Disclaimer: I own nothing but the storyline.
Rao felt it, and looked up from the plans he was going over. At first he didn't understand what he was feeling, but then he did, and his eyes widened. All around him, the other dragons stopped what they were doing and looked up as well.
"That's impossible," Basqat declared. "She's a mere hatchling, she cannot be molting already!"
Coats licked his lips. "First molt so soon into the game... That says something right there."
Zor leaned back in his chair. "It is impossible that on her power alone she's managed to get to this stage."
Rao turned to Zor, eyes narrowed. "You're not insinuating what I think you are, are you?"
Zor raised an eyebrow. "She has proven to have special abilities hidden under her sleeve. Think about her journey to Apokalips."
"I don't get it." Coats looked between them. "What little trick do you think she's doing?"
Basqat got it though, his eyes wide in shock. "They think she's harvesting."
"But it is Rao's magic." Coats frowned, looking lost. "Now that the plan is in motion, whenever a witch dies, their magic returns to strengthen him."
"Unless she's managed to find a way to steal it herself." Zor's lips were curled in a smile. "Truly, Rao, your daughter is magnificent."
Rao didn't know whether to feel insulted that the girl was stealing some of what should be his, or be proud that she was actually capable of that. "Molting. She's molting." He frowned and stood. "She should not be going through her first molt without me to guide her through it. Our kind never go through their first molt without a mentor, without kin." He sent the table flying in fury. "If she wasn't so stupidly stubborn, wanting to help the humans and witches, she'd be here where she's supposed to be - I would be able to help her through this!"
Damn those humans and witches who stood in the way of his plans!
"With Dax-Ur, Dru-Zod, and my brother there she will not have a problem finding someone to help her through this transition." Zor clasped his hands. "This merely means that we have to accelerate our plans."
Rao raised an eyebrow. Should he continue to let Zor believe he had even an ounce of decision-making power, or should he put the dragon in his place?
Deciding he was too distracted to deal with Zor, Rao sat down once more, his gaze towards the direction of Smallville.
In fact, hours later, they were all still there. The waves of power were not only distracting, but left every dragon restless. Rao had known this day would come, but he hadn't expected it this quickly, or that it would happen on this exact day – such an important day for him!
He'd been about to take his daughter – she needed kin to help her through her first molt – but before he could take flight his spies stationed a safe distance outside of Smallville had contacted him with quite the story.
Everyone in Smallville was caught in some sort of thrall, and that was not where the surprising news ended. No. Not only were the citizens his daughter protected in some sort of trance, but the whole town was encircled by a large orb which prevented any entrance, and which not only deflected (but reflected) any curse or attack against it.
The orb had been transparent at first but had since become a pearly, milky color which made seeing within impossible. Also, the orb was now growing, expanding, reclaiming the land around which had once been towns but were now lifeless craters.
"This couldn't have been planned for a worse time," Coats muttered as he peeled an apple with his claws. "With the attack beginning we do not have the manpower to fully cordon off and contain the area." He smashed the apple between his claws with a growl. "The Firstborn is going to die and our pure race will die with her!"
"Not that she was 'pure'," Basqat declared.
Rao turned to them, but Zor beat him to it. "Pure or not, that hatchling has more power in her pinky than you two combined. She is more than perfect for this purpose."
"Never said that she was not," Basqat replied easily. "Just that Alura is the last "pure" female dragon alive."
Rao eyed Zor, curious as to how he would react to the mention of the wife who had cheated on and left him and their daughter Kara for her lover. He had actually been surprised that Zor hadn't pressed him for information on his wife since he'd arrived from Apokalips.
Zor, surprisingly enough, did not seem affected by the mention of Alura and instead turned to look out of the window. "The Firstborn will not die this night. My brother would never allow it. He knows, as do we, that she is the future of our kind." He turned to look over his shoulder at them. "Despite our different sides in this war, every dragon on this earth wants to assure that our race does not end with us."
Rao agreed. The Draconian race was a proud one, and no dragon alive wanted to know that their race had died with them. Jor would feel partly responsible for the destruction of Apokalips due to his inability to save even his most beloved, and it was that that assured Rao that Jor would do all in his power to make sure Chloe made it through.
"I still think one of us needs to go investigate this orb." Zor turned fully to face them. "I will go to Smallville and see it. If it is penetrable I will return with the Firstborn."
Rao was about to answer when he felt it. London had fallen. He smiled and moved to stand next to Zor. Tonight had been the culmination of Phase Two. Not only had they attacked the witches in the world, but now the fight had been taken to the mortals.
Calcutta, Amsterdam, Paris, Sidney, Budapest and Bucharest had fallen almost immediately. Tokyo, Rome and Athens had been the next to fall. London had just followed their example, with parts of Africa and Turkey about to follow. Jerusalem, Moscow, Washington and Beijing were putting up the most entertaining of fights, and were the three that were holding up the best against the assaults, giving as good as they got while all around them another city, and another, and another, and another, continued to fall.
The death of mortals did not feed Rao, but he rejoiced as each new city went up in flames. Mortals were nothing but fodder under his heel, they were parasites, pests which needed to be extinguished if his plans were to come into fruition. This world would be reborn in his image, and for that to happen the insects which had infested it had to been exterminated.
"I will report as soon as I examine this orb for myself." And with that Zor jumped out of the window and shifted in mid-air.
Rao hardly noticed, his eyes narrowed as he tilted his head and listened to the voices of his followers in his head. There was a commotion in Singapore. Dragons. There were dragons in Singapore who'd taken to the sky to protect the citizens, fighting his men.
Alura and her little lover. Rao could not believe that they would go against him like this. He turned to Coats and Basqat. "There seems to be two dragons attacking my men in Singapore."
Immediately understanding what he was saying, the dragons stood.
Rao raised an eyebrow. "Kill them."
Coats grinned and raced to jump out of the window, shifting in mid-air once more.
Basqat was about to follow when a roar filled the air. He raised an eyebrow and turned to Rao. "She's in the last stage." And with that he raced out after Coats.
Rao moved closer to the window and stared in the direction of Smallville, gripping the window-frame with his claws.
The darkness surrounded them in a tight blanket, weaving around their bodies. Whitney had taken in a deep breath as the shadows had risen to cover his head, but he'd been forced to expel the breath and inhale once more once his lungs burned, and he'd expected to choke or suffocate in the darkness but he could breathe easily.
There was something in the air, something sweet and alluring, but he couldn't figure out what it was. All he knew was that he liked it.
A sharply piercing pain seared through him, and Whitney doubled over as fire seemed to ignite under his skin. He found it hard to breathe, to stand, and it was only when he felt the pain of his knees hitting the ground that he realized that his legs had given out on him.
What was happening?
He opened his mouth to call out to Zod but the pain stole his breath. His body was in agony! What was this darkness doing to him? Was he dying? He felt like he was being torn apart!
Sounds reverberated around him demonically, he could hear someone calling his name but couldn't figure out who it was. Something brushed up against him in the darkness, something long, very long. It was a tail, but of what he didn't know.
He felt his body shifting, could feel the pain as that monster he hated began to emerge.
No! Not now! No! Please no!
With each call of his name he recognized the voice a little bit more, and when the hand curled around his he only didn't pull away because he was scared of hurting her with his claws.
"Whitney?" Chloe's hand slipped from his and trailed over his face to his neck and then back up to sink into his hair. "Breathe, Whitney."
"What's… happening… to me?" He barely managed to breathe out.
Chloe's voice whispered in his ear. "You're molting."
"Are you seeing this, General?" Corporal Hutch turned towards him, pale.
General Nightingale loomed over the corporate and stared in furthering disbelief. Not two hours ago the world had been attacked by unknown forces using what appeared to be magic, and only seconds before the attack had begun a bubble had enveloped a small town in Kansas. It was the same town which had survived the terrorist attacks, it was also the town that General Lane and his special task force had been stationed at in an effort to figure out how some non-descript, little town had managed to keep from becoming a crater like the towns around it.
Not only hadn't General Lane or his men managed to find any information, but ever since the bubble had gone up communication had been impossible. The last info they'd had on the bubble before it went milky and started to expand was a satellite feed which showed the townsfolk seemingly frozen.
Now, not only was the bubble not transparent anymore (as well as growing) but this was happening. "Have you been able to make contact with Lane and his men yet? Their input is of vital import!"
"No sir, nothing but radio silence," Corporal Hutch responded. "But whatever that bubble is, it is holding up under the, uh, attack."
'The, uh, attack' was just the way the General thought of it as well considering they were watching a medieval dragon attacking a mysterious, magical bubble. The dragon swished with his tail, breathed fire, slashed with his claws, but none of the many attacks did any sort of damage to the bubble.
The military application something like that could have ran through General Nightingale's mind, but he pushed it away. First they had to figure out what that bubble was and who in Smallville had created it. If they survived the night then they could figure out how in the world they could use it for themselves in this fight against monsters and magic.
"General!" Someone else yelled from across the room. "You're going to want to see this!"
Hurrying towards the soldier who'd called him, General Nightingale peered down at the screen and cursed. The two dragons who'd been apparently protecting Singapore were under attack by two other dragons.
"How many of these damned things are there?" he snapped. "Where did they come from?"
"General, Beijing just fell," one of his men informed him.
"Jesus H Christ." General Nightingale ran a hand over his head. "What the devil is going on?"
They stood together and watched the world as they knew it be destroyed.
Unlike the others, they were safe in the mountainous cave, and had a great view of the world as it went up in flames. Also, unlike the others, they'd known this day would come and had been prepared for it for years. It was only sad that they were the only ones left to watch it happen.
"They'll go after Smallville next," Genevieve Teague predicted as she watched the flames grow higher and higher. "Our children…"
"…can take care of themselves," Lionel Luthor declared easily. "Plus, the only other safe place they could be other than here is there."
Genevieve nodded and took in a deep breath. "They have no idea what's about to start."
"What's about to start?" Lionel scoffed good-naturedly. "My dear, it's already here."
Morgan Edge could feel the heat from the fires raging in the city above him. He and his most faithful had managed to make it down to the underground tunnels, to the dungeons, to the rooms that Byron had lived in most of his life, and it was quite ironic that his nephew's lifelong prison was now their refuge.
Even deep down in the ground, far from the surface, they could feel the heat in the walls, in the ceiling, the rocks sweating from the lava-like fire that consumed everything in Edge City. He doubted many others had places underground like he did, he doubted that, should they survive Rao's attack, that there would be others once they finally surfaced.
His thoughts went to his nephew and worried whether the boy was safe in Smallville. Rao would've attacked there, surely? But the safest Byron could be was with Rao's daughter. Morgan Edge had to put Byron out of his mind, couldn't let his worries for his nephew consume him. No. He needed to remain calm, to figure out how he and his few remaining men were going to survive the night.
"They'll come searching for survivors once they've stopped bombing us like this," Morgan informed his men, who all nodded in agreement. "We will give hell to any who come upon us."
"They'll outnumber us," one of his men declared worriedly.
"Of course," Morgan agreed. "That is why, as soon as the attack ceases, we are leaving for Smallville." He took in a deep breath. "It is time to join my nephew and the Balcoin Firstborn."
"Moscow has fallen." The soldier looked up from his radio. "The city's in flames."
"Sod it all! Everyone is falling like bloody flies!" General Abernathy snapped as he looked around at the small group of men in the bunker. "What news is there of the royal family? What is their ETA?"
"General..." Private Smythe looked up from the radio, pale-faced. "The Royal Convoy was shot down. They never made it to the safe-house."
A horrified hush fell upon the occupants of the bunker.
Zod had been through many battles, had led countless of them himself, and yet his heart had never raced this way before. Everything was out of control and nothing was going as it should. The darkness had surrounded them and he'd had to shift to his half form to see through, to watch over Chloe and Whitney. The Sanguine had reacted to the molt, that wasn't supposed to happen, wasn't supposed to be possible, but once Chloe reached a certain point in her molting Whitney had begun to molt as well.
Sanguines didn't molt. Now more than ever Zod knew that Whitney had to be more than that. He'd had suspicions before, and it seemed that with each day they intensified. He did not know what Whitney was, but a mere Sanguine he was not. No. As Whitney's body twisted on the ground, his bones breaking and his skin beginning to tear, to show the second skin beneath, Zod knew that he was seeing something else, something new.
Chloe was in a similar state, screaming as her body twisted and shifted. She wasn't changing form, not truly, not as she should. Instead glimmering scales were appearing all over her body and the wings that's jutted out of her back were elongating, growing fiercer.
Zod knelt over her and placed his cool hand against her burning forehead and with a whimper she calmed down a bit. Her tail curled tighter around Whitney's arm and she pressed harder against Zod's hand.
The dragon sighed and pressed his hand harder against her burning skin before he turned to Whitney and placed his hand on Whitney's forehead. The Sanguine was burning up as well, and reacted similarly, searching the cool. He flinched in pain. Zod frowned and turned from Chloe to eye Whitney. His skin, it was too tight. He needed help.
Claws growing, Zod raised his hands and then brought them down, his claws tearing through the Sanguine's skin, knowing what he had to do as he helped the younger male through his first shift.
Crouch End was packed with the few witches who'd remained unaligned, who'd preferred to stay with their mortal lovers, friends and family. Once the attack had begun, the witches had brought their loved ones to Crouch End, knowing it was one of the only places in which they and their loved ones might survive Rao's fearsome attack.
Marx sat in his seat, the dwarf owner of Crouch End smoking a cigar as he gazed up at the ceiling as bits of dust fell down on the multitudes crouched and crying in the darkness around him.
Normally Marx wouldn't allow mortals in his establishment, not ones who obviously hadn't known about magic at least, but even he couldn't tell them to leave when he knew that his establishment was one of the only which could withstand an attack.
Oh, it wasn't that he was stronger than Rao and the others. Marx hadn't lived as long as he had because he was a fool who overestimated himself and his abilities. No. He knew when to fight and when to hide – and knew that when it was time to hide that one needed to disappear, to be undetectable, and that was what they were all banking their lives on now – their ability to remain hidden and not be attacked directly.
If they survived tonight though, the time of hiding would be over. After the initial attack Rao would send his men in through the city and destroy any they found who'd survived the magical bombardment they were now under.
As soon as the attack was over they needed to move, and quickly.
Marx took in a deep breath.
As soon as the attack was over, anyone still alive had to make their way to Smallville.
That was the only chance they had of making it through this night alive.
Rao smiled as the world burned around him. The fires rose so high, so fierce, that the night sky was a deep orange. He could hear the screams, the cries, the begging from mortals and witches alike. They pleaded for their lives, for the lives of the ones they loved-only to be struck down.
All around the world blood ran red down the street and filled the air with a tangy scent. Their blood would fertilize the soil, from their carcasses, from the ruins of humanity, dragons and their kind would rise and claim this world as theirs.
Soon his daughter would be old enough, as soon as her molting was completed… Her time had run out. He'd thought to give her more time but it was over now.
Grin widening, Rao laughed.
The only being still conscious, still aware within the Orb, Dax-Ur breathed in the refreshing air and smiled. All around him the world was changing, pulsating with new life, and the Orb of Life expanded to claim more and more of Terra's land as needed for the world around him to shift, to change, to become what it was always meant to become.
A roar came from above. A dragon was trying to break through. The thought made Dax-Ur smile. It was too late now. The plan Black Zero had given
their lives for was finally coming to fruition, it was almost there, she was almost there.
Rubbing his clawed hands together, he chuckled.
There was no going back now.
Closing his eyes, he took in another refreshing breath, filling his lungs with the sweet scent, and grinned, all teeth.