Prepared 20-II

Your Powers Of Retention.

Void had pulled herself out of the rubble by the time we reached her, tossing a chunk of brick the size of her head to one side like it was made of foam. Whatever had hit her had taken a gash out of her mask, stretching from just above her left temple down to the corner of her mouth, and through it I could see one eye, a surprising amount of blood, and, most worryingly, distinctive lack of any form of smile. “Hey guys,” she said tiredly as we arrived. “Glad to see you’re okay, Skew. For a given value of okay.”

“Alive is enough of a value for me,” I replied. “And right back at you.”

She winced, and cracked her head to one side with a noise I’m pretty sure necks aren’t supposed to make. “Eh, not so much.”

“Um.” I glanced over to see Wisp staring at her with something like awe. “Not to be rude, but… how are you still alive?”

Void glanced at me, and I nodded slightly. “Well,” she said, thumping a fist lightly against her chest, “I’m very tough.”

“Oh, no, I meant, like, specifically. Which one hit you, the glowy-arms? No, wait, she just destroys stuff. But then which…” she trailed off, absentmindedly wringing her hands in thought.

Void gave her a look, then switched it to me. “You always manage to meet such interesting people.”

“I cannot stress this enough,” Kai interjected, “I just met her, we are not affi-”

Another explosion ripped through the building, sending a plume of fire up into the air. For a beat, we all shared a silent glance, then, as one, we began running towards the building. Despite her having just been thrown through multiple walls, Void pulled ahead easily, her long cape fluttering behind her. She stretched out both hands as she did, pointing them at the fires nearest to the entrance. The flames immediately began to ebb, growing smaller and thinner, while a rush of wind hit us from behind, causing Wisp to make a surprised eep, and Void’s cape to lose some of its flutter.

Most of the office section at the front of the warehouse had been obliterated, reduced to a scattered pile of rubble in between two walls and a sagging roof. The wall between that section and the main warehouse, though, was surprisingly intact; the doorway was significantly larger than it used to be, and a lot less uniform, but aside from that it was mostly intact. All we could see through it was a thick haze of smoke, and the occasional flashing of lights. Void stopped just before it, and the rest of us pulled up behind her. “Skew,” she said to me, “can you walk?”

“Probably,” I replied hesitantly, “but not much else.”

“Well, we need Freefall, so suck it up.” The words lacked the usual smile to take the edge off, and they actually stung a little, but I nodded, and Freefall righted me and set me down. Clinging to her arm, I tentatively put some weight on my legs, and when they didn’t immediately collapse, I risked it and put the rest on them. When Freefall let go, I almost fell, but found my equilibrium and settled into it. Void nodded. “Try not to overexert yourself. If you have any power left, try and use it judiciously. Freefall, wait in the wings. If they group up, hit them, but until then it’ll be too risky.” She turned to Kai and Wisp. “You two, I don’t know or trust. Skew’s vouched for you, though. Try and stay out of the way, help where you can. I’m assuming you’ll be able to tell the difference between us and them?”

“Yes ma’am,” the two of them said simultaneously, then blanched as they released they’d done it.

“Everyone else, I’m going to clear out the smoke. Either the short woman or the tall man is making the dome, so target those two. Don’t engage the woman with the glowy arms, and be careful with the leader. Understood?” There were nods all around. “Good. These fuckers came onto our turf. Let’s show them why that was a mistake.” She turned back to the door. “Tide, give us an entrance.”

The swirling smoke, moving vaguely outwards from the center of the room, slowed, stopped entirely, then began to move backwards. It quickly gained speed, until there was a veritable torrent of it all pouring into a single spot. It receded in a solid mass, washing backwards over the contents of the room and revealing them, until the last of it reached the centerpoint and vanished completely. Following dead on its heels as it did was a waist-high wave of concrete, and behind that, the seven of us, diving straight into the madness.

At the far end of the room, Flatline and Combat Gear were fighting, a bizarre game of keep-away, where the first to touch the other would be the winner by way of unconsciousness or horrific disintegration. Ribbon was backed into a corner, defending an unconscious Stonewall from the bombs being thrown at them by the short female mercenary Void had mentioned. Towards the center and off to one side, Vortex shielded himself with one hand from Metalface’s face-laser while the other desperately darted around, creating shields to block line-of-sight with Blur. I couldn’t see a tall merc anywhere, so he’d probably be maintaining the dome somewhere out-of-sight. In the dead center, Ricochet fought in brutal hand-to-hand with a bulky mercenary with sandy blonde hair. To one side of them was a charred crater, presumably the source of the explosion before, and to the other was her rifle, chopped messily in half.

Standing directly in front of us was the last merc, the woman with the glowing arms (they were actually quite pretty). She hadn’t been affected by the wave; judging by the way it split behind her, she’d chopped it in half with her power. Surprise flitted across her face for a moment on seeing us, but it quickly reset to a cold, hard mask.

“Go!” Void yelled, stepping forward. The woman swung at her, and she matched the blow with one of her own, the space around it shimmering slightly. When the two connected, there was an explosion of force that knocked them both back.

The group split, heading in different directions. Wisp, Kai and I moved aimlessly to one side, not sure of exactly what to do. I couldn’t really do anything, and I doubted either of them had ever seen a proper fight before.

It ended up being a moot point, though, because barely a second later, a furious scream ripped out through the room, stopping everyone in their tracks. Everyone’s heads turned to the center of the room, where the sound had originated, and my heart sunk.

“Motherfucker!” Ricochet screamed at the mercenary holding a knife to her throat- no, wait, he wasn’t holding the knife, his hand had become a knife. “I’ll tear out yer goddamn spleen and beat ya to death with it!”

The mercenary’s face was perfectly calm, and his voice, when he spoke, managed to easily drown out Ricochet’s stream of obscenities.

“Let’s negotiate.”

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