Stand 23-X

To Stand Up To Our Friends.

The building had collapsed at some point. I’d been vaguely aware of the floor falling away from me, and floating slowly downwards, but I’d been distracted by the deafening sound of tons and tons of concrete and metal collapsing around me.

The noise had settled now, though, lowering to the occasional rumble or crash as the debris settled. I couldn’t see anything at all; my vision was completely black. I was sort of beyond panic, though, so I just picked a direction and began walking.

After a minute or two, between steps, light pierced my eyes like rail spikes. My head had emerged from the rubble, and even though it wasn’t that bright, the transition from absolute darkness still made it painful. I winced, squinting as my eyes adjusted, and looked around.

The dust swirled through the air, thick and heavy. It was a sight I was getting very used to today. I watched it pass through me, and was suddenly glad I was intangible. It looked as if it would be like trying to breath through the filter bag of a vacuum. I took a deep, airless breath anyway, not disturbing it in the slightest.

The dust prevented me from making out any detail, but I didn’t need to to get the essentials. The building, and the ones on either side of it, had been crushed to the ground. Now it was all just one giant pile of rubble, an uneven lump of a silhouette. By some coincidence, I’d managed to pick the right direction to end up back on the street, and it was almost completely flooded. I was almost at the buildings on the other side, and my head had only just poked out. My body was still inside the rubble.

I so desperately wanted to collapse, but I wasn’t done yet. I just… just needed to make sure. And then I could lie down and die.

“Maybe don’t joke about that, huh?”

I continued limping my way out of the rubble (unsurprisingly, not having a body didn’t seem to factor in in any way to the pain), until it was only about knee-high. Then, I jumped up, going solid once I was above it, and managed to land without crumpling. I immediately covered my mouth with an elbow, and turned around and began to trek backwards, to where I thought the lobby of the building had been.

Where the monster had been.

Navigating the rubble was hard; without being lightened, it would have been impossible. Still, by the time I arrived, my legs were burning, the injured ankle burning red hot. It seemed to hurt more, now. I think the adrenaline was starting to wear off.

There was a glimmer of gold, half-concealed by a car-sized chunk of metal. It appeared to be completely still. A large piece of a pylon stuck directly out of the pile above it, like it had been impaled in something that was now keeping it upright.

The energy rushed out of me in an instant, leaving me feeling  drained and hollow. It was…

It had worked.

Feeling dazed, I turned around, suddenly filled with a desire to be as far away as possible. I staggered, though, leaning against a piece of rubble, that shifted underneath my weight.

Almost immediately, the debris underfoot began to shift.

“No,” I said out loud, almost emotionless, as I turned around. “No.”

The rubble was shifting, spilling to either side, as the form underneath it rose upwards. I hadn’t been wrong: the pylon had impaled Paladin. It just didn’t seem to have made a difference.

Its golden surface was dented and damaged, oozing everywhere, but it stood anyway, and didn’t seem too hindered.

It roared in my face, the tone of it different than before. It had been… angry, then. But it was anger, it was for a reason. This was insane noise, nothing but mindless fury.

I went dense, and nearly cried at how little difference it made. Barely more than my normal body.

The monster charged me. Time slowed.

I reached down, to my power. What little of it was left. Moving it around had always been like flicking a switch, one that was now currently set to ‘dense’. I grabbed the switch, found the very edge of the limits of the power, and pushed against it with all my might. Please. Please. I need to be stronger. Please, god, work.

Then it was upon me, and I swung-

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