29: Monster

Olivia, Chris, and Amanda found themselves pinned between gang members cutting through the metal doors at the back of their auto-shop turned hideout behind them, and two more groups advancing in front of them. Even with Ben melting their heavy truck mounted gun, truck included, and several of them peeling off to track him down, a good dozen armed men with a motley collection of pistols and rifles approached the torn up and ruined front wall.

Olivia shook her back and wings as she got up off the ground, dust and debris from the heavy gun’s bullets sliding off her. She shot a glance at Chris and Amanda doing the same, from behind their overturned desk. What do we do? She’d warned them of the impending danger from behind, though with Amanda’s computers and cameras in ruins they had no way of knowing how many were back there. Chris shook his head.

“Jammer still working?” he asked Amanda, keeping his voice low to avoid tipping off their attackers.

She paused for a moment, gloved fingers of her left hand twitching as if typing something. “Yeah, but I’ll lose my wireless connections.”

“Your equipment is dead. Turn it on,” he ordered. To Olivia he said, “Five seconds. We’ll fire, you get forward. Get close.” He jabbed his hand at an office to Olivia’s left that only had a few bullet holes torn through it. They’d used it to store food before, perhaps the mini fridge had escaped destruction. Behind him, Amanda gripped her pistol tight with her expression hidden behind her helmet.

OK. Go to place. OK, I can do that. With the thunderous beating of her heart drowning out the typical rustling of people in motion, she tensed her legs and prepared herself to sprint. Five seconds passed slow, so slow that Olivia found herself looking over her shoulder at Chris to make sure she’d heard correctly. 

In that instant, Chris heaved his rifle over the desk and began firing, Amanda following suit a split second later with her pistol. Go. Olivia shut out the deafening sound of gunfire at her back and sprinted towards the shot up office. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted five attackers, halfway through climbing through the broken windows, scurry back in the face of unexpected stiff resistance. A bullet caught one of the five in the leg, sending him to the ground with a strangled cry. 

Olivia barreled through the doorway to the office, finding herself in a room with a huge chunk torn out of the front wall and a mini-fridge with three holes through it in the corner. Crouched low, she headed up towards the wall, near the edge of the broken window. Behind her, she heard Chris’ rifle fall silent as he ran forward. A moment later, Amanda did the same. 

Footsteps, not Chris or Amanda’s, approached under the sound of gunfire from the outside. Olivia poked her head around the corner. The attackers had been pushed back, away from the building and towards their cars scattered around the otherwise empty parking lot. Four men, hunched over much as Olivia had, sprinted towards her, out of view of Amanda and Chris. She pulled back before any could spot her. Wait for them to get close so they don’t shoot me. Stop them from getting to the others. I can do this. 

Her heart pounded once, twice, thrice. A man taking short, ragged breaths entered first, pausing only a moment to look in before vaulting over the jagged glass. One of the shock traps, miraculously still operational, sprang to life. A white bolt of lightning lanced down, catching him mid-jump. He collapsed to the ground, glass embedding itself into his flailing leg. Oh. That was easy. Wait. She heard a curse and several gunshots as the whiff of burnt hair burned its way into her nostrils. Rifle bullets tore through the upper part of the wall where the shock had come from. 

Someone tossed a rock through the broken window. Olivia jumped out of her skin at the unexpected sight, nearly charging out then and there. When no shock answered the thrower, a head poked in above his fallen comrade, this time taking a thorough scan of the interior. After a moment, his eyes came to lock with Olivia’s. She let out a threatening hiss through bared shark teeth.

“Found it!” he called out as he grabbed his fallen friend. “Where are those ‘nades?” The bleeding and unconscious man was pulled back through and out of her sight. Nades? Whatever, they know I’m here now. No more hiding. She pushed off of her hiding place in the corner and prepared herself to take a swing at the others right around the corner. 

With a hiss, Olivia rounded the corner, claws out and ready. Instead of seeing any other attackers ready to climb into the building, she found them beginning the process of retreating back towards their cars with their injured friend carried between two of them. They’re getting away. She vaulted over the broken window and ran in pursuit. A thought at the back of her head brought her to a stop.

Wait! Listen!

Olivia’s quarry reached the car line. “He’s got ‘em. Just keep shooting.”

“There it is!”

“Shoot it!” 

I can’t just run in like I always do. There’s fifty feet of open space between me and them. Olivia pulled back to her original position, helped along by several gunshots at her back. The attackers never pushed, instead preferring to keep her at a distance and take shots from afar. Their lack of enthusiasm with the destruction of their heavy gun caught Olivia off guard. Every movement she expected a charge or something awful to happen. Instead, they just kept up with occasional shots.

Olivia hugged the wall, only peeking around the corner twice to make sure no one was trying to flank her for over a minute. Amanda and Chris kept up sporadic fire with the gang opposite them. A quick movement out of the corner of her eye brought her claws back out, until a familiar scent caught her nose. Ben leapt into Olivia’s room, keeping himself low. A few inaccurate shots chased after him, hitting nothing important.

His grey metal mask looked up at her. “Rifle’s fucked. Comms fucked. How we doin’?” he asked, hunched low to the ground.

“They backed off. They’re about to get in from the other side though,” she replied during a lull in the fire. 

“I got this. Go tell Nomad.”

“OK.” She slunk back, keeping her wings tucked in tight to keep anyone from shooting them. Once out of immediate danger, she rushed off to where she’d left Chris and Amanda, finding them crouched behind the front wall, much as Olivia and Ben had. 

“Chris!” she called out. 

He took a look over his shoulder, then turned into liquid form and flowed back to her. “What?” he asked as he popped back into human form with a shiver. 

“Ben has my spot. They’re about to get in from the back,” she said. In the distance, muffled between a couple walls, metal shrieked as it was twisted and shorn. 

“Alright. You and me, back door. Ambush.” He looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Delta, hold this wall with Skulker.” She gave him a curt nod in response. 

Together, Chris and Olivia rushed off to the warehouse in the back. They barreled through the entrance to find themselves face to face with half a dozen armed men crawling through two holes cut into the garage doors on the opposite side of the room. We’re late. One man at the led, currently helping another to his feet, twisted over his shoulder at the sound of their entrance.

Most of the gunfire from the heavy gun out front hadn’t pieced that far into the building. The lights overhead still worked, and the part of Amanda’s workbench she hadn’t had time to pack up lay untouched. In preparation for an attack from the back, they’d scattered a few overturned desks and tables in a quarter circle, arcing around the garage doors. Chris sprinted for one.

“That’s him, Sanchez,” he called, pointing out the tan, muscular man staring at them, in old desert camo fatigues and a bandolier of knives across his chest. 

You. You’re the one we’ve been looking for. With a roar she charged, heedless of the two men flanking Sanchez who brought their guns up to bear. The claws of her feet punched into the floor as she ignored the shot that managed to connect to her shoulder. Sanchez finished hauling the man to his feet, who promptly scattered out of Olivia’s way, and drew a knife out of its holding place and flung it in one fluid motion. 

In a split second, something in the back of Olivia’s mind noticed danger. The knife shot forward, far harder and more accurate than his throw should have allowed for. She abandoned her charge, turning to the side as much as her momentum allowed. The knife cut deep into the side of her ribcage instead of her heart. She hissed and reared back.

Chris, utterly unnoticed with Olivia making a scene, popped up from behind a desk they’d turned on its side in preparation and opened fire, catching one of the men unawares and dropping him. With the gunfire drawing his attention, Olivia resumed her charge towards Sanchez.

“Boss!” called out one of his men as they scattered for cover. Chris helped them along their way with a few more shots.

Her claws grazed Sanchez’ forearm before he could pull it out of harm’s way, tearing four shallow gashes into his flesh. He whipped out another knife and drew it across his chest, nearly carving into Olivia’s own arm. As she hesitated in the face of danger, he backed away, his free, if injured, arm reaching for a metal ball at his hip. 

Don’t let him get away. Olivia kept pace with Sanchez, taking two wild swings at his chest. She misjudged the distance on her first swing, simply carving into empty air. Her second swing pulled against some source-less resistance as Sanchez pushed himself back and out of range of her claws. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw a small figure climb in through one of the holes cut in the doors. 

Sanchez pulled something out of the metal orb as he dropped it to the ground and sprinted away in the same direction as the newcomer.

“Olivia! Grenade!” yelled Chris before she could pursue. What? He waved his arm to the side. Get away? OK. “Down!”

The metal ball exploded as she dove down. Some tiny bits of metal hit her wing, punching straight through the membrane of the wing itself. One hit a bone, breaking it. She let out a scream. Kill him, kill him. 

With another roar and half deaf, she clawed her way back to her feet and charged Sanchez. Her own bed slid along the floor and caught her in the shins. Though she shrugged the blow off, her next step took her onto the bed, which then slid back and pulled her foot out from under her. With a smirk, Sanchez pulled the pin on another grenade and tossed it behind her as she struggled to get her feet back under her. He dove to the side and out of sight. 

Without the time to run, she swatted it away with her tail, sending it skittering across the concrete to the opposite end of the shop. One of Sanchez’ men let out a yell, before the explosion cut him short.

Chris, now a quarter way across the room behind their makeshift shower, called out, “Olivia!” as the echo died down. She bared her teeth in the direction of Sanchez. “Olivia!” Listen. Don’t be stupid. 

She tore her attention away from her prey and joined Chris behind the remains of the shower. Even if the curtains wouldn’t stop a bullet, they kept the attackers from seeing and thus aiming at them. They still lay on the ground as several exploratory bullets whizzed overhead. 

“Don’t bother using the desks for cover, their rifles punch right through. They’ve got three men, I go right, you go left,” Chris ordered under his breath. 

Olivia let out a frustrated hiss. They won’t leave us alone. 

“What?” he asked.

She took a deep breath. Don’t be stupid. “Sorry. OK,” she replied as she climbed back to her feet.

I keep complaining about fighting, then I wind up turning off my brain and getting into fights anyways. A bullet hit her shoulder, breaking her train of thought. She reared back with a hiss. Like that. Fight now, think later.


Olivia burst out from behind the shower. The repeated grenade explosions had ruined her normal hearing, but she could still smell someone moving to her left. She tracked it until something in the corner of her eye caught her attention.

Sanchez, with no trace of wounds on his skin, flung another grenade at her. She ducked her head and sprinted away from the impact site. The shockwave sent bits of iron digging into the desk she dove behind. Gunfire from Chris sounded off to the right, pulling Sanchez’ attention away before he could throw another grenade. 

A bullet hit her left wing, near the grenade wound as she climbed to her feet. The sudden spike of pain caused her to stagger for a moment, balance fuzzy. She locked her sight on the gunman, a thin man with a shaved head and lazy, hooded eyes who had a perfect firing angle on her, and rushed him.

He stood his ground with a defiant yell in his throat, firing two more bullets into her chest. She managed to clear the rest of the distance, taking a swing at his head. He ducked, letting her arm pass harmlessly overhead. The butt of his rifle snapped to the knife wound in the side of her chest. She flinched, pulling her arm back to protect herself. With a hiss, she snapped forward with her mouth, coming within an inch of his throat as he ducked back once again. She took a step forward as he tried to bring his rifle back up to fire once more. Her hand came up and caught the body of the rifle, sending a shot somewhere in the ceiling. With her claws digging into the metal and rendering it worthless, she pulled back before he could realize what had happened and release it. Her second swing caught his throat with her claws, nearly tearing his head off. 

As her adversary collapsed to the ground, she spun around to take stock. Chris, or Sanchez, had closed the gap between each other, Sanchez’ last man wheezing on the ground with a bullet in his chest. As Chris took aim with his rifle, Sanchez let out a roar and flung two knives in quick succession at him.

Chris snapped into liquid form, the knives sliding into his pale blue blob form. He flowed towards Sanchez, crashing into the heavy plastic box Sanchez threw in his way. Chris popped the knives out of his body and snapped back to human form, rifle already raised and aimed in Sanchez’ general direction. Before Chris could pull the trigger the lid of the box flew up, sending his shots wide and Sanchez dove for cover. Another wicked fast knife forced Chris back into his gun-less blob form. Help.

Olivia let out a roar from across the room. Sanchez, now well trained to listen for that particular danger, spun towards her, knives flashing out only to find empty space instead of a charging feral. Nomad threw out a tendril that caught Sanchez’ leg, pinning him in place as the bulk of Nomad reared up. He caught Sanchez in the head and slammed it into the concrete. The man lay still as Nomad flowed off him and snapped back to human form, a pool of blood spreading from the impact site.

Olivia stared for a moment at the man she’d just met, now dead on the floor, who’d been trying to kill them, and they had been trying to kill in turn. That’s it? We’re done? Wait. She spun in the direction she’d last heard his gunmen, only to find no one. She heard footsteps slapping against the pavement, retreating to cars in the back.

Chris, spotting her distant look, shouldered his rifle and leaned against a wall. He poked his head just around, then turned back to her with a smile unmistakable under his bandana. “I think that’s it. They’re running.” He double checked as Olivia lumbered over to see for herself. Just as he said, only one empty car, its doors still left wide open, remained in the back lot. “I’ll keep an eye out here in case any come back. You check out front.”

He’s dead, she thought as she walked in a near daze. All these weeks. And he’s dead, just like that. He had a name. Everyone has a name, I guess, but I knew his. It’s that easy to die?

She found Amanda and Ben pushed back to the relative safety of the building and front offices. The two sides fired potshots at each other from behind cover, Amanda and Ben being only two, and the gang content to keep them busy for their boss. White gunpowder smoke drifted through the air between them. Enough. With neither the time nor the patience for strategy, Olivia rounded a corner and trudged forward, intent on breaking the line or causing a distraction for the others. She braced herself for gunfire that never came. After a few long strides, the gunfire from the gang stopped completely.

“Fuck this.”

The retreat started slowly, half slipping back as the others at least pretended to keep up cover. A few more steps from Olivia and they abandoned all pretenses, the retreat turning into a mad dash for their remaining intact cars. She stopped, not even past the front door, as the last car peeled out of the front parking lot, tires screeching against asphalt. Amanda lowered her pistol, watching as it turned a corner and vanished. 

“Was that the last of them?” she asked Olivia. 

“I think so,” replied Olivia. I can’t hear any more shooting. Or shouting.

“Fuck yeah!” exclaimed Ben, jumping up and landing a light punch on Olivia’s shoulder.

Amanda holstered her gun and picked one of her shock batons up from the ground. “Holy shit, we’re alive. Are you injured?”

Olivia’s response died in her throat as she caught the sound of panicked breathing, light and small from within their hideout. Another one? They sound weird. She stomped over to the source within an old office, Amanda and Ben right behind her, and pulled back an overturned desk.

“Wait, wait!” cried the young woman crouched behind it, holding her hands up in surrender. Olivia blinked at the sight of her shaved head, dark hair only just starting to grow back. Brown eyes locked on to Olivia’s, with a strange mixture of fear and anger. Dull red spots pockmarked her temples and high, prominent cheeks. She’s so little. 

2 thoughts on “29: Monster

  1. And the two plotlines finally converge. This is great! I’m excited for the next downtime chapter….

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