What little remained of the bunker’s top floor became even less stable as a meaty fist burst through one of the southern walls. The impact was shocking, however the guards had been expecting some manner of attack for a while now. They didn’t hesitate, unloading bullets, energy, one guard with enhanced strength even threw bits of rubble as hard as he could at the invader. It was an impressive assault, enough to wound almost any Super on the planet at the very least, if not kill them outright. The trouble, though, was that “almost” meant there were exceptions, and in this case it was one of the world’s most famous examples.
The figure kept on coming, pausing only long enough to widen the wall’s hole. He loomed over them, huge, muscular, and utterly unbothered by their attempts to slow him down. One of the guards finally took notice of the mask, hands shaking as he realized who they were trying to stop with something as paltry as powers and bullets. “Shit, is that… Titan?”
Behind Titan’s imposing figure, they could now see the fallen bodies of a dozen guards who’d been trying to hold the perimeter. They were all in one piece, probably unconscious, although it was impossible to say from a glance. One thing that did become clear, however, was that Titan wasn’t alone. Not far away was another man, shirtless and swinging a heavy bat around as he dropped the last outer guard that was trying to rise. That done, the stranger waltzed up to Titan’s side, eyes on his newest batch of targets.
“Well boys, Titan here’ll probably tell you to throw down your weapons and surrender, but me, I’ve got a lot of frustration built up over the course of today, and I’d welcome more outlets for it. Your call.”
Two of the guards locked eyes, trying to think things through. The new guy was clearly a strongman as well, so while this pair would be tough as hell, they wouldn’t be able to do as much against environmental abilities. If the last guard could turn the dirt into quicksand, then they might have a shot at getting away. It was, to be fair, the correct strategy to use against such a threat. Unfortunately, the guards had failed to properly assess the extent of the danger they were in.
A swift blow to the head dropped the man nearest the exit, with a pair of strikes taking out two more guards in rapid succession. The others turned in time to see the bone-covered blonde man who had somehow snuck up on them, spinning to flee and finding themselves staring at a Hero in black armor with a white circle on the front.
“See, this is why you use your bulk to make a distraction rather than go for a frontal assault with the whole team,” Titan explained as Dean Blaine and Chad worked their way through the surprised guards. “If we’d all come charging in, we consolidate into one threat. Going from multiple angles, especially with people as silent and well-trained as these two, gives us the advantage of surprise multiple times.”
“I never said your way wasn’t smart, I just pointed out that mine was more fun,” Roy countered.
With the last guard tumbling to the ground, the room was officially clear. Dean Blaine did a quick sweep of the halls to make sure no one was coming before addressing the group. “Right now, our primary goal is to find and neutralize the anchors so that the DVA can send reinforcements. This whole building is in tatters, so presumably the anchors have to be hiding somewhere below. Chad, we’ll be counting on you and your senses to help us find them. In the meantime, let Titan and Roy take the lead. They can withstand more punishment than us, so they’ll be the hammer we use to smash through while you and I act as daggers to strike the ones that try to slip past.”
“Sound plan,” Titan agreed. “But if I can make one suggestion: even if the boys don’t have masks on, we are still in an active crime scene. It might make more sense to start using their code names, just to be as safe as possible.”
“I suppose that would be smarter, especially as we go deeper into this place. Very well then, from here on, you will be Ettin and Intra, respectively. Any objections to that?”
Chad solemnly shook his head, while Roy let out a whoop of laughter. “Can’t say a single one hops to mind. My first day out as Ettin.” He paused, surveying the carnage all around them. “Honestly, it’s about how I imagined it.”
* * *
The group was drawing in close as Vince rapidly cycled through his options. A jump was no good, that just made him a floating target instead of a standing one. The orange energy was used up, and while he could try the kinetic defense he’d used against Conrad that probably wouldn’t do much against energy, explosions, sonic… a lot of things. Making the whole area go dark was probably his best shot, but he’d be defenseless as he absorbed the light. One lucky shot is all it would take. If Vince was going to bet on anything though, luck seemed a good choice. Maybe somewhere out there, Nick would be putting in a good word with Lady Fortune.
Just as Vince was about the draw in the light, he noticed something strange. All of the guards around him froze in place, not even breathing. Then, without so much as a word or a gasp, they tumbled silently to the ground. Once they hit, their breathing resumed, which was both worrying and a relief, but Vince was already swinging his head around, trying to figure out what Hero had given him a hand. It was no one with a cape or mask, though. Instead, Vince found himself staring up at a floating platform that had moved overhead, into the familiar face of a man he thought he’d lost at the age of thirteen.
“Been a while,” Vince said.
“That’s the trouble with being famous. Everyone always wants a piece of you, and it gets hard to make time for the people who really matter.” Despite the flippant words, Globe’s teeth were grit as he fended off more attacks coming at him from behind. Saving Vince had cost him in terms of focus and effort, his already weary body was showing signs of extreme fatigue. “Had to be there when it mattered at least once, though. And I wanted to say I’m sorry. For having to fake my death, for what being my son brought down upon your head, for having to stay away, all of it. I had to tell you that, face-to-face, while I still could. All of the horrible things that Chuck caused, the pain he created, the terrible direction he took my life in, you were the bright spot in that darkness. Whatever happens today, whatever comes out of this, with you as a Hero I at least know I’m leaving the world in good hands.”
Using a controlled jump, Vince leapt up onto the platform, landing only a few feet away from Globe’s shaking form. Carefully, Vince wrapped his arms around the hunched former Hero, shielding him with his body. “I’ll take everything kinetic. You handle the other stuff. There’s a healer over by the giant tree. If you can get us there, maybe we can get your stamina restored.”
“Hallow isn’t going to heal me. I’m a criminal. His job is to stop me, not lend a hand. Even if he believes I’m innocent, it’s his duty to take me into custody until that’s proven. Same for any Hero out here. They have to do what’s right by the law, and I won’t drag anyone else into my mess. It’s okay, Vince. This was always going to happen like this. Just jump down and get clear. I got to see you, to tell you how proud I am of the Hero you’ve become. That’s more than I deserved, or ever dared hope for. Seeing you escape safely will be enough.”
More attacks were hitting the platform, Globe still halting them before they drew close to either of them. He wasn’t going to bend on this, and Vince knew it. Globe was going to die on this platform, he’d probably planned it that way all along.
“Father, with all due respect, you’re trying to take the easy way out, and that’s not the kind of man you taught me to be. Heroes keep fighting, especially when it’s the hardest, because we have to. That’s what it means to take on that title, and the responsibility that comes with it.” Vince waited a few seconds longer, until there was a lull in the attacks. Globe was just turning to look up at his son when Vince struck, a single surprise punch to the jaw. Hard as Globe was working to be aware of external threats, it never occurred to him to expect an attack from Vince. In his exhausted state, the hit knocked Globe out clean, sending him limply to the ground. Wasting no time, Vince scooped him up and leapt away from the platform before the next volley of strikes hit.
If no Hero was going to help, then Vince would turn elsewhere. He knew she was here, knew as soon as he saw the wave of white uniforms wash over the battlefield that she’d be among them. She was always there, charging headlong into fights, one of the few people Vince had absolute faith and trust in. He just had to find her before everyone figured out where Globe had gone to.
Although, it wasn’t exactly how he’d imagined introducing Camille to his father.