Capes 6-IV

Confront the Problem.

My breath fogged in front of my face as I ran. As much as I wanted to, I wasn't pushing myself, just a steady, even pace. I don’t normally do a lot of running and didn’t want to show up wheezing and out of breath.

The flickering streetlamps cast weak circles onto the concrete and asphalt, pools of refuge from the thin, almost watery darkness. There was enough ambient illumination that I didn’t have to worry about watching where I stepped, but not enough to reveal more than the largest, most conspicuous details of my surroundings. Without any other signs, there was a decent chance I’d miss the source of the scream entirely. I was… fairly certain in the direction, but that wasn’t much help. The slower pace of running was actually helping me here as well, giving me enough time to look down the alleys I was passing, gaps between warehouses on one side and apartments on the other.

Another scream rang out, still from up ahead, and this time a had a better sense of where it was coming from. I increased my pace, sprinting up to the corner and skidding around it.

There were three of them, four if you counted the victim. The aggressors, two men and a woman, and the lady pressing herself up against the wall. At a guess, I’d say she was homeless, or very close to; her clothes were ragged and tattered, and what little of her face I could make out in the light looked worn and dirty. The thugs all looked fairly interchangeable; all wearing a particularly drab shade of black, with shaved heads and tattoos of various colors stretching back across their skulls. They weren’t particularly ornate, just jagged, asymmetrical lines that started and ended at seemingly random points along their skulls. The larger of the two men seemed to have the most, and had a few yellows amongst the reds and oranges the others seemed to be limited to, so at a guess I’d say he was in charge.

The tattoos were a marking, indicating membership of the main group of organized criminals- no, that makes them sound too sophisticated. They were the main gang in the city, the Disciples of Shiva.

Yeah, that Shiva. The insane Scalebreaker devastated most of India after sparking, and currently resides there in an uneasy truce of mutually-assured destruction with the rest of the world. He thinks of himself as a reincarnation of the god of the same name, and to be fair, he is an unkillable being of ridiculous power, so, you know. Anyway, generally, when you get someone powerful declaring themselves to be a god, you get a bunch of crazies deciding to worship them, which is exactly what the Disciples… aren’t. I don’t know if they have some strange reason behind the name, but there’s no worship involved in what they do. They’re just criminals, some powered, some not. Based on the fact that these three were mugging a homeless woman, I’d hazard a guess at them being the latter, with a decent helping of brainless on top.

Everyone spun to face me, glares from the thugs, a mix of hope and fear from the woman. I opened my mouth to say something, maybe a witticism or something cool.

Nothing came out. Suddenly, I was very thankful I’d gone for the scarf, because if I’d stood there for a good few seconds with my mouth visibly hanging open, I might’ve spontaneously combusted with embarrassment.

“Who the fuck are you?” snarled the big guy, the leader one. I mentally assigned him the name of Yellow. “You know who you’re fucking with here?” He turned away from the woman to face me, and his two cronies came up to stand beside and slightly behind him. “Don’t make us do something you’re gonna regret.” Huh. That was actually kind of clever. Wouldn’t have called it.

Silence had worked so far, so I saw no reason to change that up. I reached inwards and activated my powers, then ducked away out from the edge, now invisible. Hopefully, the transition had been seamless, or at least close enough that the darkness covered it. I closed my eyes, and switched. When I opened, them there was fist hurtling towards my face.

I instinctively flinched away, going intangible, and the meaty fist went straight through my face, which, let me tell you, is something else. For a brief second, I actually saw the tendons and muscle inside his arm. It was pretty gross.

Overbalanced, he toppled forward, crashing to the ground. The two other goons halted their approach, staring and snarling at me. Behind them, I could vaguely make out the shape of the woman running away in the opposite direction. I smiled beneath my scarf. If nothing else, I’d at least know I’d done something good tonight.

As Yellow struggled to his onto his knees, I walked forward through him, trying to make it seem like this was just a normal thing I did, and not something incredibly freaky. I wondered idly what it was that allowed me to pass through him fine, but stay firmly planted on the solid ground beneath my feet. And then I immediately stopped wondering once the thought occurred to me that not thinking about it. Don’t think about a purple elephant.

My conjecture about the intelligence of the thugs was apparently on point, because the woman tried taking a swing at me. This time, I switched things up, going in the opposite direction.

I wonder if I should come up with names for this stuff, I thought to myself as the woman swore, clutching her hand close to her chest. No, that’s stupid, I decided as Yellow hit me from behind, yelling inarticulately. You don’t see Awestruck going around yelling ‘Awe Blast!’ or whatever.

I turned around to find Yellow doubled over, cradling his bruised hand. Carefully, I grabbed him by his collar and lifted him up off the ground. Behind me, I heard two sharp intakes of breath, and then the sound of feet slapping against pavement.

Okay, deep breaths, Hannah. You can do this.

“Can you imagine if you started stuttering now. That’d just be hilarious.”

Oh my god, shut up!

“Hello there,” I said eventually. Somehow, his deep-set eyes widened further. Keep it simple. “I’m looking for some people. You’re going to tell me anything and everything I need to know.”
He stared down at me for a second, then tilted his head back and pursed his lips- he was going to spit on me. Oh no you don’t! I flicked my arm up slightly and he jolted, then began coughing and choking. Presumably, some of it had gone down the wrong pipe. “None of that. Now, there are three of them. A woman in a long green cloak, a man with a metal mask, and one in navy combat gear. The woman is a teleporter, the one with the metal mask fires lasers. Ring any bells?”

“Wow, you’re really getting into character, huh?” my inner voice said. “Maybe tone down the Batman a little.”

“Like I’m gonna tell you anything, bitch!” he managed to choke out between coughs.

I pursed my lips, then shook him up and down a few more times. “Wrong answer. Let’s try again.”

“You think I’m-” I shook him a little harder that time. When I stopped, he was looking a little green about the gills.

I made a buzzer noise with my mouth. “Third time’s the charm?”

He glared at me, but a little shake replaced it almost instantly with an expression of nausea. “Fi- ulp,” he swallowed, “fine, fine, just stop shaking me, please.”

I shrugged. “Stop giving me reasons to.” A little bit of fog was starting to pool around my feet, swirling in odd eddies and flows. I think it added to my intimidation factor.

He looked at me like he wanted to say something, but wisely bit his tongue. “…I don’t know where those nutjobs are, okay? They just showed up at one of our bases a few weeks ago, busted a few people up, took some stuff and vanished. Why would you expect me to know where they are?” The fog was thickening now, and the temperature was dropping. There was probably big batch of snow coming in soon.

“I’m taking a trial and error approach to this whole thing. Where’s the base they went to? And don’t even bother being defiant, I can make you hurl your dinner with a flick of my wrist.”

He swallowed. “It’s… it’s on the corner of-”

And then he froze. No, he literally froze. Ice snapped into being around his torso and limbs, seemingly out of nowhere. It covered my hand too, reaching down to just above my elbow, and when I looked down, I realized my feet were encased too. What the-

“Put the shitheel down and put your hands on your head!” bellowed a voice from above me. I looked up, and saw a figure hanging in the sky. An ornate lace dress hung from a thin frame, and I could vaguely make out a glow from beneath it.

"Try and resist, please," yelled the hero. "I haven't had any fun in ages."