He was tired.
Lately, it was all he could do to get out of bed in the morning. Oh, he was as strong as he ever was; stronger, if the instruments in the Citadel's laboratory were to be believed. All his power levels were higher than they'd ever been, with every indication that he'd continue to become even more powerful. But, there was a weariness he'd never felt before.
He still got out and did the odd rescue, but most days he just wandered the empty halls of his Citadel. He always ended up back in the Trophy Room, where he could see her. Her statue, at any rate. It had been over 200 years since she died, and the pain was still as fresh as yesterday.
And after she died, well, the others had all gone soon after. The Eternity War. Omnipotus, a god-like being from a broken universe had come to theirs to devour it. As they always did, he and his friends fought it. It, and its endless horde of void creatures. They swarmed over the Earth, destroying everyone they so much as touched.
That was how they lost The Black Peregrine. He was on crowd control with the other non-powered heroes, keeping the civilians safe while the powerhouses took the fight to the invaders' home dimension. The Black Peregrine threw himself between a void creature and a family. He was obliterated instantly, but he managed to take the thing with him when he went. Others followed: Speed King, The Signalman, Buck Spinner and His Fighting Hipsters... so many dead.
In the end, the few remaining heroes managed to build a celestial cage out of the tattered remnants of the broken universe, trapping Omnipotus and its horde of creatures forever. But it was a bitter price they paid. Barely a handful of heroes left, and most of them died soon after; some on cases, some killed by their villains, a few actually killed themselves. The Eternity War had been hard on the survivors.
Finally, it was just him, as it had been so long ago. For a while he'd taken some comfort in the company of The Grey Goddess, but she grew tired of his increasing melancholy, and, as she put it, "coming in second against a corpse". She left him, returning to the realm of pure magic from which she came. He heard soon after that she'd had a child. He often wondered if it was his. He never bothered to find out.
He flew up to the observation lounge and looked out onto the Earth, turning below him. He smiled. The sight of his adopted homeworld could still do that to him; she still made him smile. He'd sworn an oath, so many decades ago, to always keep her safe. To protect her and her children from all threats. To die for them, if need be.
He wondered now if they even needed him to. While he did still perform the odd rescue, no one had really seen him in years. And they didn't seem to miss him, or any of the others, really. Most of the old villains had died in the War too, and, like the heroes, no new ones had risen to take their place.
He'd thought that odd, at first. Time was, you couldn't go a day without meeting some kid in a cape who'd been exposed to an experimental isotope or hit with a mysterious ray from space, or any of a thousand other accidents and mishaps, and had come away with tremendous powers. That never happened any more. Not since the War. For a while, he'd investigated the phenomenon, suspecting a plot. But eventually, he gave it up. There was no one left to plot against him. No schemes to foil.
Nothing to do.
He told himself he should be happy. Humanity could solve their own problems now. They didn't need him.
But he needed them. Needed to help them. Needed to save them. Needed it so badly, sometimes he thought that maybe if they weren't so self-sufficient, if they suffered a catastrophe great enough that their civilization was on the brink... he started thinking of the ways he could... no. No! That was not what he did.
It bothered him how often he needed to remind himself of that lately. Too often, by his reckoning. So there was really only one thing for it. He moved the Citadel out of Earth's orbit, toward deep space. He took one last walk around the Citadel, pausing in the Trophy Room to look at her one more time. He kissed the cold metal cheek of her statue. She would have wanted him to do this, he thought. Given the alternative, she would have wanted this.
Fifteen seconds after keying the autodestruct, he felt his skin turn to ash and he smiled. He would die doing what he loved best, saving them. He would die honoring his vow, to protect the Earth and her children from all threats.