Kitten jumped away from me and hit the ground running. She created a sheet of ice that took her well past speeds that I could hope to catch. Flux barely made it more than twenty feet before my sword hit the shield, and ice exploded from the blade. When the mist cleared, Kitten was hugging him from behind, while he slumped over.
My stomach dropped. I didn’t like the guy, but he just sacrificed his life to save Cassie’s. No one would have blamed him if he didn’t, chances are no one would know he could have made a difference. He died just like that, right in front of me. If I surged earlier, could I have saved him?
Kitten twisted and threw his body at me, a trail of blood where the sword yanked out of his chest. I could have dodged his body, but that seemed wrong somehow. I caught him and my power kicked in, letting me know his heart had stopped.
I didn’t know where Anima was, but she was probably looking after Guardian, if he even survived Kitten’s attack. Two down in minutes, one of which was top tier. The plan was shot, even if we evacuated all the survivors she’d just track us down one by one and kill us.
Kitten looked at me. “You know, I couldn’t have done that without you.”
What? I eyed her, trying to think of some way I could do some real damage. That layer of ice armor meant I couldn’t tell if her hand already healed, or for that matter if any of the damage I’d done to her earlier had stuck.
“Yup.” She hefted the sword and rested it on her shoulder. “Your old power was better than you realized. I don’t know how, but it’s stronger than any metal I’ve ever encountered. It can withstand extreme temperatures, and it doesn’t get dull, even when I use it to cut people in half.”
I looked down at Flux’s body. One more death on my conscience. “You sadistic monster.”
“Oh, don’t pretend it bothers you now, when you didn’t even try to stop me sooner.” Kitten tilted her head, rubbing the fresh blood over her ice shell. “About time he stood up for himself. You have no idea how boring it is to fuck a coward. Hopefully you’ll be more fun.”
I laughed. Somehow, I actually laughed. “Fuck yourself.” I set Flux on the ground and just started walking toward the vehicle. “I’m done playing this game of yours.” My emotions were in such turmoil that I had no idea what I was feeling anymore. Is this why Sapphire refused to help? Did she know how it would go?
“No!” Kitten shrieked. “You don’t get to walk away from me!” She stepped to block my way. I stopped and looked at her. She was covered in blood soaked ice, impossible for me to see any of her features, but I imagined she was enraged. Good.
I shrugged my shoulders and smirked, watching my breath in the cold drizzle. “I’m pretty sure my power means I can. See?” I stepped sideways, to move around her. Predictably, she grabbed my arm and slammed me hard into the ground. I duplicated on my feet and took another step before again hitting the ground and dying.
Her third attempt was a grapple, pinning my arms behind my back. I just kicked the ground and broke my toes. A couple more steps forward. “Don’t you get it, bitch? There’s nothing you can do to keep me here.” I stopped when a wall of ice shot up in front of me, then started spreading out in a ring around us. “Okay, there’s one thing you can do to keep me here.”
I turned around and leaned my back against the wall. “By the way, I’ve finally figured out the flaw in your power.” Even through the ice, I could see the glow of fire. Pity I couldn’t see Kitten’s face. “You trust it way too much.”
I’m really going to need to talk to Muwth, because I’m starting to see a pattern here. The building itself was a nice looking nightclub called ‘The Seventh Circle’. Even on a Tuesday night before Christmas, this place had a line outside. In spite of the cold, a lot of women were still dressed to kill. I couldn’t help but think of Cassie, and how she looked better than most of these women.
I also couldn’t help but note the number of people with permanent tans in the line, all wearing expensive outfits and jewelry. I wondered how they’d react if they found out who the owner of this club was.
They all looked at my cheap jeans and shirt with contempt, if they bothered to look at me at all. Proving once again that the only color that truly mattered was green.
I skipped the line and walked straight up to the bouncers. Both of them were ‘Nazi approved’ white boys. They were pretty big, dressed up in suits that probably hid bullet proof vests. “Kid, even if I believed your fake ID, you ain’t the kind of people that gets into a club like this.”
I couldn’t quite place his accent, but my guess was somewhere in New York. “Bet you a Benjamin that I am.” I held up a hundred, the last I had from the reward money, and tossed it at him.
The other guard laughed. “We’re supposed to be impressed b-” he shut up quick when I teleported the bill back to my hand. His hand slapped the pager hanging from his belt. “We’ve got an Imbued out here, might be trouble.”
The first guy stepped forward, as patrons backed away from what might become a fight. If he was being paid enough to stand his ground against Imbued, a hundred wouldn’t be much of a bribe. “Listen, buddy.”
“Oh, so I’m ‘buddy’, now?” I interrupted.
He ignored my comment. “We don’t know what you can do, but we don’t want trouble. The guys inside have already hit the deadman alarm and are calling the cops. You haven’t done anything illegal yet, so if you just walk away we all can go home and enjoy Christmas with our families.”
I could believe they called the cops here. According to Muwth, this was a legit business for money laundering, so Crucible made sure nothing illegal happened here. “That’s okay, just here to drop off a note. Make sure the boss gets it.” I handed over the piece of paper. “I’ll be over there by the river.”
I turned and walked away, making my way to the Potomac.
I didn’t have to wait long before a ring of flame appeared around me, Crucible’s power in action. He was a destructive heavy hitter capable of encasing a small building in fire that could melt stone.
He usually didn’t use nearly that level of power. Like right now, it was hot, but not hot enough to make me sweat, let alone burn.
“What do you think you know?” Crucible’s voice was hidden behind a voice changer, like so many others, but his was better than most. He sounded almost normal, and the cold threat was clear. Some part of me expected him to have either a German or deep southern accent, but he sounded just like a normal, if pissed off, man.
I turned to face him. He wasn’t that impressive looking, a bit shorter than me in a costume that looked like he was cosplaying a knight. He got by on his power for intimidation, and even it wasn’t that good. A Sniper 4.2, Summoner 1.8, with no backup features.
“I know an Imbued by the name of Kitten killed Dawn Star. The two of you were close, right?”
“If you’re lying to me.” The flames around me jumped to about waist high, and now I felt the heat. “I’ve read up on you. You’re vulnerable to fire. I can kill you.”
“Scarier than you have tried,” I answered truthfully. “I’ve done some reading up, too. You can create flames, increase or decrease their intensity, but that’s all you can do. You can’t control them, and aren’t immune to fire.”
“I don’t need to be.” The fires dimmed down ever so slightly.
“With me, you do,” I answered, feigning confidence. I knew fire took a lot out of me, what I didn’t know was how much of it I could take before he wore me down. “I’m a teleporter, remember? Try it and you’ll join me. Are you willing to die on a chance to kill me? Besides, if you play your cards right, I might give you a free shot.”
Now the fires vanished. “I’m listening.”
“Cool.” The sweat on my skin was already starting to freeze in the night air. “So, anyway, we’re dealing with a lunatic named Kitten. She seems to have a track record of going after your people.” By which I mean members of white power gangs. “We’ve both lost people important to us. She murdered the woman I loved, and your, umm…” I trailed off.
It took a moment before Crucible volunteered his half. “My daughter.”
Kitten lunged forward, kicking me in the face and smashing my head into the ice, hard enough to crack the wall. Huh, she can run up walls, too. She hopped over the lip of the ice bowl she created, leaving me behind.
I looked at the walls, they weren’t as thick or as strong as I was expecting. I hammered my elbow into the dent made by my head, cracking a fist sized hole through the wall. First my hand went through, then I duplicated on the other side.
She had gotten a head start rushing toward the truck, where Crucible was standing. Two of his racist asshole guards were there as well, in blocking positions in front of their leader. They made a good show of confidence, but if Kitten’s power said she’d lose, I couldn’t imagine she’d be doing a frontal assault like this. I rushed after her, hoping they could delay long enough for me to catch up.
And then she stumbled and hit the ground. Who? How? A glowing orange spear shot forward from a hole in the window of the second truck. It took me a moment to realize it was Lanza’s power. I knew he could summon spears, I didn’t know he could launch them like that.
Kitten blocked it with my sword. She stumbled back and launched a series of ice spikes at the Lightbringers. The ice twisted in midair, bending toward the ground and sinking into the asphalt. Either GL, or one guard’s a telekinetic.
Lanza stepped out of the car, condensing more orange light into spears that floated for a moment before launching toward Kitten. Ice started forming in short pillars, blocking the shots.
Another stream of fire forced Kitten further back behind cover. At this rate, maybe we wouldn’t be able to kill her, but we had her at a standstill. Kitten struck one of her own pillars, shattering it into a wave of spikes that shot toward Lanza. He blocked a few, but the ones that hit were deadly, and he dropped. Jagged frozen spines started forming along the ground as Kitten worked her way ever closer to the vehicles.
Crucible’s firewall was forming again, way too close to the trucks. At this rate, he’s going to kill everyone here, and if he doesn’t Kitten will. The trucks peeled off, leaving the fighters behind. Well, at least we know Kitten can’t outrun a truck.
I hit the ice sheet at full speed, diving and sliding because there was no way I’d be keeping my balance anyway. I played living toboggan for as long as I could, then jabbed my hand into the ice, breaking fingers and respawning on top of my body. Before it could lose cohesion, I jumped again, sliding just a bit closer.
A certain part of me felt pride with this move; it was one of the few that Alex had no part in helping me with. Kitten was busy dodging more of Lanza’s spears. I didn’t know how he survived and kept fighting, but I wasn’t arguing.
It took me three repeats, but I did catch up to Kitten. She casually elbowed me in the face and jumped through the fire ring. I got a good look at Kitten’s biology in that moment of contact, and wow were her insides fucked up. Internal bleeding, broken bones, probably a concussion, chunks of burnt flesh. I didn’t know whether to give us credit for dealing that kind of damage, or give her credit for surviving it.
The first guard went down before even having a chance to do anything with his power. The other raised his hand and fired a ray of black energy at Kitten. Does that mean he’s fourth stage?
Kitten didn’t bother to dodge, the ray hit her armor and deflected off right at me. Son of a bitch. The beam felt a lot like what Ferne did to me, draining my strength and dropping me to my knees. The fire ring kept growing in strength.
I watched as Kitten decapitated the other guy with my sword, then threw the blade. I couldn’t see what it hit, but with her power I knew it hit something. The firewall had grown too thick and reached too high for me to see.
I offered a silent prayer to any being that might answer before activating my power. Kitten appeared right next to me as I collapsed from exhaustion. I used what strength I had left to fall backwards, just so I could see the inferno collapsing inward on the pair of us.
She looked around, then at me. “How!?” Through her ice shell, her voice was hollow and indistinct, but I imagined there was fear.
I forced myself to smile. “Your power doesn’t work on mine.” It never did. Every time I respawned bought me a brief moment where I could hit her, because it blinded her. “You touched me, that was enough.”
“But I didn’t touch you!”
I wished I had the strength to laugh. “Fun fact: one thing inside something else? My power thinks it’s all one thing. It’s why I didn’t just teleport your brain out of your skull. I guess your ‘destiny’ found a way of working out, huh?”
Kitten raised my sword, glowing red from the light of the inferno reflecting off the ice shell. Both came down at me, and I wasn’t sure which would hit first.
I closed my eyes, and picked the best last words I could think of.
“Merry fucking Christmas.”