The Paragons: Deus Ex Astra, Book 2, Chapter 6: The Gathering

by Libbylawrence, CSyphrett and Doc Quantum

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At her home in Bavaria, Dona Ajax heard a noise in the attic. She had expected to see her father or even Jack Bicci returned early from their trip, but instead the girl saw a figure who seemed to step from the pages of ancient history. His face was grim, but his posture was not aggressive, and she wondered why he looked vaguely familiar. “Who are you?” she asked.

The figure replied in a deep but softened voice, “I am called the Son of Vulcan.”

“Oh, I remember you now,” she said. “You were one of those heroes who helped out during the Crisis. But what are you doing here now? Are you looking for my dad or one of his old pals, or something? Don’t tell me you’re here to collect donations to build a retired action-heroes’ home.”

The Son of Vulcan ignored her attempt to use humor to defuse the tension in the room. “I’m here to help you find the one you seek. I would help you smooth over the emotional trauma that might prevent you from finding the power behind the current crisis. His power is great, but I have my own resources as well.”

Dona nodded. “Whoever is behind this is keeping Sinistro and my dad from detecting him. Why am I immune?”

“Because the same power he is drawing upon also brought your heroic career into being,” said the Son of Vulcan.

“Wait a minute,” she replied. “I don’t have a career. I’m just putting on this costume to try to keep Dad from getting hurt helping Jack. I’m not about to start calling myself by some stupid name like Power Girl.”

The Son of Vulcan said nothing, but he led Dona across the attic, and in a flash they vanished.


In Barcelona, Spain, Rafael Guerra was standing before a mirror in his room. He now wore a colorful costume of red and white with a sleek-looking motorcycle helmet. Looking at his image in the mirror, he approved of the design.

“Luiza really came through for me,” he muttered to himself. “For a girl reporter who claims to have no skills when it comes to the domestic arts, she whipped up a pretty cool costume. I guess, if this was a comic-book, I’d turn and say something dramatic like — Stardust is born!

“Talk to yourself often, do you?” said Dona Ajax as she and the Son of Vulcan suddenly appeared in Rafael’s cluttered room. She eyed the colorful baseball posters on the walls and glanced rather appreciatively at Rafael himself.

Rafael appraised the two. He didn’t recognize the girl, but the man in the ancient Roman getup could easily be another one of those fake gods like the one he’d encountered, if he didn’t recognize him from his reading. “You’re Son of Vulcan from the Sentinels of Justice,” he said. “What do you want with me?”

“I shall explain on the way,” said the Son of Vulcan. “We cannot stop to talk, but we would have your fellowship, Stardust.”

“You’re not speaking Spanish, but I can understand both of you,” Rafael said.

“Where understanding is needed,” said the Son of Vulcan, “not even the boundaries of language can stop us.”

The new Stardust nodded resolutely. The strange man seemed sincere and strangely calming, and the girl’s costume reminded him of the one worn by another old hero from the past. He had been reading everything he could about them since he gained his own powers. “I’m in — but I don’t exactly know just what it is you want.”

“Nothing much,” Dona said, shrugging. “Just to save the world.”


The new Dart rocketed into downtown Rome. There, in the midst of the Italian capital, Il Dardo saw five men wearing winged silver armor flying through the night sky above, each looking like some kind of modern-day Icarus. The Dart saw the gaping hole in a bank down the street and shook his head. He was able to quickly guess what was happening. These five men weren’t part of the mythological trend at all, but were using technology to make themselves appear as such in order to get away with robbing the bank.

What makes people dress up in ridiculous-looking costumes to pull off feats like that? he asked himself, then cringed as he looked down at his own colorful outfit. I’m glad I didn’t say that aloud. Well, in any case, they’re not going to keep the money.

The Italian action-hero flew to the top of the nearest building and lined up for his next move, watching as the armored men flew forward. Taking a deep breath, he then ran and launched himself through the air like a dart. The lead flier’s eyes widened as he glanced over for a second to see a human rocket that was hurtling toward him at breakneck speed. The sharp point of the Dart’s helmet shattered the flier’s armor a millisecond later, sending the would-be Icarus flying almost naked safely through a nearby open window.

I always was good at billiards, the Dart thought to himself as he used the strike to change his trajectory toward the next two men in line, slamming their heads together, letting them drop to the street, and pushing off into a rocketing kick that embedded the fourth Icarus into a concrete wall.

The hero rebounded at the fifth Icarus, who jerked himself out of the way at the last minute and began to laugh at his good fortune. But the flier quickly changed his tune as he saw the Italian action-hero hit the building behind him and rebound right back at him at double the speed. One flying fist ripped the flier’s jet-pack away from his armor as the Dart passed. The man screamed all the way until he impacted the street.

Il Dardo brushed his hands clean as he flew off over the horizon, enjoying the fleeting feeling of a job well done. As Dr. Lorenzo Puzzini, he would probably be needed at the emergency room soon to take care of five injured felons.

Upon reaching an alleyway close to the hospital, however, three colorfully dressed figures were there to greet him. “We have need of you, Dart,” said the Son of Vulcan.


The odd foursome made their next stop outside the Ottinger house outside of Vienna, Austria, where Madeleine Fehr was clearing the walk of snow. “Heir of the Panther Woman, we need your prowess,” declared the Son of Vulcan as a startled Madeleine raised the shovel defensively.

“You know of my grandmother?” she asked as she looked around the empty yard to make sure no one else was around. “Then I’ll follow my instincts and become Panthera.”

The new heroes watched with amazement as the schoolgirl turned into the shapely and deadly Panthera. The animalistic heroine sniffed and bowed her head in acquiescence as she circled the group and became aware of their unique scents. She did this by second nature, giving her actions no thought.

Dona Ajax eyed her warily. She was beginning to feel vastly out of place with such superhuman types. Still, she felt as if she was needed and could somehow contribute. She had been the one to explain what she knew to Stardust and the Dart during their brief, magically powered trips to Italy and Austria, and now she did the same for Panthera as they made their way to their next stop.


The Black Lion drove his black Jeep through the streets of Manchester, England, on the trail of another huge beast. With more and more sightings of mythological beasts and creatures all the time, it began to remind him of the temporal chaos that had happened during the red skies of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, back before he donned his mask. He then told himself not to think like that, because all the events of the past few days just had to be isolated incidents. After all, the Crisis was a one-time thing, wasn’t it?

The Scottish action-hero continued debating his notions as he braked to a halt when the beast came into view; it looked an enlarged animal like those of H.G. Wells’ The Food of the Gods, but he knew from experience that it was nothing from mythology. The masked crime-fighter sighed and muttered to himself, “Where’s Cap’n Atom when you need ‘im?”

Jimmy Newman had been a petty crook before he bought a powerful device — a Yank villain and arch-enemy of Captain Atom who called himself Doctor Spectro had created it — that had been capable of creating solid objects of light. Black Lion had read that Jock o’ Kent destroyed that device a couple of months ago, but Newman had been caught in the blast and had somehow been able to internalize some of the thing’s energy as a kind of super-power. Still, Newman could only create one thing — a giant black mouse that he used as both a steed and as a murderous weapon during his robbery attempts.

Newman regarded the Black Lion with hatred, and the mouse roared menacingly. The Black Lion folded his arms and laughed at the comical image. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” said the Black Lion. “All right, all right. I’m just asking this once. Come along quietly, please.”

The villain looked up and down the empty street, but since there was no one in sight to use as a hostage, he decided that maybe this once he would let himself be arrested without the usual mayhem. After all, his last confrontation with a new hero hadn’t gone so well. “It’s OK, Fenwick,” Jimmy Newman said to his mouse. “Back into your box.” The shadow mouse slowly faded from sight at his command.

The Black Lion relaxed slightly. This was the first time in a long while a malefactor had the brains to not try anything. No other crooks he’d met had ever surrendered as quickly as Jimmy Newman. That Jock o’ Kent fellow must have really given him a fright. Why was it that he never seemed to run into crooked pacifists trying to rob others without violence? He always seemed to encounter bloodthirsty gunmen, murderous criminals, and the like. The Scotsman sighed quietly.

After leaving Jimmy Newman with the authorities, the Black Lion was surprised by the sight of five strange figures. If he hadn’t recognized the tall one dressed as a Roman legionnaire to be the Son of Vulcan, he’d have assumed they were more false gods rather than the new action-heroes they were. The Son of Vulcan explained that he was needed to put an end to the mythological menace.

“You’re not the Sentinels of Justice, but you’ll have to do,” said the Black Lion as he joined them.


Jock o’ Kent ran from the Welsh coast across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and kept running until he reached the other end. There, armored fish-men were boiling up out of the sea. Their leader stood on a floating platform to one side of the forming sections of his army.

“This is just bloody marvelous,” grumbled the hero. “Everyone please return to the ocean!” the hero then said in a shout resembling thunder. “Please return to the water, or I will be forced to take action!”

“Who are you to command me and mine?” demanded the general on the platform, his fish-scaled green skin bristling at the thought. “We come to seize this island, and nothing will stop us.”

“We’ll see about that,” Jock said to himself. He leaped and began using the army’s horned helmets as stepping stones to get to the general. Every man he stepped on he kicked down; they did not get back up. Then he stood on the platform. “Last chance,” Jock stated grimly.

“I will still your arrogant tongue,” said the ocean master, pulling a black sword from a scabbard on his back. He raised his sword to deliver a head chopping. One fist slammed the general in the face. He flew away from the giant wizard hero, skimming the ocean like a rock.

“Would anybody else want what he got?” asked Jock. “If so, come ahead.”

Apparently they all wanted what their leader had gotten, because the whole army tried to get on the floating platform to get to the strongman. His huge hands became jackhammers as he proceeded to take the ocean army apart. Fish-men in shattered armor flew in all directions as Jock did his work on his enemies.

One fish-man had watched the whole thing from the landing spot. He was the only one of them still standing after the carnage was over. Jock calmly jogged to shore, brushing his hands together. “Go home and never return,” he said to the lone survivor of his destruction. “I really don’t want to see you again. Am I understood?”

“Yes, sir,” said the lucky fish-man. He fell to the ground as the giant vanished, glad not to be damaged like his fellow invaders had been, his knees weak with relief. He threw off his armor and dived back into the safety of the Irish Sea.

Jock o’ Kent turned around to see six new figures in odd clothing step out of a portal toward him. He spoke before the Son of Vulcan could say anything. “Well, it’s about time one o’ you showed up to help. Let’s go kick some bloody arse.”


At the Sundin house in Stockholm, Sweden, Alvar Sundin looked up in his artist’s studio to see light fill the room once more. A mysterious group of seven figures took shape before his eyes, and he jumped back. “What is this, an action-hero convention?” he said.

“You’ve been expecting us, have you not?” said the Son of Vulcan. “Use the talisman. We need your power.”

Alvar rubbed his pendant and was soon transformed into an agile, bare-chested figure wearing nothing but form-fitting blue pants, blue boots, and a golden helmet, under which flowed long blond hair. “It worked again,” he said. “I have become Thor, the god of thunder!”

“That can’t be Thor,” said Dona Ajax. “He’s just another mythological fake.”

Thor frowned at the girl’s remarks. “I am Thor, foolish girl, and I have the powers to prove it.” Dona looked doubtful.

The Dart extended his arm and shook hands with the man. “I’m the new Dart. We want your help in trying to stop the source of all the super-powered beings who’ve been popping up lately.”

“Glad to meet you,” said Thor. “I would like to help out, and not just for my own personal reasons. I have been keeping up with the story on the news, with all these strange mythological types popping up everywhere. Someone must be causing it all.”

“We go to face that being,” said the Son of Vulcan. “He has tapped into a fundamental source of universal power, and that same source of power has fought his efforts by creating super-beings in order to draw the attention of this world’s heroes. The enemy has countered that ploy, as Dona has discovered, by blinding all pre-existing heroes to his location. The power source fought back once again and has influenced reality by nudging you new heroes into being in order to free itself from the enemy’s thrall. Go now, and bring the other one here among us.”

At that, Thor quickly left the studio.

“What about you?” asked the Black Lion as they waited for Thor to return. “Shouldn’t you also be unaware of what’s going on, since you’ve been an established action-hero for years?”

“I admit it’s affected me as well,” said the Son of Vulcan. “But my connection to the gods of Rome has enabled me to see what others cannot. Perhaps that is why I am able to resist the reality-altering might of our foe.”

Thor returned with his transformed daughter, who was still in the form of Frigg, and who kept her eyes closed until she was addressed with a direct question. The transformed Alvar Sundin grinned happily, thinking about how he and Britta would have their daughter back soon. Even the upcoming battle excited him. The whole situation seemed like a wonderful adventure, far from the frustrations of his lack of artistic inspiration these last few months. He desired nothing more at this moment than to use his newfound powers for good, and he tried not to imagine what would happen when his wife learned he actually enjoyed this new hobby and wanted to continue with it even after he’d saved their daughter.

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