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Futuristic Arcadia: Heroes World Brave

"Indeed," Sasha said, nodding. "Although I was lucky in that my partner explained the details to me himself. I would not have the knowledge otherwise." Sasha folded his arms. "Although the souls you have collected may have been done villainous deeds in the past, that does not mean you cannot work with them now. Your Shinigami powers give you a high degree of control over spirits, but I believe that you are wasting the majority of your strength to hold them in line. And the Witchfinder we defeated is not as well-behaved as your others."
The members of the Brave scattered as Klaus' Zeittasches began to activate across the various groups of assailants gathered near the church. In seconds, each of them were struck by a wave of energy, freezing them in time. Henry, back in human form now, figured he should conserve more energy as he and the others figured out the next step.

"That should quell most of the fighting," Henry relayed to the others. "We can pick up the stragglers later. I think it's about time, we got to the source of all this havoc," he stated as he looked up at the giant spire of blood jutting out into the sky. "Good thing we have a pretty clear indicator on where to start."
"None of them are that well behaved but some have begun to lose strength already," Akiko said with a small laugh. "So they can't strangle me like they used to."

She laughed even harder though she wasn't entirely joking.

"But the Witchfinder has definitely given me the most trouble," Akiko frowned, recalling what happened at Alpheum. "If it hadn't been for that, I think I would have been more of a match for Sakinder. Well, I wouldn't have gone down so easily for sure. Good things he had that potion for stab wounds."
"Uh...I mean, I would say it wouldn't hurt, but given the appearance of that thing...it just might," Henry shrugged. "Before we do any knocking it over, I'd like to know just what it is we're dealing with. No telling if attacking it would cause some sort of adverse reaction that'll further damage the city."
"Yes, I was afraid of that," Sasha said, frowning. "A contract would restore the spirits' strength. Otherwise, they're likely to fade from this world, and the fate of those that pass on in such a manner is... unpleasant. I don't know what that would do to you either, considering your powers."

Sasha spread his hands. "I recommend we perform a ceremony. Speak to each of your spirits, and form a contract. I'm sure it will be a relief to them as much as yourself. I can supervise. The soul inside me is of a higher order." He patted the lantern still at his belt. "He has a... calming effect." Sasha chuckled.


"Fair enough," Albert nodded. "Well, there's no telling how long the Cobalt's trap will work. We shouldn't waste time. Maybe there's an entrance into that thing."
"I've... expelled two spirits before," Akiko said hesitantly, the pain of the memory clear on her face. "It took... a lot out of me."

Akiko frowned and glanced at the lantern, her suspicions confirmed.

"I mean, with proof like that, who can really argue? Plus, maybe it won't drain me so much so you don't have to ghost sit me like a ghost sitter. Ooh, ghost whisperer! Ghost whisperer... trainer? Ghosperer?"
"Yes, I'm sure it did," Sasha said. "But this won't be the same thing at all." Sasha glanced around. "We'll need a good open area. I would recommend we find an old building in the city that's not being used. Are you recovered enough to take a walk?"
"Bound to be heavily guarded...but hopefully we can make light work of whoever they have on duty, just like all their minions back there," Henry noted. Looking back up at the spire, he turned to ask Albert, "So this place was ACHI's right? Know anything about that could help us figure out why they'd target it? I mean I'm sure the organization has its secrets, but no one's ever gone after 'em like this. To my understanding anyway."

Upon approaching the building there was an odd formation. It appeared to be some sort of dome formed of...bubbles(?), around the size of two minivans. Perhaps something to be concerned about soon, there was no immediate alarm in its appearance other than how out of place it was.
"My clearance with ACHI was tenuous at best," Albert sighed. "I've never been much for following rules, and ACHI didn't appreciate that. They fired me remember? But even before that, they kept me in the dark. They sent me on enough missions to keep me on the hook, but they never showed any initiative in implementing my ideas. Toxic work environment honestly."

Albert gestured at the factory. "Stuff like this really bothers me. Superheroes shouldn't be corporate, or political. They should be above that. Instead, we've got shady people doing shady things in shady towns, and then one day, people are dying. I really hope ACHI doesn't have anything to do with what's going on here now. But if they did, they should be held accountable."
"Well, I can't say I disagree with you there," Henry sighed with a nod, seeing if anything interesting or of note could be detected within the factory with a sort of scanner. Maybe that way, it could be determined just what the nature of the blood tower was. "Things happen when you try and regulate something beyond your control, despite the warning signs."

"But I have hope the world will change it's ways soon. It'll have to. You were there with us in Europe. Sea monsters and ancient citiesfrom times long past just don't rise up from the sea every day," Henry continued, sliding through buttons on the scanners touch screen. "Things are...escalating beyond what Earth's governments hope to control."

As they were speaking, A robotic voice called out. "Sorry, but are you all trying to get in?" A voice rang from what appeared to be some sort of robotic silvery white humanoid, flashing red, yellow,and green sirens on the right pectoral of the silver armor covering his chest and large shoulderpads on which the word 'Rescue' was emblazoned on each side. A helmet rested upon his face from which a visor flipped downward and he continued to speak.

He appeared to have emerged out of the dome made of bubbles,exiting though a door like hatch and raising many questions as to what exactly was going on. "I assume you're the ones who cleaned up the fighting from the city's streets?" He pointed at the large mass of combatants frozen in time.

"Nice job!" He gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. "It's only a shame I couldn't provide further assitance. Well, until now anyway."

Henry scratched his head. Something about the armor of this guy looked familiar, but he'd inquire about that later. But he'd definitely seen this race of Bionoid before. "Uh. Exactly who are you...? And how can you help us out?"

"Ah, how rude of me!" The mechanoid hit himself on the head for forgetting such A basic formality. Suddenly standing at attention he saluted and blurted out, "Designation: Rescue-Man. All-terrain fire, air, sea, and space rescue specialist from Planet Rescue. Reporting for..."

He paused, before shrugging. "Well, I'm supposed to be here visitimg my uncle on vacation, but as soon as I landed on Earsh, this happens and-...say speaking of Earsh, I thought this planet was filled to the brim with defenders! Why'd it take until now for reinforcements to arrive. I sent over three dozen S.O.S signals to the appropriate government offices as per regulation..."
Albert shared a glance with Henry. "Next time just send a message to the Brave. Super-powered people we got, but defenders are scarce."

"So, uh, Rescue-Man, you know what's up with the tower?" Albert asked, pointing at the red mass.


Sasha set Akiko down, and retracted his wings he'd grown for the occasion. He glanced around at the large empty building and nodded.

"This should work, out of the way and quiet," he noted. "Even carpet, that's nice."
"Ah, yes," Rescue-Man folded his arms, with reminiscence and nodded up at the tower, before turning back around and further explaining, "Actually, no. But I've been protecting civilians fleeing in the vicinity in that fire-resistant dome I created. I've been concentrating on keeping them safe above all else until help arrived. A couple of them were witnesses to what happened but they've both been scared out of their wits."

"One appeared to be a hero in his own regard and the other an employee of this facility," Rescue-Man noted. "He has the key, in fact. Or had it until I asked him to acquiesce the keys to me. Though without even so much as swiping it across the security scanner, I could tell something was off. It was at one point the center of the battle, but now it appears completely isolated and defenseless."

"Meaning whoever's holed up in there means to get the jump on whoever can breach it's defenses and considering how rough the fighting has been...it's probably paid off well for them," Henry interjected.

"Precisely," Rescue-Man nodded. "But I doubt they have enough time to prepare for the combined firepower of your group. ...Probably. Should I lead the way so we can find out?"
The moment Akiko's feet touched the ground, she began setting out all the contents of the large burlap sack she had brought with her. Candles, chalk, markers, various pressed petals and flowers, 2 containers of food she had nicely asked for from the kitchen staff, and a few bottles of glitter. It would have been a lot less had Sasha made her walk but he had, thankfully, offered a ride instead. It was readily welcomed for Akiko wasn't sure if her current state was going to interfere with the ritual. No need to make it worse.

"Wasn't sure what we needed so I just brought all my own ritual stuff," she said as she shook the bottle of glitter. She set it down before pulling out several energy drinks, candy, and a tumbler full of coffee. She sat on the ground and took a sip of coffee. Her nose scrunched up and she forced herself to swallow the bitterness. Akiko had forgotten the creamer.

"So what are we doing?"
Rescue-Man brought the group of heroes closer to the tower. As they did, Albert noticed the full name of the company on the warehouse walls, and angrily turned to Henry.

"Anthem City Heavy Industries!" Albert pointed. "That's not the Atlas City Heroes Incorporated! Well, I'm at least a bit relieved to know it's not the company I was working for, but where do they get off using our acronym!"

Albert fumed for a second, then stared up at the rising blood spire. "Well, the door looks sealed shut due to a power failure. We can probably get it open pretty easily though."


"Have a seat, right there's fine," Sasha indicated, drawing a large circle around Akiko as she did so. "This circle will allow us to create a small pocket where the spirits will be able to talk freely. I'll use my own energy to do so. It will also keep them passive, so you won't have to worry about fighting them. The contract doesn't have to be complicated. You're coming from a place of power. The spirits need you to keep them from fading into oblivion; that is done by incorporating them into your powers. The lanterns you use will be their home, their new body of sorts. Of course, each spirit may request something, and you may request in return."

Sasha nodded. "At least, that's the theory. I'll be here to help. Think of this as a court proceeding. The defendant & prosecutor are yourself and the spirits, and I am the judge to acknowledge and authorize the proceedings."

"One more thing," Sasha said after a moment. "I know that you said these souls were villainous before their deaths. But that does not mean that they are evil in nature. A contract is one made in mutual trust. A violation of the contract will be enforced on either side, so it's a good idea to keep an open mind when forming the bonds." He smiled. "Well, it's nothing to really worry about. I have no expectations that this will go awry. So, we can begin whenever you're ready."
"You weren't exactly repping them a moment ago..." Henry recalled, shaking his head. "That is pretty confusing that they'd have the exact same acronym though..."

"It's unlocked!" Rescue-Man called out, waving an arm near the door. He opened the door to the facility, which shrieked like it was creaking with rust. Inside it appeared to be pitch black, the lights hanging above the ceiling not at all functioning. A chilling, rancid smell blasted outward. "Ah. Unpleasant. Thankfully, I can shut down olfactory senses."

"Good for you..." Henry commented, lifting his jacket over his face to cover his nose. "Let's hurry on ahead. See if we can knock down this Blood Tower," he stated, stepping inside.
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Another bookmark...

"No, no, no...it's all wrong."

"Wrong? How so? I thought it was all proceeding so swimmingly, myself."

He slowly turned back the page.

"There was....a lull in the narrative. Elements beyond my control. So much of this is left to chance you see."

"So what will you do now? Take a page from another book. Weave together a new grand tapestry? Your power wanes, my friend....and such things bode ill as the great shadow looms over us all. Should you fail..."

"I know what awaits me...there've been too many alterations already. I will take no risks...Oh? What's this? A page is missing."

"...What does that mean? Should we be concerned?"

"No...quite the opposite. There's a glimmer of hope in this old man's eyes...a vision of the future...where glorious new order awaits. Let it be done. Let the narrative continue..."

"Yes, let's hope it does. If our plans for Earth are to come to fruition, this is one obstacle we most overcome. Do you not agree, son?"

"Babuu babuuuu!"

Several pages ago...

Henry downed the last of his orange juice as he sat the rest of the group for breakfast. There had been quite a bit of time to rest between the events that had unfolded in Australia and the attack upon Anthem City in which....where...the two armies, the blood red mercs, and the humanoid abominations. The blood-red flower that reached toward the sky.

When did it vanish? Why did it...

"Any of you all sense weird deja vu...." he asked the others across the table as he used his fork to steal Akiko's french toast while she was distracted looking at her phone. "I think..." he mentioned in between bites. "Reality is being reset or something...We should probably look into that at some point," he shrugged. "I'm not too worried about it now, since if we're starting to realize it, someone's really screwed something up."

"Though I am pretty worried about not remembering what went down in Anthem. At least all the fighting's over but the government's pretty much locked the whole city down," he continued. "Guess there isn't much we can do about that now either," Henry shrugged. "But there is something our reports have picked up that might pique your interest Sasha."

Henry slid a tablet across the table to Sasha, a blurry image showing two figures, one walking past another whose head seem to have been in the midst of erupting. "There were several incidents like these in Atlas City last night. Just so happens this was shortly after satellite cameras picked up a mini-sub hailing from the Siberian Coast that had landed on Atlas City Beach. If you know anything....or even if you don't, I say it's worth taking a look at."
There was a feeling that events were replaying. Though Akiko wasn't sure if it was actual deja vu or just the vague sense of it considering how often the gang hung out together during breakfast. It wasn't that often since they were still new to all this but it was starting to get familiar. Familiar enough that Henry stealing her breakfast felt wrong so she swiped his orange juice to set balance to the world.

As she pulled her hand back, she noticed something sparkling. It was glitter.

Her face scrunched up in thought and she blew on it but it didn't come off. She tried to rub it on her pants and it merely transferred over. Deciding that was the best outcome, Akiko looked over at the tablet in Sasha's hands. She was practically pressed up against him to get a good look, Akiko feeling comfortable enough to do so.

"You think with modern technology, we'd get better pictures," she complained.
Sasha stared at the picture, his recollection uneasy. Hadn't he...? He glanced at Akiko, frowning, then looked up at Henry.

"I don't know anyone who has the power to do that, but I have a feeling they were sent by..."


The screen in the room snapped on as an alarm began to sound in the submarine. It was an alert for the heroes aboard the submarine, telling them that they were needed. The location: Atlas City. Sasha stared at the images playing, his eyes growing wide as simultaneous news broadcasts began playing.

Ten minutes earlier

The man sitting on the subway as it rattled its way through the underground of Atlas City seemed average at first glance - he wore a simple, dark brown coat, slightly large for him, with a collared gray shirt and slacks that matched. He could have been coming to or from work at this hour of the morning. His eyes were downturned, his posture relaxed. Nothing about him was assuming in the slightest. Simply another member of the crowded train.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and without looking at it, the man answered.

"Report," came the voice over the phone, a man's voice, deep and gravelly.

"Nichego," the man stated shortly. "Koschei remains in hiding. His apartment was cleared out months ago."

"What is your plan?" came the reply after a pause.

"I grow tired of this," the man said, his eyes narrowing as he raised his fingers to eye level, peering at the dirt under his fingernails in apparent boredom. "We tried to do this quietly. I will... make some noise."

"You are not authorized to cause an incident." The man on the phone spoke too quickly, a slight stammer in his voice. "Do not..."

"I will do what I must," the man said, and ended the call. The phone buzzed almost immediately again, but the man calmly silenced it and returned it to his pocket. The other passengers on the train were hardly paying attention. The man's eyes ran over them. A man and woman with a child, their daughter perhaps. An elderly couple. A few dozen solo passengers, most of whom were dressed similarly to himself. It was a full train.

As his eyes roamed, a group of young men entered the car, laughing. Their noise cut above the clicking of the tracks and sliced through the usual silence of riders. They were brash and brave in a group, their confidence bolstered by the lack of authority and their egos jostling with each other in a truly obnoxious display. One of the boys grabbed a drink from a person seated, then threw it into the person's face when they protested. The others laughed and slapped the kid on the back, proud of the petty display of power.

The man stood, gripping one of the handles above him. The young men noticed him as they approached, their eyes drawn to the name embroidered on the man's coat.

"What kind of name is that!" one of them pointed out, his finger crudely jabbing in the direction of the words. "Jay keys? More like gay keys am I right?" The boys all guffawed, six voices mingling together. The man blinked slowly, facing the group directly.

"No," he said. "My name... is Jacques."

"I'm sorry, what?" the boy snickered again. "Did you say COCK?" They really liked that one, their laughter even louder this time.

The man's brow furrowed, his frown growing. "No. My name is Jacques."

"Gay cock!" the boy yelled, pointing at the man whose name was Jacques, his mouth open tremendously wide as his voice brayed like a donkey. "Gay c----"

The boy never said anything past that as his head burst apart, blood and bits of bone and skin splattering his friends in horrific gore. The laughter was gone almost instantly, terror replacing it as the young men began to scream. And it wasn't only them, the entire car seemed to writhe away from the body as it collapsed.

Only Jacques remained calm. His eyes turned to the next young man, whose scream was particularly loud.

"SILENCE," Jacques growled. The boy simply screamed so Jacques blew his head up too.

Two of them tried to run. They didn't get far, their bodies collapsing onto several of the other passengers.

"Two left," Jacques said, stepping up to the shaking young men, one of whom was in the middle of pissing his pants. Jacques didn't like that, so then there was only one. Jacques leaned in close.

"My name," Jacques hissed to the last boy. "Say it."

"J-J-Jacques," the boy managed to squeak out.

"That's right," Jacques said and let the boy's fear be released in another explosion of gore. The car had gone quite silent now. Jacques adjusted his clothing and clicked his tongue at some of the blood that had splattered his coat.

He looked up at the others on the train. "I feel I must apologize. Know that I have nothing against any of you. Understand your sacrifice today will not be in vain."

The stench of fear was almost unbearable as Jacques clapped his hands together.

The train sped into the station like a immense bullet, smashing into the walls and careening into the waiting crowd. Screaming began filling the air as the station began collapsing, the train catching fire and exploding. From the wreckage, Jacques strode, untouched as he walked over the casualties he'd caused below his feet. He followed those who had escaped the chaos up the stairs to the plaza they began from, humming to himself.

They were all fodder.

Randomly, parts would explode. Heads. Arms. Legs. Guts. There were hundreds of people to choose from. His mind flashed and blood was spilled.

It wouldn't be long now.


The Bedivere

"What at first seemed to be a horrible accident is now seeming like a terrorist attack on Atlas City," the news reporter said, her features pale and her hands shaking. "I apologize for the g-graphic nature of these images, but this man..." The camera zoomed in on an image. "...is believed to be the cause. His powers are unknown, but it is clear he..."

Sasha was already moving.


Atlas City

"GAAAAAAAAAAH!" the nameless hero screamed as Jacques tore his arms off with a gesture.

"You are not Koschei," Jacques said, resting his chin on one of the detached arms' hands. "You shouldn't have come."

The hero only continued screaming, so Jacques blew his head up, ending the noise. Emergency vehicles were arriving now, and other heroes would soon be here as well. Jacques yawned. This was all so tiresome.

Jacques felt it before he saw it. An immense pressure - like what he would imagine feeling if he were in the ocean, helpless, as a great shark's jaws opened wide to engulf him. A dark streak across the sky, propelled on black wings, moving impossibly fast. Jacques reacted fast - he had to. Koschei had come.



Sasha ripped the air apart, his demon form tearing down at Jacques like a torpedo launched from the submarine he'd burst from. Black lightning coated one of his hands as he ripped it forth, with all the rage and strength he could muster.

But Jacques was waiting for him. A hand was raised and Sasha's fist hit a barrier more solid than any man-made material could create. Sasha was literally suspended in the air, all of his kinetic force and devilish energy dispersing against that barrier.

"So you finally came, Koschei!" Jacques smiled. "My name is Jacques. I am here to collect you."

"I will kill you," Sasha snarled, raising his other hand as it transformed into a blade. "Just like you killed all these innocent people."

"You killed them, Koschei," Jacques said, clicking his tongue. "You killed them the moment you refused to give yourself up. And you cannot stop me from killing more."

As if to prove his point, Jacques lifted his other hand and a building nearby began to rumble and shake. Sasha's eyes snapped to the building, widening in horror.

"I will tear this city apart, Koschei," Jacques said, his eyes emitting a strange glow. "Or you will surrender. But I will not wait for your answer for long. You have five seconds, and then I will continue killing."

"You...!" Sasha choked out.

"You are weak Koschei," Jacques hissed. "Why they want you back I'll never understand. But I was sent to retrieve you and retrieve you I shall. Your answer, Koschei, now."

"I will stop-" Sasha began, and then the building exploded. It was a five-story office building. Jacques ripped it apart in an instant, sending brick and mortar into nearby buildings, crashing over the emergency vehicles parked nearby.

"Did you think I was bluffing Koschei?" Jacques roared, and Sasha found himself flying into the ground, smashing through a vehicle and into another building. He caught a glimpse of horrified faces of the workers inside, before he was torn back outside and slammed into the ground. Wave after wave of energy smashed into Sasha, driving him into the earth and then ripping him back up to float in front of Jacques, hardly able to move.

Jacques' power was terrifying. It must have been some kind of telekinesis but the scope of it was astonishing. Not even Darm had hit this hard. Sasha could feel his consciousness wavering, but there was still...

"So you're the one they got to replace me, huh?" Sasha coughed. "You're just a brute, no finesse. No class. What a shame."

Jacques laughed. "No, Koschei, I am not your replacement. I am your improvement. I am everything you are, and everything you are not. You think you're special because of your demon? You are not, Koschei." The glow in Jacques' eyes increased. "Now, surrender."

"I don't think my friends would like that," Sasha said, his eyes focusing behind Jacques. Jacques only sighed.
The Bedivere

Henry paced back and forth in the hangar as he awaited his call to go through. Without a doubt, the Mayor's phone line was blowing up with calls on how to handle the sudden attack that had taken the city by surprise. And while his first priority was monitoring the call, making sure it went through, and offering assistance with the efforts to quell this new threat, his concern lay elsewhere.

His cell phone in his hands, Henry awaited a call from his cousins, anything indicating that they were okay in the wake of this sudden attack. Henry's free hand curled into a fist, which he slammed against the VTOL, a loud thud echoing throughout the hangar. "Marshal, Anette come on, answer..." He sighed. They didn't live near uptown, but the possibility was still there that they were in danger....or worse. Of course, with all the panic that was sure to be ensuing, it was likely that they wouldn't be able to answer for some time just yet. All he could do was hope and pray at the moment.

And this event....another blindsiding for Atlas City. This couldn't happen again. How much more sudden tragedy could the people take? Not even the local heroes were able to react until far after the events had occurred. And as far as The Brave went, as far as Henry was concerned, the days of getting info secondhand from the news were over. The alarm system had been discussed and plans were put into motion...but once the dust was settled on this chaos, it will be implemented as soon as possible.

Suddenly, a sharp voice cut through the silence of Henry's thoughts. The phone had finally been answered.

"Hello? This is Mayor Gideon Gauss...I don't recognize this number. How did you get a direct line to-"

"There's not a lot of time to explain. Just wanted to ask if there was there any assistance needed with the evacuation efforts?" Henry asked immediately, masking his normal speaking voice with a different, gruffer tone.

"ACHI and others are currently assisting in the evacuation efforts. We're sending for additional support to come in from across the nation. May I ask which super team you're associated with so that I may-"

"Other organizations might not be able to arrive in time. Luckily, we were in the vicinity. I haven't fully ascertained what this assailant's abilities are, but from the reports, the carnage that results from them seems to be immediate, as I'm sure you've noticed. "

"...Who is this?! This is a very harrowing time for my city and I don't need to have MY time wasted on-"

"And I apologize for that. All I'm going to say is this. Keep everyone, civilians, heroes, and rescue operatives who don't exhibit high durability, at a distance from the scene of the attack. We'll be there to handle things shortly. That's our promise."

"WHO ARE YOU?! I'll...hello? HELLO?!"


Atlas City, Mayor's Office, Bunker 14

"Gone... Trace the call," Gauss commanded, turning to his secretary as he swiveled around in his chrome chair in a sterile white room filled with various technological wonders. Abandoned projects mostly...to be worked on and perfected at a later date.

"We can't sir..." she answered in a slightly perplexed but mostly emotionless tone. "This level of encryption is usually reserved for UN Super Teams. They normally would have no need to remain anonymous."

"No...no, they wouldn't," Gauss frowned, resting his chin in his hand. "Have we any word from Washington or Sacramento on when aid will be provided?"

"ETA is an hour," his secretary noted.

"An hour?" the mayor sighed. "Send out an inquiry to all super teams currently present in the city. I want dossiers on all active members. Let them know..." he gave a reluctant sigh. "To keep the streets clear."


Atlas City
Jacques laughed. "No, Koschei, I am not your replacement. I am your improvement. I am everything you are, and everything you are not. You think you're special because of your demon? You are not, Koschei." The glow in Jacques' eyes increased. "Now, surrender."

"I don't think my friends would like that," Sasha said, his eyes focusing behind Jacques. Jacques only sighed.

Behind Jacques a VTOL was already in rapid approach before managing a swift landing in the middle of a field of debris, a dozen or so feet away from Sasha and Jacques, its turbines kicking up dust and causing it to spread outward around the area, clouding it.

Klaus sat inside the VTOL, strapped into his harness. He had activated his suit much earlier than normal to hide his ashen skin. He fought the churning in his stomach as the craft took them toward Atlas City. He wasn't air sick, he'd never had a bout of motion sickness in his life, but something was eating away at him and his health. Time was in flux, more so than usual, affecting Klaus physically. He had tried several times over the last few days to revisit Anthem City, to see things from a different perspective, but each time the Chrono-Dialer would error out, he'd find himself waking up hours later in the spot he'd tried to time travel from. He couldn't shake the eerie sense of Deja Vu that he and the others expressed and the gnawing that something was missing. Klaus understood he needed to get his head on straight to be useful in the coming fight, but he truly felt he was needed somewhere else. He vowed to get to the bottom of what was going on one way or another.

Akiko zipped out of the VTOL, invisible and intangible, as she made her way through the smoke. Moments away from reaching Sasha's opponent, she switched the lanterns, the belt announcing, BREAK, QUAKE, SHAKE. SHINIGAMI EARTH SHAKER. Rocks and mud coalesced around her and then exploded outward, wrecking anything in its path. Vines followed after, surrounding her to both shield her and pull her out of melee range of their opponent.
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A silver comet streaked across the sky after the VTOL, almost too fast to spot with the naked eye. Lynne soared high above the smoking, bloody wreckage of the battlefield, peppering the villainous Frenchman with bolts of moonlight. She and Shinigami Gray were working in tandem to try and pin him down, but something seemed... off. The man barely budged, like their attacks were barely an annoyance.

And that was giving Lynne a very bad feeling.
Jacques gritted his teeth as both Akiko's and Lynne's attacks splattered against the telepath's barrier ineffectively.

"Koschei..." Jacques growled, his glare boring into Sasha. "This is very tiresome. Do I have to kill them too? Do I need to make you watch me do it? Were the innocents not enough?"

Before Jacques' gaze, Sasha's demon form dissipated. Sasha stared back at Jacques, his gaze calm.

"No," Sasha said. "I surrender, Jacques. I will return with you to Russia."

"Words I have longed to hear," Jacques muttered under his breath. Still ignoring the Brave, Jacques pulled out his phone and hit the call button.


"This is why I hate you Jacques," Burv said, answering the call. "You've made a huge mess."

"Koschei has surrendered," Jacques said, hanging up.

Burv let out a long breath, running a hand through his unkempt blonde hair. "Well, I guess we're good to go. Let's get this over with. Srin, block the VTOL. Umvor, that air gal. Everyone else, with me. Stop Shinigami if you have to. I'll need ten seconds once we're down there, let's go."

They were ready. Burv took a deep breath and activated the warp.


Jacques' team teleported in a few seconds after Jacques hung up his cell. Nine of them in total, Sasha noted. The chaos was immediate. A wall of earth jutted into the VTOL at the short one's gesture, knocking it onto its side and forming a barrier for those still inside to pass. Lightning leaped at Lynne from the tall woman's outstretched hand. Fire flickered at Akiko, urging her to keep her distance. They had been waiting for this.

Sasha looked at the VTOL, at his friends. He smiled sadly. "It was a nice dream."

He said it quietly, but somehow he felt they heard him anyway. "Don't follow me, okay?"

"Do it, Burv," Jacques said, running a hand through his hair. "I'm tired of this place."

The big blonde one nodded in response, and linked his fingers together. The world flickered around Sasha.


Albert climbed back to his feet, having been thrown to the side by the attack on the VTOL. His fists clenched. He wasn't part of the Brave but it was clear Sasha was being contained somehow. Nine - some of their powers were showing but the others were holding back. He would...

As suddenly as they had appeared, the group of what could only be described as villains was gone. Sasha too. Just vanished. A trick of the light? No, that... pressure, or whatever you want to call it, that the first one had been emitting... it was gone.

Albert put down his fists.

"Henry," he said slowly. "They're gone. They took Sasha and they're gone."

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