet. The other half he knocked to one side with a swipe of a massive claw. Then he scooped up one limp form with each claw and sprinted for the safety of their lines.

Well...tried to. The crab-form didn't exactly sprint...

He felt as if he had been scalded as the first volley of Quantum energy hit him in the middle of this back.

...almost there...

He kept hold of them and continued running.

...almost there...

He spotted Blue Velocity's face over the frame of an overturned car, the customary gleaming smile completely gone. He jumped. Blue grabbed for a claw and pulled.

And he blacked out as the second barrage hit him in the same place.

"Tram team, be advised that the hospital is telling us they are in overflow condition, and requests we send only the most critical to the emergency room."

"Got it, Waitron." KC swallowed. Things had to be pretty bad if they had degenerated to that point.

The initial assault on the tram had gone extremely well; they'd cleared the ramp with no casualties. That's how they'd come to start defining progress; by how many people got hurt or taken out of the fight. Jason had been the first to charge into the station, following a single soldier that had avoided the first attack. He had barely stepped under the gondola when he was struck from all sides; rifle fire, grenades, mental-lances and life-sapping powers from the vampires. He kept pushing against the torrent of enemy fire. He screamed, chugging along towards the first battle line of Council, "JAAAAASOOON COOOOLIIEEER!"

Moriyaku eeled her way through the melee like an oiled snake to reach his side. Her powers managed to keep her relatively untouched...right up until the point where three of the Vampires that were springing up like mushrooms after a rain spotted her at once. They dropped her. And the Penumbra at whose feet they dropped her suddenly saw her. He lifted his rifle butt and brought it down on her head.

Jason thrashed from side to side, beating his way through Warwolves and Penumbras until he was by Mori. He lashed out, sending the soldier that had knocked out his wife flying into one of the tram walls with a sickening crunch. Crouching over her, he tried to cover Mori from the fire. It proved too much, though. A Warwolf finally brought him down with a mighty overhead strike, defeating Jason's regenerative abilities. The SWAT teams at the base of the tram's ramp poured automatic weapons fire into the tram entrance, clearing a swath of the Council as they dove for cover.

Newly arrived, Waterlily gazed at Jason and Mori in momentary horror. But the moment was very brief indeed. As a half dozen Council leveled weapons and flamethrowers at the two prone forms, preparing to make their temporary condition permanent, she swiftly keyed in their IDs on her teleporter and activated it.

The two battered and unconscious bodies materialized at her feet, to the sound of a frustrated howl from one of the Council.

Then a howl of pain from some of the rest as their bullets ricocheted back up into their faces.

"Waitron," Lily said crisply, as she checked the two, did what healing she could, and knew that they needed far more attention than she could provide. "Please give me the hospital transport override for two."

As the two bodies vanished into more skilled hands than hers, she hurried to KC's side. Her team leader needed her.