Prepared 20-XI

HANNAH
There Will Be A King.

I hadn’t ever been to the abandoned dock area before that night. There had never been any reason to, and, well, a decent chunk of it was gang territory. But I did still know that, know about it and not to go there. More than never having seen this part of town before, though, I’d never even heard of it. The buildings quickly grew shorter and squatter until they were barely even two stories, looking tougher, more resilient. The corners were rounder, the walls thicker, and after a certain point, windows stopped appearing at all. It was almost like a bizarro, twisted version of a normal city.

“What is this place?” I wondered softly aloud. A couple of heads turned in front of me, but the answer came from behind.

“This,” said Comet, alarmingly close behind me, “is Shelter.” I could hear the capital S on the word, subtly emphasised. “How much do you know about the city’s history.”

“I’ve, uh, gotten rundowns.”

“Then you know it was occupied prematurely, leaving many half-finished projects incomplete and swept under the rug. Shelter was one such project.”

Things started to click into place, and I looked around again, re-evaluating the surroundings. “Fallout shelters?”

Comet nodded. “Correct. These buildings were a test for the concept, or part of one. The idea behind the initial project was that this structure would form a base level, and regular buildings would be constructed on top of and around them. All the buildings contain entrances to a network of underground bunkers, which would have been kept stocked with supplies, and designed to support a certain segment of the populace. If the plans had been successful, there would have been multiple Shelters, each designated to a certain area of the city.”

I really should have paid attention in history, huh. “That seems…” I frowned, and did some mental math. “Remarkably prescient, actually. Wouldn’t they have started work on it before… you know?”

“Plans and proposals similar to it had existed far before that. Superhumans are not the only source of deadly radiation, remember. It was simple irony that the type of disaster it was being designed for was also what caused it to be shut down.”

“Um, yeah. Ironic. So Green Cloak is hiding in those bunkers, then?”

“Most likely. Hopefully, their insulated nature means we will have some chance at surprising her.”

Furtively, I glanced at Valiant up ahead, and the turned to her. “Do you know,” I asked quietly, “what this datapad is? Why Galvanize is so scared?”

“No. But she is higher ranked than me, so I defer to her knowledge. If she thinks it is this dangerous, then it almost certainly is.”

I glanced forward again, to see Awestruck looking back at us, grimacing. He held a single finger up to his mouth, and then pointed it at us.

I got the message, and shut up.

After a few more minutes, we stopped in front of a building, seemingly no different than the rest. Galvanize swiveled towards it, and the instruments extending from her mech pointed towards it. They focused and adjusted for a moment, then retracted, and the mech seemed to nod slightly. She turned back towards us, and pointed at the building, and then down; not hard to understand. She gestured at herself and the rest of Valiant, then for the rest of us to move backwards as they approached the door.

And then I got to see the pros in action.

Awestruck held out his hands, and the air rippled almost invisibly. The building began to shake, as did the ground around it, and below our feet. Caught off balance, I stumbled back a few steps, nearly bumping into Comet, who stepped adroitly out of the way. The rumbling increased in intensity, growing more and more violent, until sudden grinding and crunching sounds heralded the ground beginning to split open. Small cracks spread everywhere, but the majority of it was concentrated in a neat rectangle that surrounded the building.

Awestruck clenched his fists, and the rumbling ceased. Immediately, Balthazar stepped forward, twirling his cane, and flicked it upwards in a sharp, but understated, snapping motion.

And the entire building tore itself out of the ground and began rising into the air.

Awestruck’s work had ensured that it was a fairly clean break, severing any connections it had to the surroundings. As it rose, the clear lines that had been cut in it became evident, as neatly-sheared rooms and tunnels rose up past us, dark concrete suspended underneath like exposed entrails. Within seconds, the entire structure was floating above-ground, the telekinetic hero holding it there with seemingly-minimal effort.

Paladin’s golden wings flapped, and brought her aloft and level with the building. She hovered there for a moment, hanging in the air in front of it, and then the light of her armor flared, and burst into motion. With great sweeping motions, she spun her wings into contact with the building. As she did, their light also flared, and for just a moment they seemed to extend, or occupy more space. They began slicing through the concrete like it was styrofoam, starting from the bottom and working her way up, slowly and methodically dicing thick, presumably lead-lined, walls into tiny chunks that fell back into the pit below.

There was a flash of green within the tubing, so fast that I almost thought I imagined it. But then I saw it again, and again, and realized she must have been teleporting through the building, trying to stay ahead the destruction. Presumably, it wouldn’t take long before-

Yep, there. The flash disappeared again, but this time Green Cloak reappeared in full, just outside the building, barely visible in the darkness and already falling. She flickered away a moment later, but when she reappeared it didn’t seem to be very far from where she’d been. I thought that maybe she was tired and couldn’t go as far, but she teleported again and it was an even shorter distance. Once more, and she barely moved at all, and the next time she actually moved back towards us. It definitely didn’t look like she was doing it intentionally: she began teleporting faster and faster until she was basically flickering, and yet each time she began growing closer and closer to us.

I was so engrossed in watching this that I almost didn’t notice my body tipping forward until it was almost too late. For what felt like the thousandth time that evening, I somehow managed to stay on my feet. In doing so, I realized that Galvanize had begun to glow, bright, almost virulent green, and the light almost seemed to warp around the mech’s form. I checked, and yep, I’d been falling towards her.

“She’s warping gravity, right? That’s her thing. I don’t see how that’s affecting Green Cloak though.”

Doesn’t gravity warp space, or something?

“Should’ve paid attention in physics too.”

Green Cloak was almost directly in front of Galvanize now, flickering like a failing lightbulb and not moving in the slightest. She stopped suddenly, panting heavily, and dashed off away from the hero, who made no move to stop her. She made it about three steps before the rest of Valiant descended around her and boxed her in.

“Hand it over,” Awestruck boomed, arm outstretched. Green Cloak cowered, and her hands- hand tightened around the datapad clutched to her chest. “This doesn’t have to end badly.”

Her face tightened into a grimace, and she held up the datapad. “Stay back,” she snarled. “Do it, or I’ll open this.” All the heroes took a half-step back, but remained focused on her.

“Believe me,” Galvanize said, “you don’t want to do that.”

“Indeed, Ms. Callas.” It took me a second to place the voice. “That ends distinctly badly for you,” said the man with the white tie, melting out of a pool of shadows.

“Stay back!” Paladin yelled, pointing at him. “Whoever you are, this is a sensitive Tower operation, and it is not safe!”

The man scoffed. “Sensitive. Please. You people don’t even have the slightest grasp of the concept of sensitivity. Ms. Callas,” he said to Green Cloak, ignoring them, “do not open that. You’ve managed to complete the job, and for that I congratulate you. Just hand it over, and I can get you out of here.”

Green Cloak spat at him. “F*** you.”

He sighed, and adjusted his glasses, but before he could respond, something came whirling out of the darkness towards him. It covered him in an instant, a violently swirling storm of debris, then condensed into the hulking shape of a man. Eight feet tall, unshaven and rough, he was grinning a broad, bloodthirsty grin.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree, Ms. Callas,” he said. “Please, open it. I haven’t been able to enjoy any carnage in days.”

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