A few collapsed buildings, shattered streets, and assorted craters. The place is mostly empty, with scattered groups of mostly humanoid monsters roaming and trying to escape the guarded fence around the city. The most instantly noticeable change is an ongoing wordless singing in the back of the mind of anyone present. By itself it's just a sound. An unpleasant sound, and almost but not quite predictable as if someone were trying to attack the listener's sanity without saying anything, but possible to ignore. But along with it, any time a listener closes their eyes they get flashes of memories. Not their worst memories, but whatever negative ones can stick with them unforgettably. It builds up associations between the feelings in those images and almost anything else. Sometimes there's a recognizable common thread and other times there isn't.
An angel fights off teams of opponents. She's fifteen feet tall, extremely winged, with more wings than is strictly necessary for an angel. Even some of her wings have wings. All of them are asymmetric and varyingly sized. A spherical halo of weaponry surrounds her, firing at her more distant enemies from across the battlefield. Her opponents cycle in and out: a golden man, a man surrounded by a bubble, a woman in a dark costume, all flying. Others make certain to stay away after taking their turn, on rare occasions spending too long hearing the angel's music. Those ones voluntarily self-destruct.
A small group of ordinary humans takes refuge in a house as far from the battle as they can reach. The song is quieter here, and, they hope, less potent. Some of them run away from and back to the house, occasionally calling for help. They haven't found any.
But the other effect of cutting him in two was to provide an obvious target for every other cape on the field. Led by Legend, they start pouring everything they have in to where the shoulder used to be. The combined firepower bites a bit deeper before the rate of regeneration cancels it out.
The lizardlike cape is by now blasting less with fire and more with the abstract concept of heat. Behemoth redirects it upward, and multiple fliers fall with a thunderclap.
Behemoth reaches for its severed arm, and is stopped by a golden figure. Scion apparently never got the hang of arriving exactly when all hope seems lost. He blocks a blast of lightning, and ignores Eidolon's assistance.
Kithabel moves the wire with sorcery alone at the speed of do it already. She holds the regenerating piece again long enough to slice.
Scion strikes Behemoth, and the effect he's using to hold on to the hostages drops. Alexandria gets recaptured; under the circumstances she's the monster's priority.
It's immediately apparent that Scion isn't fighting to kill. He never does. But even if he could end the war and doesn't, he's at least occupying more of Behemoth's attention than nearly all the rest of the heroes combined.
Kithabel teleports Alexandria out of the way. Cut, cut, cut.
The Endbringer has by now lost nearly all of the padding around its skeleton, and quite a few pieces of that. Eidolon's matter deletion power sweeps out a volume near the original cut at the shoulder. It runs into resistance at the point that used to be the greatest depth beneath where the collarbone should be if he had a set, but that's just a signal to focus there. Hero's burning golden light never leaves that spot, and is occasionally joined by some of Scion's similar but larger beams.
And Kithabel keeps shaving off protective layers from the "middle" of the Endbringer.
Until an enormous rush of lave erupts from the ground.
There are no volcanoes in Novosibirsk. Usually. Now, apparently, there's a completely artificial hole bored through the earth's crust, and very few capes are prepared to deal with a geyser of lava.
Eidolon and Hero glance at each other, deciding whether to help, and they keep going. The chance to kill an Endbringer is too much to pass up. Scion does differently; apparently he judges Behemoth to have been sufficiently fought. And now he has a different emergency to deal with.
The heroes' shakers repeat their dubiously effective trick from earlier, holding what's left of Behemoth in place now that Scion isn't.
Kithabel: is boss.
GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM, LAVA.
FUCKING DIE ALREADY, BEHEMOTH.
The combined assault on his core finally takes its toll. The comparatively small black sliver of what used to be Behemoth detonates again, this time for good, leaving behind much more radiation than can possibly be healthy.
Hero, being in a position to notice that, cancels the irradiation one area at a time. (And is then superseded by Scion doing the same at a stroke.)
Then the celebration can start.
Up come the dead to life.
Nobody stays dead today.
The golden man floats to Kithabel, and his normally blankly sad expression looks hopeful.
"What?" says Kithabel blankly. And then sorceress instincts take over: "What do you need?"
Scion drags Kithabel through, and flies to a humanoid figure. Most of a humanoid figure; it's only partially drawn together from strands of skin and human material. Like everything around it, it's limp. Dead.
Scion cups its cheek in his hand. "My counterpart."
"I - what is she? - what are you?"
"He's an alien. His kind seek out populated worlds, make them devolve into war, and then destroy all possible versions of those worlds. All this is a normal part of their life cycle. It was interrupted when the second entity died, and if you bring her back the cycle will continue. Everyone on this or any other earth will die."
"I beg your pardon?"
She glances over at Scion, and is almost surprised to still be alive after saying that. He's still hovering motionless. "They fly between planets, distributing powers. Every power except, apparently, yours, comes from a shard of one of them attached to the host's brain. They recollect the shards after the hosts die with data on how the ability was used. If you've noticed that parahumans are more violent than most people, that's intentional. It's to force creativity."
"I think people in general here are more violent than I'm used to. How do you even claim to know this?"
Scion is visibly angry, but still doesn't strike her down.
"The part about their intentions comes from Contessa. Another founding member of Cauldron. She saw their plan and, for a brief time, could use her power to answer anything she asked.
They're not evil, mind. Their end goal is to survive past the point where their kind occupy every part of every universe and have nothing to subsist on but each other. But humans, along with any number of intelligent species before us, are expendable background noise."
"Is this not the guy I get compared to all the time," Kithabel says, aiming her thumb at Scion, "because of our mutual habit of doing hero stuff literally twenty-four hours a day? I mean, I could complain that he doesn't usually finish off the Endbringers or that the kitten rescuing thing is a skewed priority but he puts in the time."
"I'm not sure why he does that. Normally he does whatever his partner tells him to. She was the Thinker, he the Warrior. If you want him to continue rescuing kittens rather than starting wars and eventually destroying planets, giving him his old source of directives is the worst thing to do."
"You can't explain his one verifiable behavior but you still want me to buy your predictions that he'll suddenly reverse himself once his - what, wife? - is alive again, and believe you about past crimes."
The three of them are suddenly somewhere else. A long gray hallway lined with cells. Some cells have a transparent wall facing the hallway, others have only a thick white line that the occupants never try to cross. The occupants could easily be mistaken for monsters. Physical changes and impossible bodies. Many of them appear to be in pain. As soon as the presence of other people is noted, the captives start yelling, cursing, calling for help, or insulting their captors.
Kithabel was starting to be a little worried that she was going to have a long conversation without doing anything but she no longer has that problem.
She flies. She soothes pain. She tries as best she can to restore everyone to a comfortable body. This is an emergency.