“What? The fucking Koitsenko are here?” Miya shouted over the riot. She sounded genuinely concerned. She wore some spare clothes Delta had given her, though they fit loosely. Miya stood shorter than anyone else in their group, which meant she barely reached Olivia’s elbow.
“Soon,” said Nomad.
“How do you know this?” Delta asked Nomad.
“Cyrus is keeping me in the loop, as much as he can. He’s the one that gave me the advance warning at HQ when Marcus put up the warrant for my arrest. He’s not out of the Unit though, at least not yet.”
They moved on foot; the others had been forced to abandon Delta’s car by the mob (Olivia had flown directly above them, keeping low). This time, Freedom Fighter’s soldiers were in the mix, distributing guns and generally stirring up more chaos. A lot more people composed this riot; they were in a more densely populated area than the first. This riot was very similar to the first one otherwise, only an order of magnitude more violent.
Olivia and the rest passed a group of riot police launching tear gas into the crowds, Olivia flew far around to avoid those grenades. A police helicopter made its presence known with bullets; still better than inhaling tear gas. That would probably completely incapacitate me. Her nostrils burned anyway, just by the virtue of being in the general area as the police launched tear gas grenades.
Like last time, the closer they approached Freedom Fighter’s location, the more violent things got. Dead bodies unattended by the living. Fires, looted stores, shattered windows, wrecked cars, combinations thereof. More screaming. Olivia’s group hadn’t quite reached the point of no return, where Freedom Fighter’s power would actively affect someone. More than likely this riot was inevitable, Freedom Fighter or no. He just made things a lot worse.
Before they left the lair, there had been reports of riots breaking out in New York and around the capitol. People dissatisfied with the current state of the economy and/or the government, or people who would use any excuse for violence, all took to the streets. Less violent protests formed in most other cities.
Olivia and her group made their way through side streets and alleyways. Rioters sometimes took shots at them, but by and large the riot focused more on the police, a visible symbol of what they protested, than they were on Olivia’s little group. Thankfully, their aim was terrible. Olivia hated flying so low, but the helicopters above them would probably spot her and shoot at her again if she went much higher. Normal handguns hurt, she didn’t want to feel what the much larger guns on the helicopters were capable of.
They ran below I-25, heading north. We must be getting close, there’s a lot of gunfire and shouting up ahead.
“We’re comin’ up on that fuck ugly factory. F.F.’s bolt hole is close, right?” asked Skulker. They slowed down as the top of the factory in question came into sight: a huge brick building, old, abandoned, the majority of the windows broken if not outright missing.
A voice called out ahead of them. “I seeeeee youuuuu! Gimme a torch,” followed by unhinged laughter. That doesn’t bode well. Olivia saw a pale man, smirking and staring at them from down the street. A swarm of people ran up from an alleyway behind him.
To their right, a large group of people, maybe ten or so, turned the corner and headed straight for them. Naturally, they all carried some sort of firearm, though otherwise none of them would stick out walking around on a normal day. They opened fire. “Get that door open,” ordered Nomad as he and Miya returned fire at the people to their right. Skulker and Delta fired in the direction of the man. I guess that means me.
She tried to door of the aging building to their left. Locked. Now what? Wait, I’m an idiot. She rammed the door with her shoulder, sending it crashing to the ground. Apparently I have a thing against doors, because I’ve destroyed about five of them now. “It’s open,” she called out to the rest, moving inward and out of the doorway for the others.
They filed in, Skulker bringing up the rear, pistol aimed out the door. Sweat, adrenaline, a little fear, but no blood that Olivia could smell from anyone. Skulker knelt by the door, pulling something from his explosives bag at his hip. “Claymore by the door,” he said over their comms, low enough so that no one besides them could hear him over the gunfire.
“Cut through, keep moving,” said Nomad.
Miya and Delta started moving, Skulker teleporting to join them. Olivia held back, waiting for Chris. She heard people shouting, approaching where they were. The building featured few windows and walls of concrete. That didn’t mean people couldn’t shoot through the door. Better I get shot in the back than you. He seemed to have the same idea, because he shifted to liquid form. Better a liquid get shot than me. No complaints here.
Olivia ran to rejoin the others, Nomad flowing behind her. Olivia gagged as something awful reached her nose. Something is burning, something that isn’t meant to be burnt. Then the wall caved in, a good distance away from the door.
In the newly made hole stood two men: the pale man Olivia saw moments earlier on the streets next to another, taller man. Kind of skinny, actually. The pale man wore the remains of a charcoal suit. Frayed bits of string marked where the buttons used to be, the right sleeve ended in a ragged tear around the man’s elbow, and a white-ish stain marred the pants. Don’t think about what that might be. At all. The once-white shirt beneath looked like it had been scribbled on with purple crayon. A noose wrapped around his neck in place of a tie. A noose. Why would it be anything else?
He held a rusty machete in his right hand, what appeared to be a burning stick in the other. On closer inspection, the stick had some sort of tar wrapped around it. She felt sick as the burning tar seared her nostrils, acrid smoke forcing itself into her lungs. The man holding it wasn’t much better. You don’t believe in personal hygiene, do you? The pinky finger on his left hand ended in a knobby purple stump.
In comparison, the man next to him was fairly ordinary. Dressed in green camo, he held no weapons in his hands, though a pistol holster was strapped to his hip. He wore a tan ski mask over his face, along with dark sunglasses. Behind the two men, more people like those on the street before rushed forward.
The pale man laughed and walked forward towards Nomad, back in human form at the sight of the burning torch. “Why thank you, Tod.”
“Shut up and kill the other, Membrane. I’ve got the feral,” responded Tod.
“Guys, help,” said Olivia on the comms, right as she heard gunfire from where they were. Too much to keep track of.
“Busy over here,” barked Skulker.
“I’ll skin you alive!” cried out Membrane, brandishing his machete and attacking. Nomad ducked under the swing of Membrane’s machete, trying to back up away from the man, presumably so he could shoot him. Membrane didn’t let up. Nomad would have to drop his rifle or keep dodging in hopes of getting enough space.
Olivia turned to help, when out of the corner of her eye she saw Tod move. Suddenly something hit her, hard, and she hit a wall, also hard. She barely had time to register the fact that Tod stood where she had moments before when he raised a fist and moved again. She hit the wall again, hearing it crack. Her head rang from being whipped into a wall twice, her ribs and shoulder hurt from where Tod hit her. Stop it.
Tod, now right next to her, seemed confused. Off balance, she tried to slash at him, forcing him to back up. Now with a little breathing room, she shook her head and regained her bearings. Tod still backed up, well out of arm’s reach. He stopped and moved forward, almost too fast for Olivia to catch. His punch connected, though he moved far faster than humanly possible. This time she did go through the wall and onto the street.
She started getting up, shoving down the pain. “How are you alive?” said Tod, right before he rushed forward again, with a kick this time. She managed to brace herself, and was shoved back a foot or two, her hands and feet leaving long gouges in the concrete of the street as the kick connected with her shoulder. She heard sharp cracks, and felt other, smaller things hitting her.
“Watch it, you idiots,” shouted the man hitting her. Kill him. She let out a threatening hiss and pushed forward. He tried backing up again, but she was done being cautious. She followed, now on two legs. He changed gears, darting to the right, then striking again. He didn’t hit nearly as hard as before, but she twisted, her heel claw getting caught in the ground and tripping her up. He drew his pistol and fired point blank while she caught herself from falling.
She grunted as the bullets hit the palm of the hand she held up in the direction of his gun. The man said something else, Olivia didn’t know what. Something buzzed in her ear, she dismissed it. He turned, trying to get away. Close enough. Her tail whipped around and the tip took out the man’s knee. He went down with a scream, and Olivia lifted her foot to bring down on his head. He rolled as she brought her foot down, cracking the pavement. More things hit her, prompting a hiss of pain. She ignored them otherwise; the man hurt more.
The man attempted to crawl away, having lost his gun…somewhere. I’m forgetting something. He’s not it, he’s not food, he’s beaten. Don’t kill. Shouts and gunshots came from everywhere, but familiar scents came from that building, the one with the holes in it. So did something bad smelling.
She reentered the building. There were two other men fighting in a new room; one familiar, a blue thing over his face and a rifle clipped to his uniform; one dirty and laughing. She heard and smelled other recognizable people further down in the building. A couple other people eagerly watched the two fight, fingering various weapons.
Olivia struggled to remember the name of the familiar man. Not important. Needs help. She grabbed the nearest bystander, resisting the urge to simply tear something important out, and threw her into the other two, knocking them down. Olivia followed that up by running forward, bringing her foot down on a dropped rifle as a man reached for it, impaling his hand. Olivia lifted the impaling toe and roared. The three ran.
“Your mommy died screaming in that car. She shat herself! Too bad daddy was already gone. No saving him.” The familiar man froze momentarily at that. Don’t just stand there. She struggled to remember his name, but was reasonably confident she liked him more than the other. Nomad! That was it. Tears ran down dirty man’s face, and his laughs sounded more like sobs, but he still advanced with machete in one hand, burning stick of wood in the other.
“How the fuck did you know these things?” Olivia heard Nomad whisper. Dirty man giggled/cried and swung the machete again.
Olivia let out a growl and moved forward to intercept the man. Alerted to her approaching, he swung his torch in her direction, prompting a violent spat of coughing from her as she breathed the burning tar. Nomad still wasn’t moving, though she thought she heard him whisper something else. Guns going off right next to one’s head deafened even normal people. Suddenly more shots rang out, from the interior of the building. More people to fight. A short woman was aiming at Membrane. Miya, her name is Miya. Don’t fight.
“The prodigal granddaughter returns!” Membrane shouted over the noise. Miya hesitated and stopped firing, lowering her pistol slightly before raising it again. “Yeees. I see things. Secret, secret, heart shaped things. Or brain, I never can remember.” A pause, the man twitched before continuing. “You will never find Don, or Overlord. And I’m here to make sure you don’t find Freedom Fighter.” The mention of seeing things evoked a recent memory. Membrane.
Miya looked stricken when more gunfire came through the holes in the wall, the gunmen probably didn’t care if they hit Membrane or not. Miya and Nomad took cover. People approached the doorway, but the first was killed by the claymore. The rest retreated. You will stop hurting them.
Olivia reached up behind Membrane, forcing herself past the burning tar. She tore the torch from his grasp, along with another finger of his, and threw it as far away as possible. Her other hand wrapped around his neck. He swung the machete at that arm, which bounced off harmlessly. She took that from him too.
Membrane grinned with bloody, or straight up missing, teeth (Nomad hadn’t been idle, contrary to popular belief) as he grasped at Olivia’s hand around his neck. “You can’t kill me! I’m already dead tomorrow.” Olivia threw him as hard as possible. He disappeared through the hole Olivia went through earlier. She heard a thud.
Olivia ran to where Miya and Nomad were. “Olivia, over here.” They had taken cover behind another interior wall, out of view of where someone outside could shoot them. Olivia’s ribs hurt. And her arms. And her head. And her back. And her everything else. Bullets hurt. Come back, adrenaline. And where are Ben and Amanda?
Suddenly, the amount of gunfire outside doubled. At the same time, less and less bullets came in. “Go, go, go,” said Nomad, pointing in the opposite direction. They got up and ran. They opened a door and came face to face with five heavily armed MHU officers, supported by two more hulking figures in power armor. Where did you come from?
“Don’t move.” The voice was eerily reminiscent of Delta’s, though Olivia couldn’t tell which it came from. Her ears buzzed from the constant audible assault of recent events.
Olivia hissed and moved herself between Nomad, Miya, and the rest. The two power armor figures raised their much larger guns in her direction.
“Olivia, no. Do what they say. Calm down.”
She froze, eyeing the officers warily. More boots behind them. We’re never getting this Freedom Fighter Business over with, are we?