By James Stark, with contributions from Matt Miller, UnSub, and Jessica Derling.
PARAGON CITY, Rhode Island, August 13th – The city is quiet again, as quiet as it ever is in the City of Heroes. Vanguard and Positron reported earlier in the week that our efforts in holding off the Rikti Invasion were a resounding success. Vanguard’s rapid response teams held the line in every at risk city zone, both in Paragon and in the Rogue Isles, as well as around the world.
“This is not to say that the threat is over,” said Incandescent, the press secretary for Vanguard. “Major activity should be slowing down soon, but the Rikti still have the capability of launching massive strikes at both Paragon City and the Rogue Isles.”
“We are simply seeing a lull in the fighting.” Incandescent reported, “Vanguard is hesitant to say that the threat is over, as there is still a large Rikti presence in the Rikti War Zone. This may be a harbinger of a larger scale invasion, so heroes and other super-powered beings are being asked not to let their guard down.” Still, for a brief moment we can breathe easily again and rejoice.
“I want to thank the heroes that have helped Paragon City and the rest of the world in this time of crisis,” said Statesman, leader of the Freedom Phalanx. “If Vanguard is to be believed, we are not out of the woods yet. We should remain ever vigilant in the face of this new aggression.” Statesman went on to say, “We (the heroes) have not yet managed to find a way to keep the Rikti out of our dimension, so the attacks can resume their intensity at any time.”
As a special feature to commemorate this tremendous victory, the Paragon Times is pleased to publish two special reports by freelance correspondents. These reports from our affiliates were filed during the event, and are presented here for your interest.
HOPE ON THE BATTLEFIELD
I was met in the lobby of the new Vanguard base in White Plains by none other than Incandescent. I decided to jump in with a hard question, “"Incandescent, when exactly did you know that the Rikti were returning?"
"Vanguard has been watching for another Rikti threat since the end of the first war. We have kept our eyes and ears open for any signs of another invasion. Vanguard has spent countless man-hours preparing our recruits for the inevitable attack.
"Although I am not at liberty to reveal our sources, we confirmed a new invasion was imminent more than a month ago."
"Why were the people of Paragon City not warned earlier?"
"Even though it may be hard for you to understand, the head of Vanguard did not want to incite chaos. The memory of the last invasion runs deep in Paragon City. Lady Grey wanted to make sure the threat was real before alerting the general public. You should know this though, Vanguard has been training twice as hard and have more than tripled our forces. So, even though we didn't alert the pubic early on we have been taking steps to negate the Rikti invasion forces."
"Incandescent, there are reports that Vanguard willingly recruits from the criminal element of the Rogue Isles. Is this true?"
"In times of war we sometimes have to find allies where we once had enemies. The Rikti are a threat to the whole world and not just Paragon City. As shocking as it may be to see heroes and villains fighting side-by-side, we have to realize that this is a worldwide threat and egos must be set aside so that we all may survive."
Incandescent gave me a tour of the Vanguard base. As she showed me around I couldn't help but feel like I was in the middle of a bee's nest. The base was full of soldiers, heroes, and villains, all in a hurry. I stopped a hero that was passing by and asked her a few questions.
Infinity Woman (Infinity Base), a scrapper, has been with Vanguard for two weeks. “I was recruited by Levantera to join Vanguard recently. I’ve spent that time training and investigating the new Rikti threat. I’ll admit I’ve seen things I didn't think I would ever see. Unfortunately, a lot of that is top secret, so I can't share my entire story with you, but let's just say that we have our work cut out for us."
I asked her about her first impressions of Vanguard. She was quite candid. “On one hand I truly believe in the work they are doing here. On the other, I am worried by their open door policy. Ms. Liberty and I were just discussing it this morning, although our reasoning is different. She doesn't like the fact that villains are being pulled into Vanguard duty. For me, hero, villain, kheldian, whatever, as long as you can fend for yourself and can hold your own against the Rikti, great. However, I worry that some recruits are just too inexperienced to do a solid job."
I could see the stress on her face and the worry in her eyes so I pressed a little further. "Can you elaborate on your concerns?"
"I can’t say too much, but it’s public record that Fusionette and Faultline have needed rescuing on more than one occasion. They are sweet kids, but their inexperience jeopardizes us all." And with that she flew off.
I had one more question for Incandescent as she guided me out of the compound to my waiting car. “What makes you think we can win this war? The last time the Rikti invaded our world we lost almost all of our great heroes and heroines. It seems that the Rikti are even more focused this time and they are obviously better equipped than last time as well. Do you really think we will survive?"
She looked me straight in the eyes and smiled before answering me. “At Vanguard we believe in the best of humanity. We believe that when we have the will to fight and courage in our hearts nothing can defeat us.
“Of course, this is war. We must expect great sacrifices before this conflict is over. But as we saw in the first Rikti War, this is a time for hope. Hero 1 gave us hope by closing the portal to the Rikti homeworld last time and this time we have a whole new generation of heroes that have gathered from all over the globe to stop this threat. So you ask me if I think we can really win? The answer is yes I do, and the reason is because as long as we have hope we have a chance."
TO FIGHT OR FLEE?
"I'm getting out of here, and taking my family with me" said John Phillips of Kings Row. "Living in Paragon City has always been...interesting... but the apartment was cheap when we got it in 2005. I can accept the Clockwork stealing my trash can or the Skulls breaking a few windows, but I can't take a race of aliens that have come to wipe us off the planet by bombing my neighborhood. Only capes can handle them, and I'm no cape. We’ve got one kid, my wife's got another on the way – I've got too much to lose. We're leaving while we still can."
There have also been accusations and rumors of heroes fleeing the city, or running for cover during Rikti bombing raids. “I saw one so-called hero go white as his spandex and then hightail it under a bridge in Skyway yesterday,” said Demerie Torrens, who was also looking to leave Paragon City via a Talos Island ferry. “I don’t know if he normally was a super-speedster, but he sure moved fast that day! Made it to cover in record time when the air raid sirens went off.”
“What made it worse was that he then changed costumes, made himself look like a regular citizen and slunk off behind some buildings.” Ms Torrens said that it was this image that finally convinced her to leave Paragon City.
Not all reports during the Rikti invasion have been as bleak. Numerous Supergroups have publicly announced their intention to stand and defend Paragon City, regardless of the cost to themselves. Poison, joint leader of The Centurions and member of the Guru Alliance has indicated that he believes, “Under the guidance of Lady Grey and Vanguard, we are better prepared than ever to fight off the Rikti threat – the first Rikti Invasion hardened us in ways we never thought possible, which the Rikti are going to find out to their dismay.” Incandescent, Vanguard’s head of Public Relations, released volumes of information showing the success that “those who work with Vanguard, regardless of where they are from” have had against the alien invaders.
There are also citizens who have vowed to live their lives as normal despite the interdimensional hostilities. Hortico Gonzales, a retired architect now living in Steel Canyon, has said he will stay no matter what. “My wife and I were here during the first invasion. Those were horrible days, terrible days – no-one knew what to expect or what was coming next. A lot of people thought that that was it for Earth, that we were all going to die. But the thing I saw, time and time again, were heroes giving their all, each and every day, to protect us.”
“In fact, that may be the heroes’ greatest gift to all of us – hope. A hope that tomorrow will be better than today if we work together, for each other. I couldn’t give up on that, so I did what little I could to keep things together. And then suddenly that invasion was over and we started to rebuild.”
Mr Gonzales has said that although a lot of his friends have moved out of Paragon City, many have stayed “to support the heroes that have committed to protecting us and our City. They need to see that we appreciate what they do for us. At the very least, I’m going to be here to let the capes know that they are heroes just for standing up for the rest of us.”