Fight 15-V

The Words They Come To You.

It was like the floodgates had been opened. Everyone who could was now trying to move their little section of the fight outside. For the Outliers, it was intentional, of course, but that didn't explain Chain charging through the broken doors, or Comet blasting Void back out through the wall. I dearly hoped that was a lucky shot.

The person I was most worried about was Ricochet. Not that she'd get hurt, she could handle herself fine, but that she wouldn't remember the plan. She tended to do her own thing. Thankfully, though, she was in a fighting retreat, backing towards the exits while unloading enough ammunition to sponsor a medium-sized third-world revolution. You might think Ribbon would be similar, and I had initially, but surprisingly, she'd proven to actually be pretty good at following plans when in the field. No, the other risk was actually Tide.

I know, right?

She gets kinda… bloodlust-y. It's actually quite terrifying if you're on the wrong end of it. I personally think it's the result of years of carefully bottling in a fiery temper to appear proper, combined with Short Person Syndrome. You've never known true fear, I say, until you've seen a five-foot-nothing wisp of a girl juggle three grown men and woman between waves of concrete while screaming about how she's going to to smash their heads open on the curb in a thick Scottish burr.

Anyway, this time she'd been mostly removed from the action, so she'd mostly kept her cool. I jerked my head towards the door, and she nodded, and we began moving outwards at a hurried pace. I very much doubted that wave had really done anything but inconvenience Instance, so we needed to capitalize on that.

Outside, most of the people who'd fled the building now surrounded the edges of the square. People had no damn sense of self-preservation these days. I know I sound like an old man sitting on his front porch, and I know it's pretty rich coming from an 18-year-old, but I'm still essentially right. People probably die every day because they're too entranced with the flashy colors and bright lights of super battles to actually think about how danger they're in. Hopefully, today would not be one of those days.

The Guardians had followed us outside, evidently not willing to let this resolve peacefully. And yes, I'd be fine with that. Well, not fine, but it was one of the parts of the plan, so I'd deal. But I suppose to them, all of us locked up probably was a peaceful resolution. Pricks.

There'd been no real break in the little battles aside from ours. Ribbon and Stump were actually still fighting, Stump a lot smaller and humanoid again. It meant he couldn't really attack Ribbon that well, but it gave him more agility, made him harder to hit.

Comet and Void were really going at it now, without the constraints of the room holding them back. Searingly bright coronas of flame clashed with roaring winds and gaps of complete vacuums in the air above us, the noise a curious mix of painfully loud and startlingly quiet. Considering how handily Void had handed Valiant their own asses on a platter, Comet was putting up a surprisingly good fight. The advantage of surprise probably had something to do with that.

I think I'd proven pretty handily that I couldn't really do anything to affect Instance behind being an annoyance, so I sprinted instead towards where Vortex and Flatline were dealing with Chain and Fog.

My friends had gone on the offensive. Flatline was pushing Chain backwards, aggressively launching open-handed blows and two-finger jabs that looked like he was going for pressure points. The hero was dodging as easily as he had my blows; easier, even. But whenever he tried to return fire or capitalize on an opportunity, an opalescent forcefield flickered into existence just in front of the blow, stopping it in his tracks. I watched as his fist rebounded off one just in front of Flatline’s knee, and as he danced away from an open-palmed slap, I would swear he was moving just a little bit slower. Interesting.

Vortex was a few steps behind them, his hands flicking around and darting with a complexity I'd never seen from him before. Small shields were appearing and disappearing constantly, not only to protect Flatline, but also himself, from the veritable rain of ice Fog was throwing down. He'd occasionally manage to return fire, but more often than not, the half-forward spheres dropped to the ground unfired as he disappeared the shield to make a new one.

Their strategy was a good one: Flatline had the best chance of taking anyone instantly out of the fight if he could get close enough, so Vortex was protecting him until he could do that, just stalemating Fog in the meantime. It was basically the same idea I'd had, actually. Switching wasn't doing any good, and we still outnumbered the Guardians. It was time to really capitalize on that.

I followed Fog with my gaze as she swept overhead, trying to predict her path as sure as I could. She didn't notice me, her attention focused on bombarding the others with shards of ice. Once I was reasonably certain I had it, I altered my path to meet up with the point she’d be above in about five seconds. I dredged up the last little bits of my power, everything that was left. I'd be effectively useless for the rest of the fight, but them’s the breaks sometimes.

I didn't bother focusing on getting it precise, just smacked Fog with it in one big burst, sending her instantly downwards. Shame about the stupid serene mask she wore, because I'd have loved to see her face then.

She dropped like a stone, all her momentum combining with the force of gravity, but quickly began slowing as the green glow from underneath her dress intensified. She stopped completely about two feet off the ground, just in time for me to shoulder-charge her straight in the midsection.

She shot backwards as the air was driven out of her. Straight backwards: whatever was keeping her floating preventing her from falling. I didn't break step after the charge, and quickly caught up as she slowed. She was ready for me now, and heavy armor made of translucent white ice snapped into being around her limbs and torso, but I could see that the blow had shaken her. Plus, armor wouldn't do anything except slow her down, and come on. It's ice, and I had real armor. And, remember, very heavy boots.

I drove an elbow at her chest, the armored pad on the end splintering and cracking the ice. Fog immediately began flowing over it and turning into more ice to repair it, but I'd already followed it up with a full-force punch in the same spot, shattering it completely. A quick hook around one of her legs with my foot yanked it forward, and tilted her torso back, and I slammed my elbow down into it, my other hand on top to add force to it.

She smashed into the ground with possibly excessive force, and an involuntary yell of pain escaped from her lips. I immediately raised my leg to stomp on her knee and break her leg, but I was interrupted by a loud bellow.

“Guys!” yelled a familiar voice from over by the entrance. “I'm back!”

I looked over in shock, to see Foresight and Stonewall standing by the entrance. I stared blankly for a moment, mouth agape. That… motherfucker. He'd actually done something productive for once in his life.

“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” Fog bellowed from the ground below. Oh right. I turned back to her and kicked down at her knee, but she'd already jetted away along the ground, still flat on her back. I cursed silently, but it didn't actually matter. That made as good a cue as any.

I raised a hand to my ear, activating my earpiece (and not even considering the possibility that it might not work until later). “Freefall?” I asked.

Her voice clicked onto the line. “Already on my way,” she said over the sound of the wind.

Yeah. You'd forgotten about her, hadn't you?

“Understood,” said another voice over the line. It was Void, sounding perfectly calm, and I looked up to see her tank a hit from Comet, leaving scorch marks on her costume. “Skew?” she said, not even sounding slightly perturbed. “Please remember that I’m calling the shots.”

“Right, sorry,” I said, abashed.

“It's fine,” she said cheerily. “Outliers, buddy system!”

Yeah, we had a plan called the buddy system. We may be dysfunctional, but we have occasional moments of brilliance.

There wasn't a hard and fast system, but Tide made the most sense as my buddy, so I ran back towards her. She'd had the same idea, and we met halfway. Instance was following her more slowly, obviously wary.

“Centre of the square?” she asked immediately, and I nodded. “How long?”

“Five,” said Freefall's voice over the line. Tide spun and curled a hand upwards in a grasping motion, and a meter-high oblong lump of concrete pulled itself out of the ground in between us and the centre of the square. The two of us dived behind it, just in time for everything to go white.

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