Mark burst in the factory door with a cloud of darkness on his heels, carrying Tamara in his arms. "She's been hurt!" he exclaimed as his unnatural mist followed him in, billowing and flowing into strange shapes. Everyone started to mutter, and some people got to their feet.
Renee ran over at a tired sprint. "Get her in the infirmary!" she cried before helping Mark Yamada with her slight weight. The infirmary was little more than a curtain partitioning off a corner, but it did the job. They found a cot for the wounded revolutionary next to an old man with a shotgun wound and a young woman who'd been telepathically violated.
By her keen eye, Renee could see that no centralized damage had been done. There was, however, some nigh-imperceptible motions of the chest and limbs that told her that stress fractures ran up and down her front/ventral side. If she panicked or they dropped her, flail chest was a definite possibility. The strange, uniform pressure (a telekinetic? A repulsor?) had also probably burst some alveoli in her lungs. If she didn't work soon and quickly, some of the air sacs might be too dead to save and her lung capacity would be permanently compromised. Renee also worried about her digestive system, if there was bleeding--but at the same time she knew that she was just overworrying.
As soon as they sat her down, Tamara woke up and sat bolt upright.
"What're you doing? I'm fine, I'm fine." Then she let out a rattling cough and blood flew out. The revolutionary's green, green eyes flew open and she began to breathe too quickly. "No! No! I-I can't go!" She gripped Renee's shirt with a fist as wind and heat began to swirl around the infirmary. "Renee! Don't let me DIE! DON'T LET ME DIE!"
Renee clapped her hands over Tamara's ears, deadened her brain, and Tamara slumped to the cot.
Mark gave Renee an askance look before saying, "Never thought I'd say this, but damn. Go easy, Renee."
The healer let out a long breath before gasping, "Sorry. Long day."
She set to work.
When she was done, she pulled back the curtain to be looking into the unnaturally red eyes of Jack Ryder. He smoothed his prematurely silver hair back on his head before asking, "Is Tamara, you know..."
Renee shook out her tingling hands. "She's fine. She's just a little out of it from all the numbness I had to push. She's not very consolable when she thinks she's dying," she said with just a little irony in her voice.
Jack chuckled the most welcome chuckle he'd ever uttered. It'd been a horrible few days. "I can relate," he said before entering the infirmary.
Tamara was kind of off by herself in the far corner. All the other patients were moved away from her, either by their own will or subconsciously. Jack delicately picked his way through the field of the wounded and knelt beside her cot. "Hey kiddo," he said warmly. "Feeling better?"
Tamara stayed facing the wall. "Yeah," she muttered.
Jack scratched his baby-smooth cheek and sat down. He hunched forward onto his elbows. "Well, you're lucky to have Renee, you know. Back when I was your age, all I had was spit and dirt for my wounds. Of course, I didn't have such an exciting life when I was your age--"
Tamara broke in. "Who are your parents?"
Jack sat up. He chewed it over for a moment, bit his lip, and said, "I don't exactly have the most...typical family."
Tamara laughed with her healing lungs. "Try me."
Jack drew in the dust on the concrete floor. "My mom was a succubus. At least, that's what we-all up here call them, I'm sure she'd correct me if she was around. But she never was. My dad, he kinda knew what she was but didn't really care. Him and her would raise so much trouble in Dallas, cheating folks, fooling cops. When I was concieved, she just disappeared--literally dropped off the face of the planet, I imagine. Nine months later, I was found swaddled on the doorstep. Bouncing baby boy, with the reddest eyes you ever saw. My old man came to God after this, more or less--less than more. Just enough to make sure I went to church on Sunday."
Tamara rolled over and looked at him with skeptical eyes. "Didn't you catch on fire when you got baptized?"
Jack fixed her with a quizzical gaze. "Woman, this is not the movies. And besides, God doesn't punish the kids for the sins of the parents. Right down in the KJV."
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. Go on."
"Well, I HAD to notice I was different eventually. Sometime around when I was 5 or 6, I got out of the whole Catholic church business--the nuns were pretty suspicious of a kid with graying hair. So I spent some time with my dad in our house in the wilds of Montana. Up in the woods there, I got to exercise my muscles and my mind, and my dad'd had enough of city life to
be pretty happy too. I also figured out that I could make a lot of my energy flow into people and make them feel new--probably a little present from my momma's side. My old man used to use me like a little battery and chop firewood into the wee hours of the morning. Everything was all right for a while."
Tamara rolled onto her back. "Then what?"
"Then the Event happened. We were far enough back that we missed out on all the craziness, but we did get the power payload. I didn't know about my tattoo stuff till I was 17 or 18, but my dad got some real interesting abilities. Overnight, he could see all sorts of patterns and strategies and military stuff. He basically became a seasoned general. I woke up a week after the Event to see my dad using the kitchen table to plan an assault on all the deer in 10 acres."
"Did it work?"
"Hell yeah it did, venison was his favorite. But anyway, we'd picked up on a little of the insanity that was the outside world, but still didn't know a whole lot about it. Then a posse walked in, shooting all our game and burning their way though. Dad was furious, and they didn't last a day between his pitfalls, his snares, and his shotgun. The one guy we left alive told us the story. My dad figured it was time to do some atoning, and he dragged my 14-year-old butt out of those woods and into the world."
Tamara smiled a tiny bit. "Thought you said you didn't have an interesting childhood."
Jack grinned and rocked back. "Well, Jesus, I wasn't LEADING a REVOLT. I mean, you've set the bar pretty high here." He leaned forward, still grinning. "What about your folks?"
Tamara's face fell like a curtain falls over the stage. "I don't like to talk about it."
Jack stopped grinning. "Look, I was like that about my succubus mom until I found out that talking about it is a ton better than stuffing it up and getting angry."
Tamara sighed. "My mom and dad lived in Santa Fe before it was like this. People trusted each other, loved on each other. It was better than before. Then the Trelaines showed up. They'd used up their last town like it was a tissue and came here. My parents got into a huge fight about it. Dad thought that any authority was good authority and supported them, but Mom saw them for the bastards they were. She kicked him out of the house while she was 8 months pregnant with me--and Daddy was a strongman to boot."
Jack whistled low. "Sounds like a real woman."
Tamara grinned wistfully. "She was. My first memory is of her holding a rebel meeting in the kitchen, war map held down with salt shakers and knickknacks. 'Red Susan' gave the Trelaines hell for most of my preschool years. Then, in a infiltration on December 25, 2019, she killed the Overlord, Jason Trelaine. He was 51. She got him herself with a cold, cold knife right across the throat. His wife, the Overlady, might have died in the charges they set, there was no way to check. But at any rate, it was the best goddamn Christmas present this town had gotten in years."
Jack laughed in his chest. With his voice, he asked, "And then what?"
Her voice cracked and softened. "And then Caleb took over. He was like his dad, except a lot less tempered with time and experience. Me and my mom had to go underground for a while, going from safehouse to safehouse. The man was a maniac. Everyone we'd ever talked to, been around, BREATHED on, was a suspect and disappeared off the street. I met Renee around this point. We could only meet at midnight and in alleyways on the darkest of nights. Renee's dad was an old rebel too, and he met my momma through me. He loved her tenacity and her red hair, she loved his raspy brown stubble and his fighting style. They married in November on a night with no moon or stars. I was the flower girl."
Jack smiled and hung his head. "Sweet."
She half-smacked his arm. "Hush."
From behind the curtain, Pierce smiled too. He'd wanted to check up on her too--damned if he hadn't become accustomed to her face--but this story was too good to interrupt. He settled back against the wall as she continued.
"We couldn't live like that forever. All of us knew it--me, Renee, even John. But Mom had gotten herself pregnant again, and we needed to lay low and plan for a while. We got a house on the outside of town, far enough from Trelaine." She stopped and choked a little.
Jack sat up. "You alright?"
Tamara rasped, "Fine." She rushed with great precision through her words. "It was a beautiful February day. Me and Renee were playing downstairs. I think it was dolls. Momma was watching us and smiling and glowing. John rushed in, said that he'd sensed danger. He rushed me and Renee to the closet. We hid. He rushed Mom to the bathroom across the hall. She hid. He grabbed his police batons and hid behind the door. They burst in. He killed two before they got him in the chest. We hid. They lumbered past us, shaking down the whole place--punching holes in walls, ripping open cabinets. As we watched, Momma slipped out the door in her red dress, holding her AK-47. She fired. A few got hit, they died. The others overpowered her. A big one held her up while the leader stepped forward." Tamara closed her eyes. "He chuckled, with his spiny hair nodding with him, and said, 'Red Susan. So we meet.' Mom spat on his boot." She sat up and buried her face in her knees.
Jack ventured, "What happened?"
Tamara fixed him with swimming green eyes. "I don't remember. The next thing I remember is his gun glinting in the hall light. The next thing I remember is crawling out of that closet and trying to wake up my Mom. The next thing I remember is Renee leading me out of that house and into the fresh sunshine as fast as our little legs could carry us."
She looked Jack dead in the face. "That was how I met Caleb Trelaine." And then she rolled over and faced the wall.
Jack sat there for a long, long time, burning eyes staring at her spine. And then he stood and left.
Tamara was crying softly. She heard a cough behind her and whirled around, rasping "WHAT!?" at the top of her lungs.
It was Pierce. His eyes were swimming too. He gestured in the air, trying to get the words out. But then he just gave up, picked her clean up off her cot, and gave her a huge bear hug. After a moment, he awkwardly sat her back down and tossed her her blanket. He left with his gaze fized on the ground.
Tamara watched him go and almost smiled. He meant well.
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As Pierce left Tamara in the infirmary, Tessa knew better than to be jealous of the redhead as he showed concern for her. Pierce's face was straight and serious, and it wasn't because he was angry, which was usually one of the only ways to get a serious expression out of him. With her heartfelt story, Tamara had pulled on heartstrings that the electrokinetic forgot he'd even had. He hadn't seen his parents in years, but he didn't know what he'd do if he found out anything had happened to them...
Making his way to the room with the other supers, Pierce took a seat, and Tessa took a seat beside him. The touch of her hand on his shoulder rang familiar in his mind, reminding him to concentrate only on the calming thoughts the blonde telepath sent him. Heaven forbid his emotions get the best of him and he accidentally let loose an electrical discharge to ruin the solace of the moment.
They would have Mark Yamada for that.
Noticing that Pierce's eyes were wet with a few tears, Mark remarked, "Dude, are you cr--"
"You finish that sentence, and you'll regret it!" Pierce jumped up in a huff, standing boldly against Mark, with a static hum coursing invisibly across his body. Even though he was standing about ten feet away, Mark's hairs were starting to stand on end...
"WHOA, man, calm down...I was just gonna ask if you were OK..." Mark quickly sat down, wide-eyed, forgetting for a second that he could raise the dead and produce darkness.
The others looked at Pierce warily, hoping he wouldn't let loose a bolt of electricity in his anger. It seemed he had no reason for his outburst. The reason lay only in his and Tessa's minds. He hated to let others see him be emotional. Not that he wanted to be seen as hard-hearted or ruthless, but he didn't want to be seen as weak. He was the kind who always smiled in the face of danger, and laughed in the face of threats. He was skilled at insults, even more skilled in comebacks and never let problems bring him down. It seemed only reasonable that he wasn't teary-eyed at the mention of sad stories...however, here he was, frowny-faced and teary eyed like a little child denied a Christmas present.
Coming back to his senses, Pierce ran a hand through his white-streaked hair with a sigh, realizing what a jerk he seemed now. He fell silent, sat back down with his head on his hand and let his eyes wander anywhere but at the others.
--Back with Trelaine--
A black limo pulled up to Trelaine's manor. Arriving in the roundabout at the foot of the staircase leading up to the expensive manse, Caleb stepped out with his goons and led the way inside.
"You know," Caleb mused to his henchmen, making his way through the halls, "superhumans are very cumbersome people to deal with when they want to be. Normally, you can find out how to disable them, and that's it. But then, sometimes you have the type we just got done dealing with. They don't seem to scare easy. And what's worse, they don't go down easy."
"Yeah, they tend to be pretty difficult when you threaten their lives." Willis chuckled.
Caleb stopped on a dime. The other three at Caleb's side fell silent as he turned almost militarily and met the size-shifter face to face menacingly.
"Is there something about this that you find...FUNNY?" Caleb eyed Willis with unwarranted malice.
"Uh, n-no...it's just.."
"Just what? Felt the sudden URGE to be sarcastic? Couldn't fight the IMPULSE to be facetious? Jackass...speak when you're spoken to." Caleb turned again and proceeded down the hall once more, henchmen at his heels like the obedient guard dogs they were.
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
The rest of the day passed and night fell again. At this point, all who could be saved had been saved and Renee was a walking dead woman. Tamara, leaning up against the wall, motioned for her to come over and sit down. In a few minutes, Renee was asleep like the rest of the little rebellion, passed out against the side of the factory and nodding away the wee hours of the night.
Sometime around 10, the fire escape door dented inwards with a tremendous WRUNTCH.
All the people in the factory immediately woke up. With bloodshot eyes, they watched the door. With frayed nerves, they got ready to fight for their lives. Flores stood and took a wrestler's stance; Jack got right behind him and grabbed a short sharp shard of wood from the floor. Everyone was perfectly silent for a long moment.
The door flew out off its hinges like it'd been hit by a bus. A young woman in a orange jumpsuit leaped through the gap and landed in a three-point crouch. Flores caught the door, tore it in two, and sprinted for her.
She snarled like a surprised big cat and easily avoided his bullrush. He skidded to a stop and threw a punch that would have pulverized concrete, but she leapt up into him beneath the punch and caught him by the chest like a jumping spider. They landed in a heap 15 feet later and she readied a clawlike hand to maul his face. Flores breathed out, sat up, and smashed his forehead into the bridge of her nose. The woman howled and that was all the gap he needed to push her on her back and sit on her chest with a hand on her throat. If she made a move, she was as good as dead.
Jack ran up, followed by the rest. "Who are you? Who sent you?"
The reply was a mishmash of every animal noise possible--a trumpet, a growl, a hiss, a bark. Flores growled back under his breath and that needed no translation. With a voice distorted from a lifetime of snarls and whistles, she said, "Let me go!"
Ivan laughed shortly. "Look, you came in here. We don't want no trouble as much as you want gone."
A thought occurred to Nadia. "Did you know we were here?"
The intruder shook her head.
"Do you know who we are?"
Nadia turned to Flores. "Let her go. She's not Trelaine's."
Flores looked the madwoman dead in the eyes. "If I let you go, will you maul me?"
She grimaced and rattled out, "No promises."
Flores figured this fair and got up. She stood and hunched like an animal, eyes darting from Nadia to Pierce to Tessa to Tamara to Damien to Wayne. She wore a small studded collar. Her orange jumpsuit was frayed and tattered, but the print on the back wasn't too faded for Jack to make out a label-- HEAVENLY VALE ASYLUM FOR THE MENTALLY ILL.
Ivan stepped forward and extended a hand. "Moi name is Ivan. What's yours?"
She bent low and sniffed his hand like a puppy. Her roving nose went over every scar, nook, and cranny. She gave it an exploratory bite and Ivan yelled. He pulled back his hand howling, "Crazyface bit me!" The woman seemed to have no idea that she'd broken a pretty big social convention and sat down hard on the floor. She started to play with her toes.
Tessa rolled her eyes at Ivan and sent out a probe. The woman's mind was as hard and as round as a marble. The telepath felt that she was looking into a mirrored ball and all she could see was her own reflection. She opened her eyes and got her bearings. "I can't read her mind at all," Tessa marveled. "She's totally cut off."
Wayne crossed his arms. "Well, she's obviously not the most sane person here."
Pierce muttered something about Flores having some real competition now. Flores didn't hear.
Wayne continued. "We don't really have any leads that we can follow except this Heavenly Vale thing. To be honest, if this was a job and she was a clue, I'd ignore it and move on. The best thing we can do is let her go."
Tamara jerked around to stare at him. "Are you kidding? We can't let this crazy woman out THERE!"
Wayne knelt, picked up a shiny shrapnel shard, and waved it before her. The woman immediately keyed in and stared at it like it was a side of beef. The master assassin dangled it a little more, and then threw it as hard as he could toward the other side of the building. The woman took off--knocking Ivan on his butt--and caught it in an outstretched hand. She fell down with no concern for her own safety flat on her back and started staring at the shiny thing.
Everyone turned back and stared at Wayne. He was grinning like a loon. "I don't think we'll have any issues with her."
The madwoman perked up again and cocked her head in the direction of the door. The second time, everyone heard the whistle. She hurled the shiny thing away from her and bounded toward the door--and the new, pale, hard woman who stepped through the door clipped a chain on her collar.
This new woman faced the group and said, "Who the hell are you?"
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"We should ask you the same." Pierce remarked sarcastically, quickly drawing the hard woman's attention. Her head snapped in his direction so fast, she looked like she would get whiplash.
"Well, YOU didn't ask, Streaky." said the blonde, glaring somewhat enviously at the white streak in Pierce's hair, "I did. So let me ask again. Who the hell are you?"
Nadia stepped forward, extending a hand for a handshake, "I'm Nadia."
At the sight of the hand, the hard woman backed up a half-step, narrowing her eyes as though not knowing what to do with the hand Nadia had extended. Breaking the awkward silence between the two, the others introduced themselves, Ivan, Pierce, Fitz, Tamara, Wayne, Tessa, Damien and Mark respectively.
Taking a second after all the introductions, seemingly to process so many new faces, she responded rather stand-offishly, "Well, this pretty lady is my friend. She goes by Vicious. You can call me Miss Kitty...or Kitty, whatever."
The unorthodox introduction got a few chuckles.
"Can we call you by an ACTUAL name?" Tessa smirked, "You know, one that DOESN'T sound like a cartoon character?"
"Not if you want to keep that pretty little face of yours in tact, Barbie..." Kitty retorted gruffly, narrowing her eyes fiercely. A low, guttural growl could be heard under her breath. Claws started to protrude in the place of the fingernails on her right hand, and everyone except her ward, still on the leash, backed up.
Realizing that this crazy lady might be serious about her threat, Flores stepped forward and menaced her. Ivan followed suit, cracking his knuckles with an intimidating glare.
"Lay one hand on anybody here, and..."
"And what? You'll HIT me? You think you're gonna get close enough to do that without me making mincemeat outta your face first, big boy?" Kitty scoffed arrogantly, "And my guess is, you can't regenerate. Vicious left you a few scars that woulda been gone by now if you could..."
The two looked at each other.
"You ain't so tough, Nails. So what you got claws...I can rip you in two..."
"Yeah", Ivan saw fit to add his two cents, "An' Oi can get ridda your friend, Ferocious..."
"VICIOUS!" the feral snarled hatefully. It was the only identity that she felt fit her, and here this idiot was messing even THAT up...Vicious tried to break free from her leash to "correct" him, but a slight tug from Kitty kept her from losing her temper completely.
"Not yet, Vicious...they're not the bad ones we're after."
"Bad! WHERE?!?!" Vicious whipped her head to either side of her, before Kitty managed to get the reins on her again. She tugged harder and harder at the feral's leash until finally a hard yank shut her up.
"N-no, no bad ones here, girl...EASY, Vicious!"
Nadia spoke up, voicing the thought the others all shared; "What do you mean, 'the bad ones'?"
With a sigh, Kitty looked to Vicious, then to Nadia, "You know Black Caleb, right? Overlord Trelaine? The Emo King? Well, he' s responsible for us being in Heavenly Vale."
"Really? I thought it was cuz yer bonkers..." Ivan chuckled sarcastically under his breath.
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
Vicious heard, but didn't understand entirely. You could tell by how she wasn't killing Ivan.
Kitty gestured with her free hand. "Heavenly Vale is more or less a detention center for the people who are too powerful and unrestrainable to be held in the actual Detention Center. There are people trapped in there who can bleed armor, who can melt metal with a touch, who can stretch time like a rubber band."
Wayne made a surprised frown. "How do they keep you under control?"
Kitty shrugged. "Rubber rooms. Straitjackets. Ungodly amounts of clonazepam. The usual."
"How are you here and not there?"
Kitty laughed. "You think anything there can restrain HER?" She gestured to Vicious, who was gnawing clean through a block of concrete. "I'm her handler cause I can go toe-to-toe with her and not hurt her. I get a lotta respect like that."
Mark clapped his hands together and muscled his way to the front. "Well I feel as though we have made great progress today but I think it is time you two went home. We have enough problems as it is." He clasped his hands like a mortuary director and grinned a fake smile.
Pierce smacked him upside the head. "Get back there and hush."
Tamara's face fell. She wanted to do that.
Jack held up a finger. "Can we have a minute? Please stay and have whatever food we can spare."
Kitty shrugged. "Naw. Smuggled some jello out." She reached in her pocket, grabbed two flat sealed packs of hospital gelatin, and sat on the floor and ate. The rest of the refugees began to move about their morning slowly and cautiously.
Jack's posse huddled. Flores started the conversation. "They're so insane I don't even have a word for how insane they are."
Ivan muttered, "Like Jack the Ripper had a baby with Tarzan."
Flores' scarred eyebrows shot up. "Nice analogy."
Tessa waved a hand, interrupting the complement-fest. "The moral of the story is these women are loose cannons. They'll rip through us like a tornado if we let them stay here. I say they go."
Ivan, Nadia, Flores, Pierce, and Fitz nodded. But Wayne and Jack stayed silent.
Fitz cocked his head at Wayne. "You can't be thinking of letting them stay."
Wayne gave Fitz his contemptuous look right back at him. "No, stupid. I think Tessa's right--they're loose cannons and as unpredictable as dice. But I think it would be better for them to be in our camp blasting OUT than in their camp blasting IN."
Jack nodded and grinned. "And expanding on that idea. Heavenly Vale is for the people too powerful for Trelaine to restrain, right?"
"Let's give him a lot of what he can't handle."
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==BACK WITH TRELAINE==
"Put up the red curtains..." Trelaine was feeling like Red Caleb today. His blood was boiling.
At the mention, the servants rushed off to find the red curtains and other red accomodations to suit the overlord's mood.
"Yes, Red Caleb...", the servants responded subserviently. They knew, as soon as he said 'Red Caleb' that today was not going to be pleasant if they didn't move double time. It had come to their attention years ago that Caleb was not just any young despot. And what's worse, he totally EARNED the title "the Emo King", even if he didn't like it.
If he felt particularly gloomy, the black drapes went up, and the place would be as dry, dead and silent as a funeral parlor. No one would speak unless spoken to (and when the servants DID speak, they would refer to him as 'Black Caleb', and would only speak in humbled tones), and nobody would be heard laughing, joking, or even arguing, as a sign of respect for his feelings. If they were caught doing so, he took it as a personal insult ('a defiling of my solitude, and a rude interruption of my mood', as he called it) and the person would most likely be subjected to their worst fear in the torture chamber. If he was gloomy, the others were expected to be solemn and caring, OR ELSE...
However, worse yet, if he was angry, he was Red Caleb. The red drapes went up, and the place was filled with unwarranted tension. The only thing predictable about a 'Red Caleb day' would be how unpredictable it was. If a person was reported being insubordinant on a 'Red Caleb day', they would most likely disappear mysteriously off the street and never be seen again. If anyone was caught arguing or fighting on the streets on a "Red Caleb day", he took that also as a personal insult ("How dare anyone act as though their problems outweigh mine?") and they would be forced to fight HIM. If they actually managed to land a hit (and didn't just let him beat up on them), they were tortured and/or killed for treason...
As one can expect, the servants and the subjects alike prayed for "Black Caleb days" and "Red Caleb days" to be over quickly.
Continuing down the hall, he reached Dane's room. He opened the door, and abruptly barged in on Dane, sprawled on his bed, bucknaked and pleasantly mounted by a pretty, busty blonde. She was working his crotch like a mechanical bull.
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
Trelaine had a very human moment of OH MY GOD before he remembered exactly who he was. He grabbed one of the carelessly-flung blankets up off the floor and tossed it at his brother and his new roadie. His forgotten rage burbled to the surface again and he shouted, "DANE! WHO IS THIS?"
"Um," Dane ventured from under the comforter. "Cheryl?"
"Mandy," corrected a female voice.
Overlord Trelaine was one careless, afterglow-spawned comment from ripping his hair out and killing both of them. He ground out, "Dane, please show Ms. Mandy the door to leave."
Dane whimpered, "This is a really awkward time, Caleb. Can I at least--"
Red Caleb exploded. "So help me, you blunt-smoking fire-setting excuse for a half-brother, get her out of here before I RIP IT OFF!"
There was an awkward silence before Dane said, "Okay, Jesus." Under the cover, he took a deep breath and expelled all the toxins in his body out through his lungs and into Mandy's face. She passed out on his chest and he poked his head out from under the covers. Caleb was already walking away.
"Get her out of here and meet me down in the war room," he shouted over his shoulder.
Dane sighed. What a buzzkill.
HEAVENLY VALE ASYLUM FOR THE MENTALLY ILL
An orderly pushed a rolling cart down a starkly lit hallway. He rounded a corner to see Kitty and Vicious standing there, silent as the tomb. He supressed his heart attack before saying, "Ms. Bender. Ms. Theron. Good to have you back."
Kitty smiled to cover up her annoyance at the mention of her birth name. "Good to be back, sir."
The orderly looked around. "How did you get in? We didn't get a call at the front door."
Something dropped down behind him and rumbled, "We made a door."
Four pairs of hands covered his eyes and everything went dark for a while.
Ivan dropped the orderly and turned his attention to the air shaft. He helped Tamara, Jack, and Flores down from their cramped space and huddled with them. With hand motions, Jack divided the six up into groups--Tamara and Ivan, Flores and Vicious, Kitty and himself. They split up and started the jailbreak.
Ivan and Tamara headed left, then right, then straight. At the end of the hall was a door made out of packing foam. They shot a glance at each other before Tamara thrust out her palm and let a flare talk for both of them. The flammable material fell apart even though it was 3 feet thick, and the duo was treated to a view of a similarly constructed room and a pale frail man with curly brown hair. He looked over his shoulder with a panicked gaze, but was reassured by Ivan's shushing motion and came quietly and cautiously. The plate beside the ruined door read--"EUGENE FIELD. ALLOW NO SHARP OR PIERCING OBJECTS".
Flores and Vicious went right, straight, right. There was a door made entirely of asbestos. There was a small moment of awkwardness as they decided who would open the door, but in the end it was both--Flores with a kick, Vicious with a maul. Inside waiting for them was a grinning man flipping around an empty metal lighter. He didn't seem surprised at all. Rather he clapped Flores on the shoulder and pointed the way out. The plate on his door read--"CAELUS FLETCHER. ALLOW NO FIRE OR FLAMMABLE OBJECTS".
Kitty and Jack went straight, right, left, left. There was a solid metal door awaiting them. Jack unsheathed his razor claws, but Kitty stayed his hand. He made a wondering face, but she shook her head as hard as she could and urged him to leave with her. The sign on the door read--"BRAD FISHER." Instead of releasing the mystery man, they sprung two others--a muscled young man who moved sharply and a woman who slapped her hip in perfect time.
They left through the gaping hole they came in.
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Making footfall on the outside of the insane asylum, the group hoped that they would be able to exit quietly, with few casualties. However, unfortunately, it seemed they were asking for a bit much...the silent alarm for the asylum grounds had obviously been tripped by one of the sneakier nurses, because here they were, being were met by five superhumans in all white. Nurses...One appeared to be durable, two of them superstrong, one had a metallic exoskeleton and another could fly.
"Uh, where do you think you're going with patients? These people are unstable, and need special attention." A tall, bald headed brute with a menacing syringe in his hand (the meanest strongman) glared at the unfamiliar faces, undaunted.
Not even thinking of witty responses to insult the big brute, Ivan and Flores were the FIRST to jump forward and attempt to ward off the nurses. But Kitty knew that she and her ward couldn't pass up on some good ol' fashion violence. Hell, it was good exercise. So she bounded forward, and with a swift motion, un-leashed Vicious. The two leapt fearlessly into combat, as the other crazies adjusted to their newfound freedom, guarded by Jack and Tamara.
Kitty went across the durable nurse's face, neck and chest numerous times with vicious claws, before finally catching his hands, pulling his arms behind his back and taking him to the ground with a stern foot to the back of the neck. With a hateful snarling growl, she invited him to make another move, and promised he would regret it. She then kicked his head to the ground and he was out like a light.
Vicious summoned up gorilla strength to tussle with one of the strongmen. Her adversary was met with a good kangaroo kick to the groin, numerous bites with lion force behind them and then a powerful headbutt to the gut, before returning to gorilla mode and pounding on him a few times till he lost consciousness. Her reflexes and speed made the task easy despite him being stronger.
"Oi! You take the other guy, and Oi'll git the metal man!" Ivan called out approaching the metal man as he braced for combat.
"Why do YOU get the metal man?!" Flores complained, charging toward the second strongman. The thought soon left his mind, as he met up with HIS challenger. Blows were exchanged, Flores landed a few good ones to the jaw, took a few to the gut, before finally picking the strongman up by the seat of his pants and the back of his neck, twirling him around and letting him fly through the wall of the asylum (leaving a SECOND hole). He patted his hands off and went over to help Ivan, who was already in the process of denting up the metal man.
Ivan grappled the metal man roughly, hoping to put his high school and college wrestling skills to use. The two grappled each other's shoulders and were attempting to overpower one another, but it was definitely Ivan's advantage. He protruded his second pair of arms and while still holding the metal man, began punching him in the gut like his punching bag. The metal man recoiled at the numerous powerfully-landed kidney shots and Ivan used all four arms to lift him overhead. Seeing Flores approaching to help out, he decided to toss the foe to his chum. Flores caught him overhead and then, despite the nurse's struggling, brought nurse's spine down with full force across his knee. That was that.
However, there was one last combatant that didn't make it as easy to be defeated.
"You guys are in so much trouble. Reinforcements are on the way right now." The flier was up about twenty feet, and all attempts to reach him, or attack him from up there were less than effective.
"Dammit! That idiot's gonna get us caught...we're gonna be taken to Trelaine without having the full force of the resistance with us." Tamara groaned. Meanwhile, Jack's mind was too busy devising a solution to complain.
"Full...force...Tamara, gimme your hand!" he reached his hand out to hers quickly.
"What the--" Jack didn't have the time for questions. He grabbed Tamara's hand and let the power flow through her body.
The flier dialed one of Trelaine's bodyguards, but before he got the chance to TELL anything, a monstrous arc of electricity could be seen shooting out of Tamara's outstretched hand, and the flier tumbled from the sky. He was, at the very least, stunned.
At the notice that the last of their problems had been dealt with (for now), Jack called out to everyone, "C'mon! He's down, so let's move!" At his inclination, they quickly bolted back toward the factory where the others waited anxiously for their safe return.
Bursting through the door, they were met by the healer, Renee.
"Jus' fine, love." Ivan chuckled, flexing a bicep playfully.
"Good, good...then we just need to rest up the newcomers about an hour or so, and then we should be good to launch the attack. Meanwhile, Pierce, Tessa, Fitz and I have been drawing up plans that we'd like you, Tamara and Jack to see and confirm. Cool?"
==BACK WITH TRELAINE==
Dane slipped into his jeans, pulled on a shirt and jogged lightly to catch up with the Overlord.
"So, did anything interesting happen while I was, uh--"
"Busy banging a nameless, faceless, big-breasted roadie chick?" Caleb remarked.
"I was just gonna say 'busy', but yeah...anything juicy? Another electrokinetic acting up? Maybe a riot in the fourth sector? Another overlord musclin' in on your turf?" Dane fought back a goofy smile at the thought.
"No...a bigger problem than that. Rebels. They damn near killed every bodyguard I've thrown at them. And every one of the surviving are either beat up, or cowering in their corners like total pussies." The Overlord groaned, angry at the thought, "F***ing idiots. That kind of s**t is not good for keeping subjects in line. Makes peoople think stupid thoughts, like plans for mutiny. THAT'S why I'm not gonna use BODYGUARDS anymore. I need supers, but..."
"Not pussies?" Dane volunteered, half-sarcastically.
"My, you catch on quick..." Trelaine rolled his eyes. The two ascended the stairs to the second floor and headed for the War Room. At the front door, there stood two guards, each looking like pro wrestlers in CIA uniforms.
"Stand aside," Trelaine barked. The two turned and faced each other, allowing him to push the double doors aside and enter the highly-advanced War Room. Inside, his military consultants were already standing behind their assigned seats, and waiting for him to arrive. As he took his place, with Dane beside him, he gestured to them, and they knew it was okay to be seated.
"Alright, men...I need an idea. I have to find a specific group of superhumans."
"Who?" a grey-haired, highly decorated general inquired, "The Dragonhide Gang? The Hangmen? Venomous Kiss? I can't stand those gang mother--"
"Focus." Trelaine interrupted sternly, "It's not a gang. They're not that organized. They're kind of ragtag, and I need to know if you can find out where they might be using only a few clues I have."
"Like what, sir?"
"Well, I know one of them is Tamara McShay."
"McShay, McShay, where have I heard that before?" the general asked no one in particular.
"Susan McShay. Red Susan. This here is her daughter. And she seems to have allied herself with some powerful allies. An electrokinetic, numerous strongmen, power manipulators, umbrakinetics, the works. Even some with powers I've never seen before. I might be surrounded by idiots, but I know YOUR men are competent enough to deal with that, right?"
The general looked to his subordinants, unsure of what the overlord was asking.
"You mean, you don't have power negators that can deal with them?"
"I have power manipulators. These power manipulators are not as poweful as the Irish guy. He can shut off THEIR powers, if he touches them. Hell, Bruce, Bruno, Phil and Willis are among the top bodyguards in my squad, and THEY aren't getting the job done. I need people who can deal with that kind of power, with or WITHOUT powers. They've got to be strong, fast and smart enough to deal with these f***ers even if they get their powers NEGATED. Get me?"
The general nodded hesitantly, thinking of just who he would have to enlist...among them, some very heartless and dangerous characters that he wouldn't trust to get him a stick of gum, let alone kill up a whole group of people without trying to kill HIM too.
"Well, maybe you'd rather weapons." The general suggested, "They're more sophisticated to work with. And they give you less problems."
"I want PEOPLE, General. They have to be set up here, here and here," Trelaine insisted, gesturing to various points on the map that covered the cold, metal table at which they sat, "Machines take too long to get here; they can be shut off, and destroyed, AND, what's WORSE, I don't like lugging big-ass machinery all over the place. Makes my place look mad-scientist-y. Send people here. People can hide, and plan and strategize, and that's what we need about now. They can bring tech with them, tasers, guns, whatever, but I don't need a freakin' doomsday device." he stood up, looking to his left at Dane and interrupted the general's impending excuses.
"Meeting adjourned; Dane, let's go..."
"Where?" Dane asked.
"Where else?" Caleb smiled devilishly, putting his hand on Dane's shoulder, "Time to get you a gun. Me, too."
This post was updated on .
The superhumans huddled around the large table they'd found in the break room of the factory. They were nearly bursting with eager anticipation. Jack and Tessa spread a white blueprint across the table, and the others gaped in awe, realizing just what they were looking at.
"That's right, Damien. It's a blueprint of the House of Trelaine. Now, all we need is for some stealth and the element of surprise. It seems a pretty simple job, right?"
The group agreed in unison.
"Alright then, it's settled. All we need to do is wait for nightfall." Jack decided aloud. But he was quickly corrected by a sudden interjection from one Bridget Morses.
"So says Tock, I can turn the clock. I'll make it night quick; so be ready to rock." She folded her arms matter-of-factly.
"Really? You think you can turn time THAT far ahead?"
"Ah don't think so... How d'ya expect to get THAT done, Tock? D'ya think ya CAN?" Fitz asked quizzically.
"Oh, I believe not, so says Tock. Turn time too far, and I'll go into shock. But with you're help, Jack, a task it is not." She reached out with a look of determination that was fairly unfamiliar for her normally-straight face.
So, taking her cue, the two joined hands, and the others huddled around. Perceiving the very fabric of time racing forward at blinding speed, they all watched in amazement as the sun rose higher, and then finally dipped behind the trees. Tock, of course, had little interest, as she had done similar things before, and waited only until the process was done. 'Been there, done that', Tock thought.
As the sun finally dipped down in the distance, night time was soon at hand. It was time to begin the assault they'd all been so anxiously awaiting.
Unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to hitch a ride on a truck or anything of that sort, as it would attract far too much unwanted attention. Instead, they would have to go by foot. In about thirty minutes, they would arrive near the gates that would lead them to their archfoe.
However, as expected, they weren't going to get in easily. The front door and the other doors on all sides of the Manor were guarded by two guards each, and there were cameras everywhere. A team effort would be needed to get inside unseen. And right now, Mark was at bat. Jack placed his hand on Yamada's shoulder and the rush let him cast a cloud of blurry darkness on the entire mansion, even from as far down the street as they were. This nearly-tangible darkness permeated the air all through the manor, and the guards knew something must have been up. However, that same darkness kept them from seeing their own hands in front of them, let alone doing anything to remedy the problem.
With the darkness now confusing the hell out of the guards (and keeping the cameras from seeing anything), Flores, Ivan, Kitty and Vicious knew it was time to go in and deal with the guards at the front door. They bounded to the front gates, Ivan and Flores leading the way. The two strongmen ripped the iron gates apart, and the girls took it from there.
Vicious adjusted her eyes for cat-like night vision, and Kitty gladly let her go. The feral prowled like a jungle cat. Realizing the optimum strike position, she knelt down a little further. A guard, fumbling through his belt, pulled out a small flashlight. His light landed upon a pair of eyes that could only be compared to when you flash a light in the eye of a cat. Vicious realized that THIS was definitely the time to strike. A menacing growl, a ferocious snarl and a few big cat tricks up her sleeve left HER the victor, and the two guards heaped one on top of the other.
Then, when Kitty had realized that Vicious was done with the two goons (she heard no more struggle), she called to her ward.
"Are the guards down?"
Her question was met with an animal grunt.
"Good. Now get rid of the cameras!"
At Kitty's inclination, Vicious thought of what creature could help her do that. The cameras were up pretty high. A kangaroo jump wouldn't do it. And a FLEA jump would have been far too high. Flight? Too hard to maneuver for such a short distance. The thought reached her, and her body's hands became sticky as a small lizard. Yep, Wallcrawling would have to do it. She scaled the wall, punched out one camera, and yanked the other out of the wall.
She then dropped back to the ground, ran over to Mark and tugged on his shirt sleeve. He let the cloak of darkness down, and the superhumans proceeded to launch their attack as planned; while a few spread out to take out the remaining bodyguards that secured the perimeter, the rest made their way inside, with Tamara, Jack, Ivan, Flores and Pierce leading the way.
Tamara stopped dead, and Jack's party halted behind her. Trelaine's top goons--Willis, Phil, Bruce, and Bruno--were standing there, arms crossed, blocking the way.
The redheaded elemental cracked her neck. "How did you know we were here?"
Phil replied, "Best security cameras in the world will never beat our team of psychics. We're just the welcome wagon; Overlord Trelaine is scrambling to amass his forces inside." His face darkened. "I'll give you a chance to get out of here. Run now, we won't follow. Get out."
Nobody said anything. Tamara stared at her shoes for a long minute, then looked up. "You-all think that after a lifetime of horror, a lifetime of fear, a lifetime of oppression, that I would briefly consider getting out of here while I can to live to fight another day? Well, a while ago, I would have. Thing is now, I get that there are some more important things than the survival of a person--things like people living out their lives in peace and prosperity and love. Mom got that, I think, and I finally get why she did what she did. I wish she'd told me sooner. What's going to be done here could've been done a long time ago."
Tamara stepped forward and loosed a torrent of flame.
This wasn't a soot-filled, dirty explosion. This was a genuine blast of fire that spiraled from her hands like a living thing, swelled across the distance between them, and ate Phil whole before picking him up and throwing his burning body into the palace fountain behind him. He did not get out.
Without any further ado, the fight began.
Willis' frame expanded even as he lunged for Tamara. She stepped out and thrust her fists down calmly; the palace grounds dropped beneath his feet and the unbalanced giant tripped. He fell solidly at her feet. Tamara vaulted over his shaggy head and kicked the approaching Bruno clean in the throat. Bruce backed off and started to run--looking for a crane, a lightpole, anything he could possess. Tamara extended a hand and almost nonchalantly loosed a lightning bolt--not a mere spiderweb now--that sent him to the ground and made Pierce feel very small.
She turned to Jack. "Call in the calvary."
Jack turned, took out a flare gun, and fired it into the night sky. Almost immediately, there was a roar from the back alleys and the sewers and the low places. The calvary was coming.
Dane shuddered as he heard a thunderclap. "You hear that? They're out there."
Overlord Trelaine grunted and put a finger to his lips in thought. He was eyeing the collection of weapons spread out on the war room table. Finally, he made his decision--he holstered two pistols, slung a shotgun on his back, and unsheathed the wicked machete. He tossed Dane a couple of trench knives and said, "Good."
Caleb Trelaine tipped up the glass and pushed the red button.
Wayne was finishing off the last guard when the he heard the siren. He had heard far too many sirens to disregard this one, so he whipped out his handgun. With great stoicism, he unscrewed the silencer. No need for stealth now.
The first of the guards spilled out of the mansion entrance. Vicious, with faces like wolves, none without a shotgun or a knife or a sword. There were dozens of them, and he could see they were hungry for blood and action. They were the worst kind of men, the ones who would kill for the sake of killing, who wouldn't stop until they had had their fill of death and glory, who would sit back later and pick their teeth and brag about their exploits, scratching themselves and tossing darts and laughing the worst laughter.
Wayne clicked back the safety and fired his first shot.
A soldier jerked backwards, blood misting in the air. The men next to him looked over, spotted Wayne, and went to attack. The back half of the raid was hit by a blast of electricity that was yelling at the top of its thunderous voice that passed through them like a knife until it hit an elastic man. Pierce echoed through his rubbery frame before being spat back out on the pavement. The soldier raised his short sword to strike when he was hit by a fist then a fist then a fist then a fist. He fell, but not before Ivan caught him and threw him into the wall.
A four-armed strongman was a huge target though, and the Cockney found himself the focus of an all-out assault. He lashed out with definite ferocity, but the daggers and knives found his skin and left it ragged and bloody. Ivan almost fell to a knee, but Pierce got up and started dealing thunder to the mob. The smell of ozone filled the air as the electricity arced between men. The crowd roared suddenly, then fell back. A huge man who looked like his skin was made from buffalo leather stepped forward and nodded at Pierce. The electric man narrowed his eyes; he'd seen enough Durable Men to know one when he saw one. He readied a tremendous discharge.
Meanwhile, Flores was cracking heads with Fitz when they saw the bluish light flashing inside the crowd. He almost smiled, but Fitz's face fell. "Pierce is squaring off against an electric absorber!" he cried. "If he lets that much power go, he'll be helpless, and the Absorber'll kill him!"
Flores made a noise of frustration and sprinted dead for the crowd. He mauled his way through the crowd, lunged for the absorber, and shoved him out of the way just as Pierce loosed a thunderbolt the size of a train. Before the thunder had stopped echoing, Flores had crushed the man's ribcage into a concave shape with his elbow and launched himself into the Kevlared crowd. Ivan was puzzled, but not puzzled enough to forget that Flores was a slipup away from a broken neck. He hurled himself after the hoodied man while Pierce staggered to his feet. The electrokinetic leaned himself against a lightpole and used the electricity within to dispel the crowd.
Kitty was mauling her way through a crowd, too. Her claws were out, her eyes were red, and it even seemed as though she had fangs. None of the soldiers ever got close enough to check, though; she was inside a whirlwind of spilt blood and gore. Suddenly, the crowd parted before her and a kneeling man pointed at her and fired a blue beam from his fingertip. The laser cut along her inner leg, cauterizing itself as it went, forcing her to stumble and fall. She rolled on the ground, claws forgotten. The men around her readied their guns and smiled. Then they stopped, frozen in mid-shot, bodies refusing to respond. Their eyes rolled around helplessly as Contessa Mand got in, grabbed Kitty by one homicidal hand, and dragged her out. Their eyes still rolled when Jack came through and slashed indiscriminately with his short claws. They passed out in pain still standing, muscles locked.
A soldier with superreflexes was squaring off against a serious-faced, hyperactive man with green eyes. They were at a stalemate, a superhumanly quick fight--punch, block, backhand, dodge, leg hook, step over, punch down, twist aside--neither could make it. Finally the soldier pulled back and shouted, "Just DIE!" before hurling himself at the green-eyed man.
"Believeme IwishIwould," muttered Quentin before striking the soldier precisely in the liver, jawbone, and xyphoid process. The man keeled over, lung punctured and toxins flooding his system. To Quentin, it took forever for him to fall, but just before he hit a woman came up out of nowhere and looked right into his face with blue eyes.
"Tock says don't worry kid. It's not that bad, kid." Almost as fast as she was there, she was gone and time had resumed its normal, too-slow pace. Quentin watched her whirl through a group of men, who all stopped in their tracks and tipped over in one piece from their momentum. Tock kept going, dodging bullets that moved as fast as determined wasps, slapping hardened soldiers in the face before they could inhale, taking petty revenge where she could, maiming where she couldn't.
Wayne saw her blur whirl by as he systematically murdered the last of his attackers. He could see that the battle was not going well, even from his distant position. He consulted his mental stopwatch; the calvary wouldn't be here for another five minutes and by that time they'd be dead. Time to take matters into his own hands.
Tamara crackled by all elemental fury. She was hovering off the ground in a self-generated whirlwind, firing blasts of lightning and fire and cold and light. Mark and Damien were in her wake. Wayne's invisible eyebrows went up at her fearful appearance before reaching out and grabbing Damien. He yelled in his ear, "Make these men sleepy! I gotta plant a mine!" He took off, clutching the man's wrist, before disappearing to the naked eye.
A path of sleepiness and drowsiness wound its way through the din. Trelaine, from his high balcony shielded by windshield glass, saw it coming. His eyes narrowed, and he grabbed his PA microphone. "STOP THAT MAN," he rasped. "STOP HIM NOW!!"
It was too late. Wayne reached the wall and planted the last of his light-activated mines. As soon as he turned it visible, light would hit the receptor, and it would explode with the concentrated power of 50 pounds of dynamite. Wayne spotted Trelaine eyeing him. He turned visible, gave him the finger, and then shoved Damien and himself off the palace wall and over the heads of the crowd.
Wayne landed and grinned. His eyes slipped over the top of his shades as he snapped his fingers and said,
When the dust had cleared, Trelaine was treated to the view of a tremendous hole in his wall and the city rising up to stop him from beyond his gates. The calvary had arrived.
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Much to his angry disappointment, that calvary was basically a mob of supers. A great deal of the very same people he'd held captive with an iron fist were now at his doorstep, quite literally. Berserkers, electrokinetics, elastic men, shapeshifters...the sight of them made him cringe.
He whirled around deliberately and faced his half-brother.
"Dane. Close the windows."
"Dude, why? It's not like the fliers know we're up here..."
"Just shut up and close the windows." Caleb barked adamantly.
Not knowing what his brother had in mind, the younger Trelaine went up and pulled the window closed.
"You want I should lock it?"
"Yeah. And ask one of the guards for a gas mask."
"Why? You plannin' on gassing somebody? I don't think now is time for playtime..."
"JUST--!" An angry Caleb caught himself, "Just...do it. Please."
So, Dane did as he was told, and Caleb quickly put on his gas mask. Due to his ability, Dane had no need for one, so he just took his seat.
"What are you gonna do with a frickin'...gas mask, dude?"
"You'll see, Dane..." Caleb smiled wickedly to himself, "you'll see..."
This post was updated on .
Jack was the first one through the hole. He got a good look at Trelaine's palace.
It was, in a world, beautiful. He was in the foyer, which was easily the size of a basketball court and with a ceiling painted like the Sistine Chapel. Curved staircases followed the walls up both walls, punctuated by beautiful works of art from the best painters. Lovely plants were tastefully placed everywhere, palms, lilies, zinnias. The marble floor was as flawless as a mirror, and an angelic statue rose out of the middle--one leg in the air, wings curved as though at the apex of their flap. Her face was wonderfully carved and her expression sublime.
Jack Ryder's blood boiled. His tattoos flashed white, his irises caught fire, and he loosed an incredible amount of thorns from his hand. They tore the solid marble woman to pieces; her head rolled on the floor as he hurled himself at the first soldier, claws out, screaming bloody murder.
His army followed.
Inside, the fight became much closer, and much nastier.
Wayne crouched under a fist shaped like an axe and probably just as sharp, then came up and gave the shapeshifter a one-two that would have made Jack Dempsey proud. He let the man fall to the floor. A knife came out of nowhere and would have been driven into his heart if he hadn't been wearing his Kevlar; as it was, it still took a chunk out of him. The assassin whirled around and caught the backstabber with an elbow, then smashed his cowardly face against the solid marble wall. Wayne reached up, grabbed the bottom of the stair rail, and pulled himself out of the way of a Granite Man's fist. He landed on the stairs and looked out over the scene. This was getting ridiculous. From his vantage point, it looked like a writhing snakepit.
He was shaken from his reverie by a sword-swinging man charging down at him. Wayne reflected on how awkwardly a man weighted down by 15 pounds of military gear and filled with bloodlust ran down a flight of stairs before punching him in the crotch and throwing him over the edge. As his assailant was tumbling to the ground, something caught his eye and Wayne did a double take.
Hadn't he already killed that giant? This would never do.
As Wayne struggled up the stairs against a tide of foot soldiers, Flores found himself with the most unlikely of partners in the back corner.
Somehow, the crush of the fight had put him back to back with none other than Vicious. The one-time sparring partners fended off solder after soldier after soldier. Flores thrust out a palm and crushed one's chest through his armor, while Vicious tore a Pyro to ribbons, while Flores caught the punch of a man even stronger than he and beat him with sheer ferocity, while Vicious caught a Speedster with praying-mantis speed and bludgeoned him with strength borrowed from a chimp, while Flores threw a grenade-laden man up in the air right before he could blow himself to pieces--
The explosion scattered the group and forced the dynamic duo to their knees. Vicious got up first, recovering with the obstinacy of a rhino, before helping Flores up. He wiped the blood from his mouth and looked at the soldiers all around them. They would be overwhelmed unless there was a change in tactics, fast. Flores licked his lips and recalled all those valuable lessons he'd learned in his time as a Leader.
He clasped her on the arm and said, "Dart frog!" She acquieced and he watched her eyes grow and skin shift into a harlequin pattern. He nodded and said, "Follow me!" Flores punched the closest man in the hip and watched him stumble; Vicious caught on instantly and smacked the stunned man with skin so poisonous a drop of slime would kill a thousand mice. He cleared a path with his fists while she put them down for good. Soon, they stood in the middle of a field of twitching, prostrate men with glazed gazes. Vicious grinned and punched Flores on the sweater-clad arm; he flashed his bloody grin before running back to the fight proper.
Pierce Dary was losing. Badly. Inside the palace foyer, there were no real sources of power to draw on. His once-powerful blasts of lightning were becoming mere cautionary zaps. Ivan was forced to stay by him to make sure that he wasn’t going to be overwhelmed, but the strongman himself was suffering. His skin might have been able to bend a rusty knife, but the soldiers’ swords had left scarlet cuts on his forearms and torso. The juggernaut would die from blood loss within the hour.
Something large and spiky blundered into the fight and started flailing with razored fists. Ivan watched with mild horror as soldier after soldier was torn to bloody ribbons by this armor-clad monstrosity. Its carapace looked like a crab’s, except it was the brownish shade of coagulated blood. The thing was jabbering like a terrified bonobo, despite the fact it was decimating soldier after soldier after soldier. As Pierce looked on, it ripped the blood right out of a Shapeshifter and used it to fortify its armor. It lumbered on, growing larger and larger Jack followed and gasped, “Eugene” as an explanation before trying to catch up to the scared kid.
Jack was getting tired. He didn’t have a whole lot left to give, and quite frankly he’d given a lot in the past few days. A laser sliced across his tricep and Jack howled in pain before loosing an incredible amount of thorns at the emitter. The man was thrown backwards by the sheer volume of them, but through sheer luck he’d worn his flak jacket—a second laser drilled its way into his shoulder before the soldier was lost in the crowd. Jack started to feel just a little panicked. A wolf-man stepped forward and growled a little bit. He didn’t recognize him until he noted the deep scars across the black fur of the wolfman’s neck and chest—it was the Feral Man from the raid. Jack started to feel a lot panicked.
He tested his elemental tattoo, but stopped when the world started to spin. Not enough energy for a massive surprise attack, it seemed. And his thorn tattoos would only make the thing angrier and deadlier. While he was considering his claws, the thing leaped the 15 feet between them, taloned paw raised for a mighty blow. Jack covered his head and got ready to be torn up like a doll.
A lightning bolt split the room and caught the wolfman at the apogee of his jump. He started to fall, but was picked up by a massive wind that swirled around him, obscuring him, catching everyone’s attention. Suddenly, the tornado stopped dead, and he fell to the ground cold unconscious and as bald as a plucked chicken.
Tamara had decided the fight was over.
Suspended above them all on a column of warm air, she visited destruction upon every one of Trelaine’s soldiers. Lightning flashed with a mind of its own, skipping from soldier to soldier like a stone on a lake. The marble floor of the foyer rippled like water and then snapped into terrain as broken as a smashed windowpane, throwing everyone to the floor. The temperature plunged to freezing and soared to blazing every other moment. Pipes in the walls burst, their contents flooding the room before rising to the ceiling and falling again as freezing hail and then evaporating and then falling once more. One soldier, an Agile Man, passed over the smashed terrain and leapt for her with a knife. Tamara caught him with an outstretched hand and, with glowing green orbs, looked through his eyes into his brain. Tessa watched in her mind’s eye as she drove a psychic plow over this man’s mind, tilling his psyche into silt. She let him drop and he didn’t howl in pain when he landed. The Agile Man would be lobotomized for a long, long time.
The rebels looked at their leader, terrible and beautiful. She looked back before silently turning on her pedestal of wind and facing the stone wall. Her eyes flashed so green they cast a shadow, and with her tearing motion the wall fell apart into chunks, and the chunks into stone dust as fine as river sand. She dropped back down to the ground and cried, “LET’S GO!”
They ran after her with awe in their hearts and victory on their faces.
One, however, didn’t leave right away.
Willis stirred and opened his eyes to Wayne Cobane’s revolver. He stared up at it and said, “Get on with it.”
Wayne’s mouth twitched in a smirk. “You know, I would and I was gonna. But I think it’s fitting that the one who got away was a giant.” The assassin ran for the fight.
Willis watched him go, then ran over the broken foyer for the door. He’d heard Odessa was beautiful at this time of year.
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==Back with Trelaine==
By now, Caleb's first idea for defense was pretty well underway. Closed up in this nice little space with only stress and anxiety to keep him busy, Dane's breath had turned from slight wisps of the occasional fumes into a hateful fog of noxious vapors. Every breath being taken in was being recycled into something with a smell and potency that only a gas mask would keep at bay...exactly as the elder Trelaine brother had planned. No one would be able to move two feet in there without being knocked unconscious, giving him just enough time to get away.
"Good...keep it up. " breathed Caleb through his gas mask.
Ignoring his brother's unnecessary bossiness, Dane closed his eyes, let his head fall back on the back of his chair, and listened to the chaos that ensued below. He let his imagination run wild, pretending that he was listening to a cool action movie, and not a torrent of superhumans rushing to deliver him to his demise.
He wondered if his brother had a transport on his way, or if some other plan was in mind in case this didn't work. It seemed like something he would do, but then again, these new superhumans seemed to put Caleb off his game. He let his mind wander, concentrating on his fear of the much more powerful supers that now sought him out. Hopefully his stress (and that BIG bag of weed he'd smoked earlier) would help him deal with these supers.
==Back with the Resistance==
On the other side of the throne room that the resistance and the soldiers had just crashed, there was a room that was well-furbished with satin and lace.
"The Psychic Common Room" Jack read from the map.
Surprisingly, they weren't met with any resistance in this room. So, realizing that the tyrant was reserving his resources elsewhere, Tamara lifted her hand and crashed the wall of that room to look for the rest of the soldiers. They had to be done away with, to make sure no one opposed them when they finally confronted Trelaine. And, as luck would have it, the soldiers in the kitchen gladly made their presence known.
They aimed laser bolts, lightning, fire and various gun attacks at the wall, letting the supers on the other side know they were there. Some got out of the way, some repulsed attacks and a sad few were taken out by the menacing soldiers, before Tamara took the wall down and let the remaining resistance at them.
A pillar raised from the ground to clock a soldier in the chin, courtesy of Tamara, and she decided her efforts could best be used to assist Tessa, who found herself unfortunately surrounded by bruisers.
"Hey, Tessa! Need a hand?" Tamara pleaseantly used a second pillar of rock to hoist her up into the air and into the midst of the bruisers surrounding the blonde telepath.
"Just a little..." Tessa responded under her breath. Then, with a mere thought, she and the elemental disappeared. How she LOVED telepathically-suggested invisibility. It allowed her to quickly deliver blows, while Tamara fended off the retaliatory attacks. Finding the mind of her various attackers in the midst of the chaos, she finally build up the power to stun one of the biggest threats, while Tamara scorched some, shocked others, and still others took stone to the gut and chin. The circle no longer closing menacingly around her, Tessa looked around for any others who might need help.
Meanwhile, Nadia worked her way through the fighting mass with her powers. Her hands extended with a look of determination on her face, anyone who met with her touch was either a friend or frozen. However, she quickly realized that this method was working much too slow. She closed her eyes briefly, inhaled a deep breath, and let loose a blast of frigid air that froze a great deal of soldiers in her way. Tamara made her way over and with a flick of her hand, the soldier-cicles were shattered ice on the ground. She and Nadia found Tessa again and the trio tore through supers left and right.
Eugene bowled through another mass of soldiers in his hulking blood armor, and it occurred to him just briefly, 'This is a big freakin' kitchen'. Crashing through the wall back into the hallway, he picked up a couple of the soldiers that attempted to scramble away, and smashed one into the wall, while stomping viciously on another.
As telekinetics hurled superspeeders through the air, and fliers maneuvered cleverly through the brawl, Ms. Kitty found herself in a slightly more annoying situation. Her foe was a wallcrawler, and he thought that he could just slap her across the back of her head and get away with it, by jumping onto the wall and skittering away like a cowardly lizard. Kitty was determined to correct him. So, with a menacing gleam in her eye, she first dug her toe claws into the wall, and then grabbed on with her finger claws.
"There we go", Kitty remarked, "Shouldn't be so hard if a jackass like him can do it.
She quickly clambered across the wall in pursuit of her foe, and the two made their way across all four corners of the kitchen. She swiped at the wallcrawler hatefully, but because Wallcrawling was his natural ability, he found it easy to dodge her and not fall off the wall. She, however, was having a bit more difficulty. She couldn't easily hold herself up, crawl AND attack him. And so, an idea came to mind quickly to remedy this little annoyance. As he crawled quickly away from her, she dug three sets of claws in deep, with her back against the wall. The last set of claws retracted, and that hand reached into her shirt to pull out a sharp throwing knife.
'I knew my derangement would come in handy..." Kitty smiled wickedly.
She eyed the wallcrawler as he made his way over to the other side of the kitchen on the wall opposite her. He had realized that she was no longer pursuing him, and decided to help some of his allies in the fight. He was about to sneak up on Tamara as she fended off four other supers. At the very thought of her fearless leader being taken down, Kitty gripped the throwing knife and let fly with all her strength. The wallcrawler looked up in just enough time to see his impending demise. Caught dead between his eyes, he collapsed from the wall next to Tamara, catching the elemental's attackers by surprise. The perfect opportunity for another chain lightning attack.
Kitty smiled with a mix of pride and jealousy at the power of the redhead (who reminded her so much of herself when she was that age) and leapt back into the crowd to make her way into the hallway. She had some more baddies to do away with.
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Kitty fell to the floor and tore into a man whose flesh repaired itself as quickly as she could rip it apart. Through sheer tenacity, she managed to get him on his back. She raised a taloned hand to decapitate him when she was hit by a bloody mess that liked to call itself Jack Ryder.
She pushed him off her, and they locked eyes before Jack was shoved away again by a bluish maelstrom into and through the kitchen door.
The rebel leader scrambled to his feet, lacerated beyond recognition. Whatever that soldier was packing, it cut like a knife and pushed like a shove. His blood dripped off his hunched shoulders, steaming imperceptibly. He took a moment and looked around with surprise. This was a big freakin' kitchen.
There was a WUM from behind the door and the last fragments blew off their hinges right for his face. Jack swore and dove behind the central island. The splintered wood crashed into where he was just standing as the soldier walked in. He was tall, chiseled, with a blond crew cut. Around his hands, a blue light swirled and popped with unnatural force. He turned to where he thought his silver-haired foe was and thrust his hand out like a spear; an azure maelstrom ripped forth and tore a frying pan to ragged shreds. Jack crawled along beneath the surface of the island as blast after blast scattered paper, shredded half-done food, and rained debris down on his bloody shoulders. The half-demon grabbed the shredded frying pan and dove for a hiding spot.
The soldier came around the side, ready to annihilate Jack--but he was nowhere to be found. Puzzled, but not off his guard, he stalked forward. Repulsive energy still nimbused around his hand. Jack got up from his silent crawl behind the other side of the island and readied his two weapons--a fistful of frying pan shards and a rolling pin. Abandoning stealth entirely, he leapt forward with a cry and smashed the pin down on the soldier's head so hard it broke. The Repulsor staggered and turned around, hands flashing death. Jack dropped the pin and ducked under the sweep of his arm and the blindingly blue blast that followed. He tossed one metal shard into his empty hand, shoved the man's arms open, and drove the sharp shrapnel into the soldier's wrists. Crewcut screamed and the lights went out like broken streetlamps. Jack kicked him in the chest, grabbed a cutting board from the island, and gracefully smashed it down into the soldier's head. He dropped to the floor and Jack got out of the kitchen and back into the fight.
Wayne met him coming out and pushed him out of the path of a bullet. Now that the space was more open, the guns were out and bullets were flying like hornets. Wayne fired back; his aim was truer and the shooter's hand was rendered forever useless. He turned to the bloodied Jack and grimaced a tiny bit. He then got back to business--"I got a cheat code!" he proudly yelled.
Jack was stupefied. "What?!" he shouted over the din of battle.
Wayne waved the way and Jack limped behind him to keep up. Wayne brawled and shot his way to a set of stairs going down. They were headed to the basement.
Vicious wathed them go with keen eyes. "SilverMan leaving!" she roared at Flores over her shoulder.
Flores took a break from bludgeoning a Durable Man to see what she was looking at. His initial reaction was to go beserk--he should stay and fight like the rest of us!--but then he remembered who she was thinking about. "Jack's got a darn good reason for doing whatever he's doing. Trust me on this one." He then resumed handing the soldier's own ass to him by ripping the man's belt off his body, tying up his outstretched hands, and hurling him like an Olympic hammer into a small group of other soldiers. Flores smiled a little bit. Sometimes, his joyless life had a small flash of light.
Pierce was looking for a little light himself. He was about dead on his feet. In his defense, Pierce Dary had never met a group of people that just kept coming at him like these guys. "Where did they find all of you, for God's sake?!" he cried before squeezing a lightning bolt out of his hand. It hit one of the five he was facing hard, but he shrugged it off with a grimace. They kept coming, and he got ready for the end. Shame, he thought to himself. I'd really hoped to get it on with Tess one last time...
Out of nowhere, Fitz came in and raised Cain.
He grabbed the pistol from the nearest one's holster and shot him in the hip; the man went down like a rock. The fourth man tried to loose some kind of projectile power--pyrokinesis? laser emission?--but found himself powerless under Fitz's yellow-eyed gaze. He had only a moment to stare at his hand in shock when the pistol fired again, and then a third time. Fitz turned from the falling man to see a fist headed right for his scraggly chin. Acting on reflex, he pushed backwards to avoid the punch, and backpedaled until the overeager soldier ran out of steam and had to step again. That's when Fitz moved outside the man's arm and pistol-whipped him in the back of the head as he passed; he too fell. The remaining two decided to act as one. The two tried to pincer Fitz; one went left, the other right. The Negator shot right through the middle, leaving the two meatheads staring at each other. The last 5 bullets in the clip were devoted to making sure they went down and stayed down. Fitz dropped the gun on their corpses and his eye whites lost their yellow tinge.
Pierce looked at his old acquaintance with a reverent awe until Fitz fell to the floor, said "Oh God," and vomited a little in his mouth. Still the same old guy--even if he was being a hero.
Tamara swept by, suspended on her sirocco of rage. She dropped to the ground, hefted Fitz to his feet, patted him on the back, and then headed for Pierce. "You doing all right?" she asked in the calmest of voices.
Pierce's eyes would have flashed lightning, but he just had no juice left. "My ass got saved by a man I would have stolen lunch money from in high school. How do you THINK I'm doing?"
Tamara laughed, a wild guffaw. "Hold still, stupid." She put her hands on both sides of Pierce's head and funneled a storm through her hands and right into his muscles. His eyes shot open and his pupils dilated as depleted batteries came back to life and his heart skipped several beats. Tamara's eyes were glowing green; his were flashing blue. With a wild yell, Pierce whirled, lightning dripping off his skin, and threw a bolt like a spear through a soldier. He fell to the gound smoking like a forest fire while the lightning man turned back to Tamara.
"YEAHH!" he screamed with a tinge of radio static creeping into his voice.
She loosed her own rebel yell before ascending like an angel and flashing fire like a devil. Pierce didn't watch her go. He was too busy taking out soldier after soldier after soldier.
Tessa got a good look at Pierce. He was literally rippling with power as he waded through Trelaine's army. His form kept breaking out into indisctinction—warping into a thundering, laughing thing that sizzled and popped and condensing into a crackling man. She watched him as he passed. She didn’t know whether to kiss him or run away.
She turned back to helping Fitz corner some men so that Edgar could take them in one fell swoop.
Jack and Wayne descended a metal staircase as fast as they could.
Jack watched the wall as he went down. It started the beautiful marble of the foyer and the hall, but further down in the depths it became attacked by mold and mildew and fungus. By the time they were standing on the swamped bedrock floor it was as crumbling and abandoned as any castle wall.
When he looked away from the wall, Jack was mortified.
The basement was filled with torture devices. He saw thumbscrews, the rack, a rusty iron maiden, a vice stained with fluids unknown. Wayne led him past room after room. In one, he saw a clean cold metal table harshly illuminated by a single lamp and surrounded by corkscrews, scalpels, saws—all permanently reddened. In another, vials of chemicals marked ACID, marked TRUTH SERUM, marked HALLUCINOGEN. In a third, there was nothing but shackles on the wall and a whip on the door. Jack was horrified.
Wayne turned a cold, cold eye to all of these and proceeded to the door at the end of the hall. He opened it to a completely different world.
This hall was brilliantly white and shone with a plastic, uniform light. Glowing blue strips lined the wall, and the end of the hall opened up into a common area. The place had no shadows.
Jack said, “What is this place?”
Wayne smirked. “Trelaine’s detention center. The maniac couldn’t stand to separate work from play, I guess.” He calmly strode out into the detention center commons and drew his gun. The time for stealth was over.
An unlucky orderly walked out into the area carrying a tray. He dropped it cold and ran for his life. Wayne fired and he dropped to the ground, red blood spilling cleanly out on the white floor. As they passed him by, the assassin cleanly stole his badge. Wayne proceeded to a room full of computer banks and with a huge LCD screen on the wall. The assassin slid into an office chair and began typing an override.
Jack asked, “How did you know this was here?”
Wayne paused. “Looked at the map.”
Jack stepped forward. “This wasn’t on the map.”
Wayne turned over his shoulder. “Are you going to trust me or not?”
Jack said nothing and Wayne resumed his work.
The blue screen of the computer went black and type came in and asked Wayne for identification. He gave it the serial number of the dead orderly and it allowed him in. Then, he did his real hacking. Using an arcane series of keys, he opened up the base script of the machine and set to work manipulating its innards. Jack watched in awe as the computer took down firewalls, worms made to eradicate all data on the motherboard, and other such nasty binary traps at Wayne’s urging. When he was done, Wayne hit the same series of keys and returned to the main screen. A sickly green light shone forth from the entire screen, with the exception of a black dialogue box. It had only one word emblazoned on it—ENTER.
Wayne turned to Jack and spoke slowly. “When I hit Enter, every door in this place will be opened. People who have been victims for the past weeks or months or years, tortured every day, humiliated and desecrated, will come forth. Every exit in the Detention Center will be closed—except this one. A tide of angry madmen will roar down this hallway, hellbent on revenge.”
He pushed the button. “Run.”
Jack and Wayne scrambled out of the control room as a dim roar set up behind them. The prisoners were freed.
Vicious heard it first.
A thundering below their feet. It echoed up through the floor, through the wall. It rattled the curtains, it shook the ceiling, it grew until everyone was staring at the basement door.
A flood of victimized, tortured, and angry people roared up from the torture rooms and fell on the soldiers. They had no chance.
Tessa, Ivan, and the others drew back to a corner and watched the battle rage. Jack came running up and wiped the blood off of his forehead.
Renee stepped forward and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Who are these people?” she asked, even as his torn skin reknitted itself.
Jack panted out, “Torture victims. People Trelaine took. Don’t know much more.”
A woman ran up, swinging chains. She addressed Renee: “Trelaine took me off the street for missing the bus and subjected me to the worst a telepath could endure. Now I’m out, and I want to meet the man who did this so I can shake his hand. Where is he?”
Jack stood, flesh repaired. “Where IS Wayne?”
Wayne wanted to know that too.
He’d started to run after Jack when he felt something drop on him and the world spun. Now it looked like he was on Trelaine Manor’s dramatically slanted roof, hearing a thunderstorm echo in the distance, and looking right at—
“Jolyne,” he growled.
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"Nice to see you, too, Wayne..." Jolyne steadied herself on the slant of the roof.
"What the hell are YOU doing here?"
"I have business with the Trelaines, of course. What else?" the teleporter blinked nonchalantly.
"Oh..." Wayne looked down the side of the roof, "I meant, what the hell am I doing UP HERE?!?!"
"Oh, that. Well, the way I see it, I need somebody to help me subdue the overlord. He won't part with his possessions quietly, and the job seems fit for somebody with a little more expertise."
"AND???" Wayne demanded adamantly, bracing himself to the slant of the fairly steep roof.
"AND..." Jolyne retorted, "if you help me with this, and I get what it is that I need, I could hitch you a ride on outta here. Not to mention, aside from the fame, fortune and endless gratitude you'd acquire by helping do away with the Emo King, there'd be a very nice reward in it for you."
At the mention of a reward, Wayne's eyes went straight for the nice, new, state-of-the-art photon gun gripped by Jolyne's hands...Jolyne nodded to let him know that he and she were on the same page. The teleporter's face remained curled in a devilish smirk, and inside, she was smiling even wider. Her idea seemed a very tempting offer, and Wayne looked to be going for it. She could imagine him imagining all the possibilities. The fame he'd gain. The fortune. The gratitude. The chicks...And all in exchange for her to acquire the weapons, torture devices and other technology in Trelaine's possession. It seemed more than a fair trade. She and the assassin looked at each other in silence, as Wayne mulled over the idea in his head.
In a few seconds, he finally found the words that would make up his final answer.
"No, thanks. Something tells me that my friends would be left out of this deal. Even hurt by it."
Her face remaining an insidious smile, Jolyne shook her head.
"Wrong answer, Wayne."
Before Wayne could react, Jolyne cocked the photon gun, teleported behind him, and let fly. The blast sent him flying a few yards across the roof, and he nearly slipped off. As he caught on to the ridge, he noticed that the teleported was cocking for a second blast. He jumped up, and her aim followed him. However, as she let loose a second blast, Wayne turned himself invisible, allowing the light to pass through him without harm (and blast a hole in the roof instead).
'Shoulda done that the first time', Wayne thought to himself, wincing in pain, before returning to visibility to fight his redhaired adversary.
He thought to reach for a gun, but he wasn't as steady after that blast to his gut, so he just stuck to blows. Jolyne tried to catch him by the shoulder to toss him off the roof, but Wayne headbutted her and she stumbled back on the roof's ridge. However, Jolyne was in no way out of tricks. While she was down, she aligned her back to the ridge for steadiness, and swept her leg under his, causing him to stumble as well. She jumped up, and was sure she had the advantage now, because Wayne was rubbing the back of his head in pain. She didn't even think that it might have been a ploy (he had dealt with worse without recoiling), but THAT it was... As she bent down and leaned in to deliver a punch to his jaw, Wayne's reflexes kicked in and quickly a leg extended out to catch her...the blow grazed her voice box.
The redhead flew back, wild-eyed, and her instincts told her to let out a pained, nearly animal cry. Her BODY, however, had other plans, giving off only a half-hearted croak.
Wayne stifled back a chuckle when he caught sight of Jolyne's photon gun. As Jolyne held her throat in a moment of self-pity, he leapt at her to grab it. However, he had to cushion his fall with his hands, as the next second, Jolyne was gone. He looked around to see if she had just jumped to some other part of the roof. No such luck. She was nowhere to be found.
As he calmed for only a moment, he caught sight of the sky.
The skies had been brewing for sometime now, but only now had he noticed the intensity that seemed to churn within. Clouds loomed hatefully, and the winds seemed to whisper murderous omens, tossing the trees below into unbroken ecstasies. Lightning outstretched like divine hands reaching to deal vengeance, and worse still, the sky barked forth with thunderous booms of jolting electrical power.
Now, the assassin decided, was definitely the time to head back in. He looked around, and remembered the hole Jolyne had blasted through the roof, aiming for him. He hustled over to the hole, and in he went to rejoin the uprising.
==BACK WITH THE RESISTANCE==
As the chaos came to a fervent boil, Renee, Pierce, Jack and Tamara had made their way up to the stone spiral staircase. And before anyone could oppose them, the mumbling, grumbling, jagged, crimson brute that Eugene had become, stepped in front of it as they ascended. Heaven forbid they be kept from finally achieving their goal.
The four made their way up to the second floor, abilities at the ready in case anyone opposed them. Surprisingly, they found only bodies. They looked in unison at the only standing person. Vicious cocked her head to the side and bounded up to them, to accompany them. But Tamara shook her head.
"Nope. YOU gotta go back downstairs with Kitty and the others. Something tells me it needs to be...just us." She and Vicious met eyes, something few had ever done without repercussion. However, the feral didn't think to retaliate angrily, or even look away. Her nature went from wily and unpredictable, to determined and obedient. Somehow, the elemental MADE Vicious understand her. Vicious turned around and bounded downstairs to help the others.
Tamara looked at her running away with a growing smile, a genuinely happy smile, and then turned triumphantly to find the tower that led to the overlord. Jack was about to head for one, but something told her to head for the one just up ahead. She turned toward that one, and the others followed. They ascended the stairs, until they reached the door of the tower. There stood two supers who were easily defeated by a swift air blast, by Tamara, that sent them toppling over the banister of the stairs, to their deaths. Having dealt with them so quickly, anticipation seemed to run in her veins in the place of blood. She reached for the doorknob, so pleasantly surprised that she had caught Trelaine off-guard.
However, when she twisted the knob and opened the door, she realized it was too good to be true, and that instead it was SHE and the others who had been caught by surprise. She only got the chance to open the door halfway before the foulest smelling vapors assaulted their noses. They recoiled in a combination of horror and disgust at the noxious gas, which smelled like a combination of ammonia, Clorox bleach and some VERY potent California-grade weed...The gas gave Trelaine just enough time to attack as he'd planned.
Not missing a beat, Trelaine lunged at his pursuers, deciding to show them how exactly he got to be known as 'Red Caleb'. With supreme martial prowess he had learned from his father and numerous fighting instructors, he dealt with them swiftly and severely.
It was more than easy for him to multitask between beating one, injuring another, and fending off still another. He exchanged blows with Pierce, somehow avoiding ALL of his electrical punches, before turning the electrokinetic’s weight against him and throwing him into Renee. Jack jumped at him to deliver a claw attack, but Caleb saw it coming. He caught the clawed hand with power unbecoming a normal human, then bent it back and brought Jack’s elbow across his knee with wicked glee at how easy it seemed. It had been awhile since Caleb had done that, and it felt good...
A pained roar escaped Jack’s throat, but nobody had time to stop and help him. Caleb certainly wouldn’t pass up that opportunity. So Tamara kept fighting him with all her strength, and Pierce jumped back up to help her. Renee stood back and thought to heal Jack of his wound, but Dane fought through his cowardice and grabbed her from helping Jack and hurting Caleb.
“You coward...” Renee struggled angrily.
“Shut up...” Dane retorted, struggling to hold the skinny girl.
Caleb looked over to Dane for a second, with a smile.
“Maybe when I get rid of these two, we can share her...”
The end of that comment was punctuated by a monstrous cry of outrage by Tamara. She and Pierce simultaneously shot wicked arcs of electricity at him. He dodged them in the nick of time and, instead, the arcs went through the room and blasted a hole through the only window.
A wide-eyed Dane let go of the healer and bolted out of the way, letting Renee back to Jack’s side as the two elementals dealt with Trelaine.
Pierce finally landed a firm enough grip to grapple the despot. The two seemed fairly evenly matched, and so Tamara went back to see how the others were doing, while still keeping a lookout to make sure things didn’t go south for Pierce.
Pierce tossed Caleb into one of the few bookcases that lined the room. Caleb quickly jumped out of the way as Pierce fired a second electrical blast, and tossed a heavy globe at the electrokinetic, clocking him on his head. HARD. Slightly disoriented, Pierce couldn’t assume his electrical form like he wanted, without risk of electrocuting someone else. And with his head now aching as it was, his electricity was hardly enough to do more than backlash on him. He’d have to have a few minutes before he was at full tilt again. And Caleb SAW that his hit had taken its toll.
The overlord grabbed Pierce by the seat of his pants and the back of his shirt, whirled around with all his might, and heaved the electro out the window and off the balcony, much to the horror and dismay of the others. Pierce looked up as he tumbled, to see Dane creeping out the window among the chaos.
“Coward...” he thought. He then hit hard on the slant of the roof with a THUD.
At the sight of the weakened Pierce being tossed out the window and off the balcony, Renee, Jack and Tamara sprang up, and all headed toward Caleb to retaliate. He caught sight of them and held his hand out.
“I’m sure you do NOT want to do that...” he chuckled weakly. An ominous wind blew through the room, and it seemed to mark the start of a showdown.
“I’m thinking we do...” Jack retorted hatefully.
“No...I’m thinkin’ you don’t. You see”, Caleb started, pointing to his head, “I don’t intend on going down easily. And if I go down, I’m taking all you f***ers with me. I have bombs all throughout this city, and only I have the detonator. When I set it off, the first set of bombs will force people to come out into the streets. And the second set will blast YOU and those PEOPLE to f***in’ smithereens. They won’t be able to escape, and better yet, the fallout will leave this place uninhabitable for a pretty good while after I’m gone.”
A look that seemed a mix of hate and horror crossed their faces. If they killed him, the city and the surrounding area would die with him, including them. But if he survived, they would be letting him get away and have another chance to rebuild his small empire (perhaps even worse next time). They considered their options, again giving Caleb the opportunity to attack. He pulled a knife, and ran at Tamara. But, before Renee or Jack got the chance to retaliate, something stopped him. Caleb wasn’t sure if it was telekinetic power, or aerokinesis seizing the air around him, but his body was restrained, and he felt very heavy.
“Trelaine, you are so disgusting...” Tamara felt herself shaking with inner anger, “You know, my mother was a rebel. She fought for the freedom of the people that you kept under your thumb for years. She knew that something had to be done about your tyranny, and about the tyranny of people like you. I tried so hard, over the years to follow in her footsteps, and after she died, I fought for that same freedom.”
That only elicited a chuckle from the arrogant despot. But Tamara continued, glaring at the tyrant with her green eyes aglow, and her right hand outstretched.
“But then I realized something...I don’t have to fight FOR it. I can BE it. Instead of fighting to make way for that freedom, I, and others like me, could be the force to take down the tyranny, and make sure it doesn’t rise again.”
"You finished?" Caleb spoke up, only irritated by the elemental's otherwise heartwarming speech, “‘Cuz I personally don’t see how you plan on getting rid of me. I’m not gonna die without YOU dying with me.”
However, for a second, his brown eyes met her green eyes, and something changed. His sarcastic cynicism went out the door for an instant, and he realized that this fierce elemental beauty resembled the goddesses in the stories read to him as a child by servants. Her red hair flowed in fiercely-whipping winds, her eyes ablaze with eyes green as the forests, and her face was set in transcendently-beautiful and dreadful determination. For that instant, he honestly, earnestly, sincerely feared that she would find a way to kill him and still spare the others. Of course, he couldn’t let on to the others that he felt that way, but inside, the feeling was very real.
And Tamara seemed to notice it. In the absence of HER fear, she could easily determine the presence of HIS fear, and it delighted her to no end.
“Jack! Renee! You have to get out...now.”
“What?” The two voiced their confusion simultaneously.
“GET OUT!” Tamara repeated, looking back to them, sure of herself, “I can handle him.”
“But-but--” the two scrambled for excuses to linger, but the elemental summoned up winds to escort them out, and the door quickly slammed behind them. What’s more, the stairs collapsed into a smooth-as-marble slide and stone pieces jutted up from behind them, gently pushing them down the slide to ‘safety’.
“Now...back to you.” Tamara aimed her attentions back to Caleb, narrowing her eyes.
“Wh-what are you gonna do?” Caleb demanded, “TELL ME! You can’t kill me, b****! You’ll die, too! You think I’m joking?!”
“You’ve always BEEN a joke...” Tamara shook her head, smiling a condescending smile, “from the day you took power, you’ve been trying to be just like your father, Jason Trelaine. Living up to his power, how majestic he was. He was smart, good looking, charismatic and confident. And you turned out a lot like him, I’ll admit. But, he had a single flaw, and from what I can tell, he passed it on to you. He was a maniac...”
“YOU TAKE THAT BACK!” Caleb shouted, “My father was a good man. He was smart, and determined, and knew how to get what he wanted. His only problem was that he didn’t go as far as I’m willing to go...”
A smile crept now across his previously frantic face, before he continued.
“See, I had a plan from the day of my coronation. I knew that the people viewed me as weaker than my father, and so they’d try to depose me. So, right after they named me his successor, I headed into surgery, and had my backup plan installed...into my HEAD. A small microchip that can monitor my bodily functions; but it’s just flat enough that I can live a normal life. See when it senses my bodily functions decreasing...it signals the bombs. You all...go...bye-bye.”
His words outraged Tamara to the fullest. She felt her emotions come to a peak, and the palace began to shake. Its very stone foundation loosened and was quaking like a bowl of very unpleasant, rocky jelly. Caleb’s face fell again. The combatants below, on the first floor, forgot their quarrels and rushed outside to avoid being crushed. A lot of the supers actually made it out, but some are caught by the falling debris, while still others are trapped under or behind the rubble. Those who did escape, however, are still not at ease. Scrambling out to the front lawn to catch their breath, a super calls out for the rest to look up. And as they do, they watch in disbelief as they witness something they thought they would never see...the tower that Caleb used as his favorite retreat, his getaway, his haven, was now collapsing to the ground with a mighty rush of air, stone, dust and rubble.
And yet, this was not the most amazing thing the supers were able to see. As the debris settled, with most of it blowing away in the wind, they feasted their eyes on something that had never been seen before (and probably would never be seen again) by any of them. A great sphere had been formed in the sky, swirling on the outside with fire, and wind, and electricity and pure psychic energy. Tamara and Trelaine were suspended in the midst of the elemental torrent. The redhead held Trelaine in place, and looked up to see the storm clouds congregating around her. It seemed that the very sky was on her side, and it frightened all the supers below. But even more so, it frightened Caleb. She levitated across the expanse of the elemental sphere, and grabbed hold of Caleb’s head, ignoring his futile struggling.
“What are you gonna d--?”
“Stop talking!” Tamara yelled. Her voice now resounded with the thunder, and it sounded as though two of her were talking at the same time, “You have said MORE than enough. I say that you speak no more. You will BE no more. But, rest assured, you’re not going to die. No...worse. You’re not going to exist...”
Outside, the ball clouded up and started to thrum. The note it produced wasn't heard, but felt. It rattled stones, buzzed in the crowd's ears, sent birds--gore-crows and buzzards--flapping off from their perches and cawing into the distance. If Jack looked hard enough, if he squinted, he could see the vibration shaking the air. The storm soared up at an unsettling speed and flattened itself around Tamara's orb. With no warning or hesitation it rained and hailed and thundered like a wild choir. A lightning bolt hit the palace grounds, then another. The thrum picked up speed.
"Get to the basements!" Jack screamed. The motley crew needed no more urging.
They flooded out of the gates and into the buildings nearby, keeping low and moving fast. A burly soldier picked up a tiny torture victim and ran as fast as he could toward the door. A rebel lent his shoulders to a one-legged soldier and they hopped to shelter. Kitty and Jack and Tessa herded them out the wrecked gate and to somewhere where death wasn't in the air.
Ivan ran up, Pierce in his arms. "Where's Renee? Is she all right?" the broken electrokinetic croaked.
Tessa looked around, and then froze. "Oh no," she breathed.
As the castle crumbled, as the storm howled, as the thrum deepened, Renee Velatruz climbed the most stable stones up to her best friend. The manor wasn't falling apart like a thing ought--bricks and mortar crumbled into dust, then hardened into warped reflections of themselves, then crumbled again. Rain fell and froze and boiled all at once. Bricks floated up, unchained from gravity, while metal rebar twisted and bent and rusted and cleared up behind her crawling, clambering form. She was soaked to the bone, burnt from boiling rain, tossed about by the wind, scraped on her hands and knees--and yet she climbed to the sparking, flashing, thrumming orb.
Ivan went to put Pierce down. "We got to get her down from there--"
Jack put a hand on his arm and looked into the strongman's eyes with perfectly calm eyes. For the first time, Ivan saw Jack look almost resigned. "No."
And that was all he needed to say.
Renee balanced on the topmost piece of masonry. It teetered dizzyingly on a too-small platform too far off the ground. She could feel the thrum of the ball going through her, in her, around her. It was right there, larger than life and still growing, the size of a house. She looked down one final time, and then jumped.
She hit the side of the orb and didn't come back out.
Inside it was black but not a bad black, a warm black, a friendly darkness that knew her and had known her for longer than she could imagine and that she knew as well. She couldn't feel anything, didn't even know what position she was in, if she was sitting or standing or kneeling or flat out like some anatomical poster, naked and alone. But she knew she wasn't alone because somewhere in that endless, endless, endless, endless blackness, she could feel--
What are you doing? Where are you?
I'm here, don't worry. I'm closer than you think.
But what are you doing?
Ending Trelaine. Freeing people. My destiny.
Somewhere in the expanse of the blackness, Renee heard a scream of animal anguish that was silenced too suddenly.
Please, Tamara! Come out of this thing! You've unleashed more than anyone I've ever seen before, isn't that enough?
Renee. I have to.
You could get hurt! You could die!
I can feel it, Renee. It's creeping up on me, whispering in my ear. If I go through with this, if I end Trelaine, something else is going to have to give. It's like a balance, and I'm taking one of the weights off, and one has to go on the other side to keep the scales level.
THAT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE YOU!
Her voice echoed in the darkness, reverberated off of endless smooth surfaces until it drowned itself out with its own repercussions and she was left with the sound of distant thunder crashing behind her. Out of nowhere, a pair of hands clasped hers together and held them tight.
Renee. As long as I've known you, I've been bitter, and petty, and small, and broken, and afraid. But now I'm none of that. None. Our family was loving and whole and Trelaine's was fractured and hateful, and I know why. People have died and suffered for nothing, and now I know why. I was terrified of death, of going away forever, but now I'm not. I'm not afraid. Renee, I get it. I understand it, all of it! I get why Trelaine's evil, and why you're so kind, and why I was fearful when my mom was so courageous.
Renee started to sob, and she felt the pressure of Tamara's forehead against her own.
I don't even hate Trelaine anymore. I don't. Now that I'm here with him, I see him for what he is--a small, small man pursuing small, small things so passionately he lost himself to his ambition, and it brought him to his knees. But I also see he's too far gone--he's so far gone, Renee!--that I can't help him, and nobody ever will. If he stays, all he'll do is follow his ambition to its end, and the end of too many. He has to go.
Renee wrapped her friend up in a hug. She felt a single teardrop go down her neck, and she buried her face in Tamara's shoulder.
Renee. Renee--there was a short sharp sob--you have to lead in my place after this. These people need a kind lord, they need help, they need to recover and get back on their feet. They need a healer.
What? Tamara, I--
Please, just promise me that. Will you be a good Lord?
I-I-I--yes. I'll be a great Lord.
I know. Renee, when I'm gone, don't mourn for me.
She felt Tamara pulling away. Renee fought to stay, but Tamara was moving up and back.
I'll be right there. Every warm breeze, every cold rain, that's me. Every time you see the sun shine through the storm, that's me. Every time you see a sunset through the clouds, and it looks like it's the end of the world, that's me. When you see a person breaking up a fight so that everyone can get some food, that'll be me. When you hear a cry of joy in the middle of the darkest hour, that's my voice. That mother with a baby, standing in front of a tank, daring them to move forward, that's me. That man pushing himself to take care of the people he loves and even the ones that he doesn't, that's me. So do not stand at my grave and weep. I'm not there. I'm right with you, making sure everything goes all right.
Renee let go of Tamara's hand and saw the green glow of her eyes fade into the distance.
Goodbye, Tammy. I love you.
I love you too, Renee.
Jack was escorting a mother and child inside a building when he felt a light behind him.
He turned around, and the orb flashed pure white light and exploded.
Nobody was in the open, so the only things damaged were the ruins of the walls. They were annihilated, ground into dust by the sheer light, turned into wind-scattered motes once and for all--destroying the last remnants of Trelaine Manor forever. When the light had faded into the distance, and the last vibrations from the thrum had shook themselves out, they all looked out--soldier, rebel, tortured--and looked at the small hill where a palace had once stood.
All that was there was a distant, kneeling girl cradling another girl.
The dust settled.
"Tamara was special."
Renee looked out on the seated masses. The sun shone in and illuminated motes of dust. Up in the high rafters, a dove cooed and fluttered.
"Tamara was special, but she denied it vehemently until the last. She was broken, but she was our strongest pillar in times of need. Out of all of us, she needed help the most--but she refused all of it so she could help us."
Renee looked around. The cedar box smelled fragrant. The sunshine prismed through the raindrops on the windows.
"Most of you don't know this, but Tamara and I were stepsisters. My father married her mother. And in the short time we were united under a single roof by loving parents, I saw how she loved Susan McShay. She was Tamara's hero, her role model, her provider, her world. And when she was killed before our eyes 8 years ago, I saw something leave Tamara's. I witnessed her bury her emotions, dig a grave for her reactions, seal off her hurt, and hurl herself into the only thing that reminded her of her mother--the resistance. How many others did that? How many others were willing to leave off their grief and mourning and turn their lives to aiding the weak and the sick and the small? None. No other people did that. Tamara alone, out of all the people who lost and suffered, turned that loss into heroism. She was special."
Flores looked up out of wounded eyes. Wayne pursed his lips and stared at the pew back.
"The resistance became her life, after that. She recruited all who were willing to help, even if it was in the most marginal of ways. She became the leader of a small nation of freedom fighters and revolutionaries. But in the beginning, she was rendered a crumbled wreck by every battle wound suffered by her friends--every piece of shrapnel, every broken bone. I remember her retreating to a safe place and just crying when Mark Yamada was wheeled in gutshot. You see, every death, every last bit of pain, every scar reminded her of her mother and of her loss. I had to coax her out everytime. Some days, when it was bad, it took an hour. When she was out, though...you never saw a stronger face. She comforted the sick, lent determination to the wounded, comforted the freshly orphaned. Every step reopened a weeping wound that didn't close until the final days. But she obsinately pushed through, forced herself to ignore her pain, and was a bright and shining leader. She was shattered and broken, but the strongest out of all of us."
Pierce stroked his rose. Tessa pressed a lace kerchief to her lips.
"But in her last day with us, Tamara...changed. She said to me in the orb that she'd hit upon an epiphany. She said she'd realized that her life, her survival was nothing compared to Santa Fe. She was only the martyr, the vessel through which freedom and order would flow back into her city. And so, for the first time in her young years, I watched her come to peace. I watched her reconcile her past, give up her future, and make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us here to make sure that the people she loved would never have to live in fear again. She went down to the grave so all of us could come up and live in the light. She became eternal, a hero. For the first time, she was free."
Renee stepped out from behind the podium and looked at the cedar coffin, enshrouded in flowers, wrapped in linen. She laid a hand on the cool, smooth wood. "Tamara might not have thought she was anything compared to all of us. But she was wrong. None of us are anything compared to her. Goodbye, Tamara. You were my hero."
Renee took a single rose and placed it on the coffin.
The crowd stood and filed past, choking down emotion. All of them put something at her feet--a picture, a candle, a crane folded from sheet metal. Soldiers were there. Inmates were there. The tortured were there. Not a dry eye was to be found, not a clear throat, not an unbowed head. All paid her their dues, and then left. The actual funeral was to be the next morning, when the sun shone through the storm. Everyone left.
Except for Mark.
He sat in the front pew, staring at her coffin. A gulf of sunshine seperated them, and he was dressed in his best suit. He spent a long time with his elbows on his knees, leaning forward, hands clasped. All was perfectly still, even the dove. Mark had the face of a man looking for something. Ultimately, that something never came. He rose, brushed off his pinstriped pants, and left with his hands buried in his pockets.
Behind him, the forms of Susan and Tamara McShay took form out of the sunlit dust. Susan put an arm on her daughter's shoulder, and Tamara smiled up at her. They watched Mark's back leave the McShay Cathedral--built on the ashes of Trelaine Manor--and then disappeared from the mortal coil.
When they put her in the ground behind the cathedral, Jack turned to see a familiar figure in the crowd.
The mourners dispersed, save for Renee, Mark, and Damien. They each took up a shovel and went to the pile of dirt. Jack went through the crowd and looked up--and up and up--into a two-tone, scarred face.
"I got here too late to see her. I understand she was quite the heroine," Mickey D rumbled.
Jack looked back on the final burial. "Yeah. She put us all to shame."
The patchwork man peered out of his one natural eye at the strange glances he was getting from the crowd. He hunched down into his trenchcoat and pulled his wide fedora down low. "Lord Waits sent me here to see if this city was under good control--"
He thought of Renee's long, arduous future. "I think it is."
Mickey raised his eyepatch and the robotic orb within flashed orange. He wasn't done. "Quite frankly, I'm a little curious. Where do you plan to go next--and if nowhere, can I make a suggestion?"
Jack shrugged. Mickey D took that as a sign.
"There's a small vale nearby, in Texas. It's largely escaped the influence of the Warlords, and it's the closest stop for the American train system. One could travel to any major city in the East, if one wished. I must say, it seems the wisest choice."
Jack Ryder stroked his chin. "Sounds great. What's its name?"
Dane Trelaine stumbled through the sewer, repeating the words like a mantra.
"Odessa Texas, Odessa Texas, Odessa Texas..."
His stolen flamethrower's pilot light cast eerie shadows on the crumbling stonework of the wall. He was soaked to the bone, bleeding from his scalp, and dragged his leg behind him. Just one more turn and a ladder, and he was out of the city. From there, he could go to that place all the tortured talked about. Odessa, Texas. Sounded like a pushover place. Come to think of it, he'd always wanted his own little fiefdom. Caleb could've done a lot better job, and you better believe that Dane Trelaine-Corrigan was not going to get desposed.
He rounded the corner to see a hunched figure below the ladder, out of the light of the half-open manhole.
Without hesitating, he opened the throttle and a torrent of flame spewed out. His irises dilated and he couldn't see for a moment, but the figure there didn't stand a chance.
Dane looked to see the flame and heat dancing around a grinning man.
"Nice toy," said Caelus Fletcher.
A acrid cloud of smoke and too-suddenly silenced cry escaped the sewer.
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