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  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Story So Far | Whiteout |





    And so, as he said, we "started this." Unfortunately, my attempt at a preemptive move missed rather badly as Kymrik stretched back out of the way, fingers extending into razor-sharp talons as additional arms sprouted. I'd never seen his powers up close before, but I got a good look as I dove out of the way of his counter-attack. I took off for more maneuverability, keeping one eye open for the rest of the League members as I gave it another try, connecting with his bioaura this time.
    Above, "We're here to save your ass," Talon snapped at Hoagland as he heard the fight start. "We just refused to give you up. If you'd come help us, we'd appreciate it. And it may be meaningless in the big picture, but in the short run they're here to kill you!"
    Thunderbolt's lightning touched the shapeshifter's body; it was hard to tell how hurt he was by it given that he was at the center of a mass of constantly growing and reabsorbing new limbs anyway. Rather nauseating to watch, really. Kymrik's entire upper body was suddenly a single sharp point lancing up at me; I twisted desperately as it punched through my shield. The new costume didn't rip, but I could tell there was going to be one hell of a bruise on my ribs.
    Thunderbolt saw several more figures appearing from the shadows. One of them was a slender female form, bending down to put her hands on the ground. His electrical bolt crackled harmlessly past as she flattened herself out of the way. Behind us, the building began to shudder.
    Phoenix Talon leaped down from the second floor and made out the two figures, Ley Lady and Midas. He remained in the shadows, waiting his chance.
    Hoagland jumped, opening her wings, and began gaining altitude slowly, ungainly for her first few moments in the air. I flung a shield over her, more than a bit annoyed by the fact that we were doing all of this to protect a known murderess. A small figure detached itself from the building's roof, changed to orangutan shape in midair, and landed on Hoagland's back, breaking the defense I'd put over her. At least the glow made it easy to keep track of them as she struggled to maintain her flight under his weight.
    Kymrik lashed an "arm" around me; I could feel the pressure on my shield as he tightened his grip.
    Phoenix saw Jack Ketch phase out from a pile of bricks on the third floor and yell up at Rue Morgue, "Well c'mon, get her down here where I can kill her!" He might be solid; according to his file, it was hard for him to maintain the intangible state. Talon swarmed silently up to the girder behind him, katana ready. "C'mon, gimme a chance here, let's go!" Ketch called impatiently, entirely unaware of the threat behind him.
    Talon nailed him. Hard. Harder than Jack had been hit in a very long time, possibly ever. Ketch lost his balance and fell from the girder; Talon jumped down after him, but Jack went intangible and vanished into the ground just Talon as hit, rolled, and came up ready for anything.
    Now that everyone was out of the building, Ley Lady looked like she might do something else; Midas stood by to defend her. Thunderbolt's lightning ripped through the man's suit and revealed that his entire body was made of gold, which endured the charge harmlessly.
    Scott went to gas form and drifted up to the mid-air battle to "have a little talk with the monkey," as he put it. He connected solidly, knocking the ape from Hoagland's back and sending him smashing into the construction site. Scott followed.
    "So, about where you left Silverblood...."
    "I think it would be a trifle more precise, sir, to say where Silverblood left me," Rue Morgue replied, wiping blood from his face. "Although I think he prefers being referred to as Mr. Lazer these days."
    Ley Lady changed her position to face Thunderbolt and laid her hands down on the ground. He jumped; without connection to the ground, the wave of force hurled him back thirty-five feet, but did not otherwise damage him. Hitting the dirt in an alley across the road from the construction site did, but not very much.
    Hoagland spun around and waved an arm. The gathered crows leaped into the air, whirled in a very Hitchcockian motion, and poured down at Ley Lady. Midas stepped in front of her and raised a hand, sending forth a wave of molten gold. The stench of burned feathers filled the air as gold-covered crow skeletons fell to the ground.
    "Don't worry, I'll protect you," he told Ley Lady. Then he looked around and added, "We should probably be running now." Midas is a thief by profession, and he didn't like this scene at all.
    Maybe it was the exhaustion. My brain seized up as I tried to get a better sense of Kymrik's aura while he tightened his grip. I felt myself being moved, although I couldn't see anything through the aura wrapped around me. It turned out he was lashing out with two arms, grabbing hold of a couple of girders and drawing both of us into the skeletal building in a single fluid movement.
    Outside, a ghostly figure rose from the ground near Phoenix Talon.
    "I'm not very happy with you right now," Ketch growled, shaking the truncheon at him. "You're gonna end up with your head on this."
    "Monsieur, I find that extremely unlikely."
    "What?" He whirled and made the fatal error of meeting Albert's eyes. "Moo...." There was a cow in the parking lot.
    "Good work, Albert," Talon thanked him.
    Thunderbolt ran after Kymrik, parts of whom were still stretched out into the street, and fired a beam of focused light from his left hand. He could tell the German was hurt, because he snapped the rest of his body into the building's shelter very quickly.
    Phoenix Talon got out a grenade and rolled it gently toward Ley Lady and Midas, then moved away.
    By the time Scott got to where Rue Morgue was, there was no sign of the ape. He sent gaseous tendrils through the floor, looking for the primate assassin. There, jumping off the side of the building—heading for the helicopter.
    Ley Lady looked down, saw the grenade, yelped, and grabbed Midas. "Stand here!"
    "What?" He looked around, confused. "Why?"
    "You little—"
    She lay her hands on the ground as Rue Morgue leaped, yelling to her, "Now! Do it now!"
    Cocooned in Kymrik's tentacle though I was, I recognized the sound of a collapsing building. The coils loosened, then disappeared entirely; I was in the bottom of an elevator shaft. I fended off the rubble and a strong sense of deja vu as it came pouring down, leaving me in a little pocket of clear space. Good thing I'm not claustrophobic. I looked around for a moment, feeling an odd moment of cheer. Collapsing buildings I can deal with, though just then I really missed having Lucky and her staff around. Hard to believe that wasn't even a year ago.
    It would be easier to move down than up; I started digging, hoping to strike an ant tunnel or something, and musing about how much I hate this crap while a headache built behind my eyes.
    Thunderbolt was buried in the rubble as well, unconscious although his defensive field kept the worst from him.
    Phoenix Talon's grenade went off. Midas wasn't really hurt by it, but the force of it sent him flying into Ley Lady, who was considerably more fragile than he. There was a snapping sound.
    "Alyssa? Alyssa? Ooops," he murmured.
    Phoenix Talon decided better safe than sorry and whacked the cow in the head with his bokken. It folded up and fell over. It occurred to him that there would never be a better chance to erase Jack Ketch from the face of the earth, but....
    Midas stood up and looked around. The thought, "I could just run" clearly crossed his face, but instead he charged at Phoenix Talon, who charged right back. Midas suddenly stopped short, a wave of gold pouring from his hand sufficient to hold Talon immobile and sightless as he struggled to break free.
    "Ha! I can't believe that worked! I hit him!"
    Rue Morgue clapped sarcastically. "Bravo. Well done. Excellent. Could you do something about the android that is about to kill us? Or better yet, something about the woman we're supposed to be killing?"
    Kymrik appeared from the rubble pile, reformed himself, reached toward Rue Morgue and tossed the orangutan back up toward Hoagland. Scott, watching, thought that it looked almost as if she wasn't trying to dodge. They grappled for a moment, and then the Storm Crow thrust her hand directly into his chest.
    "Oops," Kymrik said thoughtfully.
    "I don't think that worked too well," Scott remarked, having condensed from a gas behind the shapeshifter.
    "What?" He turned, startled.
    Scott hit him, quite hard. Kymrik flew a good distance across the construction site.
    Hoagland had grabbed hold of Rue Morgue as she ripped at him. "Did you think that I was defenseless?" she hissed. "Did you think that I would let you kill me?"
    Phoenix Talon continued to strain against the encasing gold, but succeeded only in toppling over.
    Kymrik pulled himself back together. "That does it. Now I'm going to—"
    A cane tapped in the rubble. Albert looked up. Kymrik made an awful sound and started changing.
    Now, since Albert is nice to us, none of us had ever actually seen what Fleurs du Mal looks like to the victim. When that victim is a shapeshifter, however, the nightmarish flowers really do grow out of his body and ravage him with their fangs. Gruesome.
    Hoagland finally dropped what was left of Rue Morgue. Scott couldn't tell if he was alive or dead; she was bloody to the elbows.
    That left Midas, who looked slightly panicky.
    "So, Midas, about that surrender now and we'll put cuffs on you before he gets out of the gold?" Scott offered.
    "I will demand extradition to my native country," Midas stated, drawing himself up.
    "That is of course a matter between you and the law enforcement of the city of Boston."
    "Aren't you the law enforcement of the city of Boston?"
    "Yes, but I'm not the judge. Fortunately for you, I'm neither jury nor executioner, either."
    Midas decided there was no point to running, and dropped his hands. That taken care of, Scott looked up at Hoagland and wondered what to do about her while he called Reilly.
    "What do you need?" the man asked.
    "Minimum two ambulances and a couple of cop cars."
    "What've you got there?"
    "Jack Ketch, Kymrik, what's left of Rue Morgue, Patricia Hoagland just ripped his chest open...."
    "Okay, I'll get the full details later. It's been a hell of a day and I think we need a beer. Hopefully this will end it," he sighed.
    Just about then, Silverblood appeared. So did the astral form of Mind Lazer.
    "You pathetic weakling," the latter sneered at Midas.
    "Um... I was merely delaying until your arrival!" his henchmen protested.
    After a confused moment, Scott put it together and hung up the phone. "Oh, hell. It's been nice knowing you," he told Midas, who wasn't paying him any attention.
    "Sorry?" Midas offered his leader.
    "You will certainly be sorry, but with merely the android here, there is no way anyone can save you," Mind Lazer promised grimly.
    Phoenix Talon broke free, and I made it back up to the surface. Storm Crow landed on top of the rubble pile and thrust one arm down into the mess; Thunderbolt felt something tickle his nose, and then a sudden infusion of energy allowed him to e explode out from the debris pile.
    Albert stepped out from the shadows. "No one, Monsieur? I think you're sadly mistaken."

[Aside: Elsewhere]

    Scott told Thunderbolt, "Find the anomalous energy signature in Silverblood and drain it! If you have to drain the whole thing, go for it." If that control module could be disabled....
    Phoenix Talon went after Midas, who was trying to figure out which way to jump and made up his mind too late. He folded up like an accordion around the bokken.
    Silverblood spun and focused on Scott with a sonic beam that did considerable damage.
    "I wonder how long it will take to fry your circuitry with one of these," the robotic Mind Lazer mused.
    I have vivid memories of Traveller and was in no hurry to initiate contact with Mind Lazer, so I threw a 300-pound chunk of concrete at Silverblood; maybe I could distract it a little. The liquid moved out of the way, then back.
    "Young lady, I'll deal with you in a moment," the astral form promised. "Although you do have the most fascinating bioaura. Have you ever met your mother?"
    I blinked and wondered which one he meant, but there wasn't any time to inquire.
    Thunderbolt focused his energy senses and found the control module, a strange signature and one he wasn't sure he could absorb.
    "You seem awfully eager to die," Silverblood was noting even as Thunderbolt darted over and slammed a fist into the metal form. His hand closed around the module. "What are you doing! Get out of me, you—Get him out of me!" he appealed to the "real" Mind Lazer.
    Thunderbolt felt the telepathic contact as Mind Lazer went to work trying to deconstruct his personality from the ground up. Fortunately, Majestic 12 agents are trained to deal with that sort of thing, and he pushed back even as memories of his early life began leaching away and he rapidly grew very tired.
    "I see you've received some training," the telepath noted. "In the end, you will still be left mindless. Your allies cannot help you."
    "Go to hell," was the grim retort.
    Phoenix Talon charged Silverblood and slashed at the metal surface, forcing the robot to assume a more defensive position and distracting him from trying to get Thunderbolt out of its body. "Fucking Kraut son of a bitch! We whupped your ass back in the Big One and we'll whup your ass now!"
    Scott closed in on his "brother," two fluid bodies wrapped around one another, and then completely engulfed him.
    Some distance away, Kymrik was still involved in fighting his inner demons.
    Deprived of his robotic target, Phoenix Talon flipped off Mind Lazer. "Ever notice how when Germans go up against Americans they LOSE?"
    Silverblood tried to focus his sonic apparatus into himself to fry Thunderbolt, which represented something of a problem.
    Albert moved up next to me. "Take my hand. Now, attack Mind Lazer. I'll shield you."
    "I trust you." I lashed out the floating bioaura. The astral form started to flicker madly, and then he turned to face us, leaving off his attack on Thunderbolt.
    It did feel like Traveler, that same sense of bated threat. Go ahead, erase my memories, see if I care, I thought, feeling remarkably calm under the circumstances.
    Albert interposed himself. It was immediately clear that he couldn't win, that the contest of wills was going slowly in the other way. On the other hand, it was certainly starting to seem like Mind Lazer wasn't nearly as bad as his rep would have it.
    "You... will not... get her," Albert ground out. "And to make things worse, you Boche bastard, you're locked into this. You can't even target anyone else."
    Hoagland suddenly looked up with a shocked expression. "Oh no. No!" She leaped into the sky and was gone.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson