We picked up the three mercenaries, lifting them into position on a dog’s back. Each was out cold.
Sliced and diced a bunch of your buddies.
The others were caught.
“Do we go after her?” Precipice asked.
“March?” I asked. I had my phone out and was typing one-handed as best as I could. “I don’t like how our guy here phrased things about slicing and dicing-”
My fingers weren’t hitting all the keys right. My hand shook annoyingly.
I kept my voice level. “I’m texting Vista. We’ll see what she can do. If she thinks their team can handle it, we might have other options.”
“Them thinking they can handle it is different from handling it,” Foil said. “It’s March.”
“We’re going after the others?” Precipice asked.
“Gut feeling? Yes. We know where they are. The disc should be working now that we’re out of Nursery’s range. We get to them, maybe we can get enough answers to steer things. There’s no telling who exactly is where, though.”
“You’re thinking they’re dead?” Rachel asked.
“I’m thinking worse than dead,” I responded. “You didn’t hear what happened to the Navigators?”
“Chopped up into cubes, but not allowed to die,” Foil said. “They might have done that to some of ours.”
Rachel’s expression hardened.
“I know,” Foil said. “I’m not good with this stuff. I can suck it up if I have to, but I swear, if it happened to the kids? To any of our friends?”
“I”m getting flashbacks to the Fallen attacks on the portals,” Precipice said. “The stakes, the distractions.”
“Some of the same people are involved,” I pointed out. I put my phone away, tapping the disc on the arm. Still, my hand shook. Only our team red was findable, but the setting was screwed up. Lookout’s team tracker seemed to be working under the assumption that the entire team was together. Our team red was split in two, which meant it was very, very zoomed out.
“We could try going after March. Resolve the hostage situation after,” Foil said.
“Do you want to?” I asked. “Really?”
She shook her head. “Only if it makes sense. I’m just putting it out there. We know she’s split off from the larger group.”
“The problem is that March never makes sense,” Rachel muttered. She was at the back of the group. Chastity was walking beside Rachel’s henchman, who was sitting on a jutting outcropping of bone at the dog’s shoulder, one hand on its side to help her maintain balance.
“Foil,” I said. “What’s March’s fixation on these time effects? I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this.”
Give me something I can break down.
“I don’t know.”
“She has enhanced timing as a power, but I don’t think that factors in. What’s driving her? What’s the focus?”
“She wants to wrap Foil’s skin around a rocking horse and ride it all day long,” Aroa said.
“Ew, weird, and no, I don’t know. I’m a focus but time effects have nothing to do with me.”
“Multitriggers,” Precipice said. “She collects them.”
“Why?” I pressed.
“Because I think she gets them. She understands it, she’s good at finding us out in the wild, she’s good at figuring out weird, wild shit like the power transfers. The Goddess thing.”
“Because of her power, somehow, or-”
Foil shook her head.
We headed back, flying, jogging, or, in Rachel and her henchman’s case, hopping up so they hung onto the side of dogs with one hand while the dogs did the work of padding through snow and over ice.
Chastity had a suggestion, “Natural inclination. Some people are good at music, and they were going to be people who were good at making music before they even picked up an instrument or sang a note.”
“Maybe that,” Foil said. “Maybe she’s been focusing on that stuff while I was getting started as a Ward, getting my gear, doing patrols.”
“Do you know anything about her? Do you get insights through any special… dynamics?” Precipice asked.
Foil shook her head.
“Bleed-through?” he pressed. “Emotions leaking from one person to the other?”
“Terrifying idea, but I don’t think so. Unless-”
She finished her statement there.
“Unlessss?” Candy asked, drawing out the word.
“It’s nothing that would be helpful.”
“She’s a thinker primary,” I said.
Precipice nodded. “Like I’m a blaster primary, it’s the strongest of my powers, and Foil is-”
“Striker, technically,” Foil volunteered. “Not that the otherworldly things that put these powers in us really categorized everything so neatly.”
We had to get up a hill to get back toward the parking lot.
I continued to find my refuge in geekery. “March’s a thinker first. Mental powers come from mental triggers. Powers that grant skill, perception, information, they tend to stem from self-centric things. Dilemmas, complexes, obsessions, delusions. Can I ask what the circumstances were around your trigger?”
Foil jogged at a light pace, considering.
“No obligation, but it would help,” I said.
“It’s weird that there are so many people here and there’s only one that I don’t know well enough to trust telling,” Foil said.
“I’m the odd one out?” Precipice asked. “I’ll cover my ears.”
She reached over to his arm, pulling it down before he could.
“I’ll skip over details, but I know you’re roped into this. She’s after you, right?”
“Technically I owe her a favor,” Precipice said.
“She won’t make that easy. The more you know, the better,” Foil said. She drew in a deep breath. Then she hesitated.
Which was annoying, but annoying was better than freaking out over what might have happened to Sveta.
Answers, we find them, we help the others. If needed we break all of Cradle’s limbs and get him to tell us how to undo what he did to the Navigators.
Through that, maybe we can stop March before she does whatever she’s planning.
“I didn’t mean for it to be a big thing,” I told her. “I know triggers are heavy.”
“No, it’s okay. I need to, and if anyone has insights or perspective, it would help,” Foil said. “Even if it’s power wonk stuff.”
“Alright,” I said.
“I was fostered, entered into the system. I had older siblings who weren’t. Subway platform in New York, I get attacked from behind, and it was one of my sisters, homeless, and so- so angry. It was like she lived in a completely different, warped reality, where I was to blame for everything, I’d sold her out, I’d taken something she was owed. She tried to push me but I caught myself, and when she tried again, she pushed other people down onto the tracks while pushing me down to the ground, put my head in the way of any incoming trains.”
“March was one of those people on the tracks?” I asked. “Her timing power… and an imminent train?”
Foil shrugged. “All I know is I triggered as the train hit my sister, convinced she’d killed me. March says our third was a friend of my sister, but I barely met the woman, and I didn’t realize why she was important or what she meant when I did.”
“There were people on the tracks. Never got off, just… backed off enough that they could hug the wall while the train passed. Or she got under a ledge, or she was pulled up and something else led to the trigger”
“Does that really give someone powers?” Chastity asked. “Being off to the side and having a train pass within a foot of you?”
“She might have thought the same thing as Foil. That she was about to die. But thinker triggers are tricky. They’re all about what’s going on in someone’s head.”
Precipice was staring off to the side.
We’d have to talk about Cradle at some point too. Deciphering that.
Foil’s family situation had gotten other people caught up in it. That explained a bit of March’s fixation or degree of blame, maybe. Or the worship, if March saw Foil as responsible for vanquishing their attacker. Or something.
“I always wondered if my sister was on something, or if she was under the effect of a power, or if she was just that angry. They were supposed to do a full autopsy and send things in to get checked- it was even a request of mine, when I joined the Wards. If they ever figured it out, they didn’t tell me. All I ever heard was that it was still in the works, there was a backlog, the department didn’t see it as a priority. It stung. A small part of my reason for wanting to get out of New York was to get away from the dynamic where I was just another face in a very crowded department. Of course, I picked Brockton Bay, and we all know how that went.”
Foil was fixated on her end of the trigger, but I was left to consider March’s. Thinker triggers were hard, because they took place in a person’s head. What served for one person to trigger might not work for another. The only evidence available would be the course of action before, and the course of action after.
“Power involvement would complicate things,” I said. “And explain things. Like your power’s tendency to go through anything, not just through things.”
Foil nodded. “I’ve talked about that with some power testing people. They didn’t talk about the thinker side of it though.”
“What was your first meeting?” I asked.
“She joined a villain group my Wards team was already dealing with. Low-level, nonviolent, safe enough that our bosses were okay letting us try. She made them more effective and she blew up enough things that our bosses withdrew that permission. We moved on to another sanctioned target, and March joined them.”
“After you from the beginning.”
Foil nodded. “She would disappear for months at a time, then show up with friends. What got me was that I was trying to treat the cape stuff like a career, right from the start. Getting away from… from whatever pulled my sister down. For March, it was always a game. Not the usual way, where it’s a specific meta-approach to crime and criminality. Like an actual game.”
“Sometimes you have to approach it that way,” Candy said. “The worse something is, the more you have to treat it like it’s nothing.”
“Yeah,” Foil said. “It’s just fucked up when she ropes me and Parian into it. Or the other Undersiders. Or civilians.”
I saw Precipice start to raise two right hands, like a student in class who had something to say but wasn’t sure about it.
He stopped, dropping his hands. Not the time for it. We had other immediate concerns.
Our driver was leaning against the door of the van when we returned from our excursion, smoking. All was well until we drew close enough that the streetlights illuminated our group, and the driver saw the three bodies we’d draped over the back of Rachel’s dog.
There were a few directions one could go, when their immediate peer group had just been taken out by the scary people with powers. Fight, which meant drawing that gun and doing as much damage to us as possible, flight, which meant hopping into that vehicle and trying to drive away…
His hands went up.
Freeze is another option. For the guy, not for us.
Other people couldn’t afford for us to freeze.
“I’m going to knock you out while we figure out what to do,” Chastity said, as she drew closer. She drew out her whip. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“I don’t know what they said, but I’m not part of it,” the driver said. He backed up a little. The hand closest to his gun dropped a couple of inches, still raised. “I’m new.”
“He is new,” Chastity said. “It’s true.”
“Don’t announce that you’re going to bitch slap a grown man and then fail to follow through,” Aroa said. “It makes all of the Heartbroken look bad.”
“Is there a way forward where we don’t take him out?” I asked. “Because I’m really not keen on running interference while someone else drives on icy roads, so I can grab it if it starts skidding. It’s nerve wracking. He seems to have the driving down, at least.”
“It’s what I do.”
“Shh,” Rachel shushed the man. “You don’t have to whine about guarding the car. My dogs can handle that.”
“You have Yips with you, and Yips is barely a dog,” Candy said, pointing at the gangliest of the monster dogs. Rachel glared at her.
“All I’m asking is who drives, if he doesn’t?” I asked.
“I can drive,” Foil said, at the same time Precipice volunteered with a, “Me.”
They exchanged looks.
“Enhanced timing and accuracy with my power.”
“I’ve been driving since I was old enough to see over the wheel, most kinds of weather. I don’t have much going for me, but I’ve got that, at least.”
I put my fingers at my nose, pinching the bridge.
“Why haven’t we beat down the merc?” Aroa asked. “Priorities.”
“Because we don’t know what we’re doing, hon,” Chastity told her. She flicked her hand, the motion traveling down the length of the whip that draped across the icy road. “These things take negotiation.”
“No,” I said. “Knock him out. Precipice drives. Dogs will run interference, but they can’t do it alone. The road between here and where we’re going is busier, and other cars on the road limit what the dogs can do to stop the van if it goes off course. I’ll be overhead, helping.”
“I can drive,” Foil said. “I know he’s your teammate, but-”
“But we need you shotgun, in a position to shoot if we need shooting,” I said.
She considered, then nodded.
Chastity looked at Rachel for confirmation. Rachel nodded, and Chastity flicked out her whip without turning to look at the driver. He brought up an arm, protecting himself, and the whip encircled his wrist. She hauled back on it, pulling him toward her- and he went with it, charging her.
A dog butted forward, moving to intercept. The driver couldn’t pull back or get away before the dog rammed him with its head. The impact was heavy enough that Chastity had to let go of her whip instead of being pulled along with.
“I don’t have enough shots for my crossbow,” Foil told me, even though the situation with the driver wasn’t yet resolved.
“We have other weapons,” I said.
“I guess,” she said.
“How much time have you spent at the range?” I asked, flying over to the dog with the knocked out mercs draped over its back. It shied away, stopping as Rachel made a disapproving sound.
I pulled a pistol from the mercenary’s holster, handing it to Foil. Off to the side, Chastity bent down over the mercenary,
“Enhanced timing and accuracy, at least.”
I gave a hand in getting the knocked out soldiers into the back of the van. Lord of Loss was already in the back, under the bench behind the passenger seat. As we’d done with him, we positioned the mercenaries, zip tied their hands and feet, then had Foil use her darts to fix their clothes to the surroundings.
It was crowded work, so as soon as my portion of things was done, I checked on Lord of Loss, making sure his hands weren’t cold and that circulation was there. Which was probably nicer than anything the asshole would do for us. Sticking people’s faces into Nursery’s power. Fucker.
I shivered involuntarily.
“I should cancel out my power on them sometime,” Chastity said.
“They’re knocked out until you wake them up, right?”
“But if that tackle had hit me, they’d be awake and I’d be out, and I wouldn’t be useful to you for a while,” she said. “We have to assume it’s going to happen.”
I nodded. “Maybe wait until we’re closer to where we’re going. It means Lord of Loss talks less. He’s kind of ridiculously annoying.”
“We could tape his mouth shut,” Aroa said.
“That’s a hazard if he pukes. Which he might if it turns out he’s very claustrophobic. Which he might be, since I’ve never known him to go indoors while in breaker form.”
“Ah, I know someone like that. Except not being tied up. She freaks out and sometimes even barfs every time she gets tied up.”
“Puke and taped mouth means not being able to breathe. For now, let’s keep it simple,” I said.
“As funny as it would be to see him freak?” Aroa asked.
I pushed her the rest of the way into the van.
The other two Heartbroken climbed into the back.
“The dogs will help keep you on the road. Don’t pull too far ahead,” Rachel said.
“Got it,” Precipice said.
“You say dogs,” Candy chimed in, “But Yips is barely a dog.”
Rachel slammed the door in Candy’s face.
“Yips?” I asked.
Rachel indicated one of the animals. The smallest and gangliest of the monster hounds. It was still large enough that when it walked by the van, its spine was level with the top of the vehicle.
“Where to?” Rain asked, leaning out the window.
I checked the disc. “Direction of Fairfield, looks like.”
He nodded. The armored van started up. It rumbled to life, then started forward, a little jerky. It almost immediately braked, skidding a few feet.
Even from outside the vehicle, I could hear the heckling from the Heartbroken.
“Problem?” I asked, raising my voice.
“Checking the brakes, getting a feel for the weight of the vehicle.”
More heckling from inside.
Rachel still hadn’t left. She was bundling up, drawing a blanket that I’d taken as a saddlecloth around over her legs instead, so the corners met at her lap, the blanket covering her legs. She had leather mitts that looked comically oversized, more like boxing gloves than regular wear, and added protection for her face: a hood with fur trim pulled up, ski goggles for the eyes, and a face cover for the lower half, a dog’s features stamped onto the cloth.
Her henchman had a similar setup. Where Rachel rode the largest beast, the teenager rode the middle one.
Rachel’s voice was muffled. “If we have to body check the van, you’re going to need to pull your leg up. Don’t lash in too tight.”
“That’s terrifying,” the henchman said.
“There’s still time to ask to ride inside.”
The henchman shook her head, pulling her hood up and hunching over, mittened hands at the chains that served as reins.
I flew up to the top of the van, standing on top as it pulled out of the parking lot. Being grounded and in contact with it helped keep me in tune with its movements while I checked my phone.
The van picked up speed, which made standing on top harder, the wind against my hands cold. I’d have to trust. We had sent a message to Vista, urging her to be ready for March, and we’d told her to pull strings and cut all communications for now, at least until they’d weathered the initial attack.
The wind whipping over the top of the van caught my legs, sweeping them off the roof. I started flying the instant they were no longer touching, staying close. I wrapped the Wretch around myself, to shield against the cold wind, at the cost of making it harder to fly straight. Shifts in air resistance, a lopsided body.
If March couldn’t call other teams or mercenaries, then she couldn’t coordinate timing. She would still have an advantage, but it would be predicated on having the information to exploit.
The disc at my arm glowed. I checked the status. I wasn’t sure how to tune the default settings, because pulling up our red team still brought up a painfully zoomed out view, with three red dots miles away from another three red dots. I had to take nearly a minute to focus the view on one group of three, zooming in close enough to make out any pertinent details, and it looked like I’d have to do it every time I wanted to check. If I wanted to check on the other half of team red, then I had to reset, then zoom in on them.
Swansong, Lookout, and one of the Heartbroken kids were in custody. Bags over heads. Hands bound. Swansong had the power to free herself, but she couldn’t use it. Lookout had been positioned just behind her. Using her power would obliterate her teammate and friend.
The heartbroken kid, one of the younger ones closer to Kenzie’s age, was being managed with a long pole attached to her restraints.
An indicator showed the direction to them. They were to our west and were traveling west. We knew they were heading to a portal.
They were near Fairbanks and were heading in the direction of the screwed up portal that had once led to Earth N. In the same neighborhood as Kenzie’s old house.
An attempt at checking on the other group provided only static. We’d known they were at the university, and that wasn’t far from the portal in question.
Was this a trap? That we could only see one target for the time being? Love Lost was a tinker, careful enough to have security on everything tech and traps riddling everything that wasn’t tech.
It was hard to imagine her not expecting us.
“Let’s try to intercept red team before they’re taken to where the larger group with Cradle is!” I called out.
I got a signal of assent from Foil. Rachel, to my right, nodded her head.
At least she wasn’t fighting me.
“Rachel!” I called out, trying to be heard over the rush of wind. “Can you hear me!?”
I heard her grunt. I wasn’t sure if it was in the affirmative or the negative.
“What’s going on with Tattletale? She didn’t catch this with the mercenaries?”
“She’s an idiot!” Rachel barked the words.
There wasn’t any elaboration.
It was Foil who called out through her open window. She’d heard me. She leaned out the window, one elbow poking out. The hand of that arm had a gun in it.
I flew close enough to hear, which meant being close enough I couldn’t wrap the Wretch around me. It was cold, but I could deal in the short term.
“I don’t know if you can relate,” Foil said, “But sometimes you get stuck in a place that isn’t you. Where everything you do is a drain on you. It brings out your worst traits.”
My face was so cold I was worried about frostbite. I turned my head around, one gloved hand going to my hood to keep it up as a shield against the wind. All the same, I flew sideways, one eye closed.
Foil said something, and I had to cup a hand by my ear to hear because the wind whistling past the van was too much.
“Tattletale’s in that place, trying to help the city,” Foil raised her voice.
“She took over Brockton Bay!” I had to half-shout to be heard over the rush of wind.
“She didn’t! Not like you’re thinking! Coil took most of it over, set most of that stuff in motion! Skitter did a lot of the rest of the work when it came to the taking over part! Tattletale isn’t a warlord! She isn’t a chessmaster!”
Eerie to hear one of her allies say it. More uncomfortable to have to recontextualize my mental picture of her.
“What the hell is she, then?”
“She’s an idiot!” Rachel shouted.
I was surprised she could hear.
“She’s a manipulator!” Foil called out, raising her voice in response.
“She’s an idiot, but if you start talking shit about her-”
“I’m not, Bitch! It’s not shit,” Foil said, the latter half of what she said was a normal speaking volume. “She took over what Coil started and she steered that. She’s good at that, but the farther we get from that setup of his, the harder it is. She steered the group, helped Skitter, helped Imp!”
“And Rachel?” I asked, looking at Rachel.
“You don’t manipulate her, or you get your head torn off!”
Rachel turned her head to stare at Foil. With the protection against cold weather, her expression was hidden. I was going to assume sheer hostility. It seemed to stay the case, unless she was being sweet to the Heartbroken kids.
“She was always at her best dealing with the smaller scale and the biggest, most abstract stuff,” Foil called out. “Fights and powers, conspiracies, not running cities! That was always her sticking to someone else’s game plan, manipulating the parameters. She was best when she was taking care of the Undersiders. When she had to look after herself, because not being at her best meant she might not be able to manipulate and steer her friends.”
Skitter and Imp?
“Except they’re okay now!” Foil’s expression had changed below her visor. She was almost smiling, but it was a sad smile. “Imp’s okay! Rachel’s okay now! Parian and I are okay! Heartbroken are less broken than ever! New Brockton was even okay! The ones who aren’t or who couldn’t be okay are dead!”
Rachel snarled. When I looked, she was just goading her dog to keep running and to run harder. Tough going in the tall grasses and bushes that ran along the side of the road.
Or at least, the goading and tough way forward was a good excuse.
Losing teammates was- I could sympathize with that.
“She has no purpose?” I asked. My hand was cold where it was holding my hood up. I pulled it down, using my other, and drew closer so I wouldn’t have to strain my throat yelling. “How does that lead to a screwup like not knowing what her own mercenaries are doing?”
“She has a purpose, but it’s killing her,” Foil said. “She looks after the city. It’s that thing that drains her and brings out the worst in her. It doesn’t fill that need she has, but she does it because she has to.”
“She did it, past tense,” I gritted out the words. I’d have to bail in a second to throw the Wretch up. “She keeps talking about how she’s bailing, she’s out, she doesn’t want to get involved.”
“Yeah. What’s she doing instead?”
“Looking after Chicken Little. Do you mean he’s her project now? Like the Undersiders were before?”
“Except he’s okay too,” Foil said. “Most of the way to okay. And she’s trying to steer him when he’s already on course to being a good- whatever he ends up being. And that drains her, I think it surprises her how much. She doesn’t accept input, not from me, most of all, not from Imp, Rachel doesn’t give input, and I think everyone that’s paying attention is pretty sure she’s going to either get him hurt, drive him away, or get herself hurt.”
I thought of the little man I’d felt so much like I’d wanted to coach and guide. The boy with the birds.
“She looks like she’s in her element but she’s not. So she puts more of herself into it-”
“And ignores the things that are in her element?” I asked.
“Yeah. Just so you know, I don’t have the most charitable view of her, though I’m really trying here, I’m glossing over a lot of general bitchiness,” Foil said. “Take what I say with a heaping of salt.”
“I don’t-” I winced at the cold air that rushed its way to my sore throat, colder than most of the air I was intentionally taking in. “I don’t have the best view of her either, I don’t know if that means there’s no need for any added salt, or if I need an extra heaping. But it makes sense. What you say makes sense.”
“She’s out there,” Precipice said, from the driver’s seat. His hands were on the wheel, the smaller mechanical arm on the shift. “She’s helping our team yellow. I’m not saying you’re wrong. Just… to me that looks like she’s really conflicted, that she’s saying one thing but only halfway committing to it.”
“I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong,” Foil said.
“But you want to?”
“She’s given me so much flack about being conflicted where I am…”
I didn’t hear the rest. Foil was talking to Rain now, not me. I peeled away, far enough from the armored van that I could use the Wretch. Close enough I could step in if needed.
A bit of relief, but it didn’t make the cold parts of me warm, it just stopped them from getting colder.
I checked the disc. Again, I had to zoom in.
I flew in closer to the others, holding the disc up. I saw Precipice glance my way. I put my arm out across the disc, hand flat, pointing the way.
“Be careful of a trap,” I told him.
I saw him and Foil nod. Foil undid her seatbelt.
“Watch for ambushes,” I told Rachel, “We’re conspicuous.”
“I heard you already,” she said.
Her henchman did give me a salute, though.
“And Precipice?” I asked.
“Same thing as Lord of Loss. Hit me.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” I said.
We had to catch up to the hostages and the group of mercenaries or whoever that had caught them. They’d beat Imp, they’d gotten around Lookout, and Swansong hadn’t taken them down.
Every car on the road was a potential threat. Every person on the street, every alley was a potential direction of attack.
I rose higher, scanning the surroundings. So many people wore black for their winter clothing, or they wore white, and they were camouflaged against a background of dark pavement, gray concrete, and white snow.
I checked the disc.
They weren’t far at all. A couple of blocks away.
Rachel’s dog barked. A warning sound, one that the others picked up. I saw her reorient-
I sprung to action before I even had a good view of what was happening. In the dark, it was hard to see the particulars, but I could see the outside context. A car turning around a corner, only to hit a barrier.
I was already descending, and taking action meant a trajectory change, the momentum already there. I struck the claws from above, driving them down toward the ground. Though rigid, they bowed beneath the pressure from above.
She was the escort, running alongside much as Rachel and I had been doing with the van. The difference was that we were making sure Precipice didn’t drive off the road or slide into incoming traffic, keeping an eye out from where we were. Nailbiter was running interference.
Buying time for their vehicle to get away with their hostages. Our friends and teammates. If they reached Cradle-
I caught the nails, and I lifted, hauling them up, so they wouldn’t be a barrier for the van.
Nailbiter’s distant figure barely moved. But the ‘nails’ came hard. More than fifteen, pale and narrow, passing me, stabbing into the street, stabbing a nearby building face. One hit the Wretch, and the other hit me, grazing the underside of my fucking foot.
In the same moment I reacted, the fingers I was gripping withdrew, slipping from my grasp. Too fast, too silent, no cues, and it was too dark to see what I was fighting.
She wasn’t the only one running interference.
Another flier, coming at me as I tried to take evasive action. Nailbiter, off to the side, was scaling a building, preparing to come at the van or come at me from the flanks. I focused on the flier for the time being.
She had a silvery glow about her, long, wild hair made wilder by the fact that she wasn’t human any more. I could see the veins running across her body, the fact that her body had incorporated her costume- maybe clothes. A high collar that could have been a hoodie or a collared shirt. A ridge at the hips and waist that could have been pants, with a pair of horns decorating the ridges halfway between where the belly button should have been and the nethers- by placement and protrusion, I was guessing belt buckle. The solid mass in the midst of the silvery nimbus was a dark purple.
Breaker meant on-off powers, ones that tended to ‘break’ reality. A breaker power meant there were other powers in the mix.
Hers was creating a foot-long blade at each hand, black, to contrast the silvery glow, flickering and shimmering.
I flew closer. I saw her stop in mid air, faster than any flier I’d seen, then immediately set off in another direction. Direction change on a dime. To turn that abruptly, I usually had to land, hit something, plant myself on some solid ground and then fly off.
Not as fast as me, it seemed, but far more maneuverable.
I drew in closer.
She hit me, and I didn’t see what with. A flash, an impulse.
My head was flooded with information. Everything and nothing. Every priority I had. March and the time effects, Love Lost and the hostages, Cradle and the people he had apparently butchered, who would be stronger if Love Lost got close. The team, the dynamic with the Undersiders, the Heartbroken, the kids– I couldn’t help but go to that. And from there my brain leapfrogged to the Major Malfunctions to Fume Hood and the other low-level capes who had been so neglected. To the major teams and that I still had to prove my worth to them. To the organization I was trying to set up- not in the sense that I wanted an institution, but I wanted to organize, and that meant something vaguely institutional.
I wanted to stop anyone from being hurt like I’d been hurt. I wanted to stop every Amy out there. I wanted to save every Glory Girl, stupid and barbaric as they might be. I wanted to help Jessica help Breakthrough and I was worried that by failing to stop Chris I’d failed her.
A surge of feeling, of paralysis and motivation in overwhelming measure.
And I’d been driven back by it, because it had tapered off as I’d pulled away.
Which meant the flier was free to continue.
I saw her course, and I had a pretty good idea of what she was capable of now. I halfway knew what she was doing before she used the black energy blades at her hands to swipe at a lamp post, severing the post that held up the glowing head. The metal crashed to the ground, and the van rolled over it, bucking, almost leaping into the air.
Rain steered, and navigated the traffic that was freaking out, people stopping midway down the road without pulling over after hearing the crash.
The van was almost recovered when Nailbiter struck again from the alley. Rachel’s dogs leaped, crashing into them, and instead of striking dead on or through the windows, they raked along the top, still forceful enough to topple the van, knocking it onto its side, directly in the path of incoming vehicles.
I swooped down, curving as I descended. I was almost flying horizontal as I hit it, knocking it out of the lane.
I heard a door pop open. Foil, climbing out the door that was now facing sky. She had the gun in her hand, for all the good it would do here.
I really hoped Chastity had revoked her power from our captives. Else we wouldn’t have her, and we’d potentially have an escaped Lord of Loss.
Mutant dogs snarled as they turned, facing the alley where an elongated Nailbiter was stepping out, a leering, stretched out smile of rusty nails plainly visible. Rachel shushed them, and for a moment, the only sound was of passing cars, and the crackle of the nimbus of energy around the breaker that flew above us, suspended in the air.
Those powers… what the hell had Love Lost done, to add another member to Rain’s cluster?