Enemies 9-V

If My Blood Bleeds Blue.

I threw myself backwards as the floor rippled, making it through the doorway just before the ground inside the room reared up in a wave, throwing everyone inside off their feet. We'd prepared for this, and there was no reason we couldn’t handle it.

So of course everything went wrong almost immediately.

While they were still in the air, there were another three snapping hiss-cracks, and three streaks of grey shot through the air, curving towards the airborne figures. Shock rounds, like what had taken down Green Cloak. Theoretically, they should’ve quickly and cleanly incapacitated all three of them. Instead…

I don’t have increased reflexes or perception. Or if I do, it’s subtle enough that I can’t tell the difference. But I’ve learned martial arts for most of my life, and have pretty much spent the better part of two years fighting crime. So this may not be exactly what happened, it went pretty quickly, but I’m reasonably confident in it being close.

Of the three, only the bullet intended for Metalface actually hit. He jerked in midair, then landed on his hands and knees, smoking slightly, but very much still conscious. Insulation in his costume, maybe, or maybe he was just tough enough, through natural or artificial means, to bear it.

When the second bullet hit Combat Gear, it disappeared, and fragments of it rained down from all around him. So we’d been right about his power being touch-range, but had underestimated how strong it was. That would’ve definitely worked on Flatline, for example, and he was no pushover.

The bullet intended for Blur just… missed. She landed with surprising composure, one hand on the ground to steady herself. That should not have happened. Ricochet didn’t just miss. I mean, it didn’t happen. And that meant Blur had some power that had caused it to happen.  And that meant that my only option was to engage the unknown super at close range, which was about as big a no-no as a land war in Africa.

Sometimes I wonder about my life choices.

First rule of combat (not martial arts, proper combat): dirty fighters are what losers call winners. Second rule of combat: never waste an advantage. I drew my pistol, the clip keeping it attached to my belt disengaging as I pulled, clicked off the safety, aimed directly at the crouched form of Blur, and squeezed the trigger. The shot went wide, sparking off the concrete next to her feet, and her gaze snapped up towards me. I frowned, corrected and fired again, three shots in a row this time. Again, each missed, and by the third one, my aim was significantly worse.

She charged at me, and I gave up on the gun, passing it into my off hand, almost losing my hold and dropping it when my hand failed to fully grab the handgrip. That probably should’ve been my first warning.

She reached me, swinging a wild haymaker that didn’t seem so much ‘aimed’ as ‘guessed’. I stepped to one side, letting her overbalance past me, and brought my knee up sharply into her exposed gut, a set of actions so routine I barely had to think about them. Which is probably why it was so surprising when, instead of doing it, I found myself, staggering, off-balance, directly into her blow. I managed to twist my body so it landed on my shoulder instead of my torso, and, Christ, someone that small should not have been able pack that much power behind a punch. It actually knocked me off my feet, and I reckon that without the Steelsilk in my armor, it probably would have broken a bone. Still, it bloody hurt, and it broke my gun too, though I’m a little unclear on the how.

I pushed myself back onto my feet. So, she could: obscure herself, deflect projectiles, fuck with people’s balance, and hit with enough strength to- yep, she actually dented my armor plating. She was pretty obviously a Jack, and therefore objectively the worst. ‘Jack' was a slang term for any meta with a whole bunch of smaller powers instead of one, or two, or one with auxiliaries. If she fit the pattern, she’d probably have a few more tricks up her sleeves. On the plus side, it also meant that once she’d used a power, I’d know that was all it could do: Jack powers are universally one-trick ponies, compensating for quality with quantity.

I ignored the pain in my arm, trying to take the second of reprieve to suss out how the others were doing. When I tried to look away, though, I found that my vision kept sliding back towards the woman, like a magnet. Combined with the blurriness, it was a disconcerting effect, my sight constantly being pulled back only to slide off again.  Super tunnel vision, I thought. Honestly, I probably should have seen that coming. She seemed to have something of a theme going on, messing with perception or a similar idea, which was unusual. Jacks generally had a few staples like enhanced strength and reflexes, and then a few random powers on top of that. One that I’d met who called himself Madcap could, on top of the regulars, teleport small objects a few feet, set his fingers on fire, stretch his limbs like putty and turn himself into an immovable statue for a second or two. There wasn’t usually any synchronicity.

I pushed myself forward, as if to break into a sprint, and she stepped backwards, going to settle into a stance. Exactly what I was hoping for. I'd like to say I thought something cool, like ‘fucking with balance? Two can play at that game' or just ‘quid pro quo', but really it was just some incoherent angry noises.

My grip on the momentum in her leg was tenuous thanks to the three or four powers she had going, but I just poured more power into it, pushing past the protection they granted. As she moved her limb backwards, I took the energy and redirected it sideways. She staggered, her foot not where she expected it to be, and I took advantage of her distraction to launch myself forward like a sprinter off the blocks, straight at her.

By the time she recovered enough to notice me, I was only a few feet away. I felt the tilt of my balance going out again, but it was too late: I’d already thrown myself forward. Losing my balance didn’t matter if I had momentum, and if there’s anyone who knows about the potential dangers of that, it’s me.

Or any of the other kinetic energy manipulators in the world, but whatever. It was a cool line.

I barreled into Blur with all of my (non-trivial) mass, sending us both flying. Difference was, I was prepared for it and managed to turn the tumble into something passable, where as she just skidded. Her power-granted resilience must’ve been no small thing, though, because even with that, I was only barely back on my feet first. It was enough. Rules 1 & 2 again: she was in the process of pushing herself off her hands and knees when I took a step forward and slammed my foot up into her stomach.

Rule 3 of combat: you can’t feel regret when you’re dead. I’d have never done that to a normal person, it could cause serious or even permanent damage, but I was chancing on her resilience being enough to take it. I’d feel bad later, if I remembered to fit it in between the screaming, swearing and praying (you’d thought I’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you?).

She tumbled backwards, hitting the ground with a heavier thump than expected. She didn’t move, seemingly out of it, but I still couldn’t move my eyes too far away from her without them snapping back. It didn’t necessarily mean anything, but…
I sighed, then walked over to her. “For the record,” I said, “I am actually sorry about this.”

There are a few ways to get someone out of a fight. You can restrain them in some way, which is not always possible when superpowers are involved. You can knock them out by regular means, which runs the risk of serious brain damage, or by powered ones, like Flatline or like the shock rounds. You can simply hit them enough that they’d rather just stay on the ground.

Or you can make sure that they stay on the ground.

With a grimace, I raised my foot and stomped down, directly on the backside of her elbow. There was a grinding snap, she screamed, and I felt my vision snap back to normal. “Really, I’m sorry.” That bit’s never fun. Thanks to Flatline, it’s rarely necessary, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Finally able to take in the scene around me, I assessed the situation. It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected. Green Cloak was still unconscious, which was a relief. The others were tag-teaming the remaining Prowlers. Tide and Ribbon were taking on Metalface, Ribbon blocking his blasts so that Tide could knock him off his feet. He didn’t seem to be able to muster up a counterattack, but they didn’t seem to be doing any serious damage to him either. Ricochet and Foresight were doing better against Combat Gear, thankfully. Ricochet was peppering him with a constant hail of bullets from her pistols, forcing him to disperse them all and littering the ground around him with bullet fragments. Meanwhile, Foresight danced in and out of his reach, distracting him: throwing blows that didn’t land in order to make him flinch, leaving obvious openings in order to try and make him overextend. It was working, but I wasn’t willing to just wait around for them to get on with it.

He didn’t have anything shielding him, so it was a minor effort to shift the momentum of all his limbs in different directions at once (honestly, it was showier than I needed; it's just funny watching them flail). I’d like to think there was the briefest second of surprise on his face before multiple shock rounds electrocuted him into unconsciousness.

Both Foresight and Ricochet spun to face me, glaring at my stealing of their ‘kill', so I merrily flipped them both the bird and turned back towards Metalface, repeating the gesture. He had the decency to look confused, right up until I also repeated the power. Lemme tell ya, the flailing is way funnier when it's an eight-foot slab of steak in a red jumpsuit. A fist of what looked like nylon clobbered him into the air, and a swarm of shock rounds stunned him before he hit the floor. You should’ve seen it, it was pretty sweet. This time, he stayed down.

The human body is kind of crappily built. Even after a fight-or-flight situation is over, it still spends a short while flooding the body with adrenaline, and then even longer coming down off that rush. All of us took a few seconds to just take some deep breaths and calm ourselves. Personally, I was feeling a strange combination of highs and lows: I wanted to climb a mountain and then puke off the top. Everyone else looked like they felt pretty similar, except Tide and Ribbon, who were doing that cutesy hand-holding thing, which was just blegh. Seriously, those two needed to get over this phase or break up, it was getting unbearable.

We looked around at the room, trashed to pieces, and the door unconscious supervillains lying on the ground.

“So,” I said at last, “I think that went well.”

In fairness, I really should’ve known better.

The ground began shaking beneath our feet. As did the walls. As did the ceiling. As did everything.

And then the room began rising.