Dead 22-IV

Maybe We Can Die There.

Picture a group of people, huddled together fearfully in a clearing in a forest. It’s night, and they’re brandishing torches futilely against the darkness. Growling comes from the trees all around them, growing louder, and every few moments, something rushes right by them. They’re surrounded, nowhere to run and no options left. They’re already dead.

It’s us, in case the metaphor was a bit abstract. It’s supposed to be us.

Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

Before, the meat tornado had been content to use the short bursts of freakish speed to close the distance between him and a target. He seemed more interested in trying to get that datapad in our faces than actually killing us. Maybe it had been us getting so close to destroying it, or maybe he had just gotten bored, but, for whatever reason, that wasn’t true any more.

The way we’d been split up wasn’t good. Tide and Ribbon were still enclosed in a sphere of strengthened fabric on the lowest floor above the ground, which wasn’t too bad, but Freefall standing on her own on the other side definitely was. Stonewall and Vortex were on their own on the next level up, isolating the two most capable of defending, but worst of all was that Flatline, Foresight and Ricochet were all grouped together above them. They had pretty much zero defense against an attack, and no real ways to attack, either.

Of course, I was in an even worse position, being on my own, but I was trying not to think about that.

Another flash of movement, and a blur ripped through Ricochet’s leg, sending her tumbling to the ground with a cry of pain. “Lis!” I cried out, without thinking. She glared up at me from below, as Flatline rushed to her side. I couldn’t see it that well, but her knee looked real messed up.

I started scanning the room, trying desperately to see where he’d disappeared to. It was like he was teleporting, in and out, a one-man hit-and-run tactic. But we couldn’t even treat it like fighting a teleporter. Standard tactic against one of them was to spread out, give them less room to teleport away to, and try to predict their actions, but even if we did that here, there was nothing we could do to actually hurt him. The question remained, though, as to how he was actually doing it in the first place. He couldn’t teleport, he couldn’t turn invisible…

Again, a flash, and again, another spray of blood. This time, it was Freefall. She flickered out an instant later, appearing on the level above, but she’d been too slow; I could see the gash in her arm. She cursed, and doubled over.

He was toying with us. Not exactly hard to figure out, every wound so far had been on limbs or comparative grazes, not the killing blows he very easily could deliver. I had a sudden, involuntary flashbacks to him mincing an entire room full of people in five seconds flat. And he was going for those without the ability to stop or slow him now; Tide, Ricochet, Freefall, and now probably-

I threw myself to the side, just as the blur shot through the space I’d been standing in a second ago. Predictable, in a way. The fact that he didn’t immediately circle back around to go for me again helped confirm a few things. Like I’d thought, he couldn’t maintain the speed for very long, so the quick passes were a way of compensating. And then in between, he hid to… recover? Maybe? Or it could be more toying.

“Foresight!” I hollered as I hauled myself back upright. “You’re next.”

He ignored me, but shifted his stance slightly. Of course, if he had heard that, then he might switch up the pattern, but I didn’t want to take that risk.

My worry quickly turned out to be unfounded, though, as Foresight smoothly slipped by the attack aimed at him. I looked at the angle it had been on, where it had come from and direction it was going on, and something caught in my mind. I wasn’t sure, exactly, but there was something there. Just one more, and I thought I’d have it.

I was expecting him to go for Flatline. He’d kept to the pattern even when I’d pointed it out, methodically working his way through. So it came as a little bit of a shock when something hit me in the side.

I staggered back, the impact site beginning to burn with pain. He’d faked me out, pretended to continue before doubling back to catch me by surprise. And now I had… I glanced down to check. Yep, a inch-deep gouge out of the side of my ribs that was already beginning to seep blood. It wasn’t wide, but it fucking hurt.

Dammit, focus. The gouge was on angle, starting slightly above my waist at the front and ending just below the armpit on the back. So he’d come upwards, which made sense. I looked forward, ignoring the slight dizziness, and did some mental calculations. The angle was consistent with him having come from…

“The rubble!” I yelled, my voice strained. “He’s hiding in the rubble!” I almost couldn’t believe I’d missed it. With his form broken down into so many pieces, he could easily fit into spaces way too small for an actual person. “Start destroying as much of it as you can!” The wound was really starting to bleed now, so I slapped one gloved hand over it. The blood would come out in the wash.

Slight problem with my plan: there was rubble everywhere. Ribbon and Tide could remove it or smash, Vortex and Stonewall could push it away, but the others, and myself, didn’t have any options. Still, he had less options now.

We all waited for the next attack, but nothing came. Instead, he spoke, again. Still sourceless, still unnerving. “You insist upon making this difficult, don’t you.”

I didn’t bother to respond, and apparently, no-one else felt the need either.

There was a heavy sigh. “Well, I suppose my fun can be delayed.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the noises that came next. A quick series of crunches and gristly snaps, so close together it was almost like one sound. In an instant, everyone but me was sent flying backwards, sprays of blood following them in volumes that made the previous ones look paltry. And then he was standing directly in front of me, datapad in hand.

I was in shock, I think. Some part of me, a disconnected part, noticed he looked a lot less beefy than before. It seemed like the speed came at a cost. Not that it mattered now, of course.

The man bared his teeth in a sick parody of a smile, and began to raise one hand.

Then Void hit him with a car.

I hadn’t even seen her. She’d jumped up straight behind him, no fanfare at all, and swung the two-ton hunk of metal at him like a baseball bat. It smashed into him with enough force to pulverize a normal person, and he went flying into a wall, sending cracks through it.

She dropped the distorted car, panting heavily. “How do you like that, you son-”

He was slamming her into the opposite wall, one hand on her neck. I blinked as her helmet went clattering away. But he-

“On the other hand,” he said as he raised the datapad to her face, “maybe the fun can happen now after all.”

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