From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
A Cold Night In Atlas Park
Downside, Atlas Park Paragon City, RI 1:45:17am
It was a cold night in Atlas Park and humid enough that the lights cast by streetlamps and neon signs was made diffuse by thick, translucent fog. The moon and stars were made invisible by low-hanging, gunmetal grey clouds that seemed to enclose the city within a concrete dome, held aloft by the electric blue war walls that pulsed with a slow, heavy heartbeat rhythm.
There was no motion on the street outside the warehouse. All was ominously still.
The cold made Alarcity's fist sting when she thumped it against a thick door. In the other she clutched a piece of yellowed paper, a warrant for the arrest of a Hellion, Scorch, as ordered by the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation. Inside her head, the Reciprocator counted to ten before tucking the warrant away in a pouch.
She heard scurrying from inside the warehouse.
"This is Alarcity," she mused into her communicator, "subject 'Scorch' is uncooperative, I'm going in."
Alarcity pressed her back to the wall, pointed to the door's lock and turned her face away. Blue energy crackled at the base of her fingers and crawled along its length like a slow fuse towards the tip. A sound like the crack of a whip filled the air as the spark leaped from her hand into the lock, a split-second later an explosion snapped the door in two and blasted the portions into the room.
The Reciprocator glanced around the corner into the smoke-filled room and dove behind a pile of rubble. The first thing she registered upon impact was that it was warm inside, stiffling. The second was the panicked yells of young men and women inside, barking orders at eachother through the chaos. Curiously, no gunfire, yet.
She picked herself up and launched herself through the gloom, skirting the periphery of the room. The first muzzle flash filled the air and Alarcity felt masonry pour down over her back as she powered behind debris and around to its source. Fists ignited with a baleful red glare as she came up behind the shooter and brought her arms down on his shoulders in a book-perfect Bonesmasher.
The shooter was a Hellion, but not Scorch. Alarcity pinned him to the ground with a boot while she glanced around her surroundings. The warehouse was empty except for herself and the gunmen. Very wrong.
"Where did you friends go?" she asked, turning her gaze back to the ganger at her feet. He was groaning in pain, clutching at his collarbone.
The profanity turned to a growl, then a squeal when she applied more pressure. Alarcity knew pain wouldn't help in this instance, though- it would only reinforce his sense of loyalty to her enemies.
"Very well. You boys want to play with magic?"
Her eyes ignited red.
Tunnels Beneath Downside, Atlas Park Paragon City, RI 1:46:22am
It hadn't taken long for the Hellion to become cooperative. The rest of the crew had fled along a hi-jacked sewer pipe that lead beneath the streets to another warehouse where they loaded weapons into trucks for distribution in the war against long-time rivals, The Skulls.
The tunnel was illuminated with ranshackle lanterns, strung along rounded ceiling with thick, snake-like cable. Like the warehouse, the tunnel retained the same moist heat, like that of inside a sauna. The moisture made Alarcity's black and blue uniform creak when she ran through the smuggler's tunnels but at just over a mile, she planned only to spend a few seconds getting from one end to the other.
Normally stealth would have been the preferred option, but tonight she had no other choice. Instead of weapons, Scorch was loading box-trucks with high-powered explosive, hoping to strike multiple Skulls targets simultaneously. It had taken this long for him to weaponise the vehicles and find the right drivers, willing to give up their lives- but due to the laws of escalation, Alarcity knew if this was successful, there would be no end to the suicide attacks.
She slid to a stop at the end of the tunnel and scaled a ladder into the warehouse. The manhole lid above had been left on loosely in the haste of retreat, and through the gap between it and the concrete floor, she could make out drivers clambering into trucks.
Downside, Atlas Park Paragon City, RI 1:46:26am
She counted six and Scorch inside what appeared to be the loading dock of an abandoned meatpacker's plant. There were four trucks between the six and the cynic in Alarcity didn't have to guess who one of the two survivors was going to be.
An engine revved on one of the trucks across the warehouse, sounding dry and frail even in the echoing chamber. Chains ground on gears and from outside, diffuse light filtered in through the expanding opening at the wide, warehouse door in front of the trucks.
Alarcity cringed, internally. Charging into a room piled with explosives hadn't struck her as a good idea. But if those trucks get out, we won't find them again in time. Bitter irony sank in when she realised how fresh she was from explaining to her collegues that amateurs accepted risks before committing to an action, but experts eliminated them.
She hissed a rather unheroic word beneath her breath and threw aside her rational self interest.
In a blur of motion, Alarcity charged through the warehouse to the closest man. A red flash ignited in the air between her fist and his torso and with a lightning crack, he flew backwards across the room.
Before his body had even hit the wall, Alarcity acquired her next target. The gloom was split by a rivulet of white and blue energy, cascading through the air into another Hellion, dropping him for the count.
All was still for a blink of an eye, and then the tables turned.
Gunfire rattled in the warehouse, deafening as the bullets were launched, but sounding more like hard rain when they punched holes in the sheet metal walls and roof. Engines revved, Alarcity counted either two or three as she darted from cover to cover, crunching and pounding her way through bodies until she reached the trucks. She ripped one driver from his cabin and launched him across the room before throwing herself back into the fray.
The fighting was fast and brutal, but by the end, Alarcity emerged victorious. She searched among down Hellions for the body of her primary target, Scorch and with a sickened feeling in her stomach- she realised he wasn't there.
And neither was one of the trucks.
Just. Run. Faster.
Atlas Park Paragon City, RI A Heartbeat Later
She knew where the truck was headed- the closest Skull hideout possible, but worse, she knew the kind of power the explosive was packing.
Alarcity's legs swung beneath her, threatening to dislocate entirely as she raced through the Downside streets like a cruise missile homing in on its target. The world around here was reduced to blurs of colour and light almost too fast for her brain to process and the wind swept over her like bitingly cold water cascading down from a waterfall. The darkness helped as much as it hindered, illuminated signs served as landmarks, but unlit obstacles forced her to dodge, weave and leap through the streets, costing precious microseconds. Faster! Just run FASTER!
A part of Alarcity had to revel. Normally the world was stuck in suspended animation, but when the situation changed with ever beating of a hummingbird's wing, every flicker from a flourescent light, the pace was almost fast enough.
She caught sight of tail-lights up ahead. Scorch was driving his truck hard, switching gears aggressively and milking every watt of power from the surprisingly spry engine. Car horns blared as the box car leaped over a street divider to continue on the wrong side of the street. The vehicles, which swerved to miss the truck, barrelled directly into Alarcity's path, almost managing to unwittingly reduce the hero to a smear of bodyparts along the causeway.
The Reciprocator drove harder, the velocity dragging on her body until it felt like her calves were ready to seperate from bone and like her heart was pumping battery acid. Closing in. She mustered all of her resolve and focus to plant a foot on the hood of an oncoming car, another on top of a street sign and launch into the air after the truck.
The blur of the world calmed as she soared above the street and drag clutched her body like an invisible fist. Alarcity caught a glimpse of the traffic behind her, a chaotic, twisted wreck of metal that resembled a giant, metal slug. Her heart thumped, one heavy beat, the first she could remember hearing for at least half a mile before she relocated the truck ahead, zig-zagging wildly on the street. Only a few blocks ahead was the Skull hideout.
Alarcity fell to earth and hit the ground running, making up for lost speed with sheer will. Metres separated her from the box car and she grit her teeth in determination to close that remaining distance. She stretched out an arm, grazing the bumper when the back door flew up.
Sitting in the back, along with the explosive was a Hellion. Alarcity's eyes widened to dishpans as he leveled a firearm- some kind of submachine gun and opened fire.
She didn't hear the shots, only registered red-hot bullets floating languidly through the air like fireflies drifting through a warm, summer's night. She twisted suddenly to avoid one bullet and felt one foot catch the other. A sickening twist in the stomach and she collapsed on the road that had, only seconds ago, been blurring beneath her.
Impact wasn't so bad, but even the thick material of her uniform didn't survive the drag on the asphalt. Flesh on her limbs and ribs peeled away like sheets of paper, leaving a bloody mess on the street like someone had thrown pizza from the side of a speeding car.
Alarcity felt eyes from the buildings all around her more keenly than she registered the blistering pain of impact, or the sting of salty tears filtering down from beneath her mask an into a deep welt on her cheek.
You're lucky you're alive, Alarcity.
She wanted to lay down. If the truck exploded nobody could blame her, she had performed the impossible already. The Reciprocators would looking pitifully upon her, none of them had perfect careers- all expected a defeat every now and again. She could survive it.
But you're not going to let them beat you, are you?
The Reciprocator gasped, drinking in dusty air from the surface of the road and jacked herself up onto her palms. Bounce back.
That's my girl.
She placed one foot, shakily, in front of the other and felt the limb threaten to buckle beneath the weight. Without thinking, she tore the flashing medical teleporter beacon from her uniform and left it on the road. Her period of respite was over with. One step after another, gaining pace at a breakneck, race-car speed, she charged after the truck.
It took only seconds to catch up again. The gunner was still perched in the back and catching sight of Alarcity, opened up with a hail of gunfire. Angry, lead hornets swarmed about her but, the hero kept her distance. Approach from the rear was useless.
The conviction which fueled her was replaced with a real sense of desperation as the hideout emerged from over the next hill. She turned suddenly down a side street, catching a glimpse of brickwork exploding as bullets followed her around the corner and into an alley.
Debris was swept up in her wake as she bolted through the narrow corridor, like ball lightning spat out over the desert plain. The fiery pain in her joints extinguished until she could merely see a red haze before her eyes and the world melt away before the delerium of pain.
To her right, she saw the box truck emerge from behind a building. Not only had Alarcity caught up, but also pulled ahead. She steered in until she was up running a few steps ahead and to the side of the truck and checked back over her shoulder.
The driver, Scorch, didn't dare lose his momentum by swerving and she could tell from his puzzled expression that he had no idea what she had planned. Whatever it was, it couldn't matter. She didn't have the physical strength to stop the truck in its tracks- they both knew that. In that split-second when their eyes met, it became obvious what this contest had evolved into- a test of who was crazier, who was willing to put the most on line for their respective causes.
And Scorch had already determined to give his life for the Hellions. How could Alarcity match that? Even fighting fire with fire wouldn't stop a hurtling truck.
A plan seeded in her brain and bored down into her body. Then, the time for thinking was over and it became time to act.
The Reciprocator fixed her vision on an upcoming wall and threw herself at it. The sole of her boot caught the corner, cracking the masonry and she reversed her momentum completely, launching herself towards the truck's windscreen. She tucked her knees into her body and wrapped arms around her chest, tightening her body into as small a shape as possible. The Oranbegan thorn in her ignited as she swept up as much ambient energy as she could, cocooning it around her into a personal forcefield in mere hopes the intervening seconds would be enough for it to solidify into it's glowing, blue sphere.
Alarcity closed her eyes instinctively as the truck barreled towards her.
Now you know how a bullet feels.
How A Bullet Feels
Argosy Industrial Park, Atlas Park Paragon City, RI 1:47:01am
No amount of shielding could have made such a desperate act painless.
Alarcity's cannonball body exploded through the windscreen, through Scorch and the seat behind him. The truck screeched suddenly to a halt, the rear end lifting clear off the road by a good six feet.
A figure, like a meteor exploded from the back doors, glowing a brilliant turquoise in the dark, fog-filled night- a black and blue body at its core. Brilliant, golden fire cut a swarthe through the metal body, rending in half like a hot knife through butter. Then, with a dull, wet thump, the meteor crashed into the asphalt, skidding for a short distance before coming to a halt.
For the longest time, all was still except for a wheel spinning idly on the truck's bent axel. Late-night shift workers began to emerge from the factories, people stepped out of their cars to gawk at the ruins.
"Resistance," the woman gasped. 
- ↑ Resistance, the Reciprocators' artificial intelligence construct.