With the rain we’d had, there was a degree of slipperiness to the dirt and grass. Twenty five, maybe thirty people were coming at us- it was hard to count when the allegiance of some of the hostages was so unclear, and some had guns. All had a loose arrangement of hostages in front of them. Some of the hostages slipped as they ran, and they were trampled by those behind.
Gilpatrick gave me a worried look over his shoulder. He was using the remote- three green flashes. I was left to back up, letting Erin go ahead of me. I crouched by the front tire of one bus. Erin climbed up onto the bar at the side, so her feet wouldn’t be sticking out below the bottom of the painted bus.
The color coding of Fallen came to mind- two were in white, with Mama Mathers being one, held up by two people at the treeline. Another wore white and hung even further back, peering through the woods while wearing a pale leather animal mask.
There were two options there, if I went by what Rain had told me, and both were messy. Animal Master, likely, and the Changer geyser.
One in black- a Fallen that was holding Mama Mathers up. From the way they were handling her, she was still alive. They were trying to take her to safety.
One pointed at me, lifting his gun as he turned to his buddy, who had slipped in mud and fallen a few paces behind. I pulled my head back behind cover.
People opened fire, but they were our people. Gilpatrick stood on the wheel of a bus, and fired over the hood. I peeked at the result with my defenses up- the Fallen who wasn’t in black that was supporting Mama Mathers had created a wall of white-blue material with faces embossed on it. The material cracked as the bullets hit it, and the cracks closed up almost as fast as they appeared.
I’d peeked too long, and one shot me. It pinged off of the Wretch, and I ducked back behind the front of the bus, where the wheel at least partially protected me.
I knew the Mathers were notorious for their involvement in kidnappings and their connections to other families. It was what defined them as a sect of the Fallen. Now I was seeing the long term results of that kind of operation. Rain had already spelled some of it out.
Mama Mathers was a nightmare to deal with, and she’d traded for multiple capes who could protect her. Layers of defenses, and Looksee had slipped past those layers to take her out of action.
Rain dripped off of the front of my hood as I hunched over. My arm was limp at my side, and it hurt all the more because of my position. Even crouching, somehow, made my arm hurt more, because the angle was different, or because the blood flow had changed.
“Captain Gilpatrick!” I heard the voice.
“What is it?” Gilpatrick replied. He had his back to a truck much like I did. Many of his students were crouched in the ditch, the road, another ditch, and a bit of mud and grass between them and the Fallen.
“I want your-”
A series of gunshots from a handful of the oldest patrol block members interrupted her.
“-your permission to fight!” she finished.
He hunched over, back to the wheel rim, reloading. He called back, “I’m not going to do that!”
“It’s not easy for me to ask! I’m trying to respect-”
He looked at me, not her, and interrupted, “You don’t need my permission to fight!”
I didn’t hear the start of her sentence, as someone else on our side fired a gun. A Fallen returned fire and shot the bus.
“-want it,” she said.
“Too bad!” he called out. “You choose, I’ll be a witness and I’ll testify how you handled it, good or bad!”
I looked across the far ditch, furthest from the Fallen, and saw where a stone had been rolled away to make way for the dirt road. It was large enough a tractor or team of horses would have been involved.
They’d be close in a matter of seconds. I put one hand out, pressing it against the stone, and brought out the Wretch. I pulled back, and the Wretch held on. Together, we heaved the stone free from the earth that surrounded it.
“Don’t fuck me,” I whispered to the Wretch. I could hear the fingers and teeth biting into the stone, arms wrapping around it and squeezing until it threatened to break.
Two hundred and fifty, three hundred pounds of rock. The dirt road was constructed so it formed a hump, with vehicles traveling along the raised portion, with rainwater flowing into the ditches on either side, to be reabsorbed or to run off into some larger water source. It was the cover the patrol block people were using, and it was cover I could use, albeit in a different way.
I left the scene, flying low and hauling the rock with me. The Wretch continued to wrestle with it, mindless, carving into it. I worried it would break in half.
Once I was far enough away I couldn’t see the people, I flew over the road, and flew at them from the sides.
Fights were about information first, positioning second, action third. It was why I studied parahumans, and it was why I favored the faux thinker-one power I had in my bird’s eye view, when I could use it without being shot.
Without information, people couldn’t know where they needed to be. If they weren’t in the right place at the right time, they couldn’t act. Positioning was second.
I was fast, silent, and approaching from an unexpected angle. I looked for where the people with guns were, and I released the stone. It hit the ground with no sound but an impact that saw them react. I pushed out with my aura for good measure.
With momentum, it rolled a short distance. It rolled into the group, and four people toppled, a stone that came up to almost hip height hitting their legs with crushing force.
If I was a police officer, I would have been clear to shoot, faced with people that had rifles and handguns. I considered myself clear to demolish anyone who was armed. The Warrior Monk would have been fine with it.
I saw one person who had a gun I could make out, a rifle painted a dark green with a coarse, grippy texture. The Wretch and I relieved him of the burden of having to carry a rifle and having unbroken hands.
I knew I was risking getting shot by the first person with the presence of mind to point a handgun at me in an casual way, instead of drawing the thing and sticking their arm out. Risky too, to fight when I didn’t have the use of my left arm, and a good hit to my arm when I was defenseless could bring me to my knees with the pain.
The aura helped make people stupid, and I could use positioning in another way, moving fluidly and unpredictably as I ducked and darted between people.
I wasn’t about to back off when they were this close to Gilpatrick, potentially Jasper, and others I’d worked with. Even the pissy anti-cape types deserved to come out of this okay.
Handgun? I brought the Wretch out and slapped at arm or weapon. Knife? I did the same. Bat? Easy to hit the weapon and send it back toward the wielder’s face.
A few braver members of their group pressed in, trying to dogpile me, grabbing instead of punching or swinging. Harder to deal with, until I brought the Wretch out a bit longer. I could see them react as it unfolded, like an irregularly shaped bubble around me.
I withdrew the Wretch before it could get a grip on anyone or anything.
One pointed a gun at me, and I flew past the gun to drive my forehead into his face. Instinct, not pre-planning, but I was thinking the Warrior Monk would forgive me on that. My arm hurt, inexplicably, from me delivering a hit with my head, and my forehead hurt. I wasn’t wearing my mask- it still dangled from my waist, the curve allowing it to rest against my thigh.
I didn’t let it show. I watched the others back off, the recent damage and the aura being ample reason. One had four bloody marks swelling on his chest, and I realized I’d been too slow to dismiss the Wretch, or it had been too quick to unfold. She had managed to stab her fingertips into flesh.
Hate. The feeling hit me so suddenly and so unexpectedly that I thought it might have been one of Rain’s cluster-mates. Hate like when I had been in middle school, arguing with a classmate who had spewed out insane, vile rhetoric that would have made them a perfect fit for Empire Eighty-Eight or the Fallen, and he had refused to listen because I was a ‘pretty, privileged white girl’ and that had somehow meant my experiences and opinions weren’t valid, even though he was an okay looking, privileged white boy. I’d hated him and I’d hated that I couldn’t talk or shout sense to him and make him stop or even pause in being such a shitty person.
Hate like I had channeled at my sister, because she had broken something intrinsic in me. Because she had torn open emotional doors I had really wanted to protect and be tender with, so soon after I had lost Dean. She had violated that and staked her claim to what lay beyond those doors, and it was only by twisting devoted, passionate love into devoted, passionate hate that I had briefly been able to retain something of myself and my boundaries. Only briefly.
I hated the Wretch, in that same way. I hated the blood spots I could see where fingers had dug in, the guy now on his knees, fingers at his chest with blood seeping between them. I hated the scratches on Moose’s face.
I hated the ones with broken hands, arms, and legs, the ones who were lying on the ground screaming. I hated that when I’d had the ability to be gentle, I hadn’t been, and now that I wanted to be gentle, I couldn’t.
To top it off, I hated the Fallen.
“Stand the fuck down!” I shouted. “Or I won’t hold back anymore!”
Rain fell all around us. In the ditches by the road, the water made small trickling sounds. I could hear gunfire in the distance, and I could hear the patrol block.
My aura burned dark and intense, and I knew that they wouldn’t be feeling the pause or the odd mid-fight peace of rain and the ongoing violence being more distant.
One of them looked at the hostages, who’d made it to the dirt road and now crouched there. I flew straight for them, pushing past the people in the way with enough force to knock them over.
My thought, my instinct, was that if they had a gun, I wanted to already be there, ready to stop them. They didn’t have a gun, so I went easy. I kicked them across the lower legs, the Wretch momentarily active.
“Stand down and don’t even fucking look at them,” I said, pointing at the people they’d used as human shields. “And don’t fucking think of raising a weapon. I will shatter you, and you can see how well they take care of you here, or you can go to the hospital, get fixed up, and they’ll send you back home.”
I paused. I stared at them, meeting each one’s eye in turn. Roughly half their number were on the ground.
“Do you really think the Fallen are going to look after you when the weather gets colder, food is short, and you can’t be a farmer or a soldier?”
I saw movement. A blur. I moved away, ready to raise the Wretch, and as much as I could raise my defenses as fast as I could put my thoughts together, the attacker was fast and I hadn’t anticipated being blindsided.
The hit was hard, and the only reasons it wasn’t harder were that it hit my armor, at least partially, and I was moving back and away.
I winced, my hip aching. Maybe it was telling, that I’d been driven to get back and away before I’d thought to make myself impervious.
Mama Mathers had kept bodyguards close, but she either had reinforcements from the other family, or this mob had more powered Fallen in it.
It was a Fallen woman. She was younger than me, going by stature and frame. A Leviathan theme to her mask, but with a fin on top and at the sides.
She came at me again, and this time I had the Wretch up. She hit it hard, winced, and turned pitch black, freezing in space.
She got me from behind, a cord encircling my neck, pulling tight. With my breastplate set up the way it was, there was a little flare of spikes, a few inches in front of my chin, pointing slightly outward. The cord or wire caught on that, and I brought my good hand up, gripping the wire.
I pulled to get free, and I met resistance- at the same moment the obsidian black figure in front of me resumed motion. She hit the ground with one foot, and launched herself at me.
I activated the Wretch and tore through cord, catching on something solid enough that the Wretch flickered out.
Metal wire, it seemed. A garotte, no association with my friend and teammate. In the course of moving away from the attacker, I moved closer to the unfrozen woman, and put her off her rhythm. She changed, freezing in place, and the attacker I hadn’t yet seen attacked me from behind, hit me sufficiently hard to make me crash into the frozen woman. The hit was enough that I’d bruise, but the residual impact made my gunshot wound explode with pain.
I twisted around, exerting force against the immobile obsidian statue, and she came to life, stumbling back, just as I saw the attacker behind me freeze.
One attacker, with two bodies. Whatever one wasn’t active was immobile and apparently invincible. Whichever one was active had enhanced speed and the strength that came with hitting things very fast.
The scholar in me wondered for a moment about just why so many Fallen were such massive pains in the ass, with such a solid crop of powers.
Conflict drive? Close associations with other powers? Careful selection and sharing of powers through breeding, insofar as powers were inherited that way?
Wretch out, I punched one woman- hit statue. I pulled the same arm back, elbowing the one behind me- only for her to become statue just in time. The one in front was already moving out of the way of any follow-up attack, the Wretch grazing her, making her stumble a little. She still moved too fast for me to give chase.
She attacked relentlessly, and with a speed sufficient that the Wretch only blocked one in three hits. I could use some basic fighting sense or flying away to protect myself against another one in three, but it still left a gap. One or two hits made me stumble. Another cracked me hard enough across the side of my head that I momentarily couldn’t make sense of what I could see.
I connected one hit, then followed up with a swing, Wretch active, hitting the ground hard enough to send a spray of stones, dirt clumps and mud at her. She went statue and attacked me from behind with her other self, but when I retaliated, the original self had to shake off the residual mud.
I heard Ashley use her power.
She sailed over the heads of Fallen, landing with a bit of a skid. Her hair was wet and slicked back, and her eyes were wide with the extent of their whites showing. No pupils.
I wasn’t sure what to say, so I stated the obvious. “You came.”
“R needs help.”
He did. That he’d run into trouble had been the window Mama Mathers had needed. I would have helped him already, but I could hardly leave my patrol block.
Sveta had been with him, too.
The lizard-demon Fallen came after me. I fended her off, flying a bit away to position myself closer to Ashley.
“Is it alive?” I asked the Fallen. “Your other self.”
The lizard-demon Fallen charged after me again, in lieu of answer. I lashed out, and she became statue. It was like hitting something Clockblocker-affected, from my hometown’s old Wards team. No result, nothing got through.
“I’m giving you one chance to-”
Ashley’s power misfired. She stumbled.
The lizard Fallen went after her. Another cord. Harder to get it around Ashley’s neck, when Ashley was bent double- Ashley brought her injured hand up, and the wire pulled against her forearm, cutting into flesh. Blood welled out.
Power welled out too. The power flared, and the cord broke. The Fallen stumbled back, and became statue as Ashley turned to look at it.
“If you’re a pair and not one cape with a gimmick, you’ll both want to stand down, because my friend hits pretty darn hard.”
“I do,” Ashley said. Long, wet white hair had fallen across her face while she was bent over. It stuck there.
The lizard Fallen cackled, but didn’t respond.
She went after Ashley, instead of me. Two of her at once, but never acting at the same time. One became a statue the moment Ashley looked like she might have her bearings and be able to respond. I flew over, and the Fallen girl moved around behind Ashley, shoving her in my direction, maneuvering to never give either of us a clear shot or angle.
She hit Ashley in the midsection, and Ashley reached out, putting a hand on the Fallen’s collarbone to steady herself. She was hit from behind, one hit to the kidney.
She used her power, and it tore through the statue, ripping it apart. Ashley was thrust away by the blast, and she landed not very far from where the lizard Fallen had dropped to the mud and grass, sitting there in shock.
Ashley hadn’t been lying when she’d suggested her power could hurt me.
It had been the final test, in a way. The group of Fallen soldiers were hanging back, the patrol block having emerged, guns held up. One or two in the Fallen still had guns as well, or had picked them up, but they were badly outnumbered.
Had the lizard Fallen won, I wondered if they would have pressed the attack, even faced with equal numbers and more guns. I wondered if they would have had a choice.
Choice. I looked for the instigator and leader. Mama Mathers had disappeared into the trees, along with the Fallen in black, the one who had conjured the blue-white wall of faces, and the beast-masked Fallen in white.
Gilpatrick’s group began to disarm, arrest and manage the Fallen soldiers, some tending to the wounded, others hanging back and keeping their guns raised.
“R is in trouble?”
“I overheard,” Erin said. “One of Bamet’s animals came to relay information. R was attacked.”
“Rain,” another of the human body shields said.
“I was leaving the full name out, dad.”
“Don’t betray your own, Erin,” the man said.
“Our so-called own betrayed us!” Erin shouted. “Fuck! They never cared. We were only tools to use. Shields to get in the way so they could get up close.”
“No,” I heard his response. I cut him off before he said anything else. There were other priorities. “Attacked where? How?”
“I- I don’t know. I’m sorry,” she said. And in that instant, she didn’t sound like the confident girl I’d talked to. She was shaken. “It- bad. Bamet’s animals, they barely speak English. But his situation is bad.”
“If you find them, don’t kill the animals?” Erin asked.
“There’s something human in there.”
I frowned. I had to go.
“You good?” I asked Gilpatrick.
“Yes,” he said. “An awful lot of wounded, but- we’ll manage.”
I looked at Ashley.
“I’ll stay,” she said. “Call if you need me, but-”
But she’d turned herself in?
Did she cut herself off because she couldn’t bring herself to say it?
“I’ll protect these people if they need it,” she said, instead.
So many people didn’t look like the ones I’d known. Erin and Ashley both lacked the confidence they should have had. Gilpatrick looked more like the grizzled soldier than the teacher. Even the Fallen- well, they’d been threats and now the most aggressive and armed of them were on the ground, defenseless, making noises of pain.
I didn’t look like the me I wanted to be, probably. So soon after donning my new, pretty costume.
This other me took to the air, flying against the falling rain, so that the gentle patter became something sharp in the brief ascent.
Rain, Mama Mathers, and the remaining leadership figures of the Crowley and Mathers branches.
Roughly in that order, anyway, as far as priorities went.
I could see Capricorn’s work, and he had raised walls in a way that left the Fallen with far less in the way of places to go. Some reached as high as the treetops, most others were shorter, speedbumps and momentary obstacles, such that going around was probably easier than finding a way through or over.
I reached for my phone and dialed.
“-n’t find him,” Capricorn’s voice came through. There was a whoosh of air on his side of the conversation, stopping as he finished talking.
“I can’t do much,” Looksee said. “Victoria’s on the line now. She was fighting. Are you okay, Victoria?”
“Fallen to the Northeast were arrested. One powered among them. Erin’s okay.”
“Rain will be so happy to hear that if we can actually find him,” Capricorn said. Still with the whoosh.
“Mama Mathers got away. But she’s out of action,” I said.
“She’s alive?” Looksee asked.
“Last I saw,” I said.
“Okay,” Looksee said. She sounded funny. “Damsel?”
“She’s staying behind. Protecting them, she said. But she wants to stay in custody, I think. I think it’s a good idea.”
“Okay,” Looksee said, barely audible.
“It makes sense,” Capricorn said. I heard Vista’s voice, and still with the whoosh.
“Are you flying?” I asked.
“We caught a ride,” Capricorn said. “Traveling Narwhal style. We’ll be coming around your way soon.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sveta, Chris?”
“Gone, same as Rain,” Looksee said. “And changing. He thinks Keen Vigilance might be able to hear something.”
“Traveling up the east perimeter,” Capricorn said. “Vista says she would appreciate a lift down to solid ground. She’s not super confident of her ability to land.”
“Land? You’re actually on a Narwhal forcefield?”
“Doing loops. They travel in straight lines, but Vista can bend straight.”
Okay. I wasn’t just catching my two friends, then. I was doing it while they were surfing on a flying, crystalline cleaver.
“I’ll use my power. Tell me when you start to feel it,” I said, my attention all over the place, as I looked for any sign of Rain, Sveta, Mama, Capricorn, and Vista.
“Feeling it,” Capricorn said.
I spotted them, and flew to match my trajectory to theirs. “Only one working arm.”
Vista’s power warped space around us, slowing their speed. It took me a second to adjust. I let the thing catch up to me, and rested my foot against it, leaning back and moving with it.
“Catch him, catch me after,” Vista said, her voice briefly doubled on both phone and in person, slightly out of sync.
I caught Capricorn’s hand. I couldn’t use the Wretch, and the strain of my arm carrying him reached across my shoulder to my injured other arm.
“I’m okay if it’s rough,” Capricorn said.
It was rough. He landed hard, clipping a branch on the way down. He didn’t react or seem to mind, letting go and pointing.
Vista had jumped, and she was descending slower, the space between her and the ground extending.
I flew to intercept. I caught her hand in mine. Again, my arm complained.
Not as heavy as Capricorn.
“Thank you,” she said.
I lowered her to the ground. Capricorn put his hand out, catching her by the upper arm and helping with the final couple of feet.
“Mama knew where Rain was. If we track her, we might be able to find him.”
“I can’t help,” Looksee said, through the phone. “Both of my active cameras broke. I’ve got another covering myself and Tattletale, I could send that.”
Vista seemed confused. I motioned for her to come closer, fished in between my armor and my top for my other earphone, rubbed it against the edge of my hood, and offered it to her.
“It would take time to get here,” Capricorn said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Shouldn’t I very worry about it?” Looksee asked. “I should send them now in case they’re needed.”
“Cameras broke?” a voice came through the phone, hissing.
“Yes,” Looksee said. “Don’t get on my case about it, vigilant dumbnuts, I’m not in the mood.”
“I dropped one on Mama Mathers and I dropped another on someone with a gun.”
“It worked,” I said. “I don’t know how you aimed that without looking through the camera-”
“I didn’t. My cameras were already fritzing out, so I sent them a slice of program, with facial recognition. I centered it over them, accounted for wind, and when things sounded worst I had my cameras stop hovering.”
“You weaponized… cameras?”
“I told you not to get on my case about it,” Looksee said.
“I didn’t weaponize the cameras, just so you know. I’ve said I’m not good at making my cameras function like weapons.”
“I remember,” Chris’ snakelike voice came through the phone.
“I weaponized the off switch, obviously.”
“Obviously,” Capricorn said. “Send your camera. If Mama Mathers is out-”
“Pretty sure she is,” I said.
“We can use all the help we can get.”
“It’s not like Tattletale is responding,” Looksee said.
“Victoria, can you give us another set of eyes from above?” Capricorn asked.
I nodded, taking back my earphone from Vista.
“I really hope he’s okay,” I heard Capricorn, the tail end of the sentence almost inaudible as I was already flying.
The weather seemed to be easing up. I noticed the precipitation wasn’t as sharp as I flew up into it. Not like it had been minutes ago.
Capricorn’s walls to the southern end of the camp had served to funnel the Fallen in other directions. The road seemed untouched, the settlement was almost half and half for buildings that had been abandoned and leveled, and the fighting seemed concentrated at the north end, Crowleys and Advance Guard, and where I’d been helping the patrol block to the northeast.
The northeast was a starting point. I imagined they would want to go to where there was help. That meant they’d either head for the center, through open space where I would have to be able to see them, or they’d cut north. The latter would let them move through the trees.
I reported it to the others.
I spotted the first of the animals. A man with a hunched back and the head of a pig, his body heavy with muscle that didn’t match an ordinary person’s. There was a horse, too, but its normal long face had been replaced with a human’s, folding around at the sides in a way that distorted the mouth and made the eyes bug out. Mama Mathers was draped over the back of the horse.
My pulse pounded as I approached. I turned sideways to appear less threatening and held my good hand up for the animals, trying to get them to ease up. My only experience with horses had been at Dean’s family’s place.
The pigman made noises, and I winced. It sounds like a stuck pig. An animal in pain.
I’d wondered how the barnyard cape had blended in with the Fallen aesthetic. I wasn’t wondering anymore.
“Is she alive?” I asked.
“Uuuuuhrh,” the horse moaned, in a halfway sound between a moan and a whinny.
I held my hands up, easing them as I drew nearer. I hesitated, then put a hand at her neck. I felt for a pulse, felt one, and then pried open one of her eyes. I watched it dilate in the light.
I didn’t consider the administration of first aid or medical know-how a strength of mine. I’d taken a class in first aid, and I’d learned it, a long time ago, and I’d refreshed myself when I had joined the patrol, but…
Suffice to say, that base had been covered, for most of my hero career.
The animals reacted, heads turning. I glanced back. the others had arrived. Capricorn, Vista, and Chris as a broad mountain of hair and layered plates with massive ears and huge eyes, a foot taller than Capricorn.
“Mierda,” Capricorn said.
“Erin said there’s something human in there,” I said, staring at the animals.
Chris started to approach. The animals shied back.
“We’ll help if we can,” I told the animals. “But can you show us the way to the others?”
“You don’t want to do that,” yet another strange voice came through the phone.
“I’ve been trying to get in touch, Tattletale,” Looksee said. “You’ve been ignoring my calls.”
“The fact you’re saying we don’t want to do this is a pretty good motivator to do this.”
“Don’t be a child, Victoria. You’ve got the Mathers leader in your hands. Good one. Now leave. Or go help Advance Guard, because they really need it. Your friend Rain is done for. He was always going to be done for.”
“Even if I was willing to accept that-”
“Which we aren’t,” Looksee interrupted.
“Our friend was with him. Sveta.”
“Garotte,” Tattletale said.
“Sveta,” I said, more firmly.
Capricorn and Vista were lowering Mama Mathers to the ground. The ‘animals’ seemed more relieved than anything to have that taken care of. The existence of human mannerisms and expressions on animals was disconcerting.
Capricorn began creating a cage for her, to encase her body.
He apparently deemed it better to contain her and risk that she wouldn’t be okay than to rush to give her medical care and risk other lives. We’d already tried the more merciful route.
“Okay,” Tattletale said. “I don’t think it matters at this stage. You don’t need Bamet’s beasts. I’ll tell you where you need to go, if you promise not to stir up shit with Cradle and his friend.”
I glanced at Capricorn, then back at Chris.
“Promise,” I said.
“That’s a lie. Whatever. I’d remind you this is me being nice again, but you don’t care. There’s a barn southwest of you. You overshot when you approached.”
I looked. A barn, in the middle of pen fields, with some stone-and-mortar fences separating fields from road, so no car would drive off the road and into the field without meeting an obstacle first.
The rain was only a trickle now.
Vista warped the space, to bring everyone closer. It only served to make my trip there even faster, as I flew.
The first thing I noticed was the blood and the bodies. Animals had been slaughtered, and their parts made for a macabre, eerie picture, with human and animal mixed and blended. The two Fallen bodyguards were dead, and there were a few others, besides.
The second thing I noticed was Cradle in the rafters. His robot was large enough that its hands could touch multiple walls, grip the rafters and touch the ground at the same time. Cradle was perched on the back of one hand, crouching as he stared down. Another parahuman, dressed in black with a red handprint on his mask, was gripping one finger, dangling. He had a cleaver in his hand.
And in the corner, almost impossible to see, Sveta was huddled. Her body was damaged, and tendrils snaked out, gripping herself, none long enough or positioned well enough to do more than snake around her shoulder and chest, twisting at cloth to reveal the painted shell beneath. She was glaring, hate, and in the moment she looked at me, the hate broke, and she looked like she might cry in relief, or in grief.
She held what remained of Rain in her arms, as he gasped out short breaths, like a fish out of water. The damage done- it hadn’t been her.
“Let’s not make this a thing,” Cradle said.
It was going to be a thing.