Fly 21-II

You Cannot Pass.

“I'm going to assume,” I said in between pants, “that you don't know what's going on?”

Considering its size and the awkward misshapen limbs it was forced to rely on, the Paladin-beast was fast. It had gained a significant head-start on us, and we hadn't managed to regain any of it yet. At the very least, we weren't at any risk of losing it; even without the massive trail of rubble it was leaving, the golden glow of its body was clearly visible even from a distance.

“No,” Comet snapped tersely. “This is… I don't know what this is. We need to calm her down, get her somewhere safe and figure out how to fix her.”

I didn't want to say it, but apparently it wasn't much of a stretch to reach the same conclusion. “Hate to break it to you, scary lady,” Kai yelled from the back of the group, “but there were multiple separate chunks of brain in there. I don't think that's fixable.” I wasn't sure why she'd still stuck with us, but I wasn't going to complain.

“People have recovered from worse,” she said. It didn't sound like she believed it either.

“We should probably focus on stopping i- her,” Stump interjected. “We're gonna run out of disposable buildings pretty soon.” In fact, the ones around us were starting to get taller again, slimming out.

Comet made a sound like she was biting down on a curse. “Thrust, Fog, get ahead. Try and slow her down, but stay well out of range. She’s not in her right mind right now, and one hit would probably tear you to pieces.”

The two of them nodded, and shot ahead. Fog merely leaned forward, the glow from under her dress brightening as her speed increased. Thrust, though, dropped forward as translucent red forcefields formed around his lower legs and knees. He landed on them, but continued to slide forward at almost the same speed as he’d been running, and then much faster when he stuck his arms out behind him and high-pressure jets of translucent red liquid shot out of them and propelled him forward. It was probably the strangest method of movement I’d seen, but it worked; he quickly outpaced Fog, and closed nearly half the distance to Paladin in a few seconds.

“Wait, what happened to Awestruck? Didn’t he shoot off ahead?”

“Oh. Huh.” I repeated the thought out-loud.

“I don’t know,” Comet answered grimly. “He’s not responding. It’s possible that-” she cut herself off, looking forward. I followed her gaze, to see that golden glow rapidly increasing in intensity. Not just because we were approaching; it was being reflected off the giant wall of pale, cloudy ice that had sprung up in front of it.

Logically I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, I’d seen Fog fill an entire alleyway with her ice (while I was standing in it). But out in the open, it looked a lot more impressive.

It still wasn’t any easier to look at the beast, as it roared again, and clawed at the ice wall. Giant chunks of it went flying away, but fog quickly flowed in from behind it and solidified, repairing it. It definitely wasn’t too solid to be charged through, the speed the beast had been moving at, and sure enough, it tried doing just that, charging headlong into it with only a short run-up. As it grew close, though, Thrust darted in front of it, launching himself into the air and blasting its ‘head’ with his jets. The impact seemed disproportionate: it was fully stopped in its tracks within a second, and actually started to be driven back a little before Thrust began falling and redirected the jets back towards movement. It was enough time to give Fog a chance to shore up the wall, thickening it and widening the base, and for the rest of us to catch up.

There was also, I noted, no sign of Awestruck.

“Keep her off-balance!” Comet bellowed. “Try and bind her legs. Instance, do you have any power blockers?”

“Look at her!” he yelled back. “Without her power, she’ll just fall apart!”

I could almost hear the teeth grinding from within her helmet. “Help pin her down, then,” she ground out. “You two,” she said to Kai and I. “What can you do.”

“I’m… strong?” I offered. No, wait, not really. “Well, not strong. Dense.”

“Could you hold her down?”

I thought back to crushing concrete like styrofoam. “I tend to… crush things?”

Without missing a beat, she immediately turned to Kai, dismissing me from consideration. “You.”

“Shields, mirrored,” she responded surprisingly quickly. “But if you think I’m getting anywhere near that thing, you-”

“Shut up.” I did a double-take, glancing at her. That was… uncharacteristic. “Try and shield anyone who gets too close. Stump, Chain-”

“Stay out of the way.” The first words I’d heard him say. Stump just nodded.

Fog had moved away from the wall now, and was trying to use her ice to bind limbs, or weigh them down. It wasn’t working particularly well: the golden limbs kept tearing through it in a manner I found oddly familiar. It took a second before I realized it looked a lot like what happened when I’d done the same thing. A weird thought, and not one I really wanted to dwell on. Thrust’s blasts were still preventing it from breaking through the wall, thankfully, and Instance seemed to be doing something that made the air shimmer around it, causing its movements to slow slightly.

It roared yet again, swiping at Fog and narrowly missing her, and then slammed both of its front limbs into the ground. It was so… animalistic. Was there even anything of the person in there? I wanted to believe like Comet did, but… there hadn’t exactly been any evidence to support her view.

The air quickened, and thin strands began to form from it around the beast’s rear. They quickly solidified into an off-white substance that looked a lot like webbing, and fell over its rear end, sticking both to it and to the ground. It tried charging forward, pushing with its unhindered front limbs, but unlike literally everything else, the webbing didn’t break, just stretching somewhat but still holding it in place.

“Instance is kind of the most useful one of them by like an order of magnitude, isn’t he?”

The beast clawed at the ground, digging ruts into the ground, but making no progress. Some of the flesh parts were… jostling.

Fog immediately began coating it in more ice; it swiped away what it could, but the parts it couldn’t reach quickly became coated over. Within moments, it was firmly held down against the ground, and its attempts to free itself had become ungainly flailing. It began making a high-pitched keening noise, that had the same ear-piercing unnatural quality as the previous noises, but with an added layer of… patheticness.

Comet stared at it, posture stiff, blank. I glanced back at the beast, and then at her again.

“Darn it,” I said out loud, then, before I could stop myself, I strode forward until I was standing directly in front of the beast, well within range of its limbs.

You better be sure about this.

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