Chapter 1 – By The Sword, Part 1

The rain poured down and matted Gabriel’s hair against his face and neck. He swept it out of his eyes with the thumb of his left hand. His body slouched slightly to the left as he stood, obvious that even with half the blade missing the sword weighed heavy in his grasp. He tried again to wiggle the fingers of his right hand, staring at them, willing them to move, but they remained still. Gabriel feared he’d never regain that hand’s use, but he would try, assuming he survived. His right arm lay motionless like the hand at its end, resting in a makeshift sling. It had taken all his strength to set the bone before passing out, and now he could hardly feel it at all. He might lose the arm altogether.

He pushed the thought out of his mind and focused in on the compound in front of him. Thirty yards to the fence, all open ground. Over, under, or through, he hadn’t yet figured on how he planned to pass the fence. Then another thirty yards, maybe forty, to the building, again, all open ground.

The fence had towers at each corner, and the south side had a gate in the middle. The gate would surely be manned, four men if he was lucky, ten if he wasn’t. The towers would hold two men apiece, one with a rifle and the other working the spotlight. But the lights were still, all pointed toward the south gate. No alarms were sounding. No men stirred. And the lights remained trained on the south gate, or at least Gabriel assumed it was the gate not being able to see it from this vantage.

He closed his eyes and tried to push away all the pain. Frightened at how easy it was, he realized that his right arm had gone completely numb. Good for now, but not a good sign in the long run.

Opening his eyes, he walked forward and into the open thirty yards before the fence. The spotlights never moved. No shots were fired. No alarms or calls shouted by guards. Thirty yards of tense yet uneventful walking put him at the fifteen foot high metal linked barrier. Gabriel suspected it was electrified, but threw caution to the wind and hacked vertically at it with his half blade.

The fence divided before him. “Perhaps the storm had knocked out the fence power”, he allowed himself to muse and then he cut into the fence horizontally a few times. The metal link rolled up to his left and right, inward and away. Gabriel stepped over the base and into the inner yard. The spotlights remained still, the alarms silent.

He made his way across the open ground to the building, and slowly around the outside, when at last he could see the south gate. Rather, what remained of the south gate. An overturned jeep and the rubble of two stone guard towers were all that was left. The dying embers of a fire glowed from underneath the stones, shielded from the rain. Stepping around the last corner, he turned his gaze to the front of the building, to find the doors, large and metal twelve feet high and eight inches thick, torn from their hinges and laying on the grass.

Inside the building, the lights were all on, save those that were hit in crossfire. Bullet holes peppered the walls, the floor, and ceiling. Blood pooled around bodies, clawed and crushed. Memory twinged phantom pain in his right arm as he relived the breaking of it, but it laid still and remained numb.

He glanced over the bodies one by one. Their uniforms darkened with dried gore, and not a single one moving or twitching. Room by room, inward and downward, Gabriel proceeded through the bunker, bodies and bullet holes marking the way. Until at last he came to an iron door, untouched and locked from the inside.

Gabriel hesitated for a moment, and glanced around, making sure that everything was as lifeless as it seemed. Then, using the base of the hilt of his sword, he knocked three times on the sealed door. For several minutes, no answer came, until finally a static hiss started off to the left of the door.

“…tzzzct… Who’s there? … tchzzzzzt.”

He sheathed his sword and with his good hand presses the red call switch. “It’s Swordsman. It’s safe.”

Another long pause. Thunder cracked across the sky, but at this depth it was little more than a low rumble in the distance. “… tzzzct… Okay… get back… tchzzzzzt.”

Gabriel stepped away from the door and a soft mechanical whine began to ring out as the gears pulled back the locks and the iron slab swung open. Dr. Brachtenberg stepped out slowly, automatic rifle raised before him. His white lab coat was stained with sweat and blood, the breast pocket torn away.

The doctor eased when he saw Gabriel, lowering his rifle and looking around at the remains of the 5th Column bunker. “They’re… all of them… gone?”

“If you mean the 5th Column,” Gabriel said, “no, I think they all died. Or at least not enough lived to matter.” He stared the doctor dead in the eyes now, “If you mean the wolves… I’d say they are free.”

Dr. Brachtenberg’s eyes widened, and then closed. “God help us all.”

Gabriel Thromme had come to Paragon to settle down with his wife, Amanda, and their son, Dorian. Of all the cities in the United States to go to after retiring from the military, something drew him to this one in particular. It would actually be almost a dozen years before he understood that it wasn’t just some whimsical draw, but a calling.

It was then, a dozen years later, returning from work, strolling through Gemini Park, he finally met his first superhero up close. A gentleman clad in leather and wielding a sword, stepped out from the trees. Even with all the danger that did lurk in the city, Gabriel didn’t flinch at this man. The Schwertfechter he was called, and though not the prettiest name, but it described him exactly, The Swordsman. Using his sword, this man stopped three young Hellions who were running through the park, purses in hand.

From that day, Gabriel took an odd interest in The Schwertfechter and his activities. Largely, it seemed, he fought with organized crime and street thugs, although to find he had tangled with some other faction wasn’t uncommon. He’d been outspoken about his belief that the Nazis, or the 5th Column, still existed and operated, though he never seemed to have proof.

In December, he found himself face to face with The Schwertfechter again in the park. Gabriel looked around to see if any villains were about, but saw nothing.

“Excuse me,” the swordsman said with a German accent, “but, are you, I mean, your name wouldn’t happen to be Gabriel Thromme?”

Gabriel stood still, thoughts flashing in his head through the pages of comic books he’d read when he was younger. “I, uh” he stammered, “yes. My name is Gabriel Thromme. Do I know you?”

The man saddened and his glance fell to the ground, “No. With all my heart, I am afraid you do not.” He slowly brought up his head to look Gabriel in the eyes, “It is not entirely my fault, but the blame is surely mine, that I was never a father to you.”

Gabriel sat on a bench, ignoring the coldness seeping in through the damp patch of ice. The swordsman sat next to him, and he began nervously to pour out his life. His name was Greig Thromme, and he has spent his life in Germany until the war. When the Nazi’s had come, he’d sent his pregnant wife on the first train out, with the intention they get on a boat to the United States to live with his sister and her husband. In 1938, he’d met a man, his great uncle, who passed to him a sword.

“This sword,” he said, and pulled the blade from its sheath. Gabriel stared at it, and felt it pulling him. He slowly began to reach for it. “Not yet,” Greig said and pushed the sword back in its sheath, “I am not yet finished.”

When his great uncle had passed him the sword, he continued, the man somehow became less. He stayed with him a number of days, and then vanished, leaving only a note saying his time was up and Greig’s was now beginning. Greig used his sword, and the superhuman strength and speed that came from wielding it, to fight the Nazis. When the war was over, he came to the U.S. to find his family, but that was not to be. Greig had fought crime for a while, to a limited degree, spending most of his time searching for his wife and son, and building a life so that he could provide for them. In his crime fighting, he’d heard whispers about a secret organization, the possible resurgence of the 5th Column, and he knew that he needed to use his sword to stop them. So he made the choice to fight crime and root out this hidden society over finding his family.


Still amazed and yet somehow completely sure of its truth, Gabriel finally stood, excused himself and headed home.

Once home, he explained the bizarre evening to Amanda and Dorian. And they agreed to open their home to Greig, to The Schwertfechter. He had gotten a phone number to call, and did so, inviting his father to the first of many family dinners.

In 1988 Greig Thromme, known as The Schwertfechter, was killed when a building collapsed in King’s Row. He had been retired from the Superhero business for more than a year, and in that time had become the old man his sword had long kept him from becoming. He didn’t disappear as his great uncle did, but he diminished just the same.

Gabriel was not as drawn to the sword as his father had been, and had used it only twice before his father’s death. After the funeral, he put the sword in basement on a shelf in the storage room, and closed the door.

But the thoughts his father had burned into him, and the stories he’d told over the years were too much. Gabriel took up the sword from time to time when it was needed as he continued his father’s search for the 5th Column.

According to what he found, if it was the 5th Column, they had gotten deeper into genetics over the years. They had always toyed with it, but evidence began to surface of their mixing of scientific and mystical forces. Or at least in those factions he believed were associated with them.

Over the next four years, he became more and more fervent in his search. Research, patrols, and crime fighting. Never to the level his father did, but he was getting recognized. He took up the name Swordsman, of which he learned there were many, but among superheroes, he simply used his own name, Gabriel Thromme.


“Dorian’s coming home?”

“Yes,” Amanda answered him for the second time, “he should be home in the next few days. He’s worried, like most people.”

Gabriel finished pulling on the leather gloves. “Most people who are worried are leaving the city.”

“He’s a Thromme,” she said matter of factly, “even though you try, he can’t turn his back on things like this any more than you can.” She smiled at her husband, knowing she was right.

His face was dark though. “Amanda, I’m not going look into these portals with the rest of the heroes.” She looked puzzled. “Statesman and the others I’m sure have more than enough hands on this. I have… something else I need to look into.”

“Gabriel, now you have me scared.”

“Me too, Amanda. Me too.”

He kissed his wife long and hard, with a passion he hadn’t felt in years. He knew his emotions were augmented by the sword, but this was different. When he left, she began to cry, knowing she had just been given a last kiss good-bye.


The door splintered and cracked, but hung on its hinges. His foot caught momentarily in the door. Gabriel was out of practice, but this warehouse was going much smoother than the last. It was all coming back, even the things he’d never known. That must be his father, his great grand uncle, and all the line of Thrommes. When his foot pulled free, one hack of the sword sent the rest of the door flying.

5th Column soldiers scattered. Scientists set papers afire and pushed kill switches on computers. He didn’t even try to arrest any of them, they didn’t matter. He dove for the tables and slashed at a soldier reaching for a high powered magnet, then looked for the nearest fire extinguisher. Spotting one, he leapt over the burning tables and rows of computers and landed next to it. Pulling it off the wall, he released the catch and started to hose down what he could.

Nothing remained, but there were more warehouses. All the links had fit, the 5th Column existed. They weren’t planning to rise up just yet, but they were getting their ducks in a row.


Gabriel had made one stop before getting to King’s Row. He’d stopped to have a word with Positron about the possibility of knocking out communications for the 5th Column.

“Sure I could,” Positron said, “that’s the easy part. But to do it without taking out the whole city, that’s not.”

Gabriel was getting anxious, “I don’t need it that wide spread, just King’s Row.”

“Still, that’s a lot of people. And, no offense, your father was a good hero, but you don’t pull enough weight to get that kind of leeway with the city.” Positron paused for a moment, seeing that Gabriel wasn’t leaving. “Look, say I could do it. Just King’s Row, maybe even limit it to the kinds of devices they use. I can’t keep it up forever. We have a lot of stuff going on, the portals and all, I could maybe keep them down an hour. And what would that buy you?”


Positron let the word hang in the air, feeling the weight of it. “Okay, give me fifteen minutes, and then you’ve got an hour. Any chance you are going to tell me why you need this?”

Gabriel considered telling him everything, but really he didn’t have the time. “It’s got nothing to do with the Portals. In fact, if it comes down to it, I’d be willing to bet the 5th will stand shoulder to shoulder with us heroes if some otherworldly menace shows up. But just because they aren’t the biggest threat doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t be keeping tabs on them.” He trailed off; worried that he was giving a lecture to one of the big guns in the city. He pulled out a disk from his belt and handed it over. “Assuming I screw up, this should explain everything, and you can handle it later.”

Positron had taken the disk and not said another word, just nodded and handed him a communicator.


His sword cleaved the table in half, and he used his foot to shove the half not in flames away from the fire. Finally, he had something he could use. He gathered the notes and sorted through them as fast as he could. If he was going to need to hit another warehouse, he was running out of time. His hour was almost up.

The paperwork was the same as the rest. Some of it looked like Circle of Thorns magic, and some of it old gypsy curses in rhyming Romanian words. The rest of it was all chemistry and physics.

Just as he was about to head to the next warehouse on his list, his communicator sprang to life.

“This is Gabriel.”

“Gabriel, this is Positron, can you talk?”

“Go ahead.”

“I’m going to buy you another hour.” Gabriel was about to ask why, but Positron didn’t stop. “I looked at the disk, what you said worried me. This is crazy, and I mean that. Some of these calculations, the science of it, it just… it’s not that it doesn’t make sense, its wrong. The numbers don’t add up.” Again Gabriel was going to speak, but the flow of speach never paused. “I had Numina and a few others look at it too. There is a group of them headed to a warehouse to meet you, one we pinpointed. The power draw and mystical readings are off the scale. With all the portal stuff going on, we missed it.”

Finally Gabriel broke in, “Positron, don’t get bent out of shape on this one. I didn’t want to believe it myself. Just hit me with that address and we’ll see if we can get it sorted out. Hopefully we won’t even need the whole hour.”


The others had been waiting like Positron said; some of the biggest heroes in the city, and not one of them spoke a word, waiting for Gabriel Thromme, a part time hero, to do the talking.

He glanced around the faces, seeing names from his youth and the morning paper. “I’m sure you know a bit so far. This all started with a missing scientist, a Dr. Brachtenberg. He was working on some physics, energy harnessing, cold fusion kind of stuff. I was able to track his work back to Germany, during World War II. Turned out he was part of a group that was searching for mystical and religious artifacts for Hitler.” Every stared at him, rapt in attention. “I managed to find the doctor, and spoke to him, but the 5th Column took him again. Brachtenberg told me that he and some of the other scientists had been planning, if they had found anything, to use it against Hitler. But they never found anything.”

Gabriel turned to look over his shoulder at the warehouse behind them, an audible hum coming from within. “It looks like maybe they finally did. Most of the other scientists are dead, killed by the Column. Brachtenberg is alive somewhere, and I want him found, just in case we don’t stop them and we need to undo whatever it is they are doing.” He drew his blade from its sheath. He quickly sketched out a plan, “You three, go with Numina through the front door. You two, with Stonehand through the loading dock. The rest of you come with me, through the side offices.”

Nods of affirmation all around.

“Okay. Let’s do this, and keep on your toes. We still don’t know for sure what they are up to. Five minutes, then Numina’s team starts the attack.” The other teams headed their designated direction and Gabriel his, with the small band of heroes unknown to him at his back.

Their approach seemed to go unnoticed, and the door to the offices was unlocked. Staying low to the ground they made their way in and through to the main warehouse. Sparkling lights played through the frosted glass, the hum growing louder, chanting and music rose through the din. Above it all, Gabriel heard the telltale clank of powered armor and robots.

From the moment the first blast was fired, the warehouse descended into chaos. Gabriel lost track of his team as everyone spread out into the nightmare unfolding before them. A ring of men, 5th Column, hung in mid-air, surrounded by a green mist. In the center, a dark figure spun, its wings spread out, the claws at the tips slashing at the ring of men. Below them on the floor, gypsies and men in ill-fitting Circle robes, sang and chanted. They were encircled by rows of computers, screens flickering calculations too fast for the human mind to comprehend. Five vats of chemicals bubbled at the points of a pentagram. And protecting all that was a small army of men, suits of armor and robots.

The walls of the warehouse shook as the battle commenced. Even with the dozen heroes they’d brought, they were outnumbered ten to one, maybe fifteen. Gabriel headed straight for the heart of the nightmare, slashing at three men on his way down. He ruptured the hydraulics on a powered armor suit, leaving the man huddled under the collapsing weight of his own weapons. Just as he was about to reach the center, his right arm felt pressure, and then jerked backward. His arm left the socket, and pain rushed through his body. He was slammed into a girder and he felt a rib crack, two. The pressure on the arm grew, the bone snapped and he dropped his blade. Finally he saw the mechanical beast that held him, and he lashed out with a foot, trying to kick at the robot arm that was crushing his right arm to oblivion.

An energy blast hit the thing dead center, knocking it off balance. It released Gabriel so it could use the arm to balance itself. Gabriel fell to the floor, and immediately began looking for his sword, his father’s sword, and of all the Thrommes before him. In the dark he found it, and with his left hand it felt heavy, though not as much as he expected. He’d never tried to use his left hand before, but now was as good a time as any.

Running on pure adrenaline, he fought again toward the center. Gabriel called out for others to help stop the ritual experiment or whatever it was, but he hadn’t needed to. Everyone was heading the same direction.

The dark spinning beast at the center of it all began tearing, no, biting the throats of the suspended men. Gabriel could see clearly now the men all had marks, tattoos. Those same marks appeared on the books from which the dancers sang. One by one the screens of the computers started to go blank, like a countdown. New machinery whirred to life and the vats began to empty into a large pool beneath the spinning monster.

The dancers stopped, their singing halted, and all knelt calmly facing the pool of chemicals. The suspended men, all bleeding from their throats and gasping, fell into the pool. The viscous fluid sucked them in without a splash.

Gabriel’s own throat was raw as he realized he’d never stopped screaming orders. The heroes were all closing in on the circle. 5th Column soldiers either lay on the ground or finally broke and fled. Robots were dismantled, one of the unnamed heroes moving from each to each laying hands on them and melting their circuitry. Gabriel reached the pool first. Still screaming, overtaken by an unnatural bloodlust, he lifted his sword high to bring down a final blow to one of the kneeling mystics.

The dark spinning beast stopped. Gabriel noticed for the first time, human features as he locked eyes with it. A terror unlike any he’d ever felt in all his life appeared deep in his heart. He stopped screaming.

Dark tendrils of mist and smoke began to fade, and the winged humanoid monster underneath became visible, and it simply hung there regarding the now silent sword wielding man approaching. With an odd grace and inhuman speed, it reached out, almost gingerly pulling Gabriel’s sword from his grasp, and snapped the blade in half.

Gabriel’s heart broke with the blade, and his momentum took him to his knees as he stumbled. Two dull thuds sounded, one by each side of him. Looking left, then right, he saw the halves of his family sword sticking out of the concrete, broken yet strong enough still to drive inches into the floor. Gabriel looked up for the beast, but it was gone. Only a slight dark trail of mist and smoke rose through a hole in the warehouse roof.

The pool, two feet in front of him, began to bubble. The kneeling mystics didn’t move. Peering across the pool into the hood of one, he saw a gaunt face, flesh draped over a skull, nothing more. They were all dead. Their life essences gone, he could feel that as he grabbed his sword by the hilt with his left hand and eased it from its stony sheath.

The fighting had slowed. He could hear the others cleaning up the stragglers, and a few of the heroes even stood a safe distance away from the pool, watching it bubble. Gabriel tried to stand, the adrenaline leaving his system, and pain taking its place. He felt a hand take him, as Numina helped him get to his feet.

“How are you?” she asked.

“I got lucky,” Gabriel scratched out hoarsely, “when the robot dropped me, my arm popped back in its socket.” He tried to smile, but didn’t have the energy.

The pool was still bubbling. The men who had fallen in had not resurfaced. “What now?” Stonehand rasped, not because his throat was sore, but that’s just how a body made of stone speaks.

Gabriel got his balance, sheathed his half sword, and began trying to feel the break in his right arm. “Anything comes out of that pool,” he said, finding the break and grabbing the lower half of the bone, “kill it.” He pulled the bone and set it back against its other half. Gabriel lost consciousness before he hit the floor.


He’d only been out for two minutes, maybe five, but when his eyes opened, the world had changed. Gabriel Thromme was still lying in the warehouse, the tip half of his sword at his feet. Numina was crying.

The bubbling pool bubbled no longer, and sat more than half empty. The sacrificial mystics were all slumped over on their sides or backs, one head first into the remainder of the pool, whatever magic had kept them sitting was gone. Gabriel sat up, and inched toward Numina. Half of Stonehand’s face was resting in her hands.

The electric boy, the one who had been melting the robot circuitry with his touch, was rocking back and forth muttering to himself. He was covered in gore, but none of it appeared to be his. Other heroes laid, sat and stood around, all of them in a similar state to the electric boy. Three hulking corpses, covered in hair, cybernetic circuits and tattooed in runic symbols lay motionless. A forth twitched as a hero in a red suit sat on it punching its chest. The fifth, for there had been five suspended men who had dropped into the pool, was legless and missing one arm. Gabriel noticed his sword was gone from its sheath. He spied it in the hands of another hero, slowly following the fifth beast as it pulled itself across the rubble with its one good arm.

Gabriel finally stood, and pulled a piece of cloth from one of the dead mystics, wrapping his arm in a makeshift sling. He walked through the warehouse mess to the man holding his sword, and carefully pried it from his grip. When he looked into the hero’s eyes, they were empty.

The beast whimpered as it pulled its massive body across the floor. It was eight feet tall, easily twelve if it still had legs. It continued its noises, and growled once. Clearly it was no longer a man, if it even had been before. He’d heard about werewolves before from his father, but this monstrosity was something altogether more horrifying. One of them had been strong enough to shatter Stonehand.

He was tempted to leave it. But thinking further, he didn’t know if it would heal, and he couldn’t allow for that. Gabriel pressed a knee into the monster’s back, and placed the broken blade against its neck. Wordlessly, he ended the beast.

Gabriel walked back to Numina, who still sat crying. “What happened to the boy?”

Numina snapped out of her daze and wiped the tears from under her eyes. “The things,” she was staring at the boy now, “they apparently had some sort of cybernetics, from before or in the pool. He touched one, the one that smashed Stonehand, and it died. I think,” she was getting up now, and moving toward the boy, “because of the circuitry and flesh, I think he felt it die. We need to get him to a hospital.” Her mind was completely on recovery now. “The last beast?”

“Dead.” He looked down at the pile of stones that had been Stonehand’s lower half. “We need to gather what we can. He deserves it.” Numina nodded and ordered a few of the other heroes to pick up what they could identify.

As they came forward, Gabriel saw that none of them were unharmed. Cuts and gashes, bruises, burns, abrasions, everyone had taken a beating. The one in red who’d been pounding one of the dead beast’s chest was gone, Gabriel made sure Numina knew that. She said she’d keep and eye out, and go looking after the rest were taken care of.

“Hey,” the voice came from another of the heroes, named Forcebolt or Forcebomb or something like that, “Your belt is blinking.”

Gabriel pulled the communicator out of his belt and put it back in his ear. Positron’s voice came through clearly.

“Gabriel, you there?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“Did you take care of the warehouse?”

He thought again of Stonehand and the boy, the others, the one who wandered off, and it was enough to almost break him to tears as it all flashed through his head, imagining what had happened while he was unconscious. “Yes, Positron, it’s done. It’s stopped.”

“That’s good. But I have bad news.” Gabriel didn’t speak; he just waited for the words to come. “The energy signature we traced to the warehouse, while you were there, it spiked, so I’m guessing something happened you can fill me in later on.” He looked over at Numina who he knew was listening in, and she nodded that she would tell Positron what occurred. “When it spiked, I got the same signature in other places. Some were very weak, so it might just be coincidence, but one of them was identical in every way, just outside the city limits.”

Gabriel closed his eyes, and he could feel dark emotions settling over him. He looked again to Numina, who just stared, the fear plain in her eyes even if he couldn’t feel it radiating through the mind link. What they had fought had been new born, and they both could only imagine that they would get stronger with time. “Send me the location, Positron; I’ll go check it out.”

Numina spoke directly to Gabriel, mind to mind, “You can’t. You need a hospital, and if there are more of those things, you’ll need an army. We got lucky, and we weren’t so lucky at that.” The fear in her mind was being over taken with a pulsing anger.

“I’m just going to look,” he thought back. “If its bad, I’ll call for help. In the meantime you can fill Positron in on what happened and look for the hero who’s missing.”

“The Apostle.”

“Yeah, him. My arm is fine for now,” he lied and hoped he could hide that fact from Numina, “but that guy might be in serious trouble. All of these guys.”

She relented, and the anger faded back to concern with a small amount of fear. “Be careful.”


Gabriel felt silly riding the train, but it would get him most of the way, right to the edge of town. Then he’d take the rest of the way on foot.

His sheath felt wrong on the right side of his body. His balance would be off if it came to a fight. Not to mention that when he drew the sword, half of it was going to remain in there. And fighting with his left hand, he’d have to make sure that Dorian would learn to fight with both.


“One day”, he thought, “I’ll be passing this off to Dorian.” He didn’t like the idea. “The sword keeps me young if I use it, so perhaps I just use it some more until maybe he has a son, or a grandson. Or maybe I just never give it up.” His thoughts wandered down lanes of memories of Dorian and Amanda, and futures where they got old and he did not, and he understood the choice his father made, if it really had been his father. Perhaps he had been some much older relative, hundreds of years with the blade.

But Dorian had been more into the stories of old Greig. Dorian had wanted his own father to be a hero. Even now, Dorian was heading home from school where he was studying Criminal Law and Forensics, with his heart set on joining the Paragon City Police Department someday. Maybe Dorian would be the hero that Gabriel had never been.

Then he pushed all those thoughts away. “With the blade broken, it may not even work anymore,” he muttered. Glancing around he noticed the other people in the train car, keeping their distance. He looked at himself in the reflection of the window. His leather outfit was cut and covered in dirt and blood, his arm in a sling, and he’d been talking to himself.

Despite the pain and the worries about his destination, Gabriel Thromme started to laugh, and couldn’t stop for a long while. Eventually he stifled his mirth and the pain and worries returned.

It started to rain.

Dr. Brachtenberg and Gabriel Thromme were thankful that the rain had finally stopped. Down in the lab in the bunker, they had gathered together what information they could in hopes that the other heroes of Paragon could hunt down and kill these wolf beasts the 5th Column had created. They doubted the Column themselves would ever go this far again. The beasts had been uncontrollable, killing everything in sight.

Gabriel checked his communicator again, it was still unable to get a signal. Brachtenberg’s car labored to get them back to Paragon. The beat up decades old mini Cooper was obviously on its last legs. And as they approached the city, the skies were bright instead of dark as midnight loomed. Cars were rushing the other way, trying to get out, as they were trying to get in.

Gabriel rolled down the window. “Hey,” he yelled at a group of people closing up a store front, “What’s going on?”

“Chaos,” one said. “Its war,” said another.


One of the men stepped out to the car, “Those red portals, the ones all over the city. Aliens started pouring out of them. Everyone hero in the city, all over the world, they are fighting these things.” He glanced back at his friends on the sidewalk, “If I was you mister, I’d turn around and head out. Paragon is no safe place to be.” He turned then and headed back to locking up his store. Then he and his friends disappeared into the alley, probably to a waiting car on another street.

Gabriel and Dr. Brachtenberg sat in silence for a while.

“I have to get back into the city.” Gabriel said, finally.

Dr. Brachtenberg grimaced, “I got nowhere else to be. Maybe I can even help.” He shifted the car into gear and sped toward Atlas Park. “Gunter. It’s my first name. Call me Gunter,” he said.

Gabriel put out his left hand, and Gunter shook it. “Pleased to meet you, Gunter. My name’s Gabriel.” They narrowly missed another car at the intersection, and nervously laughed as they headed into the city.

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