Party 7-V

The Picture of Urbanity.

Again, he was faster than us. In a blink, the cloud of bone and flesh had shot off back towards the crumbled remains of the Shithole.

Thankfully, he wasn’t quicker than radio waves. “Freefall,” I yelled into my mic as I sprinted back towards the bar, “go up, now!”

What?”

“Just do it!”

“Why are you-” The feed cut out with a crackle.

“Dammit!” I swore out loud. “Something’s happened to Freefall. We need to figure out some way to take this guy down, and fast.”

“How?” Fragment responded. “He just tore through my best effort like it was nothing.”

“We’ve tried going after both his forms,” Flatline pondered out loud. “Maybe we could try interrupting the transition?”

“It’s a thought,” I said. “It’s not like we have any other options. What if we-” We burst in through what remained of the front door of the Shithole and froze, conversation forgotten.

I went into a slaughterhouse when I was a kid. It was a school trip, because everyone knows that seeing industrialized slaughter is a valuable and important learning experience for children. I don’t remember it that well, I think I repressed it, but what always stuck with me was the smell. That thick, cloying smog that was almost sweet, catching in your throat and nose and sinking into your clothing, impossible to remove. I vaguely remember crying and vomiting, and not being able to sleep for weeks afterwards; I still can’t eat meat because of it. I’m actually pretty sure someone got fired over it, which is pretty justified in my mind.

Anyway, the point I was trying to get at is that when I say it was like a slaughterhouse, that was not in any way an exaggeration.

I gagged as the stench hit me, reeling back. Behind me, one of the others made a retching noise, I’m not sure which one. Limbs were scattered across the room in various states of solidity and attachment. A body lay slumped over the bar, and I could see a blood-spattered and torn trenchcoat lying on the floor, divested of any corpse. Spoiler lay splayed out over a broken table, seemingly dead, but I could see a bloodied makeshift bandage on what remained of her arm, and the slight rise and fall of her chest. Some of the other villains had gotten off comparatively easy and were still in one piece with various bits missing, but the sheer number and variety of the separated pieces guaranteed that not all of them were so lucky. And the blood… God, it was like someone had given maroon paint to a pack of doped-up toddlers.

None of this made any sense. He’d done… this, in a manner of thirty seconds or so, and yet he almost seemed to be toying with us, waiting for Jess to fall again, not directly attacking us, and probably intentionally giving me warning when he came at me. I’m good, but I’m not good enough to dodge the speeds this guy was moving at.

Actually, how had he even known Jess was going to come back down? He’d acted like we were unexpected, but then somehow knew exactly what her power did? The more I thought about this whole scenario, the less sense it made.

He was standing in the center of the room, back facing us. He was clutching something in one of his hands, but I couldn’t make out what. Of Jess, there was nothing to be seen.

A drop of crimson fell from his clenched fist, splattering on the floor. “Interesting,” he said, loud enough that we could hear him even with his head facing away. “I was expecting a recharge time. It’s always interesting how these things turn out. Very quick.”

He opened his hand, and something small and pink fell out, splashing into the blood.

It was the tip of a finger.

“Not quite quick enough, but interesting all the same.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. In fact, it probably ranks among the dumbest. But I doubt that, in that moment as my vision went red, I could have done anything else.

I charged straight at him.

Freefall’s landing had collapsed the roof in, leaving pieces of rotting wood all across the floor and what tables were still standing. I ran through the debris, pushing off a large support beam as I vaulted over a table. The man watched me approach, not reacting, still grinning that terrifying grin. Like he wanted me to hit him. Still playing with us, still playing with me.

Good.

Judging by the way he’d shrugged off the electricity, I was willing to bet he was pretty durable even in his human form. Even if I kicked him in the head, I doubted it’d be more than a love tap for him.

Interesting tidbit, though. No matter what superpowers you have, anatomy tends to prevail. And this guy had been proving the whole time that his anatomy was fully functional.

Yep. I faked the lead-in to a high kick, dropped low and put all my body weight and strength into short, sharp jab straight into his exposed genitals.

You have no idea how satisfying it was to actually get a reaction from the guy. He roared, a genuinely angry sound, and exploded. In about three seconds, I’d probably be torn into mush.

Thankfully, I was ready for that too.

As the giblets surrounding (and covering) me began to tremble and lift, I closed my eyes and tapped into the well of cold power I’d left untouched until now. Reaching out, I found the momentum of all those tiny pieces and locked on. Not without difficulty, it was like grabbing a bar of soap, but I just pushed more power into it to compensate for the power already controlling them. As the scattered flesh and bone flew inwards, I lined up the pieces of what I wanted to do in my mind, snapped my arms outwards, and pushed.

Suddenly, all the pieces that had been heading towards their originating point at speed found themselves flying off at random 90 degree angles. They flew out for about a meter, before slowing to a stop in midair, and beginning to fall back inwards. I already had the action lined up, so it was trivially easy to do it again, sending them spinning away.

“A little… help… here?” I asked through gritted teeth, repeating the action again.

Flatline’s face was white, but Fragment nodded, and a swirl of metal flowed off him as his armor disintegrated. When I deflected this time, tiny balls of metal began to form around them, dropping to the ground with dull clanks. They rattled a little, but apparently the individual pieces didn’t have the same penetrative power as the whole did.

It was actually easier than I thought it was going to be. It seemed 
like we had actually found a legitimate weakness in this otherwise-overpowered ability; the pieces couldn’t move around until they’d reformed into a whole.

The flow of metal began to slow after about a minute. Fragment just bound the last few pieces together in one large chunk, and then it was over.

I lowered my arms slowly, breathing heavily. Much longer and I’d have run straight out of power, and I did not want to be standing in the middle when he reformed.

Fragment and Flatline walked over to me, the latter looking about as exhausted as I felt. He’d done some seriously impressive shit, and I was duly impressed.

“You know,” Flatline said… flatly. “I’m feeling a little superfluous right now.

I laughed, I couldn’t help it. I think it was partly exhausted delirium.

“So,” Fragment said after a minute, “what now?”

I looked down at the pieces of metal around us.

“That’s a really good question.”