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Abigail Cho

Lost Haven, ME

At the Main Event

One eye, somewhere near the middle of the cloud, noted the movement of the armoured hero, dodging away from the machine. The rest of the mass continued to 'play' in a swiftly growing pile of bodies, strewn about like the results of a macabre doll party in Hell. The thing giggled to itself as it saw the heros invitation, and waited patiently for the excuse of the shots. One managed to land a bit further than it wanted, but then the turret changed direction, tracking past where the hero had ducked out of view and towards a group of innocents who were milling about like suicidal ducklings. Missed one invitation, but an opening nonetheless. Hello, Fortuna.

Abigail was beginning to get used to the feeling of being a passenger in her own body at the center of the mass, though the violence was astonishing in its brutality. When the bony creature flew overhead, she almost thought she had shifted past the Veil, but no. She wasn't dead. The thing she had invited did seem to take some perverse pleasure in letting shots go very close to her actual body, but never close enough to harm. Even grenades were batted away just before they exploded, often to the detriment of the one who had sent them. She felt a mass of legs bunch up beneath her and closed her eyes. The quick motions made her feel sick.

Like a nest of spiders from a nightmare, the thing launched itself down the street towards the tank, bounding off of ruined cars, building facades, and other handy objects and surfaces until arrived like a coiled ball of organic shadows just underneath the main guns barrel. Dozens of shadow-dripping tentacles snaked along edges and srufaces, at least a dozen grabbing the barrel itself, in just a split second. They grew as they lifted, hauling the angle of fire well away from the crowd behind it. Massive legs like a grasshoppers shot down and slammed into the street, further angling the tank until it stood at a forty-five degree angle from the asphalt. At which point more limbs struck out. Skeletal hands far too large to be human, furred claws dripping ichor, and sharp talons of insects ripped and tore into the relatively soft underbelly of the tank. A glow at the impacts revealed some sort of forcefield, so the thing simply kept hammering. Meanwhile the tank spewed rounds out of every gun it had, the crew inside panicking while trying to figure out what the hell was happening. And in the middle of it all, a tiny Korean woman with shadows across her skin grinned with a mouth too full of too-sharp teeth, humming to herself a tune that sent nightmares across the minds of those close enough to hear it over the din of battle.

A psychic message shot across the void to overtake Iron Knight's internal helmet communications while it spoke. The voice felt like nails down a chalkboard if it was amplified underwater as a form of torturing submarine crews. THAT WAS CLEVER, MORTAL, BUT DON'T THINK WE WILL FORGET YOU ATTEMPTED TO BRING HARM TO OUR HOST. SHE HAS BEEN GRACIOUS, RUDENESS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. That done, the “song” grew louder, then pitched up and up and up, finally passing out of human hearing ranges. The invaders were not so fortunate, and began to find out how iron their wills actually were as tendrils of madness inducing magic began to curl into their minds.

The hammering was taking forever, Abigail thought to herself, watching things unfold. The shielding was showing signs of fatigue, but not a lot and progress was slow. The thing seemed content to just continue, however. One invading soldier came around the corner to investigate what was attacking their armour, lifted his weapon to fire, and was impaled by five claws and rent asunder in the blink of an eye. Her body hadn't even moved the head to look. The girl looked around through her mounting feeling of foreboding and saw two heroes charge, one almost directly at her and the thing. She tried to shout a warning, but as usual, nothing came out of her incorporeal mouth. So she just watched while they came, hoping that either they could overpower her possessor or it wouldn't take too much offense at their actions.
Somewhere in Arizona, north of Phoenix

The world was strange. She could not make sense of it since she had been born a day ago.

It was filled with strange shapes and colours. She liked the black and the blue and the green, which was what most of the landscape was made up of. Vaguely she could see what she knew somehow were trees. And rocks. Those were nice.

But as she walked, she moved towards the thing that drove her. It infuriated her by its mere existence. A towering column of light, yellows and whites, spearing up in the distance. She wanted it to stop being, so she moved towards it.

Lots of times, there were things that flared orange or red in her vision. Typically, they were brighter when they made noises at her. She would raise her hand and her warmth would go and make them stop, turning them back to blues and blacks. Her warmth was a lovely mix of blue and purple, and she found she could walk between it if she wanted, as if any spot of it was right next to each other. But it took a bit to do, and she wasn't sure about it, so she just walked.

She wasn't tired. She knew, somewhere, that was strange, that the orange things would need to lay down after exerting themselves, but she was fine. She was just so angry she couldn't sleep. She couldn't rest. She had to kill the tower. It was the only thing that mattered.

So she walked on. Lots of things flared oranges at her, so she made them stop before they made her more angry. Sometimes they were small. Other times they were bigger than her and made of things that glowed bright green when she made them stop moving. Her whole world was a swirl of colours and lights and noise, most of the noise being her warmth keeping her safe.

Somewhere, somewhere deep, she felt like there was more to the world, but the need, the drive, the desire and rage and burning passion to kill the tower drowned whatever part of her that was until it was quiet.

Another swarm of red came up over the horizon in front of her. She screamed at it, trying to make it go away, her warmth extending out in front of her in a wash that left green in its wake. More red flared on it's edges, shapes falling away. The sharp edges of what she knew were buildings gave way to the more pleasing crumbled shapes of nature reclaiming them through her warmth.

The sharp edges were red sometimes, when she grew close enough to see them. None of them lasted long. She longed to paint the whole world in greens and blues, but first the tower must fall. So she continued, left of where the glowing green ball in the sky had come up, always heading for the line of the tower in her vision.

Schmidt watched in awe as the metahuman continued her path of destruction. They had left the outskirts of Phoenix, ruined and blazing, and somehow their little train of followers had grown rather than shrunk. Some were media hounds, reporting. Others were like the ones that had rescued her, fanatics wrapped up in whatever madness or religious fervour had convinced them to do so. The majority, it seemed, were merely curious or hopeless, following the trail of destruction as though it was some sort of signal for a change they didn't know they needed.

Schmidt herself wasn't sure what camp she was in, as the fires ahead reflected off her eyes. She should have radioed in, tried to do something. Her training screamed at her to. But she was captivated by the form ahead of them. Glimpses through heat haze, ash, and flames had let her see what looked to be a girl no more than sixteen, naked except for the destruction around her and the glow of the heat. She seemed to have some sort of path, one that was pushed aside by concentrations of emergency services, though not without massive casualties. She winced as she watched another group of state patrol veer off from a fireball the girl had screamed at them. More National Guard scattered from in front of her as she did so, having hidden in cover.

They were fighting her, Schmidt could tell. She could hear the reports of gunfire all around. But it was scattered and not concentrated, not since last night after the path had avoided the main areas of Phoenix. The suburbs had suffered significantly, but the city itself was spared a trail of destruction through its heart. But every time a gun broke the silence, the FBI agent could see the flare around the girl, where the lead flash-melted in the heat more than twenty yards away. That alone was enough to keep her from trying anything. She had watched a tank shell disintegrate in that heat.

So she watched, from atop the RV she had woken up in. They had given her some painkillers, and she knew she needed medical attention, but she was stable, and she told herself that she might be the only person trying to understand what the hell was happening, rather than just watching. Her concentration was broken by something she had almost forgotten about, a streak of light....no, five of them, in the sky above. That's right, the Earth had been invaded. She shook the sense of being in a movie out of her head and watched, rapt, to see what the response was as the lights swept down towards the burning figure a few miles ahead of her.

More red....no, orange...yellow. Above her. They circled, and she flung her purple and blue warmth with a backhand to ward it off. One erupted into greens, flaring to blue as it fell. The rest came around, and white flares shot at her. The wall of her warmth rose, but some snuck through, and touched the ground near her. She screamed. How dare they do this near her!?

A hand shot forward, bright purple spilling from it in a line like a laser, striking one of the yellow shapes and latching onto it. She stepped through it, onto the yellow shape, and while her warmth reached and begin to bubble through it, she lashed it out to strike two more, knocking them from the sky in a fit of rage, stomping her foot through the molten purple, yellow, and green beneath her. She plummeted down back to the ground, only to step through again, landing on one shape careening downward. The last had veered, fleeing from her, and her power could not reach it, so she tumbled with this one she stood on until it erupted into green and blue against the black ground. She rolled several times, then stood. It took her a moment to find the tower again, and then she walked forward again, intent upon her goal.

Schmidt stared as the last of the aliens sped away into the night. The whole episode had taken less than a few seconds. She thought at first the burning girl had been hurt in the crash, but there she was, standing up and marching onward like a golem. This was the first time she thought that she had no idea where her cell phone was after the crash.
Abigail Cho

Lost Haven, ME

Abigail shrieked as bricks were blown out from the wall above her, stumbling as she made her way down an alley with a few other people. Dust choked the air, which was probably all for the better, as it might obscure the invaders aim at their little group. She couldn't believe her luck in this shit hole of a city. First she ran into the Hannelore, then she's sent to find some source of fucking zombies or some shit, and then she finds freshly murdered thugs and a damn monster butchering people. And now, here she was, being chased through the city by goddamned alien invaders.

Another burst of something flew through the air, impacting somewhere ahead of them. She gripped the arm of a little girl who was still with them, keeping the child on her feet instead of falling into whatever they were stumbling through. Abigail's head swam with ringing terror and confusion and anger, the results of an entire city being suddenly invaded and people being murdered in the hundreds. Worse was what she was fairly certain were the invaders emotions, cold and slimy in her brain and making her feel like reality wasn't where it should be.

She had woken up today thinking she was going to at least find either a paying job in the city or, failing that, start investigative work on what the Psychopomp Queen wanted her to do. She hadn't even had her morning whiskey, in what she tried to convince herself at the time was a positive step even though the lack of substances in her blood meant she was more open than ever to this damned combat zone of a city. So of course, mid morning when the whole city suddenly seized up in terror, she had fallen to the floor and hadn't been able to get her thoughts straight since. She was barely even conscious at this point, mindlessly running with others in groups that were being picked off a little at a time. That disturbing thought crossed her mind, that she was just a rabbit in a trap, right as the building at the end of the alley collapsed from another blast, though she couldn't tell where that one had come from.

She felt the horrible wave of terror and death from in front of her, and stared wide-eyed as she realised that her and the little girl where the only ones left alive. She scurried, dragging the child with her, behind a pile of rubble and crouched down, hugging the girl below her and weeping uncontrollably in panic, gasping to try and catch her breath and silence it. The girl wasn't too much better, and it was probably that which led the alien trooper to walk over to their terrible hiding place. She couldn't read the facial expression as she looked up, but she could feel the cold menace as the shoulders moved, lifting its weapon to aim at them.

In her horror, her mind called out, across the realms she had access to, pleading for someone, anyone to come help her, not for herself, but for everyone who shouldn't have died today. And a chilling silence dropped into her mind, terror and pain washed away. Time seemed to stand still, in her eyes, as slowly the Veil dropped and she was looking at... something. Her mind refused on all levels to recognise whatever it was in front of her, for its own sake.

It spoke in the sounds of stone grinding together, of tidal waves and earthquakes, the crumbling of burning timbers, the whispering fall of ashes in a burning city, but her mind translated well enough. “YOU HAVE CALLED. WE HAVE COME.” She shuddered under the mental weight of the presence.

“Please,” she asked, knowing what she might be doing. “These people are going to die, and I don't think they're supposed to. Something's wrong here.”


“I don't know. I've always been a bridge, never a fighter. Even here, while I have fought, it was to make or break connections. I can't fight, I don't know how in my own world.”


Abigail froze. Things like this were dangerous even when she was in a position of strength. Here, desperate and needing help, she was so much worse off. But she couldn't do nothing. If for no other reason than she didn't want to die quite yet. She could guide others but she wasn't ready for this side of the veil yet. She could feel other things, other beings, coming to her call, but they were far off, too far to help, much as the thing had said.

“Give me your name, and I will act as a conduit for you, though not permanently. I will let you through me into my world, to fight this menace, and in return I will grant you the same bridging thrice more in my life. I can refuse any time, but I must grant you three.”

The entity in front of her paused, suddenly stopping any and all motion. She could almost make out the edges of what her mind did not want to understand.


Time unfroze, but now Abigail found herself only watching through her own eyes. And, through whatever mechanisms governed her power, she didn't even feel the waves of terror anymore, as if she had earmuffs over her mind. The girl under her screamed, the alien raised its weapon, she could almost imagine she could see the energy building to wipe the pair out of existence...

And then she felt it. All along her skin, in her bones, though she had no physical control over her body, the thing was coming through. A tentacle, a real fucking tentacle oh god a fucking tentacle rose out of her now upraised hand, shedding black drops of something as it moved. It lashed out, wrapping around the weapon and tugging it out of line to blast down the street. The alien's face registered shock just before another writhing limb, and another and another oh god how many poured out from her sleeve and her fingers, lashing and wrapping the alien and suddenly ripping him apart in a shower of gore. Another three of the things grabbed the girl and dumped her, screaming, into a dumpster to hide, as Abigail was lifted up, standing, amidst a roiling ball of tentacles that seemed almost to absorb the light that touched them.

The entity in control of her body paused, grinning to itself. Abigail was suddenly outside of her own body, looking at her own face, which had horrifically sharpened teeth and was crying wispy motes of darkness from space-black eyes. It spoke directly to her immaterial presence in its voice from the other side.


And she did. Sudden knowledge of unspeakable things stretching into eternity dropped into her mind with no warning, as her body was born along , half walking and half being thrust along the alley by the seemingly endless multitude of tentacles. They seemed to disappear into her sleeves and skin and reappear as needed. And amongst them she felt bony spurs and claws, beaks, and eyes, all hidden in a shadowy mist of some sort. She regretted immensely her choice, now, but it was too late for regrets. She was just along for the ride at this point.

The tide of formless mayhem slammed through a group of aliens with shuddering glee, bodies being ripped apart, chewed, or flung away in no discernible pattern. Through that group was some sort of vehicle, which was seized by it's parts and ripped asunder with deafening shrieks of metal. And then her body and it's “escort” smashed through three walls, what she thought might be an apartment or something else, and then they were through to a street. Her body was raised onto a platform of limbs, leaving her relatively exposed except for the shadows dripping off of her like rain, and the black eyes looked about for targets. Several shots flew past her, and with a jerk of motion she was moving down the street. Tentacles seemed to stretch however far they needed to to grab a lightpost, car, or other heavy object to pull the mass along, while clawed limbs and spiked talons sheared into the asphalt and nearby building to move her. She crossed two hundred yards in less than ten seconds and fell upon another group of invaders. Their shrieks of terror rang in her ears, but she felt the creature possessing her shudder with joy at the sounds. What the hell had she let into her world!?

Whatever had been shielding her reception broke away, though unlike when she had control of it, it was directed. She could feel the thing using her senses to track across the city, though she wasn't sure what it was looking for until it found it. A spot where the invaders were scared and hurt. Somewhere there was fighting. So it as being attracted to conflict. She had let loose a nightmare, and one far more powerful than she had bet on answering her. While that was a risk, she hadn't exactly had a whole lot of choice in the matter. She wished a psychopomp would show up. Maybe Hannelore could tell her what she had just agreed to.

She felt her body get hauled out and along the streets, smashing through or throwing away any obstacles with contemptuous ease. The worst was that she could feel all of the extra bits as if they were also a part of her, and they were revolting, but at the same time she could feel the sensuous joy the thing was having as it romped through the city. They crossed some sort of university grounds, and it leapt high through the air, catching a passing Star Wars looking thing like a dog with a frisbee, only in a massive set of razor-barbed spider-like legs and crushing it to pieces before they hit the ground and continued smoothly along the green grass.

Through two more alleys, over a building ,and across an intersection, limbs always seeking and finding things blindly but unerringly accurately. Eyes opened in the mass that surrounded her, which she was shocked to find wasn't all that large. She had been trying to keep herself separate, but it was like trying to ignore her own hand. Her initial horror had stopped her from analysing exactly what she was dealing with, and her mind had filled in blanks, but now her perceptions were growing uncomfortably accustomed to her new state of being.

The tentacles were long, or short as needed, and insanely strong, but except when used for locomotion, they weren't exceptionally thick, and while many were rapidly spinning in and out of existence round her, there only seemed to be a few solidly in the world at a time, the rest fading in or our at the moment. They seemed mostly to gather at her wrists, or her sleeves. She was disturbed to find that she could feel the shadows in her own clothes as acutely as the limbs that weren't hers, and was unaware of whether they emerged from her own human flesh or the darkness. Two to six stayed near her waist, and the clawed limbs and other bits seemed to gather near her legs, giving a vague humanoid shape to what she realised was her own human body, just wrapped in shadows like a thick cloak that drifted and dripped behind her now. Her face was still revealed, and the thing piloting her was grinning like an idiot, with a mouth that seemed far too wide with too many teeth, despite still fitting on her face just fine.

Ripping through a store from back to front, her new limbs snaked out onto another street, this one filled with invaders. Some seemed petrified, others scattered from other attacks. It didn't matter to her possessor. All of them were rent into parts in a shockingly short time, the rear of the column wiped in less than a minute in the same way a cat might assault a fragile toy, or a dog a pillow. As the screams died away, the thing in her body raised itself up again, laughing in its horrible voice as Abigail saw though her own eyes down the street to where some of the world's most notable heroes stood against a giant machine like the finale of some movie.
Character you have created: SERA mk 7

Alias: None

Speech Color: lawngreen

Character Alignment: TBD

Identity: No public presence as yet.

Character Personality: Simulated personality is...difficult. While Dr. Anderson did what he could, a lot of pieces of personality from the program are missing. Much of this is due to the fact that SERA, while possessing an incredibly powerful mind and an ability to learn things at speeds almost unimaginable to humans, has no life experience, and thus has nothing to base a personality on. The previous models had pre-programmed personalities meant to be servile to humans, and this was part of the problem in their creation. To avoid this, SERA mk 7 has no pre-programmed facets except her one directive to help the Doctor.

Uniform/costume: Whatever she wants to wear.

Origin Info/Details: SERA is the seventh version of her operating system, and the first successful model. Her creator, Gerry Anderson, thought it was a good idea to design an android capable of independent thought and creativity, housed in a shell that could be used for anything from protecting people during combat to search and rescue, research assistance to companionship. To this end, he not only designed an artificial intelligence from scratch, but pushed computer hardware and software well beyond limits his contemporaries thought impossible to overcome. SERA is programmed around a composite imaging of several brainwave patterns, and housed in one of the most advanced autonomous robotic bodies in the world.

The original six versions never made it out of the software stage, their programming becoming unstable and bug-ridden well before then. Number seven, however , while showing errors, also managed to self-correct those errors. The number of knowledge bases Dr. Anderson had added to the memory system had contained enough skill to do so, but that same capability had terrified Anderson. He installed the system in the body, then shut it down and locked it away, adding a key that would activate the thing only in case of extreme emergency.

SERA wis now waking up due to emergency protocols, but what she might find upon her release is up to fate...

Hero Type: Other: Android

Power Level: World/City

Multi-processor – SERA runs on a eighty-three core quantum computing processing unit, with superconducting materials and supercooling to prevent problems, stored in her chest. This CPU allows her to think and process things faster than most people can imagine, and gives her plenty of room to devote to subroutines and programs if she needs to.

Internet access - While she doesn't have an internal ISP, she has a state-of-the-art wifi receiver and can brute force her way into most civilian networks in seconds from a considerable distance.

Knowledge base – With upgradeable storage and a link to her server in the lab, she can pretty much learn whatever she wants in the amount of time it takes to download and/or install it. While this doesn't give her access to some things, like expertise in any skill or improvisational abilities, it is a considerable resource, and getting better as more people upload lessons on things around the world.

High power – SERA has an internal generator tied to the actuators in her body, constantly generating small amounts power through regenerative friction capture. This means heat energy generated through friction of her moving parts is recaptured and funneled to a pair of ultrahigh capacity lithium ion batteries. In addition, there is a tiny fusion generator powered by air intake. This generates small amounts of non-radioactive water which can either be ejected or used in her coolant system if it needs replenishing.

Semi-realistic body – The android's skin is made of millions of hexagonal plates. These plates are mounted on multipurpose sensors tied to pressure, heat, and air pressure, allowing SERA to have a relatively similar sensory input to normal humans. These can be adjusted in her software to give her superhuman senses, as well. A small amount of photo-voltaic storage in these plates allows her to simulate body heat, but any sort of examination more than a cursory brushing or touch will reveal their nature.

Rescue systems – The alloyed bones of the body are capable of holding up several tons without a problem, and small mechanisms in the hands can allow them to telescope out to help support an area of around ten feet. An internal tank of oxygen is attached to two stored breath masks in the abdominal area, which also has a small tank of fire-retardant chemicals. The right thigh is equipped with a small heater and stores a thermal blanket. The left forearm has a gas-propelled grappling hook with a thin one-hundred and fifty foot cable and powered winch.

Combat systems – The right forearm is equipped with a small flamethrower and a three million volt rechargeable taser system. Right shoulder can open to expose a small, high-powered plasma cannon that can fire three bolts before needing recharging. The recharging system is a series of pressurized air intake valves along the upper arms capable of generating plasma, which can also be discharged out of the palms in a very short range blast. The taser can also be redirected across the skin. The eyes are capable of generating small laser beams, but cannot see while doing so as it requires reversing the direction of the internal lenses. All joints can be unlocked ,reducing structural capacity but allowing them to rotate freely in almost any direction. The skin plates are capable of stopping anything short of anti-armour rounds.

(note: The plasma bolt system can be overcharged, generating massive blasts of plasma and coating the body in a cloud of burning gas. This can damage the body if pushed too high, but is sustainable for short periods. It does, however, require a software override to accomplish, and severely taxes the cooling system.)

Sensory Equipment – Sera's eyes are capable of picking up visual traces of chemical residue, ultraviolet, infrared, nightvision, 400x magnification, light filtering, and electromagnetic waves. The microphones in the ears are sensitive enough to pick up clothing ruffling at over a hundred yards, but are usually tuned far below this level for safety reasons. Chemical receptors in the nose are superfluous, most receptors are along the skin, and are as sensitive as a canine's.

Phoenix Protocol – To protect such an extremely important investment, SERA is equipped with a periodic satellite uplink module. This system will upload to a specially designed satellite system and save the current program record once per day. If for any reason the storage system in her body is wiped, this system will enable her to download back in. If the uplink fails more than twice in a row, the system will automatically instead download her to the lab, and a safety system will delete the current copy in the body to prevent any sort of clever workarounds. In addition, tampering with any internal systems without the correct encryption key put into the I/O port in her chestor in the event of the safety system deleting the AI, a self-destruct sequence will cause the body to ignite a bundle of thermite and slag itself immediately.

Attributes (Select one at each category):
Height: 165 cm (5'5”)
Weight: 635 kg (1400 lbs)
Strength Level: maximum lift over head of 50 metric tons
Speed/Reaction Timing Level: Can move at nearly the speed of sound, and reacts much faster
Endurance at MAXIMUM Effort: undefined
Agility: Can literally bend all limbs any way she wishes.
Intelligence: Smarter than you. Yes, even you.
Fighting Skill: undefined
No financial resources, but has access to all materials necessary for repairs and the lab itself.

-The weight of her body, moving at the speeds she's capable of, make turning difficult. As such, at high velocity she is more like a wrecking ball.
-While an EMP won't wipe out her central storage unit where the AI is stored, it will completely disable all of the external systems, essentially turning Sera into a giant thinking paperweight until she can be repaired. This would also disable her upload link for at least a few minutes while it reboots.
-If trapped without a satellite uplink, the current version of Sera will die in two days
-While her program is built around human brainwave patterns, Sera is not human, and cannot follow things like sentiment. While aware of these sorts of things and able to plan around them, the computer is still a computer. Appealing to anything but logic is likely to fail.
-This system is notAasimovian, and does not have a lawset like people expect. This will most likely cause many to be terrified of it, given its nature.

Supporting Characters:
Do you know how to post pictures on RPG boards?: Nyet, in Soviet Russia, RPG board posts picture on you.

Banner credit NMS. Thanks, Cap'n!

Above Lost Haven, Maine

Leanna gritted her teeth as she finally came close enough to make out the major details of what she could now clearly see was a full scale assault on the city. She was suddenly very grateful to have had the foresight to have been exercising her powers as much as possible since the Hounds attacks a few weeks ago. Hopefully it would be enough to make her a lasting combatant. As she streaked into the city's airspace, she tried to find any semblance of organised resistance, but it seemed to be just knots of chaotic melee. She didn't even see Icon, who she assumed was the one to have saved the city from the meteor.
Well, no use crying now. Time to make a difference

Seeing as how the entire city was already embattled, she disregarded her normal flight rules. She had circled at low speed for a bit while she got a sense of the situation, but now she accelerated to a hefty proportion of her full speed, straight at some sort of landing craft coming down towards the city centre. Her signature energy trail extending out behind her, she spread her “wings” out into a wide arc and fired a wide beam into the side of the thing, noting it withstood it quite a bit better than she expected. Not slowing down, she changed her tactic slightly, forming a spike of the energy in front of her. This had the consequence of blocking her own vision, but on the plus side, she knew where her target was, and at this speed and range she could hardly miss. Several beams of reciprocating fire flashed past her before she slammed into the vehicle like a missile. She caught a flash of the inside, not enough for an sort of detail, before she was through the other side. Looking back, she grinned as the thing exploded into fragments small enough to cause no further damage to the city below.

Well, that's tactics settled. Now for--

Her little triumph was short lived, as a bolt from some sort of weapon smashed into her leg, sending her spinning for a second. She grimaced at her own stupidity, corrected her flight pattern, and noted that several of the airborne fighter-jet-things were heading for her. A quick shot of her own glanced off some sort of shielding for a moment before it tore and popped like a bubble, though the fighter itself seemed undamaged.

”Oh, you poor bastards are using hardlight shields? Heh, alright then.”

Several shots back from the three who were now gunning for screamed past, so she dropped a hundred feet, noting they had only slight difficulty in keeping up with the maneuver at the range they were at. In the back of her mind, as she tried looping under them and watching their trajectories, she did a few quick calculations and smiled. Shields weak to her own attacks and not as maneuverable as her?

To test this theory, she airbraked as quick as she could. She had been warned by her doctor to not pull this specific move as much as possible, given her migraines and what pulling Gs might do to her, but she only got a light throb in her temples, a bit of blurred vision, and the stinging on her calf where that first shot had hit her. The lead of the trio streaked past her, making a turn to try and get her back in its sights. The second flew past, and she accelerated again and grabbed the third by the shields, hands encased in her own light-breaking energy. The air was filled with rushing wind and a screaming as the shield was torn and ripped, broken down at whatever level her powers worked. She had no time for scientific curiosity, though. As the shield broke, she reached down and in, grabbing the fuselage this time, and airbraked again. She couldn't see the pilot, since what she assumed was the windshield was darkened. The move had the desired effect, though. Her hand, gloved in blackness, tore through the fuselage, though it put up a good fight, resisting enough that she was reminded of tank armour, though this was looking as paper-thin as most fighters skins on Earth.

Gripping before she went all the way through, she slammed three quick finger-wide bolts into the engine area, punching holes through what must have been vital parts as the propulsion sputtered and died. Keeping her grip, she unwittingly mimicked Icon's moves earlier, spinning twice with herself as a pivot and slinging the vehicle out and away from the city below. Shots flying by her reminded her to only watch long enough to confirm the safety of buildings before resuming dogfighting. There were noticeably more, now. It seemed the invaders didn't like someone breaking their toys.

Focusing on dodging for now, she reached up to her right ear and pressed a finger to the transmit button on her old earpiece. She hoped the frequency was correct for her old compatriots.

”I don't know who's still up and I don't know what the ground situation is,” she said across her old STRIKE radio waves, ”but this is Blacklight. I seem to have garnered some attention in the airspace that I can handle, so I can be a distraction. Don't know how much covering fire I can provide yet. Anyone hear me?”

She supposed she was visible enough as it was that even if no one heard that, someone might notice she was up here. For now, she turned back onto the attack, diving and circling and making a nuisance of herself, hopefully enough to buy some time for those doing the important work down on the ground. As it was, darting around fighters and caught in rapid fire exchanges, the old exhilaration of combatting evil returned, and she found herself humming music from Top Gun to herself and she took another transport craft out of the sky.

Soon enough, she realised a major mistake she had made. Her own shots were always targetted from below, to avoid stray shots hurting anyone below. The enemy, of course, made no such considerations, and there was no way to catch as many blasts as were flying at her. She considered several options, but she knew her reserves would not last long were she to try to do anything like shielding the city below. And while her efforts were definitely occupying a significant portion of the enemy, it wasn't all of them, in fact not even a third, as of yet. But she was badly out of practise with battlefield tactics. She could only hope someone on the ground could think up something good, and soon.
Several days after...that

The remains of Yuma, Arizona

The red McDonnel Douglas helicopter swung around, the pilot checking his bearings in a high desert wind. Bleow, the shadow of the chopper swept over dry canyons and scrub, while ahead, a mesa occluded his target. However, the pillar of black smoke rolling over the top of it and leaving a greasy smear across the otherwise clear blue sky told him his instruments were right and he was headed the right way. He checked the craft slightly to the left, mindful of what effects smoke from unknown fires could have on his engine. As it was the flight down from Phoenix had been a pain in his as and he did not want to set down for an emergency in the blistering heat of the southern half of the state, bad throughout the year but especially now, in the height of summer. His voice crackled over the radio to his two passengers in the back.

“Around ten minutes now, Agent Schmidt. Just over that mesa up ahead.”

The gruff tone from the woman's acknowledging grunt was all she gave him. She was...concerned was slightly less than she wanted. Behind them flew four more choppers, all of those military, diverted from the defense that should by all rights, be taking their attention. On board was a whole platoon of Marines and an investigative team, but the Blackhawks were slower by weight if nothing else out here, and she wanted the first look anyway, so she had pushed her pilot the throttle as hard as he dared in the heat.

She flipped the file open again, staring at the information. Earlier in the week, right before the main attack, an invading ship had passed over Arizona, barely even noticed amongst the chaos of the initial assault, but for all anyone could tell it was just a scout, meandering over the desert out here in the asshole end of the asshole end of the country. She was surprised anyone even lived out here, at least willingly. But shortly after that all contact from Yuma, AZ ceased. No phone calls, no radio contact. The local sheriff and the entire local police department could not be hailed. No one on CB, nothing. Usually, it would take weeks to notice this sort of thing, even as weird as it was, but with the whole of the country on assholes-and-elbows alert level, field ops had noticed, and dutifully alerted headquarters that there might be an invasion force where no one had thought there would be. So the lowest ranking agent in the area (Schmidt) and the local night shift CSI B-team had been sent with some military backup to see what caused a sudden communications blackout in Yuma.

Just her fucking luck. Second week on independent field ops and she was sent to the hottest part of this hellhole. She hated Arizona. In fact, she hated most of the southwestern US, as a devout born-and-bred Easterner who couldn't stand the heat in the winter down here. Oh well. She'd find out that there was some EMP blast or something and go back to the office in Phoenix. At least there the A/C could do something.

Ten minutes to the dot they could see exactly why that wasn't going to happen.

Second Lieutenant Mark Coleman was having a very shitty afternoon. He had thought his platoon was on a routine babysitting mission, the sort they had done hundreds of times before, the sort his men and women yawned at. He knew how they felt. Sitting around and making sure civilians were securely doing their own jobs made his own seem like naptime, but he made sure, no matter what the mission, his Marines were bright and alert. They could complain after they got back to base. Unfortunately, this was not one of those days.

From the Blackhawk he had seen the city of Yuma as the pilot circled to find a good landing spot and check for threats. Marines had suddenly gripped the handles of the machine guns on the bay doors a little tighter. The city looked like some of the worst drone strike-zones he had seen in Afghanistan, though without the telltale craters of ordinance exploding. But even from the air they could pick out the bodies of victims that had crawled from the flaming wreckage of buildings only to die in the street. The burnt out shells were still smoking, and the briefing had stated it had been days since contact had been lost, but the second they had touched down his Marines moved with the precision he expected from them, clearing everything by the book.

Now he sat with the FBI agent from the local office in one of the very few buildings that wasn't a charnel house, around a stone table that had only cracked a little in the heat from the blaze that had taken the rest of the building. They were waiting on the CSI team to finish preliminary examinations of several corpses, and for backup and a refrigerated semi for the corpses to be transported. He looked up, blue eyes shining slightly with tears, at the agent, who looked like she was going to need several decades of therapy.

“We'll have some basic rations soon. You should eat. I know you don't want to, but it'll help.” His bass voice rumbled over her, startling her out of her shock.

“Uh! Yeah um. Food. God, maybe.” She looked up at the officer, horror in their eyes seeming to match. “Was this them?” she breathed out, barely a whisper.

“Not sure.” Coleman reverted to his professional attitude to avoid emotion choking his voice. “No rockets, no explosive damage except from things like propane tanks catching fire. Looks like someone came through with a bunch of flamethrowers or willy pete and nothing else. No one looked shot. Several fights, but it looks like locals only, maybe looters afterwards? Or executions. Not alien tech, though, good ol' ballistics.”

The woman shook her head, short brown hair shifting ever so slightly with the motion. “Too much damage to be looters. I want to say a metahuman but no one we have records on can do this. There was one up north but she's been quiet and this isn't her style.”

Coleman grunted, nodding. “Yeah, could be a meta. Not sure. I haven't dealt with them before. Rest assured though, Agent Schmidt. We will get these fuckers. And we will make sure they never do this aga-”

He was cut off by a shout from outside the perimeter of the ruin they were sitting in. Two of the nerds came running up, flanked by a pair of Marines escorting them. The wiry girl with the glasses and the attitude of a mouse was unusually excited. The two of them sat back on the makeshift stools of supply crates as the four slowed and stood in front of the de facto command here.

The woman's voice was several octaves too high for Coleman's taste, but he swiftly forgot that as she went on, brushing a fringe of hair out of her eyes. “Okay, preliminary reports suggest no additional trauma aside from heat and smoke inhalation but the levels of heat necessary to cause this sort of damage are....incredible. Like, off the charts, we don't-have-bombs-that-do-this levels.”

Her partner picked up. The dude looked like he could have passed PT with Coleman's platoon, and his buzzcut told the lieutenant that he might've tried. “Based on what we can see, we're guessing temperatures between several hundred and tens of thousands of degrees were present. There's no discernible pattern like you'd see with devices at a bombing site. The overlaps seem almost random, and sometimes doubled up. We'd need a full lab set up to tell you more on that, but.”

The chick picked up again, “We found something that we can't...I don't....you have to see this shit.”

Five minutes later, Coleman had been bombarded by observations and scientific principles he wasn't sure he completely understood, but what they had showed him was a clear pattern, at least to him. A trail of glass entered the city on the east side, and they told him this was the entry point for whatever had laid waste to Yuma. They pointed to blast patterns he hadn't seen because they were not in his scope, and they followed the now obvious trail of bubbled and glassed asphalt and sand around the town through a methodical path that seemed like someone looking for something. And then the trail of glass left the city, after doubling back several times. IT had actually vapourised the asphalt of the US 95 heading up through the desert, up beyond where he could see through the heat haze.

Coleman's face twisted into a snarl as he snatched the radio from his belt loop, hammering the button and growling into the microphone, “Fifty-first, form up on the choppers. We have a fucking target.”

Twenty minutes later

The chopper set down just a few hundred metres from the RV they had flagged down. The ground vehicle was a terrible thing. Several soot scars marked the outside, and parts of it had been sloppily painted red and orange. Underneath the meth-head paint job, it hadn't been in good shape to begin with. And Schmidt didn't like the looks of the group that had piled out of the thing, either. They looked..."rag tag" was a little light. Most of them were obviously either former or current drug addicts. Several had the "collected" fashion of the homeless. But she especially didn't like the look of the man in front, dressed in a Catholic priest's coat and pants. And of course it was him who was coming out of the group of...jesus, fifteen of them? To meet her halfway between the still spun-up rotors of the chopper and the vehicle. She waved behind her as she walked out for the pilot to cut the engines. The Marines with her group and the Blackhawks still in the area would be easy enough to cover her ass.

She flashed her badge as the two met, grimacing at his appearance. He had all the warning signs of a cult leader: full, thick blonde hair, artfully out of place, with a gruff beard forming; eyes shining with a fervent light showing a fanatic devotion to...something; confident, arrogant pose and stride, easy movements but with purpose. She instantly disliked everything about him. He, for his part, gave her a nod and an easy smile, then glanced at her identification, holding out a hand so he could examine it more closely.

"Ah, Agent Schmidt," he said, handing it back to her and standing uncomfortably close to do so. "What can my humble flock do for you?"

"Don't bullshit me, preacher. Who are you and why are you following a terrorist?" She couldn't keep the growl out of her voice.

"If you are asking my name, I am simply Roger. Or Father Roger if you need formalities, but I prefer to do away with them. And as to what we are doing, we are not following a 'terrorist', as you say." He leaned down to match heights with her, giving him an even more condescending air. "We are following a messenger of God."

"I'm sorry, what? Were...were you in Yuma?"

The man leaned back, beatific smile beaming for the world at large but her in particular. "Yes indeed, madam! I witnessed firsthand as the Wrath of God Himself, Lord of All Hosts, was visited upon the town I was born in! I watched in awe as the flock I had strove to break of its sinful habits was suddenly smote like as unto Sodom of old! And yea, I was unscathed as the figure of fire walked past me with nary a glance! So I followed, as did those of us who felt her gaze and yet were untouched by flame, those who were without sin!"

"So you're telling me that you watched all this and now you're...wait, 'she'? Singular person?"

"Yes, Agent Schmidt, for the Lord saw fit that his vengeance would be cast into the form of an avenging angel and that its form would be that of a woman. Fitting, is it not, that the form which led Adam astray now corrects his mistake?"

"You watched while people burned to death?"

The smile faded, a solemn look on the preacher's features now. "The town was purged of sin."

The matter-of-fact way the man said that caused a shiver to go through Schmidt's small frame. She had seen interviews with fanatics before, but it had been transcriptions. To hear someone so casually describe the death of thousands as if it were necessary was something she found herself mentally unprepared for. As the wind from the helicopter's rotors died off, her attention was grabbed by the figure which had appeared at the preacher's side.

The woman was utterly shapeless, hunched over by hardship and age and sun-weathered, covered still in the Arizona desert heat by layers upon layers of cloth. She smiled at Schmidt warmly, but the weathered face gave her only further unease.

"Ah," said Roger. "Mim, could you see to the Agent's other questions? I must see to the flock."

The wide face beamed at him and nodded, then turned to the officer. She could see the woman's grey eyes were kindly, but something was...off. She was just about to start with a further line of questioning when an explosion on the near horizon stole both their attentions. A wall of flame, probably thirty feet high, was barely visible.

"Oh dear," said the old woman. "It seems your friends riled her up."

Schmidt bolted for the chopper, which the pilot was already starting up. The four Marines inside looked tense, and she could catch some chatter over their earpieces. Mostly it was screaming.

Ten minutes after that

Schmidt huddled inside the wreckage of the McDonnel Douglas, shivering despite the heat. The groans of the dying and the sizzle of the dead did not drown out the sounds from her memory. The roar of flames and the screaming rage of the woman behind them haunted her on repeat, and would not stop. Marines had fired round after round at her. The machine guns on the Blackhawks had not done anything, bullets turning into glowing stars around the frame of the impossibly bright destroyer killing their friends. Schmidt hadn't even gotten their in time to hear Coleman die, though she had seen the other choppers blown out of the sky like toys.

Hands pried open the door facing the sky, and she realised with a start that she was alive. Somehow, she had survived the blast and the wreck. She moved her head slightly to the right and saw the semi-skeletal remains of her pilot, still smoking where he had been fried to his seat. The Marines that had been with her were nowhere to be seen. But over the edge of the door frame came two faces she knew, though she wasn't exactly sure how. A voice came over her, from the man.

"Unburned! Brothers and Sisters, we have an Unburned! Quickly, bring some water!"

And then the pain smacked her from her arm and her ribs, and she was pulled into the blackness of unconsciousness.

Banner credit NMS. Thanks, Cap'n!

Leanna swept a hand through her coal black hair and breathed deep to avoid yet another outburst. Today had not exactly been relaxing for her, but she was sure that the kids she had been sent were at least as frustrated as her, and that was saying something. She tilted her head back and stared at the bright blue, clear sky, trying to figure out a way to say what she had to say to them without screaming about how obtuse they were. As she let her head drop and a groan of misery escape her lips, she passed her gaze over the five kids in front of her.

She had to give them one thing. They were eager. Everyone of them was a volunteer for training after the Hounds debacle. The government, police and military depleted over the conflict from...Oh my God, barely a few weeks ago it was over.. Anyway, as battered as they were, they put out the call for people to fill the gap she had retired out of. A few years of service helping out law enforcement against massive threats they couldn't deal with, and they'd get pay and a generous retirement package. Blacklight had even testified in front of Congress about her own service and how much she had enjoyed her time in. As a result, and in accordance with her retirement deal, they had sent her these five.

To say they were green was generous. To say they were powerhouses would be laughable. But they loved the idea, loved the thought of helping, and had enough power the government had decided to send them to her. One speedster who could do Mach three, a kid with heat beams, a girl who basically exploded like a bomb but wasn't hurt, an invisible girl, and a boy who looked to be twelve with what she assumed was telekinesis. And she had to train them in teamwork not just with each other, but with anyone they got assigned to work with and the police they would be serving alongside. A task she was, just now, finding, impossible. Alongside that, she still had to keep her animals alive, although making them shovel horseshit had proved an excellent motivating punishment.

One hand wiped her tired face, dragging her skin for a bit. She hadn't bothered with her identity here, though they had to keep their own hidden if they exited her premises for obvious reasons. Getting used to being called “Miss Young” had hurt, though.

“Okay, Jack, one more time. You've got the suspect in your hands, they've been neutralised, now why can't you just run them to the stati-” Her phone rang and she turned away to answer it, trying not to hear the argument that erupted behind her immediately as if they were trying to solve a logic puzzle.

”This is Leanna Young, go ahead.”
“Oh, Leanna, hi! It's Fred Averston, from Averston Feedstore?”

”Oh hey Fred, what can I do for you?”

“Oh, nothin' much, Miss Young, just makin' sure you still need the full order this month? Only we've been hit hard after everythin' lately and I was hopin' that-”

”Absolutely, Fred. Whatever else happens, my animals need feeding.”

“Oh, that's fantastic news, ma'am. I'll have it out there by end of week. Sorry we're runnin' late, the supply chain's a little iffy right now and I just wanted to make sure one of our best customers was taken care of.”

”No problem Fred, I order extra just in case of that. And don't you worry, I'm not switching stores any time soon.”

“Well, we appreciate it kindly and fully, ma'am. We'll see you by Friday!”

”I appreciate it, Fred. I'll see you then.”

The aging hero sighed as she hung up the call and fought a grin as she listened now to the argument behind her. She remembered her own time as a kid in the biz as if it was yesterday, and it seems like the same problems were just as knotty to the new kids as it had been to them. She wondered if it would be the same years from now when she was too old to do this.
What am I thinking? I'm too old now. She might have even continued with that thought, but a bright flare off to the east in the sky caught her attention. She didn't have anything crazy like supervision, so she just watched it with curiosity as it descended through the atmosphere. The conversation behind her quieted down and she heard the invisible girl, Josephine, ask, “What's that?”

”Probably just a meteorite. They happen a lot more than you think, they're just rare to see this far south.”

They sat back watching for a few minutes. Leanna's eyebrows furrowed, however, as the flare from its entry died off but she could almost make out a shadow still over there. Then the flare went backward. She slapped a hand on the fencepost and spun to her class. All five looked at her confused, but she shook her head at their questions. ”Gear up, guys. Time for a practical.” And all six of them ran into her farmhouse, them to their lockers, her to her room. It had been too short a time since she had put this on, but she knew only two people who could shove meteors back away from Earth, and both of them were in Lost Haven, which means it had been bigger than she had thought if she saw it here in New York. Which meant she might actually be needed again.

As they all assembled in her foyer, she glanced them over. None of them were ready for this sort of thing, and she knew leaving them anywhere without guidance might make them want to help more, which could lead to their own or civilians deaths. But she was suddenly at a loss for what to say. She gulped, then managed to steel her resolve.

”I can't pretend to know what's about to happen, guys. But I do know that I'm about to leave my home and everyone I care about to go deal with it. And you can't come with.”
She held up her hand to stave off the protests already beginning.
”This is bigger than any of us. Remember what I've been drilling in your heads? No glory, no satisfaction beyond a job well done? This is how that works. I'm trusting you with making sure the people around here, with no means of saving themselves should something big happen, are safe. To your young ears, that sounds lame and small, but I tell you right now that if anything happens, no person you save, no matter where, will ever think your contribution is 'small' or 'worthless'. Every life is a person, and every person is worth saving.”

She didn't even need to motion them for them to join in on that last sentence, and they had their jaws set and were actually racing ahead of her on the phrase.

”That said, if you think you can help nearby safely, do so. Jack, you and Stephanie especially might be able to spread out. Don't get isolated, stay in contact, don't be stupid. Stay alive.” She waited a few baited breaths later and then called out ”Break!”

All of them streaked out of her front door, geared and ready. As soon as she was high enough, Leanna kicked her speed up as high as she could, her callsign's searing namesake floating in the air behind her for almost a minute as she sped off at just over three hundred miles an hour east for Lost Haven, hoping against all hope she wasn't too late to know what they were fighting against, or that she wouldn't be helping dig more corpses out of rubble.
Join the discord and you can get the whole peanut gallery to pitch in! We don't bite, we swear.
That morning
Nicky growled at the technicians as they wheeled a weird glowing orb into the chamber she was in. She didn't know how long she had been chained to this wall, but she hadn't been able to do whatever it was that had lent her strength randomly when she was angry. She was able to focus enough to use her martial arts. So she was stuck with her old standby: Screaming and cursing at her enemies.

She held off this time, though. The orb threw her off, as did the lady inside it. She kept flickering in and out, and every time, the orb would spark and spit and she'd appear in the middle again, growing visibly more frustrated. Flames were dancing inside the thing, and she could have sworn they were coming from the woman inside.

Another lady came in. This one the teen recognised as she fixed Nicky with a small, perfunctory smile before turning to the new prisoner. “Mademoiselle Forge, such a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

The woman in the orb spit something in what Nicky figured was French. The evil woman laughed. “No, of course not! You are here so we can extract you abilities, just as soon as we can figure out how to do so without letting you loose to do what I am sure you imagine to be extreme violence.”

More French, and then, “No, they won't. Your organisation has been...acquired. Thank you for setting it all up for us. However, as quick as you are, you don't have the breadth of experience that we do. Some security measures were not taken, and through those we got your records.”

The French woman's face fell into despair as this monologuing bitch continued. “From there, it was a simple matter to pick up or eliminate your employees. A few made it away, but I'm sure we'll be able to track them down soon en-”

The woman was thankfully cut off as the earth rumbled around them. The lights flickered, and, more importantly,the orb did as well. Quick as thought the Frenchwoman was out, both hands wrapped around the other lady's throat. Several klaxons began wailing and the tramp of boots started down the hallway.

”No,” the escapee said just loudly enough for Nicky to hear over the alarms. ”I should make this slow, but I do not have the time. And so, neither do you, madame.” There was a flare and a scream as both of them disappeared in a burst of flame. When it was out, the fire woman was dropping a smoking corpse. She turned to look at Nicky.

”I don't know who your are, girl, but let's get you out of those chains.” Nicole, awestruck, simply nodded. She had never seen anything so fast and brutal before, and she had been stabbed in the eye. She waited patiently as her rescuer reached up to undo a lock, pulling a lockpick out from her mouth like some sort of spy novel. Which was when the shot rang out.

Concrete cratered from the impact just above her head, and Nicole glanced up past the woman's bright blonde hair to see three security goons with rifles pointed at them. The fire woman spun around as they yelled freeze, and Nicky could feel the smugness as stated her refusal simply. She disappeared again, this time seemingly to go through the teenager and into the wall. Nicole wasn't exactly sure how that works, but the sudden and intense pain she got did not feel like the plan. The whole world distorted in her eyes, splitting into multiple ones. She could hear the Frenchwoman screaming from inside her head oh god what was happening!? And then Nicky didn't think anything anymore.

Just outside of Yuma, Arizona

A Gila Monster sat, sunning itself on a rock. The shadow of a passing thing in the sky made no difference to it after it rotated its head enough to note that it wasn't a buzzard. Funny shape, blotting out a part of the sun, but no matter to the lizard. Its brain wasn't big enough to comprehend aliens. Of course, in just a moment, it too would stop thinking.

There was an explosion, something like a incendiary bomb, which glassed the sand a few metres away from the epicentre. It shattered rock and blew apart the innocent Gila lizard. As the flames died, standing in the middle of the scorched ground was a woman. Charcoal black hair, streaked with bright red and blonde strands, fell well below her waist, wild and tangled, but almost as soon as the first explosion died out, another went off. And now her hair was not just fiery, but actual flames. The figure was wreathed in flames, sprouting from nowhere and going from the soles of her feet all the way up. Random gaps as they moved revealed bronzed skin, but within a few moments the flames began spouting ash and smoke. The few glimpses of her skin now showed soot marks. The only other feature seeming to actually be made of flames was the eyes.

Those eyes turned to the right, where they saw an asphalt road. She marched towards it, striding like she had a purpose, but unhurried. As she reached it, the asphalt began to bubble and liquefy, and behind her, the sand held perfectly formed footprints in glass. She looked right, then left, then right again, then turned that way and began walking, with the same measured pace. As she walked, the flames trailed behind her, much like from a torch as one carries it forward, so that any observer would at least be able to tell that there was a person inside them.

She came to the sign, looking at it and reading carefully.

Yuma City Limits, pop. 97,908

With a roar like a furnace, the figure lashed one hand like she was swinging a sword. From the tips of her fingers flew bright white flames, which took the sign in a rapidly expanding fireball. As they rocketed back, the only evidence of the sign were two red hot stumps of the metal posts that had held it up, the rest of the material scattering in droplets before vapourising in the heat. She surveyed her work for a moment, then continued her march into the town. Yuma was about to have a very bad day.

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