Never 1-III

Focused On The Front.

Ramsay Park wasn't a 'take your kids for a play' kind of place, unless you’re a creepy survivalist nutjob. When the city had been built, someone had evidently thought it'd be good to have a nice little bit of greenery bridging the residential area and the financial one, something to split up the monotony of concrete and metal while also serving as a remnant of the national park that had used to be here. Well, that was the plan.

Presumably, though, somewhere along the way that plan had been eaten by a dog, or replaced with a Greenpeace pamphlet about the Amazon, because Ramsay Park gave new meaning to the term urban jungle. A thick wedge of evergreen foliage surrounded by a border of manicured lawn, both coated in frost, it looked more like a video game arena than a real place. You couldn’t see more than a few feet into the thick foliage if you were standing right on the edge, and every middle school in the city was filled with rumors about people being killed in there. People had been killed in there, though: it’s a giant freaking forest in the middle (well, sort of off to the side) of a city. It might as well have a sign saying ‘commit your murders here’ (and it did for a little while, until some punks on community service removed all of Lis’s graffiti).

Whoever planned it was right; it really did break up the districts and provide a pleasant sight. I doubt they expected anyone to be looking at it while jumping off an apartment block, though.

The wind yanked away my hood as I leaped out, pulling my hair and cape out behind me. Below, the lights of the passing cars provided a rushing, roaring backdrop to my trick, like a river of fireflies. I might have been screaming, I'm not sure. The roar of engines drowned it out anyway.

I reached the peak of my arc within a few seconds of leaving the ground, and quickly began plummeting. I hadn't even crossed a quarter of the distance to the other side. I let myself fall for a few moments: longer than I'd normally have left it, but normally I was trying to cross between two buildings of equal height. The landing point being lower allowed me some freedom. Then, when I judged I'd picked up enough speed, I dug deep and tapped into that cold well again. Only this time, I used it on myself.

Let's map this out step-by-step, make it a bit easier. So at that moment, I was travelling forward and downward, right? About 30% of my momentum was the former, the other 70% the latter. You'll want to picture this in 2D, it's simpler. So my power changes that momentum, but only ninety degrees. In this case, I'm making that ninety degrees upward. So what was 70% downwards is now 70% forwards, and the 30% forwards was 30% upwards.

Essentially, I bounced. Don't know why I didn't just say that, it's much simpler.

It didn't jar like I still expected it to, even after using it many times over. No, it was instantaneous, and smooth as silk. One moment I was moving one way, the next, another. Simple as that.

I arced upwards again, letting out a whoop of joy. It's not a sensation I get to enjoy too much, but I love that sense of freedom that comes with what I call not-quite flight. There's nothing quite like it, barring, presumably, actual flight. I'd never get to experience that under my own power, though, so I had to settle for this.

I peaked again, just before halfway across, and a little lower. I fell again, for longer this time, and repeated the bounce. As I soared forward again, I internally checked my power level. The well was still a little over half-full, and the last bounce I needed to do plus the landing would probably bring it to just below that. Nothing I could do about that, unfortunately. My power refilled at a consistent rate; I'd only taken it to empty once, and on top of being intensely unpleasant, it had taken three days to get it back to full. I wasn't going to get any noticeable amount back between this and the upcoming fight. I'd have to make do with what I had. My power didn't have any straight offensive options, so that meant to be effective I'd probably have to go for one or two big things rather than the plentiful but small equalizers and trip-ups I normally used. Fortunately, I had some ideas about that already.

But right now, I had to stick the landing. The last bounce which brought me down to half like I thought it would, had sent me hurtling towards the rooftop. The good: 'towards the rooftop’. The bad: 'hurtling’. If I wanted to be able to use my knees within the next six months, I'd have to slow down significantly. Now, if I was a proper kinetic energy manipulator, I wouldn't even have to think about it, but noooo, I had to get a shitty-ass second-gen power.

I came in at about 45 degrees, fast enough that I couldn't just roll through it. I bounced again, heading towards the edge of the roof, then again while I was still arcing upwards, so that I was now heading upwards and backwards. After the peak, I bounced immediately, so only a tiny amount of momentum got transferred, and repeated that all the way down until I was about three meters off the roof, and then just let myself drop.

I took a deep breath, and let it out, then pumped my fist in the air silently. Fucking nailed it.

“God, that looked fuckin’ weird,” Ricochet said over the coms.

“Cool, though, right?” I didn't waste any time standing around, immediately taking off towards the fire stairs.

“Ehhhh.” I could practically picture the gesture she was making, waggling her hand to either side, palm down. “I've seen better.”

“You’re just trying to piss me off,” I said as I barreled through the door and down the stairs, narrowly dodging two young men coming up the other way carrying a picnic blanket. “Sorry!” I called back to them as I slung around the railing. “But that roof's kind of shitty anyway! You have a whole park, like, right there!” I don't think they heard that last part, I was already at the bottom of the stairs. But hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

“Okay, what's happening now?” I asked Ricochet as I burst out onto the street, hooking a hard right. I could see the trees over the buildings at the end of the street, but the noise from the freeway behind me was loud enough that I couldn't hear any sounds of battle.

“Uh, les'see here. Stonewall out, dunno how. They're ignoring him though, so that's good. The forcefield guy’s… man, that's fuckin’ weird. He's got Tide in like a claw or some shit, made out of the forcefield. Looks like a crab claw, actually. Strongarm’s kinda whaling on Ribbon-” she sucked in a breath through her teeth. “Ooh. Now he's just slammin’ her back and forth. It's nasty.”

I winced. Ribbon's powers made her tough, but it was armor, not natural strength, and that sounded like it could seriously fuck her up. I doubled down on my pace as I neared the end of the road. “What about Freefall?”

“Hol’ on,” she said, sounding like she was moving about. “Yeah, got 'er. She's comin’ in, mebbe… thirty secs?”

There wasn't a proper alleyway between the buildings, but there was enough space that I could pass through, albeit with my shoulders brushing the edges. Who designs like that, anyway? Have a proper alley or squeeze them together; doesn't matter which, just commit, you know? “Is she answering her com?”

“Think it's gone; she hasn't been.”

“Great. That makes it so much easier.” With that, I burst out onto the green lawn of Ramsay Park.

The first thing that I noticed was that there was a goddamn crater. Thirty feet across, maybe, and half that deep at the lowest point? It wasn't a inverted dome, though: it was shaped like a donut, with a plateau in the centre. Standing on it, protected by a shimmering brown forcefield, were three of the four… Cabalites? Cabalists? Whatever.

It was Medusa, the forcefield guy, who wore brown the same color as the forcefield, and the eye guy, who was decked out in black and white robes with a fancy white eye on the front.

The fourth… I'm just going to go with Cabalist, Strongarm, was down in the crater, beating the tar out of a figure wrapped like a mummy in all sorts of materials. That's Ribbon: her power lets her strengthen and control fabrics, which was probably the only thing keeping her alive. Strongarm had one of the nastier powers I'd seen. He had a bunch of extra, dense muscle, which he can move around to different limbs to make them stronger or tougher, and loose flexible skin to make that possible. Right now, it looked like most of that mass was concentrated in his right arm, which he was slamming repeatedly down onto Ribbon.

I turned my gaze back to Medusa and the two new ones as I approached the Crater's edge. So. She'd been recruiting. That didn't bode well. Ado didn't do things without a reason, and she was kind of paranoid and crazy. Letting new people join meant that the leader of the Cabal was preparing for something. Or maybe she'd already prepared: from what I'd overheard, the reason the other Outliers had planned this raid is that the Cabal would be coming back from some kind of job and off their guard. Evidently, that hadn't worked.

The forcefield shifted, drawing my eyes upwards, and I saw Tide’s blue-armored form hanging in the air above it. If I squinted, I could see the shimmering of the forcefield holding her up. Hmm. So it was malleable. Interesting. I glanced down at the main dome of the shield again, and confirmed my suspicions. Yep, it was definitely thicker on top, and I had an inkling of why. And if I was right-

A glowing streak plummeted out of the sky, slamming into the top of the shield, and everything went white.