The team had identified sixteen targets. San Francisco, Halcyon City, and New York City in North America. Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Panama City in Central and South America. Lisbon and Saint-Nazaire in Europe. In Asia, Mumbai and Shanghai. In Australia, Perth on the west coast and Sydney on the east. And in Africa, Lagos, Cape Town, Mogadishu, and Djibouti. All have some important part to play in the surface world’s economy and military.
The surface world’s first line of defense has been breached. It’s time for the second to step up. All that Leo can do, stuck in a bobbing bubble in the Atlantic Ocean, is listen to the radio to learn how they fare.
Quill Foundation science teams are broadcasting recommendations on how to neutralize a tsunami to anyone who’s got the powers and the brains to use them. ASIST translators are online and ready to facilitate communication with anyone who needs it.
The most basic tactic the Quill Foundation presents is to create an area of low pressure behind the wave. The idea is that atmospheric pressure in front of it will neutralize the kinetic energy of the wave. More advanced methods, like generating acoustic gravity waves, collapsing air bubbles inside the wave, or inducing destructive transverse waves, all exist and have been used in the past.
It’s time to use them. The waves are coming in.
Saint-Nazaire, France. A young woman named Isabelle excuses herself from dinner and gets on a bicycle outside. She rides to the coast, parks the bike against a nearby tree, and conjures an ornate sword into her hand from out of nowhere. She knows only what she saw the dream - that she must stand here and be the sword against evil. And so she stands, uncertain of what is to come but full of conviction that she must play her part in it.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Three brothers named Los Impulsores have volunteered for coastal defense. They are joined by other South American heroes, and even a few of the more dashing and chivalrous villains. The brothers, whose specialty is complex feats of telekinesis and TK-assisted team acrobatics, have become the de facto leaders of the defense team. They crack jokes, show smiles, and generally keep spirits light in the mid-afternoon weather. But in their hearts, none of them are sure what can be done. Still, when people are in need, you don’t just run away.
Halcyon City, USA. Superchica, A10, TK, Ghost Girl, and other local heroes are ready. The heavy hitters will do their best against the tidal wave. Everyone else is making sure that people are evacuated, or evacuating those who have difficulty doing so. Confidence is high, but Charlotte can feel an undercurrent of uncertainty. This is the biggest thing in Halcyon since the HHL broke up. It’s finally time for the kids to graduate.
Djibouti, Djibouti. Oya revels in the evening air, enjoying the feeling of the sea breeze blowing through her hair and over her skin. Being away from the HHL has been freeing, in many ways. There’s no more façade to uphold. No more lies to stain her soul. No more false American politeness. She assembled an international contingent of African and Middle Eastern heroes for the task at hand, but doesn’t lead them nor is led by any of them. It is just her, and her power, against a force of nature. If only it could always be like this.
Sydney, Australia. The Beauty Boyz have fully mobilized. Mob Justice, Young Ned, Billy T, Slaughter Dixon, Godzone, and Knockabout lead an alliance of Australian heroes, inventors, and philanthropists in evacuating the city and its environs, and preparing a response for the tsunami. It’s 3am local time, and the heroes are passing the time and shoring up morale by blasting rock music across the deserted city.
Mumbai, India. Summer, Aria, and Otto are flying above the city. Summer is equipped with the advanced ARCANE shell, Otto is fully charged up on both fuel and electricity, and Aria came equipped with a special toy: an implosion bomb, out of Byron Quill’s secret stash. A pair of Phoenixes, Slim-fast and Reggie, are orbiting the site in tense anticipation of action.
Shanghai, China. The country’s state-sponsored heroes appear to be in place. Nobody knows much about them or their abilities, so Alex is keeping an eye on things via satellite. One thing that’s known is that they’ve erected a massive series of pylons around Shanghai, and those are being charged up with some kind of energy.
Harry Gale and his family are waiting in Greenland. Their job is to shore up other efforts, act as roving troubleshooters, or come in as a third line of defense in a pinch. They can respond faster than anyone else, and while hopefully they’ll have nothing to do, nobody really believes that.
Aria rockets forward, carrying her implosion bomb above the crest of the wave. The bomb drops. Alex, tracking its descent, is ready to manually activate it should the timer have been set incorrectly. Summer’s butterflies fan out, their barriers set for maximum dispersion.
The implosion effect goes off. The team can see the power of the wave diminish, but not dissipate completely. “I’m up,” Otto crows, and jets toward the wall of water. En route, his panels eject, and his fuel ignites. As he slams into the water, his hydrogen supply explodes outward, creating a shockwave that resonates throughout the tsunami.
Summer is ready. Her butterflies are as close to the blast point as possible, containing and reflecting the water pressure. Her beam emitters fire again and again, vaporizing holes in the wave.
Together, they’re able to channel the remaining water into Mahim Bay. The Bandra Worli Sea Link road that crosses the bay takes serious damage, but that’s okay. More importantly to Aria, the numerous churches, temples, and hospitals on the west side of Mumbai experience nothing worse than a heavy sea breeze.
“Mumbai is okay,” reports Aria. Together, she and Summer head downward, to fish Otto out of the water.
A new voice comes on the network. “Hello? This is Concord. For any telekinetics out there, I brought something that’ll help out.”
A translator’s voice comes over the line. “From Los Impulsores: what did you bring?”
The remnants of the Concordance base are now hanging in low Earth orbit, escorted here by members of the Universal Concordance at Adam’s request. As a base, the Schema is useless - only so much raw energy, still loosely bound together. But that’s exactly what Earth’s defenders need right now.
In France, the region’s heroes have been ineffective. The tsunami here is far more intense than the others. But Isabelle hasn’t moved. She is to stand sentinel, whatever happens. Her courage must not falter. She crosses herself, but does not close her eyes against the wall of water that now fills her field of vision.
She will not retreat. She will not waver.
She feels Excalibur pulse with a sudden energy from the heavens, and clutches the sword fiercely.
The tsunami - all of it - strikes an invisible barrier. The rushing water simply collapses back into the sea. The wave was close enough that a salty spray washes over her and her bicycle.
Isabelle lets out a long sigh, and slumps to the ground, cradling the sword against herself in relief.
Translator come back on the line. “Something happened in France, nobody’s sure what, but Saint-Nazaire is okay.”
Another speaks up. “Los Impulsores report Rio is okay. They say they have never felt so powerful.”
Leo comes on the line. “Concord. How did you know?”
The others can hear Adam’s smile through his voice. “You’ve all shared your feelings with me. We didn’t talk about it, but I’ll always know what worries you.”
Another voice breaks in. “Big problem in Djibouti.”
Alex fills in details. “Some kinda kill sat is firing energy beams into the Gulf of Aden, targeting the heroes there.”
“Reggie and I are on it!” announces Summer. “Just tell us where to go.”
The Phoenix streaks skyward. In the meantime, more bad news comes in. “Shanghai is compromised. The Chinese team was building some kind of deflection grid, but saboteurs are blowing up transmission lines and knocking out power plants.”
“Tempest and I will take care of Shanghai,” announces Silver Streak. With a jaunty salute to their son, he and Tempest streak away from Greenland and across the Arctic circle.
“Rossum-type robots emerging from the waters around Halcyon,” comes the next news break. “They’re engaging with the coast defense team.”
“Otto, get every free Phoenix over there, now,” yells Leo into his headset.
“Roger, boss,” Otto replies weakly.
The Phoenixes, unencumbered by human passengers, scream across the sky at Mach 10. But even so, speeds of nearly 8,000 miles an hour do no good when some of them are over 10,000 miles away.
“I’ve fought robots like that before, I’ll help,” Adam announces.
Jason, from his Leviathan habitat, reports in. “The Beauty Boyz are under attack by Rossum-type robots as well. They’ve already set up something they called a ‘buzzkill’ for the tsunami, and the robots are targeting that.”
“What about follow-up attacks?” Leo asks. “How many tsunamis do we have to hold off.”
Alycia answers that question. “Detonation at the sites deforms the local terrain. Once that’s done, you can’t do it a second time. I’ve analyzed the Leviathans’ telemetry, plus seismic data. Your machines caused small local explosions. The explosives themselves are human-made, and Atlantis can’t quickly replace those without surface assets. If we hold off this attack, there won’t be a second wave for a long time.”
“That’s why Rossum is interfering with us now,” concludes Leo. “He’s shooting his shot.”
“Oya is down,” comes a report from Djibouti. “We were counting on her to handle the wave.”
“I’m on it!” calls Harry.
He starts to run, across Greenland and the cold Atlantic ocean, buoyed up by the surface tension of water in the milliseconds before gravity would break it. East, to Sweden. Through Finland, across the Russian border, past Moscow and through Georgia and Armenia. He hangs a right at the Caspian Sea. Across Syria, through the green ribbon of life surrounding the Euphrates River. He reaches Jordan, sees the Red Sea, and veers left. The sun leaps and jumps in the sky, moving erratically as his unbelievable speed takes him across 5,500 miles of planet.
And they said nobody would ever need to pay attention in Geography class.
He sees the tidal wave sweeping through the gulf of Aden, sees cargo ships lifted by the mass of water. Most of all he sees the pinpoint flashes of light that pierce the sky, like Zeus’ javelins.
He runs in a circle, round and round and round, forcing himself to draw out more and more speed. At the center of his circle, a vortex forms. Local air pressure drops. This close to the equator, there’s no Coriolis force to contend with. He just has to use the world’s atmosphere against its waves.
He leaves the circle at impossible velocity, makes a deceleration pass through the country of Yemen, and races back to the coast to see what happened.
To his great relief, the wave has been seriously diminished. Some of the ships will run aground, and Djibouti will experience some mild flooding. But it could have been worse.
“Switching to rescue operations,” he announces.
Summer and Reggie find the satellite in the orbital position provided by Alex. Out of the cockpit window, she can see the Earth’s gentle arc, but catches no glimpse of the conflict the weapon is helping escalate.
The Phoenix has no weapons, but it can wield plenty of physical force, and it takes very little to destroy a fragile satellite. What is required is precision, because its debris are going to land somewhere. Summer has a private channel open with Alex to coordinate this operation.
“This thing doesn’t look new,” Summer says, as the remains of the satellite begin burning up in the atmosphere, on a trajectory to a very empty part of the Indian Ocean.
“Yeah. It’s uh, it’s an AEGIS bird,” Alex responds.
“What does AEGIS need with a kill sat?”
“To stop folks like you,” Alex mumbles. “Heroes going out of control. Villains too powerful to restrain. Situations where collateral damage is deemed acceptable.”
“Who fired it?” Summer demands.
“I’m still tracing that. But it looks like a legit fire code, signed by an internal private key.”
Alex’s voice is tense. “Which means someone in AEGIS either gave the order - or gave codes away to someone like Rossum.”
Summer shakes her head in disbelief. “Well at least that’s dealt with.”
“Yeah, no, there’s four more.”
“Beauty Boyz report their ‘buzzkill’ countermeasure was taken out by an orbital strike.”
“More beams landing in Sydney.”
Tempest comes on the call. “We’re done in Shanghai, heading to Sydney–”
“Don’t bother, mate,” comes a voice, with a clear Australian accent. “Sydney’s gonna be underwater in one minute.”
“A minute’s all we need,” Silver Streak says with conviction.
At unimaginable speeds, the two heroes gesture to each other - talking will take far too long, and demands air in their lungs that’s needed to get them to where they’re going. The exchanged signs outline a plan. And as Sydney flashes into view, they execute on it.
Tempest takes the north side. Silver Streak takes the south. Together, with a precision only life partners could achieve, they harmonize their motions, creating vibrations in the water. The transverse waves meet and clash, one after another.
The collapse of the wave is immediate, and explosive. Already exhausted from two rescue efforts, both Tempest and Silver Streak are caught up in the collapse of the tsunami, and disappear into the sea.
“This is Young Ned. Sydney got a sprinklin’ but she’s alright. Billy T and Godzone are searching for the Gales.”
Adam reports in as well. He doesn’t sound at all happy. “The Rossum bots are under control. Superchica took a hit from one of the satellites. Halcyon is okay though.”
Minute after minute drags by. Summer is reporting on the gradual destruction of the orbital weapons. At last, she and her Phoenix descend into Earth’s atmosphere.
Secondary rescue operations commence. Many ships were run aground, capsized, or knocked about. Their crews will need medical care. The Leviathan habitats are retrieved, one by one, and towed back to nearby ports.
It takes a day for the Menagerie to re-form and review the battle.
“We stopped nine bomb sites, five of seven tidal waves, and mitigated two more,” Alycia says. She points out spots on the holographic globe hovering in the Conversation Pit at the Quill compound. “Some casualties were reported. Oya, Superchica, some members of the Beauty Boyz, and some of the Rio team took damage from the kill sats by proximity. They’re expected to make a recovery, but it’s going to take time. The Gales were retrieved and are in intensive care. The prognosis is good.”
Harry lets out a pent-up sigh of relief at the news.
“Now the other bad news. The populations of sixteen major cities were evacuated, and getting things back to normal is going to take time. Shipping through the Suez Canal has been disrupted, but not halted. Telekinetics, fueled by what’s left of Orion Schema, are moving the grounded or wrecked ships out of the channel, but it’s slow going. All of this is going to impact international commerce and military legistics, which was undoubtedly the point. That in turn will hamper our reaction to the Atlanteans’ future moves. They’ve still got the initiative.”
“What’s their next move, then?” Adam asks.
Alycia nods to Leo and Jason. “The three of us actually have some training in military strategy, with a focus on supervillains. We fed our insights to AEGIS planners, international military leadership, and so on.”
She points at the bomb sites. “The dive teams found concentrations of Atlantean Blood soldiers when they went to disarm the bombs. Those people would certainly not have made it out of a successful detonation - they were there to stop us from interfering.”
“Based on this, the planners think that the Atlantean combat doctrine is similar to that of Russia. Big infantry pushes against strategic targets. When in doubt, throw a huge expendable population at the problem.” She ends the explanation with a sardonic grimace.
“Our next move is the Leviathans,” says Leo, taking over. “Rossum may have worked out some kind of countermeasure for them, but we don’t think he’s had time to implement it very widely if at all. So we’re still planning to mass evacuate as many people from their cities as we can.”
“If the Atlanteans do invade the surface, that’s our signal that the cities will be as unguarded as we can hope for them to be. If that doesn’t happen, say within a week, we’ll just have to go in anyway.”
“So we’ve got a week - or less - for final preparations,” Harry says.
Jason grins. “Yeah. If anyone’s been holding out on a superweapon or secret power until now, let us know. Until then, good luck everyone.”