Speak 24-VII

Face The Flame.

Hanging there, almost floating above the buildings, time seemed to slow.

I hadn't had a chance to look away, or close my eyes. And once I'd even glanced at the symbols on the screen of the datapad, it became impossible to look away. Literally: I was trying as hard as I could, but I couldn't even make my eyeballs twitch.

And they were just symbols, just like Tali had said. Strange, whirling shapes that swelled and shrank, jagged in places, curved in others. I couldn't tell where any of them started or ended, but that didn't stop my eyes from trying, following the paths until it felt like I was falling into them.

However they worked, they were definitely working. I could feel it, a growing, swelling pain that felt like it was somehow coming from two feet behind my skull. It grew and grew and grew, in an instant that felt like an eternity, until I couldn't even think. My stomach began spiking with pain too-

No. Not my stomach. My core.

As soon as I realized that, I could see it clearly. The well of cold power inside me wasn't placid anymore. It roiled, boiling and spiking outwards, feeling like it was tearing my insides apart. It had never even flickered without me directing it before this, and now it felt like it was trying to fight me, destroy me.

Or… take over.

Fuck that. I reached down into the well, grabbing at the power like I always did. This time, it resisted, burning and stabbing me, but I ignored the pain and took hold of it.

That hurt even more.

As soon as I did, though, the world fell away. Oh, now I can do it again?! But… no. It was different this time. Before, I’d seen the lines of motion in ethereal silver and powers in their respective colors, overlaid on a faded, monochrome world. Now, though, it was like I was seeing… underneath. Peeking behind the curtain, maybe.

The world was gone. It just wasn’t. No light, no dark, nothing. We hung in a void of absolute emptiness, two glowing figures made of light. That was another change; I wasn’t seeing out of my own eyes. It was like I was a few feet behind my own head, looking at myself and the other guy, suspended in…

Wait, no. That wasn’t me, or him. They were in the same positions as us, and about the same size, but aside from that… The one in my position was mostly made of yellow light, streaked with other colors in places, and it didn’t have a head, its neck ending in strange, jagged white shards. It did have seven limbs; two extra arms, stunted and malformed, and an extra leg that split off its left just above the knee. The additional limbs looked almost like they’d been grafted on; the joins had the same white shards as the neck. The weirdest thing, though, was that it was broken, like a porcelain statue that had been hit with a hammer. Fragmentation lines ran across it like an earthquake, and pieces and shards hung and angled away from gaps in its form.

The other one was mostly the same, except unbroken, mostly purple (specked with green), no extra limbs, and significantly larger. Its head was the only part of it that was a different color, glowing a bright mix of yellow and red. Those weird white shards joined it to the body, and it was completely featureless.

I had, frankly, no idea what I was looking at, and I didn’t have the time to ponder it, because it was gone a nanosecond later and I was back in my own head. And then it was back. Gone, back, gone, back… the two images flickered back and forth until it looked like they were overlayed.

Which, okay, great, fancy colors. I’m trying not to die here, thanks very much. I did my best to ignore the colors, and slowly began dragging power out of my core-

And as I did, the yellow silhouette began to move.

Ohhhhh.

Alright then.

I pulled every last drop of power I could out of the well, draining it dry. It felt like dragging a cat made out of flaming knives, but I managed to get it, and send it lashing out, in the same unfocused manner that had made the roof shatter.

Not at the big guy, though.

At the red silhouette that was his power.

Time resumed, and a couple of things happened at once.

One, both the silhouettes disappeared. My one, the yellow one, almost looked like it was siphoned away, tearing forward and vanishing. The red on, though, shattered. And back in the real world, the big guy screamed in agony and let go of me.

I wasn't really paying attention, though, because I was kind of going through the same thing, although less violent. I hoped. The plan had made a simple sort of sense in the microseconds I’d had. If my power was turning against me, all I had to do was give it nothing to work with; the tank can’t explode if it’s empty. Problem was, normally I leave a sliver of power left untouched no matter what, because as long as there’s even the tiniest bit left, it keeps filling back up at the normal rate. Going to completely empty, though, that basically knocked it out for a little while, and when it did eventually start trickling back in, it’d be much slower for a while.

All that was a bit secondary, though, to how much it fucking hurt.

I’m not gonna bother with some clever metaphor or whatever. It just fucking hurt. I spun through the air, clutching my head with both hands, eyes scrunched shut. They stung pretty badly, and I felt liquid streaming through my fingers.

Bleeding eyes. That was new.

We hit the rooftop at the same time, even though in his emaciated state I probably weighed twice what he did. I tumbled and rolled, something in my torso crunching painfully, and came to a stop against something large and uncomfortable. I groaned, still clutching my head, and waited for the spinning and the pain to stop. The former did after a few seconds, but the latter seemed to be sticking around, so I gritted my teeth and raised my head, to find the big guy looking at me. He looked about as beat-up as me, covered in grazes and scrapes, and in about as much pain. We locked gazes for a second, and then, in synch, our eyes darted downwards to the datapad on the ground in between us.

I was in a better position, but he was faster. We both got there at the same time, hands grasping at the pad’s smooth surface. He yanked it away, but I punched him in the chin, knocking him backwards. I jumped on him, reaching for the pad, but he hit me in the gut and we both went down. I landed on top, driving my weight into the arm that held the pad. It shot out of his grasp, skittering across the concrete, and I dived for it, but just before my hand closed around it, a shadow rolled over me.

I managed to spin around just in time to catch one of his hands. I tried to get the other one, but, no hand. It pinned me to the ground, while the other strained against my grip, fingers strained like he was trying to tear my eyes out from a foot away.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?!” he roared in my face, spittle flying everywhere. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?!” I was in a bad position, I couldn’t keep up the same level of force, and his hand slowly began descending towards my face.

“Aww,” I said, straining and sweating, “don’t you like… being brought down to normal?” I couldn’t fight him, so I stopped resisting and instead redirected his hand so it slammed into the ground next to my head. It sent shards of concrete flying out, and I used the moment to drive a knee up into his torso. He winced, but didn’t give me an inch, and he slammed me back down into the floor.

My head spun, and before I could react, he grabbed my neck with both hands and started squeezing. “BRING IT BACK!” he yelled as he choked me. “GIVE IT BACK TO ME!”

My vision started to cloud and go grey. I opened my mouth, gasping for breath, but nothing came. Slowly, my head sank towards my chest.

“HOW?!” he roared, shaking me back and forth as he leaned in close. “YOU ARE NOTHING! YOU ARE A USELESS, BROKEN PEST! HOW HAVE YOU-”

I whipped my head forward, slamming it into his. He reeled back, grip broken, and I surged upwards as glorious air returned to my lungs, hand reaching for his head. Still dizzy, I managed to clap it over his ear, and dug my thumb into his eye as hard as I could.

He screamed in pain, slamming a fist into my core and breaking something, but I grit my teeth and kept grinding it away until I felt a pop and fluid ran down his cheek. I let go as he continued to roar, took the next punch on my handless arm, fracturing it, and grabbed his genitals and squeezed as hard as I could.

The screams shot up in pitch, and I let him drop to the ground. “You wanna know why?” I spat as he writhed on the ground. “You wanna know how?”

I met his eyes, and bared a bloodstained grin. “I have no fucking idea.”

I raised my less-injured leg, and stomped on his head until he stopped moving.

I stared down at the bloody mess on the ground, all the energy draining out of me. “That,” I slurred, my tongue not functioning properly any more, “was for Edith.”

And then my eyes rolled back in my head, and I collapsed unconscious.

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