The roof behind Ben exploded. He tore his attention from the peeling wall before him to twist around, catching sight of two metallic figures jumping down the new hole in the ceiling. Aw hell. The barrels of the rifles they held flashed, though Ben saw no sign of recoil. Roach’s head jerked back. Amanda collapsed.
“Shit!” Ben yelled, alerting Rob and Preacher, who still watched the wall.
Preacher flipped the table towards the gap in the wall as the figures from the roof hit the floor. Quarrel shot one of the figures in the chest, the bolt simply bouncing off the metal chest plate. Metal plates encased the lithe figure, with plenty of joints and seams to allow for a whole range of motion.
“Robot!” yelled Miya from across the confusing mill of people. A gunshot rang out.
Olivia hissed and grabbed one of them; Chris shifted to liquid form and barreled towards the other. The one closest to Ben jumped out of Chris’s way, far faster than even its small stature would have suggested. Ben drew one of the two knives in his belt.
Chris, still liquid, squared off against the nearest robot. It backed up a couple steps and aimed at Ben. Nope. Ben teleported to his left as Chris moved to cut the robot off on the right. Just before Ben teleported again, fire burst in from the ruined wall.
Ben teleported, taking himself out of the worst of the flames. However, his sleeve had caught fire. He clamped down on the urge to flail in panic and swatted the flames down while keeping moving with another teleport. Hot, hot, fire hot. Movement in his peripherals caught his attention. Ben turned, and the robot aimed at him. Enough of that.
He teleported to the robot’s right. As the robot swiveled, tracking him, he jabbed his knife into its stomach with a laugh. Surprise! The knife tip barely brushed the joint he aimed for before the robot bashed his hand away with the butt of its rifle. The knife clattered to the ground. Ben ducked as the robot aimed back at him.
Without time to draw his second knife, and the garrote in his pocket worthless against an opponent without a nice soft windpipe, Ben instead closed the gap between him and the robot.The instant he passed the end of the barrel, the rifle would only be good as a bludgeon. He grabbed the barrel of the rifle and the robot’s trigger hand, pushing up.
The robot’s shot went up, well away from Ben. The robot pushed back, nearly knocking Ben off his feet. His hand, his three fingered hand, slipped. The robot’s free hand released the rifle and struck him in the ribs. Ben saw stars. The next blow fell and Ben blacked out.
Ben regained consciousness, his head pounding. Someone was screaming. Something burning crackled. Something was buzzing. He suppressed a groan of pain and forced himself up to see just how bad things were.
Preacher lay dead beneath a door, a beam of wood jutting from his still chest. The robot and the unseen mage beyond the wall who controlled the flames tormented Chris with bullets and fireballs in the center of the room. Chris tried to keep to the center of the room for more options to maneuver, but the projectiles inched him ever closer to the corner of the warehouse.
On the other side of the warehouse, an absolutely enormous man closed in on Quarrel. Miya and Olivia had their hands full with the second robot. People popped up from behind the torn wall and shot indiscriminately into the warehouse. Oh, well this sucks.
The closest robot started sobbing, even as it fired a couple more shots into liquid Chris. He flowed out of the way of a fireball, and the robot turned its back on Ben to track him. Enough of that.
Ben drew his switchblade from his boot, ran a couple steps, then teleported to the robot’s back. The robot twisted around. He stabbed down into a kink in the armor of the robot’s neck. Its head twitched. He withdrew the knife and wrapped his other arm around its neck, stepping back to keep behind the robot and pull it off balance.
The robot let out a desperate scream and dropped its rifle. Its metal hands struggled to find purchase on his arm as he pulled it off its feet. You like knives? He shoved the knife into the joint in the stomach area he’d aimed for before. One of its hands withdrew from his arm and elbowed his hand. The knife stuck in the robot broke from the hilt as its elbow collided.
Damn it. Ben pulled it a couple more paces away from its discarded rifle. The robot twisted. Ben moved with it, keeping his grip. Its other hand quit grabbing at his arm. Uh oh. Ben threw the robot to the side and released it. It slammed face first into the ground. Ben caught sight of a knife in one of its hands. No fair.
The robot pushed itself up and on its feet faster than Ben ever could. Something roared in the background. Right as the robot advanced, Ben turned and teleported away. I ain’t sticking around to get stabbed. Someone across the warehouse roared. Then Ben glimpsed a bright flash of orange light.
He teleported again, and a fireball hurtled through the the air where he’d just been standing. The fireball careened into the far wall, leaving it warped and melted.
Someone shot at Ben. He teleported again without thinking, and barely dodged a swing of the robot’s knife. Then liquid Chris grabbed the robot from behind, lifted it into the air, and slammed it headfirst into the ground .
Ben blinked. I just watched a ball of goo suplex a robot. These are glorious times we live in! Chris shifted back to human and tackled Ben to the ground. A couple fireballs flew overhead.
“We need to leave,” yelled Chris as he climbed off of Ben.
“Yep,” Ben shouted back.
The gunmen seemed focused on Olivia instead of Ben and Chris. The fire guy, however, lobbed another fireball. Chris jumped out of the way and Ben rolled on the floor. How do you have so much magic juice still?
Quarrel joined them. “Roach and the others are gone,” she called to them, shooting off a long bolt into the arm of the robot. The bolt pinned it to the ground. The robot pulled at the bolt, metal creaking in protest. A small pool of brown oil formed on the concrete floor.
“Door,” yelled Chris, pointing at the ruined door.
They ran. “Preacher,” said Quarrel as they passed his body. She stopped.
Ben grabbed her and pushed her forward. “Not worth it.” A fireball hit the wall a bare foot behind him. “Move!” Fire hot.
She hesitated for a second, then obeyed. Chris shifted to liquid, then burst through the ruined door to the outside. Gunfire. Good man. Take those bullets. Quarrel went next, growling something angry at the gunmen outside. My turn.
Ben ducked through the door in case anyone still happened to be aiming at it. Chris had everyone fairly occupied, tossing a couple men aside like rag dolls. Quarrel shot the gunmen he didn’t have wrapped up. One man about two feet from Ben held one hand to the bolt in the leg, the other hand scrambling for a dropped handgun.
Ben kicked him where the bolt stuck out. The man screamed and collapsed. I bet that hurt. Ben grabbed his handgun off the ground. He looked around and spotted a small group of gunmen, five strong. Oh, hi guys. Hope this works. He froze time.
Ben broke into a sprint through the colorless world.
He ducked under a bolt, frozen in midair, and kept moving.
Still sprinting. His eye twitched. He shoved a hand in his pocket for his garrote, little more than a length of fishing wire strung between two bits of dense foam to keep his hands relatively intact.
His head pounded.
Blood roared in his ears. He reached the men. The two in front aimed at Quarrel.
Make it stop. He squeezed between the front two.
Fuck this. He wrapped one end of his garrote around the index finger and pinkie of his maimed hand and let time resume.
Before the gunmen could react, he shot the two aiming men and a third. Another swung his rifle towards Ben. He batted the rifle out of the way with his left hand, then shot two bullets into his chest. The gun clicked impotently the third time Ben pulled the trigger. Something slammed into his shoulder.
Ben jumped back. The fifth man swung his gun like a club. Ben backed up a pace and dropped the now useless handgun. The man froze in indecision. Ben faked a jump to the man’s right, then teleported to his left. Ben smiled. The man fell for the fake, turning his back to Ben. He wrapped his garrote around the man’s neck. His full hand caught the other end. Ben pulled and the man went down gurgling as the garrote bit deep into his throat. Easy day.
Quarrel shot another gunman, unaware of what had transpired behind her. Chris finished the final two men in his grasp and reverted to human form.
“Come on,” Chris urged. No one else appeared to try to kill them. And the annoying buzzing had stopped as well.
Way is clear. Fuck yeah. That’s everyone, right? Hold up. “Wait, wait!” Ben called to Quarrel and Chris. They hesitated. “Olivia,” Ben reminded them.
From within the warehouse, Ben heard Olivia roar. Then she was thrown through the wall. She came to a rest a teleport away from Ben. She did not move. Fuck. About to have company, too. Ben teleported to Olivia. She raised her head.
OK, movement is good. Olivia snarled as he approached. Damn it. He took a cautious step closer. She hissed and slammed a hand down towards his foot. He jumped back a couple inches. How the fuck did we forget you back there?
“Come on, it’s me. Get up, we gotta go.” He crouched down to get to eye level with her. She continued hissing, watching him beneath a black eye. She struggled up onto hands and knees.
“Olivia!” he repeated. “You remember me. You remember me, right?” He glanced up. The robot climbed through the hole Olivia had made. The massive man strode through the doorway, his shoulder shattering the remainder of the frame. Shotty?
“Ben, Olivia!” shouted Chris. He charged towards them and shifted to liquid. Quarrel stood between the empty streets and the enemy infested warehouse.
Olivia hissed again, even as Chris passed her and collided with Shotty.
“Olivia,” Ben shouted at her, leaning forward. “You are Olivia, remember? I am Ben. Come on, you know me.”
The hissing trailed off. Olivia hesitated. The robot jumped down from the wall, and three more bolts immediately struck it. In the meantime, Shotty waved at Chris like an annoying fly.
“Come on, Olivia, we gotta get out of here.” Ben extended his hand to her. Please don’t take more fingers. After a moment, she took it.
He pulled her to her feet. “Come on,” he said. Fuck, she’s heavy. She took a step and stumbled. He guided her away, her leaning heavily on him. OK, I can’t carry you. “Olivia, can you fly?”
She nodded. “Sorry,” she murmured. Sorry for what?
“Get out of here, we’ll meet up later. Go,” he said, letting her take her own weight.
“But-” she began.
“GO!” he repeated. He slapped her on the back for encouragement.
She jumped into the air and spread her wings. She kept climbing, even as men flowed from either corner of the warehouse and opened fire on her. Ben soon lost sight of her in the night sky.
“Quarrel, Chris, outta here,” Ben shouted over the sounds of fighting. Quarrel began to back up, but Chris stayed stuck to Shotty, who growled in frustration and continued to try to pull Chris off of him. “Chris!” repeated Ben.
Chris oozed off of Shotty, though he kept most everyone’s attention.
“What is he…” said Quarrel.
“Distraction. Run,” said Ben. Don’t think much can hurt him, besides the fire guy. The two of them ran off down the street.
“Our cars… this way. I drove,” said Quarrel between breaths.
They rounded a corner, passing another boarded up warehouse. Distribution center? Dunno. Ben heard a slithering behind them. Chris, still a liquid, caught up with them. He shifted to human, then promptly collapsed. Ben skidded to a stop, Quarrel following suit a moment later. Uhhh…
Chris lay in the street, unmoving. Not even breathing. The hell? Ben teleported to him and checked his pulse. Nothing. Right as Ben began to worry, Chris drew in a long gasping breath.
Chris groaned and began to get up.
“What the hell is wrong with him?” asked Quarrel, behind Ben.
“Power… kind of die every time I use it,” answered Chris as he struggled to his feet. “I’m good, can’t use my power much more though.”
Rapid metallic footsteps caught Ben’s attention. The robot sprinted after them down the street, closing the distance. Ben smiled. “Go,” he said to the others.
They ran, Chris managing to keep pace with Quarrel. Ben waved to the approaching robot. Its head hung to the side, swaying slightly as it closed in. You wanna play? Ben let out a low laugh, raised his leg, and teleported. His kick caught the robot in the chest.
Ben chuckled as the robot staggered. He stopped laughing when the robot pulled its knife back out and slashed. Nope. He teleported past the robot. Ben felt a grin form on his face once again. I can play the keep away game too. Another teleport put him further down the street. The robot gave chase. Speedy motherfucker.
Ben teleported again. He reached a chain link fence topped with razor wire. He teleported along the fence twice more. The robot stopped. Eh? The robot considered him for a moment, then ran in pursuit of Chris and Quarrel, ignoring Ben completely. I’ll have none of that.
Ben ran and teleported off. Right as he got in range, he lunged. The robot turned. Ben teleported. The robot grabbed him and slammed him to the ground.
He lay stunned for a moment. The robot walked up to him and struck. Bad.
Ben raised his arms, taking the brunt of the blow with them. The knife cut between his forearms. He rolled out of the way of a kick. The pavement cracked where the robot’s foot slammed down. He tried to jump to his feet, but a kick to the stomach sent him down again.
An engine roared, and a car sent the robot flying. Bwah? Chris opened the back door. “In, get in!” No complaints here.
Ben staggered to his feet and climbed into the car. “Go!” he yelled the instant his feet left the ground.
Quarrel hit the gas and sped away. The robot simply stood there, until she rounded a corner and Ben lost sight of it. Oh thank god. He sighed and leaned his head back with a smile. I’m going to be feeling this city for the next month.
“Know anythin’ ‘bout the others?” he asked after a minute, after regaining his breath.
“Roach got them to a hospital,” replied Chris.
“He’s friends with a couple of important people there,” explained Quarrel.
“That where we’re headed,” said Chris. They drove in silence for another minute.
“Preacher’s dead, ya know,” said Ben.
“I know,” snapped Quarrel. She took a breath. “Nothing I can do about that right now,” she continued in a more level tone. Well, I suppose that’s as healthy an attitude as one can have about that.
“Hospital people OK with us?” asked Chris, steering the conversation elsewhere.
“Yes. They’re good, and discrete. We should have a waiting room to ourselves,” replied Quarrel.
“Amanda alive?” asked Ben.
“Hopefully,” answered Chris. Ben closed his eyes. Fuck.
They walked into the waiting room of the hospital. The nurse who’d escorted them from the main office left them. Inside were Miya, Roach, and Rob.
Quarrel joined Roach, the two of them stood off to the side. Ben took the seat next to Rob. “How’s Amanda doin’? Do ya know?” he asked.
“They rushed her off to surgery the moment we got in,” replied Rob.
Miya hung her head. “Haven’t told us anything else,” she murmured.
“Did they say anything else?” asked Chris.
“Nope,” replied Rob, his face stony.
“She was struggling to breathe when we brought her in. I did what I could. I don’t… I don’t know,” said Miya, her voice cracking.
“Gotta wait,” said Rob.
Ben nodded. I’m not a surgeon.
“Wait, what about Olivia? She can’t come in here,” asked Ben. I ain’t forgetting her again, either.
Chris sighed. “I don’t know. Do you think she could have followed us?”
“She could. I hope.”
“Roof access then?”
Ben nodded. “Sure.” He walked off, looking for a staircase.
On the roof of the hospital, he looked around. Nothing. Fuck. Wait, cell phones are a thing. If hers is still intact. He texted her the name of the hospital. After a minute, he got a reply. Oh, cool, she’s still alive, and so is her phone.
Olivia landed hard on a clear strip of roof. She stumbled, then turned to Ben.
“Whoa, you OK?” he asked. Never seen her land that sloppy.
“Um, Amanda, is she… you know…” began Olivia, her words slurred.
“We’ll find out after surgery.” Olivia’s eyes widened. He blocked her from the door. “Nothin’ we can do, it’s up to God an’ the docs now.”
“Nothin’ we can do.”
Olivia collapsed next to an AC. She yawned wide. Is that a chipped tooth of hers I see? Ben squinted. Yep. “Sorry,” mumbled Olivia. “Tired.”
Ben looked around for cameras. I think this place is safe enough. “You fine with here?” he asked.
No reply. She sat with her head hanging, back to the AC. Is she… she is asleep. Good conversation. Now what? Maybe we can get her into a hospital room. Dunno. After a second check of the roof, he returned to the inside.
Ben walked back into the waiting room. Roach and Quarrel had rejoined the rest of them. Why do they care? “Olivia’s passed out on the roof.”
“You just left her there?” asked Miya.
“Dunno what else to do.” Too tired to think anymore. “Oh yeah, she had a chipped tooth. You may want to check it out.”
Miya sighed and pulled herself out of her chair. “I’ll take a look at her.”
Ben collapsed in her newly vacated chair.
“Would it be possible for her to have an unoccupied room?” Chris asked Quarrel and Roach.
Quarrel looked at Roach, who shrugged. “Maybe. I’ll check,” he rasped, getting up in search of some hospital staff.
The room fell into silence once he left. We’re a woman down. Don’t know what the Watch is going to do. We sure as hell aren’t just leaving her here, so we’ve stuck here for however long it’ll take her to patch her up. If they can patch her up. Nah, don’t think like that. She’ll get through, if only so I don’t have the last laugh. Don’t know what to do now.
Ben broke the silence. “Now what?”