Ascendant/Hero of the City--Prologue
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
This story was written by Ascendant in March of 2005, about Ascendant and the Liberty League.
The room was enormous, lit only by sputtering torches, and, like the rest of the Shadow Shard, smelled faintly of Sulfur and Ozone. Lanaru the Mad stood in the center, surrounded by his otherworldly minions. The assembled might of the Liberty League stood at the room’s threshold, bruised but not beaten, tired, but defiantly ready nonetheless. It had been a long battle so far, and it was by no means over.
“These are the heroes Earth has fielded against me?” Lanaru snorted, “These are Faathim’s so-called champions?” He laughed heartily, then paused a moment, “Still… you did find the keys, infiltrated the Storm Palace, and defeated my guards… Of the many who have attempted to overthrow me, you are the first to make it to my inner sanctum. It is an impressive accomplishment. It is a pity that your journey ends here.”
“I think you’ll find that the Liberty League doesn’t back down from a fight so easily, Lanaru.” Night-Girl said evenly.
“Pitiful fools. Lanaru’s might is supreme here. I will crush you like the insects you are.”
“Insects?” Weevil drew himself to his full height and unsheathed his claws, “The Weevil’s going to pretend you didn’t mean anything personal by that, Jack.”
The Rularuu demigod’s eyes narrowed, and energy crackled from his hands, “Impudent mortals. I will—“
Ascendant’s comlink chirped out the first few bars of Wagner's 'Flight of the Valkyries'. All eyes on the room, human and otherwise, focused on the muscular blond man in the blue, white and gold uniform.
“Um… Sorry.” He said sheepishly, then pulled his comlink from his belt.
“I thought you turned that off before we started!” Night-Girl hissed at him through clenched teeth.
“I did! It’s set to only receive Code Omega level calls—“ Ascendant’s eyes went wide as he said it. Code Omega alerts meant that the very Earth was in serious and immediate danger; not even the Rikti Invasion a few years back had rated a Code Omega call. And there was only one person who could be on the other end of the comlink.
Ascendant shot a pleading glance at Lanaru. “I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to take this.”
Lanaru sighed in exasperation.
“This is Ascendant, Mr. President.” He said into the comlink, “What is the situation?”
“I’m out of eggs.” Saul Rubenstien declared from the other end of the comlink.
“Saul? What the--? How did you get this frequency?”
“How should I know?” He groused, “I’ve been punching buttons on this partatshnek contraption all day long.”
“Saul, this frequency is only supposed to be used in an emergency.”
“What? Being out of eggs isn’t an emergency? Maybe I should talk to City Hall and have your name changed to ‘Captain High and Mighty’.” Saul sniffed indignantly.
“That’s ridiculous, Saul. For one thing, I’ve worked with Captain High and Mighty… Good guy… I mean, sure, he’s high all the time, but he is pretty mighty….”
“Fine… Then maybe ‘Mr. Too Good to Help Out His Uncle Man’.”
“Never has Lanaru been treated with such brazen insolence!” Lanrau bellowed, “This is an outrage of the highest magnit—“
Ascendant covered up the mouthpiece and glared on the demigod, “Buddy, I’m. On. The. Phone. Can you put a cork in it for a minute? Go plot or scheme or something. Just keep your shiny metal tunic on and I’ll be right there to kick your butt as soon as I’m done, Ok?”
Lanaru looked at Ascendant, then to his minions, then to the other heroes. “It’s just that I don’t get a lot of visitors.” He explained to them quietly with a shrug, “I worked really hard on that speech, you know.”
Weevil nodded understandingly. “No, it was good, really. The Weevil loved the whole ‘I will crush you’ thing… That’s classic stuff.”
The other Leaguers nodded in agreement and muttered encouragements halfheartedly. Lanaru’s mood seemed to brighten somewhat.
“Saul, look, I’m kind of in the middle of a—Wait… How did you even get a message out to the Shard? It’s not like this is a local call.”
“I talked to that General Hammond person.” Saul explained, “I told him that if he could get a signal to you, you’d do a favor for him in the future.”
“Oh, that reminds me. You need to go talk to him when you’re done there. I think he wants you to find some missing scientists or something.”
“Does he do this often?” Lanrau asked the other heroes, gesturing to Ascendant.
Night-Girl rolled her eyes, “You have no idea.”
“Saul I’m in the middle of fighting an extradimensional… Um… “ Ascendant covered up the mouthpiece again and looked at Lanaru, “I’m sorry, what are you again, exactly?”
“A tyrant?” Weevil offered.
“Despot?” Night-Girl suggested.
“Conqueror?” Kurse opined
“Bad Man?” Boscoe recommended.
“Dictator?” Captain Karate advised.
“Actually,” Lanrau said, “I’ve always considered myself a ben—“
“… extradimensional bad man.” Ascendant continued. “Look, I’ll pick up some eggs for you once I get back to Earth, Ok?”
“Eggs? What for?” Saul asked.
“That was what you called me about in the first place!” Ascendant said, visibly reddening.
“Nonsense.” Saul said dismissively. “There’s a carton of eggs right here on the counter in front of me. What would I need eggs for?”
Ascendant paused a moment to get his temper under control. “Ok, Saul,” he said slowly, “Maybe you can tell me why you called?”
“Hang on, I’ve got a call on the other line.”
The comlink made a clicking sound.
“Saul Rubentien, Agent of the Stars.” He said cheerfully.
“It’s still me, Saul.” Ascendant said wearily.
“Sorry… “ There were a series of additional clicks on the line, “Saul Rubenstien, Agent—“
“Still me, Saul.”
Ascendant heard Saul mutter a curse in Yiddish as he punched buttons at random.
“Saul, try hitting the big red button on the right.” Ascendant said.
“Ok... Pressing it n—“ The line went dead abruptly.
“The red button is the power switch.” Ascendant explained as he clipped the comlink back to his belt, “Sorry about that. Um… you were saying?”
“I don’t remember anymore.” Lanrau huffed dejectedly.
“Something about us being Impudent Mortals or something…” Captain Karate prompted.
“Right!” Lanrau cleared his throat, “Impudent Mortals! You have foolishly trespassed on the—“
Whatever else the demigod was going to say was lost as Ascendant punched him in the face.