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“Spit it out!” The Terminator said between world-shaking punches. Satan was sacrificing his life so that the rest of them might live. How could he ignore his request?
Satan’s voice was low and solemn. “If my daughter decides to take over the Dark Citadel, I want you to support her claim. If she refuses let the Hades bloodline take control. I bequeath my demonic blade to my last remaining daughter. I trust you, and I trust the Avenue, but I will place no faith in that snake the Pontiff. Keep Mika safe.”
“Alright!” The Terminator agreed without hesitation. Sorrow flitted through his eyes.
For a hundred years the number of Paragons in the world had remained constant. Only within the last year or so were new names added to the list. Both of them were old established heroes of a bygone era. To witness his contemporary’ life cut short in this way, the Terminator was filled with admiration.
Every Paragon had some extreme measure hidden away in case of events such as this, but they also had misgivings. The Terminator, for instance, couldn’t sacrifice himself because the North needed him. If he were to fall the North would have no one to contend against the daunting power of the East.
Satan’s courage was as surprising as it was praiseworthy.
Satan chuckled. His right hand lifted and pointed toward the heavens. “Go!” He roared.
The area of smoldering red around him suddenly became a tornado of energy that swallowed up the Paragons and spat them into the air. Demonic flames lapped at their heels and burned so intensely they kept the alien avatars at bay.
The fires began to consume Satan’s body. His powers hovered on the cusp of the Infinite.
“So this is what the Infinite feels like, the power I was meant to command.” Satan stepped forward into the center of the tornado. If he remained within it and left with the others there was a chance he could survive. But he was the King of Devils - he sought a glorious death in combat.
“Come! Children of the alien fiends. I will show you the power of a real monster.” He swiped his rapier through the air, sending waves of crimson energy in all directions.
Monarch’s doppelganger retreated a step and lifted its hands. An orb of violet light issued from its palms and burned away the encroaching attack. Queen and Consort came closing in on Satan’s location from either flank.
Satan watched them come with fearless countenance, ready to face them alone. The hellfire that clung to him flickered dangerously and burned brighter. The avatars were reluctant to get close, for they knew the heat from those fires could scorch them down to their souls.
The red tornado had flung the other six Paragons with such force they were in the upper reaches of the planet’s atmosphere before they knew it. Many lesser aliens had rushed after them, but of course could not block their escape.
The Terminator’s expression was uncharacteristically angry. As he flew at the head of the group his big hands grabbed whatever beasts dared get to close before ripping the life out of them in grotesque fashion. It was the only way he could release the pain and resentment that ate at his heart.
The other Paragons didn’t utter a sound, but similar feelings were clear on their faces.
The Wine Master, Clockmaker, Keeper and Bookworm were all glowering. Skyfire Avenue adhered to a strict code of fairness and justice. The Keeper had been prepared to use his own power of last resort, but Satan had been faster.
Even the Pontiff’s face betrayed a sense of loss, almost disbelief. He would never have suspected Satan to take this measure. As an emissary of God it should have been his responsibility! But he didn’t have the courage his contemporary had.
The Paragons slaughtered their way out of encirclement, eventually fighting their way out into space. Once they had some breathing room the Wine Master waved his scepter and a silver light enveloped them. When it receded they were far from the planet’s surface. Without the doppelgangers the aliens couldn’t prevent them from escaping.
Just then a streak of light arrived, a beam that was there one minute and gone the next as it swept through the pursuing alien force. A bone-jarring explosion ensued that sent the monsters reeling in all directions. Zeus-1 appeared suspended in the darkness nearby.
The Wine Master dare not delay. Waving his scepter again his protogenia conveyed them into the small ship’s interior. Immediately Zeus-1’s Blinding Stone was reengaged and Lin Guoguo concealed their presence with her psychic force. They peeled off to evade their enemy’s search.
Zeus-1 was nearing its limit. It had been working beyond capacity the whole way to Heaven’s Light, a feat only possible because Lan Jue was feeding it energy. When they returned to the fleet his ship would need serious repairs.
When he saw the group of Paragons appear on the bridge Lan Jue’s first reaction was to sigh in relief. He made it in time to save them. But his satisfaction was brief, for soon he saw the problem. They were short one.
“Where is he?” Lan Jue had noticed it immediately, and so had Mika. She had approached the moment they appeared. There was a tremble in her voice.
It was the Terminator who answered her. “In order to save our lives Satan pierced his own heart with his demon blade. He used the King of Devils true power to cover our retreat…”
“What?” For a moment Mika’s eyes went dark. She felt faint.
For years she had hated Satan, withholding forgiveness for his alleged crimes. But, in her heart he was always undefeatable - an indomitable force that could overcome all obstacles. Like all little girls she believed her dad could conquer the universe. He was the Devil of this generation.
Now they were telling her that this man, this indestructible force of nature, the man she’d despised for so long, was…
“Mika, don’t rush to conclusions. Let’s take a look, maybe there’s something we can do.” Lan Jue had come to her side, helping to keep her steady.
“Lan Jue you mustn’t rush in!” The Wine Master warned.
“With our gathered strength we can escape unscathed,” Lan Jue said. “My mother has risen to the Infinite.” His own eyes sparkled as he allowed his aura to be revealed to them.
Surprise appeared on their faces as Lan Jue’s aura washed over them. “You broke through?” The Terminator asked.
The Paragons of Skyfire Avenue were aware, but the other were not.
Lan Jue nodded. He then turned back to Mika. “Pull yourself together.”
Mika was tough. She grit her teeth and nodded.
“The target for this planet still remains, we need to make sure it gets done. Let’s go.” Luo Xianni’s stoic voice intruded. With a wave of her hand, all the Paragon aboard Zeus-1 vanished.
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