Absent 11-III

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The Great Escape

There was brief moment of confusion as everyone stopped; the heroes and Outliers looking at the new arrivals, the new arrivals digesting their surroundings. This bit I do actually remember: it was Instance and an eight-foot-tall hulk of twisting branches that had to be the new junior hero, Stump. The girl in white and lavender was that girl, Wisp, but I couldn’t make that connection until later, when my memory was working properly. At the time, recognition tickled in my mind, but by that point I’d accepted my current state and didn’t even bother trying to grasp at it.

After the beat, everything resumed. Stump seemed to remember that there was a girl clinging to his leg and tried kicking her off, but she let go, and his foot passed right through her, dragging a trail of soft lilac smoke behind it. She danced backwards out of the way of another blow with a surprising amount of agility, and then everything went to hell in a turbocharged handcart.

When the telekinetic in the fancy hat had bound Lis, he’d held her arms firmly to her sides, reasoning it was best to keep then away from her weapons. It was a good thought, but he’d forgotten about ammunition. Her arms were bound, but her hands weren’t, and as soon as they weren’t paying attention to her, she’d begun finagling a shock round from the mesh on her left thigh. She’d ideally have gone for something more powerful, but a shock round was the only ammunition that would have an effect at the meagre velocity she could achieve with just her hand. The triggered explosives strapped to her lower back would’ve been better, but she couldn’t reach them or the detonator, which was strapped to her upper arm (Lis didn’t tell me this bit either: she thinks I don’t know about them, probably because she hasn’t told me. She doesn’t think I’d approve, and, to be fair, I wouldn’t, but I also don’t really think it’s my place to judge).

When the lightning began crackling across the ground, she saw it as the chance it was. She’d thought she might not have to do anything after Shauna and Sanjay had done their plan, but being quickly snatched up again within seconds had disabused her of that notion. This one was on her.

Moving slowly so she didn’t drop the bullet, she lined it up with the path she’d set out, solidified its destination, and flicked. It spun through the air, slow enough to be seen if you were looking for it, in a wide arc around the heroes, and zipped straight into the telekinetic’s back. He jerked up, twitching as the arcs of electricity coursed through him, then collapsed to the ground, smoking slightly. As he did, she felt the invisible grip disappear, and gravity reasserting itself. They hit the ground at the same time he did, but she was very much conscious and he was very much not.

There was a heavy thunk next to her, and she snapped her vision to the right to find her rifle lying on the ground. Her rifle still loaded with the Dragonkillers. She snatched it up and grinned. Payback time.

---

Nat had taken a lot of hits, both today and earlier in the week. Pretty much every muscle she had ached and burned and throbbed, and that had been before she was thrown fifty feet by a directed shockwave. But she’d been taking hits since she could stand: this was nothing new.

The tumble had taken her down for a minute or two, but she hadn’t been out of it like the rest of us had thought; she’d just been trying to get her strength back. Surprisingly, getting lifted up by the telekinetic had actually helped, taking the weight off her, even if only briefly. So when the grip disappeared, she may not have been 100%, but she was definitely ready to go.

Strands of fabric unfurled, pushing against the ground and softening her landing. She'd lost most of her long pieces, and had to extend them out of her ‘armor’, the wraps that covered her body and protected it. Pulling strands from it meant she could take less hits, but without them, she was completely limited to hitting things with her fists. She liked hitting things with her fists, a lot, but she’d already tried that and it hadn’t worked very well, so she’d have to risk it.

She landed and retracted the cords, holding them close to her body, but not integrated into her wrappings. She flicked her eyes over the heroes, ignoring the debacle in between her and them. She’d already tried Awestruck, and the telekinetic was already down, so that left the robot and the knight. The knight, she decided: the robot could have tricks up its sleeve, and she didn’t like that idea. The knight looked like a brawler, and that was right up her alley. Even without the armor, the other woman was significantly bigger than her, but she was used to that too. There were gaps in her armor; maybe she could use those, get underneath it and peel it away? And if that didn’t work, she could always just hit her really hard. Really, really ha-

A hand gripped her forearm, stopping her in her tracks. “Na-Ribbon!” It was Shauna, eyes hard behind her mask. “We need to go! This isn’t a fight we can win.”

“I can take her,” she snarled.

“No, you can’t,” she said bluntly, “and she’s not even alone. We’re going, now. Grab Skew.”

(If you’re wondering how they had the time to have that conversation, good on you. Partially, it’s because Lis was making hell with enough weapons to arm a small revolution, and partially it was because of whatever the hell Wisp was doing, which I still have no idea about. Sound interesting? It is, but we’ll get to that in a bit).

Begrudgingly, Nat followed Shauna away from the chaos, and the growing cloud of dust it was producing. “What about Ricochet?” she asked, as they reached me, fabric wrapping around me and hoisting me into the air.

“Ricochet, and Foresight, can handle themselves.” A statement that was proven immediately false when Foresight's body came tumbling out of the chaos and rolled to a stop next to them.

He groaned, and pushed himself onto his feet. “Write it down somewhere: You cannot penetrate Awestruck's skin with a knife.”

“I’ll bet you tried to penetrate him,” I murmured.

“Shut up, Skew.”

“Where’s Ricochet?” Shauna asked.

“I do not fucking care. Let’s scram before this gets-”

“YOU!” roared a voice from behind them. Awestruck emerged from the cloud. His cloak was actually tattered slightly, and he was still bleeding where Lis had gotten him, and a few other places as well. He was also holding her limp form in one hand, a thick hand around her neck. “Do you think you can just saunter away!” He raised his free hand to point at us, and the air rippled as a massive shockwave tore through the air towards us-

And vanished.

“Honestly,” said a new voice, “you should really look into some anger management.”

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