Whew, this shit be getting real heavy for me. I seriously underestimated just how long this arc would become when I planned it out. 5 chapters in, and I'm not even halfway done with all the things I wanted to include.

So I'm forced to trim the fat, cut out and reduce many scenes that are not pivotal to the overarching story. And let me tell you, that stings, having to toss so many fun ideas into the bin so as to actually finish this arc in a timely manner.

Oh well, sacrifices must sometimes be made to write a compelling story.

On a final note, a big thank you to y'all on TVTropes, and all the work you've done on the page for this story. It's been a great help to me as a writer, helping to keep me informed on how most of my readers interpret my writing and warning me of potentially overused tropes.

It was thanks to all of you that I realized I was spending too much time wanking Krieg off while raking the League over the coals, which was not what I wanted. As bad as the League may be, Krieg was supposed to be just as bad, if not even worse. Just in the completely opposite direction.

Too much compassion vs. no compassion whatsoever.

I've since tried my best to dial back on the League bashing and try to highlight Krieg's own flaws. With more time and experience under my belt, I can myself note that I haven't been as successful in that as I'd hoped, and that I'm maybe still giving Krieg a bit too much leeway.

But enough of my ramblings, onto the actual chapter.

Chapter 47: Siege of Los Angeles pt. V

Day 8

"We've been overrun!" The cry went up, and the whole line collapsed yet again. Panicked soldiers fleeing with all haste towards Hollywood Hills with a handful of squads fighting a desperate rearguard lest the retreat turn into a rout. And somehow Todd got stuck in said rearguard.

Life really did hate him.

"Come on, get some!" he bellowed, SAW machine gun gripped in both hands and strapped to his body by whatever ropes and belts he had available, while standing atop a ruined car and firing away. No attempts to aim here, just spraying and praying down the street, sending the cultists scurrying for cover.

"Get back into cover, damn you! We're in a warzone, not a Hollywood movie!" someone shouted from behind him, but he cared not. He was too damn busy just spitting out as many bullets as this damn thing could manage. Or at least, he was until the barrel glowed red hot and the whole thing made what could only be described as a mechanical death rattle.

"For fuck's sake, how many times must I tell you idiots?! Short, controlled bursts, or you're gonna ruin it!" that same voice screamed at him, right before someone grabbed him by the back of his shirt and yanked him off the car.

"Oof!" Bastard did not even try to catch him or soften the fall and just let him fall flat on the street. "Why thanks a lot for that, mister asshat!"

"You're still breathing, aren't you? So you're fucking welcome!" Did not even have the courtesy of looking him in the eyes, too busy giving his own quick bursts of fire down the street. Seemed to do little at blunting the enemy advance.

"We're gonna need a fucking miracle to stop these fuckers!" someone else shouted, panic clear in their tone. No sooner had he said that before a trio of grenades fell from the roofs into the cultist mists. Two frags that sent shredded cultists flying like confetti, and one flash the left the survivors stumbling about blindly.

Then Krieg descended from above like some avenging angel, shotgun in hand. Three more dead before his boots even hit the ground, then another two before the first victims had even fallen over.

"Frag out!" he shouted as another grenade went bouncing down the street while he dove for cover to reload.

"Fucking amen, brother!" Todd hollered as he broke cover and rushed towards the city savior. "Good to see you here, sir!"

"Save the greetings until the battle is over." Was the gruff response he got. "Reinforcements are coming up behind you in twenty minutes, but this is not an ideal position. We will push on ahead, retake your old positions, put pressure on the right."

"Dude, we don't have enough men for the whole sector. What about our left flank?"

"Deathstroke have the left."

"You know, combat is supposed to be an exhilarating experience, but this just feels tedious to me," Deathstroke idly commented to the literal carpet of dismembered and disemboweled cultists littering the street around him as he cleaned his sword.

"None of you pose a real challenge to me, and there is no contract for any of your lives. All this killing feels less like true combat and more like cleaning up cockroaches," he continued, stretching his neck to work out a few kinks in it. Ahead, what few cultists that still drew breath were fleeing with all haste back the way they came.

Deathstroke could have pursued if he wanted to, but it felt kind of pointless. Cultists were easily startled, but they would soon be back and in greater numbers. So he remained at his position, content with the knowledge that his prey would soon come to him.

Lo and behold, here they were coming, and they brought friends as well. At first, Deathstroke thought they were more of those weird Metas that the cultists had been trying to amass for the siege, which made him wonder how he could have missed these fellows. Lord knows he had been hunting those cretins to hell and back these last few days to render them virtually extinct within Los Angeles.

Then they got closer, and Deathstroke had to amend his previous assumptions.

"Genomorphs?" he muttered to himself, lone eyebrow raised at the sight of G-Trolls leading the charge towards him with packs of cultists and G-Elves advancing in the safety of their shadows. Well, this certainly explained what happened at Cadmus, and how Washington fell so quickly.

Another asset flushed down the toilet because of these maniacs. What an absolute waste. Still, this would be useful information to bring to the Light's attention once the siege was broken. Assuming there even was a Light left after this.

"Oh well, thoughts for later, I suppose," he remarked as he cracked hiss neck and rotated his shoulders. By now, the creatures were close enough that he felt the ground beneath him shake like he was in the path of a stampeding herd of buffalos.

"Let's see if you lot are any more of a challenge than the others." Then he began to casually stroll towards the onrushing horde, idly swinging his sword back and forth like a baseball player warming up for a match.


It had been a long time since the Amazons were roused to war. Closest they had come before in recent memory was World War 2, when Italian and German forces made an accidental landing on the island hunting Allied spies. But even then, it was little more than a skirmish that only led to a single Amazon leaving her home to partake in the war.

But now, the full force of the Amazons were being raised, every able bodied warrior dusting off their armour and rushing to join their queen like in the days of Herakles. Hippolyta herself had no desire to be stuck in a grueling siege, barricaded inside her own home and just waiting for the foe to give up. So she marched out, intent of fighting in the field.

But a desire for open conflict was not the same as bullheaded stupidity. The invaders were trying to breach the wards by the beaches, but Hippolyta decided not to engage the enemy out on the open sand where her smaller force ran the risk of encirclement. Instead, the Amazons would make their stand at one of the mountain passes leading deeper into Themyscira, where numbers counted for nothing.

"And what do you find so amusing?" Diana snidely asked of a chuckling Ares.

"Oh nothing, just reminiscing about the good old days," he answered. The two of them stood high on the cliffs, watching Amazon phalanxes marching into position below. To Ares, it was a nostalgic scene.

"Then reminisce when the war is over." Then Diana took to the air, gently gliding down until she was at the very front. There, Hippolyta herself stood in the first rank, resplendent in enchanted bronze with a hoplon in one hand and spear in the other. The very image of a warrior queen.

"I must say, Hippolyta, you look positively ravishing in that armor," Ares commented, his eyes roaming from helmet to greaves in approval and lingering on her breastplate. Diana bristled and her eyes promised murder, but Hippolyta was as if carved from stone.

"Save your lecherous words for the harlots of Man's World," she spoke, not even glancing at him. "Now, you are sure they will arrive at this beach?"

Ares nodded. "Indeed, the magic is gathering at this spot, they will break through any second."

"Good, the closest passage large enough for an army to use is two days' walk from here, they will have to come at us head-on." Hippolyta was confident, and Diana trusted her mother. Ares smiled.

"Oh, I would not worry about that. If our guests are who I think they are, the idea to flank us will not have even crossed their minds."

No one else said anything to that, because they had other things to worry about. They all felt it, a disturbance that no mortal words could ever do justice. It was accompanied by a loud crack that even Zeus' bolts would have a hard time comparing against. None of them could see the beach, but they all knew what this meant.

The enemy had arrived.

Then they heard a rumble in the distance, and they felt the very ground start to shake under their feet. Slowly, the rumble grew closer, and soon loose bits of rock were tumbling down the steep slopes.

"Earthquake?" Diana wondered, casting an uncertain look at her mother. Ares laughed.

"No, princess," he began, a truly manic grin splitting his face in half. "Battle formation."

Then, they arrived. A heaving, roaring tide of flesh, steel and muscle. Wave after wave of frothing berserkers, pouring into the pass in such numbers that the very ground trembled from their combined fury. Men and women with blood-stained tattoos and markings, howling like beasts as bloodshot eyes searched for prey.

Few, if any, carried guns. Instead, wicked-looking melee weapons were favored all along the line. Hatchets, machetes, axes, hammers, hooks, chainsaws, everything and anything that could be used to rip and tear with. Many eschewed proper armor, rushing forward bare-chested to show off muscles that made even the immortal Amazons look like dainty little princesses.

Others clad themselves in crude metal plating hammered into the rough shape of armor, the very image of barbarian knights out for blood. And Hippolyta stared at them all as if they were little more than unruly children loitering in her backyard.

"Diana, Ares, to your positions, let's give these curs the welcome they deserve." She did not even wait to see if her orders were followed before raising her shield, her sisters on either side following her lead until there was an unbroken wall of shields from one end of the pass to the other.

No further words were exchanged as Diana took to the air again, Ares close behind as he donned his helmet. On the other side of the field, the berserker horde had halted, amassing in full even as those in the front visibly growled and frothed at the mouth like rabid dogs straining on a leash.

Then he stepped forward.

A giant of a man, whose height towered over even Ares, clad in an equally massive suit of armor the color of blood and brass. A pair of saw-toothed axes were in his hands, and what could only be described as a pair of jet engines were strapped to his back. And even from this distance, this giant reeked of blood and gore.

The rabid horde parted for him without a single words spoken, his aura of pure bloodlust seemingly enough to push people out of the way until he was at the very front. He glared at the Amazons from behind a helmet shaped in the image of some great beast or daemon, and they could all feel the contempt in that glare. He saw them all, and found them wanting.

"SLAUGHTER THEEEEEEEM!" his mighty bellow boomed with a force greater than even the mightiest warhorn, shaking friend and foe alike to their bones. But his call was answered, and the horde at his back howled to the skies and surged forward again. A tide of rage and madness that would not stop for anything save death.

There was no tactic, no attempt at setting up battle lines or dividing into formations. It was just a mad dash to be the first into melee, uncaring about their own lives and even less about their comrades'. They screamed, they howled and they roared, a cacophony drowning out all other noise. And it washed harmlessly over the silent ranks of Amazons, standing shoulder to shoulder and waiting for their foe in silence.

At 200 yards, the first casualties began. Amazon archers, having waited in ambush atop the pass, now stepped forward and unleashed a volley. Hundreds of arrows fell upon the stampeding horde. Many fell over, dead or wounded, but many more behind them simply pushed them aside and trampled over them. Then a second volley came, and then a third, and then a fourth.

With machine-like precision, the archers would calmly nock an arrow, draw it back and loose it in just a few heartbeats before repeating the action. There was no need for accuracy, the horde was so packed that any arrow was guaranteed to hit something. Hundreds fell, but thousands waited to take their place, and the horde continued on without slowing down.

"A long time since we faced such a determined foe, my queen," the fiery redhead Artemis commented from where she stood to the queen's right, an easy-going smile on her face. The horde was now just 100 yards away.

"Indeed it has been, old friend. I just hope there won't be too much blood to clean up after we are done," Hippolyta idly commented, eyes never leaving the horde. 80 yards now.

"Hah! Never took you for an optimist!" Artemis jested, but Hippolyta no longer listened as the horde came ever closer. By now, it truly felt like an earthquake was rocking the pass. 60 yards, she could almost see what little white there was left in their eyes.

40 yards now, the arrows were still reaping their toll, but they still refused to be deterred. Faces twisted into visages of frothing madness. No surrender, no mercy. This would be a fight to the bitter end. One way, or the other.

20 yards, and now the stench of blood and viscera was washing over her senses along with their senseless bellowing. She pressed her feet down, steadying her stance to not get knocked over. A shield pressed into her back, bracing her against the crash.

"Give them nothing!" Hippolyta suddenly shouted, her voice somehow being heard even over the bestial howls. 15 yards away now.

"But take from them…" 10 yards now.

"EVERYTHING!" 5 yards.

Then, with the noise of wooden ship crashing into a stone cliff, the two side slammed into one another.

There was something deeply satisfying of watching two things you despise trying to kill each other while you had to do nothing but watch. Arrogant Amazons and bloodthirsty berserkers, did not matter one bit to her which side emerged victorious over the other, both were as equally repulsive to Circe. And she would take great pleasure squashing whatever survivor managed to crawl its way out of the bloodbath.

And after that? Well, those armored brute will have lost another of their kind, perhaps it was time to thin their ranks even further. Would not do for a Goddess of her magnificence to remain the servant in this alliance any longer than needed.

"Gloating about a victory you haven't even earned yet? Typical of you women," a voice sneered at her from behind, and she recognized that voice.

"Ares," she hissed out, face twisted into a furious snarl as she turned to face the interloper. Opposite her, the God of War offered her a grin oozing with condescension.

"Circe. Always a joy seeing you whore yourself out to claw out the tiniest fraction of power from your betters," he drawled, and Circe saw red for a brief instant.

"Says the man crawling back to his old flame like a love-starved mutt," she spat back at him. That served to wipe the smile off his face.

"When insolent wenches like you go and upset the power balance, sacrifices must be made. No matter how much they may sting," he fired right back at her. She was far from amused, but she still mustered up a spiteful laugh at his expense.

"Do I frighten you that much, dear? Does the thought of me with greater power keep you up at night shivering in the dark?" she sneered. Ares just scoffed.

"Oh hardly. You are little more than a persistent parasite leeching off your betters. I am far more concerned with the powers you have helped set foot in our world. After all…" Then his hands were engulfed in fire, which quickly shaped itself into a sword and shield. "I do not tolerate thieves or rivals."

Circe scoffed, arcane magic crackling around her fingertips. "Then I suppose further words are wasted here. Let's settle this the way you brutish men prefer to."

Ares smirked. "I'll try to be gentle."

Then he leaped at her, just as she unleashed a bolt of magic back at him.

Gotham City

"That's the last of 'em!" Sportsmaster hollered up to the roof as the last cultist fell over unconscious with a fair few missing teeth. Better than the little shit deserved, but hey, no need to be picky at this moment.

"Then move in, I'll secure the perimeter." Was the answer he received, and all he saw the outlines of a cape above before he was alone again. Fucking Batman and his fucking melodrama.

"Aye aye, captain," Sportsmaster drawled with a mock salute before he kicked a door open and stalked inside. Shit had really gone to hell in a handbasket around here, with the whole of Gotham being turned into little more than a free-for-all. Unless you were a cop, ain't no way to tell friend from foe in this clusterfuck.

And absolutely no one was surprised by the fact that it was the Joker who caused said clusterfuck. Honestly, what did those cultists fucks think when they recruited the clown to her posse? That he would behave like a rational human and follow the script? That psycho had made a career out of stabbing allies and partners in the back for the most whimsical of reasons.

Really, if he had not been stuck right in the middle of the Joker's umpteenth double crossing, Sportmaster would have just sat back with some popcorn and watch the loonies get what they fucking deserved. Alas, that was not in the cards at this moment, so more bones to break for him.

At least it now gave them a proper target to aim at. With the cultists now stuck killing fucking everyone in Gotham, including each other, their precious stockpiles of weapons and ammo just became the Holy Grail for everyone and their grandmother. Knocking them out would not stop them, not by a long shot, but it would fucking sting for months at least.

So here they were, the Dysfunctional Duo (heh, that was a good one), doing their part for a safer Gotham. Fuck, even in his head that shit sounded cheesy. Oh well, complain later, blow shit up now. And what shit it was. Fuckers had been sneaky and used an apartment complex for their hidey hole.

Except none of the floors on ground level and above were in use, and instead the basement level had been expanded and reinforced into a makeshift bunker, one packed to the brim with weapons, ammo and explosives that could only have come out of the army.

Fuck, just how long had these posers been gearing up for this?

Questions for another day, now it was time for things to go boom. Heh, did not even need to use any of his own arsenal, this place was packed with enough volatile shit all on its own to bring the whole building down. All that was needed was a suitable detonator. Luckily, hotwiring shit like that was just up his alley.

"I really should be getting paid for this," he muttered to himself as he began setting up the necessary bits and pieces. This was gonna be a big boom alright.

"We've got incoming." And then the Bat had to go and ruin his peace and quiet.

"Then deal with 'em already, I'm fucking busy over here," he snapped back over the comm, hands never leaving the various wires he was splicing together.

"Already working on it, but there's too many of them to hold off indefinitely. We will need to hurry things along." Never thought he would live to hear the fabled Batman admit to a shortcoming. Crazy times they lived in.

"Yeah yeah, I get it. Give me about five minutes, and I'll be done here," he answered as he continued his work. Which was something he quickly lost interest in when a previously unseen trapdoor opened up in the floor and a posse of cultist fucks climbed out, led by a weirdly dressed Asian shit that all but screamed high rank.

They all collectively froze upon spotting Sportsmaster standing out in the open, and then the two sides spent several awkward seconds just blinking at each other.

"… Better make that ten," Sportsmaster amended into his comm, and then they all moved at the same time.


"Forward, Atlanteans! Break through!" the cry went up, and a hundred soldiers roared in agreement. They were met by the groans of a thousand walking dead, accompanied by the endless buzzing from the cloud of fat flies swarming around them. All the while, the choking miasma still hung heavy throughout the city.

"Fire!" the order came, and three ranks of Atlantean soldiers let loose in coordinated volleys. Rank after rank of the undead were outright melted under the fusillade, but many more waited behind them to shamble forward. A great warhorn blared, and an Atlantean crab walker lumbered forward, heavy guns spitting death down the street.

Massive gaps began appearing in the undead horde, and the Atlanteans advanced in lockstep. Modern warfare usually made such tactics tantamount to suicide, but the undead did not possess ranged weapons of their own, nor did they care about how many of their kin was gunned down.

In the urban environment of Miami, maneuvers and flexibility meant very little. Volume of fire was the only way to triumph, gun down as many as you can before they get into melee. And so, volume of fire was being put to use as the Atlantean infantry advanced at a steady pace, front ranks firing volley after volley while the walker pounded the rear lines with heavy ordnance.

They did not even make it a hundred meter until the front ranks had to break off, coughing and wheezing every step of the way. With practiced ease, those in the rear stepped up and took over, while the front liners were swarmed by mages and healers.

The accursed poison cloud, the one that still hung heavy across the entire city. Neither wind nor time nor magic could disperse it, and each day it claimed more lives. Whatever foul mind had concocted this thing, they had earned the eternal enmity of the Atlantean people. It had such virulent potency that not even Atlantean physiology could withstand it for long, nor did breathing apparatuses offer anything but a temporary reprieve as the gas ate its way through the respirators.

Magic still worked to heal the damage and provide temporary immunity, but a constant rotation was essential or else those at the front would choke on their own blood. And yet even then, not everyone made it, and it was with a heavy heart that the healers slit the throats of three soldiers too damaged to heal. They had seen what happened to those left to expire on their own, it was not a pretty sight.

But onward the advance crawled, moving at a pace that a turtle would find comfortable, and losing soldiers with every step forward taken. But they were doing it, they were grinding their way through the seemingly endless hordes of the undead. At last, progress was being made!

Then they came under fire from both sides of the road.

"Cover!" the order was barked as well over a dozen hidden cultist snipers let loose on full auto. Any other day, they would have laughed at the Surface Dwellers and their primitive firearms. But whatever this foul miasma was, it was also slowly corroding armor. A process so slow that no one would have even noticed if not for the sudden lethality of Surface guns when before they would have simply bounced off.

Soon, about a dozen Atlanteans lay dead on the street, the rest taking cover wherever it could be found and returning fire. Did they score any hits? Was any cultists actually felled? They knew not. All they knew that whoever many there were, they were all laughing even as plasma burned their skin and boiled their flesh.

Suddenly, a magical shield sprang to life like a giant umbrella, shielding the soldiers on the ground. And from the rear, fresh reinforcements surged forward to aid their comrades. At their head stood Tula and a dozen of Atlantis' finest spellcasters.

"Quickly! Get the wounded back and push onward! We cannot afford to be bogged down!" she shouted, hands outstretched as if holding up an invisible weight. At her command, fresh troops rushed to the front while the survivors limped their way to the rear, dragging wounded and dying comrades with them.

"Concentrate fire up high! Keep the snipers off the walker!" the command went out, and a furious fusillade bracketed nigh on every building on either side. Now that served to drive the cultists back into cover, but it did little to stem the undead horde shambling forward down the street.

Horns blaring, the crab walker lumbered forward, heavy cannon and rapid-firing guns spitting death into the rotting ranks. Again, the advance began again, inching its way forward. But so occupied were the Atlanteans with the threats ahead and above, none of them considered to guard against attacks from below.

A mistake they would come to regret, as the crab walker ended up above a manhole. Instantly, the manhole was shoved aside and three cultists scurried up, each carrying packs of explosives. With the walker low enough to the ground that one needed to hunch over if standing below, the cultists had little issue attaching the explosives to the machine's underbelly before vanishing back down the manhole again.

Five seconds later, and the whole street was shaken to its foundation by a thunderous boom. Fire and debris were thrown sky high, bodies were sent hurtling from the shockwave, and the walker was torn in two.

A moment of silence ensued, both sides seemingly transfixed by the great plume of fire that used to be the walker. Then, a gurgling cheer, and the cultists poured out of their hiding spots guns blazing. Their lines broken and their troops disoriented, the Atlantean forward units were overwhelmed and torn to pieces by insane cultists and ravenous undead.

The rear tried to push forward and shore up the line, but they no longer had the advantage of firepower, and the enemy cared not for their own casualties. In the end, the call was given.

"Fall back! Fall back!" Tula cried out, left arm hanging uselessly by her side as she fired bolts of lighting at the onrushing horde, offering what little cover fire she could give as the mauled lines made a blood-soaked withdrawal to the coast.

"Hahahaha! Look at 'em go!" Gorm chortled from his command post, live feed cameras and the power of Papa Nurgle giving him a nigh-on omnipotent view of wherever his servants walked.

"Indeed, master, these abhumans have a lot to learn in the art of warfare," Gorm's second in command commented with a wet gurgle that could be interpreted as laughter.

"Ah, let's not be too hard on them. They have had an easy life in these parts, we should not expect them to be as hardened as the lifeforms in our neck of the woods," Gorm playfully lectured. "Though on that note, I trust their little king is still safely contained."

"That he is. We still count twenty or so of his soldiers are still standing and holding our minions off. Of the king however, there has been no sighting since they withdrew within the mall."

To be expected, really. Few beings survived a direct hit from a bolt round blessed with Nurgle's love, fewer still had the strength to stand and fight. The great poison cloud shrouding most of Miami was just icing on the cake. No doubt the abhuman was hiding deep within his hidey hole, nursing infected wounds that refused to be healed.

"Good. Keep him contained for now. If he dies, the abhumans will have no further reason to throw themselves at our defenses."

"As you command, my lord." A salute and a deep bow, and then the Plague Marine was lumbering away to carry out his master's orders. Gorm for his part had turned his attention to the various maps spread out across the command center. Most of them had nothing to do with Miami.

Markoth had told him to deal with the abhumans, but why limit himself to just them? There was a whole world out there waiting for Papa Nurgle's embrace, all his for the taking. Already he was amassing further forces to march north and take the rest of Florida, and after that? Well, Azkillon had done such a wonderful job destabilizing the continent, it would be rude not to take advantage of it.

Oh, Gorm was quite certain that Markoth would be a bit cross if he went and started staking out his own territory without his explicit consent, but what was the ire of one warlord compared to the glory of spreading Nurgle's influence? Really, it was not even a contest at the end.

And who knew, perhaps a change in leadership was in the cards should Nurgle truly appreciate the many offering Gorm was about to give. Yes, life was quite good so far, and it looked to be even better with proper care and timing.

Nanda Parbat

The battle began in a manner befitting of an army of assassins. At first, calm and silence, with only the wind gently blowing across the hills and the mountain. Nothing short of a few bushes and lizards moving anywhere in the open. Just another day out in the wilderness.

Then, a gunshot out of nowhere. Somewhere out there, someone had botched their attempt at stealth. Soon, more gunshots, swords drawn, feet running, total pandemonium. One moment total calm, and then the next it was as if someone had thrown a stone onto an ant nest.

An outsider would look upon this and see nothing but a chaotic melee, a brutal free-for-all with every man and woman for themselves. But these were all professional assassins and mercenaries, trained and bled together for decades. They knew friend from foe like the back of their hand. Every bullet and every blade was aimed purely at an enemy, and no one else.

Talia was no exception to this, standing calm and poised in the midst of the carnage with pistol in one hand and sword in the other. Each squeeze of the trigger sent a traitor to their foul gods, each swing of the blade ending the dream of any who thought to claim her head as a prize.

She advanced forward, no fear for the enemy as she almost glided across the battlefield like a vengeful shadow, leaving corpses in her wake. At her back, Sensei and his deadliest students kept pace with their mistress, protecting her from overwhelming numbers that were drawn to her like moths to a flame.

"Come then, you worthless curs! The al Ghuls still draw breath, and the Shadows still belong to us!" she called out in challenge, daring her enemies to impede her rampage. One answered.

"That so? Well, far be it for me to leave a job unfinished," Katana mocked with a wide grin as she sauntered onto the field, Soultaker already slick with blood. For a brief moment, Talia felt the urge to just rush her with a scream. But she took a steady breath and reloaded her gun.

"Finally decided to show yourself again? Good, I was getting tired having to look around for you," she sneered, rage marring her otherwise serene expression. Katana giggled, a high-pitched and inhuman noise that only highlighted the way her mouth stretched far wider than any human should be able to.

"Aw, miss me that much already? Why didn't you say so sooner? I would have come looking for you much earlier," she cooed with sickeningly sweet voice, a worm-like tongue darting out to lick rows of needle-like teeth.

Talia took a hesitant step back. "You're not Katana."

Katana, or the thing wearing her face, doubled over backwards in laughter. Talia could even hear its back crack as it made a complete u-bend so boots and head both touched the ground. Then it sprang upright again like an elastic band, face literally split in half by its hungry grin with blood gushing out of eyes that looked close to pop out of their sockets.

"What gave me away?" it asked with its head tilted almost past its shoulder.

A disturbing sight to be sure, but Talia had seen far worse. "Then what are you supposed to be? And where's the real Katana?"

Another giggle, even more demented than before. "Oh, that silly little girl? Made a deal with powers she didn't have the faintest clue about, and paid the price for her stupidity. Now her skin and bones is nothing but a suit for me to wear. And I must say…"

Then she paused to twist and contort her body, the sound of bones popping over and over as she struck one sensuous pose after the other. "It looks so much better on me."

Talia just grunted. "So she's gone then, and paid for her sins in full. It means I will probably not be able to draw any satisfaction from ripping your rotten heart out of your chest."

Her gun was then aimed squarely between the thing's eyes. "But I'll still try my absolute best."

Los Angeles

Aqualad would have preferred to have kept the Team together as a single cohesive squad to better tackle each threat as they appeared. However, when the threats all came at the exact same time and from every direction, necessity won over desire. Now the Team was scattered across Los Angeles, fighting desperately to hold the line against the new onslaught.

"You alright back there?!" It also meant employing less than conventional methods of transport and combat. Hence the current scene of Aqualad riding a wave through the Los Angeles river, water whips and electric bolts leaping back and forth to send screaming cultists plummeting into the river. He tried not to think too hard on their chances of survival.

"I've been better, that's for sure!" He could barely hear Zatanna over the roar of rushing water and machine gun fire, even though she was all but clinging to him lest she end up tumbling to her watery grave.

"Don't worry, we're almost there!" he tried to reassure her, but he had no idea if she heard him as a nearby building went up in flames just as they passed by. Madness, pure madness.

The initial onslaught had been blunted and pushed almost all the way back to the river. Then the cultists hit them again. And again. And again. This was not like the chaotic mess of a mad rush that they had to endure for a week, this was an all-out assault on every front, and the cultists were not giving up this time. No matter how many corpses they had to climb over.

Military units were still holding on, even pushing back against the enemy, but civilian militias were buckling under the pressure, creating more and more gaps in the line that needed to be plugged with all haste. Such as the case at the Ventura Freeway bridge.

A mixture of National Guard and Army units had held that bridge for days, and now they had even managed to push back and secure ground on the other side. Only for the militias on either flank to crumble under sustained amphibious assaults straight across the river, leaving those forward troops cut off and surrounded.

"Get ready, we're here! Aqualad shouted as the bridge came into view, cultists already swarming in from the south side to further squeeze the loyalists trapped on the northern side. One more mental push, and the wave they had been riding on swelled in size until it eclipsed the bridge itself.

Any other day, the sight of what must have been at least forty soldiers gawking at the incoming wave would have been amusing. But today, it was just another day's burden as the wave descended upon the bridge and washed all forty of them away. The lucky ones would have died from the impact, the others would have too many shattered bones to swim and would drown further downstream.

He may have been a soldier of Atlantis, trained as part of the Atlantean armed forces long before stepping foot on the surface, but it still felt like a blow to his soul to be the cause of so many deaths. And he knew that more blows would be dealt before this war was over.

"Taeh pu rieht nugs!" Zatanna still clung to her principles, opting to disarm the enemy rather than disposing of them. He did not blame her. Zatara taught her magic, not combat. She was even more inexperienced than the rest of the team. Still, she chose a poor spell to disarm fanatics armed with modern weapons, demonstrated when all the superheated guns cooked off their loaded rounds and exploded like makeshift fragmentation grenades.

Some thirty or more soldiers having all their guns explode in their hands at the same time? It was a gory and ugly sight. And the subsequent stench of cooked meat did not help.

"Oh god… I didn't- I didn't mean for that-" Zatanna could not even finish before she was hurling up her meager breakfast into the river. Aqualad walked over and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"It's them or us at this point." Were the only words of comfort he could think of giving. The noises coming out of Zatanna were an odd mixture of further puking and tearful hiccups.

"Heroes shouldn't kill, we shouldn't have that kind of power." Even he could tell that her heart was not really in the argument.

"Heroes save lives and protect the innocent. Sometimes, that means that not everyone can be saved."

There was no hiding the bitterness in her eyes. "Funny, that's not how things sounded when this whole thing started."

Nor the bitterness in his smile. "War makes hypocrites of us all."

"Ho there!" came the call from the northern side of the bridge as ragged and bloodied soldiers began streaming back to the safety of the south side. "Normally I'd be pretty pissed at having had our bacon saved by kids, but any longer out there and we'd all be toast!"

Aqualad turned to what he assumed was the highest ranking officer among the survivors. "I'm glad we got here in time, but there's little time to celebrate. The line around here is too breached to recover. Fall back and regroup at the second line before you're cut off again."

"Don't need to tell me twice, we've been hearing the same stuff on the radio for hours. The whole front's a mess right now." Then he was pointing down the river. "Speaking of mess, word's trickling in that the navy boys are getting their asses pounded. You got speed and muscle, son, I'd recommend you put it to use before the fleet gets overrun."

No time for goodbyes or pleasantries, Aqualad simply summoned another wave and then he and Zatanna were off again, this time heading straight for the open ocean. Grenades and bullets hounded their every step as packs of cultists bombarded them from both sides of the river. Most were bypassed, but some got dragged into a watery grave before the duo sped past.

Soon, they were in the harbor, and the horizon was clogged with oily black smoke intermingled with flashes of explosions. If not for the cacophony from the city itself, Aqualad was sure the naval combat would have been akin to a distant thunderstorm to his ears.

But the distant battle was not his goal here, that would come later. Right now, he was speeding with all haste towards the flagship of this makeshift defense fleet, swerving left and right to avoid the barely floating ships limping their way back to safety. One final heave, and the two heroes were on deck next to a very startled rear admiral.

"Goddammit, you trying to give me a heart attack here?! I'm not a spry young lad anymore!" he burst out as he clutched his chest.

"My apologies, admiral, but I was told that time was of the essence here."

The old man huffed. "You can say that again. The fleet was in a bad shape even before we made it here. Now we're in the thick of it again, and the traitor's pushing in on us no matter how many of their dinky little boats we sink. At this rate, we'll be overrun before they day's over."

Aqualad frowned. "And we have no further reinforcements to call upon?"

"None whatsoever. What's left of my fleet is stuck in combat, and our artillery's too busy pounding targets on land to be aimed at the sea. Think you and the girl is enough to turn the tide?"

A hard question to answer. The sea was his domain, and no mages had been seen in the enemy ranks so far. But they were two against a fleet. One lucky cannon shot, and that would be it. That was when his eyes were drawn to one ship in particular, and memories from previous strategy meetings came to him.

"Admiral, how many sailors can you spare?" he asked, mind already whirling with ideas.

The admiral followed his gaze, and his eyebrows went all the way up to his eyebrows. "Oh, more than enough for that, but we've already tried getting her into the fight before."

But Aqualad merely nodded his head. "Leave that bit to me and Zatanna."

(To properly get into the mood, I'd recommend playing Dreadnought by Sabaton for this bit)

On every front, the defenders of Los Angeles were being pressed to the point of breaking. Even at sea did ferocious fighting take place as what few loyalist vessels that still floated fought tooth and nail to keep the traitor armada at bay. Alas, it was a losing battle that merely whittled their numbers down one by one.

In terms of actual army ships, the odds were fairly even, but the traitors had supplemented their numbers with civilian vessels. Everything from tiny fishing boats to massive pleasure yacht and cargo ships, each ship packed full of whatever armament they could bolt onto it without the whole thing sinking.

They were crude, they were inefficient, barely anyone aboard knew how to sail a ship, and they went up like kindling once hit by sufficient ordnance. But they brought extra numbers to the fray, extra shields for the valuable ships to hide behind, and extra guns. For every one shell fired at the traitors, five were returned in kind.

Already the waters around the harbor was choked with burning patches of wreckage and slowly sinking vessels, and it was getting closer. When the first shells had been fired, the battle had raged kilometers out at sea. But now, the traitors were close enough that stray shots were landing inside the city itself. And they were getting closer as the loyalist fleet grew smaller and smaller.

Sensing literal blood in the water, the traitor armada surged ahead, uncaring of incoming fire and mounting casualties. After all, only press-ganged cultists manned the forward vessels, it was their purpose to die en masse.

But then, panicked reports flooded in. A new vessel was joining the fray, one far larger than any other loyalist vessel still fighting on. Captains on both side of the line swung binoculars towards the harbor, and what they saw confirmed a sight none of them could believe.

USS Iowa, she was moving again.

But something was wrong. No smoke was billowing out of her chimneys, the generator was still dead. Engine should not be running then, and yet Iowa was still sailing on ahead in defiance of common sense. And then, she turned to port, presenting her broadside to the traitor armada. A fact they only came to dread when her gun turrets moved and took aim.

Then, for the first time in decades, the Iowa's main batteries roared to life.

A cargo ship, already smoking from hours of bombardment, had its entire side simply ripped wide open, sending twisted and burning debris flying like shrapnel in every direction. Less than a minute later, the whole thing was capsizing, with terrified crewmen frantically abandoning ship.

Meanwhile, the Iowa calmly reloaded its gun, took aim at its next target, and let loose with yet another broadside. This time, her target simply vanished in a plume of fire and smoke. And that finally spurred the traitor fleet into action as panicking captains shouted for every gun to focus their fire on the Iowa.

Soon, the entire armada was opening up with everything they had, battering the Iowa from stem to stern. Most would be forgiven to think that this would be the end of the venerable battleship. A final yet futile huzzah before it was ripped apart by the combined firepower of the traitor armada.

Most would be wrong.

After all, less than a quarter were actually true military vessels, and they were all built with modern warfare in mind. In the age of jets and remote-guided missiles, the idea of massive warships with the biggest guns they could carry was simply an obsolete method of warfare, one that had well and truly sunk as far back as World War 2.

And so, these warships were designed for speed and accuracy, taking out incoming missiles while launching their own at targets far out of range of any naval cannon. But those missiles had been spent days ago, and there had been little chance to resupply since then, so now they only had their guns to rely on in trying to sink the Iowa.

She may have been an obsolete vessel abandoned by the navy a long time ago, but she was a vessel designed purely with the mindset of massive guns and thick armor. She was a brawler, made for a kind of warfare long since abandoned by modern navies. A kind of warfare the traitor vessels now found themselves fighting.

And so, through fire and smoke, the Iowa plowed on through, shrugging off an armada's worth of firepower like jackals nipping at an elephant's heels. And then her main batteries answered in kind, sending another traitor vessel to the bottom of the sea. At this kind of range, it was all but impossible to miss, and nothing stood even the faintest chance of withstanding the Iowa's firepower.

In a move fueled by desperation, the smallest and nimblest ships darted forward, foregoing the artillery duel to close in for boarding actions. An act they quickly came to regret when they strayed within range of the Iowa's array of secondary guns. One by one, they were shredded under a relentless barrage.

"Goddamn, if that isn't a beautiful sight," Rear Admiral Peter Miller sighed in bliss, watching the traitor scum get absolutely pummeled from the Iowa's bridge. "Now signal what's left of our fleet to circle around and start hammering them from behind, we'll take the brunt of it here.

"Aye, sir!" around Miller, the bridge was like a kicked ant's nest as crewmen and officer rushed back and forth. None of them had ever served on a battleship, let alone Iowa, and so there was a real struggle to become familiar with its systems.

A task not helped by how the ship was shaking like a frat house in the midst of a drug- and alcohol fueled party thanks to the hail of fire impacting her in a constant barrage. A lucky shot had even come close enough to shatter the windows. In the midst of all of this, only one other stood immobile in this chaotic shuffle.

"How're you holding up, son?" A valid question as far as Miller was concerned, seeing as the young Atlantean was visibly sweating, arms trembling as his weird tattoos glowed an eerie blue color.

"Harder than expected… but still doable," Aqualad answered, arms outstretched as if he was pushing an invisible crate weight in front of him. Though considering his ability to control water was the only thing keeping the battleship moving forward, that might as well be what he was doing.

"Right, let me know if it gets too much. No point burning you out this early in the fight." Then Miller was by the radio, sending a signal down below deck. "Status report. We still good down there?"

"We're still in business, sir. Don't know what kind of hocus pocus the girl is doing, but the turrets and loading mechanisms are still running smoothly. Just keep the targets coming, and we'll keep the shells coming."

Honestly, who would have ever thought of using magic as a substitute for the generator? And yet, who could deny its effectiveness? One girl, that was all it took to keep the main guns firing. Made him ask why the government had not been looking into this kind of stuff before.

"Right then, no point being shy about it. Helmsman, all ahead full, steer us straight into that armada! We'll give them something to break their teeth on!" Miller barked.

"Sure that's… wise? We're still only… one ship," Aqualad cautioned, but Miller merely smiled. By God, he felt like he was twenty years younger.

"Son, you know what ship you're on?" he asked, his smile turning a tad manic. "This is the USS Iowa, battleship of the United States Navy. We're a Dreadnought."

"We dread nothing at all."

"Well, this place has certainly seen better days," Raven drawled, watching the fires and explosions blossoming all across Los Angeles from atop the rooftop of one of the few skyscrapers still standing relatively intact.

"Indeed it has," Blood agreed. "So what's the plan?"

"Krieg and his army will have to hold the line without us, we need to deal with the twin daggers going for the throat and back." Her eyes were already glaring at a specific point in the city, as if she could see through layers of rock, steel and concrete. "They're preparing a massive ritual below ground, and I'm not keen to see what happens if they manage to finish it."

"So we'll hit it together then?" Blood inquired, but Raven shook her head.

"I'll handle it on my own, you need to stop a second infiltration force from attacking Krieg in the rear. If the line collapses, then it doesn't matter if the ritual is stopped or not."

For the first time, there was a look comparable to concern on Blood's face. "You do realize that I won't be able to come to your aid in time then. Whatever will happen at the ritual, you will be on your own, facing whatever horror they throw at you."

Raven merely shrugged her shoulders. "Story of my life."

If Blood wanted to say anything else, he kept it to himself and merely stepped back, beginning his incantation.

"Gone, gone, the form of man…" Fire and brimstone quickly consumed his mortal form. "Arise, the demon Etrigan!"

With a final roar, Etrigan stood tall in full armor, sword already in hand and a bloodthirsty grin in place.

"So, Raven calls once more." Then that grin turned decidedly mocking. "Just like a greedy, wanton-"

"Finish that sentence and I'll banish you to a dimension with nothing but rainbows and pink fluffy bunnies," Raven warned, finger already pointed warningly at him.

"Killjoy," Etrigan scoffed before leaping away, supernatural senses guiding him to where his target was lurking.

"For a millennia old demon, he can be surprisingly childish sometime," she muttered to herself before becoming enveloped in darkness and sinking straight through the roof, heading deeper and deeper until she was in the sewer system, magical senses leading her onward to her own target.

A traitor vehicle rumbled down the street, guns blazing in nearly every direction as the defenders fell back in a panic. From a roof hatch, its demented commander was cackling like a witch even as she tossed Molotov cocktails at basically anything around.

"Yes, my pretties! Forward! Forward! Grind them to paste! Skin their bodies! Hang them by their entrails! KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL!" she urged her servants on as her makeshift tank rolled onward with packs of cultists advancing alongside it. Of course, being very careful to keep a respectable distance from their mistress, as the concept of "friendly fire" was completely non-existent to her.

"Flee! They're too much for us!" which left the dozen or so defenders that used to hold the street with no choice but to flee with all haste before they got flattened by the advance, hounded every step of the way by bullets and grenades.

"Flee, my little darlings! Flee all you like! You'll only die tired in the end!" To the great amusement of the cultist commander. An amusement that only lasted until an artillery shell landed just ahead of her tank, sending dust and debris flying all over the place.

"GAH!" Was her very high-pitched response as she vanished back inside the tank like a startled rabbit. But when no second shell came, she peeked back out with a nervous chuckle.

"Heh, the little munchkins can't even aim properly," she mused before standing back to her full height and pointing imperiously ahead. "Forward again, darlings! More meat to tenderize before the day's over!"

Except the tank refused to move forward. Even with the engine roaring at full power, even with the treads scraping away at the road, it refused to move forward as much as an inch.

"Oi! What are you numbskulls doing down there?!" she bellowed with a couple of indignant stomps of her boot.

"I'm giving it all she's got, ma'am! Something's blocking our way forward!" a very much terrified driver shouted back frantically before the whole vehicle gave a sudden lurch.

"What the-" And then the whole damn thing started tilting forward, despite the fact that they were on a flat surface. No, they were not tilting forward, someone was lifting the whole thing off the ground! Turned out it had not been an artillery shell, but an irate Superboy, who was even now digging his fists into the front of the vehicle and lifting it up.

"This is all just a game to you, huh?!" he bellowed in rage, even as the cultist commander was squealing in fright and trying to scamper back inside again. "Well, here's another game for you to enjoy!"

"Tag!" he planted his feet wide, bent his back, and then heaved. "YOU'RE IT!"

And then the whole tank was sent soaring through the air, back the way it came. Cultists that had just moments earlier been confidently advancing in the shadow of their mighty war machine now scattered like frightened rats to avoid getting flattened alongside their commander.

The tank bounced one, twice, thrice and then simply rolled the last few meters before it came to a stop as little more than a wrecked, smoking pile of scrap. It left behind it a veritable skidmark of blood and crushed bodies leading all the way back to Superboy.

Many cultists had simply been too slow to move.

But Superboy was not done, far from it. With a furious roar, he charged forward again, hitting the first cultist with enough force to splatter him across the pavement. Then he swung his fists like wrecking balls, each blow strong enough to shatter bones and rupture organs. No pulled punches here, just straight up hammer blows that sent dead and dying cultists flying like confetti.

Terrified cultists swarmed him from all sides with knives, bullets and grenades. Superboy shrugged each of them off with the same contemptuous ease while each strike of his fists broke another cultists. First a few, then a dozen, and finally whole squads lay pulverized at his feet.

"Connor…" A voice haltingly began from above. Superboy already knew what had disturbed her.

"I hate this," he began, looking at his hands that were stained in blood all the way to his elbows. "But they won't stop. Too many innocents have already died, I can't watch any more die."

There was no response at first from M'gann, and Superboy knew not what else to say. Then there was not any more time for words as the cultists found their courage again and began amassing down the street for a new push, screaming and howling like animals.

"I hate them," M'gann suddenly said, and Superboy did not like how cold her voice suddenly became.

"M'gann…" That was all he could think to say as well over a hundred guns suddenly rose into the air. Traitor, loyalist, dropped in fright or owner dead, it did not matter. The field was littered with them, and M'gann's psychic grip made them all rise.

"I hate them all." Even the cultists grew silent, their bravado evaporating like a teardrop in a desert. Many a fearful step back was taken, and terror was written all over their faces.

"I just want them to go away." M'gann raised a single hand, as if she was holding a pistol in it. Then she squeezed the trigger, and half the cultists were dead before the rest realized the danger and dove for cover. There was so much Superboy wanted to say, so much he needed to say, but there was no time for that now.

So he simply charged ahead and smashed into the cultist ranks, shattering bones and rupturing organs with every hit while M'gann added more and more guns to her arsenal. Together, they were as a scythe harvesting wheat.

"Connor, I'm sensing something powerful nearby! And it doesn't feel human!" M'gann's voice suddenly warned inside his head.

"Then let's push ahead and confront it before it hits the line!" Superboy suggested even as a head was squashed like an overripe tomato in his hands.

"That won't be necessary, brother," said a third voice, and Superboy felt ice in his veins. He recognized that voice.

"Dubbilex…" And then the psychic Genomorph stepped into view, hordes of his kin following close behind.

"It is good to see you again, Superboy, though I wish it was under better circumstances," Dubbilex greeted, face set in his almost perpetual look of stoicism.

"Connor, who's this?" M'gann was already floating closer to Superboy, every gun under her control pointed squarely at Dubbilex. He did not even acknowledge the obvious threat against him.

"A Genomorph, just like Superboy here, though of a different design," he explained, not even glancing at the Martian.

"Dubbilex, what are you doing here?" Superboy asked, but he already knew the answer. They all did.

"Taking the necessary steps to secure our future."

Something snapped in Superboy. "You betrayed us! You made a deal with these maniacs, and now you're stabbing us in the back!"

Not an ounce of regret could be found in Dubbilex. "Treachery implies a sense of loyalty discarded. I can assure you, Cadmus never had my loyalty. My priority have always been my brothers and sisters, and it is for their sake I now do what must be done."

A snarl twisted Superboy's visage. "And everyone else? All the innocents caught in the crossfire?"

Dubbilex just shrugged. "Collateral damage, not my concern."

"You think this will make things better?! You think these lunatics and their gods will save you?!" Superboy took a threatening step forward. "I know Cadmus treated us all bad, but all you've done is exchanged one leash for another!"

A sigh was what he got from Dubbilex. "Enough, brother. We've dallied here long enough. My partners have agreed to spare your life, it's time for us to go and make a new future for our race."

Superboy's eyes were like steel. "I'm not going anywhere with you."

Dubbilex narrowed his eyes. "You'd turn your back on your kin? Your brothers and sisters?"

At that moment, all Superboy could see where the mountains of corpses growing ever larger. All he could hear were children crying out for their parents, parents crying out for their children. The screams of the innocent, burning in the madness gripping the world.

And above it all, the laughter of thirsting gods.

"You're no brother of mine, traitor." Superboy stated, fists clenched together. Something dark seemed to come over Dubbilex.

"Choose your next words carefully. I have argued for your life out of shared kinship, but I will revoke that if you continue down this path," he warned, horns glowing red. In response, M'gann landed by Superboy's side, eyes ablaze with green light.

"Try it, I dare you," she challenged, her arsenal hovering right behind. Dubbilex looked between the two of them, then just nodded with resigned sigh.

"So be it then." Then he turned to the horde of Genomorphs behind him. "Kill them both."

Far in the distance, gunfire and explosions raged on. But that was of little concern to Doctor Light and his servants as they finally crawled out of the sewers kilometers behind the ever shifting frontline of Los Angeles.

"Well, you certainly took your time," Gentleman Ghost drawled from where he was leaning against a lamppost, idly twirling his cane. Doctor Light directed a most disgruntled scowl at him.

"Well unlike you, I still have a precious life to protect," he spat back at him. Even with no visible face, everything could tell that struck a nerve with the ghost by the way his cane stopped spinning.

"That can easily be rectified," he assured with a deceptively calm voice, and suddenly the two of them were in a tense stand-off, daring the other to attack first. A particularly brave, or perhaps foolish, cultist dared step between them with hands raised in a placating gesture.

"My lords, do we not have an important task to be completed? Perhaps we should-" A blast from Doctor Light's gauntlets disintegrated his head, and a swing of Gentleman Ghost's cane split him in half at the pelvis. But his demise served to distract them from their own quarrel, and they stepped back from each other.

"Next time?" Doctor Light offered, and Gentleman Ghost nodded.

"Next time," he agreed. Then he suddenly tensed up, invisible eyes swinging north in alarm.

"Something wrong?" Doctor Light asked, gauntlets already powering up. Gentleman Ghost drew his sword from the cane, necrotic energy already flowing through it.

"Incoming," he warned. Not that he needed to, as they could all see the flaming meteor coming straight at them. Gentleman Ghost vanished into a building for cover, and Doctor Light activated his force field. The others were not so lucky, and could only scream as the meteor struck and engulfed the whole street in fire and brimstone.

For a brief moment, Doctor Light was deaf as all he heard was the roar of a fiery explosion and blind as all he saw were fire, dust and charred bones tossed around outside his field.

"Behold, man's final mad disgrace…" a furious voice growled from within the flames. "He chops his nose, to spite his face."

Then the firestorm subsided, and Doctor Light stared down what could only be a demon, bedecked in antique armor and wielding a sword almost as big as a man. And it was looking straight at him.

"Curses! It's Etrigan!" Gentleman Ghost exclaimed, as he remerged on the street. It made the demon smile at them. It was not a comforting smile.

"Craddock, do you face me as proof of a soul once more brave, or a tired wraith in search for his grave?" it mocked them as it steadily danced, unburned by the fire while the tip of its blade dragged along the street.

"Alright, enough words already!" Doctor Light snapped as he aimed his gauntlets at the demon. "Die, beast!"

A discharge, and a pair of light beams struck the demon right in the chest. It seared the metal, and pushed the creature back. But when the discharge wore off, it stood back up again with nary a scratch on its actual body.

"Light and heat, against Hell's Beast?" it scoffed at them as it dusted off the soot staining its armor.

"For a man bearing the title of Light," it began, legs crouching down in ready for a leap. "You are not that bright."

Y-you think this will stop us?! We're l-legion, scum! And the Gods will-"


Straight between the eyes, and out the back of his skull. Quick, clean and efficient. Krieg still felt like it was a waste of a bullet.

"Objective secured. What now?" one of the soldiers at his side asked, eyes peeled for further threats. Good, meant he was worth more than just another body in the line.

"Hold this position. Reinforcements will soon be here to shore up the line. I am needed further down the line to prevent further breaches." Krieg was only giving the soldier half his attention as he explained, the rest went to check his ammunition. Hm, starting to run dry, needed to swing by a supply depot or scavenge from the dead. The latter would probably be quicker.

"Enemy contact, sir!" the call suddenly went up, and Krieg's instincts had him crouched behind cover with shotgun in hand before the last word had even been uttered.

"Location?" he calmly requested, because he saw no hostiles from his position.

"Coming out of the alley right now! Ten in total!" It made Krieg tense up, because there were twenty loyalists here counting Krieg as well. Ten cultists in the open against twenty loyalists in cover. Either these were even more suicidal lunatics convinced of their invincibility, or they had a reason to be this confident. He hoped for the former, but expected the latter.

It turned out to be the latter when what could only be described as a living wall of darkness erupted out of the alley and rushed towards their positions.

"SHIT!" And gunfire did not slow it down the least, as aptly demonstrated by the soldiers around him. Krieg for his part did not waste his precious ammunition and instead simply dived to the side. Others followed his lead, others were too slow. They vanished into the darkness, and were never seen again.

"Fuck, man! What do we do now?!" Someone shouted. Krieg had an easy answer to that.

"Find the Meta causing this, and kill it."

"Allow me to save you the trouble of finding me," an oily voice seemed to purr before a lanky and deathly pale man stepped out of the darkness, dressed in in an antique suit and top hat with a pair of overly large shades hiding his eyes.

Was this the so-called "emo" style he had heard about?

"My apologies for interrupting your day like this, but I felt it was high time we met, one commander to another," the Meta began as he removed his hat and did a courtesy. "My name is Shade, and I-"


Krieg had hoped to put a bullet between his eyes while he was busy monologuing, but the traitor had faster reflexes than anticipated and summoned a wall of darkness that swallowed the bullet.

"Now that was just rude," the traitor chastised once he re-emerged from his shield. "And here I was hoping for a civil-"

Shotgun was tossed aside and was replaced with knife and Uzi. Full auto spray while he charged the traitor head-on. Another burst of darkness stopped the bullets, but then Krieg was upon him, sliding around the ebon shield and leaping forward to drive the knife straight through his mouth. The accursed Meta simply sunk into his own shadow, and Krieg sailed harmlessly by.

"I see that conversation is not your forte," the Meta lamented as he rose out of the darkness further down the street, shaking his head in what Krieg imagined was disappointment. "Very well, then let's settle this with iron and blood."

Krieg crouched low while drawing a fresh pistol. "Now you are speaking my language."

Before ending this chapter, a big shout-out and thanks to all of you who provided information about the USS Iowa, was of great help when planning that scene. As you now can see, I sidestepped the question of whether its generator and engine could still work by simply bringing in DC magic to handle it.

Waste of valuable resources? Probably.

Better to have Aqualad and Zatanna use their abilities to directly fight the enemy? Most likely.

Am I still sticking with this? Fuck yeah.

Sometimes, rule of cool has to trump common sense. And to me, a battleship powered by literal magic plowing through an enemy fleet is fucking cool.