“We need to run.” I tugged on Cecelia’s shoulder. Please, please just listen to me for once. “Next time they find us, they’ll be out for blood. We can’t fight them all, and if we keep trying they’ll just bring more. We’ll die if we stay.”
“You’re right.” Cecelia finally took her eyes off Daybreak’s glow in the distance. At night, she was like a green star dancing in the sky. “We die if we stay. That’s why you’re going to leave.”
But “What about you?”
“I can’t.” To my surprise, my power said she was telling the truth. “Not while they’re here.” She gestured to where Daybreak’s glow was heading toward the west outskirts of town.
“They’re drawing you into a trap!” Cecelia was always the crazy one, but this was going too far, even for her.
“Well, duh.” Cecelia bared her teeth; orange lightning danced across them. “I know it. And they know I know it. But it’s Destiny. It’s impossible to fight Destiny. We must have our final showdown. Either I kill them, or they kill me.”
“Don’t be stupid!” I grabbed her shirt. “They’ll have the entire city’s Imbued waiting-” My power saw her anger and angle of attack right before the back of her hand to hit my cheek. The blow itself was minor, but the thunder that came with it knocked me off my feet.
“I’m not stupid!” Cecelia’s voice crackled with the energy she didn’t expend on my face.
I stared up at her through my tears, my hand on my burned cheek while my power running down all the ways I could end her. Each second gave me five new options, a list of flaws in her fighting skills, and all the ways ice could insulate against electricity. “S-sorry. I don’t get it.” Why you’re trying to kill yourself. “If you have to go, let me come with.”
“No.” Cecelia’s voice was still angry, but the lightning was gone. She stepped closer to me, while my power screamed that I should move to avoid another attack.
Her glare softened, and a soft smile formed. “You can’t.” She kneeled down in front of me, her face hovering just over mine. “This is my Destiny, not yours. You’ll understand when you find yours.”
She’s so happy. I couldn’t remember a time when she was ever so calm and at peace. Excited, yes, but that was filled with so much rage. It was why I could never satisfy her like those other girls did. This was something different, something almost religious.
“O-okay.” If I wanted to stop her, I’d have to hurt her, and then I’d have to kill her so she didn’t kill me. Or maybe. I smiled, then wet my lips with my tongue. “But maybe a little fun before you go?” With all the fighting and hiding, it had been almost two days since we had a chance. All I have to do is distract her until they give up.
“Mmm, that does sound nice.” She ran her tongue along my cheek, cleaning my tears and the soot left from her attack. Her hand ran along my neck, nails just sharp enough to draw blood. “But my Destiny awaits.” Danger! I couldn’t escape in time.
I woke half-buried in cold mud. My power turned inward, scanning the damage and healing in order of importance. She stopped my heart with electricity, poisoned me with something arsenic based, and then left me in a muddy ditch. In short, my body was a wreck, but I healed the worst of it while unconscious. By my best guess, I’d been out for about fifteen minutes.
I started working on my muscles. Cecelia was a stronger shapeshifter, but my other power made me more precise. As soon as my body would let me, I started running. It hurt; I could turn off my ability to feel pain, but that would slow me down, and I needed every second.
If I hurried, I should only be ten minutes behind by the time she got to Daybreak and Damascus. She couldn’t beat them, but she could keep up the fight with them for ten minutes.
Fortunately for me, my danger sense works no matter what. I dropped into a roll moments before the ground behind me exploded. “Fuck!” I didn’t have a chance to look at who attacked me before my senses screamed out again, but not in time to dodge the blade that slit open my throat.
I stopped my bleeding, then forced my healing into overdrive. I shifted my muscles around even while avoiding another attack. A huge man with a battle ax almost cut me in half. I made daggers in my hands to throw, but he vanished in purple flame. Teleportation? Illusion?
If it was an illusion, it was a very good one. I crouched, changing my senses to pick up scents or sounds that humans could not. “Show yourself! Who are you!?” I survived the ambush, but it seemed unlikely that was the end of the fight. I froze the air around my arms, creating bracers of solid ice. I couldn’t block the big guy; he was way stronger than a human body, even mine, could hope to be, but it would beat the attack that hit my neck.
My arm shot up before I knew what was happening, to block another hit. Enough force to chip the ice, but only human strength using a sword. My other hand went up to catch something warm and soft. I barely realized what happened when I heard the gunshot.
I can catch bullets?
“Well, that’s inconvenient.” A woman’s voice came from everywhere and nowhere. Whoever it was wasn’t using telepathy; my power was good enough to confirm it was normal sound, but not enough to figure out where it came from. Even my lifesense saw nothing. “But perhaps a blessing in disguise.”
Danger! I flipped backwards, which let me avoid the ax, only to be rewarded with a slice under the armpit by the sword.
“We prefer our kills to be quick and clean.” The voice continued. Two more gun shots missed thanks to my speed, but I had to block a flash of light. One of my bracers shattered from heat. An energy attack? “Seems your powers make that impossible. So we’ll have to cut you down the slow way. I must admit, after what you did to Abraham, I’m rather looking forward to it.”
“By talking me to death?” I jumped sideways, avoiding some unseen attack. I threw a spread of ice knives at the direction of the attack, but hit only the dirt. Where are they? Why can’t I find her? My lifesense was able to pick everything else up, including people further way, but not my attackers. Even my combat sense could just barely keep up with the attacks.
“You must think you’re pretty good. I have to admit, of everyone we’ve hunted down over the years, you might be the single most vile,” the voice continued. “But you’re just another animal that needs put down. Isn’t that right, Kitten?”
My stomach clenched. How did she know? “That’s not my name!” That’s what He called me when… when…
A face, mutilated and bloody appeared in front of me. “It is your True Name. The name of the rot in your soul.” His voice was dry, empty of any emotion, but it cut me deeper than their weapons had.
“You’re not real! We killed y-” Trapped! My power decided on a direction, which forced me to run straight into a sword point. Ice wrapped over my chest, which kept me from being impaled by the weapon. I found myself slammed to the ground with enough force to shatter my arm, then narrowly escaped a killing blow that shattered the ground.
One’s so fast I can’t retaliate, but isn’t that strong. She’s trying to distract me so the big guy to take me out in a single blow. I stumbled to my feet, and threw a dagger with my usable arm. It struck home, sinking deep into the giant’s stomach. Purple flame covered him, and he was gone. I could only hope I did real damage.
Behind where he was stood my father; His skin burned off, showing organs that still moved despite being half-eaten by decay. My other sense showed the lie for what it was; there was a person standing there, but whole, intact, and not rotting. Though he was old, frail, probably in his eighties.
“Look upon the face of your sins.” The illusion stepped toward me. “You are nothing more than a monster, a cancer to be excised for the wellbeing of all good people. Yield to your fate.”
Fate. Cecelia said I would find one. “No! You’re a fake! Some kind of Infiltrator!” Already my arm was repairing itself, but it would take time. I forced the humid air to solidify into another dagger. My senses told me the perfect plan of attack, a single flick of the wrist and I’d take the throat out of the monster in front of me. Yet, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t make myself do it.
He’s not there. He’s dead. It’s a fake. Why can’t I-
I shot my arm out to my side, then twisted. Pain ended my train of thought; a beautiful rose colored mithril sword was stuck through my forearm. The weapon responsible for most of the hits I’d taken.
“Poor Kitten,” the infuriating woman spoke. “You stared into the abyss so long that it ate you alive. But you kept looking, and you found us: the monsters who hunt other monsters.”
I screamed as my reflexes kicked in, allowing me to avoid a series of gunshots as well as a couple more bursts from their laser weapon, but also slicing open my arm where the sword was still stuck. They’re doing this in bursts because they have to. She can talk the whole time, but they only have short windows to attack. Great, now how does that help me in any way?
“I almost feel bad for this, Kitten.” The woman’s voice still echoed around me. “We can end the pain. All you have to do is close your eyes, and it will all be over. I promise, you won’t feel it. Or anything else. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? His face will never trouble you again.”
It does. But I have to buy time; if they found me, then they must know where Cecelia is. Trembling, I brought up my barely functional arm to pull the sword out of the other. Everything hurt, but I couldn’t afford not to feel pain.
Now! I dropped to the ground, screaming as my every nerve punished me. In the same move, I swung the sword in a wide arc, casting off splinters of frozen blood in every direction. The horrid woman’s cry of pain joined my own.
“You little bitch!” Her words made the pain almost worth it. “Just know we really didn’t want to do this.”
The Infiltrator appeared in front of me. The illusion of my father’s naked, rotting thing was right at my eye level. It’s fake! It’s not real! It’s not! “Monster. Join me in hell, where you belong.” His hands reached out for me. I can kill him! He’s just an old man! There are so many ways I can kill him! My power gave me solution after solution, but the fear was so intense I could barely think, let alone act.
My power stopped describing him, and started describing me. I was bleeding out of several places, including a nasty gash in my thigh I hadn’t even realized happened. My heart was racing so fast from fear that, if I were a natural human, it would have exploded already. Some weird Gadgeteer poison, more powerful than anything Cecelia ever created, ran through me.
I should not be alive. Am I one of those? The ones that can’t die, even if they try? If I am, how will they beat me? Horrible images of being locked in a casket and buried in some sort of Gadget-concrete filled my mind. An eternity trapped in a cage, with my only memories being His face, and what he did to me.
The ground rumbled beneath me. For just a moment, the illusion of my father flickered. The Infiltrator lifted his head. “It is done. The first is slain, by another’s hand.”
The first? Cecelia! Power swelled up within me, as it had before. This time, I didn’t need Cecelia to make me brave enough to accept it. She’s gone, I need to be strong enough for both of us.
My senses changed, collapsing inward. My two mile sight now reached only a block or two, but it was clearer than ever before, and not limited to sight. It connected to my hearing, my sense of smell, and my combat sense; a single power existed where before it had been three.
More, I could feel the ebb and flow of the forces warring inside me. A thought, and the part of my brain vulnerable to the Infiltrator was reduced to near absolute zero. The pain was breathtaking.
He’s not where I thought he was. One of the three had some other form of illusion. It’s the woman. It wasn’t quite an illusion, more like some disruption of my sense of position and depth perception. The weakness is, it doesn’t discriminate, it hits her and her allies. They have to drop the power to find me. They must have trained with each other for years to use it as well as they do.
I could feel her now, not far away. She was on the ground trying to bandage the hole I put in her leg. My physical senses swore she wasn’t there, and the illusionist was right in front of me. Even my lifesense agreed, but my newly improved combat sense knew the truth. The Infiltrator was further away, but still in attack range.
They don’t realize I know.
My upper body was almost useless, so I relied on my lower. Two ice daggers formed, held by my toes. I kicked out in two directions, scoring direct hits into their skulls.
I forced myself to stand; now I could afford to turn off my sense of pain. Cecelia’s dead. What do I do without her?
Miles ahead of me, a plume of dust rose into the sky like a mushroom cloud. To my right, the roar of sirens and howl of wolves. Undoubtedly dozens of other Imbued rushing to the scene of my sister’s death.
Some of them will come this way, they’ll find me if I stay.
I hobbled my way toward a nearby patch of woods. If I could just stay hidden for an hour or two, I’d be able to heal and run.
I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to save you, Cecelia. I’m glad you were so happy to find your Destiny before you died. Maybe, some day, I’ll find mine.