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Somewhere above Northern France – Friday, the 8th of June, 2012. 07:33 AM.
Radiant hung in the air, more than a thousand feet above a grassy field where Athena had routed him to a couple of hours ago. The Paris area had received increased newscast coverage over the past two hours, and this location was well suited for tapping into radio waves and listening to a large portion of European broadcasts.

Athena did most of the interpretation and analysis. The artificial intelligence system she developed was able to sift through countless channels simultaneously, looking for keywords relating to threats or developments of interest. The AI’s transmissions to Radiant’s helmet let him follow the information feeds marked as relevant. The ones that contained visuals were projected onto his visor, while audio feeds were relayed through his earbud.

Schlafwandler. Sleepwalker. Update 7:34 by Radio BR Bayern Extra. Broadcast stored,” the AI reported in his ear. Its voice was female, close to Athena’s own timbre, but without emotion. Athena named it Iris. In Greek mythology, she was the messenger of the gods.

“He is still headed to the borders of Poland,” Athena’s live voice chimed in. “If he holds his course, he should only pass through sparsely populated areas for another ten or twelve hours. Evacuations are progressing well according to the Europeans.”

“Ten-four,” Radiant replied, still suspended midair.

The Sleepwalker was at the top of the list of world issues he didn’t know how to fix, and he didn’t enjoy being reminded of it. No weapon had ever had any effect against the Sleepwalker. No superpower, either, so he dragged himself onward through Europe, forcing countless evacuations along the way.

Hopefully the scientists or some genius Evolved would come up with a solution one day. At this point in time, Radiant sure didn’t have one.

He resisted the urge to ask Athena about the latest on the Shanti riots. He had deactivated reception of related news updates for the time being, even though Athena had informed him that the situation was starting to calm down. Across the world, people waited for the official UNEOA statement which had been scheduled for the following week.

“Did anything change regarding the UNEOA’s official opinion of me?” he asked, shifting his balance to absorb sunlight from a better angle.

“Overseer Vega is still of the opinion that you are simply taking a much-needed break. This may change if you remain absent much longer without explanation, or if you take any notable action.”

“And Samael?”

“Samael is pushing for a declaration of renegade status.” Athena failed to hide the tremor in her voice.

Renegade status was one step above villain status and one below rogue, Andrey knew. He could have pointed out that the status change was bound to happen, but he didn’t want to push the issue. As far as he could tell, she was just barely holding herself together for his sake.

I’m sorry I’m putting you through this, Alexa.

Iris interrupted his thoughts, relaying another Evolved sighting. “Le saint. Saint. Update 7:38 by France 24. Broadcast stored,” the AI continued. Radiant ignored it because South American heroes weren’t on his priority list.

“What are you going to do today?” Athena asked after her artificial counterpart had rattled off its update.

Radiant knew what she wanted to hear, that he was going to lie low and not upset anyone. Or, at least, not anyone who had the authority to harm him. But telling her that would have been an illusion, and he wouldn’t do her that favor.

“Someone has to talk to the various factions,” he said. “It’s been needed for some time now. How often have you and I talked about that? Ten times, maybe twenty? But they wouldn’t let me do it.”

Someone has to try to hold it all together. The thought was wistful, just like every memory that connected him to the Covenant. Behind his visor, his mind’s eye conjured up an image of a white figure on black paper, surrounded by rays of light. A winged figure, leading others ahead.

“Who are you starting with?” Athena asked, her voice calm once more. Professional.

“Preacher, maybe,” Radiant told her. “He’s easy enough to track down, and there are some things I’ve meant to ask him for some time.”

He hoped his plan of paying Preacher a visit would put Athena at ease. The leader of sixty million Godkin fanatics worldwide was more likely to worship an Evolved visitor than attack him. Besides, Preacher had some very detailed beliefs regarding the Pulse. There was an off chance his ramblings might provide a clue to some unsolved post-Pulse puzzles Radiant had been working to unravel.

“Let me know what you find out. Some reports suggest he really does believe his crazy theories,” Athena commented dryly.

“And I’d like to know why. He might have Visionary powers.”

“Would you like me to set up some other meetings with various rogues and units?” Athena offered.

Her words tied his stomach in a knot. He hated putting her in this difficult situation because she was both loyal and important to him. “I couldn’t ask you to do that, Alexa,” he said quietly, using her intimate form of address. “You could get in big trouble.”

Athena didn’t respond. There was a stretch of silence filled only by the whooshing of the wind and the distant cawing of crows.

Eva. Eve. Update 7:45 a.m. by France 2. Broadcast stored. Corbeau. Raven. Update 7:45 a.m.by France Two. Broadcast stored,” the artificial voice announced. After another pause, the newsfeed pattern continued. “Saint. Saint. Update 7:46 a.m. by LBC, Britain. Broadcast stored. Raven. Raven. Update 7:46 a.m.by LBC, Britain….”

“What’s going on with Saint, Eve, and Raven?” Radiant asked over the sound of Iris’ voice in his ear. He was perfectly content just to talk to Athena for a moment, but he couldn’t ignore these many keyword triggers in less than ten minutes.

It took her half a minute to reply because she was cross-referencing her different sources. “Eve, Raven, and Saint have all been seen in Paris recently. Yesterday or late Wednesday. Saint left the country for Bogotà early this morning, flying out of Charles de Gaulle. According to South American authorities, he was on vacation.”

“When did he fly in?” Radiant asked.

“Wednesday evening.”

Using a precise sequence of eye movements, Radiant reactivated his visor to bring up an archived news recording of Versailles on Wednesday afternoon. The scene which unfolded before his eyes turned his blood cold. Tens of thousands of fists and protest banners were raised before his eyes.

“So Saint’s supposed vacation only lasted for two days in the middle of the week when half of Paris was shut down by rioters?” he asked.

“I agree, it is strange.”

“What about the others? Raven and Eve?”

There was another pause as Athena checked her sources. “Raven showed up around the same time. We don’t know about Eve, however. She has a permanent apartment in Paris, but rarely uses it. She officially lives in Marseille.”

Radiant flexed his fingers within their spandex gloves and closed his eyes to think. It could be a coincidence, but his gut told him something was up. He suspected the recent political unrest would stir passive rogue groups into activity. Political unrest which he had caused.

“Does Preacher have any active branches based out of Paris?” he asked.

“According to my intelligence, there is a small group loosely associated with Preacher, based out of the east end of the city. No active leadership, but that information may be out of date.”

“What about the Conglomerate?”

There was a brief lapse in communication while Athena searched her databases. “The Conglomerate…. No, not as far as we know.” Another pause. “There is the Sun King, however, a powerful rogue legitimized by the French government. People think he’s inactive, but he has a small court of Evolved followers. He has also been associated with a couple of other low-profile groups, but we’re not sure of the number of members in these groups.”

The Sun King. Athena hadn’t needed to elaborate because Radiant had studied all the other known individuals with Lightshaper power classifications. He knew the Sun King lacked offensive power, but made up for it with a compelling aura that consisted of light-based optical alterations and a mental suggestive power. The last one had almost gotten the man executed half a year ago.

“Remind me about who’s in his court?” Radiant asked.

“The numbers have reduced over the last few weeks. Our most recent intelligence cites an Italian expat Revoker named Colosso, as well as the child Visionary known as The Princess.”

The Princess. Radiant didn’t like the idea of a child involved in a rogue group, but France had assured him a few months ago that it was monitoring the girl’s well-being. Radiant couldn’t take the risk of checking in on her without inviting more political disasters.

He discarded the thought, forcing his mind back to the problem at hand. What did Raven and Eve hope to gain by hanging around with Saint?

“Raven might be looking for a mercenary contract,” he suggested. “Maybe he believes that the Covenant is too distracted to keep a close eye on him anymore.”

“He might be right about that,” Athena muttered.

As if on cue, the morning sky around Radiant was swallowed by absolute darkness. Reflex made him throw himself sideways, but he lacked even the slight amount of light needed to fuel his flight power. Without so much as the equivalent of a distant star’s radiance, he could only adjust his position by inches.

Athena was saying something, but he tuned her out to focus on the here and now, bracing himself for an attack.

When none came, he used his small amount of stored energy to shoot a two thin laser beams from his fingertips. Although they were too weak to cut through the darkness, they provided just enough illumination for him to flare out of existence and shoot himself up as a beam of light. His body manifested again a millisecond later, far above the haze of darkness.

“Radiant, do you copy?” Athena asked through his earbud.

Looking down, he guessed the dark sphere below him covered a radius of a little more than sixty feet. Not enough to suspect that his opponent had surged. He tapped his helmet with a finger. “Darkshaper presence. Stand by,” he said before breaking contact.

A single figure was moving through the air below him, rising from the cloud of darkness to Radiant’s altitude. The form advanced with little twirls and loops, intended to either tease him or to evade his lasers. He suspected the former.

You’re quite convinced I won’t blast you out of the sky, aren’t you? Radiant thought, suppressing the anger that welled up inside him.

The figure drew close enough for Radiant to recognize a beak-adorned half-mask and raven- feathered cloak.


It didn’t surprise him. He couldn’t think of anyone else who would have flaunted such blatant arrogance.

Radiant watched as his opponent came to a stop about fifteen feet in front of him.

“And God said, let there be light,” the young Darkshaper’s voice called out, every word dripping with mockery.

“Raven. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you out of the sky,” Radiant shouted back, making sure he was heard over the wind.

The feather-cloaked newcomer tilted his head with feigned consideration. “Because I’m too young and handsome to die?” he taunted. “Or because you can’t stand to eliminate your favorite nemesis? Every hero needs one, you know.”

Radiant was quite aware of what the kid wanted, and he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of rising to the bait. This wasn’t their first encounter. He’d never quite understood why, but the self-proclaimed mercenary leader had picked him as a personal rival of some kind. Raven always took full advantage of the fact that Radiant would rather endure the teasing than take a life.

“Maybe if you grow up,” he said calmly. “Did you fly all the way up here to reenact a comic book monologue?”

Raven pretended to ignore him. He completed a small twirl, letting his cloak of feathers billow in the wind, snapping his fingers, feigning an eureka moment. “Oh, I’ve got it! The reason you won’t shoot me is because you’re not in a secure enough position to shoot anyone since you went off on your own.” The Darkshaper’s mouth twisted into a snide grin.

That surprised Radiant. As far as he knew, his change of status was officially hush-hush until the UNEOA made a public announcement.

If Raven knows, who else does? he wondered. With a shift of his jaw, he reactivated the incoming communication feed on his helmet which allowed Athena to listen in.

“You know I don’t play your games, Raven,” he said, losing patience. “Get to the point.”

“I don’t play games, says the hero who left a house of cards behind.”

Before Radiant had a chance to respond, Athena’s voice rang in his ear. “I will get some surveillance drones into the area, but perhaps you should just leave. Raven is not likely to approach you on his own.”

Radiant scanned the area without moving his head. He knew Raven’s powerset allowed him to share his flying ability with his entire mercenary crew. Fortunately for Radiant, the Murder of Crows was only a concern if they had somehow recruited a Revoker—which was implausible, considering the rarity of that power classification.

Raven wheeled around to hang upside down, surrounded by the shroud of his cloak’s wind-ruffled feathers. “The exiled angel has been cast out of heaven,” the young mercenary said. “The church has a very specific expression for the outcast’s curse. Anathema.”

Radiant flexed his fingers. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his composure for much longer. “Shouldn’t you be plotting in Paris?” he spat.

His question was a shot in the dark, but it hit home. Raven’s mouth tightened.

“I am prepared to send backup if necessary. Please advise,” Athena said into his ear. He detected the worry in her voice by the way she spoke so fast.

“No need, Athena. It’s fine,” he addressed her through his helmet.

“Still a pair of lovebirds, I see,” Raven commented.

Will you ever grow up?

“I wonder if the Covenant knows she’s helping a deserter,” Raven continued, enjoying himself.

“Are you speaking for anyone except your Crows? Because, if not, I’m done wasting my time here.”

“What if I told you I was paid to risk my life to say hello?”

“Yeah, right,” Radiant said, failing to keep the frustration from his voice. “By whom?”

From behind the beaked mask, the young mercenary’s eyes locked onto Radiant’s. “The Conglomerate.”

His answer came as a surprise. Raven had to be lying.

“I can’t imagine Data would make use of you,” Radiant stated. “He has his own diplomats.”

“Data isn’t in charge anymore.” Raven twirled again, setting himself upright. “Be sure to let your girlfriend know that, too.”

Athena chimed in, this time with an undertone of urgency. “I suggest you vacate the area. Raven may be stalling to keep you there until help arrives. There are a number of people who would pay to see you dead.”

No need to remind me.

“How about you give me the number of whoever’s in charge at the moment, and I promise to call them later,” Radiant suggested.

He didn’t have a chance to hear Raven’s smarmy reply. The AI in his helmet recited a stream of intelligence, overriding its previous deactivation setting. Another surge? Radiant deduced. Emergency overrides only occurred in the most extreme situations.

Transformace. Transition. Update 8:02 by Czech Republic. Threat level seven. Governmental call for assistance. Location: City of Prague. Effective immediately.”

An emergency override for a mere transition? But that’s … impossible.

He remembered the last time when he had received an emergency override. It was when Monsoon’s power surge had flooded an area the size of a large city, drowning several hundred people.

“Athena, can you perform a systems check on Iris? She’s reporting a level-seven distress call for a transition. There must be some bug.”

Raven was saying something which was lost in the wind. “…help? I hope you know … none of us…”

Radiant ignored him. He had more important things to focus on now.

“Iris is fully functional,” Athena replied through the earbud. “The Chief Executive of the Czech Republic requests immediate intervention for a level-seven transition. The EU team is working on evacuation efforts in response to the Sleepwalker; they will not arrive in Prague for at least three hours.”

Radiant sighed. It looked like his plans for focusing on alternative global solutions would have to wait—at least until this most recent threat was brought under control.

“Coordinates,” he said.

“I thought your plan was to be passive,” Athena reminded him, her tone tense. “I doubt the UNEOA will appreciate your intervention on this matter, under the circumstances.”

I have to live with my decisions. They don’t.

“If this really is a level seven, even Samael won’t make it there in time,” Radiant rationalized. “So, once again, coordinates, please. I’d rather not fly blind.”

After a long moment, coordinate overlays flickered across the interior of his visor. They showed his current position followed by a map of Europe, including a close-up on central Europe. The last projection showed an inset of the Czech Republic.

“You’re leaving me behind?” Raven’s whine cut through the wind. “What of our epic airborne duel of Good and Evil?” The feather-cloaked rogue executed a theatrical twirl.

Radiant didn’t grace him with a response. He was occupied with the most recent projection on his visor, which showed the Czech Republic’s capital city marked with a blinking red dot.

When he had a clear idea of the distance and direction, he transformed into a beam of light and projected himself east.

Less than a millisecond later, Radiant materialized three hundred miles away, surrounded by a corona of luminescence reflected on the clouds beneath him. It took him a moment to collect his senses and re-orient himself.

The clouds blocked his view of the landscape below as he waited for the beep in his earbud to confirm that Athena’s satellite signal had tracked him. His visor soon informed him that he was hanging above the German–Czech border. He hadn’t gone quite far enough.

After two more short jumps, he could see the city of Prague below. The sky was nearly cloudless here, allowing him to make out a sea of red brick roofs nestled on either side of the meandering Vltava River. Under different circumstances, he would have liked to spend some time by admiring the Baroque architecture with its high-peaked roof elements and tall stone archways. He had once been a student exploring the similarities between the Baroque movement and Moscow’s Stalinist Empire style as a means to expand his own professional background.

But today, his attention was on any destruction caused by a threat level seven. He couldn’t spot any of it from his current altitude, however. He had to get closer.

Honing in on a location without crashing into any solid structures was a bit of a challenge. He could cross the globe faster than the Traveler could teleport himself, but precise short-range jumps within a city environment still proved difficult.

“No signs of destruction from three hundred feet up,” Radiant reported into his helmet. “I need more information.”

“The target is a local university student, Krystof Drobny,” Athena informed. “Twenty-two years old. Suspended for drug abuse, LSD. He was last seen in the lower quarter near St. Nicholas Church, a very populated area northwest of Charles Bridge.”

Radiant adjusted his position to three hundred feet above the brick roofs, just low enough to compare the map overlay on his visor to his actual view of the city below. Another flare jump brought him above the town square which bordered the church.

“The target is surrounded by a large area of effect that is actually … visible. Maybe instantly lethal. This is unconfirmed, but please be careful,” Athena said with an urgent voice.

Now Radiant heard the screams so he looked down. Numerous people were running through the city’s alleys. The historic two- and three-story buildings were lined up seamlessly, not offering many escape routes for those who searched for other ways to leave the area.

“Has my intervention been announced to city officials?” he asked into his helmet. The Czech government had requested help from the Covenant, not a rogue, but he would worry about his legal status later.

“I am informing them right now,” Athena confirmed. “It should be on every news channel within minutes.”

He hoped that he wouldn’t have to worry about friendly fire this time. It wasn’t uncommon for panicked people to confuse super-powered allies with threats, and Radiant was aware that his luminescent wings—his most recognizable feature—weren’t visible in broad daylight.

After another short flare jump, Radiant spotted the target. Now that he had a clearer picture, the reported threat level made sense.

A figure in jeans and a sweater shuffled along an otherwise deserted street, resembling something out of a nightmare. He was surrounded by a huge aura, around 150 feet in diameter, made up of greenish light and swirling shadows that passed through any walls they touched. The shadows were each about the size and shape of a person, although the many-voiced screams echoing from them as they swept through the air were nowhere near human. The young man’s limbs made unsteady jerking movements as he dragged himself along the street as though he was trying to stop himself from moving.

Good Lord. This is more than just a transition. A faint sickness settled into Radiant’s gut. He had studied the reports on most of the known transitions that had happened to date, and he couldn’t recall anything that compared to this. As he watched, an elderly couple got caught up in the green-tinged aura and vanished, dissolving into shadows that joined the others on their horrific carousel. The absorption of the pair expanded the aura of greenish light by about six or seven feet.

He spawns shadows from living beings?

“Update,” Radiant reported into his helmet. “This is definitely a level eight, and maybe even a level nine. I need everyone to move away from this area. Now.”

“Can people take cover inside buildings?” Athena asked, concerned.

“Negative. The effect passes through walls, and it’s growing.”

Radiant shot a thin laser beam down into the aura. The shadow it penetrated squirmed and twisted, but continued to move. He tried the most aggressive beams he could produce—a pair of white-hot rays each about six inches wide—to the same effect, except that they cracked and melted the cobbled road below.

What on earth?

Radiant was dumbfounded. The presence of shadows suggested a Darkshaper classification, but the aura appeared unaffected by light, its opposing element. Whatever is wrong with powers lately, it’s getting worse. Radiant was uncomfortably reminded of the Sleepwalker.

A tentative link formed in his mind. It was possible that hallucinogenic drugs had played a part in this transition, instead of the Sleepwalker’s overdose of sleeping pills, but there was no way of telling because the Sleepwalker’s aura had never grown.

Just then, the Shadowspawner stopped and looked up into the sky. He was too far away for Radiant to make out the details, but his face resembled a twisted mask rather than the dazed expression of someone on a drug trip. Unlike the screaming shadows surrounding him, he still looked human.

Radiant guessed that his lasers would kill the target with a direct hit, but he couldn’t take the risk. It was too dangerous to kill the target because powers that absorbed energy unleashed all of its capacity to disastrous effect if the host was destroyed. Radiant had observed this phenomenon in the aftermath of Maelstrom and Osmotic’s deaths. He had seen what had become of the city of Berlin: half of it would be uninhabitable for decades.

“Samael is on his way,” Athena announced into his ear. “ETA just over thirty minutes.”

“You need Paladin,” he replied. “A Revoker’s power nullification is the only safe way to end this.”

“Andrey … I was asked to tell you to get out.”

Radiant ignored her request. It was too late for second thoughts, and he had already considered and discarded several action plans. As much as he hated standing by, he knew he needed a solution that wouldn’t cause countless casualties. And he couldn’t risk being touched by that aura.

Three hundred feet below, the Shadowspawner continued walking down the length of the residential street with unsteady jerking movements.

“The rest of the team will arrive on scene in about four hours,” the voice in his earbud informed. In softer tones, she added, “And Andrey? Be careful.” The connection cut off with a crackling sound.

He was on his own, not that he was surprised. The Covenant’s predilection for territorial claims was one of the things that had driven him away in the first place. All that was left for him to do was to stall until backup arrived. Unfortunately the backup might be Samael, whose flying speed surpassed Athena’s aircrafts, but that was a problem for later.

Radiant shot a wide, super-heated laser beam from each of his palms, using them to cut into the road ahead of the shuffling level eight threat. A section of cobblestones melted away while its remaining edges glowed with heat.

The Shadowspawner stopped, opened his mouth, and released an inhuman scream echoed by each of his shadow projections. Radiant had seen some messed up things during his time with the Covenant, but he still resisted the urge to shut out the noise with his helmet. Nothing happened for a moment, and then the carousel of humanoid shadows lurched ahead to surge across the half-melted pavement in a single fluid motion. By the time the Shadowspawner had reached the destroyed stretch of road, he was able to pass over it unimpeded as though the lasers had never touched it.

So the shadow aura absorbs heat and molds materials? Radiant couldn’t connect what he saw to anything that he had experienced before, and, unfortunately, he was much more efficient when he calculated known factors.

As the aura passed through a pair of historic buildings on either side of the road, another six feet or so were added to its range. More absorptions.

Radiant forced his mind to think about solutions rather than the unknown number of added victims. He flare jumped ahead to get a better view of the alley where the Shadowspawner was traveling. The absorbing aura grew with each building it touched, expanding up and out in all directions.

People think they’re safe inside their homes, but they’re not. Radiant wished he spoke Czech so he could warn people to get out of their houses.

He aimed another pair of laser beams at a stone carving, protruding from the building beside the Shadowspawner. These lasers were surgically thin, intended to cut rather than melt. The targeted stone adornment broke free, plummeting three stories, hitting the alley below with a calamitous crash, missing the threat by more than three feet, but the shadows didn’t even flinch. Streams of people flooded into the streets up ahead, some of them panicked enough to run in the wrong direction.

Radiant produced a thin laser beam to burn a glowing arrow into the section of road ahead of them, directing them away from the approaching threat. Some people took the cue and redirected their evacuation while others followed them.

Radiant closed his eyes, his racing thoughts delivering ideas. He couldn’t enter the greenish glow surrounding his opponent because it might kill him instantly. He could try to disable the Shadowspawner’s legs with thin precision lasers, but if he accidentally killed his target, all the stored energy would be unleashed on the city. Radiant knew from experience that a precise, nonlethal hit on a moving target over a hundred feet away was next to impossible.

He opened his eyes to turn his attention back to the swirling aura of shadows, which had to be fifty to sixty feet across by now, when he noticed that none of the threat’s shadowy minions had passed through the glass when the Shadowspawner moved past a number of large shop windows. In fact, they avoided it as if the material caused them discomfort or pain. How had he failed to notice this pattern before?

Reducing his altitude, Radiant balled his hands into fists and smashed every window he could reach. He watched as the shards of glass scattered across the ground below in front of the Shadowspawner’s path, and then flare jumped ahead to continue smashing windows on the other side of the road.

After scattering glass splinters across a good portion of the Shadowspawner’s path, Radiant noticed the aura hesitated to advance across the shards. The level-eight threat changed direction with an earsplitting scream before heading down a side street.

Radiant directed his lasers at a sandstone building which fronted the alley. The beams sliced through the crumbly stone in seconds, detaching a pair of small stone balconies, sending them crashing down into the alley about forty feet ahead of the threat. As the Shadowspawner approached the broken sections of balcony, Radiant released another pair of super-heated beams. A few thousand degrees of heat turned the sandstone rubble into a large puddle of molten glass within seconds.

The Shadowspawner stopped just ahead of the glowing orange puddle of liquid glass and screamed again. The sound was repeated six or seven dozen times by his shadow minions, who once again refused to absorb the heat of the puddle for their master. After a minute of screaming at the obstacle, the Shadowspawner turned around and shuffled in the opposite direction, back the way he had come. He didn’t get very far before Radiant created another puddle of liquid glass from a sandstone pillar, enclosing him.

So long as the threat wasn’t able to move through walls like his shadows, Radiant had him trapped. He knew from experience, however, that he couldn’t allow himself to relax just yet. Things often went wrong in the worst ways when they appeared under control. For one thing, he wasn’t sure whether the Shadowspawner would remain contained once the melted glass puddles cooled.

Radiant jumped to a nearby rooftop, and watched for a few more minutes. Thankfully, it looked as if the threat was still unable to progress in any direction even as the glass puddles solidified. It wasn’t much of a relief, but it was an improvement. The Covenant should have time to fly Paladin in and end this before any more people were sucked into the aura.

As he watched the streets below, he saw more and more people fleeing from their homes. He observed the evacuation with a clenched jaw and hunched shoulders, knowing that this outcome was more akin to a disaster than a victory. The people he had failed to save hadn’t merely died. Something awful had happened to them. Thinking about it brought back the sickening twist in the pit of his stomach.

Hopefully those poor souls will find peace, whatever peace exists.

A younger version of himself would have said some prayers, but his faith in divine justice had withered and died along with his wife.

An all too familiar voice startled Radiant from his melancholy. “We told you to leave.” Samael.

Before he could react, Samael generated a vortex of violent winds that knocked Radiant off the edge of the rooftop and sent him into a spiraling free fall.

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13 thoughts on “3.3

  1. As always, votes are appreciated if you enjoyed the chapter: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=anathema

    Regular reader numbers and votes have gone down quite a bit since the end of the second arc, and especially since chapter 3.1. I’m trying to figure out why so I can make adjustments and improve the story. Is the pacing too slow? Or maybe some chapters feel needlessly dark? The latter is an issue quite some people have with the first arc, and I’m planning to edit all of it fairly soon. I don’t think I found my footing yet when I wrote it.

    Long story short, please don’t ever be afraid of posting negative comments. I’d really like to improve as a writer, but I can only do that if I know my flaws. It’s not always easy to spot them myself, so I need your help.

    • Well it might be the character shifts. People start reading, grow attached to a favorite character who’s then yanked away from them. Maybe?

      I enjoyed the chapter, it really hammers home why people are scared of Evolved. I guess also why people like the heroes so much too.

      Technically speaking I don’t think heated sandstone becomes glass. Maybe if it’s a type highly enriched in quartz. Or maybe you meant puddles of molten rock which also contain molten glass. Actually you probably meant that last one.

      • I know I’m feeling this a little. I really like to get attached to a small number of “main” characters with others being supporting cast. As of right now, I don’t even know if there is a main character.

        • Mascot, Dancer and Radiant are ‘my’ main characters, but that’s up to the readers to decide. Kid for instance appears to be quite popular.

          Reader numbers increased by a lot during the fifth and sixth arcs, hopefully everyone who kept reading until that point has found someone to get attached to.

  2. “Radiant materialized five hundred kilometers away and less than a millisecond later, surrounded by a corona of luminescence that reflected back from the clouds just beneath him. He needed a moment to collect his senses and re-orientate himself.”
    Remove the ‘and’.

    Non-typo review coming later.

    • The Czech government had requested help from the Covenant, not a rogue, but he’s worry about his legal status later.

      he’s —> he’d; I think

      • Always happy to talk although I can be a bit quiet at times. I’ll try to remember to leave a comment on each chapter if you’d like 🙂

        Btw I changed my mind and molten sandstone blocking Shadowspawner makes sense because I’m an idiot and silicon dioxide and optical properties of molten material being irrelevant to this.

        I maybe shouldn’t comment immediately before going to bed, I’m not at my most coherent…

  3. So far this story’s getting better as it goes on. Sure it’s slow at the beginning, and certain elements aren’t as well explained as well as I’d like, but its improving.

    Some advice for more readers: try creating a TvTropes page for this story. That’s what helped to get Worm a lot of readers (including myself).

    Personally, for the table of contents I prefer new chapters at the bottom and old chapters at the top. But that’s just me.

    • Thanks for commenting! Which elements would you like more information on? I’d like to avoid doing more exposition – that would slow the starting chapters down even more – but I’m sure I can sneak a bit more in. My buffer of pre-written chapters is now reaching the point where action and ‘big stuff’ happen much more frequently, I hope you’ll all stick with me until then.

      No one else has commented about the table of contents, so I’ll probably change it again.

  4. And now we see where the name comes from… Also, it’s things like this power that hammer in what it must be like to be an active superhuman. We like to imagine the glamor and comic book slugfests, but there’s nasty crap that has to be dealt with.

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