“Desolation-in-Light was sighted four minutes ago, floating over the South coast of Okinawa. So far, she has remained inactive, though her Desolation Field has already been erected.”
Basil listened to the newscast while watching more than thirty video feeds – all recorded from outside of her field – on his wallscreen.
He’d been staying up late, working on his new grappling hook system late into Thursday night – now Friday night – and had thus caught the emergency broadcast, having let the television play on the side. It usually helped him keep track of time, without really distracting him from work – 99.9% of eveything on TV did not require any attention or brainpower to consume.
Of course, a DiL attack was more than that. He immediately stopped working and instead had Eudocia track down every broadcast and throw them all onto the wallscreen.
There was one, taken by a professional it seemed, that showed her floating in the air, her glowing white hair flowing and winding around and beneath her body, ten times longer than her tall body – she’s got to be almost two meters tall – looking away from the island to the sea, apparently not even noticing the town behind her. But her field was already present, spreading nearly three kilometers in radius, a flickering haze of light that had given her her name, enveloping her surroundings. He knew it blocked all transmissions from entering or leaving it – as well as all powers. No teleporting in or out of her field, or using long-range powers to attack her. And it also necessitated the use of long-range recording equipment to follow her attacks, as electronics within the field tended to malfunction.
I wonder if my equipment would work within her field. Gadgeteers were notoriously ineffective against DiL. Sometimes, mundane technology worked, but rarely for any significant stretch of time.
As he watched, more information came in. The UH DiL Response Team had already arrived at the site – Lady Light, all five members of the Cabal, The Dark and… Oh no… his five.
As if on cue, he got a message from Amy.
<Deployed against DiL. No worries, powers useless against her, support only.>
He took a deep breath. That was… not all that good, but better than he’d have hoped.
<Be safe. Wish I could help.>
Her power isn’t useful against DiL, they won’t put her on the front lines, her power isn’t useful against DiL, they won’t put her on the front lines, her power isn’t useful against DiL, they won’t put her on the front lines…
<You get to fight in a DiL battle over my cold, dead body, stupid.>
That stung. It was a condition that might be fulfilled after today.
<Just be safe, or I will be really angry at you.>
<We’ll have an ice-cream evening later on, alright? Don’t worry too much, the boss-man is giving each of us a Darkwraith for personal protection.>
Alright, alright, they’re taking precautions.
She didn’t reply.
Stretching, he walked a few circles – he’d foregone using any seating and instead raised the tables and workbenches to work on them while standing, since he spent so much time working here and he didn’t want to end up a couch potato.
Then, just as the newscast announced the arrival of several independent heroes, as well as the majority of Japan’s Sentai teams. Several video feeds switched over to short introductions of the participants.
Basil knew about the UH division (and about the Dark Five, of course), but he’d never paid much attention to the Sentais. They never operated outside of Japan unless they absolutely had to.
“Alien, Dino, Ninja… the three teams for the Tokyo area… and the smaller ones for the other areas,” he mumbled, watching. He mostly only knew about Alien Pink and Ninja Blue, both of whom were rather accomplished Gadgeteers – and the only ones among the Sentai’s ranks, at least in their combat line-up.
Then, he heard someone come down the stairs. Surprised – no one was supposed to be here – he grabbed a nearby stun baton and got battle-ready… only to feel silly when he saw Dalia enter the workshop, wearing a bathrobe and a ridiculous pair of bathroom clogs, her hair still wet.
“Dude, did y- Oh, you’re watching!”
“When did you get here?” he asked. His security should have told him she’d entered the base.
She looked at him, surprised. “What are you talking about? I got here hours ago! We talked, remember?”
He didn’t, actually. He remembered getting into the base at nineteen thirty-six, then starting work on… on what? And what had he done later… he remembered walking up to his worktable and then his next memory was of two hours ago, when he started working on his new grappling hook system…
“Oh, right, sorry. A bit overworked. Want to watch together?”
She nodded, pulling a chair over to sit down, never caring about how the robe was exposing her cleavage and legs (though he wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t notice in the first place).
Basil turned back just in time to see DiL begin her attack, opening up with a blue energy blast that levelled an entire row of houses.
* * *
The gathered heroes and villains entered the fray, opening up on DiL with a barrage of various attacks, looking for a flaw in her current powerset.
The attacks slammed into her current defense – or rather, they almost did, as space itself seemed to bend to divert them around her and back towards the attackers. Redirecting her blast, she aimed for the gathered long-range combatants, but they evaded her easily even as she flew further into the city, her hair flowing after her.
“Why’s she doing that?” asked Dalia.
“Huh?” Basil had almost forgotten about her, enraptured by the display of raw power.
“I mean, she’s supposed to be totally untouchable – why does she bother with a defense like that, instead of taking another offensive power?”
He looked at her, once again surprised about how observant she could be when she put her mind to it.
“No one really knows. But she usually splits her power set between three powers apart from her permanent defensive ability. One offensive, one defensive and one that is for utility. Though she does mix it up every now and then.”
They fell silent as someone erected a massive concave force-field to block DiL’s blast (Basil noticed that even this force-field cut off at the edge of her field above, despite looking like it could go further up) and she abandoned the power, a flicker of light marking the shift of her powers.
Basil and Dalia watched in awe as the heroes and villains – the latter were bolstered by a delegation of Yakuza villains, as well as some independents – engaged her with a massive display of powers, working in tightly organised groups to counter whatever effect she expressed, interfering with her every move and action until her aura flickered once more and she switched to a wholly different set of powers.
In short, the defender’s strategy aimed less on attacking DiL – they had long since given up on trying to harm her – so much as on distracting her, as she usually switched powers the moment something new popped up that somehow interfered with her actions, resetting her powers before they could build up to catastrophic levels.
“Why does no one ever try to hurt that bitch again?!” asked Dalia with incredulous disbelief. “I mean, I know she’s, like, untouchable, but there’s got to be some way to penetrate her defense! Some power that punches through?”
Basil thought it over. Has she never studied up on Desolation-in-Light? Maybe she just preferred to blend her out, ignore the danger.
“They tried that, but it has never worked. And it’s more important to keep her changing her powers – after each shift, they start out weak (by her standards) and gradually build up. If you let her build up for too long, you get nuclear wastelands like LA or tears in reality like the one in Caracas. So they keep throwing her off until she leaves, hoping that it’ll be enough to prevent any lasting damage.”
“Damn, I hope we never have to fight that monster,” she replied, pensive.
Basil turned back to the screen, watching the battle go on for another minute before DiL switched from her current powerset – a reflecting force-field that threw all attacks right back at her attackers and an aerokinetic power that created razor-sharp blades of wind – to wrapping her long, long hair around her body to form an all-concealing glowing armor and engage three sentais – Alien Blue, Alien Yellow and Dino Red – as well as Lady Light in close combat, flying faster than any of them, stopping and turning as if things like momentum or conservation of energy meant nothing to her.
The heroes engaged her in close combat – or rather, led her on, trying to keep her distracted without taking any hits. It worked for a few moments, until what looked to Basil like a momentary lapse in attention on Alien Yellow’s part led to DiL brushing her hip with a punch – and the heroine’s body disintegrating almost explosively.
The other three now kept more of a distance, until a winged-devil-shaped darkwraith joined the fray, DiL’s strikes disintegrating only small, quickly regenerated chunks of its dark flesh as they actually seemed to lead DiL back towards the sea.
But then, DiL’s hair loosened up, revealing her nude form again as she flickered and changed powers.
Light poles reached out for defending heroes and villains, crushing or piercing as many as they could, the streets opened up to swallow defenders unable to fly or evade, houses twisted around like baseball bats to swat fliers out of the air. Chaos spread as the effect built up, spreading from underneath her even as she weathered enemy attacks, all attempts at striking her simply not affecting her.
A close up of her (which seemed to focus on her bare chest, inappropriate though that may be in this or any situation), taken by what had to be a Gadgeteer-made long-range camera showed that all the attacks simply stopped about an inch from her skin, as if reality itself was simply saying ‘No’. Not to mention what happened to whoever or whatever touched her hair (slow and painful death as the light of her hair stuck to them and ate them up).
“Basil?” Dalia spoke up, sounding pensive.
“Yes?” he asked, annoyed that she would distract him right now, turning his head to look at her.
“That’s her permanent defense, right?”
“It looks a hell of a lot like Tartsche’s Absolute Defense Stance, don’t you think?”
Basil turned back to the screens, tapping a few buttons to zoom in on some shots.
She really can be very perceptive. “You are absolutely right. And now that I see this…”
He pulled up a recording of Pristine fighting some Italian superhero, the latter’s attacks completely useless against her.
“It is the same. Pristine and Tartsche, they have the same defense, only weaker. Tartsche cannot be harmed or moved, Pristine cannot be harmed and can move, Desolation-in-Light cannot be harmed and cannot be moved against her will while still retaining full mobility.”
This has to mean something. Because the Pro- no, Ember – and why did he hate using that stupid other moniker instead of his chosen codename? – was supposed to have had a similar defense, according to eyewitnesses of the London Nightmare.
“We will have to look in-“
They were distracted again as Alien Red charged right at DiL even as her warping effect had spread nearly two kilometers out from her, slamming a large blue-black papersphere right into her chest.
The sphere imploded into a black marble-sized ball, then exploded like a reverse black hole even as another, smaller papersphere slammed into Alien Red, making him vanish in a flash of light, evading the black explosion that spread to nearly the size of a compact car. Another videofeed showed Alien Red reappearing next to an elaborate dressed, tall and broad-looking character in some manner of traditional Japanese robes coloured black, blue and gold, with a bucket-like helmet and mask. But none of that mattered as another shot showed the explosion and DiL from the side.
Basil dropped his remote as Dalia lost one of her clogs she’d been dangling off her toes.
The blast had made DiL flinch back, the warping effect that spread from her ceasing immediately as she roared, screaming so loudly it disintegrated a city block in every direction and spread devastation across the city, then vanished in a single flash of light.
Her field faded with her. The attack was over, and nearly a fourth of the city had only taken light damage and could probably be repared.
That guy, he made her flinch.
“Who the FUCK did that!?” asked Dalia.
Basil pulled up an image of the robed Japanese metahuman. He noticed him carrying what looked like one of those traditional Japanese pipes for launching fireworks. “I know that one, now that I think about it. Hanabi XII or XIV. A legacy cape, usually villains apart from two exceptions. First Hanabi was one of the very first Japanese capes and the first Japanese supervillain. Current Hanabi is supposed to be a low-level Contriver specializing in paperbombs of varying purposes. Contriver two or three, maybe.”
“That didn’t look like anything below a freakin’ eight to me!”
“No, that was… impressive. We can just hope that he can replicate that bomb.”
Switching the screen to show various newscasts, Basil judged that this attack had ended up being rather light on the casualties – DiL had spent a comparatively long time between her arrival and her attack just being inactive, allowing for a very thorough evacuation of nearly two thirds of the city’s population (though none of the rest had survived the warping effect that turned the very city hostile). And she hadn’t been able to build up her power to the point where it could have lead to a catastrophe.
“Well, this went rather well,” he commented. But Dalia looked unconvinced. “What?”
“I got a bad feeling about this. Dunno why…”
“We will s- Oh shit.“