Badge time.png   The Paragon Wiki Archive documents the state of City of Heroes/Villains as it existed on December 1, 2012.

Paragon City History

From Paragon Wiki Archive
Jump to: navigation, search

Paragon City Official info (copied from the City of Heroes Official Site):

Gameinfo history.jpg


Welcome to Paragon City, the greatest city in America and home to the world's most famous heroes.

The city has claimed for itself the title "birthplace of the hero," an assertion that may or may not be true. However, no one can deny the fact that today Paragon City is home to more super powered heroes than any other metropolis on the planet.

Why? Because not only is Paragon City the largest city in the US, it also goes out of its way to support its hero population. In Paragon City, heroes fight crime and villainy with the government's approval and to the population’s applause.

Here a hero can rise to the heights of fame, fortune, and power as long as he keeps his image positive and the local authorities appeased.

How did Paragon City become such a haven for super powered heroes? To answer this question, one must look back through the city's own storied and sometimes tragic history.

Founding and the 20's

No metropolis in the world is more associated with heroes than Paragon City. What began as a quiet collection of colonial villages in the 18th century had by the time of the Civil War become a bustling port city. After the war it became a center for industry, science and commerce in America. Throughout the first quarter of the 20th century Paragon City truly rose to fulfill its name's promise. It was the height of everything a city could hope to become. Then came disaster: the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Decades of unbounded expansion left Paragon City particularly vulnerable to the depression's ravages. The economy collapsed, bringing social and political order crashing to the ground with it. Crime, organized and random, moved in to fill the void. The bootlegging gangs of the roaring twenties had already established themselves during Prohibition. Now the mob bosses, through bribery, intimidation, and murder, seized control of the city itself.

Paragon became a city where every cop was on the take, every politician under a mob boss' thumb, and one out of every two people was out of work. There was nowhere to turn for hope, no one to stand for the oppressed and downtrodden. And then came Statesman. Born Marcus Cole, he began his transformation from a poverty born child to world hero after serving in the US Army during World War I. Instead of coming home in 1918 he headed east, bent on exploring the world now that he'd had a taste of it. Where he went and what happened to him during that lost decade remains a secret to this day. What is no secret is that when his ship pulled into Paragon City port in 1931 he was much more than the young private who had shipped out to fight for freedom in Europe.

Cole claimed to have unlocked the power of his own Inner Will, an obscure explanation at best. Whatever their true origin, it was undeniable that Cole possessed something that hadn't been seen since the age of the Greek Heroes: superpowers. Cole was strong beyond human limits and impervious to fists, knives and even bullets. However he'd come by these powers, Cole now found a cause to which he could apply them: saving his beloved Paragon City from itself. The would-be hero took on the name Statesman, an identity that personified all the values and ideals that Paragon City currently lacked.

Statesman went after crime head on, going after gang bosses, corrupt politicians and other lowlifes with a vengeance. His costume allowed him to hide from police while still leave behind an indelible impression on the city's populace. In a few short months he had begun to make a difference. But his initial successes only served to unite the city's criminals against him. The tide began to turn when out of nowhere another costumed hero appeared in the city: The Dark Watcher. Soon after others appeared: The Dream Doctor, Maiden Justice, and others. Extraordinary men and women, inspired by Statesman's example, were rising to meet the challenge.

Fighting organized crime called for a team of organized heroes. Statesman, inspired by the shoulder-to-shoulder discipline showed by ancient Greek soldiers in the face of Persian tyranny, called his new team of heroes the Freedom Phalanx. Throughout the 1930's the Phalanx fought the good fight and cleaned up Paragon City. The city council and mayoral elections of 1936 swept a platform of pro-hero candidates that resulted in the passage of the Citizen Crime Fighting Act of 1937. This law made it legal for vigilantes to bring criminals to justice as long as they followed the same restrictions police officers use.

Thus in the space of just five years the Freedom Phalanx went from an ad hoc band of would-be heroes to a legally recognized, nationally praised crime fighting organization. The costumed hero became a part of the national psyche, larger than life figures that shone as beacons of hope in the darkness of the Great Depression. Other heroes joined the fight as well and super powered villains appeared and offered new, more dangerous threats. Paragon City itself strode in the forefront of these changes and its heroes soon transformed it from the most dangerous city in America to the pride of a nation. The age of the super powered hero had begun.

War Begins

While the 1930's saw the rise of the American Hero, in Germany they saw the rise of a totalitarian regime. The Nazis presented a growing threat to freedom in Europe and eventually the entire world. Hitler and his followers had transformed Germany into a powerful military industrial state with one of the largest and most technologically advanced armies in the world. By the time World War II broke out, the United States had finally begun to look beyond its own troubles and realize that they had larger problems to deal with.

In Europe, Great Britain held on by its fingernails, protected from German invasion by its air force, dwindling navy and dedicated but small bands of heroes such as the Dawn Patrol. The Nazis had just revealed their own team of super powered soldiers called the Storm Korps, thus changing the face of modern warfare forever. In Asia, Japan had already occupied huge swaths of China and Southeast Asia and now threatened American holdings in the Philippines and even the West Coast. It seemed inevitable that the US would eventually get drawn into the war. The American military sluggishly geared up for war and, based on events in Europe, began recruiting heroes into its ranks.

It was almost too little too late. On December 7th, 1941 the US was forcefully brought into the war with simultaneous attacks on each of its potential fronts. In Hawaii the Japanese launched a massive air strike against naval forces at Pearl Harbor. In Paragon City a cadre of Nazi heroes made a similar, equally devastating attack. Paragon City's harbor was the staging ground for America's lend/lease program whereby it transported military equipment to the beleaguered British Isles. The largest convoy ever had assembled at Paragon City, hundreds of cargo ships protected by a fleet of US Navy warships and submarines. In the space of a few hours, Nazi insurgents struck all across the harbor. Super strong soldiers ripped apart ships with their bare hands. Flight pack equipped storm troopers zipped across the water firing high-powered rocket guns into fragile hulls. Blasts of pure energy ripped through the night, leaving death and devastation in their wake.

The Freedom Phalanx roused itself to take on the Nazi attack, but by the time they organized a response the attack was nearly over. The Germans made a fighting retreat as the sea burned with flaming oil and thousands sank to watery graves. In the wake of such disaster, Congress was quick to declare war on both Axis powers. The first into the fight were those very heroes who had been burned during the raid on Paragon City. The Freedom Phalanx, its ranks swelling with new volunteers, made a harrowing journey across the Atlantic to help reinforce the Dawn Patrol in England.

Paragon City became the main recruiting ground for super powered soldiers. The US Army set up a special training facility in the city and amended the recruitment laws to allow costumed and anonymous heroes to enlist in the war effort. Heroes from across the country and throughout the Western Hemisphere came to the city and learned to not only use their powers and abilities but also how to fight as part of an army. Fighting mobsters and costumed maniacs in the streets was one thing, but fighting thousands of armed troops led by trained, super soldiers was quite another. By 1942 the first group of new recruits was formed into the 1st Hero Brigade and was ready to ship off to England.

As the 1st Hero Brigade gathered for its send off in Liberty Plaza, the ground shook with a tremendous roar and a preternatural blackness blocked out the sun. Up from beneath he city streets came Nazi Super soldiers wearing the red and black uniforms that would soon become feared up and down the Eastern seaboard: the 5th Column had made itself known. The Nazi troops had been in hiding ever since the December 7th attacks, waiting for a chance to strike again. This time, the villains did not have so easy a time. The fighting First Brigade rose to the occasion and won the first of many epic battles against Nazi forces both at home and abroad. Beaten but not defeated, the Fifth Column fled back into hiding, only to return time and again over the next four years. As for the 1st Hero Brigade, they shipped off to Europe to take the fight straight to the enemy.

The War Continued

America's super powered elite forces, the First Hero Brigade, saw their first action overseas in the deserts of North Africa. Tragically, it became immediately apparent that heroes could die in war almost as easily as normal soldiers. In the first engagement, the Hero Brigade took the German panzers head on and got the worst of it. Costume clad men and women who were used to dodging through street toughs and gangsters found that an exploding tank shell was often much tougher to dodge. Even the more powerful heroes, those capable of taking on a tank or two on their own, found that three or four panzers often proved two too many. Scores died in those early battles, but the Hero Brigade's leaders learned much from those costly mistakes.

The Americans decided that heroes could better serve the cause by performing special operations and surgical strikes rather than working in large, military style units. The First Hero Brigade separated into dozens of small strike teams and spread out across North Africa. Among the most successful of these new teams was a group that called itself the Sand Kings. Made up entirely of heroes from Paragon City, the Sand Kings were street level heroes headed by the mysterious Dream Doctor. With the help of the Doctor's mind control and illusion powers they became the new model for how heroes could be most effective in the war.

The Sand Kings lived and fought behind enemy lines, operating totally free from the normal chain of command. They specialized in sabotaging Axis equipment and kidnapping high-ranking Nazi soldiers. Allied watchmen would routinely stumble across sedated and bound German officers, delivered like Christmas presents to American intelligence. The Sand Kings caused so much disruption and chaos that the German High Command was forced to divert much of its own super powered resources to the North African front, providing relief for the besieged Britain.

In the British Isles things were desperate. The Dawn Patrol had originally opposed war with Germany and was still reeling from the public relations backlash that came with the war's outbreak. They fought bravely alongside the RAF during the Battle of Britain and escorted Royal Navy and American convoys across the Atlantic, taking terrible losses in the process. However, they found their greatest challenge in fighting off the Storm Korps, Germany's elite super soldier cadre. After the fall of France, The Storm Korps began a prolonged series of raids into the British Isles. Their super powers allowed them to cause tremendous damage, much more than normal Special Forces operations could ever hope to accomplish.

The most daring Storm Korps raid came within a hair's breadth of striking a tremendous blow against British morale. Three Storm Korps super soldiers, led by the nefarious Eisensturm, managed to breach Buckingham Palace's defenses and kidnap his royal highness the King of England. Alistair Sutton, leader of the Dawn Patrol, chased the kidnappers down and fought Eisensturm to a standstill in the Scottish Highlands. He bought enough time for the rest of the Dawn Patrol to arrive and help rescue the captured monarch from the hands of fascist villainy. It was shortly after this that American victories in Africa drew off much of the Storm Korps' resources and many credit Sutton's victory over Eisensturm as the turning point of the war for Great Britain and the Dawn Patrol.

On the Asian front, the fire wielding Captain Volcano led America's heroes in their drive across the Pacific. Japan had unleashed its own super powered strike force, the Imperial Wind shortly after Pearl Harbor. The Wind sat atop the Japanese military as the best and brightest the empire had to offer. In the otherwise regimented army culture, the members of the Wind each maintained his own individual flair and personality, many of them ruling over occupied territories in the Philippines and China like medieval lords. Much like the western heroes, they operated according to their own plans and desires and were universally formidable foes. The deadliest of all was of course the Wind's leader: The Lord of Frosts, who commanded the Imperial Wind in the south pacific and had his sights set firmly on the American West Coast.

The island hopping battles in the Pacific theater had a very different character from the massive land engagements tearing across Europe. This was nowhere more true than in the battle between opposing super powered soldiers. The bitter war between the Imperial Wind and America's heroes quickly became very personal. Captain Volcano and The Lord of Frosts clashed again and again and each became utterly obsessed with defeating the other. The maelstrom of their enmity drew in the rest of the heroes from both sides, effectively creating a separate war from the main conflict that raged around them. While Navy fighter planes and carriers fought at Midway and US marines stormed Iwo Jima, the super powered rivals fought epic but strategically pointless battles over desert islands and empty expanses of ocean.

Back in Europe, the Allies were massing in Britain for D-Day. When invasion came, the Freedom Phalanx and Dawn Patrol were part of the first wave to enter France. Many dropped in the night before with the airborne troops, providing protection against Storm Korps jet pack troops. Both sides took horrendous casualties in those first bloody hours, with the super powered soldiers on both sides fighting in the vanguard. Late on the first day the Storm Korps launched a massive counteroffensive in an effort to drive the Allies back into the English Channel. Fought largely in the air above Normandy's beaches, this was one of the most spectacular hero battles of the war. Statesman himself was in the forefront, powering through hundreds of enemy super soldiers. The Allies repulsed the counterattack and the armies pushed on into France. Victory did not come without a terrible cost. Scores of heroes lost their lives and Statesman suffered critical wounds that left him crippled for the rest of the war.

During the following year of savage and costly battles across Europe, heroes served much as they had in North Africa: as aides and adjuncts to the main job being done by the soldiers. The Storm Korps took too long to recover from the blow they'd been dealt on D-Day. By the time the dread Nazi hero legion had reformed the war was all but over. The Storm Korps retreated to its secret Black Forest fastness, hoping to negotiate their freedom and escape to South America. The surviving members of the First Hero Brigade would have none of that. Although too injured to fight, Statesman planned the final assault against the Storm Korps stronghold. Hitler had shot himself the night before, but for the First Hero Brigade, there was one last battle.

The Battle of the Black Forest was a dirty, nasty, brutal conflict, fought over five days and almost entirely within the sprawling underground labyrinth the Storm Korps called home. The remaining super powered Nazis had holed up behind reinforced steel doors, maniacal deathtraps, and cunningly designed fortifications. Each fought to the last breath as the Allied heroes dug them out of the ground with pure force and tenacity. In the final showdown the last few Storm Korps members suffered their final humiliating defeat by being captured alive. They later stood trial at Nuremberg and all five were found guilty of war crimes. Their trial was a legal landmark of sorts, in which the world court agreed that super powered individuals must be held to a higher standard of behavior than normal soldiers.

The last act of the war should have been the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, and for most of the world this was the end. Not however, for the Lord of Frosts and Captain Volcano. The surviving members of the Imperial Wind refused to accept Japan's surrender and continued to fight on for several more months. Captain Volcano and company kept after the rogue Japanese super men and fought a series of battles across the South Pacific. The years of dueling between the two finally came to a tragic end in the far off island of New Ireland. There the Lord of Frosts finally overcame Captain Volcano, killing the American hero and snatching some small personal victory out of the jaws of his nation and empire's defeat. The US mourned their hero's passing and a worldwide manhunt for the missing Lord of Frosts was launched. Unfortunately the villain escaped when the United States suddenly had much more serious matters to worry about: Washington DC was under attack.

Post War: Rise of the Super Villains

Just as victory over the Axis powers seemed assured, disaster struck at home. While heroes on the home front bravely fought against the nearly defeated Fifth Column, another, more terrifying threat was sinking its tendrils into the American Dream. The super villain known as Nemesis, not seen since the last days of World War I, had been hiding in the United States for decades, planning his next move. Thanks to years of patient plotting, Nemesis now secretly controlled much of America's arms and war material manufacturing capability. Through his agents and minions he had access to not only the latest military equipment, but also to vast sums of money that he used to build his own secret army. While America slept off its hangover after celebrating VE Day, Nemesis played his hand.

In the predawn hours, the Prussian Prince of Automatons assembled his silent horde of fanatic robotic followers within striking distance of Washington DC. As the sun rose over the Capitol Dome it brought flights of jet powered strike bots, the arcs of rocket-rifle fire, and devastating atom ray blasts. Nemesis and his clockwork troops quickly overran military and super powered protectors alike, and President Truman only escaped thanks to a well-placed hero with teleportation powers. Nemesis now held most of Congress and the entire Supreme Court hostage. He staged an elaborate ceremony on the Capitol steps, and forced the Chief Justice to swear him in as Emperor of the Americas.

Heroes came flooding back from across the Atlantic to face this unanticipated threat. By the time the first heroes arrived, led by Statesman and the Freedom Phalanx, they found the situation even more dire than they could have imagined. Nemesis had hidden nerve gas bombs throughout the twenty largest cities in America. With the touch of a button he released the deadly toxin, ensuring a painful death to tens of millions if they did not receive the antidote within 24 hours.

What followed was the most desperate hour America's heroes had ever known. World famous champions of freedom fought deadly robots and atomic armored shock troops in the streets of our nation's capital. Finally, the heroes faced down the evil genius himself on the steps of the Capital building. Nemesis was ready for them, unleashing his atom-ray upon the assemblage, instantly killing dozens of heroes. However, in the chaos, Sister Psyche managed to use her telepathic powers to pick the location of the antidote from Nemesis' mind. The rest of the heroes fell back before the metal clad monster's onslaught.

Wounded but still mobile, Sister Psyche escaped the scene of the carnage and got word out to the Army. Within hours Dr. Mnemonic had synthesized an airborne version, and the air force and flying heroes were spreading it across the infected cities. Nemesis' poison was neutralized and Washington surrounded. Hundreds of heroes converged on the capitol and joined together for a second march on Washington. They fought through the remainder of Nemesis' forces and thought they had defeated the evil genius himself, only to find that all they had captured was a robot duplicate. Nemesis had escaped once again.

Although Nemesis lost, he had done great damage and, more significantly, ushered in a new era for super powered heroes the world over and in Paragon City particularly. With the defeat of the Axis powers, the disappearance of the Fifth Column, and the crippling blows organized crime had received before the war, Paragon City had suddenly become a remarkably safe place to live. But villainy abhors a vacuum, and Nemesis had shown the way. A single individual with extraordinary powers, evil ambitions, and enough loyal minions could challenge a whole nation. Yes, Nemesis had failed, but there were more than a few willing to step up to the plate and show him where he'd gone wrong. The age of the super villain had begun.

Many of the super villains that arose during the late forties and early fifties were actually veteran heroes who had fallen on hard times. While lauded across the land as heroes, for some the pride of patriotism was not reward enough. They had come to see themselves not as protectors of the common man, but as superior beings. And as superior beings these greedy souls felt the world owed them more than anyone else. In fact, they felt it owed them whatever they could take for themselves, by whatever means they chose.

Although these new super villains made their presence felt across the country, Paragon City became the center of their activities. As the richest, largest city in the nation and home to so many super powered veterans, Paragon proved the perfect breeding ground for evil. With no mafia to compete against them, the super powered criminals found plenty of room for success in their nefarious agendas. Among the many villains who reared their ugly heads in this era were: the gun toting Calamity Jane, the deadly Mesoamerican villain The Feathered Serpent, the wily Huckster, the mysterious Jade Maiden, the deadly Rakhasha, and the mercenary team known only as The Horde. Their activities ranged from simple armed robbery and theft to murder, mayhem, and the occasional attempt at world domination.

In the end, none of these villains or evil groups came close to posing the threat Nemesis did. For many it was simply a lack of deadly and evil intellect, but for most the biggest hurdle was the increasingly active hero community in Paragon City. The police could do little against these high-powered crooks, but the city's heroes were more than happy to step up to the plate. In 1952 the city decided to expand upon the groundbreaking Citizen Crime Fighting Act, expanding it to include officially licensed hero organizations that could in turn deputize their members. In 1953 the Freedom Phalanx became the first group to take advantage of this new law, and the Dawn Patrol and the mysterious Midnight Squad quickly followed suit.

Thus, despite the rising tide of super powered villainy in the city, the brave and selfless efforts of Paragon City's heroes managed to stay the flood and keep the city a relatively safe place to live (and certainly always an interesting place to live). However, even as things at home began to settle into a predictable if super powered routine, trouble abroad was growing. Since almost immediately after the war, the United States and the Soviet Union and been waging an ever more vicious Cold War. Now it seemed that this arms race was to include not only nuclear weapons, but a world power's other most deadly weapon: super powered heroes.

The Cold War

In the 1950’s NATO and the Warsaw Pact began a deadly game of international cat-and- mouse that would last for decades to come. Both sides believed fervently that the other was hell-bent on destroying their way of life, and to a certain extent they were both right. Along with nuclear posturing, third world manipulating, and rampant spying, both sides also sought to bring their super-powered assets to bear as best they could against the enemy.

It only took a few years for the U.S. government to turn from lauding its heroes as saviors of the free world to fearing them as possible villains or, even worse, communists. The Second Citizen Crime Fighting Act lent legitimacy and a certain security from persecution to those who were properly registered in Paragon City. For those heroes who refused to register, who preferred to keep their secret identities a secret, or who lived in other communities, the U.S. became a tough place to be a hero; Paragon City was no exception.

In 1956, Congress passed the Might for Right Act. This law proclaimed super-powered individuals and vigilante heroes a valuable national resource subject to draft without notice into the service of the United States government. For the next decade the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense routinely pressed heroes into service, both at home and abroad. Most were only too happy to help, but there were undoubtedly many, many abuses of the law. Heroes with unpopular politics found themselves sent on suicide missions into Eastern Europe. Minority heroes suffered particular discrimination during this period, often being forced into secret duty for months or years at a time, with no contact with family and loved ones.

From 1956 to 1966, the vast majority of those heroes pressed into service were used to fight a covert war against the Soviet Union. While public hero organizations like the Freedom Phalanx and the Dawn Patrol carried on their seemingly never ending war against costume-clad villains, many of America’s "lesser known" heroes found themselves fighting and dying behind the Iron Curtain or in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia. These battles, waged with ferocity by each side, did little more than maintain the status quo, often at the expense of local populations and governments.

As constitutionally dubious as these policies were, the U.S. did not base its actions solely on paranoia. The Soviet Union had engaged in its own, even more abusive program for amassing super-powered spies and operatives. Through a series of often deadly and deforming medical experiments, the Soviets managed to assemble its own elite cadre of heroes. They fought on the front line of this cold war, going toe-to-toe with U.S. heroes in a hidden war that the public scarcely knew was being fought. Occasionally, a super- powered melee would boil over into the public eye, but for the most part the victories and deaths went unnoticed.

The Might for Right Act finally met its demise in 1967 when a case brought to trial by three African-American superheroes went before the Supreme Court. The high court ruled the law entirely unconstitutional and ordered the immediate cessation of all Might For Right draftee operations. In reality, it took close to three years for the last draftee to be freed from duty, as many were deeply entrenched in covert operations that the government was reluctant to close in a timely manner.

By the 1970’s, the cold war had reached a fevered pitch. Both sides had long considered skirmishes between their secret super soldiers to be outside the normal channels and not necessarily cause for an international incident. Public hero organizations like the Freedom Phalanx or the Soviet Defenders of the Motherland were a different story. These groups operated in the world spotlight, and anything they did was bound to draw media attention and political fallout.

This was proven disastrously true in 1976 when the world nearly stepped over the brink into total nuclear annihilation. A U.S. spy plane flying over the Soviet Union was brought down by one of the Defenders of the Motherland’s flying heroes. The crew survived and managed to send a distress signal. The plane had been carrying one of the Air Force’s few active super-powered soldiers, a code breaker and psionicist named Captain Gerald Mynor. Captain Mynor had used his psionic blasts to disable the Soviet hero, but that only bought him and his crew a few hours of safety before the rest of the Russian heroes arrived on the scene.

With only moments to act, the U.S. Air Force asked for and received the help of Statesman, the leader of the Freedom Phalanx. Statesman used Freedom Phalanx technology to teleport into the USSR and find the crew before the Soviet heroes could. He ended up in a skirmish with a squad of Russian super-soldiers, wounding several of them before escaping through the air with the Air Force personnel and Mynor in tow. The general in command, enraged that the normally untouchable Statesman was escaping his grasp after embarrassing the Defenders of the Motherland, took drastic action. He launched a tactical nuclear missile at Statesman as he fled across the border.

The weapon detonated on target, which was unfortunately somewhere over Finland. Mynor and the rest of the crew died instantly and Statesman himself scarcely survived. NATO responded to the attack by putting their nuclear forces on full alert and preparing a counter strike. The Soviets in turn put their nukes on standby. The United States then "upped the ante" by preparing to launch a space based anti-missile system designed and manned by super-human scientists and soldiers. Soviet clairvoyants uncovered the proposed launch and the Russians realized they would soon have no chance – they launched a limited nuclear strike aimed at taking out the satellite before it launched and became operational.

Seeing more clearly than either government what was about to happen, the Earth’s premiere heroes took it upon themselves to stop the madness. Organized by members of the Dawn Patrol and Freedom Phalanx, a group of two-dozen international heroes sprang into action. They neutralized both the American space launch and the soviet missiles before either could fully deploy, and sent the world a message: they would not tolerate such behavior. Hero One (Great Britain’s foremost hero and predecessor to the Vanguard’s Hero1) stepped into the limelight to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

While the governments involved were quite resentful towards the heroes, the world at large came to adore them – as far as the public was concerned, they truly were the saviors of the world. This marked the beginning of the break in close cooperation between governments and hero organizations that had characterized much of the post-war period. The many events of the cold war had shown heroes that they often worked better outside of government policies and politics. They began to see themselves as a kind of fifth estate, standing as guardians not only of the world’s safety and physical well being, but also of the rights of humanity as a whole.

Other Worlds Discovered

At the end of the 1970's, much of the US - Paragon City included - found itself mired in a deep economic recession. Crime rates began to rise as poverty and lack of opportunity gripped the less fortunate strata of American society. The use and abuse of illicit drugs had long been a problem for all levels of society, but as the new decade dawned, the growing levels of addiction and drug-related crime in poverty-stricken regions became a focus of national attention.

As they had before with any number of other crime waves, Paragon City's heroes set about trying to make a difference in the War on Drugs. Unlike on so many other occasions, they had much less than total success. A Paragon City hero organization, The Regulators, led the initial charge. Led by the flamboyant and ever-popular Michael White (AKA the Back Alley Brawler), the Regulators had been doing their best to fight street crime in Paragon City since the early seventies. With the new drug epidemic and rising poverty rates, the Regulators went into heavy recruiting mode and tried to swarm Paragon City's streets with costume-clad heroes.

The city saw a number of epic clashes between the Regulators and various street gangs and drug cartels. A former police officer, White worked closely with Paragon City law enforcement to make sure that every criminal he and the Regulators brought to justice would see conviction in a court of law. Of course it didn't always work out that way, but more often than not, Regulator captives (and there were a lot of them) did their time in prison. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be making much of a difference. Certainly crime rates went down, but the drugs continued to make their way onto the streets and into the hands of anyone who wanted them.

Unable or unwilling to try and stem the demand for drugs, the Regulators teamed up with the Dawn Patrol to go after the drugs at their sources. They launched a series of controversial attacks in South America and Central Asia, burning coca and poppy fields to the ground. These assaults, while popular in the US, were not very well received abroad, with over a dozen nations forbidding members of both hero organizations from ever setting foot or flying over their sovereign territory again.

Unfortunately, there was little lasting effect from these bold assaults. The dramatic, albeit temporary, decline in imported narcotics merely left a void that a cartel of chemical engineers rushed to fill. With cocaine and heroin in short supply, the streets soon found themselves awash in a new, laboratory made drug: Superadine, or Supes as it became known on the street. Supes was eventually shown to be a modified version of soldier enhancement formulas developed by the US Army during World War II. When injected, it gives a sense of profound confidence and euphoria along with increased endurance and strength. Beyond these seeming benefits, it is also a mild hallucinogen and powerfully addictive. It was no great surprise that Supes made its first appearance in Paragon City.

Throughout the mid-eighties, Supes became a more and more popular drug, and despite the Regulators' best efforts, it continued to proliferate in the streets of Paragon City. There seemed to be no obvious, organized force behind the drug's distribution. Dealers were simply waking up and finding stashes of the serum in their homes. With no distribution and money trail to follow, it was impossible to get to the source of the problem. Paragon City became a very dark, gritty place to live. Despite the growing strength of the national economy, crime (both street and super villain) continued to rise.

Instead of rising above it, many heroes sunk into a kind of depression, resorting to many of the same techniques and attitudes as the criminals they hunted. The city's heroes became parodies of themselves: men and women in bright costumes who did very dark things indeed. Brutal beatings, the threatening of innocents, and even torture and murder became all too common. While the city's luminaries managed to, for the most part, stay above such base temptations, for much of the city's vigilante population, these were sad times. The attitude that "the ends justify the means," became all too common.

It took a totally unexpected and even bizarre threat to reunite the city's heroes with their morals, a threat that, oddly enough, grew out of the Regulators' continued quest to find the mysterious force responsible for distributing Supes. Thanks to the mystical masters of the Midnight Squad, The Back Alley Brawler was finally able to track the drug back to its source, a secret laboratory beneath a skyscraper in downtown Paragon City. The Brawler burst in upon them, his famous fists flying about him like a whirlwind. When the dust cleared, he had a moment to catch his breath and figure out just what it was he'd captured.

The facility turned out to be much more than a mere drug lab. It was a modern, high-tech, research facility. Not only were they manufacturing and distributing the drug, but they were also monitoring its effects on addicts. As this was a little out of his area of expertise, the Brawler placed a call to the Freedom Phalanx for some technical support. The scientists took the facility apart, freed the captive addicts and made some truly startling discoveries. The mysterious scientists, who resisted all attempts at interrogation, were not concerned so much with addicting America's youth as they were interested in seeing what effect their mind and body altering concoctions had upon the subjects.

The nefarious researchers had learned that, in less than 1% of those addicted to Supes, the human brain undergoes a radical alteration. The result is the creation of a new kind of sense - the ability to see, and even travel to other dimensions. This amazing psychic feat had long been theorized, as had the existence of alternate realities. The researchers had proven the theories true. Although the process drove the addicts quite mad, it also showed them whole other worlds; worlds similar, but yet different than our own. The Freedom Phalanx was unsure what to do with this research. The findings promised extraordinary new discoveries for the scientific world, but the data had been accrued in the foulest, most amoral manner imaginable.

Statesman decided that humanity should not - could not - profit from suffering of this sort. Should word of the radical research -- and the horrific means through which it was achieved become public knowledge, it would only encourage other madmen to follow suit. Statesman and the Back Alley Brawler agreed to take the secret to their graves and all the Freedom Phalanx technicians were likewise sworn to secrecy as well. But the funny thing about science is that, just because you want to unlearn something, doesn't mean you can. The metaphorical cat was out of the bag. Other dimensions existed and it was possible to see, maybe even travel, into them. Human curiosity could not be contained.

One of the technicians involved in the Freedom Phalanx's investigation was Dr. Brian Webb. A young, brilliant physicist who had helped perfect the Cosmic Crown that gives The Comet Queen her powers, Webb strongly disagreed with Statesman's decision and soon thereafter resigned his post at the Freedom Phalanx and went into business for himself. He sold his teleportation device patents in exchange for the venture capital needed to start his new research and development company: Portal Corp.

Blessed with an eidetic memory, Dr. Webb knew everything the Supes researchers had learned about peering into other dimensions. As much as he abhorred their methods for moral reasons, he also eschewed their research methodology as being impractical and unscientific. Dr. Webb correctly reasoned that the ability to pierce the dimension barrier was not unique to the chemically modified brains of Supes addicts. Rather, the addicts just happened to be tapping into some greater cosmic law. Dr. Webb set out to discover the science behind that law.

Four years later, in 1988, he did just that. Webb created an inter-dimensional portal that allowed him - or anyone for that matter - to simply walk from one world to another. He announced his discovery to the world at large the very next day, calling a press conference that resulted in global media frenzy. Webb actually took a group of reporters and cameramen from every major media outlet through a portal and into a dimension where Paragon City had never existed and the Europeans had yet to discover the Americas. They returned to Paragon City, stunned and amazed. Webb then presented them with a videotape collection containing proof of his visits to over fifty different parallel dimensions in the past day alone. He described worlds that were nearly identical but for small details (stops signs were green) to places where history had changed dramatically (the Axis had won World War II.)

World Reaction to the announcement was something just short of panic. The implications for such a discovery shook many people to their very core. What did this mean for various religious doctrines? Where were these dimensions and what harm could they do to us? If we could go to these dimensions, what was to stop some their residents from coming to our world? As it turned out, it was this last question that would have serious worldwide repercussions for many years to come.

Statesman expressed profound regret that Dr. Webb had used the Supes research despite his desires. Nevertheless, Paragon City's greatest hero and his comrades could not help but be intrigued by the Portal Corp's new technology. Knowing how important first contact with other worlds can be, the Freedom Phalanx began sending its members along with Dr. Webb and his explorations. They wanted to make sure nothing dangerous followed the good doctor back. Unfortunately, they failed in this duty. While exploring a world where America had lost to Nazi Germany, the team ran afoul of that parallel Earth's greatest hero: The Reichsman.

The Reichsman, an alternate version of our world's Statesman, led the Amerika Korps, an elite super powered hero organization that helped preserve Nazi rule over the former United States. Intrigued by these other-worldly interlopers, The Reichsman captured Dr. Webb and his explorers, tortured them to death, and ended up extracting a great deal of data about Webb's home dimension. Data is all well and good, but the Reichsman decided he wanted to see for himself, and so he led Amerika Korps through the portal and back to Paragon City.

It didn't take long for the super-powered fascists to earn the attention of the Freedom Phalanx. Queen Comet, a prominent member of the Phalanx and friend of Dr. Webb, saw the alternate Statesman come through and, having been briefed by Portal Corp about the world Webb and his escorts were exploring, she quickly called for back-up and bravely fought off the invaders until helped arrived. Although seriously wounded, she managed to hold on until Statesman and the rest of the Phalanx arrived.

The ensuing battle raged through the Portal Corp laboratories and spilled out into the city streets. The Reichsman was every bit the equal of his all-American counterpart, and the two nearly beat each other into the ground. Fortunately, the rest of the Amerika Korps did not measure up to the Freedom Phalanx (apparently in his world the Reichsman did not take kindly to potential rivals, and thus their training had been somewhat lax.) With his henchmen defeated, it was only a matter of time before the evil Statesman fell. To this day he remains frozen in suspended animation within the Freedom Phalanx's main headquarters.

Portal Corp was destroyed in the battle, but investors retained the rights to its technologies and had plans to continue the research. However, Dr. Webb's wife sued the shareholders and tied the entire estate up in court until 1998, when the company opened up under new management and with new funding. Although no contact has been made with the Axis America alternate reality since then, the Rikti Invasion certainly proved that the world had not seen the last extra-dimensional visitors.

Globalism and the 90's

The fall of the Warsaw Pact profoundly changed the global balance of power; changes to which the world’s super-powered heroes were by no means immune. For all the time spent fighting super villains, battling invaders from other dimensions, and foiling mad schemes, a super-powered arms race had raged on throughout the Cold War. As the Soviet Union and its satellite allies in Eastern Europe split apart into sovereign, independent political entities, the allegiances of their heroes split apart as well. The Soviet Bloc utilized a highly regimented and controlled system of finding, registering, and controlling super-powered heroes. Now, as the 1990’s dawned, thousands of such heroes found themselves free to pretty much do as they pleased.

Many heroes remained patriots and worked to fight the corruption and organized crime that quickly took root in the stripling democracies of Eastern Europe. It took less than a year for a band of discontent former Soviet heroes to become a powerful mafia force with significant influence over much of the region’s oil supply. Fortunately, most former State-Sponsored Heroes lived up to their title and continued on as freelance heroes, fighting for justice and helping preserve the safety of Russia’s people as best they could. In 1993, the first independent Russian Hero Organization, Valiant Defenders of the Motherland, set up operations in Moscow. Statesman himself had given his advice and aid to the new group and was on hand at the ribbon-cutting ceremony (which was only slightly marred by an attempted attack by an equally fledgling villainous cabal that didn’t manage to survive the afternoon when faced with the combined might of Russia’s greatest heroes.)

The immediate and public success of the Valiant Defenders showed that the Paragon City-born model for organizing heroes could work well in other parts of the world. Interestingly, it was not the heroes themselves who first made the leap of logic, but rather an enterprising woman named Rebecca Foss. The London born executive had made her fortune and earned her fame buying and selling commercial real estate. By 1992 she was one of the forty richest women in Great Britain. Stellar success aside, this was still a relatively humble beginning for the woman who is today recognized as the manager and chief business advocate for several thousand of the world’s most powerful super beings.

Foss happened to be in Moscow on business when the Valiant Defenders had their public grand opening. She immediately saw not only the potential for good the group could accomplish in a chaotic country like Russia, but also the tremendous profits that could be made along the way. Already street vendors were selling Valiant Defenders T-shirts. Valiant Defenders memorabilia (as well as home videos of their first public battle) ended up selling to news organizations around the world for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Foss saw huge potential for franchising such hero organizations around the world, especially in developing markets where the local government did not have the resources or know-how to establish effective super-powered organizations on their own.

Foss returned home and immediately began putting together the business plan for what became Hero Corps. She and her sales force shopped the plan around to heroes first, looking for a notable spokesperson around whom they could forge a corporate identity and media campaign. While literally thousands applied for the job, Foss knew she had found the right man for the job as soon as he walked through the door: Kit Rafter, AKA, Luminary I. Possessing the ability to project, bend, and control light, Luminary had served for a time with both the Dawn Patrol and the Freedom Phalanx and had garnered international attention when he saved a cruise ship from certain doom at the hands of the evil Torrent and his watery minions. Luminary had recently resigned from the Freedom Phalanx in order to move from Paragon City to Paris with his wife Jeanette Vesey, a world famous actress/model (indeed, it was their honeymoon that Torrent had so maliciously interrupted.) Already a little bored with the low risk life of a married man, he jumped at the opportunity to become Hero Corps’ new worldwide spokesperson.

In 1995, Foss and Luminary joined hands and cut the ribbon on the world’s very first Hero Corps (HC) franchise, located in Mexico City. This first Corps team consisted entirely of home grown, Mexican heroes, although they received most of their training at the Hero Corps Training Campus in Provence under Luminary’s watchful eye. The HC Mexico City proved a resounding success, and later that year three more franchises opened up in Rio, Jakarta, and Johannesburg. In each case, the HC always employed local heroes who operated under the guidance of corporate executives.

In every area where Hero Corps set up shop, crime decreased dramatically. Most cities paid for this wonderful service through bond measures and special taxes -- a fact that drew the ire of many who took a dim view of public money paying what they considered outrageous fees to a private multinational corporation. One puzzling side effect that Hero Corps public relations has tried to downplay is that, while crime rates drop in most cases, each city has actually seen an increase in super-powered crime. It’s almost as if opening a Hero Corps franchise attracts costumed villains. Conspiracy theorists claim that the Hero Corps itself creates these super powered crises in order to justify their high fees. While there is no proof for such accusations, many cannot help but wonder if there might be some truth to them.

With over thirty franchises spanning the globe by 1998, Hero Corps tried to open its first U.S. based franchise in Paragon City. This seemed a strange choice, and many stockholders and financial analysts questioned the wisdom of the move. Luminary made a three-week publicity tour through the city, touting all the benefits Hero Corps had to offer. His efforts were politely but firmly rebuffed by the existing Hero Organizations, particularly the Freedom Phalanx and the Dawn Patrol. They both assured the city that all of its needs would be seen to, and that they need not pay high costs. Hero Corps rejoined that, should the city sign up with their services, they might pay a premium price, but in return, rather than relying on the whims of independent vigilantes, the city would have a super-powered organization that was answerable directly to the city government.

The debate grew quite acrimonious, and much was made of The Freedom Phalanx’s decision to declare itself outside the politics and laws of any one nation. Many wondered just how committed to the local problems such groups could be. Advocates for the city’s existing heroes countered with accusations that Hero Corps seemed to cause more trouble than it solved and that the city’s safety should not be sold to the lowest bidder. Luminary replied that Hero Corps was actually the highest bidder and that surely the existing heroes wouldn’t mind if they had a little more help around the city while they were off saving the entire world.

In 1999, Hero Corps bought property and began building a facility in Paragon City, despite public resistance. The construction process suffered delay after delay due to protests, sabotage, and periodic attacks by previously unknown super-powered criminals. When the building was mere days from completion, a mysterious gang of power armor-clad soldiers descended on the construction site, overwhelmed the security and literally leveled the structure to the ground. This disastrous attack polarized the city, with many seeing Hero Corps as a magnet for danger and controversy and others saying that the city’s existing heroes were afraid of competition. Hero Corps was prepared to pull out of the city after this, having spent five times their budget already.

Then Crey Industries made an offer to subsidize the new Hero Corps facility. The Countess Crey made several public appearances lauding the corporation’s work over seas and stating that she had high expectations for HC Paragon City. Everything seemed set for another attempt at building the facility when the city zoning board revoked Hero Corps construction permits. A series of legal maneuverings proved costly but ineffective for Hero Corps, as every political door suddenly seemed closed. The Countess Crey told anyone who would listen that the Freedom Phalanx, and Statesman in particular, were using their influence to block Hero Corps’ efforts. Ultimately, Hero Corps had to withdraw from the city after all, but the whole process left a bad taste in the mouths of many Paragon City residents.

Hero Corps did not have the worldwide monopoly on organizing and hiring out the abilities of super-powered beings. Unfortunately, not everyone felt the need to make profit from doing good. Several other hero groups had no qualms about making money any way they could. After all, one super-powered soldier can be as effective as a hundred regular men, but usually costs much less to maintain. That doesn’t mean he should charge any less than a hundred mercenaries would demand for their services, it just means that his profit margins are higher. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure this equation out, and by the mid 90’s, super-powered mercenary companies were active all over the world.

These super mercs, as they became known, operated in places and ways that no self-respecting hero would ever dream of. The Britain-based Directed Outcomes super mercs worked guarding diamond mines in East Africa, making the mines safe for near slave labor practices to go on uninterrupted while civil war raged all around. The Cayman Islands-based Mega Corps spent much of its time tracking down and terrorizing anti-globalization activists and other thorns in the side of multi-national corporations. The American-based Free Company fights mostly to protect oil wells and pipelines from any threat, whether terrorist attacks or attempts at unionization.

Most of these groups flirted with breaking or surreptitiously broke laws, but they did so under the cover of corporate PR firms and the tacit consent of world governments. Certainly the premiere Hero Organizations seldom came to blows with them unless they perpetrated some particularly egregious sin. In all fairness, groups like the Freedom Phalanx had more pressing concerns, whether it was delivering food and halting genocide in West Africa or preventing war crimes and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The 1990’s were a busy time for even the most socially conscious defenders of freedom. Some super merc groups did cross the line. Several signed on to serve not just shady corporations, but admittedly illegal paymasters like drug cartels and terrorist groups.

In 2000, in response to these blatantly illegal and dangerous super merc outfits, the United Nations decided to form the Special Council on Super Human Activities to monitor and police situations around the world involving super-human threats and non-governmental super-villains and organizations. The Special Council had no enforcement arm, but rather acted as a mediator for disseminating information and investigating complaints. The council would then pass this information on to local authorities or the UN Security Council, as they saw fit. Ironically, the biggest beneficiary of the Special Council’s efforts has been Hero Corps, who lobbied hard for the council’s creation. With over 100 franchises world wide in 2001, Hero Corps is the group most often called upon to act on the Special Council’s recommendations. While many of the older, established, pro-bono hero organizations resent this fact, there is little they can do until they come up with a plan to offer the same depth and breadth of service that Ms. Foss’ multi-national corporation has to offer.

Alien Invasion

It had been more than a decade since the Portal Corp was destroyed and much of the world had all but forgotten about possible threats from other dimensions. On May 23rd, 2002, they had a rather rude reminder. On that date, at approximately 4:30 PM Eastern Standard Time (U.S.), thousands upon thousands of red lights began to appear in Paragon City. The lights took the form of perfect, flat circles, ranging in diameter from 9 feet to 100 yards. One reporter in a traffic helicopter likened them to "windows into the flaming heart of hell" before he and his vehicle disappeared forever, presumably swallowed up when another "window" opened on top of them. No one was yet quite sure what they were looking at, but it was obvious that they were dangerous - anything the red lights touched they seemed to devour.

Of course the city's heroes came out in force to investigate. The Freedom Phalanx, the Dawn Patrol, and Hero Corps all sent teams out into the city to prepare for whatever came next. The Midnight Squad's most powerful magicians and knowledgeable mystics tried to determine whether or not the lights had a magical origin. The discs of light kept appearing and were soon all over the city, from huge discs high above the skyline to smaller ones at street level and even inside buildings. The population quickly panicked and clogged the exit routes, trying to flee whatever disaster was about to beset them. Soon reports came in from other cities and countries. The lights had popped up in 27 other places around the world, all of them major population centers.

The Freedom Phalanx made the determination, with the help of a former Portal Corp researcher, that the lights represented some kind of dimensional portal. Where they led no one could be sure. Long standing Freedom Phalanx member and renowned interstellar explorer, Star Strider, volunteered to pass through one of the portals and see what was there. Veiling himself in his invulnerable force field, he entered one of the larger portals and was never seen or heard from again. Similar experiments in other parts of the world had the same tragic results.

As night fell, at approximately 7:30 Eastern Standard Time, the true purpose of these disks became clear. Simultaneously across the entire globe alien invaders began pouring out of the portals - tens of thousands of them. Most were infantry, wearing some sort of powered armor and wielding energy weapons. Others wore flight packs and dove down from the skies beside hordes of small, spherical attack drones. The largest portals produced huge assault craft, bristling with energy cannons and missile launchers. Even in places like Paragon City, where hundreds of heroes were prepared for an horrific event, the size and power of the invading force proved quickly overwhelming.

The first barrage of attacks was very precisely executed. The invaders had obviously had time to study their foes in great detail. They took out power plants, substations, phone lines, cell phone towers, radio transmitters and water lines within the first 15 minutes of the invasion. They filled the air with electronic counter measures so powerful that they jammed all radio communication, radar, and GPS signals. They also struck concentrations of military and police power, taking out armories, air force bases, and naval shipyards. In a matter of minutes they had all but disarmed the cities they chose to attack. Fortunately for Earth, they had failed miserably in one aspect of their calculations: they hadn't counted on the tremendous power Earth's heroes could bring to bear.

From the moment the first invader stepped through a portal, the heroes in Paragon City sprang into action. Statesman led the charge, quite literally, hurling his body into one of the largest attack craft. A minute later the massive flying fortress exploded from within and fell crashing to the ground. The seemingly unharmed Statesman flashed across the sky and into another ship, with similarly devastating results. It was only after the third such assault that he became aware of the tremendous collateral damage these falling behemoths were causing when they crashed to the streets below. Aware of this problem, he changed tactics, using his incredible strength to actually push the giant ships out over the river before demolishing them.

The city's other heroes fought fiercely as well, although few were as spectacular as Statesman in their methods. The city streets swarmed with armor-clad invaders fighting toe to toe with costume clad heroes. The aliens had also brought in heavily armored hover tanks that were proving to be particularly deadly until a consortium of mages from the Midnight Squad cast a spell that turned them all inside out, leaving smoking piles of junk. Unfortunately, the aliens gave as good as they got. Even as they were congratulating themselves on their success, the magicians were engulfed in a wave of burning plasma that stripped their flesh to the bone in a fraction of a second.

And so it went across the city. The aliens outnumbered the heroes at least one hundred to one, maybe more. It was impossible to get accurate numbers as the portals had allowed them access to the entire city at once. The fighting raged on through the rest of the night. After six hours, the heroes had managed to clear the skies of the large attack craft, some of which had retreated either up into space or out over the ocean (none of the aliens ever went back through the portals). By the dawn of the 24th, Paragon City had been effectively divided into a patchwork of human and alien controlled neighborhoods, with constant combat raging at every border. Both sides began to erect walls and other static defenses to secure their territory. Many of these border defenses eventually became the walls that currently divide Paragon City into its many neighborhoods.

No more invaders ever came through the portals. It seems they had launched their entire attack force in one instant. Exactly 24 hours after the invasion began, all of the portals winked out of existence, adding one more layer of mystery to the already bizarre and terrifying war. Meanwhile, even as they fought on, the heroes were trying desperately to figure out just who these beings were and why they were attacking. They seemed to use no electronic signals for communication. Several powerful telepaths had noticed a disturbing psychic noise since the invasion started, but any attempt to read the alien minds or communicate with them failed. Whatever they were, their motives and identities remained unknown.

The world's governments reacted as best they could to the terrifyingly unexpected invasion. The aliens destroyed a good third of the world's military might in those first few hours, but, with the help of super powered heroes from every nation, the armed forces rallied and began to put up a stalwart, if seemingly doomed defense. Even the most advanced army in the world, that of the United States, was seriously outgunned by the aliens. The casualty ratios were typically 5 to 1 in favor of the invaders. Only when those with super powers fought alongside front line troops did the humans ever score any victories. The United Nations Security Council, led by Great Britain and France, formed an emergency umbrella organization to help coordinate hero resources in the worldwide war against the invaders. Called The Vanguard, this group was composed of some of the world's best and brightest heroes. It sprang into action immediately, and began to effect stalemates similar to the one that had been reached in Paragon City. The aliens' advances were halted, but it seemed impossible to take back the territory they had already seized.

Back in Paragon City, the effort to discover just who these aliens were was finally achieving some results. Going through the old Portal Corp files (which had been tied up in countless court battles, unseen, for decades), investigators found a record for an alternate Earth home to a race of beings known as The Rikti. Only one Portal Corps team had been sent there and the records were incomplete, although it seemed that contact with the aliens had been established. Apparently they could talk to us, they just didn't want to. The file had no indications that they were particularly war like or hostile and even suggested that a trade agreement could possibly be reached with them at some point in the future. Now the enemy had a name at least, although why they had attacked remained unclear.

The war waged on for the next six months, during which time hundreds of thousands of soldiers, civilians, and heroes died in battle. The Rikti proved a decidedly intractable foe. They had apparently been coming to Earth well before the actual invasion began in earnest, setting up hidden bases and weapons caches beneath the ground. They used short range teleportation portals to strike at unexpected times and locations. The humans were forced to fight an entirely defensive war, as the Rikti kept them scrambling to deal with one crisis after another.

It did not take long for the Rikti to figure out just how important the heroes were to humanity's defense. More and more they began to concentrate their efforts on the costume clad warriors. Any large scale meeting place or base of operations became an immediate target. In Paragon City the Rikti launched a series of all-out, simultaneous assaults on hero organization headquarters buildings. In one afternoon they destroyed buildings belonging to the Freedom Phalanx, the Midnight Squad, and the Dawn Patrol, killing scores of heroes in the process. The Rikti took their heaviest casualties during this engagement, but they must have thought it was worth it because they did the same thing again the next day. And the day after that. In one week they lost over 10,000 soldiers, killed close to 200 heroes and utterly decimated all of Paragon City's major hero organizations.

The Freedom Phalanx was down to just Statesman and a handful of the toughest, most powerful heroes in the city. The Dawn Patrol, Midnight Squad, Regulators, and Hero Corps were in similar straits. With its decentralized command structure and international recruiting base, only the Vanguard (which included Statesman as well), remained a viable, organized fighting force. Even when the Rikti destroyed the United Nations buildings in New York and Geneva, the Vanguard kept up the fight, quickly training and organizing super powered defense teams to hold the aliens in check.

Using the files and records from Portal Corp, an exceedingly intelligent hero named Dr. Science (also the star of a famous kids science program) figured out a way to trace the energy signatures of the Rikti portals. It was clear that the aliens were continually receiving reinforcements from their home dimension, probably through additional portals that opened up in their secret underground staging areas. Dr. Science managed to isolate the largest and most active of these portals, which happened to be located deep beneath Paragon City. This was probably the least accessible location on Earth right now, lying as it did deep within Rikti territory and surrounded by thousands of the toughest alien troops.

Dr. Science devised a plan, but it was one that risked a great deal for an uncertain outcome. He had deduced that the portals required tremendous energy to operate and that the source of this energy must lie somewhere on the Rikti home world. The portals on this side were merely conduits for the main energy source. From there, reinforcements were then transmitted through local intra-dimensional portals. If a team of heroes could travel through the main conduit and destroy the energy source, the Rikti on Earth would be totally cut off from future reinforcements. This might just be enough to turn the tide of the war.

Matters were growing more desperate with each passing month, so the Vanguard, led by Hero 1 in November 2002, decided to try Dr. Science's daring plan. They assembled the best and brightest heroes in the world, leaving only skeleton crews to man the defenses. They then split into two teams, one led by Statesman, named Alpha Team, and one led by Hero 1, named Omega Team. Alpha Team was much larger, consisting of over 1000 heroes from across the globe. They launched a full frontal assault on the Rikti main troop concentrations, drawing as many alien troops into the fray as possible. This was a dangerous ploy, and it proved costly. In the ensuing titanic battle, 800 of 1000 heroes died, along with some 50,000 Rikti soldiers.

Omega team consisted of 50 of the world's best and brightest. The humans had found that the Rikti were particularly ineffective when it came to dealing with magic based powers, so there were quite a few magicians and artifact wielding heroes on Omega Team. Using an ancient Charm of Invisibility, the team managed to slip into the Rikti main portal base unseen. They were only discovered at the last moment, in the portal chamber itself. Omega Team watched as thousands of Rikti reinforcements passed through the dimensional gateway, on the way to help in the battle against Alpha Team. They were discovered, but now it was too late. They fought their way through to the gateway - five of them fell captive to the Rikti in the process. It was one of these captives who later escaped and provided the only witness to what happened next.

Omega Team disappeared into the portal and the Rikti were thrown into a panicked frenzy. They swarmed in after the brave heroes. All was silent for about 15 minutes. Then a tremendous explosion rippled out from the open portal, tearing through the Rikti base and instantly annihilating everything within a square mile. Only one hero, the utterly invulnerable Ajax, managed to survive the blast. He had been taken captive by a Rikti stasis ray and rendered unable to follow his teammates into the portal. Now he was the sole surviving witness to their apparent victory.

News of the disaster traveled almost instantly through the Rikti ranks, and they immediately began to disengage from their massive battle with Alpha Team. The heroes, having lost 80% of their number, were only too happy to let the Rikti slink off in defeat. It took them a little longer to get word of what had happened, but it sounded like good news. All over the world the Rikti were retreating, although certainly not in a panic. Obviously everything had just changed for them. They were no longer fighting with secure supply lines and constant reinforcements from home. In an instant they seemed to make the transition from field army to guerrilla fighters. They withdrew into their secret lairs over the next few days, fighting a scorched-earth rear guard action that claimed thousands of more lives.

The war was over, or at least the first phase of it was. Both sides had been nearly shattered in the process. The Vanguard and the other great hero organizations of the world scarcely existed anymore. With the exception of Statesman and a few others, all the world's greatest heroes had died in the war. Trillions upon trillions of dollars of damage had been done to the majority of the world's most populated cities. Paragon City was the worst hit of all. Once a shining beacon of light and prosperity, now much of it lay in ruins. It didn't take long for criminals to start reasserting themselves, and new heroes were needed. It was the beginning of a desperate time that would last for decades.

Today, thanks to scavenged Rikti technology and the help of brilliant men and women like Dr. Science, rebuilding proceeds at an amazing pace. Paragon City is still a shadow of its former self, beset by criminals and the lingering Rikti threat, but it has begun to prosper once more. It is a place where new protectors are desperately needed: brave men and women willing to put their lives on the line to protect the innocent and punish the wicked. The invasion might be over, but the war persists. Now, more than ever, it is a time for heroes.

See Also