Xanatos/The Emperor Strikes Back
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
"The Emperor Strikes Back" is a story chronicling the return of Emperor Xanatos and his revenge on The Defenders of Paragon in Paragon City. Emperor Xanatos is the evil Praetorian double of the hero Xanatos, and this story was set in late 2005, around the time City of Villains was released. This story is meant to act as an segue - moving Emperor Xanatos from a background NPC within Xanatos's backstory, into a full-fledged player villain within Paragon City.
My name's Logan Fox. Although most people round Paragon know by my other name - Lorock. I've been a superhero ever since my life was saved by one of the costumed loonies - kinda gave me a new lease on life so to speak. The costumed Loony in question happened to be Xanatos - and it just so happened he saw potential in me. enough potential to ignore my criminal history and take me under his wing. Train me about what being a hero means and all that boy scout mumbo jumbo. Even gave me a spot on his team - The Defenders of Paragon. Personally I don't believe in justice or liberty or any of that, but I'm ex mafia so there's not much I hold my faith in. All I know is that since Lord Recluse and his cronies arrived in Paragon city a few weeks ago the city has become a war zone.
At my last count I was about one hundred and ten years old - so I’ve seen my fair share of gang wars - but this blows the whole thing outta proportion. There's this guy right - Lord Recluse - the bad guy version of Statesman. He's the head of some group called Arachnos, and they're good-as launching a full scale invasion into Paragon City. Recluse's got his own army of super freaks, all painted up in pretty colours. And fighting's going on all over the city. Even a few heroes have started taking chunks outta each others. I mean just a few days ago, The Sitting Ducks and The Legion of Freedom were going at it in Warburg. I dunno who won but that doesn't really matter. All that matters is that when heroes start fighting other heroes...the situation can't get much worse.
Xanatos has been all over the city organising strike teams to fight back Arachnos. I happen to be running one of them at present. As is evident by the knee-deep sewage I'm now plodding through and the twelve or so heroes I'm surrounded by. According to an anonymous source, one of Xan's old buddies has come back from the dead. Emperor Xanatos I think his name is. He was responsible for that whole "[Clone Crisis]" malarky back when the city opened up again. Last thing anyone knew he'd been killed, but apparently Recluse'd found a way to bring the guy back from the dead. So here I was, twelve other heroes alongside me, searching for a guy we weren't even sure existed.
My team was impressive even by hero standards. I had some members of The Defenders with me - Doctor Ion being one of them. You know those heroes who are so smart they can build a suit of armour that can do damn near anything - but always seem to have trouble finding funding for Bases? Doc Ion was one of those guys. He'd been the chief mechanic of The Defenders until one day he'd decided he wanted super powers. Talk about ego. Next up is The Phantom Visage, sorcerer extraordinaire, agent of order, lord of magic. To me he's just another schmuck in a cape but the bossman thinks he's A-grade material. I didn’t know any of the other heroes all that well to be honest with you. I knew of Haze from some Defender business, apparently he's a friend of the team - though I've never heard of him. Some punk kid called Kid Amp was zipping all over the place and giving me a headache. Last I checked he's the sidekick of Chain Lightning - one of the senior members of The Defenders, and a close friend of mine. And then there was the rest - Brass Betty, Supersoviet, and the Robo Hobo. I'm guessing those guys were cannon fodder due to all the big name heroes being stretched so thin over Paragon.
"GAWD why is this taking so long?" Kid Amp asks me in a whiny voice.
Normally I’d cut him some slack but I’m knee deep in sludge, haven't slept for days, and found out my car was recently stolen by some Hellions. Just as I turn to give the kid an earful I hear a voice enter my mind.
"We have arrived"
Damn it I hate it when The Phantom Visage does that. I get the heeby geebies and the hairs on the back of my neck go crazy. But the walking voodoo doll is right, and I guess that means we're not on a wild goose chase after all. Standing in front of us is a huge metallic door, the red spidery Arachnos logo is all over it, and I’ll be dammed if I can see a door handle. Robo Hobo starts scampering all over the doorway looking for a way to open it. But sure enough "Mr Science" starts telling us what to do...
"My sensors indicate the door requires a certain password to enter." says Doctor Ion.
I look at him nonplussed. How the hell is that supposed to help? But before I can think up a plan, Kid Amp starts humming near the doorway. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing, but the kid's a speedster, so I suppose he was speaking every possible word in the human dictionary in the hope of finding one that fit. It took about two minutes of listening to the kid drone on before the doors opened up - letting us inside. And boy what a sight to behold. This place was a dump. It was an old laboratory that'd been left for what musta been six months minimum. All the computers and equipment were covered in dust and cobwebs, and it didn't look like anything'd been moved. The tip off musta been fake. But I didn't come all the way down here for an empty lab - so despite my gut instinct telling me not to - I led the group into the lab. Sure as eggs is eggs the door slammed shut behind us. Like the little hypocrite that I am - I start shouting out orders.
"Brass Betty, Doctor Ion get that door back open! Phantom Visage, Kid Amp, Survey the area. Haze. You and Robo Hobo take point!" when the chips are down even I'm able to bark orders like the rest of them, "Someone set us up, our main priority is finding whatever it is we came down here to get, and then hightailing it out of here."
They all start doing what I say. But I just know someone is watching. My temperature drops ten degrees when I hear his voice.
"I'm sorry...But running is not an option"
I felt a fist connect with my jaw that sent me sprawling across the room. I'm only four and a half feet tall - but when I’m thrown into a cabinet full of beakers it smashes up good. As I pick myself up off the floor, wincing as the broken glass digs into me - I look on at what i can only assume is the man who is going to kill me. He's taller than me, he's stronger than me, and I've just watched him rip Robo Hobo in two.
His name is Emperor Xanatos. And he is killing my team-mates.
As i charge towards him, I watch the other heroes doing the same. Supersoviet and Brass Betty were slugging it out with him, while Doctor Ion surrounded him with little clouds of radiation - hoping to blind him or at least slow him down. The Phantom Visage was chanting some sorta spell - but it didn't seem to be doing anything. And Kid Amp, the poor lil' guy, was trying to help piece the clearly departed Robo Hobo back together again. Haze wasn't doing much, kinda just standing around waiting for orders. I gave him one.
"Kick the crap outta the bad guy you schmuck! What're you waiting for?" I yelled at him as I fired off an energy blast towards the Emperor. It hit him but didn't seem to do much. The flames that protected his body seemed to absorb it.
As haze joined the fight - kicking and punching Emperor Xanatos, I noticed we were starting to stagger the big guy. he had a look of strain on his face and things were looking up. I knew we'd be able to pull through - I was sure that even a guy as bad as this was no match for us. Boy was I wrong. Outta the blue he leapt up into the air and slammed his fist into the floor. It created some kinda tremor that sent all of the heroes flying backwards, crashing into the various pieces of equipment around the room. Brass Betty dropped her battleaxe. She went to grab it, but he got their first - returning it to her in a way she wouldn't have liked. As her two halves fell onto the floor, I noticed Kid Amp start to panic. Deciding the others could handle the big bad for now, I dashed over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Listen to me kid - this guy is bad news. I don't know what villains you've been up against in this city but I doubt they've come close to this guy..." The kid cut me off.
"I've only ever fought Hellions! I wasn't even down for this mission! I just tagged along to help out against Arachnos!" he bawled at me.
My head fell into my hands. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Being a hero I mean. Kids thought it was a fast-track to stardom, and wanted to be like the big name heroes they admired. But Statesman and Positron and all the big names didn't have to put up with the problems the little guys dealt with on a daily basis. Little guys like me and Kid Amp. And now we were all gonna die while Statesman was kissing babies. I heard a small explosion, and turned around to see Emperor Xanatos standing over a badly damaged Doctor Ion. Now you don't want to break Doc out of his suit - as when that happens all kinds of funky stuff takes place. Most of it involving radiation. He was pretty much a poor mans Positron when it came down to it. As I ran towards the bad guy, I overheard him saying something to Doctor Ion...
"...any last words?"
I don't think Ion gave a reply, he just ripped off what was left of his armour and sent the schmuck flying across the room in an explosion that sent me flying onto my back. I gave up trying to be upright and began to fire shot after shot at the Emperor, hoping one of my blasts would get through. One did, which caused him to fall to his knees, which gave Haze the opening he needed. As fast as the eye could see, Haze started to unload everything he had onto Emperor Xanatos. I'll give one thing to the kid - he had a good heart - but it just wasn't in it. The big bad must have agreed with me when he ripped it out and left the guy gargling in a pool of his own blood.
So there were only four of us left. Me, with the Kid by my side. The sight of our buddies being ripped apart apparently having helped the kid grow some balls. Doctor Ion was lying in a broken heap somewhere, and The Phantom Visage was still stood by the doorway chanting a spell of some sort. I hoped he knew what he was doing, because I was running out of alternatives. Me and the Kid leapt at the Emperor, I started wailing away with my fists of energy, and he was doing some fancy boy trick where he could punch a man sixty times in a second. We barely grazed the guy - he through his arms outward and set fire to us both. I leapt behind a nearby counter, but the Kid wasn't so lucky. As I rolled around on the floor I heard the kids screaming. The schmuck had him in a bear hug and was burning him alive. I shut my eyes. It just wasn't supposed to be like this. The screaming eventually stopped, and was replaced with a deep dark laughter. I tried to pull myself to my feet but I couldn't. I was scared out of my mind and I didn't want to die. Who could blame a guy for wanting to live?
"This ends now fiend!" I heard The Phantom Visage roar as he leapt towards the bad guy. His fists were all lit up and glowing, and all sorts of shields were surrounding him. I'd heard rumours he had unlocked the powers of the gods themselves, but I never thought he could do anything like that. But sure enough both him and the schmuck were locked in a battle, doing that handhold push thing, while I dragged my sorry ass over towards the exit. I crawled past the lifeless remains of Doctor Ion - apparently he'd given his all in the blast and it'd killed him. And that's when it hit me.
Being a hero ain't about winning. It ain't about Truth, Justice, or the American Way. It ain't about seeing your enemies in prison, nor the city streets safe. Being a hero ain't about protecting the innocent or stopping those who harm them. Nah. A hero is a man who gives everything he's got to what he believes in. Doctor Ion had done that, he'd even died for that. All of the heroes i'd led to their deaths had done that. And here I was about to turn tail and flee while one of my team-mates needed me. I may not be much. But I'll be dammed if I'm gonna run away when a friend is in need.
I charged at the big bad guy. My eyes glowed Blue, to be honest I don't think they've done that since the day I got my powers. As I leapt at him I saw the limp form of The Phantom Visage crash to the floor. he wasn't dead, but he was barely conscious. I ignored this and began to give it everything I had in me. Punch after punch began to fly and I felt the bad guy falling backwards. I carried on moving, my fists continued to punch through the flames that surrounded the enemy. I could hear him roar as I landed each punch - he was becoming enraged. And that was when it hit me. His fist, at what must have been close to mach 10 collided with my head, breaking my neck and dropping me onto the floor. I wasn't dead, but couldn't move any part of my body. My eyes fell onto the barely conscious form of the Phantom Visage. The bad guy was ignoring me know, standin' as he was over the phantom. I saw him crouch down on the guys chest. I saw him land blow after blow onto the poor guys head. I remember the sickening "crunch" as each blow became harder and harder. I remember how wet it started to sound as it was clear the Phantom Visage was dead. But most of all I remember how he never stopped punching him.
His fists covered in blood, and his eyes burned a deep deep red. I watched him walk over to me, he was almost swaggering. I felt his hand grab under one of my arms and pull my desert eagle from its holster. I dunno why he wanted my gun, the guy was able to beat a team of superheroes to death with his bare hands but he needed my gun? I guess, despite all their claims to the contrary, the world-conquering types are just as messed up as all the other villains. He cocked my gun, and put it to my temple. I'm sure the irony of the situation made him feel like Shakespeare.
"You've killed a lot of people in your lifetime Lorock. Many of them with this very weapon. I doubt anyone will miss you that much."
Damn sunbitch didn't let me respond before he pulled the trigger.
It had been a long day. Ever since he’d given up active work in the field, Veikira had worked as a part-time lecturer at the Founders Falls University. While he was not a keen public speaker by any stretch of the imagination, he felt obliged to pass on his knowledge of the criminal underworld to the next generation of super-powered heroes. Not only was it the ethically just thing to do…it also paid the bills. While The Defenders of Paragon still paid for Veikira’s accommodation even though he was no longer an active member of the team, the big man didn’t want to sponge off-of his teammates too much.
Sliding back into his recliner, Veikira frowned at the mounds of paperwork that were piled all over his desk. It was all kinds of junk; from essays on the various criminal gangs and super-powered villains, to mythological musings of some of his more philosophical students. He had little intention of reading it however, as tonight he was scheduled to meet up with an old friend for dinner. Her name was Rhiana Blair, a member of The Defenders of Paragon better known as Dione. He was not “dating” her, merely catching up on old times.
As he headed out of his office, Veikira glanced over the newspaper that was settled on his desk. Aside from the usual headlines, most of which documented DJ Septa’s resignation from “The Cape” – one of Paragon’s more popular radio stations, there was still coverage of a conflict between The Defenders and The Destroyers of Paragon. Two polar opposites of the superhero and supervillain world respectively. According to the Paragon Times, a small cell of incredibly powerful supervillains had formed around the leadership of Owain Venomdrinker – an old enemy of The Defenders. The man had single-handedly brought together the greatest enemies The Defender’s had ever known, and had almost brought the heroes to their knees. The battle had waged on however, much due to Judas’s mysterious assistant behind the scenes. The paper had no idea who this individual was, but knew that he was in someway responsible for the deaths of Lorock et al the month previously.
Veikira put down the newspaper and exited his office, for what was to be the last time.
He was late. Why were guys always so unpunctual? It irritated Dione so much. But she was as patient as the next empath in Paragon. When you spend most of your day healing the wounds of others and fixing people up after they get into a tight spot, you tend to develop a patience that is incredibly hard to grate down. But Veikira was pushing it.
“Sorry I’m late” came the typical reply as the giant of a man lumbered across the small diner, “A hellion tried to steal my wallet. He thought I was a civvy!”
They both laughed. The mood was heightened.
“So how’re things with The Defenders?” asked Veikira as he pulled our a chair and sat down. It creaked under his massive frame.
“Oh we’re as good as can be expected under the circumstances.” Started Dione, as she began to glance quickly over the menu in front of her, “We’ve lost a lot of people in the field recently. Morale isn’t very high…”
She trailed off. The mood was lowered.
Veikira shrugged off the awkward silence as if it was merely a bullet. Glancing over the menu himself, he decided to risk it and ask for a steak sandwich. He didn’t need to eat, but liked the taste of Human food. Although his stomach didn’t always agree with Steak. It often upset his stomach and gave him a very human weakness. As he mused the finer arts of steak, the waiter arrived to take their orders.
“I’ll have a steak sandwich,” said Veikira sheepishly, “Make sure…um…make sure it’s well done.”
“Certainlee Zir!” said the apparently French waiter, “And vor you madam?”
“The same” came the reply. Dione smiled.
As the waiter wandered off to place their orders or whatever it is waiters do behind closed doors, Dione looked over the table at the gargantuan man sat opposite her. She’d known Veikira for the better part of a year and in all that time she’d never seen him look so happy and healthy. Working with children, albeit super powered ones, was really doing him some good. Dione had always wanted children; she had always intended to mention it to her fiancé…
“I hear the food here’s really bad!” said Veikira cheekily, “They have an all-troll kitchen staff.”
“Oh you bring me to the classiest places!” Dione joked, almost forcedly, her eyes picking up some movement near the kitchen. “Hey, what are those guys doing by the Kitchen? “
The sound of a large explosion and the sight of the apparently French waiter flying across the diner cut her off. He hit the far wall with a thud and fell to the earth. He stopped moving. As the smoke from the kitchen explosion cleared, the infamous Arachnos logo shone through the smoke. Arachnos troops began to spill out into the diner. Firing upon anyone who got too close.
“We’ve come for Rhiana Blair, nobody else will get hurt if she steps forward now!” shouted out one of the troopers as he fired upwards.
Dione leapt to her feet instantly, throwing herself between the gunmen and the rest of the café. Veikira remained seated. If he wanted to move fast he could. But for now he would let Dione handle the situation.
“Leave these people alone!” said Dione as she began to gather energy around her fists, “I am who you are looking for, now stop firing unless you want to go home in a body bag.”
There was something so very threatening about a minute woman in a pink dress saying such word that the Arachnos troops stopped firing. As they did so, a tall man in a dark costume emerged from the kitchen, fire burned all around his body, and a long blue cape dragged across the floor. He looked like a demon walking straight out of the fiery pits of hell, and truth be told that was not far from the case.
“Hello Dione, It has been an awfully long time!” said Emperor Xanatos as he walked towards the heroine, who now looked very intimidated. She stood stock still as he approached her. Each step towards her leaving a fiery footprint onto the tiled floor. As he towered over her he heard someone shot from over her shoulder…
As the minuscule heroine dived to the floor, Emperor Xanatos felt a fist connect with his jaw. It struck him so hard that he was thrown backwards through a nearby wall. Veikira could pack a punch when he needed to, and was considered in the same league as Statesman when it came to throwing his fists around. He had never met this Emperor Xanatos fool, but he was definitely going to send him home broken and battered.
Emperor Xanatos pulled himself slowly to his feet, every movement heavily exaggerated. He roared upwards and fire danced about his body. As his gaze befell the giant that had thrown him across the room, the emperor’s hand began to glow. He was not happy.
As the two giants threw themselves at each other, trading blows that would kill lesser men, and quite possibly lesser heroes, the Arachnos troops began to fire upon the cafeteria residents. As people began to drop left right and centre, Dione tried her hardest to fend off the Arachnos troops…but there were too many. Despite assistance from the kitchen staff (who turned out to actually be trolls) Dione was eventually backed up into a corner. Bullets narrowly missing her by mere inches as she fired back into the amassed troops with energy blast after energy blast.
A bullet grazed her leg and she dropped to one knee. Another embedded itself in her stomach and she dropped to the floor. Her mind was awash with not only the trauma from her own wounds, but also the trauma of those who were being butchered around her. As the bullets peppered both her surroundings and those nearby, she focused inwards and began to heal her wounds. The bullet slowly dropped out of her stomach and the hole closed, and the graze on her knee slowly disappeared. She was, however, still in a pool of her own blood – and as the troops surrounded her they weren’t expecting much resistance – let alone what Dione had in mind.
The Diner shook as Dione went NOVA. Arachnos troops lay unconscious all around the Diner’s walls, tables, and a few even lay sprawled on the streets outside. As Dione stared weakly upwards, her body completely spent from giving her all, she heard a voice that chilled her to the bone.
“It appears you have knocked out your knight in shining armour – how unfortunate for you!” said Emperor Xanatos as he moved in for the kill.
Hard burning fingers pressed around Dione’s throat. She writhed as much as she could given the circumstances, but no matter how much she resisted, she was held aloft, her feet about a metre from the ground. She hung lifelessly, her eyes watering due to the intense heat of the hand pressed around her throat. Despite this, Dione could see the limp form of Veikira being dragged towards her by two Arachnos troopers. She saw him being held down, awoken with smelling salts, and having his head yanked upwards by his hair. Whatever Emperor Xanatos had planned, he wanted Veikira to watch.
“Give my regards to your team-mates already in the depths of hell”, Said Emperor Xanatos as he snapped Dione’s neck to the left, “And be sure to put out the welcome mat for those about to join you,” he snapped her neck back to the right to finish the job. As his hand opened, she fell to the floor. Her head protruded at a strange angle, her face was a strange mix between an elfish grin and a horrendous scream. Wherever she was, she was not at peace. But she had passed on. Dione was dead.
“No!” Veikira roared as he struggled to stand up, a nearby Arachnos trooper forced him to his knees however, causing the big man to almost crash down onto the floor.
Emperor Xanatos smirked as he addressed Veikira.
“No-one knows your second name,” he began, “In fact I do believe that another hero has already taken your name for himself – that’s nature’s cruel way of pointing out what is about to happen.”
Emperor Xanatos’s smile grew as he nodded towards Dione.
“She was often considered the heart of The Defenders, it’s morale backbone. Taking her out makes sense doesn’t it? What you can’t win with sheer manpower or tactical expertise, you can win through emotion. You heroes are better trained, more unified, and probably more powerful. What other choice do we have?”
Veikira slurred something incomprehensible.
“I didn’t catch what you said?” said the Emperor, “Speak more clearly when addressing me.”
“You’re minor league. No one cares about your title. No one remembers you from that little skirmish a year ago with the Praetorians. No one thinks your return is apocalyptical. You’re just another nobody. Just another one of Recluse’s pawns” Said Veikira as he looked the Emperor dead in the eye, “A bad guy that someone, somewhere, is going to take down…”
Veikira was interrupted by the fist that embedded itself in his chest. As the gigantic hero roared out in agony, Emperor Xanatos’s burning hands clamped around his heart and ripped it clear out of his body. Veikira’s eyes glazed over and he toppled sideways, he fell flat onto his back, his hands sprawled outwards. As his head bounced off-of the now blood-splatter floor, his eyes fell shut slowly. He had never asked for the life of a hero, it had been thrust upon him, how sad it must be for those who heard his tale to hear of how he left the world. Much like the way he entered it – through the actions of a foreign enemy. Veikira had died.
Emperor Xanatos opened his hand and let the organ fall to the floor. Veikira was considered to be one of the strongest members of The Defenders, if he’d fallen, the rest would surely fold. It was only a matter of time. And the good emperor had all the time in the world…