Paranoid 12-IV

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About To Eat Your Face.

I sighed, then stood up and moved round the corner. At the very least, he could’ve given me a warning. He was blocking the entire doorway, so I just ghosted (oh, that’s a way better name for it, I’m using that from now on) and started moving through the branches.

“Oh yeah?” Green Cloak snorted. “You and what army, you rip-off Whomping Willow?” Well, that was as good a moment as any. I passed through the last few and stepped into the room, staring silently at the teleporter.

“And who the h*ll are you supposed to be?” she scoffed. I said nothing, just continued staring, fists clenched by my side. “Ooh, very scary. You going to glare us to death?”

“Callas,” snapped the blurry woman. “Enough. Look,” she said, turning to face us, “we've got the numbers advantage here. If you make us, we'll fight our way out of here. But right now, all we want to do is leave. Let us go, and we’ll disappear, and you’ll never hear from us again. It’s the easiest solution for all of us.”

“That’s very practical of you.” The voice sounded angry, and a little hoarse, and I realized it was mine. “Very sensible. So maybe you should have thought of it before your ‘friends' decided to escalate from thieving to holding a school hostage.”

“Look, that wasn’t my idea, and it was a really terrible one. I’m trying to be reasonable here: we can fight, or we can not, and the result's going to be the same. So, and I hate doing this, we can either do this the easy way or the hard way.”

“It’s amusing that you think that,” Stump replied, “because you’re right: there is an easy way and a hard way, you just don’t have the details right. The easy way is you lie down, put your hands on your head, and allow me to take you in. The hard way is I drag your unconscious bodies all the way back through that sewage and throw you in a cell.”

“Are you that arrogant that you think the two of you can just walk over us?”

Stump scoffed darkly. “Two? I could do this on my own.”

She sighed, sounding exasperated. “F***in' heroes… every time,” she muttered. “Fine. You want to-” Without warning, she threw herself to the side, the blue-grey light emanating from her hand disappearing. The room was plunged into darkness for a moment, then the angry glow of Metalface's power lit it up again as he fired it towards us. I was still ghosted, but I remember how it had chewed through Black Armor's (Stonewall, Skew had called him) shields: I wasn’t taking any chances. Letting my legs drop out from underneath me, I fell to the ground, the beam shooting overhead. Stump merely shifted slightly, opening a hole in his form and letting the beam pass through harmlessly.

I sprang back onto my feet, and found the blurry woman bearing down on me, light coming from her hand once more. She swung, and I let it pass through me as I stepped forward through her. I wasn’t there to fight her: I was there for Green Cloak. She stumbled as she overbalanced, and there was a crack as Stump whipped a tendril forward to snap against her arm. He was still twisting and changing, dodging each blast as they came with ease. He was attempting to hit Metalface, but every time he tried, it was met with a beam.

Green Cloak was standing there, darting her head around rapidly like she couldn’t see. I charged towards her, went solid, and dived forward, trying to bowl her over. Just before I hit, though, she disappeared with a pop and a rush of wind. She'd been baiting me, and I’d fallen for it. I hit the ground with a heavy impact that knocked the breath out of me, and groaned. Teleporter. Right. How do you fight a teleporter? I could feel her vacuum after effect tugging at my clothes, but it disappeared when I went intangible again. You cut down their mobility advantage? Or maybe predict where they’re going to appear again. I don’t think I can do that, though. I mean, she’s probably gotten into the habit of appearing behind people, right? That’s the classic teleporter move. Only one way to find out, I guess.

The whistling of the wind disappeared, and as it did I went solid again and kicked out one leg behind me. I’d banked on her waiting until the vortex disappeared to pop back in, and while my conjecture was spot on, my aim wasn’t so close. The outside edge of my boot nicked her leg, but didn’t manage to connect, and in the next moment I found myself driven back into the ground as a foot slammed into my lower back. I growled, a guttural sound in the back of my throat, and jumped back up into a wild swing, but she was gone again, and my fist connected with nothing but thin air. I spun around again, expecting to find her behind me now, but she wasn’t there either: she was over by the wall, leaning against with her arms folded.

I panted heavily, as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. It was always the same when I got hit: a surge of rage and the almost primal desire to strike back or lash out. Although, this was the first time I’d been hit intentionally, so it was nice for those instincts to be valid. I wanted to rush over and hit her, but I reined myself in. I needed to be smart about this, I couldn’t let her goad me again. But how?

“It's real simple, Hannah. If you can’t go to her, make her come to you.”

I smiled, then spun on my heel and ran back towards Metalface. Wait for it… There was the pop-whoosh, and I stopped in my tracks. Green Cloak appeared a step in front of me and to the right, arm already swinging as she ported in. Overbalanced by the lack of resistance, she stumbled forward, and I managed to hit her with a knee before she disappeared again. Judging by the way she was bent over in her new location, I’d hit something important.

“Now, capitalize while she’s weak.”

But I still have the same problem. She’ll just teleport away before I get close.

“Then don’t get close, dummy.” There was a box sitting nearby, lid still firmly sealed, and as I leant down to pick it up, I increased my mass slightly and gradually until it was barely noticeable. Then, channeling every game of softball I’d been forced to participate in, I flung it at Green Cloak.

It was too dark to get a good look at her expression, but I’m betting, before the heavy crate crashed into her and sent her flying, it was pretty darn shocked.
I took a deep breath, and found it surprisingly hard. In fact, my whole body was burning, like I’d just done a whole bunch of exercise. But I’d done far more strenuous things than just that on a regular basis: I shouldn’t have been feeling it this hard. It must be the power, I realized; I hadn’t used them for this long before, and it was wearing me out. Well, that was something else to take into consideration. I’d have to do some tests, figure out if it made a difference how often I switched, that sort of thing. Later, that is.

I’d seen at the school how slippery she could be, so I wasn’t taking any chances. I ran over to her limp form, and kicked it in the gut. That’s for my hand, jerkhole. Then I grabbed her by the arm, and started dragging her across the room back to Stump. If she tried teleporting, I was coming with.

The blurry woman was still down, surprisingly. That noise when Stump hit her must’ve been a bone breaking. She saw me coming, and I felt… something. Like… grabbing a bar of soap, but from the other side, if that makes sense. Like something had tried to grab me, but just slipped right off. She reeled back, clutching at her head, and collapsed down into a ball, moaning in pain. I don’t know what happened there, but I wasn’t going to complain. Now all that was left was Metalface. He and Stump were still holding to the same pattern, him firing and the hero dodging, but his blasts had grown smaller and less frequent, and his posture was sagging slightly. I saw a flicker of movement by his feet, and then one of his legs was yanked to the side, a tendril that Stump had snuck by him wrapped around it. He toppled like a great tree, landing awkwardly on one arm. Branches quickly swarmed out from the hero and encircled him, binding his arms to his side and holding him against the ground. “Arrogant, huh?” he said, sounding smug through a layer of exhaustion.

We’d done it. We’d actually done it. I took a moment as it sunk in. I’d achieved something: I’d all this worth the ef-

“I know you're still listening, you creepy f***!” It was the indistinct woman, still lying on the ground and still in obvious pain. “We accept your goddamn deal, okay?”

Stump looked at me, a head forming out of a few disparate pieces. “What is she talking about? What deal?”

“I don’t know,” I replied slowly. “I think…” I got it just too late. “Light!” I yelled at him. “We need light, now!” The shadows swirled as I desperately pulled out my phone, flicking on the flashlight and turning it up as far as it would go.

It wasn’t enough. The darkness rolled over the three figures, ignoring the light projecting from my device in defiance of all logic. When it washed away again, it took them with it, leaving us holding nothing but fistfuls of empty air.

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