The city's heroes did not overlook the rising jobless and homeless rates. Hero organizations opened their doors and turned their training halls into soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Heroes accustomed to using their strength and speed to smash villainy found their powers equally valuable when it came to building new, affordable housing.Tens of thousands who would otherwise have spent hungry nights sleeping on park benches made it through the crisis and eventually found work, thanks to the efforts of Paragon City's heroes.
Unfortunately, it proved impossible for even the combined efforts of heroes, city government, and local community charities to provide succor to everyone who needed it.
Even more unfortunately, there were other, less civic-minded groups out there waiting to capitalize on the situation.A variety of evil-minded organizations took advantage of those in desperate straits, a fact that explains the sudden swelling in membership of villain groups like the Freakshow and the Fifth Column, as well as the steady supply of experimental subjects rumored to have disappeared behind the walls of Crey Industries research facilities.
And then there were those poor souls who just got lost.
Paragon City's ancient labyrinthine subway and sewer systems had long been a refuge for those with nowhere else to go. During the invasion "those with nowhere else to go" also included the Rikti.
The extra-dimensional invaders made their staging areas beneath the city, carving out caves or using the existing sewer and subway tunnels for their own purposes. Much of the war was fought in these underground chambers, and to this day Rikti still lurk in the dark depths.
Naturally enough, the city has sealed off the old subway tunnels entirely and embarked on a constant battle to keep the sewer lines working. Although well marked as incredibly dangerous, numerous homeless people have returned to the underground in spite of the danger. For those who have nothing left in the surface world to comfort them, it sometimes proves difficult to abandon the safe places of old.
There is no accurate way of counting how many of those who went underground were lost to the horrors below and how many just wanted to disappear of their own accord.
Most of what's publicly known about this chthonic world comes from the reportage of a single, intrepid social worker named Shannon Price. Ms. Price was once a minor hero known as Starlight, and she had fought with distinction during the war.
A long time advocate for the homeless, Price hung up her tights for good once peace had returned and focused all of her energies on trying to make Paragon City a safer, healthier place for its poorest citizens.
Through her volunteer work, Price became quite close with much of the homeless community and was soon tapped in to all their circulated rumors and stories. She heard repeated tales of people going down into the underground and disappearing for weeks or months.
This, she knew, was not surprising. She'd fought in those tunnels and knew how dangerous they still were. What was interesting was that these lost folk would then turn up again sometime later, often different than they'd been before. They were brusque and almost business-like, always moving with a purpose and never stopping to chat with old friends.
They stuck together in tight cliques, and were rumored to have moved beyond simple foraging to armed robbery and other crimes.
Price decided to investigate further, and calling in a few favors from her Dawn Patrol friends, she managed to wrangle an interview with one of these "mole people" (as other homeless called the underground dwellers) who had been captured during a bank robbery. Although at first silent and defiant, the prisoner became more and more anxious and unsure with each hour he spent separated from his cohorts.
He began to babble incoherently of magic mists and green gods. He claimed that he was part of a new underworld order, a troupe of the touched, that he referred to as The Lost. Price could not make much sense of any of this, but when routine blood tests showed that some sort of mutagenic chemical was present in the man's blood, it became obvious that there was more to this problem than met the eye.
Together with a her old friend Quint "The Fist" Velasquez from the Dawn Patrol, Price once again donned her costume and set off into the sewers, looking for some answers. It was three months before she was seen again, this time without Quint at her side.
The Dawn Patrol sent several more teams into the sewers to search for the missing heroes, but they found no trace of them or their fate. When Shannon Price appeared once more, it was crawling up through a manhole in the middle of rush hour traffic. She was rushed to the hospital, since she had obviously suffered a great deal of punishment and pain during her absence.
The intrepid social worker never achieved a mental state that one could call sane or even lucid. Lab tests showed that she had the same mysterious mutagen in her blood that investigators had found in captured members of The Lost. When questioned, she readily spouted forth a largely unintelligible tale. Dawn Patrol investigators were able to eke out a few solid facts from the garbled narrative.
According to Price, The Lost seems to be a loosely organized confederation of the mentally ill, street people, and anyone else who has become desperate enough to find their way underground.
The group has a transforming effect upon it members, not only by providing leadership and a purpose, but by actually changing their bodies. This was obviously the work of the mutagen found in Price's blood stream, although how exactly it got there is unclear.
She spoke of a group of elders, or leaders who bestowed the changes upon the Lost. Price referred to these leaders only as The Lost, implying that perhaps they were the actual "Lost" and that their new followers had taken the name from themselves. Price was at her most deranged when describing these mysterious figures, referring to them alternately as "gods," "demons," and "artifexes."
Beyond these rather colorful appellations, she offered no real clue as to The Lost's true nature. Analysis of the mutagen in her blood provided little other valuable insight, except the chemical composition of it defied every effort to pinpoint its origin.
Since Price's doomed expedition, The Lost have begun to make their presence felt in the city. No one knows for sure just who they are or where they came from (other than underground), but everyone agrees that they are a tremendous threat. At first it was just organized bands of seemingly normal homeless individuals.
Then, larger, decidedly less human-looking creatures were spotted terrorizing parts of the city. In addition to perpetrating crimes like robbery and murder, the Lost also engage in frequent kidnapping. Apparently they increase their own ranks by snatching poor citizens from the streets and transforming them into monsters.
Every time a prisoner is captured he or she claims to be one of The Lost and refuses to speak until, within a few hours, utter madness sinks in and the prisoner becomes totally unintelligible.
Recently, the Dawn Patrol managed to capture one of the more terrifying humanoid creatures that had started showing their faces above ground. This particular hulking beast attacked a Dawn Patrol headquarters, along with a cadre of only slightly less fearsome members of The Lost.
The "champion" who seemed to be leading the attack was killed, and his autopsy revealed some shocking information. Although his DNA, dental patterns, and fingerprints had all been mangled by the mutagen, together they provided enough information to identify the beast as having once been Quint Velasquez.
The former hero who had accompanied Price on her initial exploration hadn't been as "lucky" as his comrade. She had escaped with her body, if not her mind. He had lost them both.