Rick was on his way home from work when the Shivan meteors began setting the sky on fire. Soon after the War Walls went up and the alarm klaxons started blaring. As heroes started streaking across the skies, Rick's stomach sank and his heart leapt into his throat. They were heading for Galaxy City. While the PPD and Longbow were busy herding people away from the destruction, Rick was fighting his way in the other direction. The sound of collapsing buildings trembled the ground beneath his feet. He had to get to the rest home. He had to find his Grandma June.
The shortcut through Perez Park saved him precious minutes, but already the fires were painting the sky a lurid red. The sound of superpowered conflict mingled with the inhuman sounds of... something. Rick didn't slow down. He barreled through the hazard gate separating Perez Park from Galaxy City and turned up Constellation Row. He didn't stop until he reached the retirement home. There was nothing left but a smoking crater.
Immediately, he started tearing through the rubble, slinging aside five-hundred pound chunks of concrete and rebar like it was nothing. It seemed to take forever. His voice went hoarse from crying Grandma June's name. Eventually, he found her--half of her. A slab had come down on her legs, crushing them to pulp. And yet, she clung to life, her hand gripping his tightly as he gathered her in his arms.
"I knew you'd come," she wheezed. Rick forced himself to keep his eyes on her face. Don't look down. Don't look at her legs. Numbly, he registered the sound of a sonic boom, and the thunder of a building collapsing in the distance. The unmistakable sound of Lord Recluse's laughter cut over the sound of madness that threatened to pull Rick under. None of it meant a damn thing. He remembered that the War Walls would stop the mediport system from working. He had to get his Grandma June to the hospital.
But as he tried to lift her, she put a hand on his chest. "Ricky. Those children." Rick looked where Grandma June was pointing. A school bus had turned over and crashed. The driver was slumped over the wheel, and the children inside were trapped. Four inhuman things were slowly lumbering towards them, extending pseudopods towards the wrecked vehicle.
Rick shook his head. "The supers can help them," he said. "I have to get you to the hospital."
Grandma June only smiled. "Ricky. The supers can't help them." She put her hand to his cheek. "Listen to me. They can't save them. But you can." Her eyes drifted closed as her life ebbed. "You're... a good boy, Ricky. Always... a good boy..."
Rick turned his stricken gaze up. There had to be a hero somewhere. Anywhere. There, he saw Sister Psyche turning her will against three of the monsters. There, Back Alley Brawler was going toe to toe with two more. And there, Statesman was picking himself up from what used to be a building to square off with Lord Recluse. Everywhere, heroes were fighting. But none of them were near the bus. None were as close as he was. Looking back down, Rick said good-bye to the one person who had never abandoned him all his life. Then, he rose and advanced on the Shivan. Six of them had begun to twine their pseudopodia together as they advanced on the bus, swarming it with their protoplasmic forms.
For the first time in years, Rick let the discipline drop. The crippling despair of Grandma June's death was consumed like tissue paper in the blast furnace of his rage. He let it drive him forward, legs pumping like a piston. He was no longer a washed-up failure. He wasn't a middle-aged nobody. He was a young man. He was Rick the Brick. He was unbeatable. He was born again.
His fist whistled through the air, his scream tearing the skin from the back of his throat. One-two-three, and one of the Shivan dropped with an inhuman, burbling moan. He waded into their midst, slamming his fists into their mass with bone-pulping force. Every strike built the rage higher and higher. It burned through him with supernova intensity, and he couldn't get enough. It was almost like being on Dyne again, only better. He barely felt the Shivan as they struck him back. He continued to pummel them, over and over, until the last one dropped and he was left standing in a slowly melting pile of blood-red gel.
Some tiny corner of his mind perceived the sound of voices crying out, of hands drumming on glass. Turning on his heel, Rick stalked to the rear of the bus. Taking hold of the emergency exit, he hauled with all his might. Slowly, the jammed door gave way with a squeal of tearing metal. The kids within poured out, surrounding him. Their hugs and their cheers spread cooling balm on the rage. Slowly, reason returned. Gathering the kids together, he began herding them down the shattered wreck of the street. There had to be somewhere safe they could go.
The sound of jet engines overhead drew Rick's gaze skyward. Vanguard fighters were streaking in, loosing their payload at the Shivan below. Mere blocks away, red-and-white uniformed Longbow agents were busy getting survivors together and slapping teleportation beacons on them. Rick urged the kids towards them, stepping in to engage a couple of stray Shivan that ventured too close. It seemed to take forever. But then, the kids started vanishing in flashes of blue. As he put down another Shivan monstrosity, Rick saw a Longbow agent approaching. He stiffened, struggling to reassert his control over the rage. Then, the agent clapped him on the shoulder, and the world vanished in blue light.
When his vision cleared, he saw the kids he'd rescued being loaded into a helicopter. Several choppers were already lifting survivors out of the ruin that was once Galaxy City. The ethereal form of Numina drifted towards him. "You're all right now. You're safe," she was saying, urging him to a bit of broken rubble. Numbly, Rick let himself be guided by Longbow medics. He just managed to sit down before he dissolved into helpless sobs.