Absent 11-I

FLINT

A Final Smoke

I’ve never been drunk. Tipsy, sure, a little sloshed, maybe, but I don’t make a habit of drinking and I'm not fond of anything that impedes my motor functions, so not drunk. I have, though, had concussions before. My dad took teaching me martial arts seriously- ah, no, that gives a bad impression. He was a good teacher, he didn’t do the whole ‘get it or get hurt’ thing you see in movies all the time. But I was still a kid, and teach a kid to fight, and then get him into old wuxia moves, and he’s inevitably going try something that'll get himself hurt. It’s not the same base as being drunk, but it is apparently in the same ballpark. So at that particular moment, lying in a pile of rubble, I felt something similar to the effect I’d have gotten if I'd done absinthe shots straight into an IV, with a chaser of turpentine and nail polish remover to top it off.

So, recap: four most powerful ‘heroes’ in the city, power gone, concussion from hell, ribs probably fractured, left forearm definitely fractured, teammates injured as well, and to top it off, I'd lost my knife somewhere along the way. That was my favorite knife. I'd carved my little symbol into the flat of blade and the base of the handle and everything. I'm going to miss you, Mr. Knifey. I giggled a little. I’d never called it that before now, and never would if my brain hadn’t been ping-ponged around my skull.

The figures of the four heroes swum in my vision, wavering and blurring around the edges. The dust cloud didn’t help; it hid detail to the point it was more like looking at stylized silhouettes than real people. The other Outliers were a little clearer, only partly obscured: I couldn’t see Lis or Shauna, but Foresight was still crouched low in front and to the left of me, and Nat was sprawled behind him. Her cloth wrapping was torn and tattered, and that was probably important, but every time I tried to concentrate on it, it slipped away.

“Hold.” It was a woman's voice, ringing out clear and powerful. It looked like one of the figures, the one that looked kinda yellow-y, had held up their hand and stopped moving towards. The other figures did the same, after a slight pause. “Outliers. There’s nowhere to go. Surrender, and submit yourself to arrest. This only has to be as painful as you make it.”

I squinted at her. There was an angry part of my brain yelling incoherent noises and swinging its fists around, but another part was acknowledging the reality of the situation. It was saying, rightly so, that I couldn’t see any way out of this situation. If my head had been in the right place, I probably would have sided with the former. But the way it was right now? Incoherent angry noises sounded like far more my style.
And someone else apparently agreed. Before I could say anything (or try to) there was a whirring, then a pfft sound I knew I should recognize. Something shot through the air towards the heroes. I couldn’t actually see it, but it left a rapidly-expanding cylinder of disturbed air behind it that my eyes followed, watching the dust swirl.

Okay, you know what? From my perspective, this whole encounter was a series of back-and-forths with bits missing where my brain zoned out or tried to go off on a tangent and a complete lack of fine details because my vision was completely gone. It's not very interesting, is what I’m saying. So enough of me being confused and muggy; it’s time for a perspective switch.

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Nat was out of it. She’d been the one who’d tried to take a swing at Awestruck, and she’d taken the brunt of the shockwave that had blown them out onto the street. She’d thrown herself at him, using strands of her costume to propel herself upwards and then to swing with all her force. It was about as effective as Skew's attempt; although slightly less pathetic-looking. Lis knew what he’d been trying to do, of course, but if you didn’t it looked like he just flung his arm out and then collapsed. She’d definitely rib the hell out of her friend over that if they got out of this one- when they got out of this one.

Shauna was crouched next to her behind the pile of rubble, the one with Flint on the other side. She seemed mostly unharmed, and kept trying to peer out and see if her girlfriend was okay. Lis placed one hand on her hand, barely paying attention, and pushed her back down. She’d found a decent viewport in the concrete pile, but the shorter girl poking her head up would give away their position.

“Is she okay?” Shauna hissed at her. Her voice sounded slightly strange, different enunciations, but Lis didn’t care enough to ask or, in fact, think about it at all.

“Yeah, she's fine,” she hissed back, “now keep yer head down, or they'll see us.”

“They already know we're here.”

“No, they already know we're,” she twirled one finger around, “here, not,” she pointed the finger down, “here. Now shaddup, I gotta shot.”

Lis watched the heroes grow closer as she leveled one of her pistols up to the hole. She liked using her sniper for precise shots, but it wasn’t actually necessary, and she was a little pressed for time. She took a breath, and concentrated. Okay. Four heroes, one shot before they realize. Who gets a bullet? The Big Guy was out; even if she was packing live rounds, they wouldn’t do a thing. Same went for Mr. Roboto. Harry Houdini almost certainly had telekinetic shields, so that just left the Golden Glowstick. Her armor was large, but it wasn’t completely covering, with small gaps in between plates and sections. No ordinary shooter could manage to slot a bullet in between them.

She focused on the cold power in her core, sending it out into the world, forming a loose cylinder. One end sat just beyond the muzzle of her pistol, and she moved the other until it lined up with the gap next to the hero's neck. It pushed against her control, trying to snap into being, but she held it back. She couldn’t move the tunnels once they were properly created, and she needed the hero to stop moving before she could do that, otherwise she’d miss.

“Hold!” the golden woman shouted, and stopped. Perfect. She said something about surrendering or something, but Lis stopped listening. She let the tunnel form, snapping into a path of distorted light, and in the same moment, squeezed the trigger.

The satisfying pfft was like music to her ears, and that little chunk of metal zipped off along its designated path - and stopped. It hovered in mid-air, about a meter from the hero. The Prestige had stuck out a hand, and caught the shock round before it could hit with his powers.

Shittitties. Element of surprise, gone. Only shot at taking at least one of those motherfuckers, gone. Well… maybe not ‘only' shot. She’d almost forgotten about it, but Caster had given her those rounds, hadn’t she? She'd called them… Dragonkillers? Yeah, that was it. That seemed about right right about now. She tucked the pistol back into its holster and unslung her baby from her back, then grabbed the rounds from the webbing on her left leg and loaded them in.

“What are you doing?” Shauna asked. “Did it work?”

“Nope,” she said curtly. “But this will.” Then she prepared another unformed path in her mind, pushed herself up and vaulted over the top of the pile in one smooth motion. As the heroes came into view, she dropped the path onto Awestruck, and pulled the trigger.

She got one shot off, not even hitting the ground, before a thousand invisible hands grabbed her, wresting her gun from her hand and pinning her into place in midair. The stage magician was glaring at her under his top hat, arm outstretched. She tried lashing, struggling against her bonds, but it didn’t seem to do a thing. To her left, she could see Foresight, held in the same way, hanging limp. So, this was it. At least she did get to take some satisfaction in the fact that, although Awestruck was still flying, there was a jagged gash on the side of his chest. Ya did good, Caster.

“So, that’s a no on the surrender, then,” the woman in the golden armor said. 

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