The Hero's fists flew forward with cannonball power, aimed right at the grey Rift. His knuckles were encased in a pale mint green - stabilizing energy meant to knit back together the dimensional tear.
But before the Hero's blow could strike true at the tear, he was stopped.
An arm jutted out from the tear, holding a mass of foggy grey that rebuffed the Hero's blow. The Hero flew backwards from the might of his own strike but righted himself in mid-air.
From the Rift, the rest of the entity belonging to that arm crawled out. It looked like a humanoid made out of fog, comprised of misty, formless grey. The entity's body seemed to love company in its colorlessness, sapping vibrance out of its surroundings, leeching the azure blues out of the clear sky.
"Who are you!?" said the Hero. He manifested his shield on his right arm. As the symbol of humanity's hope, the Hero had changed the design of his shield from the plain three pointed structure that looked like it belonged to a medieval fare.
Now it was shaped like a diadem and far larger than before, almost big enough to encompass most of the Hero's powerful frame. It was a bright emerald green with a shining seven pointed golden star emblazoned upon its gleaming surface.
The star shone bright like the sun, having inherited a fragment of Seth Solar's solar reactor during the Grey War.
The formless humanoid did not move. It simply stood there, holding its own shield of rippling fog.
"Not much for talking, I see." The Hero narrowed his eyes, peering behind the entity at the Rift. It was still open, an ugly scar in this bright, beautiful world.
If the Hero wanted to close it, he needed to get through this guardian first. He looked down at its shield of fog.
"A mirror matchup, eh?" The Hero smiled as he brought his shield up. "Alright, let's do this!"
The Hero held his shield out with one arm and punched it with the other. The star symbol shone before unleashing a blazing solar beam.
The formless entity raised his shield. The golden beam struck but broke apart as it reached the shield, the light turning dull grey before scattering like falling flower petals.
'Guess ranged attacks won't work,' thought the Hero. He clenched his free fist tight. 'But the punch I landed before didn't hurt me. Fine by me - I'll handle this with my fists.'
The Hero flew forward, cocking back his arm, the muscles on his developed arm rippling and coiling and charging power.
The entity flew forward too, meeting the Hero's fist with its shield.
"Get out of my world!" roared the Hero as he unleashed his punch. The punch accelerated exponentially, the countless 'shields' infused in his cells storing and expelling energy to massively amplify his attack.
It was an attack that could rival the likes of Vanguard in his prime. No less was demanded of the Hero who defeated the Greys.
The Hero was sent flying backwards, hurtling down to the ground like a falling meteor. In an instant, he lost sight of the entity as he smashed through clouds. He was not hurt, but his eyes were wide open. He had been repelled so easily.
No, that was not exactly it-
'It didn't feel like I was hitting anything,' thought the Hero. 'When I hit the shield, my fist got stopped, but I didn't make any real contact. It felt like I was just phasing through air.
The Hero kicked his legs down, generating force to stop his descent. He was now low enough that he could see the shining white city of Haven below, full of people he needed to protect.
"Panopticon, Heroes, requesting backup!" said the Hero as he put a hand to his ear.
There was no contact. His commlink was dead. The entity must have been capable of some kind of interference, but this was to be expected. Extradimensional beings always interfered with technology in some capacity - the Grey War had made that clear enough.
But that was alright. The Hero knew the value of his friends and comrades, but he was the Hero because he could fight by himself when it mattered.
Pushing off the air, the Hero soared up again with valiant stride, resolve filling his heart to defend the peaceful world he had worked so hard to make.
"What the hell is going on!?" The Hero threw punch after punch at the shield of fog. All of his hits stopped short, repelled by some invisible, imperceivable force.
But that was not the worrying part.
He and the entity were on street level now. The city was thoroughly broken apart from the shockwaves of the Hero's clash. But even that was to be expected.
The Hero would have liked to keep the fight in the air, out of civilian reach, but he knew that if it came down to it, he would fight on the streets while everyone else focused on evacuating.
The Panopticon's new efficient evac system would have cleared the city in just thirty minutes.
But there…was nobody here?
The streets were empty. The buildings, once a resplendent white, were dulling, turning grey.
"Rah!" The Hero slammed his shield on the ground, creating a massive detonation of energy that blasted the entity backwards. It smashed through several buildings like they were made of cardboard. However, its destructive path back made no sounds, no crack and shatter or rubble.
Even the explosions it created from smashing through vehicles were soundless.
It was like the entity was leeching everything away from the world. Not just color, but sound as well.
"Where is everyone!?" said the Hero, panicked. He used his brief moment of respite to look around, trying to gage what happened.
Like the fleeting color and sound, the people had gone too. The greying city was a foreboding symbol of not hope, but apocalypse, of emptiness and loss.
The Hero grimaced. Were they all dead? Had they just been abducted? Elaine and Krysa - were they okay?
Was this an illusion?
The Hero fell down to a knee, putting a hand to the side of his head. A skull splitting headache crackled through his brain.
"Wh-what?" The Hero closed his eyes in pain. When he opened them again, he saw for a flickering moment the streets of Haven as they had been before the Age of Peace.
Scarred with graffiti. Populated by rats and trash as much as it was people. The people walking through these streets were shadowy blurs. One of them walked near him.
He reached out to it, but the moment he made contact, the vision of Haven disappeared, leaving him in his own world again.
The world had turned a shade more grey, more dark.
The entity was in front of the Hero again.
"What kind of trick is this!?" said the Hero, raising his shield. "My head - you're in my head, aren't you!?"
The Hero could shield every single one of his neurons such that he was utterly immune to any attack that affected his mind.
So how was this happening?
The entity did not respond to the Hero. Instead, it just stood there, shield by its side, as if waiting.
Waiting for what…the Hero did not know.
The Hero blinked. It was…snowing?
No. Not snowing.
Ashes were falling from the sky. He glanced up. The sky was no more. It was completely black. Not by night, but as if some godlike force had taken a black marker and scribbled all over the once bright and beautiful sky.
"You-don't think you've won!" said the Hero. "Wherever you sent everyone, whatever you did with them - I'll reverse it all! I'll fight to my dying breath!"
"Looks like you need some help!" A voice from the sky.
From the dark, Adam crashed down, his body encased in metal. He stood in between the Hero and the entity.
"Adam!" the Hero felt relieved to see an old companion. "What happened to Elaine and Krysa!? To everyone!?"
"They told me to help out, so here I am!" said Adam. He looked at the entity. "This thing's giving you trouble? You're losing your touch, man. Here, I'll show you how this is done!"
Adam charged forth, punch cocked back.
"Wait, attacks won't work!" began the Hero, but it was too late.
Adam punched into the entity' shield.
"What the-?" Adam raised a brow as his fist stopped against the shield.
The entity used its free arm to grasp Adam's face.
And then -
He broke down, scattering into crumbling fragments.
Adam was no more.