I held my gun and trained it, best as I could when I couldn’t line up the sights, on an image of myself below. A scene too distant to make out the particulars of, but ingrained enough in my memories that I intuitively knew what it was. It helped that I knew that this search came down to picking one of the worst memories I had.
The longer I looked, the easier it felt to look past the darkness and the reds of the crystal itself and see through. A dash of gold atop a white figure, a backdrop of gray that was almost blue, with hints of red and orange from distant, cheaply manufactured lights. That gold jerked right, and a slash of crimson was left behind.
I itched to pull the trigger, to obliterate that scene.
Was it a defense mechanism? Conjuring up those images as we hurt the crystal and dug deeper?
No, I decided.
No, just the mechanism. Somewhere along the line, our enemies had decided strife and pain were more likely to stir up the kind of desperate, inspired thinking that they needed from the species they were terrorizing. So they catalogued and studied it, kept tabs on it. The triumphs too, the successes, but also what led up to those triumphs, which was often struggle. I hadn’t been on the battlefield back then, but at one point in the struggle against Scion, one of the Suits had triggered and another cape on the battlefield had helped everyone there keep hold of the glimpses behind the curtain that came with triggering.
The cape, allegedly one of the capes from South Africa, had not wanted to be named. Which was a shame, because they’d saved us. I couldn’t say if it had helped in the final defeat of Scion, but it helped now. Without that knowledge, we would be a people who had been attacked with no warning by our big golden savior, and we’d have no idea what was happening now.
We were fighting students of misery. They kept records of our struggles and weaknesses, and they administered our powers. Now, when we had the firmest grip on our powers and we were struggling most, they had more power over us than ever.
The scene replayed from another angle. I could imagine it was from my dad’s point of view.
A bit of golden-blonde hair above a white bodysuit. The Wretch taking hold of my mother, and swiping her against a concrete wall like someone might strike a match.
No illusions, no faking it. The people down there could see me high above them, the gold on my gun contrasted against the night sky, held by the same pseudo-telekinesis that had maimed my mother. They could see the repeated scene in the crystals.
I wanted to shoot now, to obliterate the scene, and make it so it wouldn’t play any more. To do something to refute it.
Not that easy, Victoria.
I kept track of the Titans while watching the people work. The Nemean Titan was prowling nearby, getting more confident in targeting capes as he got in close to some, stole their ability to move their own bodies or communicate, and got steadily more competent.
He didn’t move on all fours now, and he seemed taller and denser. Like he couldn’t scale a skyscraper without simultaneously toppling it, now.
Three titans operated on coordination, and in this screwed up dynamic, Skadi was now effectively on our side. Titans Oberon and Auger were on the far side of the battlefield, but the seemingly endless flesh monster were occupying them.
My finger had a tremor, as I held it near the trigger.
Seeing those images below made me want to pull the trigger. Raw, base level emotion.
Seeing the Titans on the horizon, the sheer devastation, I wanted to pull the trigger and do something about it all.
But I knew that being close to pulling the trigger might draw Skadi to me. Drawing her to me might mean there was one less thing fighting the trio of Nemean, Ophion, and the Stranger. They weren’t brawlers like Oberon’s group seemed to be, but they were combatants who could use the slightest bit of disruption to make that one point of contact. Nemean got close enough to steal away someone’s faculties in an instant. Ophion pricked someone with a needle. The Stranger stole sanity away with blasts we couldn’t see or avoid, short of staying behind cover.
The jittery movement of my finger almost reflected the three things pulling at me. An emotional and a logical drive to pull the trigger, pull it, Victoria. A feeling of wanting to not pull it and set the dominoes to toppling, where I couldn’t tell if it was logical or emotional.
Two things on one side, one thing on the other, I had to consciously put effort in to pull my finger away. It would be disastrous to fire at the wrong time.
Two smaller things, one huge, overwhelming, frankly terrifying reality on the other. The carnage would put lives at risk. People I’d put in the line of fire. That scared me more than me being hurt, pricked by Ophion, or having my sanity smeared out of my brain like I’d smeared my mother’s head against the wall. I had to stop myself from pulling too far away, or even dropping the gun.
Focus, be ready. Watch the Titans.
In the crystal, past the crystal, I saw glimmers of white. Floors and walls made of white, nonporous sheets of polycarbonate. One patch on the wall that was damaged, awaiting repair, with plastic sealed over it. Pallid flesh that was hard to distinguish from the white tile. And moisture, water being sprayed with the kind of nozzle that dishwashers in kitchens used.
Being washed, because I couldn’t wash myself. This scene captured my attention because I couldn’t be sure what it was, even if I knew the where and approximate when.
It started with a splash, and I knew.
I looked away, to track the Nemean Titan, who was getting closer to me, running, bounding. Not coming for me, not exactly, but veering closer to my direction as he chased a speedster.
I looked back to the tantrum.
I’m an educated, smart, well-dressed woman who can defend herself, who knows her shit, who protects the weak and hurts evil people.
Watch my naked, soaking wet, misshapen self tear apart a bathtub, scream -no sound when viewing crystal-pictures, of course-, and shove a nurse across a room. Watch her -watch me- try to smash my head against the walls and sides of the tub, to try to break the forcefield so I could rake myself with fingernails or bludgeon myself into unconsciousness. It was always back up just a bit too fast.
I’m a heroine, dressed in black and gold, who gives her all, collecting injuries around the edges. Even in my lapse from superheroics, I was working in the Patrol, trying to help the city and the people in it. Trying to encourage compassion and balanced views in the officers I helped train and educate.
Watch me at my lowest points, wailing, unable to even wash myself, getting sores in creases and folds because refusing to cooperate and let myself be washed was one of the few choices I had.
Dozens, hundreds of bystanders were down there, many of them getting clear views of the scene.
I could imagine the expression they were seeing on my face when they looked through the crystal. I’d seen it before, and not in a mirror. When one’s body was like chunky puke spilling out over a bed or filling a bathtub, skin stretched over it, body parts sticking out, it was possible to see one’s own face. Impossible to not see it, really.
A buried, dark part of me wanted to pull the trigger, knowing onlookers might be in the line of fire. It would mean less people would see me like that.
“Is that you?” I whispered. I tracked the Nemean Titan, and raised the laser cannon’s barrel to point at him, tracking his movement. “Is that your nudges and attempts to influence me, when those especially dark thoughts come to the surface?”
The Fragile One was still and unresponsive. No gestures, no lip movements, even as I relaxed my control.
“Or is it me? Was it me that decided to grind my mother’s face into a wall, unconsciously? Deep, buried feelings?”
“I’m trusting, with everything I have, that you’re on my side. Based purely on you answering my call and jumping in like you did. Like I would. Ever since I woke up, I’ve been holding onto that,” I whispered.
The Nemean Titan got close enough to a pack of capes that they dropped out of the air, no longer coordinated enough to fly in a straight line. I pulled the trigger before even thinking about it.
A golden light, cutting across the dark, ruined section of city, striking the Nemean Titan in the side of the head. Locks of the golden ‘hair’, probably more solid and rigid than any concrete, fell away.
He put his paw-like hand in the way of the beam. I adjusted, moving the cannon, and he was pretty quick in moving his hand to match. The claw took less damage than the rest of him.
His posture shifted, hair gleaming gold in the radiance of the beam. In that moment, I could see past the Titan to a Victor I had encountered in passing on the battlefield. A kid, intimidated and putting on a front. Very good at putting on a front, because it had been a skill he had stolen. I’d moved on to something else, because I’d been young enough I wasn’t allowed to fight the supervillains, only the mooks. The posture and stance had been very similar, back then.
Lasers joined mine. Red and violet.
He abruptly shifted footing, then leaped from a standing position to a damaged building. The building toppled as he used it as a stepping point to lunge for the source of those other beams.
His moves were raw efficiency. Oberon was power and speed, sheer ability and a weird kind of grace, if grace could be used in the same context as raw power, mass, and shockwaves being produced on landings. Titan Nemean resembled a martial artist in some ways as he streamlined everything he did. No wasted effort, one hundred percent awareness of what his form was doing.
He spun, turning quickly, and I almost missed seeing it. The violet beam slashed out, striking at his hand, following something in the air, the beam stopping short instead of continuing down to hit the city, because it touched something.
I flew to one side, and felt the air woof as it whipped past me. A dark, ice-crusted bit of concrete chucked my way, surreptitiously.
A second woof, a moment later, lower impact because I’d moved further away, and it traveled a slightly different course.
That would have ended me.
The card up his sleeve now spent, he wasted no time in repeating the effort. I saw Crystal and my Aunt Sarah use forcefields to block or deflect chunks of concrete I couldn’t even see in the gloom.
I’d run into a wannabe ninja who hadn’t thrown actual ninja stars with the accuracy this monster was hurling slabs of concrete and roofing.
I shot it, training my laser on it in hopes of putting it of balance. The beam had no recoil when I fired, but it did have an impact as it struck home.
Arms around its head, hand still placed roughly in the beam’s way, it crashed through a building that was already toppled, and dust exploded around it as it brought its arms out to either side.
This time, my warning wasn’t even a laser touching the projectile. A momentary flash of red across the sky.
I dropped out of the air, because down was the only direction I could move quickly while lugging the gun around.
Even though I was falling through the air with no connection to the earth, I could feel the vibrations in the air as it started running. I looked, and I didn’t see the Titan, but I did feel the vibrations growing more intense, second by second.
A trap. I could see the explosions illuminating a city street to my left, as capes opened fire on the Nemean Titan, who had moved around to flank me, using the cover of buildings and rubble while dropping down to all fours to maintain a low profile. Circling around to come at me from an angle I hadn’t one hundred percent anticipated.
Shitty thing was, it worked.
I dove low, and I let go of the gun, swearing under my breath. Had to drop the dead weight, while he closed in. Letting it drop to the ground. Drop my forcefield to cut back on air resistance-
-Glance over my shoulder-
-Fly over the crack, full speed, because he was closing in.
Do nothing! The thought was mine, a violent exclamation
A last-second gamble, only because I had no hand to play. I felt him get close enough that his power swept over me. Everything that wasn’t automatic was stolen from me. My ability to reach for my power, my ability to move my body, my ability to think. I couldn’t put a single coherent word together in my mind’s eye.
I was all disorganized thoughts and dull terror as momentum carried me through the air, heels over head, wind catching at my coat, whipping at my face and hood.
I followed the instruction to myself, staying limp, not trying to move or use my power.
The Nemean Titan stopped at the edge of the crack. I hurtled in a loose arc over the hole between realities, to the far side, where shattered concrete and rubble awaited me. Harder than a landing on hard ground.
I passed out of his range. My senses were slow to return to me. My sense of my own power was among them.
Wait, I thought, glad I could articulate at least a single syllable.
I took the last possible moment to pick up with flight, and found my grasp of it wobbly. A half-moment of uncoordinated flying that moved me laterally. Then upward flying, breaking my momentum. The air pushed hard against me as I hit the ground, gilded kneepads, boot-toes, and gloves scraping against icy road as I landed on the far side of the crack.
He loomed on the far side, head bent, while I panted for breath, because I hadn’t been able to breathe while doing that.
Something below had his attention. I was worried he was about to dive in, and I had no fucking idea what to do if he tried it.
Hesitantly, halfways hoping I’d get his attention in the course of it, I inched closer to the edge.
We’d picked an entry point where the highest point of the crystal landscape met the lowest point of our landscape. The crystals were close to the surface, and it felt almost like they were putting individual, smaller scenes together to create the shadows and paler sections to pull the larger images together, because the titan was large enough to warrant something huge.
A boy, blond with a cut on his chapped lips, boot on the side of a girl’s face. Boy and girl because they weren’t any older than Roman or Juliette. He held a narrow pair of scissors inside the girl’s ear canal, his boot hiding her expression, though her hands reached up to grip at his ankle and the toe of his boot as he leaned on her.
An adjustment of the scissors made her flinch, freeze, then stop. She didn’t move again as he removed the scissors and began snipping hair away from the side and back of her head. Kinky locks of hair wound into locks with gold wire fell to the floor.
A prolonged scene. The fighting between Titans was ongoing in the background, but the Nemean Titan didn’t move.
He stopped when there was nothing left to snip.
He looked back, ‘offscreen’, then took the scissors, still with lengths of hair sticking out around the place where the blades connected, and hesitated. His expression, distorted because it was painted across an uneven surface, looked concerned for a moment.
A moment later, he stuck scissor blades into the ear canal in one abrupt, smooth motion. Deep.
His victim reacted, thrashing, body arching. Her face was visible for only a moment and it was a dull blur. Not something the agent had recorded for posterity. He brought his boot up and back down in a hard kick against the side of her face.
Knocking her out. Maybe mercifully.
The scene tilted like the ‘camera’ floated underwater, unsteady, overcompensating. Taking in more. A young Victor used the toe of his boot to move his victim’s head. Half shaved, half of it scuffed and bruised, blood in the ear canal, the other half left alone.
A man I didn’t recognize or know, older, put his hands on young Victor’s shoulders. Two girls roughly his age approached, one of them with a smudge of blood around one nostril, a bloody handprint on her shoulder. Too old to be Rune. Wrong face shape to be Othala.
Maybe the younger girl was Othala. Maybe she came in later.
Behind them were men. A group, all standing together.
Attacking a family in their own home. Outnumbering them, because they were fucking cowards.
Welcome to Empire Eighty-Eight? More likely welcome to the Clans. An induction for the younger generation. Ugliness creating ugliness.
Gold letters appeared across my vision: YOU CAN SHOOT NOW. ASAP WHEN YOU GET YOUR GUN.
I nodded for Lookout’s benefit. I watched the scene, the group, the body of the girl lying on a kitchen floor. Another woman sitting against the corner, maybe unconscious.
My adolescent anger at Empire Eighty-Eight felt so petty. I’d seen the aftermath of beatings, I’d argued it, I’d hated them, but I hadn’t seen it or lived it. Always a background thing I’d gone out of my way to confront or meet.
It just… felt bad, that it was such a big thing, seeing it, but it had occupied so relatively little of my thoughtspace.
Which, I felt, was still better than living it by perpetuating it.
I looked across the chasm at the Nemean Titan, who was distracted by a shift in the distant battle. He looked back down at the chasm, at a scene of himself, a little older, at a stove with a cast iron pan in front of him.
He moved away, attention taken by the fighting, and the scene moved away with him.
Do you have any regrets now? I thought.
Do you feel one tenth as ugly as I feel, having this stuff exposed for the civilians to see? Is that part of you there?
I hope some dim part of you realizes that this is now how people will remember you.
The images of Nemean had receded, and other ones appeared. Rain killing Snag. The silver line, the cut.
The aftermath, when he fell to his knees by Snag’s body, broken mechanical arms limp beside his ordinary ones. The other members of the team making their way, our way to his side. To support, encourage. Or so it appeared.
Different, I thought.
Me as Glory Girl, facing down a thug. He struck me, hit the forcefield, and did nothing. I’d raised my foot, preparing to kick him in the hip. He shielded himself with his hands ready, backing up. It didn’t matter. Flight got me close, strength like I could manage didn’t care about what he did. The kick sent him skidding ten feet, ruined his hands while the kick still dislocated his leg from the socket of his hip. The sudden movement of his lower body had been enough to do some minor damage to his spine. Or so my sister would later tell me.
I’d stayed there, talking to him, taunting, until my family had arrived. Uncle Neil and Dad.
No reprimands, no punishment. Just a hand on my head, eliciting an annoyed look from me to my Uncle Neil, where I tried to fix my spiked tiara.
Different, I thought, again. They deserved it.
Scenes flowed like water. Always related in subtle ways. Always, depending on where we looked, the landscape was consistent for a given location.
Students of misery, yes, but specific miseries. This was a landmark point in the agents’ stores of physical ruin, maimings and destruction. At least for this sub-network. The landscape far below us was cracked, too. It had its own gaps and chasms. What lay us below wasn’t an endless plain, but a series of islands. What the Titans were doing was connecting the islands together into a discrete whole.
WE’RE WAITING FOR YOU GUYS TO MAKE A MOVE. WHEN YOU DO, I SAY GO AND OTHER TEAMS USE BOMBS.
I looked over at the Nemean Titan. He stood near my gun, but didn’t target it. I was almost more worried the capes who were bombarding him with powers would trigger something.
I KNOW YOU CAN’T GET TO IT YET.
I looked down. Some of the images reflected people in the crowd, people we’d sent down there. I saw Love Lost eviscerating Teacher’s cape in Teacher’s old base.
Some of the people there, or the way they stood together, were a reflection of the images. Pulling back, helping less, grouping together. Talking.
Wondering just who they were working with. What they were doing.
I’d bid them to come and they’d seen some monstrous parts of me. Monstrous when devoid of context.
Monstrous even with context, too.
The Nemean Titan tried to leap to get closer to a cape. Forcefields barred his way.
It was my opening. I chased, flying over the gap, mindful of the marker Kenzie had put around the Nemean Titan that let me and the rest of the team see the estimated range.
I could only hope that a stray blast wouldn’t hit the gun before I got there.
In my haste, I tackled the thing, flying right into it, finding handholds, and using momentum to get it moving by scraping the topside of it against the ground. Heels, feet, forcefield faces and other parts of me dug into the ground and snow to find leverage more than I aimed to stop outright. Even though I was skidding toward the Nemean Titan’s range.
I found the leverage, lifted the thing up, and started flying. I waited until I was more or less out of range of the Nemean Titan before I started shooting him.
The Titan whipped something at me. Three somethings- I could see amid the orange and yellow of fiery explosions. I veered to one side, and pulled back on the trigger, shooting somewhat blind in an effort to hit the incoming projectiles. I hit one, and shifted direction, turning my back to things, while putting my body between the gun and the incoming chunks of rubble.
I heard them but didn’t see them. No contact.
Without turning back around, I flew forward, over the crack.
That tremor caught my finger again. I held my breath.
The bombs they’d planted in the crystal landscape went off. Three points below.
It felt like the world stopped. A shudder ran through me, in a way I hadn’t ever felt. Like feeling your stomach drop during a rollercoaster when you’d never felt your stomach drop before. Feeling your bones rattle from an impact, when you’d never been that close to an earth-rattling explosion or collision.
Not my bones, not my body, and not my flesh.
NEED MORE. TWO…
The horizon was pink flesh illuminated by a hundred different powers with different lighting around them, if they had any lighting at all. Titans fighting, capes fighting with everything they had.
Except the lights had gone out. They’d all felt that impact too. The fighting had stopped for one moment, as everyone found their equilibrium, and the only lights that remained were from silver fire that kept burning in patches, or glowing constructions that still hung in the air. Minions that hadn’t disappeared when their masters lost their focus.
I almost fired on one, but the ellipses stopped me. Again, my finger shook.
Skadi appeared near me. I was anticipating her, and let myself fall, to buy myself seconds. She was a skyscraper filled with fury and violence, dropping in next to me with no warning, tipping my way.
So instead of merely dropping, I flew down, adjusting the speed of my descent, so the blade cleaved the air above me.
Fury and violence.
What happens when we obliterate the library where they store all their memories of violence and ruin?
Still falling, I pulled the trigger, and I went from seeing gold letters against a black and red backdrop to seeing the Stygean Blue aftermath of those letters, and the golden beam.
The initial impact elicited that same shudder as before, though it felt like it came from a different direction. The bulk of Skadi beside me reacted. She hit the edge of the crevice, found her equilibrium, and slashed for me again. This time I slowed my fall, best I could. It hardly mattered, because she crashed through the crack. I did my best to steer upward and break the fall while still aiming on target. For two or so seconds, I was off-target, hitting the ground five to ten feet near the blast zone. I found my target for two more seconds.
The laser punched through. It was like pressing my hand flat against a wall, pushing, and feeling the hand go all the way through. Except the feeling of breached reached through me, was me. My fragile agent. My power.
The strength went out of me, in a very different way than it had when I’d been flying into the region below. That had been like I’d been swimming through muddy water, getting thicker as I went down.
This was more like I was swimming and finding my arms and legs just didn’t have the strength. I hurried to get closer to terra firma, feeling that strength bleeding out.
In the distance, the wall of flesh collapsed, breaking under its own weight. Oberon was enmeshed in hand to hand combat with the other flesh-creature, and collapsed as it did. Ophion tipped over. A figure in the background, black as night from head to toe, with something like tv static buried deep within itself, dropped, and landed with enough force that shoulder sheared from torso. Skadi, who had appeared too late, was gone.
I aimed for it, firing. The beam lanced out, bright against the darkness, and sheared off part of its head.
No strength, no durability.
I felt the gun move, my hand involuntarily shifting, unable to point directly at it. It was regaining some strength.
“Hit them!” I screamed the words.
Hoping others would hear.
The gun’s shuddering as it streamed out its golden laser got worse, and with my powers being weak, the forcefield wasn’t strong enough to take it. With it gone, my flight went too.
I and the gun dropped the last ten feet to earth.
The landing was rough. The gun wobbled on landing and the barrel nearly brained me.
Lying on my back, staring at the night sky above me, I closed my eye, holding it closed until Kenzie’s camera display came up. I navigated through. Checking on the others.
Sveta had collapsed, her limbs and lower body a spaghetti tangle of very flat tendrils. A Number Boy was very close to her, kneeling. Whippersnap wasn’t far, either.
Tristan was grimacing, a blur tearing across part of his body, blue shades dancing with red ones.
Other capes, all around them, were struggling, trying to find their equilibrium.
In trying to get to him, I saw a glimpse of what Kenzie had been trying to capture on displays to send out to others, alongside Kenzie’s hands, poised above the keyboard, doing nothing. She was saying something, going by how her head moved, the glance to her right at Chicken Little.
That display showed the map of connections between Titans. A map of gray tendrils and bright white straight lines. A red x between two.
I looked over at Rain, moving on to the next viewpoint.
It wasn’t his eyes I saw through, but an external view of the space beyond the Dream Room. He was out there with Colt, next to a crystal pillar. Working.
Love Lost stood on a ledge, looking out over the side. One of the agents from within the system had felt what we’d done, much as the Titans had.
We’d hit them where it hurt all of them.
And in the doing, we’d thrown our own powers for a loop.
I could feel my powers stirring, struggling to find their way back to even footing. I didn’t push the Fragile One to perform.
Instead, wincing as I was forced to put weight on my foot, I tended to the gun, checking it over. One rough catch, two short falls. I couldn’t keep treating it like this and expecting it to perform.
The Stranger was starting to draw near, now, or its range was increasing back to what it had been. I could tell because the area I couldn’t bring myself to look at was shifting, growing.
They were recovering faster than we were.
THAT DIDN’T NOT WORK
I used eye movements and blinks to slowly navigate the menu back to the perspective where I could see Kenzie. In the course of getting there, I saw Sveta pulling herself together. Tristan wasn’t blurry or hurting anymore.
Tristan’s viewpoint looked out over toward the Titans. Skadi was off in the distance, and was hurt with one arm limp at her side, and wasn’t healing the hurt.
Ophion impaled Oberon, but the impaling spines were slower, shorter, weaker than before. The impaled Titanflesh formed tumors, but the tumors were small.
THEY WERE TRYING TO TAKE OVER EACH OTHER’S NETWORKS WHEN WE HIT ‘EM. DAMAGE RIPPLED THROUGH.
Capes were mobilizing. Tristan was urged to head over toward the Stranger Titan.
I wished our side was recovering faster.
RAIN GETS A QUIET COUPLE OF MINUTES TO MESS AROUND IN THE INTERNALS.
That was good. It could be what we needed.
SKADI ISN’T PART OF OBERON NETWORK ANYMORE. INDEPENDENT.
That was the red ‘x’, I assumed.
I gave lifting the gun a try. I was annoyed by the Stranger Titan’s approach. Moving faster.
The Fragile One was still too weak.
So I floated, mindful of the Stranger Titan’s reach and power. I kept a building between myself and my best guess of it’s location.
I watched the fighting, tense, waiting for the point our side recovered, and hoping we’d bounce back to one hundred percent before the Titans did. If the Titans could.
As best as I could figure it out, we’d nuked them right in one of their capital cities, but we’d still dropped a nuclear bomb on the same continent in which we all lived.
GETTING FIRST REPORTS IN: POWERS ARE DIFFERENT.
“Different how?” I asked the night air.
SUBTLE CHANGES TO A LOT OF CAPES. WITHIN TTSE, WHATEVER THAT MEANS. MORE INFO TO COME. BE SAFE LOVE YOU.
I knew what it meant, but I wasn’t in a position to address the team.
TTSE was power testing terminology. Training, Tolerances, Sechen, Evolution. Capricorn would know it. Powers were weird, powers changed over time. They could be trained with meditation or practice, certain uses pulled out, they could be strained to certain limits, and those limits weren’t just raw power, but included duration and range. They changed as our mood did, as we got closer to certain triggers. And some were just meant to change by certain metrics.
In effect, Powers were different, but not in any drastic ways that challenged baseline expectations of where a power might go with training or mood.
I reached out with the Fragile One.
I couldn’t tell, but I still had the control.
Still with me?
I could feel the Stranger getting closer. A little nervous now, I flew down to the ground, to the gun that I’d left there. I knelt atop it, and unfurled the Fragile One.
Hands didn’t reach handholds.
Are you weaker? Smaller? What happened to you?
The Stranger drew ever closer, and I felt a bit of panic. I didn’t want to leave my gun behind, but if I gave him another twenty seconds, he’d be on top of me or my gun, and I wouldn’t be able to turn my attention or reaching hands toward my weapon.
Forcefield fingernails dug into the gun’s housing, The hands that needed to be in certain places to pull triggers and hold the thing found those places.
Sorry, Gun, I thought.
I lifted it, and metal creaked. I didn’t trust myself to fire it like this.
But I brought it with me, and I scrammed, flying into the shallowest parts of the crack for visual cover from the Stranger Titan.
I could hear the fighting resuming. Powers partially or wholly back. Titans, as far as I knew, still limping. People in the landscape below were moving now, and they were fortunate in that they hadn’t really stopped while the rest of us had been reeling. Helicopters and trucks were audible, all in the one direction.
I kept an eye on them. I’d make sure they were safe to evacuate, distract any of the other Titans, and then reunite with my team.
Crystal and Aunt Sarah found me, falling into loose formation with me. It made me feel a hell of a lot better.
ALL TITANS EXCEPT TWO WERE HIT BY TAHT.
“Arachne,” I whispered. One of the ones who wasn’t linked in. Hunter. “And?”
TITAN FORTUNA DISCONNECTED JUST BEFORE THE BLAST, RECONNECTED. UNTOUCHED.
TITAN FORTUNA IS HEADING TOWARD SHIN. TOWARD CHRIS.