Judas rocketed out of the crater and past our defensive line faster than I could blink. He was fast! Much faster than he’d been a second ago. In that quick swipe, he’d managed to grab Lancelot and hurl him hundreds of feet down the street and into a wall where the road terminated in a “T” junction. Before we could take a step towards aiding the hero, Judas flew in front of him and tried to drive his fist through Lancelot and the wall.
The Guard’s mechanical suit was impressive, though. He managed to whip his shield forward in time to block the blow, but the momentum behind Judas’ fist was enough to punch him through the wall. The villain didn’t really seem to care if Lancelot was hurt or not, his head snapped back towards us before he turned in a blur making his second pass to pick us off.
A green wall suddenly appeared a few feet in front of us, but it didn’t seem to do much. Judas smashed through it like it was just a thin pane of glass. Chitin was who Judas focused on next. He slammed his shoulder into the giant at full speed, knocking Chitin off his feet like he was weightless.
When the hero landed, he abandoned the humanoid form of his armor, and started growing it in every direction like an explosive sea urchin. Judas didn’t seem to care. He made a minor adjustment to his flight and let one of the spines brush past him as he started to rip and tear at the armor. He peeled away car-sized chunks and hurled them away, viciously trying to reach the person at the center of the defensive shell.
I got ready to fire a blast, but Erin was the first of us to react. She flew forward Judas, every bit as fast as he had, activating her strength a split second before she reached him. Her jab managed to slam him to the ground, but he flew back out in the blink of an eye.
“By Jaysus, what is this freak?” The Dubliner snarled, shooting his energy seemingly at random, spreading it around the area.
The ground shook, and I through for a second it was Judas, but Erin was managing to keep him busy. Then I look and saw Bulwark standing with a strange pose, almost like he was trying to life something heavy. And then I saw the massive walls of stone rising up on either side of the street before turning a full ninety degrees and started spreading out over top of the buildings.
“That’s really cool,” Whitney said.
I had to agree. It felt like the whole world was shaking. But as neat as it was, I couldn’t take my eyes of Erin and Judas. She had been doing well at first, but Judas newfound speed was insane. He was boarding on speedster territory, his strikes almost too fast for me to make out. Erin was having to cycle between defense and offense with no room for error.
“Legion, send out as many centurions as you can. Evacuate everyone you can.”
I heard the voice coming over comms and turned back to see Lancelot stepping out of the hole Judas put him through. There was a fist-sized dent in his shield, but the rest of his armor seemed functional.
“I’ll be basically useless if I do that. Are you sure?” Legion asked back, as dozens of transparent copies started to form around him.
“Keep your head down and you’ll be fine. Don’t you trust my armor?” Lancelot replied, sounding like he was trying to joke despite the situation.
Legion didn’t reply, but soon the street was full of several dozen dupes that all started running through small gaps in Bulwark’s rising walls.
“Lancelot,” Ian’s voice came over comms, “This is Clyffe, I’ve patched you through to ASET and the Argonauts.”
“Copy that. Do we have any backup on the way?”
“Affirmative. The Eagle is en route.”
“Thank God,” There was real relief in his voice. Just how screwed were we?
Erin’s fight was starting to turn for the worse. She had given up trying to attack, relying on her defense to keep her from getting hurt. Judas seemed almost frenzied, pummeling the green barrier over and over. It was holding, but the ground under her was cracking with the rapid strikes.
Once the shaking stopped, Erin seemed to suddenly fall through the ground the same instant a jagged pillar of stone shot up from the ground like a giant claw and slammed into the levitating Judas. Bulwark made a motion of pulling something towards him, and the ground next to us opened to reveal a dusty, but safe looking Erin.
“What the hell happened?” She asked, looking around.
“You’re welcome,” Bulwark said as rocks and chunks of debris started to move towards him, levitating as they formed together into a sort of stone armor around the already imposing Brit. The last of the pieces were coming together when Judas dove from the sky. Bulwark let loose a battle cry, and the street erupted into jagged pillars.
Judas disappeared from my line of sight as he slammed through one of the columns. I heard a series of heavy impacts, but I couldn’t see who was hitting who. And then I realized Bulwark’s obstacle course had cut me off from the rest of the heroes. The sounds of the fight were getting more intense, not that I could really do anything anyway. Judas was way out of my class.
I didn’t want to run into Judas on my own, so I took off through the maze, trying to find my way to the rest of the Argonauts. I came aground a corner and spotted Whitney helping Erin to her feet, before I could see if they were all okay, blue light flooded my vision. I felt myself driving for the ground second before an avalanche of rock crashed down around me.
After breaking the pillar that almost crushed me, Judas bounced off several more like he was in a pinball machine as the golem-like form of Bulwark came crashing after him, staying several feet off the ground by leaping from pillar to pillar.
“Are you guys okay?” I called out, pushing some of the rubble to the side.
“Yeah, we’re fine, but Adam got cut off,” Erin said.
“This shit’s crazy,” I said, craning my neck to see if I could get eyes on Judas.
“Thanks, captain obvious,” Whitney said, putting a hand to her ear. “Corey, what’s going on up there?”
“I’m trying to lay low, but Bulwark is pummeling Judas. He’s launching boulders like crazy, but Judas is tanking everything.”
“I can’t tell, but Judas can’t get close to Bulwark.”
“Okay, let us know if anything crazy happens,” Whitney said. “What’s our move, chief?”
Erin’s brows knitted together in thought, “We should group up with the others. Safety in numbers and all that.”
“This place is a maze. We better get moving,” I said, looking up at the walls.
“I can help with that.”
We all turned and suddenly realized Holmes was standing right next to us.
“Where’d the hell did you come from?” Whitney asked.
The woman smiled, “Come on, I’ll lead you to the others.”
She took off through the maze, leaving us to exchange looks of confusion.
“Come on,” Erin said, motioning that we should follow.
Holmes deftly led us through the maze to a sort of clearing where the others appeared to be gathered. Adam looked up at us when we walked in and made his way over to us. Indra sat with his legs crossed on the ground in some sort of meditation. Legion appeared to be lost in thought and Evangelion was streaming more of the ornate smoke from his hands. It curled up into the air, coalescing into a large sphere of light and wispy smoke.
Locksley was off to one side fiddling with her arrows while Onager, Shogun, and Lancelot were in a heated discussion. “What’s the plan, sir knight?” Holmes said with an upbeat tone in her voice.
“That’s what we were discussing,” Lancelot sighed. “I think we need to hurl everything we’ve got and put the bastard down.”
“That will only get more good heroes killed. We don’t know everything he can do, and we know the Eagle is on the way,” Shogun said. Her posture was stiff, and her hand was tightly gripping the hilt of her sword. “He clearly has a theme. He’s quoted the book of Revelations twice: both times referring to the Seven Seals.”
“Are you saying this guy has five more levels of crazy to reach?” Whitney asked.
Shogun nodded, but Lancelot cut her off, “That’s why we need to put him down quickly.”
“I don’t think we’re capable, Mr. Hale.”
“I’ll be the judge of my team’s ability. Indra! Are you ready to go again?’
“Hō,” the monkish hero answered, rising to his feet almost magically.
“Fine,” Shogun relented. “Shinobi,” She said with a finger pressed to her ear, “Help run interference, but stay clear of any threat.”
“Understood,” came the synthetic sounding reply.
“Dub, you hear that?” Lancelot radioed out.
“Aye Lancy. I’ll give the gobshite a right fierce baytin.”
A green glow lit up overhead as The Dubliner seemed to be using his powers on himself in some sort of flight. Indra took off and started jumping from pillar to pillar, gaining altitude until he was running over top of them.
“Argonauts, I strongly recommend you get Serath back here with the rest of us. This could get messy,” Shogun said, eyeing Lancelot.
Erin looked between the two pros and nodded, “Corey, get back here and take cover. We’re making a move.”
“Roger that.” A second later, Corey dropped down from above, and partially folded his wings. “What’s going on?”
“I’m not—” Erin was cut off by a shockwave rolling through us. I looked up and saw the tell-tale signs of another one of Indra’s massive punches. Judas sailed up into the air, but I wasn’t sure if he was running or just getting beat around.
For a second time, the ground rumbled. Cracks formed along the bottom of the stone pillars as they suddenly broke free of the ground and flew upwards like giant petrified javelins. Hundreds of fifty-foot spears of stone flew into the air, breaking against Judas with the speed of a gatling gun.
A green speck arced skyward until it was above the stone bombardment. A halo of emerald light formed above the battered Judas before an almost blinding beam of pure energy blasted the villain towards the ground.
“Take cover!” Shogun yelled.
Erin braced herself in a defensive stance while Corey dug his steeled wings into the ground like a makeshift barrier. Chitin quickly jogged over once the obstructive stone maze was gone and grew out his armor to protect the others just as the easily ten-foot wide beam slammed into the ground kicking up a wave of dust as the impact ejected rubble.
But something was wrong. The roaring energy was kicking up a stiff breeze, but the ground stopped shaking. A figure stood up in the crater, and the beam seemed to unnaturally focus to a point on Judas’ forearm.
“And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius…”
The beam stopped, the last wisps of light appearing to be sucked into an abyssally black circle on Judas’ right forearm. It was like a tear in reality; an endless void that light fell into with no return. I felt my energy ripple uncomfortably, like it was struggling to stay manifested.
“I now give you all the chance for surrender. Lay down your arms, so salvation may find you faster,” Judas said, stretching out his arms and turning his face to the sky.
“Fat chance!” Lancelot yelled, charging forward behind his shield. Judas stretched an arm towards the hero, and the black disk on his arm seemed to dilate ever so slightly. Lancelot stumbled, and his arms dropping like they suddenly couldn’t support the weight of his sword and shield.
“What the bloody hell?” Came a muffled voice from inside the helmet. Judas dashed forward and slapped the disabled hero into the stone walls that lined the street.
“Lancelot?” Shogun called out, receiving no answer.
Onager looked concerned, “My suit isn’t working. He’s some kind of electrical dead zone.”
Locksley let an arrow fly towards the villain, but Judas caught the projectile with ease. He looked it over with apathetic interest before tossing it to the side. “I am the slayer of false gods, I am—”
“—JUDAS!” Bulwark’s voice boomed out as he fell like a meteor, still clad in his stone armor.
The villain’s head snapped up, and he flew towards the hero. Bulwark tried to swing his fist, but Judas put on a burst of speed and slammed through the shell of rock. He and the human form of Bulwark burst out the golem’s back, Judas’ arm driven into Bulwark’s gut. Judas stopped ascending and pivoted, heaving Bulwark towards the ground as hard as he could.
“Move!” Shogun yelled. But it was too late. The ground rippled like water when the hero hit, throwing us back in a hail of rocks and dirt. I scrambled to back to my feet and saw that we were on the rim of a massive crater that had collapsed a few of the buildings on either side of the street. I ran up and peered over the edge to see Bulwark lying in the center of the impact. He wasn’t moving, but he looked to be in one piece.
I looked up and saw Judas was looking at all of us with glee in his eyes. He was slowly sinking to the ground, still looking like he was ready for a fight.
His mouth started to move, but before he could get any words out, I saw a flash of emerald. My vision blinked blue again, and when it cleared, I had dived to the side as The Dubliner slammed Judas to the ground with a beam of energy. Judas rolled under the force of the attack, stopping in a kneeling position as he held his right arm out to absorb the energy. The black disk had expanded into a swirling vortex, consuming everything the hero was throwing at him.
I glanced back at The Dubliner. He was standing on a glowing platform made from his energy, his face twisted with rage. Keeping the beam going with his right hand, The Dubliner fired another beam in a circle around the villain.
“What are you doing?” Shogun yelled.
“You know the trouble with these energy feeding types? They can be overfed!” The Dubliner yelled as the ring of energy roared to life. Beams of energy poured from the surfaces the hero painted, blasting Judas from all sides.
“Hey, glowstick! Give me a hand!”
Oh, he’s talking to me.
“Right!” I called back, coalescing energy to my palms and firing a blast of my own.
“Anyone else want to chip in?” The Dubliner asked.
Wordlessly, Evangelion stepped up, a massive swirling cloud above him. The wisps of energy swirled together like an eye, focusing a beam of white energy at the swirling mass of color enveloping the villain.
“Give it everything you’ve got lads!”
Legion stepped forward and focused his hands towards Judas. Thunder cracked over head as thin arcs of electricity jumped between Legions outstretched hands. Suddenly, a bolt of lighting struck where Judas was standing.
My arms were starting to ache from firing this much energy, but the others weren’t showing any signs of letting up so neither would I.
Then I saw it; a black orb expanding from the center of the swirling energy. My energy trembled, and suddenly, I felt it being forcefully ripped out of me. “What’s going on?” I shouted as I felt my barrier dissipate. The beam suddenly stopped, and I felt drained.
Evangelion and The Dubliner didn’t look much better. The cloud above the Guard’s head vanished at the same time The Dubliner’s platform disappeared and he fell to the ground. The black sphere rapidly shrunk back into the flat disk on Judas’ arm.
“I am famine; the hunger none can fill,” Judas said, walking towards us.
“Get out of here,” Erin said, pulling me back. “He can’t hurt me, but you’re a different story. Get everyone back.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah,” She said, giving a smile. “I’m invulnerable, remember?”
I nodded, but something odd caught my eye. “Erin, look.”
Red lines were tracing themselves in the air, forming what looked like two hexagons slightly offset from each other. When the shapes completed, a portal opened in their center. A red, white, and blue streak shot out of the portal with a sonic boom, slamming into Judas before I could blink.
The Eagle was here.
Spectral was the next out of the portal, his large glowing wings carrying him high into the air. Then a guy in a black body suit with sections glowing a bright orange came through, followed by a red hair woman with tendrils of light streaming behind her. Then a muscle-bound man cam running out with a gust of wind behind him as a girl in a hoodie, skirt and leggings brought up the rear with glowing shapes floating above her palms.
“Hey guys. Sorry we’re late! I’m Hex!” She said, waving at us while the rest of her team ran after the Eagle.
Judas was fast, but against the Eagle… I felt a smile spreading across my face as I watched him fight. I could feel the impacts like a base note in my chest as his fists broke the speed of sound with every strike. The Eagle suddenly shifted backwards, flying just an inch off the ground, before launching forward and delivering a massive punch that rivaled Indra’s.
The ground shook with the impact, but the hero didn’t wait for the villain to hit the ground; he shot forward and around the flailing villain, delivering an uppercut that sent him into the stratosphere.
Damn that guy was awesome.