Sympathy 1 - IV

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Guess My Name

First things first. Although Pubic Lice was the most obvious threat, he was busy holding Tide and Stonewall hostage. Plus, Strongarm was attacking one of my teammates, making him the obvious target. If I took him down quick enough, I could even the odds, making it two vs. three if Ribbon was okay, before they noticed anything was happening.


I reached the edge of the crater and jumped outwards, flinging myself towards where Strongarm was currently pulling a Hulk move on Ribbon and smashing her back and forth into the ground either side of him, using one freakishly oversized arm. I winced.

So not two on three, then.

I hit the edge of the crater and slid down the incline, going right between his legs. As he jolted back, I clasped my hands into a fist above my head and used my power, sending me cannoning up into…

Hmm. How do I put this delicately…?

Eh, fuck it. I hammer-punched him hard enough in the balls to make sure he’d never sing anything but soprano for a couple of years.

I never liked etiquette class anyway.

He screamed, as high-pitched as you’d expect, and fell to the ground, writhing in pain. I’d have liked to stop and check on Ribbon, who looked pretty bad, but I couldn’t risk stopping. I gave Strongarm a solid kick as I ran by, rolling his body in between Ribbon and the center of the crater. Not a perfect solution for what I had in mind, but it’d have to do for now.

Medusa and Mr. Krabs had noticed me, and I ducked as the ground behind me cracked and snapped as it turned into stone. I dodged to the side again and continued running towards where (fuck it, I’m out of names, I’m just going to call him Pincer) Pincer was holding Tide and Stonewall’s (presumably) unconscious bodies. He tried to throw them at me, but I reached out with my power as they fell towards me and bounced them over my head and out of the crater. It wouldn’t be a particularly pleasant landing for them, and they’d probably end up with even more bruises than they would have otherwise, but it would still be more pleasant than leaving them there for what was coming next.

Medusa screamed at me, high-pitched and painful, as I danced backwards towards the edge of the crater, dodging the petrification blasts she sent my way. Her hair, prehensile and sharp, was whipping up a storm around her. Eye-scream was still standing next to her, not really doing anything but ‘guarding’ Thunderdome’s body, which made me think either he didn’t have any long range offensive capability, or that he was saving it as a trump card. I considered sending one of Medusa’s hair strands into his face to see how he’d react, but the cold well of power in my core was running pretty low, and I reckoned I’d need everything left for what was coming next. Speaking of which…

Skew, ETA 30 seconds.” That was Freefall on the radio.

“Gotcha,” I said, spinning to the side to avoid yet another blast. I began a countdown in my head; if I mistimed this I could get turned to stone. “I'm about halfway up the crater on the tree side; aim directly for me.”

I'm not sure what it said about her, or me, that she didn't even question that. As my internal countdown reached five, I jumped over a blast and sent one of Medusa’s hair strands straight into her own face. She screamed as the razor-sharp lock drew a crimson line, the noise sounding as much like frustration as pain. It wouldn't occupy her for more than a second, but that was all I needed. I looked up to see a bright white shape directly overhead, growing in size rapidly. I reached inside myself, pooling the last reserves of my power, and just as the glowing meteor was about to hit me, I used that power on it, sending it 90 degrees from its original, downwards path.

Straight towards the forcefield.

Freefall’s power, like a lot of paranormals, was actually a few lesser abilities that synchronized together into a ‘theme’, for the lack of a better word. Her main power allowed her to store up energy while airborne and release it upon impact. The longer she was in the air, the more energy she built up. She had a secondary ability that allowed her to survive a fall from any height, or maybe that was the first ability sending all her momentum outwards in the blast, but it was her third power that really made her formidable: namely, the ability to teleport straight up. It would’ve been an annoying limitation (and you can’t imagine how useful it’d be to have a proper teleporter) but it synced up well with her other power.

Pincer had obviously wised up to the gist of that, because most of the strength in his forcefield was focused around the top. The crater was maybe 8 feet deep in the center, and the shield about the same, shaped like a sphere. When I say I was about halfway up, I was probably closer to three feet down. What all this added up to was that when Freefall slammed into the shield’s side…

Well, ever seen an egg get hit by a bullet? Take that, and replace the bullet with an artillery shell.

I was thrown back into the inclined ground as a shockwave of pure force erupted from the point of contact. I tumbled and rolled, deprived of any avoidance my power could have provided, and blinded by the cloud of dust thrown up by the wave. I coughed, and a sharp pain shot through my chest. Aw hell. That was not good. Wheezing, I pushed myself up onto one knee. I opened up a channel to the whole team on my earpiece. “All-,” I broke off as I choked on some dust in my throat. “Everyone, report in,” I finally managed to grate out.

This is Li- uh, Ricochet. I got eyes on the scene, jus’. You okay, Flint? Ya don’t sound great.”

“Flatline, reporting in lieu of Vortex. We’re just a few streets back, and it shouldn’t take us more than a few minutes.”

“…Foresight, still standing guard over a bunch of unconscious bodies.”

“Freefall.” Her voice was low and quiet. “At the center of the crater. Going to use the cloud to retreat.”

“Acknowledged, all. And negative to that, Freefall. I need a short blast, clear out the dust cloud, and hopefully stun the remaining Cabalists long enough for the others to arrive. Can you manage that?”

There was a tense silence for a second, then a short burst of static. “Ten seconds til impact,” she said, sounding pissed. Yet another thing to deal with later.

“Right. Ricochet, as soon as the dust clears, I want a stun shot on the brown one, he’s a forcefield generator.”

Gotcha. Ready an’ waitin’.”

“Good. Vortex, Flatline, get in here as quick as you can. Freefall and I’ll keep ‘em occupied til then. Let’s en-” There was a thump, and another shockwave slammed into me, but this one was only strong enough to make me take a few steps back.

As the dust cloud rolled past me, I got eyes on the center just in time to see Pincer convulse and collapse to the ground as a crack sounded out in the distance. Medusa and EyePhone were on their backs and struggling to rise, Medusa due to getting hit by two shockwaves in a row, and EyePad because Freefall had just booted him in the face. With a spray of blood from his nose, he went flying back to the ground, landing on top of Thunderdome and the duffel bag that lay next to her, not looking like he’d be up and about any time soon.

So probably not holding some powerful ability in reserve, then. But hey, who knows? Maybe he was just incredibly incompetent.

Medusa had struggled up onto one leg, facing Freefall and seemed to be preparing to send a bolt out at her. I took a perverse pleasure in hooking her leg out from under her and sending her face into the dirt. I rested one of my feet on her head and pushed down, grinding her face into the dust.

“Ok, Gorgon, there are two ways the remainder of this ass-kicking can go down. Option one is that you continue to lay in the dirt until our friends show up, and we all go on our way with a minimum of broken teeth. Option two is-” I felt something yank on my leg, pulling me down and sending me crashing to the ground just past her. I tried to hide the involuntary wince as my chest spiked with pain, and looked down to see her hair wrapped around my leg, and, just beyond that, her face looking up at me, with malice oozing from every pore. She bared her teeth, unnaturally sharp and pointy, and began pulling my foot towards her mouth.

So I used the foot she wasn’t holding to kick her in the mouth.

Point of information: I like very heavy boots. She reeled back, screaming through the hand she held to her mouth. I jumped up onto my feet (and dear God did it hurt), and grinned through the pain. “You have selected option two: a maximum of broken teeth, and you biting the dust until our friends arrive. Would you like to confirm your choice?”

She screeched and charged me, sending a blast forward in front of her as she sprang off the ground. I ducked under the bolt and waited until she was close, then feinted to one side. She followed the fake, hair whipping forward, razor-tipped strands ready to cut me to pieces. They slashed through the space I had been standing a second ago as I bounded forward, grabbed a handful of her hair, and yanked down as I went past her. Her head hit the ground with a dull thunk, and I jumped back away, cognizant of her hair this time. 

“You have selected Option Two. Thank you, and enjoy your beating.” I gestured to Freefall. “Keep her down, and grab the bag: I’m going to find your squad. When the others get here, send Vortex out to help, and then we’re clearing out. Get Foresight to make sure he’s not being tailed, and then tell him to go home.” I turned and began climbing out of the crater. “Ricochet. Nearest hero team?”

Uhh, the Guardians, I think?”

“Estimated ETA?” I’d spotted Tide easily in her distinctive blue costume, and I began heading towards her.

Precisely fuck-if-I-know minutes, boss.”

I groaned. “Har-de-har-har. We really need an info guy.” I’d reached Tide now, and I kneeled down next to her, waving a hand in front of her face. “Earth to Shauna,” I said softly. “Anyone home?”

Her eyes flickered behind her mask. “Skew…? Feckin’… argh, everything feckin’ hurts.”

“Yeah, getting bearhugged by a forcefield will do that to you.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “Is… Nat’s okay?”

I grimaced slightly. “She’s… not dead.”

“Where is she?! I need-” She tried to sit up, but only got halfway before clenching up in obvious pain.

“Hey, whoa there.” I put a hand on her shoulder, pushing her gently back down. “Nat’ll be fine. Come on, we’re going.” Over her feeble protests, I picked her up in a fireman’s carry, not hard, considering her slight frame. I turned back towards where Vortex was parking the car, with Flatline jogging down into the pit, and began heading back in that direction.

Standards gettin’ that low, Flint?”

“What?” I asked, confused for a second. “Oh, the thinker thing.” Lis had a bit of a habit of that: if she decided a conversation wasn’t done, she’d keep bringing it up until she felt it was. “Well, what can I say? If it’s a choice between recruiting a thinker and ending up in jail, guess which one I’m going for? Hint, it’s the one that doesn’t end with my ass distended a couple of inches.” I opened the car door, struggling for a second to avoid dropping Tide.

Aww, but if ya don’t like that, what are ya gonna do when you finally get a guy into bed?”

I rolled my eyes as I placed her limp body into the backseat of the car. “For what has to be the 50th time, I’m not gay, Lis.”

Until I see proof, you ain’t convincin’ me, pal.”

“And what kind of proof do you want?”

Getting a date would be a good start.”

“Hey, I went out with…” I faded out. Uncomfortable memories there for both of us.  “…anyway, in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t exactly have the most active social life.” I hopped down back into the crater, Flatline looking up and nodding at me. “Leave Bad Hair Day conscious, if you don’t mind,” I said to him. “She’s going to send a message for us. Once we’re done here, Ricochet, wait 5 minutes, and then clear out. Make sure you haven’t got a tail, then head back to base.”

Gotcha” she said. I crouched down in front of Medusa’s limp body. Her eyes burned with hate and she still breathed, but she didn’t have any control over her facial muscles, so she looked like a very angry incontinent. Flatline’s power meant we used him as a disabler slash trump card slash clean-up crew. Right now, he’d left her conscious but unable to use any of her limbs, which would wear off in about an hour, same as the other Cabalists. I reached out and flicked her nose.

“Here’s the deal, Medusa,” I said over the angry noises she was managing to muster up. “We’re taking your prize in the duffel bag, whatever it is, which should be embarrassing for your little group. The heroes are going to be here in, I’ve been told, precisely fuck-if-I-know minutes, and I’m sure they’re just going to love finding you lot. But once you inevitably escape, spread the word. Tell them we’re the Outliers. And tell them to remember the name. They’ll be hearing it a lot.”

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