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High Earth Orbit
The Lighthouse
December 25 th, 2014
9:40 PM Greenwich Mean Time (4:40 PM Freedom City)

The last nearly two months had been busy ones aboard the orbital headquarters of the Freedom League. With so many of the senior league members off in space trying to help against the Communion, the work load for the remaining League members had increased, the team feeling rather stretched at times. The information sent back by the League members in space had done little to easy the stress of those remaining behind. As shocking as it had been to learn of the destruction of Lor-Van, what the Communion had done with the planets and peoples they did not just outright obliterate was perhaps even more horrific.

But there had been little time to fully dwell on things, as there had been crises around the world and coordination with heroes across the world to try to be ready should the Communion turn towards the Earth. And then a few hours ago, the League members in space had sent a message back to the Lighthouse, stating that they had located the Communion's world killer spacecraft, and it was heading towards Earth.

The remaining League members on Earth had moved into action, contacting the various heroes they had spent the last two months connecting with and getting people moving to various parts of the world to prepare should the Communion make it past the League members in space. Freedom Hall had served as a launch point for many, teleporting them up to the Lighthouse, and then back down to Earth to the various League teleport locations that had been set up over the years.

For a time, everyone had been so busy organizing things, there was little time for anything else. But once they had coordinated setting things in motion, there was little to do but wait for news from the League members in space, of for the Communion to just arrive if there was no one left to hear from.

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Comrade Frost had been on and off the satellite frequently in the last two months, paying repeated visions to Russia where the People's Heroes were in the process of preparing their own countermeasures against the Communion. The last few weeks had left Frost particularly unsettled, and the icy vampire often found himself at a bay window staring up at the stars. A man of Earth, tied to the ancient gods of that planet, he'd never felt particularly comfortable in space - especially not with a spaceborne menace closing in to doom them all. But when the League needed him, he was there - sitting in the command center with a headset on as the reports of the battle in Pluto orbit raged on, providing on-the-spot commentary in quiet Russian to his people below. They needed to know what was happening. Everyone did. 

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Gabriel as standing near where Frost sat, his hood pushed back, helmet on the table, and mask pulled down. Here in this place his identity was no true secret, and it made standing and watching and listening to the reports a bit more comfortable. Right now, he stood there, listening, arms over his shoulders, eyes closed, and mouth moving slightly and silently.


Anyone who could read lips and cared to try would determine he was praying. The fact that he held a simple rosary in his right hand and was rolling it back and forth now and again only reinforced that.


Earlier in the day, he'd been pacing, sometimes leaving the room to go to one of the "break rooms" with a large view window, or in one of the hydroponics gardens, enjoying the small bit of nature on the space station. Clearly being up there for longer stretches over the last couple of months was affecting him.


For now, he knew that all he could do was wait, hope, and pray.

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Gaian Knight sat almost motionless, back to a wall as a small stone spun and circled in the air nearby - it had originally been some kind of sandstone, but periodically he'd wave a hand at it and it would change: obsidian, slate, ruby, granite. That second-to-last one had gotten Tiamat's attention, as she sat not far away looking incredibly bored, and it had earned him a fair bit of suspicion.

"You've bribed me with plenty of gems."


"For my hoard."


"And they've ALWAYS been real? You didn't make any of them?"

"I never made any."

"...you're sure."

"I'm sure. I was sure the last fifteen times, too."

There was silence again while she grumbled to herself, looking over toward the doorway to the command center. "So if they win, we can go home. If they don't win, we get to do something exciting. Waiting sucks."

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Velocity was currently standing in one of the viewing lounges of the Lighthouse, looking out at the blue and green planet turning slowly down below. Her league communicator was in hand, patched in to the feed that they were receiving from the other League members out by Pluto. The speedster had been up and down quite a bit in the last few hours, zipping around to contact people and get them going where they needed to be, going to speak with some government officials, and all manner of other tasks that needed to be done. Now, she was waiting along with the others.

She would far rather have been down on the surface, with one of the various groups they had placed around the world. But then, the League had enough teleport stations set up that if there was anywhere that really needed her help, the yellow clad speedster could be teleported down and be there within seconds.

So Velocity was left waiting, something that was normally not an easy task for her. Not only was the situation about as possibly dire as it could be, with the Communion now in the solar system, but today was also Christmas. And Velocity could not but help think about her son and fiance, who she should be spending the holiday with. But Lawrence and Robert were not down on Earth, they were not even in this time, or any other timeline for that matter. When the other League members had first reported that the Communion seemed to be heading toward Earth, Robert had taken Lawrence to the Null Time, a place removed and isolated from the timelines, existing outside of time. Lawrence had been born in the Null Time and had spent his first six years of life there, so it was not an unfamiliar place. Right now, it seemed the best choice for them.

As much as she wished she could be with them Velocity knew she had to remain here, for as long as she could, trying to stop the Communion along with her friends and teammates and all the other heroes of the world they had been able to gather. And so, she was waiting, along with all the others.

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Fleur de Joie rarely needed to sleep, but that didn't mean she couldn't get very, very tired. She'd carved out the time to spend Christmas morning on Sanctuary with Amaryllis, her parents, all her brothers and sisters, and their families. It had taken weeks to convince them to move the annual celebration to what they affectionately referred to as "Stesha's treehouse," most of them not quite ready to accept that the cottage was just the smallest part of the entirely separate world she took care of. But as Christmas neared and the rumors grew, one by one they'd acquiesced to her plan for family togetherness somewhere safe and out of the way. That had required adding an entire extra wing to the house, six extra bedrooms with furniture she'd be paying down for the next six years, and still she'd have nieces and nephews on the floors and in the living room. The close quarters and undercurrent of potential danger had made for some family tensions, but Christmas Eve had still been very nice, part of it spent in the villages with the settlers old and new, and the rest of it at home, just for the family. 


She hadn't really bargained on how hard it would be to leave that family togetherness and head for the Lighthouse when the call to action had come in. They'd all be safe, she reminded herself. Sanctuary was secure, well-defended and entirely out of the way of the Communion, so no threat there. All the settlers, the monks and the bees knew to look out for her family as they spread out to explore the picturesque confines of the little world, as though there was much dangerous for anyone to get into at all. And not only was her mother there to look after Ammy and keep her company, Gina Espadas and Eden, Ammy's very best Prime friend, were on hand as well. Nobody would probably even miss her till she got back. And if for some reason she couldn't come back... well, there were contingency plans in place for anything up to and including the destruction of Prime and the loss of all Sanctuary's adult metahumans. But that wasn't going to happen, and Christmas would come again next year. 


Stesha rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers and stifled a yawn as she finished yet another very long-distance phone call to Earth. "No, you should absolutely send JJ to Sanctuary, don't even worry about it. I know you both are going to be tied up with everything going on, you shouldn't have to worry about him. And he's gotten over that biting thing, right? Okay, great. I'll tell them to expect you in Rio by dinnertime, then. Give my best to Jack, and Merry Christmas."


She hung up the phone and looked out the station window, the wilted poinsettias in her hair the only external sign of any internal disquiet. The stars hung like chips of diamond, undisturbed by the as-yet-invisible conflict at the edge of the solar system.  Friends of hers were out there now, trying to keep the sky so quiet, but deep down she knew it wasn't going to happen. The Communion would be here soon, and what could she do but make phone calls? 


Well, at least she could make phone calls. Thumbing through her contact list again, she reactivated her phone. "Hi, Pharos? This is Fleur de Joie. Oh, thanks, merry Christmas to you, too! Busy Christmas, though. You remember that situation we talked about a couple weeks ago? Well we could use someone with your talents tonight in Auckland, if you can pitch in. We'll give you a ride and everything..." 

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Suddenly Daedlaus' voice came over the frequency streaming in from Pluto. "Daedalus to Lighthouse. Dark Sun has arrived, and with his help, we have the Communion's anti-world weapon held up for the moment."

"But a number of the Communion's line ships managed to slip by us. They are on their way and will likely be arriving within a minute or two. It is going to be up to you and the other heroes to deal with them. Daedlaus out."

As Daedlaus' voice cut out, alarms stared to go off as the Lighthouse's long rain sensors picked up the approaching Communion ships…

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"Dark Star?" Fleur closed her comm link without a second thought as Daedelus relayed his message from the front. Wrapping her arms around herself, she walked to the window and stared out as though sheer willpower would sharpen her eyes enough to see for millions of miles. "He shows up now?" She shook herself out of her momentary stupor, then opened the internal comm to her teammates. "Okay guys, what can we do to stop these things? I know my powers are worthless out there, but this station must be able to do something, right?" 

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"You'd think," Gaian Knight replied, he and Tiamat having scrambled to their feet. "I'm not sure we have much in the way of external defenses, and I don't know who we have on board who could rig something in time - ah, no offense. Our resident super-geniuses just don't seem to be here."

He frowned, tapping a foot as his little rock bent and twisted to reflect his pondering. "We have the Pegasus space-planes, too, but they aren't well-armed. We'd probably have better luck falling back to the planet."

"It'd put 'em way too close to soft targets," Tiamat pointed out, though she didn't seem to have many better options. "The whole idea is to not let them hit Earth."

"Yeah, but we aren't really equipped to deal with them otherwise - slow them down, maybe, or thin them out. Depending on their defenses, maybe we could use the Pegasus ships as big, expensive missiles."

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"I suggest we are low priority target," opined Frost, who had been still and silent as the grave as the messages arrived from Pluto orbit. "We all heard reports of Lor-Van destruction. Invaders paid hardly any mind to defenders of planet - target for them was planet itself." He hmmed. "We need to make ourselves target at expense of planet below." With a little gesture in the air, he stood up. "Let us find oncoming vessels and move Lighthouse between them and planet. This is a well-armored if not well-armed station. Let them come to us and fight it out. Sensors," he suddenly declared to one of the civilian workers on the station, "what can you see? Where do enemies lie in depths of cold space?" I have no idea what I am doing, Frost allowed himself to think with all the League's telepaths gone, but at least I will be seen to do something. 

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Gabriel's own face was set in a grim line.


"Good ideas. But we have to send out a warning, too. Give me a minute."


He rushed over to a nearby communication console, speaking softly to the couple of nervous techs for a few moments more. Then he typed a few things on the touch-screen next to one of the techs before walking over to a headset with an included microphone. The silver-clad hero pressed a button, waited a moment, then spoke. His voice was calm and filled with authority.


"This is Gabriel, from the Freedom League. If you are receiving this message, you are one of our emergency contacts with the world's governments and militaries. You know we've all been on high alert these past few months. Well, now is the time for that alert to pay off.


The expeditionary force sent out by the Freedom League is holding back the majority of the Communion forces at the far edge of the Solar System.


However, a small contingent of enemy forces is heading toward Earth, having bypassed the blockade.


Those of us on the Lighthouse will be doing everything in our power to divert, distract, and destroy the Communion forces en route now. But you and yours need to be ready to help fight back any forces that leak past.


I have full confidence not only in my own team's ability to succeed today, but also in the ability of all of you to do the same. Earth has beaten back many other threats. This one will be no different.


Now Godspeed, and get ready."


With that, he terminated the connection, turning toward the others. In lieu of another comment, he simply shrugged.

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Velocity had raced back to the main control room when Deadalus' message had begun, appearing back with her teammates before Deadalus had even finished the first few words. The speedster glanced over to Fluer when the other woman's long absent husband was mentioned as being part of the battle out by Pluto. But there was little time now to focus on whatever feelings Fluer might be having, as Coummnion attack appeared to be imminent.

Moving over near the sensors station in a blur of yellow, Velocity glanced over the shoulder of the technician at the station as she listened to the suggestions of her teammates. "I am not sure we have enough space planes to have much of an impact." She stated as she looked at the readings. "We might be better served in using them to get us out to the Communion ships, or may need them to get out to Pluto if that becomes necessary."

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"There is no time to try to use the Lighthouse's maneuvering thrusters to move it." Called out one of the technicians. "Long range sensors are picking up Communion ships taking up positions near the Moon, and..." Even as the man spoke, alarms began to sound throughout the Lighthouse as more Communion spacecraft appeared into view outside the large windows of the command center, spaced out along the horizon above the Earth.

"We have five large Communion vessels in high orbit." The technician then added. "With numerous smaller vessels alongside. Two of the large vessels are heading towards lower orbit above Europe and the Middle East, two others appear to be preparing to circle around to the opposite hemisphere, and the fifth...is heading right for us!"

Out of the large windows, the gathered heroes could see a large Communion spacecraft moving in the direction of the Lighthouse, with a number of small, needle like spacecraft streaking out ahead of the larger vessel.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Gabriel's face went flat as he saw the enemy ships warp into place all over the globe. Most worryingly for some, one of the ships seemed to be on a collision course with the Lighthouse space station! Yet for all that, the Irish hero remained calm in the face of what some of the station crew seemed to be regarding as imminent death. He simply strode over to the communication console, hit a couple of buttons, then took a single step back, planting his feet as he did. He then raised the heavenly spear in his right hand just a couple inches off the floor, before striking the butt of the weapon against the deck, creating a ringing tone that was almost like a church bell that just happened to get picked up by the intercom and broadcast all across the station. It was the most pleasant, and most attention-getting, intercom tone anyone had ever heard. Then, Gabriel began to speak.


"This day is call'd — the feast of Christmas:
 She that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
 Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
 And rouse her at the name of Christmas!
 He that outlives this day, and sees old age,
 Will yearly on the vigil feast his friends,
 And say, "To-morrow is Christmas Day;"
 Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars,
 And say, "These wounds I had on Christmas Day."
 Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
 But she'll remember, with advantages,
 What feats she did that day. Then shall our names,
 Familiar in her mouth as household words, —
Gabriel, Tiamat, Fleur de Joie, and Gaian Knight,
 Robert and Samantha, Carol and Frost,
 Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
 And Christmas Day shall ne'er go by
 From this day to the ending of the world,
 But we in it shall be remember'd, —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters.
 For he to-day that sheds his blood with me,
 Shall be my brother, my sister; be she ne'er so vile,
 This day shall gentle his condition:
 And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
 Shall think themselves accurs'd, they were not here!
 And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks,
 That fought with us upon this Christmas Day!


There wasn't a man or woman in the station that didn't somehow, in some way, inspired, uplifted, and generally ready to fight after those words.


In his mind and heart, Gabriel just hoped that would be enough today.

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As Gabriel's voice began to echo through the Lighthouse, the Communion cruiser headed toward the satellite began to open fire, bright green beams of energy streaking across the void to strike the station's shields. Even as the Lighthouse shook slightly from the impacts, the station's automated defense systems began firing as well, blasting at the small needle like ships streaking toward it. Several exploded in bright flashes of silver, but there were more than the defense system could quickly target.

The space station began to shake once more, as the small vessels began ramming into it, their front spearlike ends piercing the hull. Just as Gabriel finished his speech, there was a loud crash that reverberated through the command center, as a pair of needle ships smashed through the hull along one wall, taking out a group of monitors and knocking a pair of technicians to the floor.

The tips of the Communion ships then split open, peeling back to grip along the wall around them, reveling four figures inside each ship. They appeared to have once been humanoid beings of various shapes and sizes, but now all were covered in a silvery metal, their cold, dark eyes looking through the smoke at the figures arrayed around them as their mouths opened to a horrible shrieking that reminded those present older enough of a modem.

With their resolve at least momentarily bolstered by Gabriel's speech, the technicians still at their stations continued their tasks, as one called out. "We have multiple impacts on the Lighthouse, in ten distinct areas, including the here!"

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Velocity had rushed over and pulled the technicians knocked to the ground clear as the Communion ships opened up to revel their passengers. For a microsecond, the speedster had considered striking against those in the command center, but she did not even need to turn her head to see the monitor displaying the locations of the other impacts, which meant other boarding parties.

There were several other League members here at the moment, the same could not be said for the other locations the Communion had breeched. "You all start here, I'll start down on deck five!" She shouted, before she was gone in a yellow blur.

Other than the command center, deck five had the most civilians aboard currently. It was also where the infirmary and the teleporter was located.

Less than a second later the speedster came to the outer hallway that the needle ships had breeched, another eight of the lifeless Communion emerging from the vessels. The speedster did not hesitate more than a microsecond, before she was closed with the nearest of them, striking out at it with a fist moving at hypersonic speeds, breaking the sound barrier with a loud *CRACK* before slamming into the Communion and smashing it back into the bulkhead.

But before it had even moved a millimeter, Velocity was already past it, striking the next. *CRACK*

Six more times she lashed out, striking all eight of the Communion before she came to a halt a short way down the corridor.

Seven of the Communion were now lying in smashed heaps, unlikely to ever rise again. But the eighth had managed to withstand the powerful attack, and now fixed its cold gaze on the momentarily still speedster.

The Communion antibody rushed forward with more speed than one would expect, but it was still slow in the speedster's eyes. As it lashed out with cruel looking claws, Velocity easily sidestepped the attack.

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Stesha took a deep breath and cleared her mind, letting Gabriel's words flow through her and chase away the pain, fear and anxiety, replacing it with calm purpose. They couldn't stop the battle coming to Earth, but there was a battle to fight right here. "We need to spread out," she told the others. "There's too many for us to be grouping up." She took a handful of seeds from her pouch and tossed them at the invaders, concentrating on all of them at once to make them writhe and grow in the air. It was difficult and distracting work, but the payoff was worth it. One creature managed to avoid the tangle of vines entirely, but the other seven were wrapped up neatly in the vines, struggling and helpless under the piles of greenery. 

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"On it."

Gaian Knight's goggled eyes scanned the monitors as his stone bent and twisted and grew into a proper flying platform - in the scant seconds it took to grow and be mounted, he'd already picked his target and was flying his way out the door. "Tiamat! Help Fleur clean up and then pick a new group." He hated flying top speed in tight spaces, but now was no time to get picky - and he didn't have too far to go.

Two levels down, his presence was announced less by the man himself and more by the small storm of rocks he brought with him: fragments of his platform, children of his little starting stones, came pouring through a door like a shattered cloud...and as soon as he could see the invaders there, it burst outward in a carefully-directed torrent of blunt violence.

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"Stay safe, my friends."


And with that echoing in the air, Gabriel was off in a whirl of white leather and silver, streaking through the tight corridors as fast as he could manage. His pace didn't match Velocity's, but it took him only moments to flit down an open stairwell and arrive at another impact site, where more Communion drones were rushing from  their landing pod.


Gabriel only slowed himself marginally at first as he spotted an outlier of the pack. Instead, he braced his holy spear against his body and adjusted the course of his flight. A few seconds later, his weapon was embedded a couple of inches into the wall (thankfully an interior wall, so nothing beyond some cosmetic damage), holding a struggling drone in place by its torso as the energy animating it slowly ebbed away. A quick twitch of the spear caused a *crack* to sound out, and the drone went fully limp. Gabriel's face, meanwhile, was no longer the calm confidence he'd shown on the bridge.


Now, it held anger and disgust.


"Judgment comes."


Not exactly his friendliest message to a foe.

Edited by KnightDisciple
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Tiamat made a frustrated noise at being ordered around, and another one as she cast an eye around the room - more the structure of it than its contents. By the time her gaze rested on the last free invader, she was clearly full of ire and in need of a place to direct it.

"Well," she said, punctuating the word with a waft of flame that curled around teeth which - for just a moment - were far larger and pointier than could have possibly fit in a human-sized mouth. The effect was unnerving, like her features were twisting to reveal bits and pieces of something far, far larger hiding just under the surface. "I guess you were just a little bit faster than the others. How very unfortunate for you."

A mouth of razor canine teeth flashed a grin as she threw herself at her opponent, a boxer's punches and aggressive footwork aiming to keep it off-balance.

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Even as Gabriel felled one of the Communion antibodies, three others moved swiftly to intercept the hero, slashing with wicked claws at him. The white clad hero managed to dodge the first antibody, sidestepping the attack and moving a short distance away, but the next two were on him before he had a chance to fully adjust.

One slashed towards Gabriel's head, but he managed to bring his spear up in time to deflect the attack away. But as he was doing that, the second stabbed into his exposed left side. Gabriel felt the impact, turning just enough at the last moment to allow his armor to take the worst and leave him otherwise unharmed.

Up in the command center

As terrifying as Tiamat could be, the last free Communion antibody regarded her with cold eyes that were unmoved by her display. The antibody remained calmed and focused, as it adjusted slightly for the new threat.

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Suddenly, icy hoarfrost began forming on the antibody's surface - the cold metal of its shell frosting over with a growing rime of ice. The mindless machine began suddenly clawing at itself as if trying to attack an intruder, but the intruder was inside its own horrible metallic flesh! Icy mist poured from those cold eyes as the machine locked up with the crackle of freezing steel before it fell to the floor as if an internal switch had been flipped - shattering into a billion pieces of flash-frozen metal. From the ruins came streaming up a cloud of icy fog that transformed itself into a cold, white figure all too familiar to the other heroes.


"It is very cold in space. But not so cold as the heart of...FROST!" He declared over the broken remains of the antibody he had destroyed before clapping his hands together. "Delightful! Let us kill more robots." 

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Even as the League members went into action, the automated internal defense systems of the Lighthouse came online as well, attacking the Communion antibodies scattered throughout the station, although with mixed results.

Down on the level Velocity was on, one of the automated gun popped out of a wall, shooting a net at the last antibody. The metal-fiber net hit its target, wrapping around it tightly and causing the antibody to topple over, completely immobilized.

In the hanger where Gaian Knight was still facing three of the antibodies, another automated gun appeared, firing a stun blast at one of the three antibodies. However, this time the antibody was quicker on its feet, dodging just in time to avoid the blast.

The results were similar on the level where Gabriel was facing one of the boarding parties. With both a net and stun gun appearing to attack the Communion. However, the antibodies managed to avoid both attacks.

Up on the command center, the technicians were once again fully focused on their tasks, with all the antibodies that were there currently taken care of. Outside, those still present could see the Lighthouse continuing to trade energy weapon fire with the Communion warship that had broken off to engage.

"We have more of those needle fighters inbound!" One of the technicians called out.

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As the last Communion she was current fighting got wrapped up in a net, Velocity made one last quick look around before she was moving again as a yellow blur. Fractions of a second later, she was down on the level below, coming upon another group of the antibodies. This time the group was more spread out, having move away from the vessels they had arrived in, searching for something.

But the spacing did not matter to the speedster, who only hesitated a microsecond before continuing forward toward the first antibody.


Once again her hand shot out at faster than the speed of sound, smashing into the antibody before it had even realized she was there. The metal torso of the antibody crumpled under the force of the impact, as it was knocked off its feet and sent hurtling into a wall. But Velocity was already well past it before it had even moved an inch, moving to the next antibody.

Seven more micro-sonic booms echoed in the station as Velocity struck the remaining antibodies. Five more were smashed and knocked off their feet. But this time two of the others managed to stay on their feet, one appearing unharmed, the other only taking slight damage.

Those two antibodies quickly rushed over to the speedster as she came to a halt, their wicked claws lashing out at her. While Velocity managed to easily avoid one of the attacks, she slightly mistimed with the second, and the claws racked across her right shoulder. But the speedster was still fast enough to pull back just enough that the slashes were little more than scratches, barely breaking her skin after slashing thin tears in her morphic molecule costume.

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Fleur gave a fractional nod to her companions on the command deck as the last Antibody fell down, then glanced to the screens. "These guys might end up being the least of our worries. Better get them locked down quick." A wave of her hand, and the vine tangle sprouted an enormous chrysanthemum head twice the size of a golf umbrella. It fell on the bound invaders like a big powder puff and suddenly they were in the room no longer. "There's more nearby." She took off, racing for the emergency stairs and off to the next fight. 

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