Los Angeles; September 1st, 1986
“Do we HAVE to do this, Doctor? Again?”, Protector asked the deranged supervillain, as they faced off right at the center of Downtown Los Angeles.
The two men were a study in opposites. Protector, nearly two meters tall, with a muscular build that would have made a certain red-and-blue comic character envious, wore a skintight metallic silver suit with a pristine white cape. He wore his curly blond hair so long it reached his shoulders, framing a face that might as well have been chiseled by a master artist and eyes so blue they made the sky envious. Unlike most superheroes, he did not bother with a mask or a secret identity – everyone knew he was Jason Davon, former EMT from the suburbs of LA.
As he levitated several feet above the ground, he looked down at his archenemy, Doctor Frederick Stratheim, aka Doctor Despair. The elder man was encased in a massive suit of power armor that let him stand even taller than the Protector at nearly three meters. He did not wear a helmet, his head sticking out of the neck of his pure black power suit and encased by a half-sphere of what looked like glass. The suit had no less than two guns, one contraption that looked like a satellite dish and one rocket launcher mounted on its massive shoulders, with another gun-like contraption on its left forearm. The right arm did not end in a hand, instead turning into a massive axe-head made of a greenish metal. A massive rocket-pack was mounted on the back of the suit, with additional rockets on the backs of its calves. Its legs ended in a set of massive feet with wheels installed. The man inside the suit was far less impressive. Only his head was visible, but that was enough to imagine what the rest of him looked like. His face was aged and wizened. He had never been a beautiful or even good-looking man, always haggard and gnarled, but now the left side of his face was marred by a horrible burn scar and the rest of his face marred with wrinkles and liver spots. His eyes were a muddy brown, filled with a mad spark that revealed his deranged mind to all, his hair was completely missing.
“I shall not stand down! Let this be our final battle, Protector!”, the mad contriver shouted at his archenemy. Before said archenemy could respond, he leveled the dish-like contraption at him, which promptly emitted a bright green beam that slammed into LA’s fabulous superhero.
Protector was thrown back and nearly crashed into a news helicopter that was observing the battle. He managed to stop his movement just a few centimeters away from destroying it and retaliated by firing blazing red twin beams of heat from his eyes. Unfortunately, Doctor Despair was ready for it, having experienced it time and time again for decades. Thus, his suit deflected the attack.
On the other hand, the Doctor was not the only one who could learn from past fights. The Protector targeted the ground beneath his enemy’s feet, melting it until the heavy suit sunk into it. But Doctor Despair activated his rocket pack and calf thrusters, rising up into the air.
He simultaneously launched one of the rockets from his launcher, while also aiming with his left arm-gun at the whiteclad superhero, shooting a red heatbeam not unlike the one the Protector himself used.
Not knowing what new contrivance was built into the rocket, the Protector evaded both attacks and shot his eyebeams at the rocket as it flew past him, detonating it when it was safely in the air.
“Thirty years! Do you even remember? It has been thirty years since our first battle. Right here. I was robbing the Lamarr Bank and you stopped me!”, shouted the old supervillain. “I was your first enemy. You mine. The first crime I committed, the first you stopped!”
He broke into a coughing fit just as he launched another rocket, while the guns on his shoulders aimed at the zig-zagging metahuman, trying to restrict his movement. They could not harm him, not truly. The only ones who had ever managed to truly harm the Protector were Lady Light and The Dark, and even they had to work hard at it. These shots? They just inconvenienced him.
The Protector used the Doctor’s distraction to detonate the second rocket and fly in close, ramming the power suit head on and driving it into the ground so hard, it cracked the street.
“Enough, madman! You cannot harm me – you only endanger innocents!”, he shouted at his nemesis. Before Doctor Despair could react, he began pounding the transparent dome protecting his head, punching so quickly and so hard that it began fracturing after just two seconds.
Three more seconds and he was able to rip it off, just as the Doctor was about to grab him with the suit’s left arm.
“SURRENDER!”, the Protector shouted with his superpowered voice. It nearly knocked his enemy out. Though the Doctor had proven himself time and again immune to the compelling aspects of this particular power, he relented.
“Thir-…” Another coughing fit. “Thirty years. I can’t even remember how long ago I stopped caring about crime and just worked to defeat you“, the old man spat at him. “Now I’m dying and before I go, I want to try one last time. One last fight, a great fight, a fight to remember. YOU OWE ME THAT!”
With that, the suit erupted into a greenish wave of energy that blew the rubble around them, along with the superhero, away from the suit, which used its thrusters to return to a vertical position.
“THIRTY YEARS! AND NOW, AFTER ALL THIS TIME, I HAVE THE MEANS TO END YOU, JASON! FINALLY, YOU SHALL FALL TO THE MIGHT OF DOCTOR DESPAIR!”
Suddenly, several formerly invisible power suits appeared around them. They were all similar in design to the one worn by the doctor himself, only less elaborate and slightly smaller, though with a far more numerous array of guns. Instead of human faces inside the transparent domes they featured his trademark Roboskulls as pilots. They aimed their countless weapons at the dumbstruck hero, ready to end his life…
Just then, a point of light appeared between Doctor Despair and the Protector. The two metahuman legends were taken off guard as the point grew until it became a naked human toddler, floating a meter and a half above the ground.
Dumbstruck, the two watched what was obviously a newborn babe, if a completely pristine one. The little girl just floated there, a soft halo of light playing around her body.
The Roboskulls immediately lowered their weapons as both hero and villain approached the child. When they were close enough that either of them could have reached around the child to hit the other, they paused and watched.
“What is this? A part of your plan?”, the Protector asked, though he did not believe that possible.
Frederick snorted with an insulted expression. “Please, I would never stoop so low as to involve a babe in my plans! Just look at her, she is obviously a metahuman!”
They watched again. The girl had a little tuft of hair that looked like it was made of pure, white light. The light that played around her body was of the same colour, though far less brilliant.
“I never heard of a metahuman manifesting so early”, Jason replied.
“Well, it is strange. Nonetheless, we should get her to safety”, Frederick replied, not even proposing a ceasefire. That went without saying.
“Of course. I’ll take her, your suit is not exactly suited for that…”
As the Protector reached out for the floating babe, she opened her eyes. They glowed white, just like her hair, only so brightly they were like stars in her eye sockets. The Protector hesitated and in that moment, the child opened her mouth and wailed.
* * *
The Protector blinked and instinctively used his flight power to raise himself up into a standing position. Dazed, he looked around, not believing what he saw – and what his mind was working out.
His innate time sense told him that it had been only eight seconds since the child had wailed. Yet, that one, short wail had not only knocked him out for a few seconds – it had leveled the downtown area for at least four blocks in every direction.
Looking around, he could see the shattered remains of the Skullbots – at least those that were still around. The wail had not only destroyed the surrounding buildings, but also pushed everything back to the edge of the explosion’s radius, leaving a flat, clean plane at the center of which still floated the babe.
His enhanced eye sight allowed him to see Doctor Despair standing up at the opposite end of the plane, blood flowing from his nose, ears and eyes. He seemed dazed.
His enhanced hearing let him hear screams of terror and surprise, wails of wounded and emergency sirens.
And at the center of it all, the babe, silent once more. The Protector watched as it turned around towards him, its glowing eyes fixating on him. A rainbow-hued scintillating pattern of light flashed around her body. It was the only warning he got before a beam of bright white energy was launched at him.
The man who could easily evade bullets barely managed to evade. A sharp, burning pain gripped him as the beam disintegrated his left arm. He screamed and fell while hearing how the beam cut through the buildings far behind him and how they collapsed soon afterward.
Looking at his shoulder, he saw that the edges were glowing in a soft white light, like it stuck to him. The pain it caused him was beyond belief and it was all he could do not to scream.
So preoccupied was he with the unfamiliar sensation of pain that he did not notice how his archenemy flew over to him and floated right beside him.
“Jason! Can you stand?”, he asked in a weak voice, still dazed from the sonic blast that had levelled downtown.
He did not have the strength to stand, so he used his flight to right himself, catching a glimpse at the floating child. It was eerily silent, unmoving, unblinking, just looking at them without acting.
“What… what is that child? It is too powerful!”, he gasped.
“We have to do something, or it might destroy the entire city!” Doctor Despair aimed his rocket launcher at the child, and before the Protector could say anything, he launched his third missile.
As it approached the child, another scintillating pattern flashed across her tiny body. The space in front of the child bend and twisted and then the rocket was sucked into a single, compressed point that promptly vanished.
“God. Just how many powers does that child have?”, Doctor Despair asked.
The Protector, still only partially coherent, could all but see the wheels turning in his archenemy’s prodigious brain.
“Jason. I know you won’t like this, but… we can’t let a toddler with this much power live”, Frederick said, his voice pained.
Jason nearly hit him, but mastered himself in time to not do so. “Are you insane? Kill a baby?”
“Think, man, think. Look at what she did with just a wail and two glances!”, he shouted back, gesturing around. “A baby has no self-control, no restraint. With this much unchecked power, she could become a greater threat than me and The Dark and Sovereign put together!”
The Protector looked around just as another pattern flashed around the child’s body. Even with his enhanced reflexes, he had barely any time before she opened her mouth and wailed again.
This time, there was no sonic blast that leveled several city blocks. Instead, the earth itself shook and heaved in rhythm with her rising and falling wail. Jason could hear how the earthquake spread for several kilometers around the city. Buildings shook and collapsed, as a fresh chorus of screams rose to his already tortured ears. Had he and Frederick not floated above the ground, they would have been thrown down.
Jason looked at the child with horror, not even noticing that the painful light on his left shoulder had vanished. An entire earthquake, with just one wail? No one, not a single metahuman, had ever been this powerful. Never.
With growing dread, he looked at the child as it rose higher from the ground. The earth under it buckled and heaved and five large monoliths of compressed earth and concrete rose to orbit around the babe.
The monoliths moved faster and faster and every time the child disappeared and reappeared behind one of them, she seemed to grow a bit older.
Jason and Frederick looked on, as the child went through two decades of growth in seconds.
When she was done, the monoliths collapsed and fell to the ground. What floated in the air was no longer a newborn baby. It was a woman in her late teens, earliest twenties. She was the single most beautiful being either of them had ever seen.
Her hair of light reached all the way down to her ankles, smooth and straight and shining. Her body was perfectly proportioned, both luscious and slender. Strong and vulnerable at the same time. Her long, delicate fingers were tipped by nails glowing just as white as her hair and eyes, as were her toes.
The woman’s eyes blazed just as brightly as before, her face set in a relaxed, serene expression.
She moved her head, looking at the two veterans of metahuman conflict. Both of them were, again, dumbstruck, both at the transformation and the beauty before them.
This time, the Protector reacted, grabbing Doctor Despair and shooting upward just as two massive pillars shot out of the ground, colliding were the two of them had floated just seconds before.
“We have to fight her! There is no time for compassion!”, Doctor Despair shouted as he launched a barrage of shots from all of his guns and the laser dish. A massive chunk of earth was ripped out of the earth and blocked the attack.
“Goddammit, Jason, I need help!”, Doctor Despair shouted as the floating mass of earth broke into several missiles and flew at them. His suit’s left arm split open, forming a large half-sphere that projected a force field in front of them, blocking the attack.
Just as the Protector was about to answer, a group of four men and two women in brightly coloured outfits arrived at the scene – the Six Sentries had come to help!
* * *
Sentry Red and Sentry Blue immediately charged the shining woman, their bodies shrouded in energy of their respective colour. Sentry Yellow launched brilliant lightning blasts at her, while Sentry Brown ripped chunks of earth from the ground and threw them at her. At the same time, Sentry Green and Sentry Pink flew up to meet with the Protector and Doctor Despair.
“My god, Protector, what did that thing do to you?!”, Pink asked, horrified.
“Is this another one of your out-of-control experiments, Despair?”, Green asked.
“Of course not! It appeared just as we were fighting, looking like a newborn. Then it attacked, without any provocation!”, Doctor Despair defended himself.
“You exp-…”, Green began, but Pink cut him off.
“His mind shield is gone, brother. I can read his mind and he is speaking the truth!”
The Protector nodded, gathering himself. His daze had finally worn off and the pain in his shoulder was almost completely gone. “We have to stop her! Whoever she may be, she has already caused too much destruction!”
He had barely finished when Sentry Pink screamed in pain at the same time as Sentry Yellow and Brown screamed in horror.
Looking down, Green, Protector and Despair saw the twisted, broken corpses of Red and Blue fall to the ground. Before either of them could react, Yellow threw another lightning bolt at her. Even though it was aimed perfectly, it missed, bending less than a meter in front of the glowing woman to strike into the ground.
A glance of the enemy and Yellow had barely any time to scream before she was bent backwards, her back breaking with an audible crack. Without a moments pause, her body was twisted further, until she was a broken, dripping, red and yellow ball.
Turning her head towards Brown, the twisted ball of his slain sister shot at him with such speed that it pulverized his torso before he could make a single sound.
“NononononoNO!”, Green screamed and fllew down to land beneath the glowing woman. He sunk his hands into the ground and masses of trees broke out of the ground and raced up, enveloping the glowing woman and contracting in order to crush her.
Before they could get close enough to even touch her, the Protector saw the scintillating pattern flash again and a spherical energy blast disintegrated the plants along with Sentry Green.
Paralyzed by the horrifying happenings, neither the Protector nor Doctor Despair reacted in time to stop Sentry Pink from attacking the murderer of her siblings. With a bloodcurling scream, the most powerful member of the Six Sentries unleashed her psychic powers, a halo of brilliant pink energy forming around her head.
The glowing woman did not seem to even notice the attack. The scream, however, drew her attention and she looked up at the floating trio.
Once more, the scintillating aura appeared. Pink screamed once more, this time in pain rather than in anger, and she dropped down, blood pouring from her every orifice.
* * *
This finally broke the spell that had kept the Protector and Doctor Despair from acting.
The Protector fired his eye beams at the glowing woman, but once more, the attack proved useless as they simply vanished into nothingness before touching her.
He and Doctor Despair split up, flying into opposite directions, as her aura flashed once more and a brilliant ball of screaming white fire shot through the spot where they had floated just heartbeats earlier.
Both launched more attacks at the woman, but again they proved useless, hitting a glowing barrier of light that deflected everything coming at the woman.
“We must draw her away from the city!”, the Protector shouted as he evaded more fireballs. Normally, he would simply absorb such attacks, but the loss of his arm had warned him to the fact that she could easily penetrate his defenses. No way he was taking such a risk again.
“I concur!”, Doctor Despair shouted back, just as he barely managed to evade a stream of fire.
The Protector was able to make out other heroes and villains of Los Angeles that flew in to help. Taking a deep breath, he centered himself in order to fly in and help. With all of them together, they ought to be able to fight her off.
Such hope was, however, quickly quenched when nearly sixty metahumans launched attacks of various kinds, only to smash into the glowing barrier that surrounded the woman. Nothing penetrated her defenses.
He could hear Doctor Despair shout in frustration as he started sending commands to his bases, activating every single Skullbot he had, ordering them to pick up every single weapon available and come to help.
Others called in for help as nearly a fourth of the heroes and villains was suddenly flash frozen by a blue beam preceded by another flash of the scintillating rainbow aura. The beam was followed up by a shout that shattered everyone who had been frozen into hundreds and thousands of shards.
Someone shouted: “Where is Lady Light? There is no way we can fight this monster wi-” He was cut off by another blue beam followed by a shattering shout.
“Fall back! Evade! Anyone with long-range attacks, retreat to your maximal distance and strike from there! We must not lose more of us!”, the Protector shouted, his voice carrying across the battlefield.
Unfortunately, that drew the glowing woman’s attention to him. Another flash of her aura and an invisible blast hit him before he could react. It struck from every direction at once, crushing his bones and rupturing his organs.
The Protector fell. The last thing he saw before his vision turned black was the sight of Doctor Despair at the head of a formation of hundreds of Skullbots, backed by every metahuman left, charging towards the glowing woman.
* * *
Slowly, Jason Davon opened his eyes.
He lay in the middle of the ruined city of Los Angeles. Barely able to move, he looked around – nothing but ruins in every direction. His vision picked up large amounts of radiation and something else, a kind of energy fluctuation he had never observed before.
Unable to move any part of his body other than his head, he raised the latter and looked down at his body. It was broken, shattered, blood seeping through his once pristine costume. There was pain. Lots and lots of pain. But he could also feel his body already mending itself. Huh. Never knew I could regenerate. Good to know, he thought.
Then his situation caught up to him and he looked around once more.
Several leveled city blocks away, he saw the glowing woman floating twenty meters above the ground. The torn, twitching body of a young woman floated in front of her, mutilated to the point that even The Protector could not identify her. Turning around, the glowing woman disintegrated her victim.
She looked right at him, floating slowly towards his position. He was still too weak to move.
Knowing that his last moments were approaching, he tried to think back to his loved ones. He tried to apologize to them and to everyone else he had failed to protect. He tried to mourn all his fallen comrades, be they heroes or villains.
But all he could think of was the glowing woman moving towards him.
Where is Lady Light?
When the woman was halfway there, the shadows beneath her erupted, shooting up to envelop her in complete Darkness.
Another spherical blast of light obliterated the shadows, just as another shadow sprang up from the ground and formed into The Dark.
The feared supervillain looked at the glowing woman, who looked right back at him, neither of them moving in the slightest.
After half a minute of this, suddenly they both erupted into action. Lances made of pure darkness shot at the woman, while at the same time monstrosities that might have jumped right out of his nightmares manifested and rushed the enemy. The apparitions were so hideous, even the Protector could not bear to look at them directly.
The glowing woman did not seem intimidated. Once again, her aura flared and the spears, along with the beasts, were stopped by masses of trees shooting out of the ground to block the spears and impale the beasts. The leaves of the trees were glowing white with the same light that had burned his wound. It ate the beasts up in seconds.
A colossal blade of darkness shot out of the mass of shadows that had formed around The Dark, cutting the trees less than a meter above the ground, and the entire mass collapsed.
Just in time for three pillars to shoot out of the ground and collide where The Dark probably stood.
The shadows that had gathered dissipated, leaving only the pillars behind.
Again, the woman’s aura flared, this time only seconds before thousands of lances of darkness shot out from every shadow in sight, flying skyward only to curve and bend and fly at her from every possible direction. This time, they were neither blocked nor obliterated. Instead, when they got within a meter of the woman, they simply bend and curved again, never coming closer than a meter.
This time, a sphere of a grayish matter took shape in front of the woman, growing until it was as large as a two story house. With a shrieking sound so loud, it nearly popped the Protectors ears, it burst into thousands upon thousands of marble-sized balls of the same material, flying towards and into every shadow where a lance had emerged from.
A swirl of darkness appeared above the battlefield and The Dark dropped out of it. Before he came even close to the ground, he grew in size, his shadowy feet touching the ground and shaking it.
He grew until he was as tall as the tallest building in the city had been, then he struck out, a giant fist flying towards the woman, only to split upon contact with her aura, flowing around her.
Another flare of the aura and the Protector barely managed to close his eyes before a titanic flash of light obliterated the shadows.
By the time he could see again, he was treated to the sight of The Dark slowly picking himself up off the ground. The flash must have obliterated the shadows that covered the supervillain as well, because for the tiniest fraction of a second he could see what few had ever seen – the man within the darkness.
But then the darkness closed around the man again and The Dark stood there, looking at the glowing woman.
Her aura flared and she pointed a finger at him. However, before she could do anything, The Dark simply sunk into his own shadow, vanishing.
* * *
This is it. The end, was all the Protector could think. Not even The Dark had been able to so much as touch her.
His body was healing, but not fast enough for him to even flee. Not that he would have. This was his city. If he could not protect it, he would die with it.
The woman approached, landing just a few meters away from him and walking the rest of the way.
She stopped when she was standing above him, one foot on both sides of his pelvis.
He wanted to vow that she would be eventually defeated. He wanted to curse her. He wanted to beg her. He wanted to think of anyone, anything other than her or his impeding death.
But all he could think about was how beautiful she was. From her delicate, slender feet, over her perfect, pale, hairless skin, her luscious curves and that brilliant hair all the way to her angelic face.
But as beautiful as she was, he could find one flaw in her beauty: it was not real. It was an empty, meaningless beauty, bereft of all warmth.
She looked at him, those blazing eyes blinding him. For more than a full minute, she just looked at him, sometimes cocking her head to the right or the left.
Then she raised one hand, extending her right index finger so that her glowing nail hovered above his chest. A single drop of light fell from it, landing right on his solar plexus.
There was no pain. No warmth. Nothing. Jason just saw how the light ate away at his flesh, devouring him as it spread through his body.
He looked up at his murderer, her face still as impassive and serene as ever. And for one second, for his last second, he understood. For less than a heartbeat, he knew her, knew where she came from, who she was and what she was going to do.
Then, blackness. He did not see her vanish in a flash of light.