Behemoth roared again, shattering all the glass within several blocks around where he had, quite literally, erupted from the ground. Dozens of civilians in those buildings were already dead, either from the shards of glass or from their bones breaking from the roar. The rest might as well have been dead, at least the ones closer in to Behemoth's location. The Endbringer carried with it a flood of deadly radiation. Frankly, the ones impaled by glass and their own bones were the lucky ones.
The Protectorate leaders sprang into action as soon as the first roar signaled the monster's arrival. For Legend and Alexandria the orders were fairly simple: just basic tactics of where to go and how to strike. Of course, the ranged attackers under Legend's guidance received an additional instruction. "Remember not to get too close! Behemoth is a completely unrestricted dynakinetic, which means getting into range will lead to your instant death as he manipulates the energy in your bodies!"
A terrifying thought indeed, that power which had been commonly dubbed Behemoth's "kill aura."
Eidolon's group received more nuanced directives, more coordination. Maneuvers to pull off in order to hopefully slow the beast down, or at least keep him off balance long enough for Alexandria and Legend to land some solid hits. Most of the capes however had flocked to Inkscape, the leader of the local branch of the Protectorate, to engage in search and rescue. A job that many would consider the most valuable, important task of all. What was the point in beating back Behemoth if nobody lived to celebrate it, after all?"I hate to say it, but everyone in a 2 block radius of Behemoth is already a lost cause. Focus your efforts on the area surrounding him at the epicenter, and try to get a bead on where he's going. Predict his movements, and we'll get people out before it becomes a problem,"
the octopus-faced hero commanded. "If you think you can fend off the radiation poisoning, then you can risk getting in closer. If not, then I want you to pull out the very second it looks like Behemoth is getting within a half mile of your location. We don't have any anti-rad pills in yet, but there's still more reinforcements on the way. Keep your comms open, and coordinate together."
He spared a glance down at Whimsy, helping to stabilize her. "If your phasing power will let you ignore radiation, then you can get in closer than most. That means you can search the rubble of areas he's already wrecked. If that's true, then you're on fallen hero rescue. Get out any of our comrades he knocks down in his rampage."
With a tentacle wave, Inkscape catches the attention of another cape, someone with red lightning decals on their outfit. "Fleet-Foot, you're with this one."
After another roar, Inkscape couldn't delay any longer. "Move, team! Save as many lives as possible!"
Meanwhile, Decoy sat in her private quarters in the PRT building, monitoring all communications and camera feeds from throughout the city. Several of her cameras were already offline, either from the destructive power of Behemoth, or interference from the sheer energy output of the monster. She watched as Alexandria engaged Behemoth directly, slamming her fists right into the monster's face repeatedly. A bolt of lightning appeared from nowhere, striking her to the ground. Thankfully, and expectedly, she got right back up fighting again. Total invulnerability was an amazing power. Meanwhile, Legend was flying about nearby, just outside of Behemoth's kill range. An amazing display of differently colored lasers blasted through the air, turning and zigzagging around any obstacle in their path until they found their mark, striking Behemoth.
Then something amazing happened. Tulpa's projection manifested in a brilliant light, an intricate tangle of silvery strings, and struck Behemoth, cutting deeper than even Alexandria's unparalleled strength and Legend's unstoppable lasers! The tinker's eyes stretched open in shock, though she recovered quickly. Well, with this many parahumans to work with, shouldn't it have been expected? Still, the sheer power in that projection... It was unlike anything they'd ever seen. With Tulpa here, could they do it? Could they win without Scion? Could they not just beat Behemoth back, but finally kill it?
A sudden voice from the speaker caught Decoy's attention. "I found someone trapped in some rubble, but I can't get them out!"
She recognized the voice of Retcon, one of Denver's more tame villains. "Could I get brute assistance?"
Decoy immediately answered. "I'm patching you through right now."
She went to work, tapping her keys, when-"AAAARGH!"
The feed cut out to the sound of screaming and falling debris. Decoy pulled up her vitals monitor for the communicator that had been given to Retcon. Behemoth had claimed his first cape of the day. First, but far from the last. She glanced back onto the camera showing Tulpa battling Behemoth. Come on, Chambers-kun. You can do it.
Back in the field of battle, the various capes had already been sent running into a disaster zone. Tulpa's projection came back in for another shot at Behemoth and sliced a decent chunk out of the creature, but found increasing resistance the deeper it cut into the monster. In response, Behemoth turned its attention toward where Tulpa was standing, its single eye fixating on her position. In a flash, a bolt of lightning generated from nothing, blasting straight for the Ward. It circled around falling debris, completely breaking all known science regarding electricity following the path of least resistance, dodging and weaving around whatever was in its way. Then, a fraction of a second before Tulpa found herself fried to a crisp, the lightning was intercepted by none other than Alexandria herself! The powerhouse brute flew directly into the bolt from the side, taking the energy into her own body and falling to Tulpa's side with a loud thud!
Smoke wisped up from her costume, but she stood none the worse for wear. "I don't know who you are, but you're doing good work. If you can get further back, do it. That's an order."
Without another word Alexandria took off, shooting straight toward Behemoth and socking him in the jaw.
Distracted, the Endbringer failed to notice the massive bolt of electricity flying into his not-flesh, courtesy of Alloy. The constant stream of power flaked off bits and pieces of his body, but nothing so consequential. It regained its footing and snagged Alexandria out of the air, smashing the invulnerable woman into the ground near Alloy so hard a huge crater was left behind.
"Margrave, come in."
Inkscape's voice spoke over Margrave's ear piece. "Decoy informed me that we've got a big shipment of weapons just arrived courtesy of Muramasa, the mass-production tinker. I've assigned a mover to meet you back at the staging grounds. You're the only one who can carry that much equipment at once and deploy it to as many lower powered capes out here as possible. Get on it!"
Behemoth took two massive stomps forward, fighting against some energy shackles manifested by Eidolon. The energy shattered, dissipated, as Eidolon flew back from the recoil. Behemoth stepped through a large building, smashing right on as though it weren't even in his way. While this did kill a number of people, they were already good as dead anyway. The more concerning issue was the direction he was headed: straight for the PRT headquarters."Oh shit. Decoy!"
Protean activated his comm unit immediately upon realizing what was going on. "You've got to get out of there! Behemoth is coming!""Negative, Protean,"
she replied, not even bothering to mask her voice with a modulator. "I have to manage the system, or else all communications go black and we're fighting blind."
Protean growled. "As your superior, I order you-""Superior in what way, Mark?!"
she screamed over him. "You're a traitor, only spared the Birdcage because of this mess we're in now! And if you think you can leverage our personal relationship, then shut your fucking mouth, because we're done! I'm managing the system until that bastard kills me and that's final!"
For once, Protean didn't have anything to say. He blinked a few times, drawing a complete blank. He barely registered the giant monster not 500 feet away from him, shambling toward the place he once called home. "I still love you,"
was all he could manage."I never did. It was an act."
A number of heroes tried desperately to halt Behemoth's advancement, to little effect. They only succeeded in slowing the beast down. Once it was in range, it called forth another lightning bolt, this one headed straight for the PRT building. It struck as intended, blowing out a large chunk of the building. Glass and stone rained down, some of which struck a nearby rogue cape, the Questioner, knocking her down and unconscious, bleeding badly. A case of the wrong place at the wrong time. Inside the power of the building surged, blowing out fuses and circuits, leaving the entire place in a state of blackout. Decoy had, miraculously, avoided taking any severe injury. The same could not be said for Love Craft, who was still in the medical wing on life support. The machine overloaded, exploding in the brute's face, burning and disfiguring them beyond recognition.
"This is a most troubling world I have found myself trapped within."
Chivalry had raced into the PRT building, muttering to himself over the circumstances of his situation. He forced himself to put it behind him and focus on looking for people to get out. If Behemoth was able to continue marching forward, they would have more than some lightning
to worry about. That creature's very presence would instantly kill any survivors and he had a duty to rescue as many as possible. The knight-like cape rounded a corner, finding a single PRT trooper unconscious near a blown out light. It had seemed the glass had embedded into his face. Chivalry picked the man up and slung him over one shoulder, then sliced through the wall with his free arm. The reinforced barrier was like air to his blades so long as he used his power.
Chivalry ran out of the building, carrying his single rescue, when he saw a woman, The Questioner, lying amidst glass and stone rubble. "Can I carry more than one?"
He approached, examining her wounds. They were much more severe than the man he had with him. "This is Chivalry, on the West side of PRT HQ, on the outside. I've recovered two injured but need a way to transport them to safety."
No answer. "Repeat, this is Chivalry, I need directions!"
Still no response."Dammit, I guess we're on our ow-""I read you loud and clear, Chivalry. This is Dragon. I've connected with Decoy's communication system and rebooted it. I'm sending someone to pick you up right now.""Thank the stars. Dragon, you have my than-"
Chivalry's danger sense alerted him to an immediate threat. Dodge to the right, it told him. Falling danger, landing imminent. If he moved, whatever was falling would hit the woman on the ground. In a split second decision, Chivalry kept his feet planted firmly, tossing the unconscious man aside as gently as possible. No sooner had he finished that motion did an office table strike him from above, breaking in two over his body. Chivalry fell to the ground, unconscious, but proud that he could at least shield another person from certain death.
Salem approached the PRT HQ as part of Eidolon's squad. Fighting an Endbringer, he never thought it would come to this. But Sheila was fighting, so he knew he had to do his best. For her. A bolt of lightning struck the building, and his communications instantly went offline. The other capes were too busy fighting to give him any direction, so Salem had to make his own judgments. If Behemoth got any closer to the PRT, then the staging grounds would be compromised and a lot more people would die. He knew what he had to do. Getting in closer than was entirely wise, Salem concentrated on the ground beneath Behemoth's feet, instantly liquifying it into molten lava and depriving the monster of his footing. That and giving Behemoth one hell of a hot foot. Staggered, Behemoth's advancement stopped and it looked down as if to question just what had happened.
"Decoy! Director Kens!"
Inkscape screamed out for nobody to hear. The comms were dead. For all he knew, everyone inside was dead. That was his base of operations, where he trained and worked with his team! Where he set the example for the Wards! Behemoth must not
be allowed to get any closer! Luckily the Endbringer was stopped for a moment, thanks to a sudden pit of lava opening up beneath him. Inkscape saw his opportunity. He abandoned search and rescue. This was one of his good
days. One of his best
days. Time to go on the offense.
Concentrating, Inkscape began to swell up larger and larger, inflating in a rather comical fashion like a balloon. His elastic, rubbery body expanded to several dozen times its usual size. Then, it all expelled outward at once: hundreds
of gallons of ink, which quickly became thousands. A tidal wave of inky blackness poured forth, which Inkscape swam in like the ocean creature he resembled. Almost like surfing a massive wave, except he controlled this wave, how it ebbed and flowed, where it went. As he moved forward, he concentrated on pulling every piece of paint and ink that came into his range. Entire buildings had their coats removed. All the capes he passed by lost the pigmentation to their costumes. The evacuating civilians clothing became devoid of color. It all served to swell into the continuously growing monstrously sized tidal wave Inkscape gathered until the wave was nearly four times the size of Behemoth himself.
Like a massive Inky golem, the flowing wave intercepted Behemoth from the front. "NOT IN MY CITY!"
Standing atop his largest creation, the tidal wave of ink poured forth directly onto Behemoth, drowning the beast in a myriad rainbow of colors. The sheer force caused Behemoth to stumble back, tripping over the edge of the lava pool and collapsing onto its back, smashing tremors into the earth. Still Inkscape kept pummeling and pummeling Behemoth with the ink, like he was trying to drown the giant monster. As soon as the ink flowed over Behemoth's body, it circled back into the main body and continued to cycle over and over again, keeping Behemoth pinned down.
Behemoth had had enough. The sheer force of its roar blasted apart the ink current keeping it trapped, splattering paints and inks all around like a stormy rain. The lava it had tripped over, courtesy of Salem, rose up from the ground like an erupting volcano. Massive debris flew out everywhere, striking Salem and taking him out of the fight. Inkscape struggled to maintain his balance as the surface tension of his creation was destroyed. Then a single bolt of lightning struck him. Inkscape, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of ink, fell out of the sky.
Behemoth stood back up, then turned off into another direction. The PRT was safe. For now.
Injured: Love Craft, Questioner, Chivalry, Salem
Dead: Retcon, Inkscape