"Why didn't you kill me?" Seth Solar sat cross-legged atop a sea of scorched rubble. He was surrounded by Panopticon elite droids. His hands were shackled together with null cuffs. Cracks lined his skin, glowing with barely contained light. Patches of him were gone like shards broken off a porcelain doll.
"I don't know. Pity, I guess. When I see you, I have an odd sense I can see what could have been" said the boy. No, not a boy anymore. He had saved the day. He had protected his friends. He had put it all on the line and won. He had done what it had taken to be a man.
More than a man – a hero.
Not without cost, though. One of the man's eyes was scorched shut with blackened, charred flesh.
"I don't need your pity," said Seth.
"I know you don't. Just don't make me regret handing it out toyou." The man nodded at the droids. "Take him in."
The droids corralled Seth into a waiting HV (Hover Vehicle) convoy. Before the doors closed on Seth, however, he stopped and turned. "Pity, huh. Keep showing this world pity. Let's see how far you go before you have no more left to give."
The door closed shut, and the convoy sped away through the night sky.
"Shit man, we did it!" Adam hobbled over to the man and gave him a light punch on the shoulder. Elaine followed close behind. Both had wide smiles on their faces. Smiles of triumph over a desperate struggle.
"Take it easy, Adam," said the man. "There's still some cleanup left to do. Trident affiliates and goons we have to dig out of the dirt."
"Yeah, that can wait after a long, long break," said Adam. "Or maybe someone else can handle it. After all, with this mission, we're gonna be superstars! We stopped the reactor from blowing up AND we uncovered Solomon Solar's crazy family shenanigans. Plus we jailed his crazy kid.
I bet we're gonna get placed in the B, no, maybe A rank to start off with! We'll be rich!"
"We can think about that later. And we can't rely on anyone else to do this. We were the ones that figured everything out, even when nobody believed us. It's up to us to see this all the way through," said the man. He held a fist, showing his mint green shield. "Even if it means more sleepless nights."
"Aw man, you're killing me over here with these work hours," said Adam. "If only I was like, a zombie or something, I'd have no issue working like a dog all the time."
"A…zombie?" The man blinked, mouth slightly agape. He wondered why that word sounded so familiar? He stayed silent for a few awkward seconds, lost in strange thought.
"You alright?" said Adam.
"You're too tired," said Elaine. She grasped the man's hand in hers. "And Adam, for once, is right. We're super, but we're still just people at the end of the day. Rest is important. But more than that, I really am glad that you're alive.
She hugged the man, and that touch broke the man out of his sudden train of odd thought, dragging him back to reality. He smiled and hugged her back.
"Yeah, you're right," said the man.
"Damn, even with one toasted eye, you still beat me out, huh," grumbled Adam, but he smiled anyway, happy to see his two closest friends getting even closer. He looked beyond the two, at the sky. The dark veil of night scattered as the rising sun cast down its amber rays.
The sun was proof of a new day. A new tomorrow. That all they had faced and struggled and won over in the past night was, well, past.
Ten years later-
The man, now the undisputed rank 1 hero in the world, stood in the starry void of space. Behind him was the blue and green world he had called his home. Across the continents were stretches of angry red like freshly opened scars.
Signs of conflict all over the entire planet as it struggled against a devastating attack from an extraterrestrial species called the 'Grey'.
Against this formidable foe that touched down just five years ago, humanity fought back with all its might. No, not just humanity. After the Hero had met with the mysterious entity known as the Voice – the hivemind behind all variants – they had agreed to ally and fight back the alien invaders.
Countries and heroes and corporations joined together in this defense, forming a united front not seen throughout the history of human civilization.
No less was demanded of the immense threat that was the Grey, however.
The Grey were a mighty warrior race, each one of them being living weapons of unparalleled destruction. But most deadly was their ability to assimilate the powers of worthy fighters they felled. For each great hero that died in conflict was another Grey that took that power to bolster their own ranks.
But now, the fate of this conflict now teetered at the brink.
The hero stood against the One, the mightiest warrior among the Grey and the maintainer of the Rift, a color-leeched tear in space which the Grey used to channel their invasion.
"Get out…of my planet!" The man, now the rank 1 hero in the world, shouted at the One. His voice did not project through the soundless void of space, but his thoughts radiated through the One's mind regardless as the Grey were capable of telepathic thought.
"Resisting assimilation to this degree is pointless," said the One. "Embrace it as all other have before you. Then, the losses will end. Your species will live on within the Grey where there is no hatred, no fear, no conflict of body or mind that has fraught your planet and people since the moment they became more than mere beast."
It was humanoid in a very rough sense, standing upright on two legs, but the similarities ended there. This being was far larger than the average man, and instead of being covered with soft, yielding skin, grey carapace clad its body like armor. Instead of having two arms, it had six, all of them ending in fists covered with gauntlet carapace.
The One did not have a discernible face. Its body was bulky and oval shaped, covered in thick grey carapace plating like every other Grey. However, the upper half of its body donned a resplendent mane of thick, regal white hair – a sign that the One was truly special among all the other Greys.
Above the mane was a dark strip with two glowing white, circular eyes that stared at the Hero with unblinking fortitude.
A ring of white energy floated above the One. Much like a halo, though instead of being a sign of angelic comfort, it now became synonymous with mass carnage.
"Sorry," said the Hero. He raised his shield above his head, clenching his fist as he channeled his final attack – humanity's final attack. "But a dream you force on others is nothing but a nightmare."