Poor Respawn. I didn’t have to wonder what was happening in there, I’d been through it enough times to know. Maybe she’d be treating him better, because he was her obsession. Or maybe it would be worse for him, because his powers meant he could survive all her most depraved fantasies. At least it won’t be me, anymore. I watched outward, looking for possible reinforcements the way I promised Kitten I would.
I was beginning to think no one was coming at all when my armor’s data suite came to life. That one non-corporeal Imbued that worked with Respawn was approaching, along with three vehicles. It looked like something from Lovecraft; an amorphous blob of swirls and colors surrounded by tendrils that could only be described as pseudopods. That wasn’t the being’s real appearance, just what approximation my armor could give.
It had linked its energy field with that of the vehicle, connected via infrasonic vibration. A fascinating little trick, and if I had the resources to spare I would have scanned it into record to study later. As it stood, I couldn’t afford to activate much more than just the scanner itself. Depending on how this went down, I might need to run.
The energy bubble moved up and wrapped around me. I watched my sensor systems identifying its ‘touch’, such as it was. If he decided to attack, there wasn’t much I could do about it. Strangely, his infrasound didn’t seem able to touch my skin. Good to know. “They’re inside.”
Sonic energy rippled around me, growing in pitch until it reached human hearing range. “I know. What can you tell me about what’s going on in there?”
“He lost. The girl’s alive, but…” I didn’t bother saying more. Even including the talking before, he hadn’t lasted ten minutes. So much for the kid’s ‘destiny’ to be the one to kill her. As for the rest… I’d let them draw their own conclusions.
“And you did nothing.” How an emulation of a voice managed to sound disgusted… perhaps I was just projecting my own emotions. I stood there watching the vehicles getting closer. “What’s her sensory range? Can she see me at all?”
What is their plan? I couldn’t imagine them winning; Respawn already failed and Anima was the only Imbued in the city that was even close to Kitten’s grade. Little-Miss-Pacifist wasn’t willing to fight before, and I doubted she would now. If by some miracle, she changed her mind, then my help didn’t matter, she could kill Kitten with no help of mine.
If I helped them and they failed, I’d be far worse than dead. If anything, I should be taking this distraction as a chance to flee the city. If I thought Kitten couldn’t find a way to track me down, I would have. As it stood, the best thing for me to do would be to warn Kitten and hope they beat her anyway.
“It doesn’t surprise me to learn you’re a coward,” the voice rumbled around me. “But I’d think, after everything you’ve been through, you’d at least care about those teenagers. You know exactly the hell she’ll put them through.”
Correction: is putting them through. I clenched my fists, and the sensory gloves called up my combat systems, detailing nearby threats and how to stop them. The heat and motion trackers identified Kitten, Respawn, and the girl below. I shook in my armor; I was up here to avoid watching what she was doing to them.
The combat display registered the ‘all clear’. As far as it was concerned, nothing in range that was a threat or a valid target. What good is this power, if it doesn’t even work when I need it the most? I was useless before I got my powers, and I’m still useless today.
I gave up, I couldn’t keep pretending I didn’t care. “She’s got a range of approximately a hundred meters, eighty if she’s really distracted. Her bioscan tracks water, if they go along the riverbank, it should provide them a level of camouflage. I don’t know how much.”
That was one half of the question, now for the other. “Her combat senses are semi-precognitive, automatically alerting her to any threats. As long as you don’t make a direct move to harm her, you should be undetectable. Once she knows you’re there, however, she could focus on you actively. If that happens, she will find a way to kill you, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
“That’s a start.” The kinetic waveform shifted and jumped back to the van that it never quite let go of.
I watched them slow, a bit further away than necessary. Two people climbed out of the vehicles, and there were several others still waiting. Where did they get these kinds of numbers from? My zoom feature kicked in, giving me profiles of all the Imbued I could see. To my surprise, they actually had Anima, and… Guardian?
For the first time since that psychopath walked into my life, I actually had hope. Anima’s power kicked in, a chaotic blur of alerts telling me there was an undetectable, unidentifiable, waveform anomaly.
Anima’s power was neither matter nor energy, stemming from something my tech couldn’t comprehend. Several cartoon unicorns manifested, and the pair mounted them and took off down to the river. The not-animals had no trouble running on the water itself.
Guardian’s power, I’d never witnessed directly before. The kinetic waves of the air itself bent into something close to a Picasso painting around him. He carried a sniper rifle that just had to be illegal. They set up along the bank, with Guardian not even bothering to set up with line of sight to the building. If he fired in the direction his gun was facing, he’d end up shooting the bank of the river.
A tendril of kinetic energy reached out from the building itself. It has that kind of range? It grabbed a small rock or something off the ground near the river and threw it at Guardian. Guardian’s distortion whirled around him, catching the mass and folding its position in space. In essence, he made it run into itself. In the same moment, he pulled the trigger on the gun.
It was only a brief moment, too fast for the human eye to follow, but the warped space extended from him into the building. I registered a distortion as Respawn’s power displaced air and both destroyed and created mass from nowhere. The second shot fired before I started to work out what was happening. The noncorp was ‘attacking’ Guardian, whose power created tunnels to attack anyone attacking him. It was sitting more or less “on top” of Kitten, so every shot fired should hit her.
It’s not going to work, it can’t work. Can it? Kitten’s hand exploded, and blades of ice embedded themselves in Guardian. He’s supposed to be invulnerable, how? Oh, his power creates warp tunnels, and she simply attacked as the tunnel created a path between them, bypassing his power. Some of those wounds were nasty, probably four or five inches deep, and made entirely of frozen water. He’d need immediate hospital attention.
Kitten rushed from the room, still wounded and still naked. She wasn’t the only one; that girl had run out into the cold despite having no clothes and no powers. Respawn followed, somehow in costume, but neither of them stood a chance to outrun Kitten. She was going to kill the girl, then everyone else here, and I was just going to stand here and watch. Again.
No. Not this time. I stepped off the roof and plummeted to the ground, allowing my armor to absorb my own kinetic field for its batteries. I hit the ground without even enough force to crack an egg.
Kitten’s power only alerts her to direct threats, and only gives kill solutions when she’s focusing on a target. I had one good shot, as long as it wouldn’t hurt her. I lined up my trackers and fired the kinetic waveform dampener. Kitten’s movement was cut in half. Still not enough for the girl to outrun her, but enough for Respawn and the others to catch up and do something.
Kitten turned and faced me. Or, she could choose to kill me instead of Blondie, can’t rule that out.
“E tu, Flux?” Kitten’s voice was distorted from my weapon’s effect.
I looked at my power gauge. 87% and dropping rapidly. I deactivated the weapon, it was a power hog and she’d just break free, her power was too good. At least this way, the suit could reclaim some of the expended power. I kicked on the acceleration field and the waveform shield. “Yes, me!” If I’m going to kill myself anyway, I should at least make it look good.
My HUD alerted me to her cryogenic field slowing the air. She started moving, allowing me to track how she was going to launch the effect. I stepped sideways, and the ice spears launched past me and struck Respawn. It was almost funny. I got close, almost in striking range, but that was what she wanted, once I touched her it would be over for me.
I adjusted momentum and slammed down into the earth, redirecting all the kinetic energy into a shower of dirt and rock. Each pebble, moving at speeds normally reserved for assault rifle ammo. Maybe Respawn would feel insulted that I stole this trick from when he kicked my ass. Pity I’ll never be able to ask him. “A thousand times over, me!”
Kitten rolled with the barrage, and was on her feet and smiling. There were cracks in her ice armor and rips in her skin and flesh. The attack would have killed her, if she were caught off guard. That was what made her so dangerous; she was impossible to catch off guard. My armor was down to 44%, I’d burned half my time on that one attack. I spared a glance at Blondie, who’d made it to the truck.
At least I could do that much.
Kitten rushed toward me, without any fear at all. She knew I didn’t have the energy needed to repeat the trick. Maybe I could still run, maybe, but I was sick of running. I kicked up the power to my speed, moving in for a melee engagement. She brought down that damn sword she stole from Respawn, and I allowed it to hit me, redirecting the kinetic wave to throw all the force back into her arm.
39% left, and her good hand broken by the backlash. It was more damage than I ever expected to do to her.
She stomped the ground, catching my legs in ice. I was useless when immobilized, but I’d burn out almost all of my remaining power breaking free. Several bolts of light streamed forward, embedding themselves in the ice and forcing Kitten back. The fuck?
Six effeminate elflike cartoons rushed forward firing arrows from impossibly large bows. Ah, Anima, of course. Kitten engaged them, using her ice to block arrows as a pair switched from bows to dual-wielded scimitars.
Despite holding the sword with a broken hand, she cut through through one’s not-flesh with gleeful abandon. The other slashed at her, forcing her to block with her arm. To my surprise, the elf’s sword was sharp enough to cut through the ice protecting her, and took away another chunk of her arm.
How did Kitten not know it could hurt her? Does Anima’s power interfere with her combat sense? Does each one count as a different target, and there were just too many? Kitten rolled away and killed that one with thrown ice daggers. The other four flickered and vanished.
She turned to face me again, her face too covered in ice for me to see her expression. Probably less disturbing that way. She rushed toward me, sword at the ready. I doubted she’d use it to kill, she’d just maim me and come back to take her time later. Joke’s on her. I set the deadman’s switch on my armor, one last burst of power when she got close. It might hurt her, it would kill me.
“Run, moron!” Respawn shouted as he dived past me and slammed into Kitten. They both hit the ground hard and were on their feet a heartbeat later. She jumped over his head, and somehow he copied on top of his own shoulders and caught her. The pair slammed right back into the ground. I had to admire his persistence.
I noticed the door of the truck open and close without anyone trying. The noncorp’s power in action. They wanted me at the truck, for some reason. Could it be they actually have a plan? I activated the burst effect for my armor, breaking free from the ice at the cost of another 10% of my supply.
My acceleration mode kicked in, and I bolted toward the vehicle. I could afford a dozen more hits from her daggers, and the tracking software would let me avoid the spears and ice waves. It wasn’t that far from the-
Alerts flashed in my armor, too late to act on them. A sharp pain shot through my chest as my armor highlighted damage and warned me of an imminent system collapse. I didn’t need all that, I could see the problem: a blood covered blade the length of my forearm was sticking out of my chest.
Huh. I thought dying would hurt more than this.
“Never turn your back on the enemy.”