Hunting Season – Black and White

They drove through the dark streets in silence. There were few other cars, everyone staying off of the roads for fear of Freedom Fighter. This made Olivia somewhat nervous. We’re kind of sticking out this way. If anyone looks into the windows they might see me. Skulker and Nomad left their faces bare for that exact reason.

They had insisted on going by code names in costume, and their real names when not. Made things easier. Helicopters had passed over once or twice, but hadn’t stuck around. Skulker had a scanner built into the car’s radio to listen in on the police band. So far, they had heard nothing other than the usual chatter.

She didn’t like this. She realized that she hated being cooped up in tight spaces, but the back was full of Skulker’s stuff, and Nomad had told her flying wasn’t an option. They were looking for her, which meant aerial patrols were on the lookout for her.

Olivia nervously looked around for the umpteenth time. They were heading north, through a neighborhood called Lakewood. There was a car behind them, dark blue and low to the ground. Olivia didn’t recognize the brand or make, but it had been there for quite some time. Skulker and Nomad hadn’t said anything about it, so she trusted that they knew what they were doing. I’m just overreacting, it’s probably just someone going about their business.

They came to stop at a red light. They were at the intersection of two major roads, there was some traffic here, even at 11 o’clock. Maybe I should point it out. Couldn’t hurt.

“Hey, I think there’s a car that might be following us.”

She felt the change immediately. Their heartbeats spiked and she smelled the adrenaline. “What, the one behind us? All I can see is glare from their headlights. How long has it been there?” said Nomad, twisting in his seat to get a better look behind him. Olivia was mentally berating herself. She could see just fine, it was all in grey, but she could see everything.

“I don’t know. I noticed it about fifteen minutes ago.”

“Fuck, didn’t notice it. Can’t see through yer wings.” Olivia noticed that she blocked most of the rear window. “I’m gonna circle around. Keep tabs on him,” said Skulker.

They circled. The car was definitely following. “Yes, they’re following us. They fell back though. I think they’re onto us, realized what we’re doing.” They were driving slowly through a residential street, empty save for the two cars.

Skulker put on his mask in one fluid motion, Nomad pulled up his bandana. Suddenly a large black SUV backed up in front of them from the right, blocking the way. From the other side, another SUV came to life and cut off the route around the first SUV. The car that had been tracking them rushed forward from where it had been hanging back.

“Alright, motherfuckers! Fasten yer seatbelts, this is gonna suck,” shouted Skulker. He gunned the engine and rammed the SUV, jolting the occupants of both cars. Skulker swiftly put the Jeep in reverse after impact and backing up to ram the blue car before they could be pinned in place.

The second SUV had someone coming out of it. Olivia saw a man with a mask, and the image of a white eye on his shoulder. Then Skulker turned and drove on the sidewalk as fast as possible, refusing to be stuck where the eye people wanted them to be.

He tore past the first SUV, scraping the side of his Jeep against the front of it. Olivia doubled over at the sharp sound of the impacts, glass breaking, and metal shrieking and snapping. Oh, this is going to be a recurring thing isn’t it? Painful, painful noises. She gritted her teeth and forced herself upright. Gotta get used to it. An orange laser passed by them, narrowly missing Skulker’s door. Someone got off a couple shots; only one hit the car.

Skulker drove like a madman, fittingly enough. He flouted the very concept of lanes as he juked, barely dodged both incoming traffic and lasers, all while cackling madly. Olivia wished she were flying now, instead of cooped up and at the mercy of Skulker’s judgment. She shuddered a bit. I’m not going to abandon these two just to save myself. She winced as they came within two inches of being hit by a pursuing SUV. Though not being in here would be great.

She heard the police band talking now, talking about them. She was apparently the only one who heard it, the guys were busy concentrating on not dying. She yelled, “The police are on to us now.”

Nomad replied, “What, these guys aren’t just unmarked?”

“No, one had some eye insignia on his clothes.”

“OK, they’re The Watch then,” he said. She heard guns going off and Nomad yelled, “Keep your head down.” Easy for him to say.

The Watch was gaining on them, the car with the ruined front especially. Skulker suddenly skidded to a halt and proceeded down another road, the other cars scrambling to adjust. The Jeep wasn’t able to take turns as fast as the dark blue car, but they had the initiative. The pursuers were reacting to them at that point.

Olivia remembered asking why Nomad and Skulker didn’t leave her to her own devices. They had nothing to fear from the law, right? Only Skulker told her he would get convicted for other things if he were arrested, vigilantism primarily. Nomad pointed out that this Marcus guy would probably be able to get a bogus conviction on him, no matter what the evidence. And besides, both of them pointed out they weren’t going to abandon her when the going got rough. I could have hugged them both right there.

She was jolted back to reality when the car behind swerved into them, causing Skulker to almost lose control.

Nomad said, “We need a way to lose these guys.”

“Hey Olivia, you know how to set up a detonator?” Skulker called back to her.

“No.”

“Then I’ve got nothin’,” Skulker told Nomad. He barely dodged the car as it swerved at him again. Olivia had no idea exactly where they were now, somewhere nearer to downtown, maybe. The SUV’s were gaining as well.

Another laser lanced out from behind them, striking the road ahead and to the right of them. This caused Skulker to reflexively slam on the brakes and juke the wheel to the left. The car behind them chose that moment to hit their rear left panel, hard. Skulker lost control, and the car flipped onto its side, skidding a few feet before coming to a stop.

It took a few moments for Olivia to regain her bearings. She wasn’t hurt, but she wasn’t sure of the others. She smelled blood, not her own. Nomad had turned into goo before impact, he was reforming, albeit slower than she had seen before. Liqui-Nomad had no blood, so by process of elimination that left Skulker. He hung there by his seatbelt, the airbag had deployed and currently filling the majority of the space up front. Skulker wasn’t moving.

She could still hear a heart beating and lungs drawing in breath, which meant he was still alive. She could also hear other cars coming up nearby, the click of weapons and the impact of boots on the asphalt. We need to get out of here, get moving again. She climbed upwards, ripping the door above her off the hinges to get free. Oops. Oh well, Skulker needs a new car at this point anyways. Skidding on anything that wasn’t the tires wasn’t good for a car.

She got out and jumped to the ground. The Watch was beginning to form a semicircle around the Jeep. She dodged to the side, putting the car between her and the majority of them. Got to do something. Anything. She grabbed the Jeep, pulling on it and putting it back on its wheels as gently as possible. She left ten long gouges in its side, and she had no idea if the engine would still work, but it was worth a shot. Nomad and Skulker should be able to get out easier if nothing else.

She looked back at the Watch members, five in all. A woman called out “Nomad, Skulker, get out with your hands up. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.” In a normal voice she said, “Blackout, Whiteout, you focus on the feral.”

That didn’t sound good. She saw Nomad, still in liquid form, flow out of the broken window on his side. Skulker remained in the car. She suddenly heard a murmur from him, almost too faint for her to hear, “I’m playin’ dead, don’ worry ‘bout me.” To himself he said, “I hope she heard that.”

Then, suddenly, everything went black. A complete absence of light. She could see nothing. The only thing she heard was herself. Wait, is that…my organs? There was absolutely no other sound. She moved forward, immediately bumping into something. It had no texture, perfectly smooth and spherical. I hate tight spaces. I’m going to go insane if I can’t get out of here in about three seconds. There was still asphalt at her feet, so unless her bubble had been transported, she was still on the street.

She braced herself and hit the offending wall. Nothing. It was getting hotter, her breath getting shorter. And louder. What’s going on out there? She hit it again, putting all of her desperate strength behind it. Nothing. A third time, and it shattered.

“…it’s breaking through. Shoot it! Shoot it!” said the masked man she stumbled into, knocking on his back. She came upright next to another masked man on her right in the process of pointing a pistol at her. Nomad and Skulker were nowhere to be found. She dodged to her left, swinging her hand at him to disrupt his movements. Suddenly she was encased in the blackness again, no light or sound. She froze, her tail was extended somewhat, it hadn’t been shoved inward like it had before.

Three rounds suddenly struck her in the gut. She screamed, partially out of surprise, partially out of pain, and ducked down a bit. She hadn’t heard them coming. These guys really want to kill me. Ow, that hurt. Now she was getting angry. Just leave us alone. Don’t make me kill you.

Ducking had gotten her free of the bubble. She caught a glimpse of the black bubble occupying the space where her head had been.

She heard the man behind her get up, well within range of her tail. She whipped it towards him, harder than she should have, but she was having a hard time caring. Her tail met something smooth and unyielding…and spherical. Oh, both of them. I’m willing to bet that if I turn around, that force field thing of his is white. She snarled audibly, then lunged at who she presumed to be Blackout.

Blackout was in his early thirties and dressed identically to the rest of the Watch. The masks, or lack thereof, being the only difference between the individual members. The mask he wore was straight black cloth which covered his entire face, except for the eyeholes tailored in. The Watch wore the same combat fatigues as Nomad, she noticed, except his didn’t have the eye on it, and theirs were a darker grey.

Blackout managed one stray shot at Olivia while desperately trying to back up. Two separate black bubbles engulfed her, but she ignored them, as well as a white orb meant to trip her up. His shot went wide, and Olivia made contact, wrenching the pistol out of his hands and striking him in the short ribs with a closed fist, resisting the urge to use an open hand. Shoulda used claws. He crumpled, and she brought down her other hand, this time opened to slash, when a white orb appeared between her hand and Blackout.

She hissed in frustration and turned to Whiteout. He looked the same as Blackout, only with a pure white mask of the same style instead. Everything went black again. She tried to just walk through it like she had before, but was stopped again. KILL EM BOTH! She broke through with far more ease than the first time, and was again greeted with gunfire, though this time she barely felt it.

Her swipes were met with white force fields as she advanced. The force fields seemed to be taking a lot out of Whiteout, especially when they were broken, which was every other time Olivia attacked, but he kept moving. She roared with frustration, he should be dead ten times over at this point. They had wound up with Olivia facing the Jeep again.

Nomad had taken cover behind the engine block of the Jeep, in his human form for some reason. The three other Watch members were behind their own cars. Skulker wasn’t where Olivia had left him. There were sirens in the air, and Olivia heard the sounds of an approaching helicopter or two.

A woman in a black mask with three diagonal orange stripes across it launched an orange laser from her hand, the same kind that had given them so much trouble on the road, at Nomad. Olivia saw the air shimmer around the beam, and the car melted slightly where the laser made contact. Her mask only had one eyehole, which explained her aim. At closer range the laser was much stronger than what had been shot at them on the road.

There were two others without masks, a woman and a young guy, no more than twenty. The woman was the same that had ordered them to surrender earlier. The guy had various pouches and pockets attached to his uniform. Both were shooting at Nomad with pistols, the same that Blackout and Whiteout had used. Nomad occasionally shot with his rifle over the hood, but never exposing his head

This brought Olivia back. She grabbed Whiteout, who was in the process of reloading. “LEAVE US ALONE,” she shouted to his face, tossing him to the side, then rushing to where the people shooting at Nomad were.

Blackout was up, and made a feeble attempt to grab at Olivia. When she brushed past him he yelled, “Ryan, incoming!”

The maskless guy, the closest of the three shooting at Nomad, turned and withdrew something from his pocket. Olivia drew closer, and he hit a button on the side of a small grey box. Immediately a piercing sound, impossibly high pitched, brought Olivia to her knees. Her screams couldn’t drown out that noise.

She managed to look up at Ryan, who smiled. He called out to the others, “Got her.” He held the box, the hateful thing that was the current source of all of her woes, closer towards her. She tried to move, but the pain interfered. She couldn’t even think.

Suddenly, Skulker teleported between Olivia and Ryan, grabbing the box with one hand over Ryan’s and stabbing a knife into Ryan’s wrist with the other. Ryan cried out and dropped the box, but had enough presence of mind to duck his head as Skulker ripped out the knife and slashed it across where Ryan’s throat had been. Ryan blindly grabbed for the knife and missed completely. Skulker’s knife still got him on the top of the head, but it didn’t kill him.

The box had fallen to the ground, Olivia could see it through her tears. Ryan had managed to free his bloody hand from Skulker, who gave him a hard kick to the groin for his efforts. Ryan went down with a strangled cry, and Skulker took the opportunity to stomp on the fallen box several times. Just like that, the noise stopped.

Olivia started to get up, but Skulker put his hand on her shoulder, stopping her. “Cover yer ears an’ look away from Nomad an’ the rest.” Once she did so, there was a loud bang. She got up, Skulker had vanished, and looked around. Skulker stabbed into the elbow of the laser woman, whose other arm was also lying limp to her side, bleeding profusely. Nomad had assumed liquid form and gotten a hold of the maskless woman. Ryan was still curled up, and Whiteout and Blackout helping each other stand, no longer in any condition to fight. I’ll apologize to them later. They’re just doing their job.

Skulker yelled out, “Gotta get outta here, NOW.” The sirens were much louder, and the helicopters were almost upon them. Skulker ran to the car and dug his rifle out of the roll Olivia had brought. Then he grabbed a small duffle bag, the one he called the bug out bag. Olivia ran to grab something else, but he blocked her. “No, not worth it.”

Nomad joined them. “Guys, we need to leave. And Skulker, I want to hear about how exactly you did what you did back there. Now, we go that way.”

Skulker teleported with his bag, while Nomad turned liquid again and started flowing faster than one might expect from goo. Olivia started to run after them, falling behind fairly quickly. Wait, I can fly. There is a solution to this problem. She took flight, going far enough above that she could keep track of them. Soon, they had left the scene far behind them. They regrouped in an old car dealership, dimly lit and devoid of anyone else.

Skulker put down the bag he carried, and removed his mask. There was blood flowing from his broken nose, an eye was puffy and swollen, and Olivia noticed a tooth was missing when he smiled. He sat between two cars, panting, “Fuckin’ airbag had a hate on for me or somethin’.” Nomad had several cuts on him, by the smell of blood Olivia got from him. Otherwise, he wasn’t even tired. Apparently liquids don’t get tired. Who knew?

Olivia wasn’t tired herself, either, despite the fact that she didn’t have the benefit of turning into tireless goo. She hurt where she had been shot, but that was to be expected. Her head still rang from the box that guy Ryan had. That was among the worst experiences I’ve ever had. She’d almost lost herself during that fight, she was trying not to dwell on it however.

“Are you alright?” she asked, “Both of you?”

Skulker made a noncommittal noise that could be considered either a yes or no, while Nomad said, “I’m good for now. And Skulker, what was that back there? You were standing next to Olivia watching me get my ass kicked, then suddenly a flashbang goes off and you stabbed Lancer in the arm.”

“I freeze time. Givin’ me a bitch of a headache right now.”

…Wow. Cool.

Nomad sighed, “Can you make it about another mile? We’re close to Delta’s place now.”

Skulker slipped his mask back on. “I’m ready. Like Magua, you shall show us the way.”

He got up, and they set off again.

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