RecognitionShock. “Looks like someone’s getting ready to start a war down there.” Domenic looked over at me, his face illuminated by my aura reflecting off the walls of our ‘stealth vehicle’. In as much as me carrying us around inside a dark gray hamster ball counted as stealth and a vehicle. “I’m counting twelve guns, and it looks like they’re all carried by different people. One’s an assault rifle.” FrustrationUseless. “If we keep doing this, I’ll need to study gun profiles.”
ContemptBored. “Our biggest find, but-” RealizationSurpriseExcitement. “Ooh, that’s fun. Two different groups, and they both have Imbued with them. Don’t know how many. Enough to make reading fate difficult.” Cecelia clasped her hands behind her back and stretched outward, whilst Domenic and I did our level best to ignore the way her lithe movements displayed her figure.
RejectionCaution. “Then we fall back and call the police. We’re not ready-”
DisdainConfidence. “We’re stronger than anyone who needs guns as backup.” Lightning danced across the metal as Cecelia began to overcharge my battery. I found myself agreeing with her; not many Imbued were strong enough to render firearms obsolete, but nothing shy of anti-tank weapons were a factor for us. “Besides, by the time the cops get here, it’ll be too late.”
HesitationSuspicion. “Your power say that, or are you just looking for a fight?”
IrritationAcceptance. Sensing Domenic’s decision, I began to lower us to the roof. “Still calling the cops, even if they’ll be late.” Domenic pulled his phone, despite the fact that it was impossible to get a signal through the steel ball we were riding in. “Bit more to the left. Okay, back a bit, there we go. Slow down. Five, four, three, two, one…” A soft echo announced that I’d hit the roof.
The metal folded away into a platform, rather than joining the rest of the metal in Domenic’s collection. Meanwhile, I got a look with my own eyes at where we were. “This is!”
“Where we first met,” Cecelia said as she moved toward the edge of the building. “The fate-threads didn’t arrange it, it’s only a weird coincidence, right?”
ConsiderationAcceptance. Domenic made his way after Cecelia. “Not as strange as you’d think. I’m no expert, but this building is from back when this city had an economy, and then we came along and set off a bomb inside it. Don’t think a month is enough time for them to make sure the place won’t collapse the moment a good storm comes through.”
“If they ever bother.” Domenic had a point about the economy; we’d picked here because it was in the part of town nobody cared about, with as few innocent bystanders as possible. It hadn’t always been that way, as I’d heard time and time again from my father when he talked about dreams of reviving the city to its glory days. The most notorious villain in the city is trying rebuilding it, while all I do is destroy things.
SupportLove. Domenic cleared his throat. “So, two armed groups in an abandoned building. You thinking drug deal? Because this looks to me like a drug deal.”
“No drugs, just the weapons,” Cecelia said. “The fate threads sing of blood and death. Their only reason for being here is to kill each other. If we want, we could” RepulsivePathetic “hide here until they’re done and mop up the winners.”
There was little doubt of Cecelia’s opinion on the ‘wait and see’ approach. For my part, I sent back my gratitude for Domenic keeping the subject on work rather than allow me to fall back into my pity party.
AccedeReady. “No, we’re in this to save lives. Even if they’re scum.” Domenic’s armor shifted into the more blocky plate armor style, rather than its amorphous default. Though our reasons were different, it felt good when the three of us were in agreement. “While on the subject, I’m seeing… crossbow bolts?”
I followed them to the edge of the roof, as I shared my knowledge with the pair. “Common weapon in Imbued combat. Crossbows are often stronger than bullets against powers. More mass means more impact force, better chance of getting through shields or armor, whether powered or mundane. They go right through Kevlar.”
“They’re quieter and don’t explode around fire. And trust me, it’s a lot easier to regen with a bullet in you than an arrow. Or you coat them in poison and-” Cecelia stopped her rather disturbing praise of the weapons. “We’ve got about twelve seconds before they start shooting each other.”
PanicUncertaintyFocus. “C- Plasma! Third floor! We’ll catch up!”
I braced myself for the vertigo of rapid direction change as I dived off the roof and pushed my glow to the brightest I could without costing power. The element of surprise, great as it was, would involve them shooting each other while we were relying on stealth. With a quick twist, I more rolled than flew in through the window. “You’re all under arrest!”
I still hadn’t oriented myself to get a look at my surroundings, let alone identify the voice, when someone landed on me from above. Pain shot through the left side of my face, which caused me to lose control and tumbled into one of the support pillars. I tasted blood in my mouth, but had righted myself and had the advantage of a concrete wall to my back. UrgencyProtectDestroy.
“Fuck!” The voice echoed through the almost empty building. I located the source, a man in a cheap black body stocking lay on the ground, holding his right leg in obvious pain. The portion of his costume around his leg had been destroyed, save for a few parts that were still burning with enough light to reveal his pallid skin. “It’s broke!”
I would have made a quip, but for the pain in my jaw. My battery had been drained, along with much of the backup charge held in my armor. If not for that extra energy, he might have killed me. Any further thoughts I had were interrupted with the deafening noise of gunfire going off, amplified by the building’s acoustics.
With my battery about to die, I ran for one of the pillars in the far corner. I wasn’t concerned about the bullets; so long as I had juice left, I recharged faster than they cost me. My fear was that I might take a hit from something stronger which might break my shield.
A streak of orange light came in through another window and slammed one of the gunmen to the ground. Cecelia stood amidst a shimmering sphere of orange lightning almost as intimidating as Dom’s wings. It took me a moment to realize it was a shower of electrified metal dust. A tiny part of me was jealous that I didn’t have a cool move of my own.
A burst of force caught me off guard, and I was pushed back against the pillar I’d been moving away from. It didn’t seem to eat much power, but I found myself facing off against a large Altered who looked like a living man made of stone.
AlertThreat! Cecelia seemed busy with her own problem, which left me alone against my opponent. I counted myself fortunate that the gunmen had decided to let the Imbued to deal with their own.
The rock man stepped forward, taking a loose combat stance with arms extended away from his body that looked to me like Tai Chi, thought I was no expert on different arts. “This does not concern you. Leave while you can.”
Buying time is good for me. “A small army shows up in my city with guns? I’ll make it my concern.” I hadn’t had my powers long enough to evolve a style specific to them, so I defaulted to Aikido, with both hands forward at the ready as if to attack. I kept my center of balance set for defense until I could recharge more.
He moved forward first, swinging his arm in what I thought was a distraction technique, given his distance, but I was knocked to the left by some unseen force. He cleared the distanced between us before I could reorient myself, and I took a hit to the stomach. My flailing attempt to counter missed him entirely, and I activated my flight to get distance.
Huh, that didn’t hurt. I’d lost almost twice the power on flying away than I had from the hit. At least now I had some idea what I was up against. “Air control, huh?”
“You can still withdraw,” the statue-man said. “I don’t want to kill you.”
“And I won’t let you to kill anyone else.” I wished I could believe my own bravado. “It would be easier if you surrendered. Nobody’s died yet, so I’m sure the judge will be lenient. If someone gets killed, it will be a lot worse. Or, you could just run away.”
He gestured again, this time punching toward me with an open palm. I kicked up my power and held my ground with less energy cost than I had recovered during our conversation. He followed the burst of wind he’d created in a crude semblance of flight. I stepped back and extended a foot, which he hit with his own, then he bounced back and landed on his feet.
He’s more durable than most, but his strength is about what you’d expect for a normal, if athletic, man. All I need to do is get hold of him, and I win. I jumped forward, with only a minor burst of speed from my power to help.
Instead of dodging to the side, which I was prepared for, he rolled backward and thrust up at me as I went over him. I slammed into the ceiling hard enough to crack the concrete, which ate all the energy I’d managed to recover. Another gust sent me off toward a pillar, but I’d corrected myself with a burst of flight before the collision.
Instead of pressing the attack, he stepped back into a guard stance. “You are strong, but untempered, undisciplined. With time, you might be able to defeat me, but not as you are.”
I braced myself for another attack, knowing full well he couldn’t hit me hard enough to hurt me. Cecelia shot past me, and a blue costume appeared right in front of me. She didn’t stay there long, as my opponent’s gust of wind caught both of us and the girl in blue went flying past me. ThrillSuccess.
“I will kick you in the twat for that, you bitch!” The woman who’d just caught the brunt of her teammate’s power shouted in a distinct British accent.
“His power has a cooldown.” Her message delivered, Cecelia ran off toward her opponent. In passing, she hit me with a burst of electricity that gave me some much needed leeway. “Not the first time I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot!”
It took me a moment to get the joke, at which point I would have cringed if not for the fact I was facing down an opponent on next to no power. Meanwhile, I could only guess what was going on in the minds of the normals around us.
“Well, that’s good to know.” I took a step toward the statue-man. “Care to surrender? Maybe before Spark figures out how to catch your friend?”
Whatever the man might have said was interrupted by gunfire, as several men in what looked like SWAT gear rushed in. They unloaded their crossbows at the gunmen who were paying more attention to us than their surroundings. The gunmen fired back, which resulted in tiny purple flickers rather than screaming and death. Behind the shied was Parapet, her power to create mono-directional forcefields turning what may otherwise have been a battle into a one-sided slaughter.
Salamander announced himself with a roar as reptilian as he was as he jumped out from one of the holes for car ramps. He grabbed one of the few remaining mundanes with two of his hands, sinking the claws into the man’s shoulders. A third hand grabbed the man by the skull and forced his head back, while the final ripped open his throat. Salamander kept his mouth open, still roaring as the man’s arterial spray coated his otherwise naked body.
“My apologies,” the stone man I’d been fighting said. He reached out to me, his palm open and his fingers hooked toward me. I braced for a hit he squeezed his hand shut and yanked toward himself.
Agony shot through my chest. FearLossPain! Everything went black.