It had been more than a decade since the Portal Corp was destroyed and much of the world had all but forgotten about possible threats from other dimensions. On May 23rd, 2002, they had a rather rude reminder. On that date, at approximately 4:30 PM Eastern Standard Time (U.S.), thousands upon thousands of red lights began to appear in Paragon City. The lights took the form of perfect, flat circles, ranging in diameter from 9 feet to 100 yards. One reporter in a traffic helicopter likened them to "windows into the flaming heart of hell" before he and his vehicle disappeared forever, presumably swallowed up when another "window" opened on top of them. No one was yet quite sure what they were looking at, but it was obvious that they were dangerous - anything the red lights touched they seemed to devour.
Of course the city's heroes came out in force to investigate. The Freedom Phalanx, the Dawn Patrol, and Hero Corps all sent teams out into the city to prepare for whatever came next. The Midnight Squad's most powerful magicians and knowledgeable mystics tried to determine whether or not the lights had a magical origin. The discs of light kept appearing and were soon all over the city, from huge discs high above the skyline to smaller ones at street level and even inside buildings. The population quickly panicked and clogged the exit routes, trying to flee whatever disaster was about to beset them. Soon reports came in from other cities and countries. The lights had popped up in 27 other places around the world, all of them major population centers.
The Freedom Phalanx made the determination, with the help of a former Portal Corp researcher, that the lights represented some kind of dimensional portal. Where they led no one could be sure. Long standing Freedom Phalanx member and renowned interstellar explorer, Star Strider, volunteered to pass through one of the portals and see what was there. Veiling himself in his invulnerable force field, he entered one of the larger portals and was never seen or heard from again. Similar experiments in other parts of the world had the same tragic results.
As night fell, at approximately 7:30 Eastern Standard Time, the true purpose of these disks became clear. Simultaneously across the entire globe alien invaders began pouring out of the portals - tens of thousands of them. Most were infantry, wearing some sort of powered armor and wielding energy weapons. Others wore flight packs and dove down from the skies beside hordes of small, spherical attack drones. The largest portals produced huge assault craft, bristling with energy cannons and missile launchers. Even in places like Paragon City, where hundreds of heroes were prepared for an horrific event, the size and power of the invading force proved quickly overwhelming.
The first barrage of attacks was very precisely executed. The invaders had obviously had time to study their foes in great detail. They took out power plants, substations, phone lines, cell phone towers, radio transmitters and water lines within the first 15 minutes of the invasion. They filled the air with electronic counter measures so powerful that they jammed all radio communication, radar, and GPS signals. They also struck concentrations of military and police power, taking out armories, air force bases, and naval shipyards. In a matter of minutes they had all but disarmed the cities they chose to attack. Fortunately for Earth, they had failed miserably in one aspect of their calculations: they hadn't counted on the tremendous power Earth's heroes could bring to bear.
From the moment the first invader stepped through a portal, the heroes in Paragon City sprang into action. Statesman led the charge, quite literally, hurling his body into one of the largest attack craft. A minute later the massive flying fortress exploded from within and fell crashing to the ground. The seemingly unharmed Statesman flashed across the sky and into another ship, with similarly devastating results. It was only after the third such assault that he became aware of the tremendous collateral damage these falling behemoths were causing when they crashed to the streets below. Aware of this problem, he changed tactics, using his incredible strength to actually push the giant ships out over the river before demolishing them.
The city's other heroes fought fiercely as well, although few were as spectacular as Statesman in their methods. The city streets swarmed with armor-clad invaders fighting toe to toe with costume clad heroes. The aliens had also brought in heavily armored hover tanks that were proving to be particularly deadly until a consortium of mages from the Midnight Squad cast a spell that turned them all inside out, leaving smoking piles of junk. Unfortunately, the aliens gave as good as they got. Even as they were congratulating themselves on their success, the magicians were engulfed in a wave of burning plasma that stripped their flesh to the bone in a fraction of a second.
And so it went across the city. The aliens outnumbered the heroes at least one hundred to one, maybe more. It was impossible to get accurate numbers as the portals had allowed them access to the entire city at once. The fighting raged on through the rest of the night. After six hours, the heroes had managed to clear the skies of the large attack craft, some of which had retreated either up into space or out over the ocean (none of the aliens ever went back through the portals). By the dawn of the 24th, Paragon City had been effectively divided into a patchwork of human and alien controlled neighborhoods, with constant combat raging at every border. Both sides began to erect walls and other static defenses to secure their territory. Many of these border defenses eventually became the walls that currently divide Paragon City into its many neighborhoods.
No more invaders ever came through the portals. It seems they had launched their entire attack force in one instant. Exactly 24 hours after the invasion began, all of the portals winked out of existence, adding one more layer of mystery to the already bizarre and terrifying war. Meanwhile, even as they fought on, the heroes were trying desperately to figure out just who these beings were and why they were attacking. They seemed to use no electronic signals for communication. Several powerful telepaths had noticed a disturbing psychic noise since the invasion started, but any attempt to read the alien minds or communicate with them failed. Whatever they were, their motives and identities remained unknown.
The world's governments reacted as best they could to the terrifyingly unexpected invasion. The aliens destroyed a good third of the world's military might in those first few hours, but, with the help of super powered heroes from every nation, the armed forces rallied and began to put up a stalwart, if seemingly doomed defense. Even the most advanced army in the world, that of the United States, was seriously outgunned by the aliens. The casualty ratios were typically 5 to 1 in favor of the invaders. Only when those with super powers fought alongside front line troops did the humans ever score any victories. The United Nations Security Council, led by Great Britain and France, formed an emergency umbrella organization to help coordinate hero resources in the worldwide war against the invaders. Called the Vanguard, this group was comprised of some of the world's best and brightest heroes. It sprang into action immediately, and began to effect stalemates similar to the one that had been reached in Paragon City. The aliens' advances were halted, but it seemed impossible to take back the territory they had already seized.
Back in Paragon City, the effort to discover just who these aliens were was finally achieving some results. Going through the old Portal Corp files (which had been tied up in countless court battles, unseen, for decades), investigators found a record for an alternate Earth home to a race of beings known as The Rikti. Only one Portal Corps team had been sent there and the records were incomplete, although it seemed that contact with the aliens had been established. Apparently they could talk to us, they just didn't want to. The file had no indications that they were particularly war like or hostile and even suggested that a trade agreement could possibly be reached with them at some point in the future. Now the enemy had a name at least, although why they had attacked remained unclear.
The war waged on for the next six months, during which time hundreds of thousands of soldiers, civilians, and heroes died in battle. The Rikti proved a decidedly intractable foe. They had apparently been coming to Earth well before the actual invasion began in earnest, setting up hidden bases and weapons caches beneath the ground. They used short range teleportation portals to strike at unexpected times and locations. The humans were forced to fight an entirely defensive war, as the Rikti kept them scrambling to deal with one crisis after another.
It did not take long for the Rikti to figure out just how important the heroes were to humanity's defense. More and more they began to concentrate their efforts on the costume clad warriors. Any large scale meeting place or base of operations became an immediate target. In Paragon City the Rikti launched a series of all-out, simultaneous assaults on hero organization headquarters buildings. In one afternoon they destroyed buildings belonging to the Freedom Phalanx, the Midnight Squad, and the Dawn Patrol, killing scores of heroes in the process. The Rikti took their heaviest casualties during this engagement, but they must have thought it was worth it because they did the same thing again the next day. And the day after that. In one week they lost over 10,000 soldiers, killed close to 200 heroes and utterly decimated all of Paragon City's major hero organizations.
The Freedom Phalanx was down to just Statesman and a handful of the toughest, most powerful heroes in the city. The Dawn Patrol, Midnight Squad, Regulators, and Hero Corps were in similar straits. With its decentralized command structure and international recruiting base, only the Vanguard (which included Statesman as well), remained a viable, organized fighting force. Even when the Rikti destroyed the United Nations buildings in New York and Geneva, the Vanguard kept up the fight, quickly training and organizing super powered defense teams to hold the aliens in check.
Using the files and records from Portal Corp, an exceedingly intelligent hero named Dr. Science (also the star of a famous kids science program) figured out a way to trace the energy signatures of the Rikti portals. It was clear that the aliens were continually receiving reinforcements from their home dimension, probably through additional portals that opened up in their secret underground staging areas. Dr. Science managed to isolate the largest and most active of these portals, which happened to be located deep beneath Paragon City. This was probably the least accessible location on Earth right now, lying as it did deep within Rikti territory and surrounded by thousands of the toughest alien troops.
Dr. Science devised a plan, but it was one that risked a great deal for an uncertain outcome. He had deduced that the portals required tremendous energy to operate and that the source of this energy must lie somewhere on the Rikti home world. The portals on this side were merely conduits for the main energy source. From there, reinforcements were then transmitted through local intra-dimensional portals. If a team of heroes could travel through the main conduit and destroy the energy source, the Rikti on Earth would be totally cut off from future reinforcements. This might just be enough to turn the tide of the war.
Matters were growing more desperate with each passing month, so the Vanguard, led by Hero 1 in November 2002, decided to try Dr. Science's daring plan. They assembled the best and brightest heroes in the world, leaving only skeleton crews to man the defenses. They then split into two teams, one led by Statesman, named Alpha Team, and one led by Hero 1, named Omega Team. Alpha Team was much larger, consisting of over 1000 heroes from across the globe. They launched a full frontal assault on the Rikti main troop concentrations, drawing as many alien troops into the fray as possible. This was a dangerous ploy, and it proved costly. In the ensuing titanic battle, 800 of 1000 heroes died, along with some 50,000 Rikti soldiers.
Omega team consisted of 50 of the world's best and brightest. The humans had found that the Rikti were particularly ineffective when it came to dealing with magic based powers, so there were quite a few magicians and artifact wielding heroes on Omega Team. Using an ancient Charm of Invisibility, the team managed to slip into the Rikti main portal base unseen. They were only discovered at the last moment, in the portal chamber itself. Omega Team watched as thousands of Rikti reinforcements passed through the dimensional gateway, on the way to help in the battle against Alpha Team. They were discovered, but now it was too late. They fought their way through to the gateway - five of them fell captive to the Rikti in the process. It was one of these captives who later escaped and provided the only witness to what happened next.
Omega Team disappeared into the portal and the Rikti were thrown into a panicked frenzy. They swarmed in after the brave heroes. All was silent for about 15 minutes. Then a tremendous explosion rippled out from the open portal, tearing through the Rikti base and instantly annihilating everything within a square mile. Only one hero, the utterly invulnerable Ajax, managed to survive the blast. He had been taken captive by a Rikti stasis ray and rendered unable to follow his teammates into the portal. Now he was the sole surviving witness to their apparent victory.
News of the disaster traveled almost instantly through the Rikti ranks, and they immediately began to disengage from their massive battle with Alpha Team. The heroes, having lost 80% of their number, were only too happy to let the Rikti slink off in defeat. It took them a little longer to get word of what had happened, but it sounded like good news. All over the world the Rikti were retreating, although certainly not in a panic. Obviously everything had just changed for them. They were no longer fighting with secure supply lines and constant reinforcements from home. In an instant they seemed to make the transition from field army to guerilla fighters. They withdrew into their secret lairs over the next few days, fighting a scorched-earth rear guard action that claimed thousands of more lives.
The war was over, or at least the first phase of it was. Both sides had been nearly shattered in the process. The Vanguard and the other great hero organizations of the world scarcely existed anymore. With the exception of Statesman and a few others, all the world's greatest heroes had died in the war. Trillions upon trillions of dollars of damage had been done to the majority of the world's most populated cities. Paragon City was the worst hit of all. Once a shining beacon of light and prosperity, now much of it lay in ruins. It didn't take long for criminals to start reasserting themselves, and new heroes were needed. It was the beginning of a desperate time that would last for decades.
Today, thanks to scavenged Rikti technology and the help of brilliant men and women like Dr. Science, rebuilding proceeds at an amazing pace. Paragon City is still a shadow of its former self, beset by criminals and the lingering Rikti threat, but it has begun to prosper once more. It is a place where new protectors are desperately needed: brave men and women willing to put their lives on the line to protect the innocent and punish the wicked. The invasion might be over, but the war persists. Now, more than ever, it is a time for heroes.