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Freelance Immortals

Chapter 5: Day of the Destroyer

The island shook as titanic thrusters lifted it into the sky.

"The day of the Masquerade has ended, Defender," Destroyer said, almost conversationally, as the two psions struggled in a desperate battle of psychokinesis. "I destroyed the Kindred--with a few unimportant exceptions--brought about the fabled Apocalypse, and shattered the pathetic dreamworld of the Changelings."

Obsidian, Jaguar, and Behemoth all stopped, almost in their tracks, and gaped in fury and horror at Destroyer.

"Now, with the Reckoning, my triumph shall be complete." Both men began to sweat. "I shall appear before the world's nation-council, as I did once before. But this time, there shall be none to oppose me."

"Hate to...disappoint you, Destroyer...but you're...being opposed...right now," Defender hissed.

"Yes. And you are my only worthy opposition. I will annihilate the so-called 'Traditions' of magick. Aeon and Concordia will fall, and their shattered remnants will serve. They will be easy enough to set against one another again, once the common enemy of the Nephandi is no more. Think of it, Defender. The end of corruption. The triumph of order. A world of harmony, brought to its rightful place as the center of the universe once more."

"Under the tyrannical rule of a megalomaniac!" Defender snarled, suddenly catching Destroyer in what can best be described as a PK judo throw, and slamming him against a wall. Then Destroyer smiled.

"Your skill with psychokinesis is impressive."

"Thanks," Defender said dryly, electricity flowing around him.

"A pity it is the _only_ field in which you equal me."

Defender had just enough time for his eyes to widen before Destroyer 'ported the Spear of Wotan through his midsection.

"Poor boy. If only you knew what you truly faced." Destroyer looked at the other combatants. The battle was far too even for his tastes; while Blackstar was keeping Obsidian reeling and Menton had Seeker on the ropes, Jaguar was making a fool of Gremlin and Quantum was giving Charger a hard time of it.

Solitaire and Stormwatch were fighting an eerily silent, tightly fought duel; neither could seem to get the upper hand for long. That would change once Behemoth finished off the Destroids he was handily smashing to vapor.

"But you will soon enough. To me, my Ultimates! We go!" The Spear reappeared in Destroyer's hand, trailing bits of Defender's armor. He rapped the blunt end on the ground, and the Ultimates vanished.

"Oh no you don't," Defender hissed through gritted teeth. "You don't get away _that_ easily. Obsidian, Jaguar, watch each other's backs. Seeker, you and Behemoth are Siamese twins until further notice. Quantum, Solitaire, you're with me." The hole in the armor, as well as in him, sealed over as he spoke. [Nass, that hurts.]

"Oh, and are we suddenly Defender's Women?" Quantum cracked.

"Well, I don't know about _you..._" Solitaire replied with a chuckle.

Quantum looked at Defender closely when he didn't reply. "Defender? 'D,' you okay?"

"I'm fine." Defender's hand didn't leave his abdomen when he said it, however.

Solitaire, not buying it for a moment, was at his side in an instant. "Nass, when he teleported that spear in, it _left_ some stuff."

"One of...Destroyer's favorite...little tricks." Defender relaxed, pain lessening as Morgan's Power Ring glowed. The bits of spear left in him became dead skin, and a brief chant and gesture later became living tissue. "Ah. Okay, Champions, let's find the bridge of this thing and shut it down. I don't know why Destroyer bailed, but we'd better take advantage of it while we still can."

"Maybe," Seeker said dubiously.

"It sounds like a logical plan, psion," Obsidian replied, crushing a weak Destroid as it attempted to attack him. "Why do you have reservations?"

"Because Destroyer would expect us to do it, mate." Seeker looked around. "I don't see how we have any choice, though..."

"We'll deal with whatever traps he's set for us," Defender snapped. "We _have_ to stop this island." He walked forward decisively, Solitaire right behind him.

"And everybody keep alert," Solitaire said. "The world needs more lerts," she added under her breath.

"It is settled," Jaguar agreed as the others groaned, sheathing his Hakarr and following.

Quantum and Seeker looked at each other and shrugged. The remaining heroes followed, though less certain than Jaguar.

In moments, the corridor let out to an enormous control center, laid out like the bridge of some massive starship.

"Whoa." Defender chuckled wryly. "When did Destroyer raid the set of Battlestar Galactica?" He looked around. "I can't stand the man, but you can't help but admire his genius. Look at all this technology! And not even a Paradox vapor trail!"

"Oh yes," Solitaire replied. "Very impressive. I'm sure the trap he left here is equally impressive."

Defender sobered quickly. "You're right, of course. Spread out, people. Anyone who can decipher this stuff, start working." He matched deeds to words, sitting at the helm and beginning work on bringing the island-ship under control.

Quantum sat in the 'navigation' seat beside him, and pressed a button. A massive screen opened up before them, the Atlantic spread out in all its glory.

"Oh, _that's_ a bloody great sign," Seeker muttered.

"We should not panic until there is reason," Obsidian replied.

Solitaire opened up her vast mystical senses. "The screen appears to be accurate," she said, her eyes slowly opening. "We are headed west, towards New York."

"This world's nation-council..." Defender whispered. "Oh Light. He's going to attack the UN!"

"We can panic now," Obsidian added dryly.

"Even if they whip out UNTIL, they won't stand a chance," Quantum replied, tapping at incredible speed along the control board. "The Destroids alone would overwhelm them; with those 'Ultimates' and Destroyer's human army, he can take the city in minutes."

"UNTIL?" Solitaire asked.

"United Nations Tribunal on International Law," Defender explained, "Aeon's 'cover' organization. And taking American soil and holding it are two different things." More quietly, however, he added, "but with destroyer's tech, all he needs are enough people..."

"And a symbol," the screen intoned in Destroyer's voice. Armored walls and violet forcefields sealed the room off, and the immortal's ravaged face filled the screen.

Defender and Quantum leapt to their feet. "Destroyer!"

"Of course," he replied, almost smiling. "My Destroids are already over the city, and I have prevented Aeon interdiction of the newscasts. The world will witness my triumph, Defender, and despair." A split-screen showed CNN reports of Destroyer's assault on the UN building; the Ultimates stood before the doorways, and Destroids fought alongside Destroyer's agents against a badly outnumbered and outgunned UNTIL.

"They'll fight you!" Defender snarled at the screen.

"They will fail. They will also see their only hope of victory sent to the bottom of the Atlantic--" an explosion rocked the great ship, "--and witness the deaths of their heroes, crushed by the mighty ocean."

"Oh nass," Defender and Solitaire whispered in unison. "The whole island was a trap," he added himself.

"Correct. A brigade of Destroids remains on the island to ensure that you do not escape, even if you _can_ elude the traps I have laid for you." A large hole appeared in the side of the UN, torn out by Charger's energy blasts. "And if the island _does_ manage to kill you before it sinks, or through some miracle you _escape,_ it will come to my aid. I have won, my old foe."

Defender scowled. "And of course, you're telling me all this to get me to join you. Take that spear of yours...fold it until it's all corners, and STICK IT UP YOUR--"

^RO-land!^ Solitaire sent, more surprised than objecting.

"A pity," Destroyer replied. "Farewell, my greatest enemies. May your next lives possess more wisdom." The screen went blank.

Weapon ports opened up above them, along the ridge of the great dome, and began firing. They only had a moment to fire when Quantum's energy blasts, Defender's psychokinesis, Morgan's Power Ring, and Jaguar's anti-tech spirit Gifts reduced the weapons to scrap. Only the projectile weapons functioned, and they were firing marshmallows.

Defender sighed. "Solitaire..." She replied with a cute look of total innocence.

The entire island rocked again.

"Nass. Okay, plan C," Defender muttered.

"There _is_ no plan C," Quantum reminded him.

"There is now." Defender's power shot through the island. "Everybody out of the pool."

"Easier said than done," Behemoth pointed out.

"Not really," Defender hissed, smiling weakly. Sweat began to trickle down his face again. "I'll open a route for you."

"You're _not_ staying behind alone?" Morgan asked, though it was more of a statement than a question.

"No...other way. If we _do_ escape, this island will turn New York into a graveyard." Defender looked at Solitaire, his eyes asking, but firmly. "I'm trusting you to keep Destroyer busy. Trust _me,_ my heart."

A thought opened up a panel in his helmet, and Solitaire stroked his cheek. "You can't just disable the systems?"

"Not...that easy. Besides, if what I have in mind works, I can save a lot of lives." Defender shook as the island listed forward. "Go! I can't...keep your route...open for...long."

Solitaire's expression was stricken. She _wanted_ to argue him out of it, but a) he wasn't going to change his mind, and b) he had a point. She kissed him passionately before the helm sealed up. ^If you get yourself killed, I'll never forgive you.^

^Trust me.^ Defender winked.

Quantum gave Defender a hard look...that softened quickly. "You better not have gotten me into this campy outfit just to get killed on the first mission, boy scout."

"I was never a boy scout, Quantum," Defender chuckled. "Get going, all of you."

Jaguar gave Defender a brief, flat look, then clapped him on the shoulder and took off at a loping jog. Obsidian nodded and followed.

"Careful, mate," Seeker added solemnly, and Behemoth saluted. Quantum flew off, the two on either side of her.

Defender and Solitaire shared one last, long look, then she turned and left. Defender felt the familiar energies she used around him; one last boost to help him, apparently.

"I love you too," he whispered after they left. Then he looked around. "All right, you stupid hunk of metal! Let's see what you've got!"

* * *

The rest of the team reached the Slingshot quickly, though they had to fight their way through a few Destroids to reach it. Quantum slid into the pilot's seat, and expertly powered up the jet. "What now, Solitaire?"

"We should we check the plane for traps or tracking devices," she said.

"Already done," Quantum grinned. "Even Destroyer couldn't get into this baby without me knowing." Slingshot took off as if fired from its namesake. "Well, Soli, looks like you're our Fearless Leader now. Any ideas?"

"Go kick the sassenach's butt," Solitaire said with a dark smile.

"Works for me," Quantum chuckled. In minutes, they were in New York.

Chaos was king.

Destroyer floated above the wounded UN building, looking fairly invincible. His Ultimates could be seen flying in and out of the tears left in the sides, dispatching most of the remaining opposition. Destroids and Air Cavalry harried the remaining UNTIL forces, and ground troops had all but surrounded the building. A single knot of UNTIL agents, almost entirely psions, was holding out at the rear entrance to the building.

"Hear me, sheep of Earth! I am Destroyer!" The battle subsided for a moment, a few skirmishes continuing, but most stopping to hear Destroyer speak. "I have come from the past to forge the future. My science will bring a new order to the world. Those who serve me shall be brought to the pinnacle of creation. We shall tame our world, and then, we shall conquer the stars themselves!" Destroyer's forces cheered. A few UNTIL soldiers razzed him. "Those who oppose me," he added evenly, "shall be destroyed, as your gathering of heroes was destroyed. There are none who can stand against me."

"Think again, prune-puss!" Solitaire cried, as Slingshot roared overhead. She, Quantum, Seeker, and Behemoth streaked down in a wedge formation, the massive troll slamming into Destroyer as the other three laid in to the Ultimates. The UNTIL forces cheered wildly and began to gain ground.

Slingshot, meanwhile, flew around to hover over the knot of agents holding out, disgorging Jaguar and Obsidian. "Any of you guys pilots?" Jaguar yelled as they hit the ground.

"Yes, ah, sir," a young UNTIL agent said, stepping forward.

"Congratulations, amigo, you''ve just made the big leagues. In you go," Jaguar said, pointing one clawed thumb at the plane, then leaping to the wall and beginning to climb up. The pilot swallowed hard and floated into the plane.

"OFF, you fool creature!" Destroyer snarled, thrusting the flat end of the spear into Behemoth's abdomen. Behemoth grunted and fell back, spiraling down into a hole in the building. "Where is your leader?"

"RIGHT BEHIND YOU," Solitaire said with the Bene Gesserit 'Voice.'

Destroyer snarled, whirling around to deal with Defender.

"Made you look," Solitaire said in a quietly amused voice, then cast her effect. A 'composting' spirit enter Destroyer's body, given control of a portion of his flesh by Solitaire's magicks, began to eat away at Destroyer.

"Hnng--" Destroyer hissed, clutching his side. "Stormwatch--"

Stormwatch leaped from the top of the UN, grabbing Solitaire's leg and yanking her down to the roof. Both rolled easily to their feet. "As my master commands," Stormwatch said, saluting her once more. "I had hoped to face you again. Only once before have I faced an opponent as worthy as you, and he is busy below with Menton."

Realizing that he meant Seeker, she reached out to her teammate through the psilink Seeker himself maintained. *Seeker, take the conn; I can't afford to divide my attention right now.*

*I know the feeling,* Seeker sent dryly. *Don't worry, Soli, you're in good 'ands.*

"Fine then," Solitaire replied to the 'ninja,' flowing into ready stance. "You want me, you've got me." Staff crashed against sword, and the duel began in earnest. [I wonder if I'll actually get to _finish_ this one.]

Destroyer, meanwhile, screamed in fury and pain as the hunk of possessed flesh vanished from his side. "GRAAAA!" A power blast incinerated it; the gaping wound began to regenerate, though slowly at first. "Solitaire, you...you... AHAHAHAHA!" Destroyer smiled...a far more terrible visage than Destroyer enraged. "And I thought you hadn't a tenth of your old power. You still don't know the half of your legacy, but you are as magnificent as ever." He pointed the spear at her. "A pity I must deprive Stormwatch of--" Destroyer was cut off by a blast in the face.

"Shut UP, you arrogant, tyrannical psychopath," Quantum snarled, kicking him around fairly effectively. "You think you're something _new?_ From Attila to Stalin, there have been power-hungry jerks who thought they were the gods' gift to humanity, and if they slaughtered millions, hey, that's the price for being given a 'real leader.' Ha! I've seen them all, Destroyer, and you don't impress--hkk--"

Destroyer 'ported away from the onslaught, appearing beside the powerful energy mistress and grabbing her throat. "You think a few hundred years of life make you an expert on power, dabbler?!" Destroyer squeezed; Quantum's struggles, vicious at first, rapidly grew more feeble. "I came before them all! Temujin, Napoleon, Hitler, _all_ were pale imitators, and often mentally ill at that! I am no racist fool, or proud patriotic idiot! I am Doctor DESTROYER! And my time has come at last! BEHOLD!"

The island, smoking and wobbling, began to come into view.

Destroids began to pour from the stronghold on the island's 'surface.'

*I can't raise Defender,* Solitaire sent, deeply concerned. *I know he's alive, but that's all I can read...*

"Your leader is beaten! My forces rule the battlefield! This...is the DAY of the DESTROYER! NYAH-HAHAHAHAHA..."

To Be Concluded!

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