Death from Above and Below and All Sides

Stephanie and I are back at Chez Venereal after what can only be described as a massive cluster-flit (man, Jules is thorough on this swearing thing).

Both of us need to recover a bit before I even think about going to see Torrie’s mother.

Stephanie: “This place is horrible! I feel like I need a VD test just from sitting down.”

Excuse me.

“Sorry, Miss Public University dorm-living scholarship woman, that the accommodations are not to your liking. Feel free to take the some of the massive bankroll you undoubtedly have and stay at the Waldorf or something more suitable to your refined tastes.”

Stephanie: “Please. I heard you call it Chez Venereal. You’re just trying to be a jackhole.”

Stephanie: “Wow! You weren’t kidding about the swearing thing, huh? Can’t even say jackhole.”

“Will you knock it off. I’m trying to give my two readers a thrilling tale of derring-do or whatever nonsense people call it.”

Stephanie: “Whatever. Listen, I’m going to take a shower. No peeking.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. By the way, do you have shower shoes or something. I only ask because, you know, things can get kind of sticky.”

Stephanie: “GROSS! HOW DO YOU STAND STAYING HERE?”

“I’m a firm believer in the adage “Ignorance is Bliss” when it comes to staying here, or any hotel, really. Plus, I have shower shoes. And no, I don’t want your gnarly feet in them.”

Stephanie: “I don’t have gnarly feet!”

“You won’t have any teeth either if you keep grinding them like that.”

noise identified as door slamming

Ah, blessed silence. Except for, you know, me talking.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

So, I’m following I-57 back to Chicago and we’re right at the point where it changes to I-94 near West Chesterfield when I spot Aeromancer and his goon-squad, the Preservers.

I made for the ground because I am definitely at a disadvantage in air-to-air combat with someone who can control air. Road pizza, I’ve found, is not a good look for most people, me especially.

We land in Abbott Park…and it’s full of people because of course it is. Serendipity and I had a nasty break-up long ago.

A crowd starts to gather around us. Which is understandable. I would be curious about someone landing a flying motorcycle as well. Unfortunately, it is the exact wrong move for these people.

“EVERYONE EVACUATE!” I scream. “THERE’S ABOUT TO BE A POWER-BATTLE!”

Necks crane into the sky to see if they can spot some well-known power.

I blame media glorification of super-fights for the lack of survival instinct. They mention civilian casualties, but it is glossed over in favor of “in-depth” analysis of the individual powers involved and political ramifications of said battles (which is a whole ‘nother post).

I even saw some intrepid reporter wannabe’s bringing out their camera phones to try to get video.

“It’s the Preservers,” an anonymous voice rang out. Clapping and cheering started from the crowd.

Ah, the benefits of having a massive PR firm behind you.

Having determined I was already going to be the “bad guy” of this particular piece, I decided to play the role to the hilt. I pulled my blaster, set it on Destructo-ray, and blasted a jungle gym into slag.

“GET THE H E DOUBLE-HOCKEY STICKS OUT OF HERE!” I roared.

The crowd scattered and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d deal with the consequences later.

“Get some spells ready,” I told Stephanie. I pointed her over to a copse of trees that would serve as decent cover. She looked pale and scared, but nodded and ran off to her position.

She’ll make a heck of a hero.

The wind picked up a couple of minutes later. I looked up to see Aeromancer hovering in the air, his power giving his team the ability to fly to the battle.

I suppose I should introduce his team.

Quick rundown:

Rapidfire- An Enhanced. Cybernetic systems give him super strength, speed and agility. Fully cybernetic arms allow him to change them into a variety of weapons including lasers, swords, axes, or whatever suits him.

Umbra- An Empowered of the Egyptian God Kuk. This particular Empowered is female, so she takes on the female aspect of Kuk, that of a snake-headed woman. She controls darkness and carries a gold-plated ax as her power-focus.

Tek-Knight- A Machinist of the Gadgeteer subset. He always has several drones flying about him filled with various offensive and defensive packages.

There’s our contestants, Johnny. Tell them what they’ve won.

One ticked off Douzeper. And one newbie Magician.

I put my shield on standby and opened my arms up, inviting them to make their move.

Aeromancer dropped his hold on his team and Rapidfire dropped, arms in cannon-mode, blasting away. I snapped my shield on and charged toward the falling man, blocking each blast. I pulled my sword handle and activated the blade.

While it kills monsters, it won’t kill people. What it will do, however, is make whoever I hit with it face the truth about themselves. It may not sound like much, but it can shatter a person’s mind. Take away all the rationalizations, all the little and big lies we tell ourselves about our motives and actions.

Most people don’t want to know the truth about themselves. Those that say they do are usually engaging in lying to themselves.

Rapidfire was one of those people.

I run fast enough that I met Rapidfire as he touched down. He changed his left arm into a shield to try to block the blade.

Fool.

My blade rammed into his chest and he screamed. I have no idea what he saw, but it was enough to drop him gibbering to the ground.

One.

Tek-Knight hovered near a tree using jet-boots. The tree swayed and branches lashed out at him, damaging one of the boots and sending him into an uncontrolled spin toward the ground.

Unfortunately for him, a tree trunk met his face before the ground did.

Two.

“MAGE!” Umbra shouted.

A miniature tornado sprang up and raced along the ground to the copse of trees sheltering Stephanie. Umbra raced toward me.

I pulled my blaster and fired off a shot at Aeromancer before Umbra reached me. It forced him to collapse the whirlwind and increase the density of the air around him into a shield.

The blast couldn’t penetrate, but Stephanie, in a wonderful display of tactics, threw a massive fireball at him immediately after. The magical fire engulfed Aeromancer and pulled all the oxygen away from him, leaving a singed and breathless target.

Umbra reached me just as I fired my second shot, her ax biting into my side. Blood spurted out and I screamed. Yet, my shot flew true and hit Aeromancer, knocking him out for the second time in a day.

He fell from the sky and pancaked into a children’s playset. Taking him out bought me a moment as Umbra watched him fall. I placed my hand over the wound and Utu’s power flowed through me, closing the wound. It left an angry red scar across my side, but I can live with scars.

My blade flashed and she blocked with her ax. Our movements became a blur of strike and counter-strike. She would create a globe of darkness around us, and I would burn it away. Day and night battled it out, with no clear decision.

Luckily for me, my teammate is better than hers.

Stephanie stepped from behind the trees. She gestured and stone hands grew from the ground to hold our fallen opponents. After they were secure, she strode over to the two of us. I could see her coming. Umbra couldn’t.

She didn’t even have to hit her from behind. All she did was clear her throat.

The noise distracted Umbra for a fraction of a second. At the speed we were moving, that was all I needed.

I knocked the ax from her grasp and my fist met her jaw. I heard a crack and her eyes fluttered up into her skull.

Teamwork works, folks. The Preservers fought as individuals and lost.

Intent is also key in a fight. They intended to teach me a lesson and didn’t press their advantages. We intended to win and win quick.

We won. And without killing any of them, which I am strangely ambivalent about.

The battle did take its toll on us and so we went back to the room to rest up a bit. Magic takes it out of a person, and the adrenaline crash after a fight doesn’t help.

Stephanie, in her first real battle, shook like a leaf. I was a bloody mess from all the nicks and cuts received from Umbra. So we took some time.

Which brings us to now. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Preservers again.

I just hope it isn’t soon.

Until next time,

Douzeper

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