The arrival at the mall was unexpected, and the method by which it arrived doubly so.
Lines stretched from the doors back along the sidewalks and into the parking lot itself, people so anxious for the doors to open that many of them had slept there the night before. A constant stream of conversation created a susurration that rivaled the sound of the cars that rolled continuously up and down the parking lanes, hoping against hope for a space — any space — to open up for them. Inside each door, a pair of security officers waited. They had keys inserted into the locks, and when the announcement was made over the mall public address system, they would open the doors and the flood of people would begin.
“What the hell is that?” one woman called out. Those who looked her way saw her standing, her hand pointed into the sky. Several other people at different sections around the mall saw what she did, and in seconds thousands of faces were tilted skyward.
Above them, trailing sparks and fire in a dramatic lightshow, something glowing was descending in a rapid arc. Ahead of the fiery display it seemed to be roiling ball of colors, never holding the same hue for longer than a second. It came closer by the second, and the spectators could hear a sharp whistling sound, so fast was its descent.
A ragged cheer began and was soon taken up by the throat of everyone present as they began to use cell phones to record what they knew had to be a publicity stunt of some kind. A skydiver, perhaps, with a pyrotechnic device to attract attention. It took half a minute for it to sink in to those present that whatever this was, it was not stopping or even slowing its approach. Suddenly, the first of the screams rang out. It was not the last.
Slamming into the roof of the mall with a sound like thunder, the glowing ball punched through the ceiling and blasted a sixty foot wide crater into the food court. Everything near was blasted away. Glass shattered. Tables and chairs flew through the air as if no more solid than feathers on the wave of force. In their individual shops, the employees began to scream. Those not injured shouted in confusion. No one had the slightest clue what had happened. Concerned faces peered out from within their stores, trying in vain to make out whatever had crashed.
In the center of the crater stood a humanoid shape. Its image flickered in and out of view as it shifted through every color in the spectrum, including those that no human could see. It took a tentative step, and then another. Feeling the rubble crunch beneath its feet seemed to embolden it, and it soon marched out to the edge of the crater and then climbed out.
Whatever the thing was walked past shattered storefronts and down the debris-strewn corridor in the center of the mall, ignoring the terrified and curious eyes that looked out at it as it passed. Ahead of it, four security guards rounded corners at a dead run, their shoes skidding and squeaking on the floor as they fixed their gazes on the intruder.
“What the hell?” one of them shouted. He reached for the cell phone on his hip.
“Are you some kind of cape?” called a second. He was kneeling on the floor, freeing a small pistol from around his ankle. It was a blatant violation of mall regulations, but he figured he might well die here without it, and their regulations had been merely a formality he danced around in case of this type of event.
The words flowed from it, inaudible at first and then simply incomprehensible. It appeared to be cycling through dozens of different languages and dialects.
“Do you understand?” it said at last. The words were melodic and in a beautiful tone.
“Yes!” the officer responded. “We understand!”
The creature had already moved on to a new language, but it backed up and when it repeated the question, three of them responded in the affirmative. The fourth was on his cell phone, notifying the police of the new arrival.
“A threat comes to your world,” the thing said. “You have defenders, yes.”
It was curiously worded, a statement instead of a question, but the officers did indeed understand what it had just said.
“The police can contact AEGIS,” one of them said. “They’re capes. I mean, defenders.”
“Bring them to me,” the creature ordered.
“Who are you?”
The head of the creature turned to survey a sign that stood propped against the open doorway into a clothing store filled with brightly-colored dresses. A darkness seemed to begin at the feet of the thing, and spread up its body like ink poured into water. Within seconds it was a glossy ebony in color. Its humanoid shape was heavily muscled but sleek, and when it turned back to the security officers, pools of white light made up what should have been eyes in an otherwise jet-black figure. It hefted the sign that advertised the sale.
“I am Black Friday,” it announced.