Finale: Tempest

The minute that Magician's portal closed behind him, Taylor hit him with everything she had. Every ounce of psychic will that she had built threw itself at the mad supervillain and attempted to unravel him, to unmake him into nothing but cosmic energy and dust. The force of it was enough to make blood vessels pop in her eye and cause Magician to physically stagger as he was bent under the weight of her power. For a moment, his form wavered…

Then pain lit up her world. Every nerve ending felt like it was burning as one and her assault ceased and Magician remained whole as she slumped to the floor.

"Hot damn, your powers just keep growing." Magician chuckled, taking his top hat off and wiping away a cold sweat that had formed. "Remember when you first summoned me and you couldn't even make me stumble? Now if I didn't have my lovely assistant, you'd have sent me back into the Storm."

Taylor felt herself lifted off the ground and slung over someone's shoulder. Canary, probably. Where was she now? All she could make out was a dimly lit hallway, the walls looking like they'd been shaped directly from stone. The tunnel quickly resolved into a large open room, a table with surgical instruments laid beside it being the main centerpiece. Taylor's blood went cold when she saw that and the figure working on a still twitching human body.

Bonesaw. The most horrifying member of the Slaughterhouse 9, a biological Tinker. Hadn't they been wiped out though?

No, Canary warned me before she attacked me. Why does Magician have her?

"Hey there Riley," Magician sauntered up and rubbed the top of the monster in human skin's head with casual affection. "How's the latest project?"

"Eh." The girl shrugged and wiped some blood on her apron, critically reviewing the opened skull of the man. Taylor felt even more revulsion when she realized the man was still breathing, eyes darting around the room frantically. "Could be better, could be worse. I think I've finally managed to isolate the connection to the passenger, but a direct transfer to another host still seems impossible."

"Keep at it, little miss." Magician patted her on the head again. "I've got faith in you."

"Yeah boss." Bonesaw's eyes narrowed when they fell on Taylor. "Hey boss? I thought you said we only did experiments on bad people. I recognize her from T.V. She's a hero, isn't she?"

"We aren't going to experiment on her." Magician said placatingly. "You're experimenting on the bad people so that when we do the final operation, it won't hurt her. Make sense? "

Bonesaw thought about it before nodding agreeably and turning back to the twitching body. Magician gave Taylor an eye roll as they walked out of sight and through more tunnels. "I tell ya what, teaching morality to a six year old is damn near impossible when you're a supervillain. Luckily this world has no end of trash villains I can use for Riley's experiments."

"Why do you have her?" Taylor managed to rasp out before coughing and sending blood spattering against a wall. Ah, she'd bitten her tongue at some point. Fun.

"Well she's gonna be the key to getting your powers for myself." Magician said with a perfectly reasonable tone. "Since I still can't directly hurt or influence you myself, but I'm hoping we can crack open that noggin of yours," he reached out and tapped her on the forehead, "and play around with your passenger. The thing that gives you your powers."

"But how?"

"Dunno." Magician shrugged and gestured at a wall. Stone flowed like liquid, making a doorway. "Put her in there for now, Canary."

The new Butcher silently obeyed, depositing Taylor into a cramped room with a small cot and basic facilities. "Nicer than I expected from you. Where are the chains?"

"Right here."

Something clamped around Taylor's neck and suddenly she could feel her connection to her powers fade. They didn't go away entirely, she could still sense Magician, sense Legacy and Roulette, but it was muted somehow.

"That should keep you in check. People forget that I consumed a bunch of Designers when I was around. I just don't use them too much cause I don't have the patience. Once in a while though, I get an idea that's too handy to not build." He gestured to the collar. "That right there should dampen your connection to the Storm, without cutting us off entirely. Now sit tight. Canary will bring you some food later, maybe a book or something so you don't get bored. I gotta go help Riley finish dissecting that Heartsomething or other guy." He turned to leave.

"Wait!" Taylor called, standing quickly, pins and needles stinging across her body. Nerve damage, great. "I just need to know… why? Why are you doing all of this? You could be endangering the world, all for what, just my powers? What's the point if you're dead too."

Magician stopped in the doorway and silently contemplated the question. "Have you ever lost someone close to you, Taylor?"

That took her off guard. "Yeah… My mom. Car accident."

Magician nodded in understanding and then stepped up to her, looking her dead in the eye. "I know the feeling all too well. What would you do to get her back? What sacrifices would you make, what goals would you pursue, what devilish acts would you perform, to bring her back?"

Taylor felt her throat go dry. "I… I don't know."

Magician bared his teeth in a parody of a smile. "Then you're a better person than I am, because I do. I'd do anything to see my mother again and for a while, I did, but I still failed and I had to watch her die a second time before I joined her. I've had only two truly good things in life, Taylor. My mother and my baby brother. Ma died when we were young and it broke us both. I wanted to bring her back for my sake, but also for my brother's. Now they're both dead, probably stuck in that brain of yours." His eyes burned with madness for a moment. "I will take your powers, kill that golden idiot pretending to be a savior, and then remake the world into a place where my mother and my brother can live in happiness. If you die in the attempt… Well, sorry, but I've killed better people than you to get this far."

"That is the most selfish bullshit I've ever heard." Taylor managed to choke out through the sheer anger flowing through her. "This is your third chance at life and you're still wasting it like this? With your powers you could achieve so much good. Why didn't you just ask, I'd bring your mom back in a heartbeat if I knew I could."

"Because I'd still be beholden to you. Don't take it personally kid, but I'm not trusting my life with anyone else." Magician shook his head. "I don't expect you to understand. You're an inherently selfless person, made to be a hero really. I'm just… not." He shrugged. "I'm broken. Have been for a while." He stood there for a moment, lost in his own mind before snapping out of it and stepping back through the opening in the stone wall. "We'll talk later."

Stone once again shifted leaving Taylor in the dimly lit cell. Leaning against the wall, she sighed. Hopeless, powerless, trapped. Just like the goddamned locker. She screamed in frustration and pounded her fist against the wall repeatedly until she just numbly sat there, blood dribbling from torn knuckles.

Alone.

You're never alone, Taylor.

She jolted as the voice whispered through the back of her mind. It was unfamiliar, feminine, spoken as if from a great distance, but… She tugged at her collar.

Great, am I going crazy now?

A feeling of amusement welled up from somewhere that Taylor couldn't identify.
No, you aren't. My dad just isn't as good as he thinks he is.

Your dad? Am I talking to…

You can call me Sorceress. Sorry about the whole magic themed name. Call it a… family tradition.

Yeah, I met your uncle. Pretty laid back, for a villain.

Bah, he's a pretentious bastard who likes to think he's a gentleman criminal- I'm getting off track. I'm going to help you survive this, maybe even get out of here and kick Magician's ass.

Why exactly?

Because my dad's a jerk, that's why! Look, the collar is holding you back, but it can't cut you off completely from us or Magician would vanish too, which he doesn't want, obviously. So, a strong enough super can get through the interference and still speak to you directly, maybe even get some power to you.

And how strong are you exactly?

I have all of his powers and then some. Plus years longer using them.

You sound smug.

Because for all his delusions of grandeur, there are still several supers stronger than he is. I'm just one of them. Now do you want my help or not? I won't be able to get you all of my power, but enough to do something about your situation.

Taylor took a deep breath. Maybe this was just another of Magician's tricks or maybe…

Tell me what I need to do.

First things first…

Magician paused mid step as he felt a wave of unease pass through him. His shriveled conscience told him it might have been guilt. So he ignored it and kept walking until he got bored and then simply directly teleported to Riley's side. "Where are we at?"

Riley flinched, the scalpel in her hand slipping and cutting through an important artery. The Overmind guy with a harem, uh, Hearttaker or something, began to spasm and then died. "Darn it! Stop doing that, you know it's distracting!"

Magician shrugged apologetically, though he didn't really care. Like he'd told Taylor, there was a lot of test subjects that Riley's weird and twisted mentality would accept on this Earth. "We've still got that Valefor guy. His power is pretty interesting, he must have a unique connection to his passenger."

Riley huffed and began to wipe her hands while Canary walked between them to grab the corpse and begin hauling it away for disposal. "We're gonna run out of test subjects at this rate."

"We've still got enough, especially now that I can focus my attention on helping you." Magician waved away the concern.

"You sure you can do that and maintain your protective powers on this place?"

Magician gauged his energy levels (which he noted were not regenerating as fast. Must have been a consequence of collaring Taylor) and nodded. "Yeah I've got enough juice in the tank. We have to work fast though."

"Why?"

"Because Olympia has friends and they're probably gonna be pissed at me about all this. Gotta finish the operation before they find us. No power is infallible. Even with our guardians around… well, let's just say that I underestimated this Earth's heroes once and I don't really want to do it again."

Ethan walked wearily to the front door of his home, eyes heavy with the need to just lay down and get some sleep. His wife was still hard at work, rebuilding after Leviathan was making everyone take double shifts, especially with the power vacuum left by Olympia. He would have stuck around with her, but she'd insisted he go home and get some shut eye. Luckily they still had Roulette and Legacy around, those two had proven invaluable in keeping things mostly together with their combined power. After he unlocked the door and flopped down onto the couch, he froze as he took note of the other person sitting in the living room, someone he hadn't even noticed in his haze of exhaustion.

"You know when we said you could drop in anytime, I was hoping for a call first or something." Ethan sighed, gathering himself from his rather sprawled position into something closer resembling a proper human. "What do you want, Keith?"

The legendary (pun intended) hero gave him one of his patented charming smiles. It made Ethan want to punch him just a little with how effortlessly good he made it. Ethan had to practice his PR friendly grins in the mirror to get them right and he still got called out by Glen once in a while. Plus Keith really meant it, he was simply a genuinely nice guy.

"I can't visit a former teammate who's city was just attacked by Leviathan?" Keith asked innocently.

"I guess. You've been only minutes away by flight for years and seeing this city go to shit, but it takes an Endbringer to actually get you to visit." Ethan groused, feeling wrung out and more than a little irritated.

Keith's smile dimmed, but remained by sheer force of charisma. "I'm sorry. Things are… complicated. If you'd ever truly needed me, I'd have been here, just like I was yesterday."

"Tell that to the independents and minorities that are killed every year by the Empire. To the women kidnapped by Lung and the kids forcibly addicted by Merchants." Ethan snapped before he could remember who he was talking to. He opened his mouth to apologize, but Keith only shook his head.

"You're right, Ethan. I've been letting politics and red tape keep my hands tied too long. Not anymore. Olympia has been taken." Keith's eyes hardened and he called out in a firm voice. "Door to the meeting room." A perfectly formed portal cut through the air. "There are some of us who are going to put a stop to the maniac who kidnapped her. You in?"

Ethan was on his feet and through the portal without hesitation. He owed Olympia that much. As he crossed the threshold, he almost froze at the sheer amount of firepower in the room.

Eidolon and Alexandria, meaning the entire Triumvirate was in on this. Colin was armored up (a new variant that Ethan had never seen before at that) and gave him a grave nod. Legacy and Roulette were there too, all of the heroes seated at a large conference table. Ethan, feeling very underdressed, went and sat next to his boss.

Legend followed, still in his civies and stood at the head of the table. "Where are…?" Suddenly the world seemed to twist and Legend was in his costume. Ethan's Assault outfit on now too. "Ah, Janus, there you are."

A tall blond man with a manic glint to his eyes gave a shallow bow. "Suit is almost ready. He's gotten in touch with his daughter and they're putting together a special little care package."

Eidolon spoke up. "Will some extra Tinkering this close to the end actually help?"

"Last time the three of us collaborated, we mortally wounded an Entity and infected it with our power. Tesla's been working on this independently for a lot longer than we had before and now Suit and I have been able to throw in our expertise. Trust me, it will be a game changer." The apparent Tinker said with obvious confidence or perhaps it was arrogance.

"Why are we here?" Armsmaster asked in his blunt manner. "Or rather, why is it just us?"

Legend let out a sigh, but it was Alexandria who answered. "We represent the only few capes who are both willing and useful enough to help rescue Taylor Hebert, codenamed Olympia, from the supervillain known as Magician."

Assault felt his jaw drop slightly. "Just us?!"

"New Wave wanted to join us too." Legend cut in. "But they're mid-level capes at best, their powers not strong enough or their members too young. Any other veteran cape was, unfortunately, at the Endbringer fight."

Assault's stomach curled as he recalled the last several days. He'd heard the chatter of course, but… "So they blame a promising young hero and are condemning her to die or worse, because she did the right thing?" He hissed angrily.

"She had a chance to take out an Endbringer." Alexandria said coldly, staring Assault down. "Be glad those of us here are still willing to help her."

"She's just a kid and it was her friend being held hostage!" Assault argued, vaguely recognizing that he was arguing with a member of the Triumvirate. "You can't expect her to make a call like that!"

"She made the choice of a real hero." Legacy spoke up solemnly. "Sacrificing her safety and her reputation to save another."

"And yet, how many could she have saved by killing Leviathan?" Alexandria pointed out.

"We are heroes." Legacy stressed. "We do the right thing. If we let our actions be defined by cold numbers, then we lose sight of what we're really fighting for."

"Then you are an idealistic fool." Alexandria laughed harshly. "Just like-" She cut herself off, but by the bowed head of Eidolon and wince from Legend, Assault knew that they had been thinking of the fourth founder of the Protectorate.

The silence weighed heavily before Armsmaster, bless his robotic soul, cleared his throat, ignored the tense atmosphere and spoke up. "What is our plan of attack then?"

Janus stepped to the front of the room and threw down a holographic projection of sorts, showing a large underground compound. It wasn't especially detailed, but there were several red dots marked on the map and one blue. "This here." Janus tapped the blue. "Its Olympia, the energy signature is a dead match, even if it's been muted. The other dots are radiation signatures that match supers."

"Has he already hijacked Olympia's powers then? Or did he perhaps coerce her to summon supers for his own use?" Armsmaster asked.

"No, Magician possesses an ability from a super called 'Encore', it functions similarly to Olympia's powers, even better in some respects." Janus explained. "Actually Olympia's power was modeled off of- It doesn't matter. Anyway, we also know Magician has the newest Butcher working for him as well, though my tech can't scan for her. Our plan, simple as it may sound, is to have Eidolon keep Magician busy while the rest of us fight our way through the Encored supers and rescue Olympia, disable whatever is muting her powers, and then finish this fight."

"That didn't go so well for us last time." Alexandria murmured from her seat.

Eidolon straightened in his seat and his eyes seemed to glow beneath his cowl. "I've recently hit something of a breakthrough with my powers. I'm confident that Magician won't defeat me as easily as he did last time."

Oh great, the Trump got even more busted. Assault thought sarcastically. At least it was Eidolon and not, say, Glastig Ulaine getting the power up. It sounded like they'd need it too against Magician. Assault didn't know much about the guy, other than that he had the balls to break the Endbringer Truce like it was nothing.

"I have a question." Assault said. "Can we just… lay our cards out onto the table? Everyone here already knows that Olympia summons projections, right? I mean, if the ENE knew, I'm guessing the Triumvirate does too."

"That is correct." Legend nodded.

"Ok and Magician is what exactly, one of her projections?" He asked.

"A renegade one, yes." Legacy volunteered. "As you've probably guessed, we are not at all like the projections you are familiar with, we are each our own independent cape. Taylor is simply the conduit through which we are formed."

"Right, right and so you're what, figments of her imagination?" Assault asked again, trying to comprehend what exactly was going on.

"We're remnants of a dead world, a parallel Earth." The Tinker called Janus answered this time. "The source of parahuman powers killed us, but we set a trap, a Plan, into motion to potentially save this Earth and every other one if we're lucky."

Assault felt his jaw begin to drop and wanted to ask more questions, but Legend forestalled him. "Don't worry about the details, Assault. The important thing is that Olympia will be vital in the future. Now it'll be up to us to get her out of this mess."

Assault nodded. "Then what's the next step?"

Taylor fidgeted with the small device she'd been working on. She'd never actually used a Tinker power before and to say it was different was an understatement. Other powers she'd channeled had simply allowed her to do things, sometimes instinctively, sometimes with concentration, but with the power that Sorceress was feeding her, her very way of thinking was being altered. Luckily, she actually had some materials to work with. Magician had clamped the collar to suppress the bulk of her powers, except the barest amount, but he hadn't checked her actual person, meaning her glasses, stuffed to the brim with tinkertech, had escaped his notice.

Connect this wire to the power cell and… there!

She proudly looked at her small creation, a fraction of what a proper tinker would have been capable of, true, but given her limited time and materials, she felt justified in feeling some pride in her small accomplishment.

Most Designers, ah, Tinkers I mean, would consider that a fairly subpar device. Even working outside their specialty, most tinkers could create something at least close to that, but considering your powers are being dampened… Sorceress trailed off. You've done good, kid. I'd have been proud to have you as one of my students.

You were a teacher?

For Legacy's little hero academy, yeah. A note of fondness entered her voice. You've met my students actually. One of them made those glasses of yours.

They seemed like fun people. If I wasn't so busy all the time, I'd have liked to just hang out with them as friends. Taylor felt a bit sad at the thought. She'd stopped summoning them regularly when she began to learn how to call upon her more powerful supers with relative ease, but she still recalled how one of them had told off Sophia and Emma with surprising confidence and the others had been kind, if eccentric, in their own ways.

Yeah, they were good kids. Lost my marbles a bit when they died. I like to think that's the only reason the golden man got me as easily as he did. Sorceress commented, more to herself than to Taylor.

You fought Scion? What can I expect exactly?

I didn't just fight Scion, I fought his mate too. Came with the territory of being one of the five most powerful supers alive. They were… Forces of nature. Like fighting one of your Endbringers, but a hundred, a thousand, times more worse. Overwhelming speed and power, beams of power that could level a city with barely any effort… Sorceress went quiet before continuing. You'll have to pull out all the stops to beat them.

I could barely beat an Endbringer though and that almost killed me… Taylor felt her face pull into a grimace at the thought.
You had that in the bag. If my stupid dad hadn't interfered, Ares would have finished that thing. Sorceress said confidently. Though, you probably could have summoned a different M-class to take care of Leviathan. All that water, ya know? Ares would have been best suited to taking on Behemoth, that kill aura wouldn't have done a thing against him and the level of force he puts out would overwhelm whatever energy redirection the Endbringer might be capable of. Something to keep in mind if it becomes an issue again.

I will. Thanks. Taylor felt a thought occur. Could you fight an Endbringer?

Not to brag or anything, but I could fight all three of them and still win. Sorceress said bluntly. I have all of my father's powers, not to mention a sizable amount I've acquired for myself and years more practice with them than what Magician had. He was a brilliant flame that burned brightly before fading from history, he never tapped into the true scope of what he was capable of.

Looks like I'll be summoning you when the time comes for the real fight.
Taylor said. Think you're up for a rematch?

Oh hell yes. Especially if it's just the golden bastard. Sorceress' voice was filled with glee at the prospect.

Then I'll keep you in mind. Taylor promised. Now let's get out of here.

She held up her device and began the first steps of her escape plan.

Magician laughed triumphantly as he looked down at the twitching parahuman, the knowledge from one of many Thinker powers taking in and processing so much raw data about what was going on with the man's powers. The interplay of dimensional physics was just so… brilliant! He could say what he would about the Entities, but they could manipulate reality on a level he could only dream of. To take a mere fraction of their being and connect it to a lesser lifeform, imbue it with a specific power…

Oh the possibilities were just delightful. Could he learn to do the same, spreading out his collection of stolen powers to people he actually liked and thought were useful? The Black Hat Syndicate had been run on the principle that you were only around because Magician liked you, it didn't matter what your powers were, because if he didn't like you, he'd just kill you and take the powers for himself. He had a fair number of lieutenants back in the day that he'd liked a lot, but just weren't powerful enough to stand against the pinnacle of the UHF. If he could hand out powers like this though….

One step at a time. Free himself from being bound directly to the Hebert girl, return to true flesh, then contemplate becoming a multi-dimensional being.

"Sounds like you've had a bit of a breakthrough." Riley commented as she too studied the man's exposed brain. "I think I am too."

"Indeed my dear, indeed." Magician allowed his laughs to subside. "Do you think you could perform the operation now?"

"I can try." Riley said, sounding unsure, but determined. Overmind powers were fantastic at implanting a sense of loyalty.

"Good, let's go before-"

Power filled his awareness. They hadn't just snuck up on the base, he'd have sensed them coming, no, they'd just suddenly appeared. A teleporter or portal maker on par with Jumpgate then…

"Riley, go to the emergency bunker, the place below us." Magician ordered. "Now."

The child ran away obediently and Magician sighed, beginning to cycle powers through his body. Regeneration, bodily enhancement, reflex adjustment, danger sense, on and on. He cracked his knuckles, then with a thought, vanished from the operating room and reappeared above ground. He'd chosen the desert specifically so that there wouldn't be any civilian casualties from a fight like this. He might have been a monster, but he wasn't purposefully cruel and he knew that the heroes here on this Earth were brutal enough to ignore collateral damage if it meant killing a greater threat.

Sure enough, waiting for him was the Eidolon fellow again. His cape streamed majestically behind him, his eyes glowed suitably (LEDs a Thinker power whispered to him) and all in all, he embodied the quiet, but powerful role. The most powerful superhero Earth Bet had to offer.

Magician grinned. "Here for a rematch then? Last time didn't go so well for you." He taunted.

Eidolon floated down, not quite touching the sand, but gave Magician an impassive look, before surprising him. "Thank you."

"Huh?" Magician felt genuinely baffled. He'd gotten a lot of responses from heroes that he'd beaten in the past, gratitude was not a common one.

"Thank you. Our fight was the first true battle I'd been in for… a while." Eidolon said candidly. "Nothing else was ever a challenge. It was all just so… easy. Then when my powers started slipping away, I was afraid. Afraid that if we didn't find our ace in the hole against Scion, then I'd have to step up to the plate and that I wouldn't be strong enough. Our fight made me feel truly alive again and now I'm stronger than ever. So, thank you, Magician."

"You're welcome?" Magician said. "I figured you'd be more pissed."
"Oh I was livid." Eidolon admitted. "But you helped me recognize something about myself."

The ground began to rumble beneath his feet. Power, more than anything else he'd felt on this Earth, began to rush toward them. From beneath, from the distant coast, and from the sky.

"You see, Magician." Eidolon said casually as the air began to crackle with power. "I needed worthy opponents."

The ground erupted as an obsidian monster rose from the sands. Water streamed into the desert rapidly and a creature of the deep emerged. The sky cracked and an angelic figure began to drift down.

"And now I have found one." Eidolon concluded, all three of the Endbringers shackled to his will.

For the first time, Magician felt something like genuine fear curl in his gut.

"Well then…" Magician sighed and pulled his cane from thin air, allowing power to fill his veins. "I guess it's time for the final act of our little show to begin."

Roulette strode through the portal with Alexandria and Legend and into Magician's little underground maze. The power thief had been smart and placed a variety of esoteric effects on his lair, but it wasn't enough to keep out a determined effort to breakthrough, just make it a pain in the ass to get straight to Taylor, so they'd split into three groups. Not to mention it was filled with hostile supers now.

In fact…

Roulette ducked just in time as a shadowy arm with enough strength to hurt even Legacy passed over his head. He felt pain coil in his chest, but he had known this was a possibility.

A female figure clad in a dark trench coat, bandages wrapping all around her body and face, leaving only her eyes and hair exposed, stepped out of the shadows. Two large arms made of liquid shadow rose from behind her.

Roulette smiled regardless. "Hey hon. Hey Shade."

Roulette's wife, Bronwyn gave him a sad smile, barely visible through the bandages, but he could see the look in her eyes. The two shadowy arms rose up in a small, sheepish wave. "Hey babe. Sorry about this, but you know how it is…"

"Yeah, I do." He shot Legend a look. "She's all yours. Darkness manipulation. Those arms are part of her power, but they're an independent entity."

"How about me, bro?"
Roulette felt like the floor was falling out from underneath him as he recognized the voice. Still so young and earnest…

Red bodysuit. Bronze wings that mirrored Roulette's own.

Deviant.

The former villain, though at the end he could only be considered a hero, gave Roulette a grin even as his eyes began to turn red. Just like the eyes that haunted Roulette's nightmares.

"Alexandria, we're gonna both have to take care of this guy." Roulette said carefully, already cycling through powers, trying to decide what to use against his friend, his pseudo 'brother' created in a lab by Janus' mad genius. "He's like Ares, but with more control. And he can fly."

Alexandria nodded grimly, though Deviant just laughed. "What, nothing to say to me? I'm a little hurt man."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I failed you. I'm sorry that while you were fighting an impossible battle, I was just stuck talking to Magician."

"Not your fault." Deviant waved it off, like he did almost everything. "I knew what I was getting into." His face turned serious. "Now I'm really sorry about this, but orders are orders, ya know?"

"Yeah. Let's do this."

Roulette pulled and the raw power of the Storm, a mirror of Ares power, filled his veins. Deviant grinned, his eyes flashing red as he called upon his own power. Alexandria braced herself…

Then the world trembled.

Legacy exited his portal into a large open cavern, Assault and Armsmaster in tow. He promptly took a bolt of pure thermal energy to the face, enough to leave his skin tingling. The two protectorate heroes scattered as was protocol for dealing with a Blaster with a wide area of effect. A squad of Magician's encores were already present. Legacy sighed as he recognized them all.

Amaterasu. Tsukiyomi. Arbitrator. Metallia.

Of course Magician would use heroes to do his bidding. It was the kind of sick irony that the supervillain liked.

"What are we dealing with here?" Armsmaster subvocalized into their shared network via the device in Legacy's ear.

"Blaster." Legacy gestured toward Amaterasu. "Thermal energy manipulation. She's also a Mover and Brute: She can move with superhuman speed using her store of thermal energy and heal with it as well."

"Limits?"

"She was once able to incinerate a small city with one burst though and they've been in this desert for a while now. The ninja looking one is her sister. Stranger, can turn invisible and a pretty good Mover rating, short range teleportation. Careful with sword: It was crafted by Vulcan. It'll cut through most materials like butter. The bulky guy in armor is just a regeneration brute, he has a master effect, but it won't work on us." Legacy said confidently. "The chromed up girl is the most dangerous one here. Her metal form grants her a powerful Brute rating and she can control metal. Stay away from her or she'll crush you in your suit."

"Copy that. You engage her. Assault and I will take care of the other three."

Legacy floated slightly off the ground and then blitzed forward, intent on finally ending Magician's damned games.

Taylor felt the ground begin to rumble and shake. Something was going on. Something big.

Well, now or never.

She took the small tinkertech device and aimed it at the section of bare rock wall that was the 'door' to her cell. A small laser began to cut through the stone. She'd have tried it on the collar she was wearing, but Sorceress had warned her that was a bad idea. Magician might have had some kind of failsafe on it, not to mention the danger of using a laser that close to her face. Within minutes she had a small opening that she could crawl out of, allowing her to escape into the tunnels. She hadn't memorized the paths, but luckily Sorceress had.

Left up here. Now right. Keep going down this hallway and five meters past this junction you're gonna make another right. It'll look like just a wall, but it's an illusion. Now- STOP!

Taylor halted in her running right as Canary exploded into existence, sending her tumbling back against the rock. The former rogue, now villain, looked at her with a sad expression. Still under Magician's sway it seemed. "I really am sorry about this." She lamented before hitting Taylor with a shock of pain, lighting up her nervous system in a particularly unpleasant way. "He ordered me to punish you if you managed to get out. I'm sorry." She actually had tears running down her face, but all Taylor could muster in response was a miserable scream.

-+-+-
Roulette let out a grunt as he was shoved deeper into the rock wall by one of Deviant's fists. Roulette hadn't practiced hand to hand combat in ages, while Deviant had always been good at it. Another blow slammed into his face and it was only thanks to the mirror of Deviant's power that the blow only sent his head ringing instead of breaking his skull. Alexandria appeared behind the revived super with a chokehold around his neck, her arms straining with the effort of trying to snap it, but Deviant only flared his wings and allowed them both to go soaring up to crash against the roof before bringing them both back down with stone shattering force. He elbowed the hero hard enough that she let out a grunt and the air actually left her lungs, forcing her to let go, allowing him to spin and deliver a series of brutal strikes against her with superhuman speed. Like his predecessor, Deviant's power wasn't entirely physical, a metaphysical aspect of it allowed it to actually hurt the seemingly unbreakable hero, though with difficulty. She responded by catching one too slow fist in an arm lock and then cutting said arm off at the elbow with a vicious knife handed strike. Deviant only grinned and kicked her away while the arm began to regrow, slamming her through several rock walls in the process.

His grin turned on Roulette. "Y'know, this reminds me of the old days. When I was working with the Talons and all that."

Roulette snarled angrily and burst forward, but Deviant dodged the strikes before slamming a fist into Roulette's ribs with enough force to outright break two of them. This wasn't working. Deviant was too strong, he wasn't as strong as Ares, but he was in the same league and even with Roulette borrowing the same power, he just didn't have the same fighting instincts that Deviant did.

Unless…

Roulette shoved Deviant away and then tapped a different power. He pushed the mental limits of it and felt a fog fall over his mind, leaving him standing lethargically in the hallway. Deviant didn't hesitate to take advantage, going in for a killing strike, only…

Roulette's hand snapped up in a perfect block before replying with a barrage of powerful strikes of his own that caved in Deviant's chest and sent him flying through several walls himself. An unknown hand tried to touch his shoulder, but he responded instinctively, reaching up and hurling the person over his shoulder. It hadn't been a lethal attack, so a lethal response was not necessary.

Through the mental haze, he vaguely recognized Alexandria saying something while studying him. She seemed to find whatever it was she was looking for and then pointed him in the direction of Deviant. His power responded automatically and he went flying after the source of pain.

Deviant was not the only one with a variant of Ares power. Ares had a biological daughter who had inherited his unbelievable strength, but none of his rage. Instead, she went into a 'battle fugue' where she responded automatically to incoming threats, but became essentially a puppet to her power. Less dangerous in some respects. Far more in others.

Roulette flung himself at Deviant and the ground trembled as their fists met. Deviant was laughing, while Roulette felt his body moving of it's own accord. He wondered in the back of his mind if this is what people like Suit felt like when they let their powers guide them. He began to rush forward at Deviant again, only to feel an arm wrap around his throat, words being shouted into his ear. He didn't process them, only began to defend himself before pain lit up his world and with it came clarity. He realized that Alexandria had him in a chokehold and she'd just punched him in the kidneys.

Oh I'm so glad I don't have to piss anymore or else it'd be nothing but blood.

"You can let go, I've switched out my powers." Roulette said, tapping the arm that held him in place.

"You've been fighting him for almost five minutes now without stopping." Alexandria said."He's dragging this out, trying to delay us. We need to find Olympia, now. You're our most versatile, you need to go do it."

"Will you be okay here?" Roulette asked, glancing at the still grinning Deviant, the red glow of his eyes becoming harsher and harsher.

"I've survived worse." The unbreakable hero lied. "Now go. I'll take care of this."

Roulette grabbed onto a phasing power and dove through a wall, his last sight that of Alexandria and Deviant rushing to meet each other. He wished her luck. She'd need it.

Legacy had been forced to fight fellow heroes before. Because of Master effects, ideological clashes, or conflicting orders from superiors. It had been a rare occurrence, but not unheard of. Having to fight Metallia reminded him of all the worst cases, because she was absolutely determined to kill him. She wasn't nearly as fast as he was, but she made up for it by using her ferrokinesis to drag massive cables of steel out of the walls. They'd been ready and set her up to use her powers most effectively. The steel moved with normally impossible speed and precision and while Legacy usually wouldn't worry about it being able to hurt him, he didn't know if Metallia would fight in her normal manner. There was every possibility she could snake the metal into his body through his eyes, ears, mouth, or nose and wreak havoc on his insides. It's not what she'd normally do, but she was going for the kill in a way he'd never seen before. He was already feeling small tugs at his veins and he guessed she was trying to pull the blood from his body with the trace amounts of iron in it. Not effective against someone with a body as durable as his, but against someone else it would be extremely lethal. He had to finish the fight before more people got hurt.

Dashing through a tangle of cabling with enhanced speed, he appeared behind her and delivered two crushing blows to her back, metal crunching beneath the strength of his fists. He didn't get a chance to land any more strikes though. A web of cables came to life, hidden beneath her feet, and the mass of them wrapped around Legacy with bone crushing force, several smaller tendrils doing as he'd predicted and trying to go for the face.

Yeah, not happening.

His eyes burned with power and a wave of burning energy seared outward. What many people didn't realize, perhaps due to his restraint in using it, was that Legacy's energy vision was perhaps his single deadliest power. He could tune the beams to be nothing more than concussive blasts, like a long range punch, but he could also make them like scalpels or all encompassing beams. The blue energy instantly vaporized the steel immediately surrounding his face before striking Metallia dead on. He'd never use this kind of force against a fellow hero, but in this case, exceptions had to be made. She was technically already dead. Despite having atomized steel, the energy wasn't enough to outright kill Metallia. Instead, her body took on a white hot glow as she was sent tumbling into the wall of the cavern. Legacy stepped forward, not letting up, allowing his power to simply flow and keep bombarding Metallia with enough energy to vaporize an aircraft carrier. Then he walked closer and reached through his own energy vision, hands gripping softened metal, and began to twist. Within seconds his work was complete and he allowed his power to fade. Metallia struggled, but she was literally tied into a knot now. Legacy knew from unfortunate past experience that an encored super could sometimes heal from all but the most devastating of attacks. So rather than try to kill the unkillable, he simply disabled her movement.

His eyes scanned the battlefield and was pleased to see that Assault and Armsmaster were holding their own. Arbitrator was fighting them head-on with his tinker-tech energy shield and shock baton, letting his armor and regeneration take the blows, while Amaterasu bombarded them from afar with bolts of thermal energy and Tsukiyomi tried to stab them while their backs were turned. In a beautiful display of coordination that spoke of years fighting together, Assault used his kinetic manipulation to bounce Armsmaster in a high arc to come crashing down upon Arbitrator in a two handed blow that bisected the encored hero. Finally, he didn't get up. Meanwhile Assault was quickly closing in upon Amaterasu and Legacy had enough experience dealing with Tsukiyomi to know where she would appear next. In a burst of speed he grabbed Tsukiyomi by the throat right as she reappeared. Her eyes widened and she began to flail in panic, but the blade of her sword only scratched his skin, failing to actually cut him meaningfully. He snapped her neck with a sharp motion and then incinerated the body with his energy vision. In the time it had taken him to do that, Assault and Armsmaster had synchronized their movements with only one opponent to take care of, backing her into a corner before the Tinker unleashed his prototype weapon that instantly cut through the thermal controller. Not even her prodigious healing factor could allow her to recover from her entire upper body being turned to red mist.

Legacy shared a look of mutual respect with the Protectorate heroes before they began delving deeper to find Olympia.

Legacy had a bad feeling building in his gut and it had never been wrong before.

Taylor screamed until her throat was raw, until the only noises that could be drawn from her were little whimpers of pain, but still her nerves were set ablaze and her mind retreated from the pain. The pain was everywhere, all consuming, she was trapped.

[DESTINATION]

[I don't think so]

Taylor blinked and found herself in a space between dimensions, the very atmosphere around her being only the shifting miasma of the Storm's energy. A single familiar person stood there with her.

"Hi there, Taylor." The guy gave her a rather charming smile. It looked practiced, though still genuine.

"ReNew?" Taylor asked, feeling slightly baffled. He was one of the supers she had, unfortunately, stopped using so often. He had been useful, but not nearly as strong as the likes of Legacy.

"That was my first name. The name the shadow of myself probably used." He agreed. "Then when I unlocked the full breadth of my power, I went by 'Limitless.' A bit pretentious, but accurate. You can call me Zach though." He offered his hand.

Taylor took it warily and was surprised by how solid it felt. Her mind felt vaguely foggy, like a dream, but he felt real. "Where are we?"

"Within the Storm. The being, your passenger, that gives you your powers, has long been subverted by the Storm's 'memory' if you want to call it that. It's why your powers are expressed the way they are." Zach looked around them at the infinite expanse.

"Why are you here?"

"You've achieved the mental and physical state necessary to experience a second trigger event or using super lingo, an emergence." Zach explained. "In other words, your powers are about to evolve."

She stared at him, mind churning. "You aren't… you aren't the same ReNew that I've summoned, are you?"

"Good catch." Zach praised her. "No, I'm not. That ReNew is a memory taken by the Storm, a snapshot." His eyes shimmered and Taylor saw for a moment. The sheer power that he had access to. "I am the real deal. I am Limitless, Zachary Ferris, the last hero of my Earth before Gilgamesh and Ishtar killed it. I just wanted to say… thanks. For doing this. For helping us all. The trauma that this has caused you will take a long time to heal, but trust me when I say, it does get better." The atmosphere around them began to crack and shatter into a void. "Remember this lesson Taylor, for when you are at your darkest moment, something all of us supers have been trying to tell you: You are never alone."

The false world collapsed and power flooded her mind, a well of it unlike anything she'd ever felt before. She stood up underneath Canary's pain assault and casually ripped off the collar around her throat. The villain's eyes lit up with fear, but she didn't have a chance to move as Taylor held up a hand, a scintillating beam of light blasting out and smashing Canary straight back into the rock wall several inches. She slumped forward, dead or unconscious, but Taylor didn't care at the moment, because she felt incredible. Every cell in her body had reversed from pain to a faint tingling, radiating warmth and heat. Life.

She could hear them in her mind now. All of them. Every single one of her heroes and villains. She understood now what they truly were. The way they'd described themselves had always been somewhat accurate, memories given life, but it was so much more than that.

Her senses expanded to the surrounding area and she could feel everyone present now. With a thought, she seized the encored supers, the ones slaved to Magician's powers, and pulled, sending them back to the light. High with power, she lifted herself up and out, the confining walls of the tunnel complex shattering around her as she rose to the surface.

Legend dodged another shadowy claw, sending a barrage of lasers to drive back the creature, then attempted to rush forward and put a laser through the skull of the woman he'd been fighting. They were opposites and their powers clashed in a fascinating way, her darkness being able to hurt him even in his Breaker state. She fought with years of experience and honed instinct, but also in a restrained manner, the limited freedom that was probably meant to psychologically attack Roulette also giving her some leeway in making sure not to kill him. He appreciated it, but enough was enough. He began to prepare the same kind of attack that he usually reserved for the Endbringers when his instincts screamed and he went breaker for a moment. A fist passed through his form and sent him crashing through a series of walls. When he rematerialized, he felt every bone in his body ache.

The young man that had been fighting Alexandria walked casually out of the stone dust and threw the battered hero to a rolling stop in front of Legend. His eyes glowed like twin embers and he seemed genuinely put out.

"Y'know, I stopped killing heroes when I realized that it was kinda bad, so it feels like kind of a dick move that Magician brought me back only to fight you guys." Deviant sighed. "I'm sorry, I truly am."

Legend hissed in pain as he rolled 'Lexi onto her back and scanned her quickly, her eyes vacant, bruises forming around them somehow despite her time locked nature, her knuckles bloodied and bruised. He faced Deviant and began to prepare himself, knowing he'd have to rely on split second uses of his Breaker form just to survive when the whole tunnel, which had been vibrating and rumbling on and off as David fought Magician, suddenly shifted as if by a sudden earthquake. Deviant's eyes went wide before he suddenly dissolved into a blur of multi-colored light.

Taylor exploded out into the sunlight, her skin still having a visible glow even there and she surveyed the carnage. Huge swathes of desert had been swamped, turned into muddy pits, others had been glassed over, and still more was littered with the debris of all kinds. She could see Eidolon hovering in the air above it all, costume ragged, clutching the stump of one arm.

She drifted over and the most powerful parahuman turned to regard her, half his mask shattered to expose a single eye to her. "Olympia? You're alive, good." He grunted and then his arm began to slowly regrow itself. "Magician put up a hell of a fight, but I think he's finally down for the count." He gestured down to a man shaped figure laying in the sand.

"You summoned the Endbringers?" Taylor asked, already suspecting the answer, but wanting the confirmation.

Eidolon flinched, but then nodded. "I did, all three of the active ones."

"There were more?" That was an unpleasant surprise. Even her new comprehension had it's limits.

"Yes, but I've deactivated them. Too dangerous." His visible eye shone with respect for a moment and he turned down to look at the broken form of Magician. "He fought all three of them plus me at a new peak of strength and did it hard enough that I've been forced to send away the three actives to recuperate. One, he may have been able to kill. Two, he might have survived and escaped. It was only with all three of them, being directed and supported by me that he actually went down. And he's not even the strongest of these 'supers' of yours?" Eidolon asked with… awe?

"No. He was the most powerful supervillain of his day, it's true, but as time passed, new legends were formed." Taylor confirmed. "Thank you, all of you, for coming for me."

Eidolon bowed his head. "The Endbringers were born of fear, my fear that I wasn't strong enough to fight Scion, that it was all hopeless. I'm glad that those fears were false." He removed the rest of his mask and let it fall to the sands below. He looked… average. Just a man. "Good luck." He nodded towards Magician. "I think he wants to talk to you, before he goes again."

Taylor nodded her agreement and drifted down to land in front of Magician's broken body. His outfit was in shambles, messes of blood and burns making up the majority of what was left of him, he was missing both legs and one of his arms, and he only had one eye left.

It didn't even look like he was trying to regenerate and he gave her a bloody grin as if sensing her thoughts. "All powers have limits, even mine. I see… I see that you've reached out and found the sun within, haven't you, Taylor?"

"I have." She said softly, kneeling in the sand next to him. His wounds were truly horrible and she realized just how much power it would have taken to put him in this state, between all of his brute powers and regeneration, he must have had this level of damage inflicted over and over again to finally make it stick. "I think I understand you better now, Arlen Rhynd."

He blinked at her with pain in his good eye. "Do you? Are you a god, able to see who I am on the inside?" He asked sarcastically.

Taylor laughed and shook her head. "No, but I can see so much more now within the Storm and even as you are here now, given some mimicry of life, there is still a shadow within the Storm that is also you." She reached out and took his remaining hand. "You're not a good man, but you do have standards. You were never truly cruel."

He grumbled and glanced away. "Do me just one favor? I know I put you through some devious shit, but think of it as a last request."

"If I can."

"Don't let them kill the kid." His eye softened. "Riley, I mean."

"Bonesaw. A murderous monster."

"Bonesaw was the creation of Jack Slash, and yes, a monster." Magician agreed. "But I erased Bonesaw. All that's left is Riley and she deserves better." Something that might have been self loathing flickered in his eye. "If I hadn't wanted access to her power so badly, I'd have just dropped her off with a new family somewhere, but hey, I'm still a selfish bastard at heart."

"Yes, you are." Taylor agreed. "And this time, I'm going to make sure you don't appear again. Your age has passed, it is time to let go."

He let out another grumble, but nodded. "Yeah… Yeah I guess it is. See ya, Olympia." He gave one last grin and his eyes flickered past the horizon. "Kill that thing for me. For all of us supers."

"Yeah." Taylor said grimly, then pulled at the light within Magician's false soul, sending the power back into the Storm.

Then with a golden glow he arrived.

The one the supers knew as Gilgamesh.

The first parahuman.

Scion.

The Warrior Entity soared across the ocean, following the instructions given to it by the human 'Kevin Norton' and continued looking for places to intervene. Even still it's mind felt dull, lacking purpose after the death of it's partner, the Thinker. It still felt rage directed toward the lower life forms that had infected it with their strange, alien power, sowing the seeds of the Thinker's inevitable doom as it had crashed in some forgotten parallel dimension.

And so lost to sorrow and anger in equal measure, the Warrior continued to observe the broken cycle…

Something changed. A flickering burst of foreign energy. Cycling through sensory shards, the Warrior detected some still wielding the light that had so wounded it and slain it's partner. Running a brief scan upon itself, it realized that the strange power is within some of it's shards. Like a scar or a disease. It dismissed any notion of vengeance. What would the point be?

This course of events continued for several rotations of the planet, the Warrior did not bother counting.

But then an anomaly is sensed.

Pure alien energy, far more than should be possible. Not just a lingering remnant from the Warrior and Thinker's annihilation of their wretched plane of reality, but a true source. It flew quick enough to arrive within a matter of seconds, the sound barrier shattering many times over. It stared at the source of power, the one who, according to the many predictive shards in it's arsenal, should be the bearer of the [Queen Administrator].

The Warrior, Zion as it had named itself, dubbed Scion by the local species, allowed it's avatar to experience the emotions of the lesser race.

It allowed itself to hate.

The Warrior called upon the Stilling and began trying to kill that which had taken it's counterpart.

-+-+-
Taylor held up her hands as the beam of perfect golden light came straight for her. She sensed it's power, it's sheer deadliness and a plethora of thinkers within her mind screamed at her to avoid being hit by it. She ignored them as her aura of power flared with the raw cosmic energy of the Storm and she instead caught the beam and flung it aside into the sky. Scion actually looked baffled for a moment, giving Taylor the time to gather a burst of multi-colored light into her hands and send it flying at Scion's face. The first parahuman shook himself out of his stupor and formed that same terrible, golden light into a shield around himself, Taylor's power washing over it like waves breaking against a solid wall. His face contorted with rage and with a gesture he hurled out a wave of burning golden light, almost impossible to dodge.

Almost.

With a thought, Taylor turned herself into a cloud of photons, reappearing above Scion's head in an instant. She flickered through a dozen powers in the space of a heartbeat before settling upon Archmage's macro-telekinetic abilities. She sent a crushing hammerblow against Scion, sending the golden man crashing down into the ground with enough force to form a new crater in the desert, reaching almost down to the bedrock. Exploding upwards, his face a mask of fury, Scion attempted to take her apart with his bare hands, that same terrible light following his every move. Taylor met him blow for blow, the words of dozens of expert hand to hand fighters paired with brute abilities far beyond anything she'd had before allowing her to survive. Their exchange shattered the air, creating hurricane winds and starting the beginnings of sandstorms.

Taylor was thankful in that instant that they weren't near any population centers. A fight in their weight class would have leveled any location within seconds.

A beam of eldritch green energy seared into Scion's back, courtesy of a recovered Eidolon, sending him stumbling midblow and allowing Taylor to swoop in and deliver an uppercut to his chin. The blow reverberated with the Storm's power and Scion blinked in surprise and reached a single golden hand up to touch a thin trail of blood running from his nose. With a roar of incoherent fury, the first true sound Taylor had yet to hear him make, golden light struck out and Taylor's world burned.

"How much longer?" Suit impatiently asked, throwing a wrench across the room just in time for Janus to appear and catch it, ducking down and under the device that he and Tesla had been working on.

"You can't rush perfection." Janus chided.

"You're the master of time and space, I damn well can!" Suit snapped.

"Actually, he's right." Jade peeked her head out from behind a welder's mask to shoot him a reproachful look. "Dad, we're spending subjective years here trying to get this done. Remember, we're not really Tinkers or Designers the way you're used to. Patience is required and we only have one shot."

"Of course." Suit sighed. "My apologies, I just have this feeling…"

"Is it the Plan?" She asked curiously, still welding parts into place as well as performing infinitely fine bits of circuitry work, all without looking. She'd probably spent many iterations learning how to do that.

"No. Yes. Maybe." Suit tugged at his tie nervously, his thinker processes running through the scenarios. "I just have a bad feeling that Magician is just-"

"It has begun." Contessa declared, striding through a portal and cutting him off mid sentence.

A spark.

"We're working on it." Janus promised, going about his own work on the device. "What's the situation?"

"Olympia has experienced a second trigger event. The outpouring of cosmic radiation alerted Scion that she is not a standard parahuman and he is attacking her. Thinkers around the globe are in a panic." Contessa summarized. "I cannot blame them, because the Path ends here." She looked afraid. Unsure. "Scion is impossible to predict. Eidolon too is a blindspot. With her recent ascension, Olympia joins their ranks. We can only have faith now."

Suit grumbled and then asked his power a simple question. "Is Taylor winning?"

She isn't losing. The ghost of his wife answered.

"Can she win?" He whispered.

The silence was the most frightening thing he'd ever experienced.

David knew that this was the day he'd been both dreading and anticipating in equal measure. Scion had finally shown his true colors. This was what he was meant for.

Invulnerability. Energy Manipulation. Enhanced Mental Processing.

Eidolon took the three powers gratefully and sent another beam of light at Scion's turned back. Whatever Olympia was doing, she actually seemed to be hurting him. It had become increasingly clear that she was their best hope and strangely… David felt at peace with that. Cauldron had wanted, needed that silver bullet, and they had finally found her. It took a strange sense of pressure off of David's back, knowing that the fate of the world wasn't in his blood stained hands.

But that didn't mean he still wasn't going to give this fight his all. He owed the world that much, he owed all of uncountable dimensions that much for the pain he'd caused, both as a member of Cauldron and as the unwitting awakener of the Endbringers.

Speaking of which: Are you ready?

Unit 1 has regained sufficient mass to be combat capable. Unit 2 is suboptimally suited for terrain as Unit 3 has already warned [High Priest]. Unit 3 is on standby and awaiting orders. Warning, energy taken has exceeded standard limits. Recommend extended hibernation to reduce energy consumption. The melodic voice of the Simurgh whispered in his mind, feeding him information on the Endbringers. He wished that Scion had attacked later, when he'd learned more about this new aspect of his powers. Seventeen more S-class threats would have been a godsend right about now.

David sent out another burst of energy that actually managed to distract Scion long enough for Olympia to land a good blow, the air reverberating with her power. Whatever damage it did though, paled in comparison to Scion's rage. The golden light that exploded from his form sent Olympia hurtling away like a ragdoll, the area of her impact turning to fused glass from the energy pouring off of her form. Scion's power ([His ultimate weapon, the Stilling] the Simurgh whispered) lingered on Olympia, seeming to eat away at the cloak of cosmic power that radiated off of her. For the first time, David saw panic enter her features.

Now! He ordered.

Behemoth exploded from the ground in a cloud of ash and magma, it's kill field marked by the spreading radius of glass as it moved toward Scion, hurling fire, lightning, and even globs of lava. The Simurgh descended, her song echoing in David's mind, but soothing and comforting now, rather than it's formerly harsh screech. Debris (stolen satellites) encircled her, forming into various technological marvels, a barrage of tinker artillery being sent at Scion, enough to pulverize an army. The Endbringers were the death of entire cities and that had been when they weren't even trying.

David's resolve met a wall of fear as Scion shrugged everything off, the attacks not even appearing to hurt him. Enhanced Mental Processing a simple, but powerful thinker ability, informed him that some, no many of the attacks were doing considerable damage. The problem was that Scion simply healed from it all too fast to even see, flesh pulled dimensionally straight from his true body. It was like trying to use a spoon to empty the ocean.

Harming the avatar of [Warrior] will not be enough to result in termination. The Simurgh whispered into his mind. A direct strike upon Shards critical to it's function is the ideal method of effective [Entity] death.

And how do we get to those Shards?

Shards critical to [Warrior] functionality are locked behind dimensional barriers. Being known as Olympia/Taylor Hebert is an anomaly: Her attacks resonate between dimensions. Sufficient number of repeated attacks could theoretically reduce [Warrior] combat effectiveness to nothing.

Define 'repeated'.

Approximately 200,000 consecutive blows, with a 10 percent margin for error depending upon the rate of energy that Olympia uses.

Fantastic. Only slightly less impossible.

David released his hold on Invulnerability and felt Gravity Manipulation fill it's place. He used it to essentially fall upward. He needed the aerial perspective at this stage of the fight. In the moments that Gravity Manipulation warmed up so to speak, before he was moving and acting with as much power as he could otherwise manage, Scion spotted his weakness. His eyes shot to David and golden power built up in an upraised palm, intent on turning David to dust.

Legacy struck him in the back at Mach 10, slamming the golden man down into the desert sand with a massive shockwave akin to a nuclear blast from the sheer power of the impact. But the first hero of his Earth didn't stop. His fists came down in a blur of movement, smashing Scion further and further down into the sand. The look on his face spoke of pure determination, despite knowing the final outcome.

Roulette appeared beside David, body covered in wounds, eyes filled with calm focus. "I got the other Protectorate heroes out of here. Both Legend and Alexandria were weakened from fighting an old friend of mine, hopefully they can come help us once they receive treatment."

"As strong as they are, I think this fight is beyond them." David told him grimly. "Scion is… his power is beyond anything we have yet to see."

Scion was not something that could be fought with an army, David saw that now and realized the flaw in Contessa's Path, all of Cauldron's attempts to build as big of a fighting force of parahumans as possible. This was the kind of fight where only a handful of powerful individuals would make a real difference, anyone else would be cannon fodder to slow down Scion's awesome might for minutes, seconds even. Hoping in vain that some combination of power interactions would be just the right thing they needed to kill Scion.

We have what we need here and now. We can do this. We have to do this.

"Can you and Legacy keep him busy for a minute?" David asked, letting go of Energy Manipulation and searching for something to help Olympia.

"We'll give you two if we can help it." Roulette said with a faint smirk. "Go." He became living lightning and joined Legacy's assault upon Scion.

Quickly taking a power he felt was called Wavelength Control, David dropped to Olympia's side. The girl was still struggling with motes of golden light that attacked her aura like a virus, but the power of the Storm seemed to be winning out, managing to isolate and extinguish Scion's strange power. Concentrating with his new ability, David used Wavelength Control to tune to the same 'frequency' as the golden light and then abruptly cancel it out. Olympia's rainbow mesh of colors flared and grew again, it's full power free to act again.

Another silent wave of power rushed through the sky and it seemed to lose color for a second. Olympia staggered and David could see Legacy and Roulette collapse and fade to ash. Scion rose out of the crater, eyes burning with rage. He began to glow violently and David prepared himself for anything.

Except nothing happened. Everything took on a gray hue, save for himself and Olympia. The sky, the clouds, the desert sand, even Scion himself.

"Did you do this, Olympia?" David asked warily, staring around at the altered world.

Olympia shook her head, but a new voice pierced the unnervingly quiet air. "That would be my fault."

"That would be my fault."

Taylor spun on the new voice, one that had been warning her what must have only been days ago about Leviathan. The last flesh and blood superhero of her world, Tesla. The girl gave Taylor a half smile. "Hi, Taylor. Good job against Leviathan. You almost got him too."

"You didn't warn me about Magician." Taylor said as neutrally as possible. "About what he'd try and pull."

"Magician is and always will be, an anomaly." Tesla sighed. "He's a slippery one. He warps the timeline around himself, just like Ares, just like you."

"So what are you doing here now?"

"Finishing my dad's Plan." Tesla's eyes glowed and then suddenly Janus and Suit arrived, a massively complex looking device sitting between them.

Suit looked around approvingly. "The stage is set. Good. Janus, care to explain the situation?"

The time traveling blond man stepped up and patted the advanced looking machine with a fond hand. "Alrighty boys and girls, listen up: This is the Storm bomb. It's like what we used to kill Scion's partner, except we had more time and resources to work on it. We're just missing one thing." His eyes focused on Taylor. "A power source."

"Me." Taylor looked down at the aura that still shimmered around her.

"Got it in one." Janus agreed. "See, you aren't just a modified Encore, you're really three supers, powers taken and modified to express themselves. Encore, to give a semblance of life to a memory taken by the Storm, Roulette's powers, so as to make finding and taking the powers easier for yourself and finally…"

"You have the powers of our Earth's most powerful hero to ever exist. It's what you're tapping into right now: The raw power of the Storm." Tesla finished. "We had to siphon some of his strength to finish our first device. It weakened him, made him vulnerable, and he was killed for it." Her voice became haunted. "But we will not let his sacrifice be in vain."

"You have two options before you, Taylor." Suit stepped in. "As you are now, backed by Eidolon and his Endbringers, plus whatever other capes we can ferry in as you fight, you may be capable of ending Scion. It will be a long, bloody fight, but there is a chance. Casualties will be astronomical, but this Earth and every other one infested by Scion might survive." He smiled wryly. "Or you could lose and we all die. The other option… power our machine. It will require sacrifice on both your parts. Eidolon, we will need you to keep Scion at bay long enough for it to work. No easy task, we know, and potentially lethal. You on the other hand… you will lose your powers. For good. Worst case scenario, you could die." His eyes had a calculating gleam behind them, but Taylor could not sense or see a lie, it was the calculation of pure numbers. "However, I can say that this device has already killed one of Scion's kind. If it works as intended, Scion's defeat is all but certain."

Taylor felt indecision tug at her. "I'm surprised you didn't just ambush me, force me to power it. Seems like something you would do."

Janus laughed darkly and Suit grimaced. Tesla spoke up. "They wanted to go for the surefire method, it's true. They don't believe in taking chances." Tesla approached and took one of Taylor's hands in her own. "But I believe in choice. If there's one thing that experiencing countless timelines has taught me, it is the power of free will. We are what we decide to be and if we go through with this, I want it to be because you chose to give up your powers, not because we forced you to."

Taylor felt exhaustion, her stomach dropping into her gut. Her supers, many of them she considered friends, she would never see them again. And yet… What would they say if she let the world die for her selfishness? She'd already made a similar mistake once. Not again.

"Do it."

Janus began to fiddle with the device, Suit sighed with relief, and Tesla bowed her head. "Good luck, Taylor. True actions cannot be accomplished while we are time locked like this, so I'll have to resume the flow of time. Eidolon, are you ready?"

The Triumvirate hero nodded. "Yes."

"Then we begin."

The world regained color and golden power resumed it's assault upon them. Eidolon blocked it with a similar beam of silver light and the two titans began their clash anew.

Tesla motioned Taylor over to the device and indicated a divot in the machine. "Place your hand there, please."

Taylor obeyed and Janus hit one last button on the side of the machine. "Hold onto your butts."

Taylor felt a tickle of familiarity at what sounded like a movie quote before her world became nothing but pain. It wasn't like Canary's pain power or Bakuda's pain bomb, it was like the very life was being pulled from her body. Her power flickered and then began to be sucked into the device, channels lighting up with the Storm's power. It continued ceaselessly, drinking in her power like a man stuck in a desert, every last drop of it. She felt the power fade from her body, her sense of strength fading as it left her. She heard voices pass through her mind in final farewells, wishings of good luck and thanks echoing there before falling silent. And then…

It was gone. All of her power was simply no longer there. She couldn't sense any supers within her mind or call upon their powers. She was alone again, trapped in an impossible situation. In the distance Eidolon battled Scion with the aid of two of his Endbringers, yet it was clear he was losing, resorting to fighting in a far more defensive manner as Scion unleashed his horrific power upon the hero.

Taylor looked over at Tesla and the device, only to realize with a growing sense of unease that Janus and Suit were gone. Tesla spun a pair of glasses around her finger and looked misty eyed. "They were tied to your power. They're gone too, for good this time." Her eyes hardened and she typed in a sequence onto the side of the device. "We're going to make it count."

The device detonated in an expanding wave of the Storm's energy, a massive cloud that consumed Taylor's vision and sent tingles through her body. Everything faded out of focus. Then it was back abruptly, the world as crisp as ever. Except Tesla and her device were nowhere to be seen. Taylor looked to where Eidolon continued his futile battle against Scion, noting clinically as he was struck out of the sky and sent blasting into the sands below. She felt a sinking feeling in her gut, that she'd been betrayed and left for dead. Tesla had been using that device for some other goal, just like how Magician had his own mad plan. And now, Scion would destroy the world. Kill her, her dad, Victoria, Amy, everyone on Earth Bet. All of her blood, sweat, and tears had been for nothing. She sank to her knees, despair threatening to overwhelm her.

A strong hand lifted her up. "Stand up, Olympia. This is far from over." The warm voice promised her.

Taylor looked up into the grinning face of Legacy. He looked just how he always did, except his skin shone with the unrestrained light of the Storm. "You… But I don't have my powers anymore."

"No, you don't." Legacy agreed. "You felt what your power truly was. You felt it's true purpose. The Storm was a seed of life, a roving piece of raw creation. Where it went, life blossomed in it's wake. You had a connection to the Storm and through you, our entire Earth that had been touched by it's power, was able to be brought back."

Portals began to pierce the sky. Taylor saw them emerge as an army, hundreds, thousands of supers, heroes and villains alike. Many she could put names to. Roulette, Archmage, Conductor, Erection, Kite, Dryad, on and on, beyond those she'd even briefly spoken to in her mind.

Limitless stepped forth, raw power pouring off his form, exchanged a brief nod with Legacy and offered Taylor a warm smile. "I told you, Taylor. Never alone."

Tesla appeared beside Taylor, her skin also glowing with energy. "Our world has been reborn thanks to you, Taylor. And right now, we're all connected very closely to the Storm, the origin of our power."

"So we're going to help you murder the fuck out of the golden bastard." A rough voice declared. Vulcan, clad in his full armor appeared by Taylor's side. With a grunt and a hand gesture, Taylor felt her armor repair itself and thrum with power.

Taylor stood to her feet, held a hand to the side, and summoned her spear and shield. The world held it's breath for a moment and then Taylor pointed it toward Scion.

The assembled army howled and charged.

"What happened next?"

Isaac Walker blinked and shook his head, clearing the memories of that day, the day dubbed the Gold Morning. His daughter, little Matilda Walker, cocked her head to the side curiously, awaiting his answer. "Well, then we kil- I mean, beat up the golden man. Because he may have looked good, but he was actually a bad guy."

'Tilda nodded solemnly in understanding. It had been her favorite bedtime story for the last month. Isaac just thanked whatever god that was watching that she didn't remember dying to Gilgamesh. Only the supers of his Earth had memories of those horrible weeks as they had systematically been wiped out by the golden man and silver woman.

"What about O-lim-pee-ah?" 'Tilda asked, pronouncing each syllable carefully.

"Ah. Well, Olympia, she gave up her powers to save the Earth." Isaac explained. "So now she's back home.
"Awww…" 'Tilda pouted. "So she's not a hero anymore?"

Isaac smiled and kissed the top of her head. "She'll always be a hero to us. Anyway, I gotta go sweetie, alright?"

Isaac gave her one last embrace, determined to never take his family for granted after he had lost them so suddenly, then called upon his powers. While the initial rush of power that had enabled them to defeat Scion had long faded, his powers had gotten something of a boost now that he was more active again. He didn't just steal/ copy powers of living supers, he could call upon the fallen too. The portal making capabilities of Jumpgate came to him and he opened a tunnel through space to step out in front of a small house in Brockton Bay, Earth Bet. His Earth had plenty of heroes, but Earth Bet could use a few more good ones, which was why Isaac and several others had agreed to crossover to help out when they could.

Taylor Hebert came running out. "You're late!" She sounded panicked and stressed.

"Sorry, 'Tilda needed her bedtime story." Isaac shrugged. "Ready?"

"I basically helped kill a god. I can handle this." Taylor said, taking a deep breath.

Isaac chuckled, sensing the lie. "It's just high school."

"At a brand new school! I can't be late on the first day!" She said anxiously, fiddling with her backpack.

"You won't be. C'mon." He opened another portal and the two stepped through together.

Nearly as soon as they arrived, a blonde missile struck Taylor. "Tay! You're almost late!"

"I know Vicky, I know!" Taylor complained.

"Well c'mon, I'll show you to homeroom. We might have to fly to make it." The New Wave hero dragged the teenage godkiller away and Isaac couldn't help but chuckle at the sight.

As had been his habit for the last several months, Isaac cycled to a Thinker power and scanned Taylor's essence. She no longer glowed with the Storm's power, but there was still a bit leftover within her cells, a faint whisper that continued to grow, ever so slowly. Isaac grinned.

For now, all was right with the world.

A/N: Thank you all for joining me in this nearly two year journey. I'd like to say that this ending was planned/ took me this long to write, but truth be told 90% of it was written in the last month or so, I was just so unmotivated until January and then motivation just hit me like a hammer all of a sudden. And yes I know this ending is rushed, I just couldn't find reason to extend the storyline once Taylor reached this level of power and I left things like the very final fight with Scion and Magician vs Eidolon unwritten on purpose because I don't think I could do them justice. I think I learned a lot about writing while doing this and I already have a few chapters for my next project written. For those who have been here since the beginning, thank you. If you enjoyed this, then I will for sure have a future story featuring the Super universe one day, but this is where Olympia-Taylor's story ends for the time being. Thanks to all those who gave constructive criticism, I for sure need it and I'm always looking to improve my craft. Hope to catch you all again another time!