Price Blue Steel, Chapter 8

I stepped back, deciding I’d be using Krav Maga for this fight. I knew other styles but most weren’t effective in an enclosed metal tube to begin with. The rest were unique to the special forces; a savvy opponent might draw conclusions

You intend to fight an Imbued with unknown powers while standing in knee high sewage? Wouldn’t it be so much easier, not to mention sanitary, to let me go?” It was a rhetorical question; this was exactly the sort of thing I had done in her situation. In a stupid way, I would have been disappointed if she had backed down.

“I know one power you don’t have.” She choked slightly on her own comment; I took that to mean she wasn’t accustomed to the smell down here. Black energy warped around her yet again, and she took a step to her left, through the wall.

And the enemy has superior mobility. I didn’t stop to think, instead bolting for my escape route. She no doubt expected me to run, but she couldn’t know my goal was a supply closet rather than some safe house. If she picked caution over aggression, she would move ahead and relay info to cops on the surface; a solid strategy in almost every situation other than this one.

My alarms went off again, and this time I was forced to dive backward to avoid the blade. Or she goes with the aggressive approach and keeps me off balance while she has the environmental advantage. I switched to environmental mode before landing on my back. It cost me power, and some of my protection, but it was preferable to literal shit in my eyes. I rolled to my feet, crouching in the sewage

Okay, a power like that has to come with limitations. If she can move through walls and attack with impunity, she’s unstoppable. <Guys. Lynx is not letting me go. Does she have a weakness I can use?> No one gets unlimited phasing. She can see me through the walls, that seems obvious. Maybe she needs to go normal to breathe?

Another proximity alarm went off, but I was struck before I could react. The gunshots rang through the tunnel at the same moment my computer then let me know I took two fifty cal rounds, one in each shoulder. The physical impact was little more than a paintball pellet to me, but the implications were manifold and staggering.

First, there was no way she had that weapon, or the swords, on her in that hospital bed. Second, she had the ability to fire with accuracy enough to strike me right where the ball joint of the shoulder was, then fight the recoil of a fifty caliber round and strike my other shoulder in the exact same spot while in absolute darkness. Third, she was now using lethal weaponry.

All this passed through my head in the heartbeat it took me to spin and face her. She has a range of at least ten yards with that fake-teleport trick of hers. <You got anything yet?> “I thought there were laws against trying to kill Imbued?”

<Sorry. There’s nothing.> Abernathy sounded like she felt she had personally failed. <She’s listed as light manipulation and short range teleportation with minor Tracker powers like super hearing and accuracy. She’s supposed to be a B-list hero with C-list powers!>

Light manipulation? Guess that’s how she explains the black light to the public. It wasn’t general knowledge, but enough civilians had picked up on the pattern that Imbued often had colors to their powers, and only the strongest had black or white auras.

<So she’s been hiding her real powers. Do you think her bosses are fooled?> I backed away. The goal was, as always, to reach my exit point. Every step was a little closer to victory.

<Don’t know, but I’ll see if I can find out.> Abernathy didn’t sound hopeful.

“You’re at least a Tank three. That’s bulletproof.” Despite her claim, she still had the weapon trained on me. “I’m just testing your abilities. I know you have superhuman speed with burst limits, but do you also have some kind of combat sense?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She’s talking instead of fighting, even down here. Why? Perhaps she has burst limits of her own. I was down to less than a fifth of my full power as it stood, and the small trickle of energy my power granted was enough to keep the computer charged and little else. Burst power time.

I hit the lens, hoped against hope that she couldn’t see how space warped around us, and bolted for my target. I wasn’t far from the goal, only a couple hundred meters. I turned off the bio-scanners, they had nothing new to tell me and would only drain power. She didn’t shout a protest this time; I assumed she did her wall-bypass trick and was going to move close enough to hit me.

My proximity alarms let me know I was right; a stab aimed at my legs from below the waters. She’s not limited to normal directions and gravity. 

I jumped over, diving face first in the muck and rolling back to my feet. If the environmental shield goes down, this will be remembered as the third worst day of my life. As it stood, it was worming its way up the top 10 list.

The alarm went off again, allowing me to avoid a… Grenade? Ah fuck. 

It went off in the air a heartbeat after passing my face. I had just enough time to wonder if she had combat precog, hope it was an incendiary, and wonder if anyone had ever hoped the grenade going off in their face was an incendiary before. I was blinded, and then- nothing. I was just blinded.

“That’s a semi-nonlethal super polymer webbing.” My hearing was muffled, but even so still sharper than it had been before I got my upgrades. “I say ‘semi’ nonlethal because if it gums up your airways, you’re hosed. Point blank shot like you just took? Twelve ton stress limit. You’re strong, but are you that strong?”

I couldn’t answer because she was right; I wasn’t able to break out of this stuff. My computer nabbed schematics from the Artemis database, and relayed technical details about the material’s properties. It then selected the program that would let my shield eat its way out.

“Now, I don’t know if you can breathe in there, or even need to breathe, so I want you to relax and listen before you start to asphyxiate.” Her voice was getting closer; I just stood and acted like I was complying. “It’s a real bitch once it gets on your skin. I’m told that if you peel it off the hard way, it’ll take your tattoos with it. Now, I have a nice chemical that’ll dissolve it for you. Be a good boy, I’ll cuff you, and then I’ll use it so you can breathe. Or we can wait until you pass out or run face first into a wall and maybe die before the ERT get down here with enough solvent to get you free. How’s that sound?”

With my new symbiotic organs producing oxygen inside me, I was in no danger of asphyxiation, but I could imagine how easy it would be for someone to panic in my current situation. Meanwhile, my computer had downloaded the necessary software, adapted the forcefield, and was now turning this super-polymer into something that felt like a wet foam pillow.

Whatever process it was using also ate almost everything that remained of my backup battery. There goes any hope of running.

Still blind, I tracked her through the echolocation system. Trying hard not to hate myself for what I was about to do, I waited for her to get as close as possible.

In a single movement I pulled my hand from the now neutralized foam, spun around, and caugh her across the face with a hard backhand. Not an ideal strike, but between my strength and metal bones, an ‘ideal’ strike could be lethal.

Lynx was knocked off her feet by the force of the blow, then fell into the wall, where she vanished from sight.

She rolled with the blow, and now she knows I’m capable of more than running away. I sloshed toward my exit point, slowed now that I no longer had enough power to maintain my shields. If she tries that webbing again, I’ve lost. 

She appeared behind me and unloaded the rest of her gun into my back. Thanks to the subdermal armor, it amounted to little more than minor stinging and a slight increase in power. I put my effort into getting a few more meters through the water.

My sensors let me know she vanished again. I stayed on high alert as I moved forward, my proximity alarm was one of the few things I left power running on. In lieu of a better battery, I need to learn not to run so many features at the same time. Here my military training was biting me in the ass; I spent years conditioned to eliminate the target with overkill rather than trying to conserve resources.

The alarm tripped again; this time, she aimed low. I chose to be be generous and assume she was going for my leg rather than my groin. I need more power, and there does happen to be one source in the room, but damn is this going to hurt. Instead of smart strategy of not allowing myself to be impaled, I put my arm in the sword’s path.

The ebon-covered sword slid into my forearm, sending white hot pain up my shoulder while a dozen different medical alarms went off in my brain. Whatever she did to the weapon allowed it to pass through the subdermal armor and then fuse itself into my arm bones, not far from the wrist.

No way that’s coming out. The Gadgeteers on the team are going to look at this and weep. The jury was out on whether it’d be in frustration for breaking their toys, or joy at the cool new thing they could study.

The black aura folded backward away from the blade while my internal battery climbed. Three minutes. The power I got off her in half a second is worth three minutes at full power. While one part of my brain had that thought, another part activated the speed boosts, and a part of me that swore to one day beat my drill instructor’s ass handled the rest.

A step forward followed by bringing my forehead down into hers; she’d feel more than I would. The black aura around her washed back, adding more power to my batteries. I would have followed with a right hook, but that limb was nonfunctional by virtue of a sword fused through the bones. Instead, I brought up my left and grabbed her shoulder. My power bar climbed as her costume started to melt away.

Beneath it, she was wearing a blue shirt that was a washed-out gray to my darkvision.

I brought a knee up into her side, twice, then my hearing recognized the crack sound. Oh no. Not again. She slumped in my hold, already unconscious.

Trembling, I turned off the enhanced abilities and activated the medical scanners that ate into my power. Concussion, bruising to the spine from whiplash, radial splinters in the shoulder, broken hip. Having identified major problems, it started going down the list of secondary concerns and old wounds.

Repetitive stress injury to the wrist, knees and foot, three bad teeth, broken toes that healed wrong and a floating rib break.

<Control?> I felt ashamed to speak to them, after what I’d inflicted on this woman. I’d beaten, even killed before, and once had been with a combination of my bare hands and the knife my attacker came at me with, but it had always been the enemy. Soldiers defending despots, terrorists, people who deserved it.

I’d never hurt an innocent, let alone a police officer before.

<Judging by this. I don’t think she’s ever been to a hospital in her life.> Doctor Patil said. Seems he’d found his voice, now that the immediate dangers had passed. War wasn’t his element, but he was still a doctor. <Her immunology suggests her last inoculations happened when she was thirteen. And I’m not certain what to think of the alimentary scans.>

I took his word for it; other than the bone breaks, I understood almost nothing this system was telling me.

<She can’t,> Abernathy added. <I dipped into my power. If you want a clearer answer you’ll have to figure it out the old fashioned way.>

More logic I had a hard time refuting. She can’t go to a doctor? I noted the black tendrils trying to work their way up her body. Some reached out for me, caressing my skin for the briefest moment before dissolving. They left behind an unpleasant numbing sensation that reminded me of the earliest stages of frostbite, and a small increase to my batteries.

<I think it has something to do with her power.> She’s going to need medical attention. I wasn’t a doctor, but I had first responder training; without real medical attention, she could die, and I’d be the one who killed her.

I picked her up into an awkward bridal carry, using the forcefields to help where my damaged arm could not. I’ve had this job for less than three days, and already any of my old commanding officers would be thinking about my court martial. There was something in there about being easier to ask forgiveness than permission as well, and a third set of thoughts that struggled not to think about at all. It was an accident. I’m not like him. 

I activated the nerve-blocking chip; in combat, the brief delay it caused between think and act was a lethal liability. Outside of combat, the side effects of turning it off was worse than the teleporter. I turned it on only because I couldn’t afford to get sick and drop her on the other side.

The supply closet was spacious and forgotten; it didn’t even have a security lock, and seemed long ago raided. Aside from us, the majority of mass in the room was dust and mildew. I activated the teleportation signal.

The strange fractal web pattern started to form; now that it had begun, an attempt to turn it off would sterilize the room of all life. <Have two sets of clothes and medical beds waiting. I’m bringing back a guest.>

I looked down at the unconscious woman. I will fix this, I promise.

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5 thoughts on “Price Blue Steel, Chapter 8

  1. A/N- I AM BACK ON SCHEDULE!!! Plus a week. But I don’t like thinking about my buffer because I know if I do I’ll get lazy and let it vanish, so I pretend it doesn’t exist.

    I will, however, remind you readers about it so you don’t get mad at me when I slip up a day or two.

    Anywho. Lynx. Badass, but not equipped to deal with power nullifying enemies. Especially ones with, like, a dozen other equally high level powers. Once Warren was willing to fight back, the game changed by a lot.

    Other plot related hints.

    And next chapter will be aftermath related! Lots and lots of aftermath to deal with.

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

    Oh, right, and let’s not forget the votings. I’d like to get back up to 70 votes again. That was a fun place to be.

    Like

  2. So Warren has a couple of skeletons in his closet huh? I am somehow not surprised. I bet Phoebe would roll with it just fine as well, since obviously the main character has a troubled past.

    I also think Phoebe is going to have a harder time rolling with another potential love interest being introduced (whether or not that is actually what is happening).

    So part of the price Lynx paid is that her power is always-on, or something similar, and that has stopped her from getting medical attention. Either that or she is going the Domenic route of heroing by just sucking it up and running around with all of her injuries.

    That leads to a very interesting question though. There are obviously people out there who’s power directly affects their life in a negative way. Are there also power nullifiers who sell their service as a mitigating force for power related life troubles? I can definitely see that as being a niche job but still a good way to make money. It all depends on the powers and how they interact, and whether the nullifier has any other abilities or side effects, but with the wide variety of powers there is bound to be something like that out there right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phoebe was ready to roll with the main character being a girl. She didn’t like the idea very much, but she was going to do it anyway. Poor Phoebe.

      Markets for “temporary” power removal are small, and “permanent” removal simply does not exist. There are exactly zero true power removers in the whole setting. Temporary ones, to be certain, but even those are rare. And the people who both want, and can afford, temporary power removal is pretty few and far between. Makes for a spotty business practice.

      Power nullifying Imbued mostly get gobbled up by governments. And if you can’t think of reasons a government would like to block powers, even temporarily, you’re not trying…

      Like

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