From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Ranks of the Star Brigade
Arranged from highest level to lowest.
Nova — Only ever one in office.
Crimsonstar — This is the rank when a member is given the protostar matter that grants them powers.
Star — All Star Brigade entrants are automatically ranked as Star.
Black Hole — This is a rank anyone in the Bridgade DOES NOT want. It is reserved for those Star Brigade members that have disgraced the Brigade. It is the same as excommunication.
Part 1: Marsius Denthar becomes a Crimsonstar rank and is sent to Earth.
The ceremony was set to start in ten minutes and Marsius Denthar was having trouble with his cape. When he was just a Cluster his cape attached with a simple clasp on his left shoulder. With his being promoted to Crimsonstar the cape clasps were changed to a broach on each shoulder, and it was taking him a bit of effort to pin the brooch to his uniform and latch the cape into it. The door to the preparation chamber chimed as Red Giant Talthar entered. He took the cape and broaches from Marsius. “The trick is to latch the top ends of the cape first and then pin them to your uniform.” He said fixing it and handing it back to him. “Thank you, sir. I think I could have managed if the cape was the same length as the one I’m used to.” He adjusted his tunic, making sure his Cluster pins was set properly on the left breast of his uniform.
“I’ve never understood why we still wear capes. They serve no purpose and only manage to get caught on things when you walk by them.” Marsius said, now constantly aware of it swaying out behind him as he walked.
“They’re holdovers from when the Star Brigade was formed. The cape represents our commitment to our worlds, how we ‘drape’ ourselves over them in a protective layer. It was the uniform piece the people of 10 wanted when the core 16 met to form the Brigade.” Talthar told him.
“I’m just glad that they relaxed the requirement to wear it while on active duty, and made it just for ceremonial purposes.” Marsius added, and he sat down to await his call to accept his new rank.
“They’re not that bad. Trust me, soon you’ll be so used to wearing it that you’ll feel strange without it.” The door opened and a Comet officer leaned in. “Cluster Denthar? They’re ready for you.” He said. Marsius stood up and headed to the door. The young officer straightened up and held his right hand up while bringing his left up to cover his heart, saluting Red Giant Talthar as he passed.
Marsius entered the huge office of Nova Strangham. He was seated at an immense desk, the banner of the Star Brigade on one side, the celestial flag of the Andromeda system on the other.
Nova Strangham rose from his chair, smiling broadly and approached him. “Cluster Denthar, today is a day you will long remember. Not many of the Star Brigade are so honored with the office of the Crimsonstar.” He said, shaking his hand. He then shook hands with Red Giant Talthar.
“Thank you Nova Strangham. I am indeed honored.” Marsius said.
“Was your stay here at Brigade central to your liking? How was your room, and your meal?” he asked.
“Very good, Nova Strangham. It has been a while since I’ve enjoyed Tarkean steak, and the room was even better then when I seasoned at Andromeda 9. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Brigade station there is quite luxurious.” Nova Strangham smiled. “Ah yes, I remember my own stay there fondly. Well then, I’m sure you’re nervous enough as it is.” He said and he reached up the left breast of Marsius’ uniform and removed the dual Cluster pin of his rank from his uniform. He picked up a small case from his desk, cleared his throat.
“Marsius Denthar, born resident of Andromeda 3, it is my honor to recognize your achievements within the Star Brigade and on this day of the eighth passing of Nauris, award you the rank of Crimsonstar, and do deem you to be worthy of all rights and privileges due to an officer of said rank.” And he pinned a new single, red star shaped pin to his uniform. He stepped back, saluting Marsius and he returned the gesture. Then Nova Strangham relaxed and shook his hand again. “Congratulations Marsius. I told your father that he had nothing to worry about when you joined the Star Brigade years ago, and I’m proud to see you proved me right.” He said.
“Thank you Nova Strangham.” Marsius said. Nova Strangham wave a dismissive hand. “Marsius, we’re done with formalities right now, you can call me Kenth. After all, I’ve known you since your father and I joined the Brigade.” He went back to his desk and motioned to the side of the room. “Please, feel free to help yourself to the bar.” He sat down at his desk as Marsius and Talthar declined refreshments and sat down. “So how is Tanna?” Nova Strangham asked. “She still studying at the university?”
“Actually she just finished her last course. She should be attending her own ceremony next week and then her assignments after that.” Marsius said.
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re going to miss that. I can see about having your implant rescheduled so you can go, if you’d like.” He said.
“Thank you, but I know how far ahead of time those have to be prepared. Our scientists have to do a lot of preliminary work, taking my bio signature, running compatibility tests on the star matter. I wouldn’t want to upset their time and effort by forcing a reschedule.” Marsius replied. Nova Strangham just nodded. “Nova Strangham, may I inquire into the status of Cluster Darron?” Marsius asked. Nova Strangham looked over at Red Giant Talthar. Talthar shook his head no, he hadn’t told him.
“Janus Darron is being held for questioning until all evidence has been reviewed. I’ll tell you now since you’re his friend and you were directly involved in the incident, but I don’t see anything short of Black Hole status being handed down to him.” He held up a hand to stop Marsius before he could even ask. “Please Marsius, you don’t want to involve yourself in this situation any further than you had to already. Just be glad that your actions resulted in your being promoted and not confined to quarters.” He stood up, checked his uniform. “Now, then, I believe we have a formal dinner to attend celebrating your promotion. Shall we?” and he led them out a back door of his office down to the main dining hall.
Marsius looked at the huge chair with a little trepidation. He had heard stories of the imposing bulk of the device, but the tales didn’t do the chair justice. It wasn’t the ankle and wrists restraints of the chair that caused him to feel apprehensive as much as it was the several menacing looking laser scalpels and probes that hovered over the head rest.
“I can assure you that it looks worse than its going to feel. In fact, you should be up and walking around within a couple of days after your protostar insertion.” Said a voice and he turned to see a tall man approach him. “Crimsonstar Denthar, pleasure to meet you. I’m primary physician Corsic, I’ll be overseeing your insertion today.”
He put a hand on Marsius’ shoulder and led him to a table where a preliminary insertion procedure sheet awaited him. “I’ll need you to sign this before we begin.” Corsic told him.
“What is it?” Marsius asked.
“It’s a release of authority form, in case we end up killing you during insertion it releases us from liability so none of your family attempt to seek retribution from The Brigade.” Marsius’ eyes widened and Corsic laughed. “I’m kidding, relax. It’s just to let you know what you need to do before we begin. For instance, we highly recommend that you use the facilities before we start, and I do hope you didn’t have anything to eat or drink this morning.”
“No, I was warned ahead of time of those two particular effects.” And Marsius quickly scanned the form, confirmed that it was indeed nothing more than a list of what to expect and prepare for, and signed his name. Corsic led him to the chair.
“Are you familiar with the process?”
“It’s simple really. All life is connected by the energies of the universe. It’s been a known fact for generations that traits and abilities of all the various forms of life can be shared and passed on. A small trace of protostar matter, no bigger than a standard microbe, will be inserted into the frontal cortex of your brain.”
“Oh yes, the energy output of gaseous giants, or stars, are infinitely higher than you’d suspect. It doesn’t take much to augment you, and the powers you’ll receive will be beyond what you expect.”
“What powers does the insertion grant?”
“It’s different for everyone. We haven’t been able to determine why, but the manifestation of abilities seems to be psychologically linked.”
“A person’s personality contributes to what they become.” Marsius said. Corsic nodded his head. “Precisely, you understand.” Marsius looked at Corsic and slowly started to sit down, placing his wrists and ankles in the open restraints. “So tell me Corsic, have any insertions ever resulted in undesirable abilities?” Corsic looked Marsius directly in the eye and simply said “We’ll be starting in just a few moments, make yourself comfortable and relax your muscles.”
Marsius held the huge piece of equipment over his head effortlessly as Corsic a crew of physicians looked over readouts relayed to them from sensors attached to his body. “Incredible, just incredible.” Said Corsic as he looked over to Marsius. “Do you realize that it takes a crew of three men operating a full size support loader to move that and you’re doing it with just your hands?” and he motioned for Marsius to put it down.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to completely determine the range of your strength. Not to mention this new level of enhanced resistance you’re acquired. I daresay you’re almost invulnerable.”
“Almost? Well let’s hope that I don’t run into anything that tests that limit.” Marsius said and he walked over to Corsic and the others. “It all looks good so far Marsius. I’m going to update Bridge records with your new strength and near invulnerability. Okay, any other abilities showing up that you’ve noticed?”
“Only this.” Said Marsius and he lifted off the floor and hovered in place and then flew a few circles around the testing room. Corsic just smiled “Flight, of course. That seems to be the one ability that everyone gains. There must be an inherit wish in man to leave the ground.” He said and added flight to Marsius’ list of powers. Corsic completed updating Marsius’ records and closed his computer file. “We’re all done here, Crimsonstar Denthar. Congratulations on your new powers and may they serve you well.” And he and the remaining physicians saluted him. Marsius retrieved his cape that he had removed and laid on a nearby chair. “I’ve been asked to have you report to Nova Strangham when you were done here. Looks like you’ll be receiving your first new assignment.”
Marsius entered Nova Strangham’s office and was greeted by him and Red Giants’ Talthar and Meltin. He had never met Red Giant Antes Meltin, but he knew his reputation for being one of the fastest rising officers of the Star Brigade. He had made Comet within six months and rose to White Dwarf another six after that. Rumor had it that Nova Strangham himself was lobbying for Meltin to take his place when he stepped down from office, but that was still years away.
“Crimsonstar Denthar, thank you for coming. Please have a seat.” Nova Strangham said. “I understand that you’re one of our few Crimsonstars to exhibit strength and invulnerability as your ability set.”
“Yes sir, Nova Strangham.”
“Nova Strangham pointed to Red Giant Meltin. “You’re in good company, Antes himself there also shares your power traits. I’m sure he’ll be happy to offer you any advice or instruction on the use of your powers.” Red Giant Meltin shook Marsius’ hand.
“I’d be honored to share some training time with you. When I received my powers it took me almost a month to learn how to pick up glassware without breaking them.” He said. Marsius laughed. “Yes I’ve already gone through a whole set of drinking glasses. I’ll need to get it under control before Tanna and I wed.”
“Well don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time to work it out.” He said and turned back to Nova Strangham. Nova Strangham access some files on his computer and activated a holographic display so they could all see the display. It was of a planet that Marsius didn’t recognize.
“Marsius, I assume that by now you’re figured out you’re about to receive a new assignment?”
“Yes sir, Nova Strangham.”
“This planet is in the neighboring Sol system. It’s designation to us is Sol 3 but its inhabitants refer to is as….”
“Earth.” Said Marsius.
“Very good, yes, Earth. Naturally we know of Earth as we learned of its existence several generations ago. However when we learned that its people had not yet mastered star travel, and were entering their nuclear age, it was decided to observe them but not to establish contact.”
“Are we about to change our policy on Earth?” Marsius asked.
“Not by our choice. Marsius, what do you know about Rikti?” he asked.
“Rikti? Aren’t they the monsters in several children’s fairy tales and horror stories?”
“They’re remembered now as fictional demons, but they are very real and at one time they were the greatest enemy of the Andromeda system.” He said and changed the display to show a horrid looking monster. “This is the Rikti, and it’s only one of their species. We believe there to be at least three or four distinctly different variations of them.” He changed the display again, only this time it played a video file of an intense space battle. “Our forefathers beat them back long before any of us in this room were born, but they knew the Rikti could easily return to menace us. So a sophisticated system of drones and relays were set up in a hyper dimensional portal so that we could have plenty of advance warning should they return. Only as the years turned to decades, the threat became less of a concern and the history of our war became the horror stories and fairy tales that we know today.” Nova Strangham stopped and let the history video play to the end.
“Several days ago the relays alerted us to a breach in the dimensional portal. The Rikti are returning, only not to our system.”
“Earth.” Marsius said.
Marsius thought for long moments. “I can see the questions etching in your face, Marsius. Ask.” Prodded Nova Strangham.
“I’m sorry sir, but I’m not sure I understand. Earth is several light years away, and surely they can….”
“Earth doesn’t have the technology to resist them, or at least fully repel them from their planet.”
“Then, I’m not understanding, sir. Earth will be simply overrun. Not to sound callous, but I’m not quite following why we’re concerned with a pre-space flight society several light years from us being overtaken by these Rikti.” Nova Strangham stood up and turned to look out the window of his office. “There is historical evidence to suggest that the Earth is tied to the Andromeda system. Their rate of evolution and advancement mirrors our own. We believe that in another one to two hundred years they will be as advanced now as we are. We cannot allow them to be destroyed.” He turned back from the window. “Besides, if the Rikti have reemerged so close to us, we can only assume that it would be a matter of time before they turned their attention on us.”
“I see sir. Am I to assume my assignment will be related to this?” asked Marsius.
“Yes, Marsius, it is, very much so.” Nova Strangham sat down and accessed a new set of files. An image of a large but simple sleek starship appeared. “You are looking at the first and only transdimensional starship in the Karian empire. It can make the journey of several hundred light years in hours. You’ll receive full training on it’s operation and features, as well as the cargo to be sent along with you.”
“You’re sending me to Earth?”
“Our goal is to adequately warn the earthmen and assist them in preparing their planet in repelling the Rikti.” Commented Red Giant Maltin. He looked over at Nova Strangham who indicated for him to continue. “We don’t intend for you to actually stay and help them fight back the Rikti, just to instruct them in constructing the same dimensional weaponry we employed in our war with them. It is fully expected that you can complete this mission and be back here within a year. That should be plenty of time for Earth to be made battle ready.”
“I understand. Of course we want to help fellow humans survive, especially if their peril could mean danger for our own system later. When am I to leave?” Marsius asked.
“We want to have you on your way by month’s end. There is much you’ll have to learn. Earth is still not a unified planet, so there are many cultures, languages and customs in place. We’ve pinpointed the area where we believe you’ll be the most effective and even now we’re making computer enhancements of the primary language of the area available for your training.”
“Where am I to be sent?” Marsius asked and Nova Strangham again pulled up the holographic globe of Earth, but this time the viewpoint started outside the planet and condensed further and further down until it stopped on what appeared to be a city. “The location is a city they have named Paragon City. They have given it a title of ‘Birthplace of Tomorrow’ which lends itself open to interpretation as being a city eager to embrace the future, and if they’re to survive, they’ll need to quickly adapt to moving their society forward.”
Part II: Marsius arrives on Earth and the Rikti begin their invasion.
May 23rd, 2002. 12:20 pm Eastern Standard Time.
For the fifth time in as many days, Marsius relayed his mission to these gentlemen. He had arrived six days ago, and his ship had been immediately met with several fleets of aircraft that circled and hovered around his ship. Several moments after that a group of incredible beings also flew up and surrounded his ship. He marveled at the colorfully dressed men and women as they seemed to fly near his ship, looking in the observation window at him and wondered if the earthmen themselves had also managed to harness protostar implants. If so, his mission would be considerably shorter than was originally believed.
Another two hours were spent with him holding position in his ship as Earth’s limited military and these ‘heroes’ as they were referred to, questioned him and studied his ship. Marsius even went so far as to invite them into his ship, to establish trust and demonstrate that he was not a threat to them. “You have by now even with your limited technology ascertained that my ship carries on offensive capabilities. I assure you no harm will come to any one by my hand. However, there is a grave danger facing your planet and it is that danger which brings me here.” His words worked and one of them, a man they called Statesman, consented to enter his ship.
Now, he sat in a small room in the base of a group of these heroes assembled before him along with officers of their military. Statesman, the hero that had first exhibited trust in him and entered his ship, sat at the table across from him and led the interview.
“I trust we’ve made you comfortable?” Statesman asked him.
“Yes very much so, but we really need to discuss preparations for the Rikti. I don’t know when they will attack, but my superiors assure me that the attack is imminent.” Statesman held up a hand to stop him.
“Okay yes, about that. Our own radar and deep space scans show nothing in our solar system or beyond that. The only thing that we’ve discovered was you five days ago before you arrived.”
“Their attack will not come from space.” Marsius said. A gentleman with graying hair and wearing clothing that designated him as part of their military sat down.
“I don’t understand, I thought you said these Rikvi…”
“Rikti, you said these Rikti were aliens.” Marsius turned his attention to the officer. “They are Colonel Brandt, but they do not employ what you would consider conventional space travel. Their primary means of transport is hyper dimensional.”
“You mean these things have the ability to move between dimensions?” Colonel Brandt looked over to Statesman. “I assume I don’t need to explain to you the logistical nightmare of engaging an enemy with that kind of technology. They could easily just appear and disappear at will if need be. How do we combat that?”
“I’m sure Portal Corp would have had the means.” Statesman mused. “Only their records are tied up in legal red tape for years now and we’re not likely going to get any chance to look at them soon.”
“Hell, I’m willing to bet Portal Corp themselves are responsible for these Rikti even knowing about us.” The Colonel added. “I have brought the means to counter their technology on my ship.” Marsius offered. Colonel Brandt looked back to him. “Well, you brought something with you, and we have some of the most brilliant scientific minds in Paragon City studying them, but to be honest, they’re not even sure we can replicate some of the processes your instructions listed.” The Colonel stood up, lit a cigar even as Statesman glared at him in silent protest over his smoking in the Freedom Phalanx’s headquarters. “Bottom line is, all we have is this gentleman’s story of an impending attack, no clear way to verify the existence of these so called Rikti, and incomprehensible plans that for all we know could be nothing more than how to build an elaborate toaster oven.”
“And what do you suggest we do then, Colonel.” Asked Statesman coldly. The Colonel motioned for his aides to follow him as he headed to the door. “Until we have proof of this danger he mentions we have no choice but for you to keep him here while we try to learn more of the ship he came in.”
“You mean to make him a prisoner under our care?” Statesman said.
“Guest, Statesman. He is to be your guest.” He yelled back as the elevator door closed.
The room was simply furnished with a bed, table and chairs and a washroom facility. Marsius entered and looked around as Statesman stood outside the doorway. “I apologize that it isn’t more comfortable, but this room is only meant as a temporary waiting area for visitors. We even had to have the bed brought in for you.” He said.
“It will be fine. I can only hope that my stay here will be temporary as well.” Marsius turned back to Statesman. “You are wiser than the men of your military service. I assume that by now you and your team have had ample to time to deduce that I am more than capable of- leaving- your headquarters if I should desire?”
“Yes, but I can also sense that for the moment you’re being honest with us, and the fact that you haven’t already tells me that we can trust you even if Colonel Brandt is not convinced.”
“And what do we do now?” Marsius asked. Statesman shrugged. “We wait for the military to get their collective asses out of their heads. Can I get you anything?” Marsius started to decline his offer, then quickly said. “Yes, on my first day here your companion, Sister Psyche I believe she is called, offered me some food. I think she called it pizza. I would love some of that.” Statesman smiled and called out for someone to make a call to Dominoes. He then surprised Marsius and motioned him to come out of the room. “Colonel Brandt told me to make you our guest, and I see no reason for you to stay in that room the whole time. Let me introduce you to what we call television.”
4:37 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Marsius was alone in the recreation room watching the television. Statesman and the others had duties to attend to, and he assured them that he would be there when they returned. He was enjoying several episodes of something they called a situation comedy, but he wasn’t sure about the story of one particular show. He would have to remember to ask someone later what the show meant by the phrase of ‘master of your domain’ and this ‘contest’. The doors to the recreation room flung open and Statesman and the Freedom Phalanx burst into the room.
“Marsius, let’s go! Colonel Brandt is asking for you.” Statesman shouted. Statesman went to a section of wall in the room and pressed a button causing a section of the wall to slide away, revealing a window. The sky over the city was filled with round red lights of various sizes. They seemed to spark at the edges. Looking down into the street more of the strange lights could be seen. Marsius’ eyes narrowed as he studied them. “It’s begun.” He said
Part III: The Early War Efforts.
May 23rd, 2002 10:20 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Marsius’ fists slammed into the darkly armored form of the Rikti. There was a huge burst of electricity from it’s suit as it plummeted to the ground. Several more raised their weapons. They intended to keep him from reaching the ship stationed just overhead. Behind him Marsius could hear the approach of a team of the city’s heroes coming up behind them.
“Go Marsius, get to the ship, we’ll take care of the freak brigade here.” Yelled one hero, clad all in blue with red horns and a blazing red trident, he remembered his name as being Azure Demon. He had met a lot of the city’s heroes in the last few hours. Unfortunately he had also watched many of them fall in the fight. “Be careful, Demon. Those weapons of theirs disperse an energy blast that even my people aren’t familiar with.” He said and took off for the ship. He didn’t like the way the fight was going. The Rikti were using weapons that he hadn’t been briefed on before he came here. They had to have modified or developed new technology since his galaxy had fought them. He sped up and hoped that his new found powers the protostar matter had given him were as good as he and the Star Brigade believed. He crashed into the side of the ship and it’s hull buckled and he ripped through inside of it. Good so far. He continued to fly through the interior and made his way to the center of the ship. If they hadn’t changed their ship design, the engine core should still be located there. His luck held as he found the energy core and slammed through it. The ship shook hard even knocking him to the deck and tilted heavily as it started to fall. Marsius immediately flew up and tore a hole out the top of the ship freeing himself. On the street beneath him he could see that his friends had taken out many of the Rikti ground forces, but they were still outnumbered.
“It’s coming down, back off!” he yelled. The heroes retreated as the ship crashed into the horde of Rikti soldiers that only looked up to see the huge ship slam into them. He took a quick look around and could see several more ships in the distance also falling. Other heroes throughout the city were having the same results. There were still hundreds of the Rikit craft hovering across the city, but at least they knew they could penetrate their defenses, crash their crafts, and that was a good place to start.
Suddenly he felt an immense force hit him in his back. He started to fall and barely managed to regain his composure and spun around to see a small group of small drones firing on him. They were the advanced patrol and devastation drones of the Rikti and thankfully, these had been part of his briefing. “So you haven’t upgraded all your weaponry, good.” And he flew into the pack of them ripping them in pieces and letting them drop out of the sky. He glanced back to his teammates on the ground to ensure they were okay before heading out to find another ship. Sadly, he noticed that a few more of their number had fallen. The scene below him was horrible. Everywhere he looked he saw huge Rikti armies swarming over the city and smaller heavily outmanned groups of heroes moving in to engage them. “Look!” One of the heroes beneath him yelled, pointing upwards past him. Marsius turned, expecting an attack but was surprised to see the Rikti retreating. No, just the ships, or the ones that were left. He rose higher and could see that they had managed to destroy a good number of the Rikti ships and those that were left were now leaving. Many left the city only to be destroyed by the heroes fighting them and fell into the oceans, some simply left the planet and started heading out to space. He flew down and knocked back a pack of the Rikti just as they were about to ambush a pack of the heroes on the street.
“What are you doing back down here? You should go after the ships!” shouted a young heroine.
“The ships aren’t important. Look, the Rikti themselves aren’t leaving, in fact, they’re pressing their attacks harder now.” He said and as he did a blast from the Rikti weapons hit her. Blood splattered on his face as her body was literally cut in two.
“Mariah!” he yelled, but it was too late for her. The poor girl had no more power than simply controlling the elements, yet she had been out here fighting an alien army many times more powerful than her. Marsius was discovering that these heroes of Earth were in every way the equal of his comrades in the Brigade. He found the discarded trident of the fallen Azure Demon and flung himself into the pack of approaching Rikti.
May 24, 1:27 am, Eastern Standard Time.
He fell exhausted to his knees. All his energy was spent, he couldn’t go on. He had been fighting these monsters for hours now, and this was it. Just walking took extreme effort. He hoped this alley would let him either recover his strength, or spend his last few minutes alive in quiet, away from the fight. Leaning against the wall he let his head fall back to the cold bricks of the building. He was probably never going to see home again. The world around him started to fade out, he was going to lose consciousness, and that would probably be for the better. “Get up hero.” Said a voice and a strong pair of hands picked him up and cradled him in his arms. He was dimly aware that they were flying now. Through his barely open eyes he saw who his savior was, a man clad in white with a dark red star on his chest. “M-Marsius?” he weakly groaned. “We didn’t think you survived that pack of Rikti, you…..”
“Don’t try to talk, conserve your strength.” Marsius said and he landed in front of one of the many makeshift hospitals the Freedom Phalanx and the military had set up. “I’ve got another one!” he yelled as he landed. He laid the battered and bloody hero onto a gurney. He didn’t even look old enough to be a Star recruit in the Brigade. “Anyone know his name?” Marsius asked. One of the doctors looked at the boy as he started to treat his wounds. “It’s Kid Spectre.” The doctor said. Marsius looked at him on the gurney. “He knew my name. I’ve never seen him before yet he knew my name.” The doctor continued to dress Kid Spectre’s wounds but as he did he said. “He was there when you charged the Rikti pack that killed Azure Demon and Slippage.”
“Marsius!” yelled a familiar voice and he saw Colonel Brandt motioning for him to join him outside. Marsius ran over to the Colonel. “Colonel, I need to get to my ship, the weapon plans I brought with me…”
“No can do, Marsius.”
“Colonel, you STILL don’t trust me? Even with the Rikti here you don’t believe….”
“I trust you just fine. Yes, I was wrong to not listen to you at first. A mistake I’m sure will cost me my rank, if we survive this.”
“Then let me get my ship.” Marsius pleaded. Colonel Brandt turned to him. “The first thing these bastards hit when they arrived were all the military outposts. Your ship is dead smack in the middle of some three thousand Rikti. If you can get past that, then you’re free to go retrieve your ship.”
“I’ll take a group with me.”
Colonel Brandt shook his head. “Oh no, we’re finally starting to gain some ground in this fight, and we need every one we have now right where they are. I don’t know if you’re aware of the numbers, but hero population of Paragon City was cut to half in just under two hours. Simply put, we don’t have anyone to send with you and not lose what little of the city we’re still holding.”
May 24th, 8:47 am Eastern Standard Time.
The fight was slowly starting to turn. Marsius and the heroes of Paragon City had managed to not only win back certain neighborhoods, but the US military along with assistance from an organization called Crey, had managed to erect sophisticated barriers protecting what areas they had taken. These ‘war walls’ kept the Rikti out, but it didn’t help to remove them from the planet. Marsius’ ship was still surrounded by thousands of Rikti soldiers, but with luck he would have it back again. Now that they were making some headway against them, the next logical areas to reclaim were the communications and military commands.
“Marsius, can you get to New York, fast?” Asked Colonel Brandt.
“What is New York?” he asked. The Colonel pulled out a map and indicated the city. “It’s one of our largest and best known cites. There is a special organization there called the United Nations. The UN Security Council is assembling a group of you hero types…”
“I’m a hero?”
“To us normal people, yes. Let me finish. They’re pulling in heroes from across the planet to form a strike force to fight the Rikti. They’re calling in The Vanguard. I want you there as one of our representatives. I’d send Statesman, but he’s too valuable here. I figure it will also be a good way for you to experience the rest of our planet, for however long it’s still ours.”
“I’d be happy to Colonel.”
Part IV: The War Turns.
May 24th, 5:15 pm Eastern Standard Time.
The hero calling himself Dragon soared over his city. He could find no sign of them. He radioed in on the special communicator The Vanguard members all carried now. “Dragon here, confirmed.”
Samurai stood atop the highest remaining building. He could see almost the entire city from there. “Samurai, confirms.”
New Delhi, India.
The beautiful heroine Durga floated above the city. Below her the people fell to their knees in praise of her. “Durga, confirms.”
Sentinel raced through the streets of the US capital. “Sentinel, confirms.”
Marsius hovered over the statue of Atlas back in Paragon City. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Marisus, confirms.” He said into his communicator. He landed and looked around the city. They were gone. The Rikti portals had all disappeared. After the last Rikti ships had escaped through them there had been no more activity from them. Now they were gone altogether. They were slowly diminishing the numbers of Rikti soldiers that were left, but many areas of the city and the world were still heavily infested with them. The war wall technology that had been employed here was quickly being put into effect worldwide, but there was still a long fight ahead of them. However the best news had to be what had come to light in the last couple of hours. The records of Portal Corp, due to the nature of the world’s current emergency, had been opened and there were indications that the scientists there had indeed previously discovered the Rikti's existence. It looked hopeful that they would soon find a way to drive them off Earth permanently. A brilliant hero named Dr. Science was already delving into the files. His communicator beeped. “Marsius, Rikti attacks in the Founders Falls district.” He took off from Atlas Park and headed for the Falls.
October 28th, 2002
The room was filled to capacity with several members of the Vanguard, as well as what few remaining hero groups still had members. Colonel Brandt and an entire division of the military were in attendance. Dr. Science had just dropped on everyone the revelation that there were indeed Rikti portals still up and operational.
“They may have disappeared from the skies, but they are there nonetheless. The records from Portal Corp revealed that not only had the Rikti known about us for years, but they had also been silently caching weapons and technology long before they actually invaded. These secret bases and portals are underground” He started going through some slides on an overhead projector for them.
“I’ve identified an energy signature that matches the frequency of the portals we did see, and I’m convinced of two things. First, they are getting constant reinforcements from their home dimension which is why their numbers seem to never go down despite the war we’ve been fighting with them for close to six months now. They’re most certainly using a teleportation matrix which is why we’re having difficulty keeping them in check. You’ve no doubt noticed their attacks coming at a moments notice, and always in areas where we’re weak. Secondly, and this is the most disturbing, I’ve managed to pinpoint the largest of these portals, the main hub if you will, and it’s beneath Paragon City itself. I believe this portal is key to the Rikti line of supply.”
“So what do we do Dr? We’ve been fighting the Rikti physically for months now, and we’re barely holding our own. We need an edge and you’re the man we’re looking for to supply it.” Said Colonel Brandt.
“We have to shut down the portal.” He said.
“Then we’ll shut it down.”
“That won’t be easy to do.” Said Dr. Science and he brought up another slide. It showed an underground lair with a large glowing portal almost as big as three city blocks. It was surrounded by hundreds of Rikti. There were sounds of frustration filling the room.
“Okay, we go nuclear.” Said Brandt.
“No, we can’t do that. The fallout alone will do more damage than the Rikti themselves.”
“No other option. We nuke them, take out the Rikti and the portal.”
“You would take out the Rikti here, but the portal itself is not powered here. You might disrupt it temporarily, but you wouldn’t shut it down. And when the Rikti get it back up….”
“They’ll double their numbers.” Said Statesman.
“So what do we do?”
“We have to draw them out away from the portal.”
Dr. Science cut off his computer. “Then someone is going to have to enter the portal to the Rikti homeworld, and shut down the portal from there.”
“Too risky. You just told us they’re pulling their supplies and reinforcements from this portal. Whoever enters it could find themselves looking at Rikti central.” One of the other heroes said. They had all been silent, but now everyone was starting to talk and debate openly. Dr. Science held his hands up to get everyone’s attention. “I have already come up with a plan. We take two teams. One large strike force to assault the main Rikti concentration, get them to pull all their numbers out into battle. We have a second smaller force enter the portal, shut it down. We’ll use timed explosives to shut down the portal’s power source naturally, but there is a chance that whoever goes won’t make it back.” The room grew louder with shouts of ‘crazy’ and ‘won’t work’. Brandt stepped up to the front of the room to start arguing with Dr. Science. Amid all the chaos one voice suddenly yelled out. “I’ll do it.”
Everyone turned to see Hero 1 standing from his chair. “People, this is a moot point. We all know that if we don’t do something drastic and soon, in the next few months we’re not going to be here to discuss any further plans. We go now, or die.” He flew over to Dr. Science. “Show me what has to be done.” He said and slowly more heroes stood up and walked over to join Hero 1. Marsius stood up and joined them as well.
November 8th, 2002
They had been divided into two groups. Alpha team was their large strike force and was comprised of over a thousand heroes. Their job was to engage the main Rikti forces and hopefully detract some of their numbers away from the huge underground portal. Omega team was smaller, only 50 heroes and a large majority of them were what was referred to mystics. It was early morning and they had all gathered in the main square of Atlas Park. The city hall courtyard barely held them all. Marsius had volunteered for the Omega team and he floated nearby Hero 1 and Dr. Science as they instructed all the magical heroes on the best way to get to the portal entrance itself. They were going to us an ancient talisman to allow them to make it to the portal unseen. Alpha team, led by Statesman, had left and they would wait for word that they had engaged the Rikti before moving out. Several long minutes passed as each of the heroes of the Omega team silently waited, praying, meditating, or just sitting in quiet apprehension. Then, the communicator of Colonel Brandt whistled. “Alpha team has engaged. It looks like its working. Not only are all the ground troops of the Rikti responding, but we can see hundreds more pouring out of the ground entrance to the portal.” Said Statesman’s voice. Hero 1 turned and shouted. “This is it people, we’re on.” And he had the magicians channel their spells through the invisibility charm. The Omega team moved out, but before he could join them, Marsius felt Colonel Brandt grab his arm.
“Marsius, I want to tell you that,….I mean I want to apologize……” Marsius placed his hand on the Colonel’s shoulder. “All that matters now, Colonel, is getting the Rikti off Earth.” Omega team was starting to disappear in the distance. “I’d better hurry.” Marsius said. Suddenly, over the communicator came a voice, Statesman. “We have a problem.” He shouted. Marsius and Colonel Brandt focused on his voice.
“What is it Statesman?” Brandt called back into the device.
“A large ship just decloaked above the site. Only there are no troops coming out of it, and we’re reading a huge energy surge deep inside it, and it’s growing.” Marsius called to Statesman.
“Statesman, can you describe it?” he asked.
“It’s not like the others we saw before. This one has a strange, almost blue color to it. It’s made no move to either defend the Rikti troops or attack us. It seems to be merely observing. Hang on….” His voice cut out for a few seconds. “I’m being told the energy surge on the ship is getting bigger.” Marsius had to stop and think. He had been briefed on this ship months ago before he came to Earth, but he was having trouble remembering the details. Then it came to him.
“Statesman, hang on, I’m coming.” And he flew off faster then he had ever flown before towards the Alpha team.
The scene was horrifying. Blasts of energy and gouts of fire erupted everywhere. The ground was littered with the broken bodies of both hero and Rikti. Amid all the destruction it took Marisus several minutes to find Statesman. He found him on a hilltop along with four other heroes, out of the range of the battle, and they were all studying the Rikti ship.
“Marsius!” Statesman yelled. Marsius landed and looked at the ship.
“This is not good. That’s a conduit ship.” Marsius said. He looked to them. “Its sole purpose is to create a portal large enough to warp entire areas into Rikti space.” One of the heroes, a man named Flameweaver stepped up to him. “You mean to tell me that they’re not content with invading, now they’re going to start taking sections of the planet and port them to the Rikti dimension?” he asked, his hair and eyes flickering bands of fire.
“That is exactly what they intend to do.” Marsius said.
“How big an area?” Statesman asked.
“They’re capable of taking all of Paragon City.”
“My God!” yelled Flameweaver. “This thing was just sitting here waiting. We have no clue how long it’s been here just building up energy. Plus, what if they have more of these things? They could start literally just zapping entire cities off the planet.”
“No, the conduit ships take an extreme amount of power even for the Rikti. They won’t have sent more then a few, and those must take power directly from their home dimension. If Omega team succeeds in shutting down the portal, the ships will be powerless, but if what you told me about the energy output of this one is true, it may very well port out Paragon City before Omega team can complete its mission.”
“How do we stop it?” Statesman asked.
“You don’t. It’s also equipped with a high yield fluctuating shield. It’ll take several hundred of us to even stand a chance of collapsing it enough to penetrate it and get to the ship.” Marsius said, looking at the battle below. “Somehow I don’t think we have the numbers to spare.”
“Then we’ve got to get word to Omega team, they need to move faster.” Yelled Flameweaver. Statesman had his communicator up to his helm, listening to Colonel Brandt on the other end. “We’ve got another problem. Omega team has run into a pack of Rikti resistance. They’re in the portal chamber, but it’s going to take them a little longer to shut it down.” Marsius was about to say that regardless of the outcome, Paragon City would be lost, then he noticed, far below them, one of the abandoned Rikti tunnels.
“Statesman, we have a chance. I think we can not only shut down the conduit ships field, but maybe even disable it entirely.”
“I’m listening friend, how?” he asked and Marsius pointed to what he had noticed below. It was Marsius’ ship. Statesman recognized it and smiled. “They must have known it wasn’t Earth made and moved it here after taking over the military installations.” Marsius rose and headed to his ship. “I have to get to it, if they see me heading for it they may attack, hold them off.” He shouted and Statesman and the others followed him.
As he anticipated, Marsius noticed several of the Rikti leave the battles they were in and head to intercept him. He engaged three of them, punching and knocking them out of his way even as Statesman and his small crew tore into the rest of them.
“I’m close enough for my ship’s sensor to pick up my life signature and open the ship. Go back and help the rest of them.” He yelled, pointing to the heroes back in the main battle. Their numbers had dropped considerably.
He had barely seated himself in his ship and he launched out of the Rikti tunnel at full speed. The ground gave wave in huge chunks as it flew free. The Rikti conduit ship lay just a hundred yards ahead of him in the sky. There was only one thing that could totally disable fluctuating shield generators, and that was the explosion of a transpatial drive. Like the one on his ship. He loaded the engines to maximum and set the ship on a collision course. He knocked out the entry hatch and flew out. As he fell he yelled into his communicator. “There is going to be a huge blast, everyone cover your eyes.” Marsius’ ship hit the conduit ships shields and everything went white as the transpatial drive and the shields cancelled each other out violently. The fighting stopped, but only for a second as heroes ducked and avoided their eyes, and the Rikti, for the first time since the war started, all let out an inhuman high pitched wail.
The conduit ship, having never moved before, now turned and several small panels slid back as it started to reconfigure itself. “This is it! They realize the shields are down, they’re going to fire the port actuators.” Marsius screamed. He tore off toward the ship. “Anyone not dead or fighting follow me. We have to breach the hull and dismantle it’s portal core.” A group of them ripped into the hull and stood in the ship. Rikti shock troops started descending on them the second their feet hit the ship decks. “This ship has redundant systems. We have a total of three portal drives to destroy. Everyone spread out, they should have one center of the ship. I’ll take that one. The others are going to be at the top and bottom axis.” He yelled.
“How will we know it when we find it?” asked a heroine blasting a Rikti through the hole in the ship. Marsius dove through the floor of the ship.
“It’ll be the dark red orb that makes you feel like your insides are melting.” He called back. He found the center portal drive and with all his strength he swung his fist down on it. He felt his flesh burn and the bones in his fingers crack. The Rikti had upgraded their conduit ships. This portal drive was equipped with its own fluctuating shield. He quickly yelled into his communicator. “Don’t attack the drives! They’re shielded.”
“Great.” A voice yelled back. “Now what?”
“We have to find the command center, shut it down.” He yelled. A blast of plasma energy ripped past his head, barely missing him. Rikti forces had found him. “That’s not going to be easy. I’ve got several of these ugly punks in my face.” Yelled another voice. Marsius felt his insides start to twist, he turned to the drive. The dark red color of the orb was getting lighter. “They’re going to fire, get off, abandon the ship.”
“What? We’re giving up?”
“No choice, if you stay here you’ll be vaporized when the drive activates.”
“The conduit ship opens portals to transport other cities to the Rikti dimension, but it can’t sustain itself in the process, it implodes when the portal goes active.” Marisus yelled.
“And you didn’t think you could have told us this beforehand?”
“We’re dead either way.” And he ripped free of the ship even as he saw the others emerge from other, self made exits. He landed beside Statesman, heavily outnumbered in battle. He stole a quick glance back over his shoulder as Marsius landed and started attacking Rikti by his side. “Well?” he yelled. Marsius just looked at him and shook his head. “I guess this is it then.” They both threw themselves into the fight. Then, Flameweaver yelled. “Look!” he said, pointing. The conduit ship dipped, then several small implosions rocked the ship, and it started to fall. Marsius and Statesman freed themselves from the grasp of their Rikti adversaries. “Get back, its coming down!”
“What happened?” Statesman asked.
“I don’t know. We couldn’t shut down the portal drives.” The ground shook as the conduit ship crashed and a huge tidal wave of debris spread throughout the area. Then, smaller portals started filling the entire landscape, and Rikti started disappearing. “Omega team did it! They shut down the portal.” Yelled Brandt over their communicators. It was the only thing that made sense to Marsius. They were heavily outnumbered when this battle started, even more so now. Yet the Rikti were all porting out. Seeing that they were offering no more resistance, many of the battle weary heroes simply fell over in exhaustion, or sat down. Some cried, some laughed, many were just silently disbelieving. All those with healing abilities quickly started moving among them, finding the wounded, covering the dead. Statesman looked over the area, informing Brandt of their losses. “We took heavy casualties, but all the Rikti have pulled out.” He said. Brandt informed him that calls were coming in worldwide, and that it was the same everywhere, Rikti were retreating. As he spoke to Brandt, Statesman watched as Marsius simply stood looking over the scorched remains of the ship that had brought him to Earth half a year ago.
Part V: Aftermath.
May 22, 2005
Marsius Denthar stood outside the Icon building in the Independence Port district and attached a new cape to his broach and pinned it to his uniform. Three years ago he had hated first wearing it when he was promoted in the Star Brigade. Now, it stood for something more than mere ceremonial dress. Now it honored Hero 1 and the brave men and women of the Omega team. Only one hero had made it back, but he had yet to meet or talk to the man called Ajax. It was something he reminded himself daily that he needed to do. Many men and women had died in the war against the Rikti, and Earth still wasn’t free of them. There were scattered pockets of them throughout the city, but now the numbers were in Earth’s favor. After the cleanup of Paragon City was underway, many more heroes and heroines started to show up in the city. The various criminal organizations had seen the war as their chance to make their mark in the city. Fortunately they would find Paragon City not as easy of a target as it had been in the past.
He looked over his new costume as well. The Crimsonstar pin that had been a mere rank of the Star Brigade when he arrived on Earth, was now the name he went by and it’s symbol had been changed to reflect that as a now large red star on the center of his chest. He had sworn to protect the people of this planet much the same way he had sworn to protect the citizens of his home galaxy, and since the hero population was inclined to have stylish and flamboyant names, he chose Crimsonstar as his.
“Hello Crimsonstar.” Marsius turned to see a man he didn’t recognize. The man simply smiled. “You knew me as Kid Spectre when you pulled my butt out of an alley in King’s Row.” He extended a hand and Crimsonstar shook it. “Yes! Yes I remember. How are you?” Marsius asked.
“The Rikti plasma weapons altered my powers somewhat considerably. I’m a lot more powerful now than when they first showed up. Oh I’m called just Spectre now.” There came the sounds of gunshots and screams from the dock area. Spectre faded out of view, and came back several moments later. “Listen I have to run, it seems that the reports of Lucsa weren’t entirely false. I have never got to properly thank you for saving my life. If you hadn’t come along I would have surely been found by Rikti and no doubt killed.” Marsius waved him off. “No thank you Spectre.”
Marsius rose to the air high enough to see the fabled giant octopus attacking the dock workers several blocks of Icon. “For reminding me that some good did come out of the Rikti attacks. It gave Earth heroes like you.” Spectre and Crimsonstar headed to Lucsa, other heroes were also arriving on the scene. ‘Not just me Crimsonstar. I hear you’re becoming quite the hero yourself. I’m sorry to hear that your way home, your ship, was lost, but I don’t think any other planet could have been so lucky to have you.”
“Nor I to have been lucky enough to be accepted so openly by Earth and its people.” He replied. Crimsonstar smiled at Spectre as he threw himself into one of Lucsa’s tentacles.