Absent 11-IV

Absent Friends

Awestruck yelled, spittle flying from his mouth, but whatever he said sounded so far away that it was almost inaudible. Instead, a light breeze started up, rushing down towards the hero and tugging at our capes, hoods and clothing. Awestruck raised one arm and gritted his teeth, which seemed a bit odd; it was barely even strong enough to be considered windy. Then I noticed that his cape was flying straight out behind him, and the cloud of dust in the background was rapidly being blown back down the street. Somehow, what we were experiencing as a mild breeze, they were experiencing as gale force winds. And even my addled brain could make that connection.

Awestruck evidently realized he wasn’t getting anywhere. He dropped Lis and stopped trying to move forward against the wind. He took off into the air, heading straight up instead of forward, quickly clearing the top of the buildings. As soon as he did, the wind's pull on his cape immediately lessened, though it still dragged behind him. He went to throw another shockwave, stopped, and then dived towards us, the air shimmering and warping around him. Between the speed he was moving at, and the shockwaves he was sheathing himself in, it wouldn’t be accurate to say we’d be killed so much as reduced to a fine red mist. We barely had enough time to react, and even if we did, what were we going to do? Hit him with some cloth? I might, might, have been able to do something, at the cost of another brutal headache, but I’d already thrown away that shot. Even though it was at an awkward angle, I twisted my neck to look at him. I’d always said I’d like to look my death in its eyes.

So I was perfectly positioned to see when, just before he was going to hit us, the unreleased shockwaves around him suddenly disappeared. The briefest look of surprise swept across his face, and then a figure in white was standing in his path. She caught his blow on crossed arms, and, although the ground beneath her shattered at the force of the blow, she didn’t budge an inch. More than that, though, it happened completely without sound. Despite the boom it should’ve produced, all we could hear was the quiet rustling of the breeze, and the muttered swearing out that was our reaction. My personal favorite was ‘Jesus H. Fuck!’, courtesy of Nat. Even I can appreciate a good bit of sacrilege every now and then.

Wasting no time, the woman in white took advantage of the brief second of shock after his failed blow by throwing a straight jab, stepping into the blow for maximum power. It caught the hero right on his chest symbol, knocking him back a few feet before he caught himself in mid air, hovering with a grimace in his face. He swept a hand out and across, and only had a second to look surprised when it didn’t work before his opponent was on him again. By that point, he really should’ve been expecting it.

He caught the blow, a wide haymaker, on one arm, moving slightly as it connected, but mostly holding himself in place with his flight. She tried for another jab, but he caught her arm and flung her to the side. She tumbled through the air, then there was a second of roaring wind, and she suddenly slowed, righting herself and drifting towards the ground. She landed, looking oddly light, and adjusted her cape with a casual gesture so it fell straight down her back again. She took a step forward, the crimson-trimmed fabric fluttering behind her, and then a burning projectile screamed past her, tearing off the bottom half and setting the rest on fire.

Further down the street, a plume of steam jetted out from Galvanize's armor as a raised section on the shoulder slotted back into place. Paladin was standing beside her, a stain of indeterminate color and origin spread across her right fist, and behind them Instance was crouched over the still unconscious form of Balthazar. Of Stump, Wisp, or any of the Prowlers, there was no sign.

The woman in white flicked her hand, and the flames licking at her cape disappeared. Turning slightly so she could see all of her opponents, she folded her arms across her chest, and waited.

Galvanize moved first. Raising a hand to expose the green glowing circle on the palm, she fired a pulse that visibly warped the ground as it passed over, travelling in a ring of distorted light. Instead of nullifying it like she had Awestruck's blast, the woman gestured, and was suddenly dragged to the side by a burst of wind that came out of nowhere. As the ring passed her by, slamming into the front of a building and producing a large cloud dust, she pointed one hand at the mechanized hero. Initially, nothing deemed to happen, and the hero fired another pulse that was again dodged with ease. Then, as she adjusted her aim for a third shot, sparks suddenly flew from the joints of her suit, and its arms fell limp to its sides. With another burst of sparks, it dropped out of the air, landing with a heavy clunk as smoke began to leak from the paneling. The green glow on the palms flickered, and died entirely, and the entire hunk of machinery tipped over onto its side, its method of mobility (along with its everything else) disabled.

The woman in white landed gracefully, then immediately spun just in time to catch Awestruck doing a speeding bullet towards her, fists outstretched. There was a flurry of movement, something that looked vaguely like some judo I saw once, and then the hero was shooting past her to smash into a building, sending debris and clouds of dust flying. Then Paladin was there, golden wing slicing through the air towards her. Another sudden burst of wind yanked her out of the way, but the armored hero merely changed course, swooping in towards her with a glowing fist reared back to strike. She swung, wings pushing back to give the blow more power, but her opponent merely caught the blow in one hand, then stepped forward and grabbed her helmet with the other. Yanking on the arm, she pulled her head down and slammed it into the ground, once, twice, three times, then tossed her away like a ragdoll. The hero skidded along the ground for a few feet, then attempted to rise once she’d stopped, but she was swaying slightly, obviously disoriented.

Awestruck stepped out from his pile of rubble, looking pissed as hell. He was covered in dust, his costume was in tatters, and his formerly-perfect hair was matted and clinging flat to his skull. It also seemed that he’d finally caught on to the fact that his attacks weren’t really working, because in each hand, he held a chunk of rubble larger than my torso. He hurled one of them at the woman in white, and she dodged easily, but while she was still in the air, he threw the other, straight at hit. It hit her torso and shattered, but she was thrown back, bouncing a few times before somehow landing on her feet. Her face was hidden, but there was definitely an air of irritation to her as she pointed a finger at him. He smirked, bending down to grab another chunk of rubble, but then he froze, and began desperately clutching at his throat. He dropped to his knees, his motions growing more frantic, and then, boom, he was gone, the vapor trail in the sky and the aftereffect in the dust the only remaining signs of his presence.

She turned towards Paladin and Galvanize, who was extricating herself from the now-useless pile of metal, and swept the pointing finger across them. Evidently, they got the message: Paladin's wings swept downwards, launching her into the air, and Galvanize limped over to Instance and the unconscious Balthazar. With a few hurried words, and worried glances back towards their opponent, Instance nodded. He grabbed both of their arms, and then their figures seemed to stretch into the distance towards the Tower, and they disappeared.

The woman in white surveyed the scene. Massive clouds of dust billowed around, swirling and eddying from the movement. Chunks of rubble lay everywhere, and the ground and buildings were almost all damaged to some extent. She nodded, and turned towards us.

She’d changed her costume since I’d last seen it. The crimson trim had become more prominent, stretching in a swirling pattern around the seams and edges, and she'd abandoned that two-tone red wig. She’d changed the metal mask she wore as well, making the three ‘V’s that formed it sharper and more angular, and her gloves and boots were now entirely crimson, with burnished metal plating that shifted as she moved. She began walking towards us, and as she did she removed her helmet to reveal wide lips, a sharp nose, and clear, keen blue eyes that seemed even brighter in contrast with her dark skin.

 “Geez Louise, you guys,” said Void with a wide, toothy grin. “I can’t leave you alone for minute, can I?”

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