Price Threefold, Chapter 21- Cecelia

They’re not prepared. A dip into my Fate-sense proved it; neither of them were expecting us to fight. They think we’ll run. She’s the reason.

I locked my eyes on the woman, if she was a woman, known as Biohazard. I couldn’t dig deep into my power without leaving Chloe and Domenic vulnerable, but I could tell I had nothing to fear from her.

“That’s quite enough, I think.” I turned to look at the man who more hissed than yelled at us. So that’s Salamander. He might put up a fight.

He was as tall as Domenic in costume, and covered in rust-colored scales from head to toe. He was naked, though like a lizard there wasn’t anything to see, except that his muscles were thick, sinewy, and more like a jungle cat than a lizard. He had a second set of pects below the normal set, hooked up to another pair of arms sticking out from his ribs.

His face looked somewhat, but not quite, human. The snout and jaw was too close to human to look like any lizard I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t tell if his sneering face had a smile or frown.  He knew he was a powerful, deadly predator. I didn’t know if I could kill him, but with Chloe’s power, he wouldn’t be able to kill me.

“You brats had a good run, but it ends here.” He lifted one of his hands, displaying his three-fingered hand, and the wicked talons which rose from them. Glowing purple mist wafted off the tips of his claws. Imbued poison. “One way or another. Don’t feel too bad, been a long time since anyone pulled what you pulled. Be grateful you get to leave with your lives.”

TerrorFocus HateThreat. Oh come on, can’t you tell he’s fucking posturing?

Domenic took a step forward, to protect us girls from the lizard-man. “That’s it? Tell us to back off and hope it works?” HopeEscape. God damn it, Dom, don’t fucking cave now!

“If it were up to me, I’d see if you bleed metal like the rumors say.” I couldn’t tell if Salamander was smiling, but I his cocky stance was as human as they came. “My orders are something to do with not leaving corpses that can be traced back to the boss, but if you give me no choice? Well, I’ll throw one of his own quotes back at him. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

PainGuilt ComprehendReluctant. They’re going to accept his offer. Even though they can destroy him in a fight, they’d rather run. It’s because of her. I turned my attention back to Biohazard. She’s the one they really fear.

She was a Brawler, but my power didn’t see her as much of a threat to me. As long as she didn’t grab me, I was safe, because her power didn’t come with the skill to use it, and she’d wasn’t a fighter. I could take her with ease. Domenic had called her a ‘walking chemical weapon’, and that’s what she relied on. She didn’t think she had to fight, because people were too afraid to make her. Dumb bitch.

Before I gave myself time to think, to warn either side of what I planned to do, I shifted added spikes to the bottom of my boots and ran straight for Biohazard. Between her hazmat suit costume and the dark, with Chloe and the half-moon as the only light, she didn’t see me until it was too late.

I slammed feet first into her gut, kicked off, landed in a handstand, and flipped onto my feet facing her. I wanted to see how she reacted for just a moment, to figure out just how much of a fight she’d give me.

“Biohazard!” Salamandar caught on to what happened before anyone else, including Biohazard. DisbeliefHorror DismayTerror. Domenic and Chloe weren’t far behind, however.

Biohazard stumbled back, doubled over, and held her stomach, but managed to stay on her feet. I could hear her coughing and gagging behind the costume.

Okay, her powers are good, but she’s useless. She did take a hit that I knew from experience would reduce a normal person’s organs to mush. Her costume’s insulated, and she’s immune to poison, so my easy options are out. I’ll have to beat her the old fashioned way. Fine by me.

I ran in, dodged a sloppy backhand from her, and kicked her hard in the rib with all my strength. The crack I felt was her bones losing to my steel boot, yet still she didn’t fall. Maybe she’s tougher than I thought she was.

PanicUncertain DangerRetreat. Won’t have long before someone gets here to stop me.

I ducked under a sad attempt at fighting back, then caught her in a spin-kick to the head with enough power to crack a normal skull in half. She stumbled to the ground, and her hood went rolling away, exposing her face.

She could have been a pretty woman, once upon a time, but now her skin was dry and wrinkled in a way that went beyond ‘aged’ and into ‘mummified’. Her eye sockets were sunken in, with ichor leaking out of them that looked like used motor oil. Tears. She’s crying. Greenish blood leaked from where my kick split her bottom lip.

She had deep brown skin; not quite as dark as Domenic, but darker than his sister or grandmother. She scrambled to her feet and ran for her mask rather than fight me. I let her, because my power did not want to get close to her; her blood could kill me if I wasn’t careful.

“Well, there’s a twist.” I reshaped my boots so they had long, barbed claws on the toes. With some work, I’d be able to kick her, then break the barbs off inside her so they kept her from bleeding. Or at least kept the blood from getting out of her suit. She may have been tougher than human, but I was in another class altogether. “Y’know, I think there are words for people like you.”

“Fuck you!” Biohazard’s voice was sticky and wet, like her entire throat was covered in gunk. She pulled her hood back on, and spent time making sure it wouldn’t come off so easy next time I kicked her upside the head, which suited me fine. “I ain’t a nigger.”

“Uh huh.” AlertRun! Okay, this is getting annoying. “No, dammit, can’t you see I’m winning?!”

A pair of clawed hands grabbed my arm and shoulder, and two more dug into my back and chest. The armor held only because of Chloe’s forcefield, and it saved my life. Without her power, most of my insides would have been spread across the lot.

“I will kill you, bitch!” Salamander slammed his forehead down into the side of my skull while I struggled to get free. He hit hard enough to take a real chunk out of our battery; with enough time, we’d run out of power and I’d die.

Stupid! I should have been paying attention! Acting on instinct, I lifted my legs up into the air and kicked above my head. The four spiked hooks I’d crafted into my boots made the most satisfying crunch when they pierced Salamander’s skull. He froze, standing but motionless thanks to the spikes buried in his brain. Shit! I killed him, and now Chloe and Dom will hate me again.

Instead of dying, he roared, twisted his head, and bit down on one of my legs. His fangs sank into my armor, but didn’t get all the way through.

His jaws are stronger than his claws. I poured electricity right into his mouth, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Unlike Biohazard, he was able to take it as well as dish it out.

ProtectFear HelpAttack. A moment later we were rolling through the gravel after something hit us like a truck. What was that?

He growled and bit down harder on my leg. I created a barbed spike on my free leg’s knee and slammed it into his temple so hard that the spike punched out the other side. Somehow, he kept biting and clawing at me. Holy shit, how tough is this guy?

At least we were in a position where I could see what was going on around me. A giant mallet of steel slammed down on Salamander’s legs, and he roared in pain, but only bit down harder.

Chloe rushed in at that moment, and grabbed me by my one free arm, then started to pull me away. PanicEscapeHurry. Her strength passed right through my armor like it was pudding rather than steel, and yanked me out of Salamander’s grip. Then she turned and flew back toward Domenic.

“No!” I struggled to pull myself from Chloe’s grip, but I may as well have been trying to move a mountain. I watched Salamander, still clutching my leggings in his teeth. All for of his hands were busy tugging at the serrated spikes stuck in his skull. “We can beat them!”

Chloe didn’t listen, only slowing so she didn’t hurt Domenic when she ran into him and then took off into the sky. ConcernHope SafeRelief.

Domenic’s metal shifted, wrapped around us, and formed a makeshift cradle. Only then, over a mile from the battle and well over the tree line, did Chloe loosen the death-grip she had on my wrist.

Chloe didn’t stop until she’d burned out most of our remaining power. Five miles in as many minutes, she took us down hard in a playground next to a library.

Salamander must have healed himself and ran off with Biohazard in that time. She’d need healer to recover from the damage I did to her, because she didn’t have regeneration.

ReliefAnger. Domenic called his metal together, then looked right at me. “Do you want to tell me what the fuck that was about?!” His voice was distorted both by his armor, and the crackle of Chloe’s power as it started pulling as much power as it could out of the air.

Holy crap, he said a bad word. “We had them!” I pushed lightning into what was left of my costume, to show them I was far from beaten. “I was winning! Why’d you pull us out?”

RejectionIncredulity. “Do you have any idea what you were fighting?!” Domenic waved his arm toward the direction they’d run from. “That was Biohazard. She… she would have killed you, if Salamander didn’t do it first!”

“I can beat her!” I stood to my full height, and made spikes form along my armor to mirror his. I took a step closer to her; if they expected me to back down, they could kiss my ass. “I did beat her! Broke her ribs, probably other things, too.”

“And what happened when she poisoned you?” Chloe stepped forward, because Domenic was afraid to get too angry at me, so she’d do it for him. “You have no idea what shit she’s got in her system. The last person who fought her died of radiation poisoning.”

I spoke with my teeth clenched. “My. Power. Said I was safe. You know? The same power that let us carve a path through Heritage today? I had it under control.” All I had to do was keep her from bleeding on me, nothing difficult about that. “I was faster, stronger, and a better fighter. I. Was. Winning.”

RejectionFrustration. “Maybe you got a few hits in, but look at you.” Chloe gestured toward my bare leg. “Your armor is half destroyed.”

“Who cares about the costume?” I don’t need it, except for a supply of metal to make knives, and a battery to store the power that saved my life, and… fuck… “All you had to do was keep Salamandar off me for a minute, and it woulda been over. How’s that for a way to make the papers and hurt Heritage? You know we have to take out their supers if we want to hit them where it hurts.”

Chloe shook her head. “And how we were supposed to do that? He’s a feral package with insane regeneration and poison claws.”

“That’s easy.” All you have to do is shove a few spikes through his skull and rip off his head, but if I tell them that, they’ll hate me again. “You’re super strong and have shapeshifting metal. I didn’t need you to beat him, just distract him.”

ReluctanceConsideration. “I don’t see any way of stopping either of them without killing them.” Domenic stepped toward me. “What if you kept fighting with a ‘broken’ costume? They’d start asking questions, and they’d find answers. The only way to avoid that was either to run, or kill the witnesses. I… we can’t do that, not even to people like them.”

No, you can’t, but if you don’t, you’ll just wind up getting us killed instead. I looked down at the scars left in my armor, the traces of bitter smelling purple gunk in the gouges. Salamander didn’t hesitate before trying to rip my heart out of my chest. He’s the same as me, and the only way to fight one of us is to fight like we fight. If you hold back, cling to your stupid rules and let him live, then you’ll die.

I opened my mouth, tried to say what was going on in my mind, but the words wouldn’t come out. I knew how they’d react, and I wasn’t able to do it. Domenic might accept it, my favorite thing about him was how he could ignore his feelings and do the smart thing, but then Chloe would get upset, and he’d comfort her. They’ll blame me, like they always do.

ConcernTired. “Look, it’s been a long day.” Domenic’s voice was his own; he’d shifted his armor so it didn’t warp the sound. “I propose we all go home and get sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” PrideHope. “And, hey, we did more damage to Heritage in one day than the cops have managed to do in a year. So what if we had to retreat from one battle? We’re still winning the war.”

ReliefSupport. “Sleep sounds good.” Chloe stepped back, so she was pressed against Domenic, if only for a second. “Okay, I’ll drop you off at your vehicle and fly us back to base. If we hurry, you might even make your grandma think you’re back to being responsible and boring.”

DisappointmentLonging. “If only.” Domenic extended a hand to me. “I’ll patch up your costume on the way back. I’ll have to wing it with some of the patterns, but Gadgeteers are known for rebuilding their stuff, so it won’t be suspicious.”

I suppose, if they were the types who could kill monsters, I’d be dead right now. When you look at it like that, this is kinda nice. I made the few steps needed to grab on to Domenic’s armor. “Yeah, that sounds good.”



5 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 21- Cecelia

  1. A/N- When I wrote the first version of this novel, I had envisioned a sort of mini-climax in the story. This chapter now serves that function, and I’m fond of it for that reason. Plus it opens up the door to speculating about Biohazard like I’d intended for the first version of the novel, but couldn’t do thanks to deciding the original middle of that novel instead needed to be the end.

    On the plus side, there aren’t a lot of original chapters left to the rewrite. Soon it’ll be editing the old chapters to come in line with the new structure, and all shall be golden. Even as it stands now, I’m orders of magnitude happier with this version than the original.

    Truly new chapter, so request to be voted for.


  2. I have several theories about Biohazard, 1 is that she is actually black and just has some form of mental thing making her believe shes white and Heritage thinks she to useful so they humor her, 2 she became black as her PRICE, or she is related to the men who Granny cursed in the first chapter and its become genetic?
    anyway i really prefer this version compared to the original!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Holy shit, I completely forgot about the super obvious racists that got turned black. Yeah, that group would clearly still be members of Heritage. What better way to denounce the evils of your enemy than to have clear examples of how they took something good and clean and wholesome and twisted into something disgusting and wrong. Biohazard would be like a walking symbol of everything they are fighting against, and the fact that she has such a strong power (and therefore large price) makes complete sense.

      There is also a point in there about irony and people being born looking a certain way and how that is no fault of their own. Of course it doesn’t matter if Biohazard was born looking black, deep down where it matters she is white and she can’t be blamed for the circumstances of her birth.

      Doublethink is a real sonuvabitch, sometimes.

      Liked by 2 people

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