Options…Lilly needed options. In a perfect world she would have had time to think, plan, and implement that course of action. Unfortunately, this was the real world, and the real world sucked monkey nuts sometimes. One second she and her team were going to enact their escape plan, and the next the fucking wall exploded and Heroes were pouring into the place.
She recognized a lot of the spandex-wearing, brightly colored douches arrayed against them, but three immediately stood out. Her eyes snapped to Hunter. The big teleporter was her biggest worry. He limited her escape options, and the big ass gun he was unslinging from his shoulder would fuck up anyone’s day.
Hunter was bad, but the woman standing in the center of the group was worse. Reaper and Wraith’s eyes met for a moment. Lilly didn’t know what flashed through the other woman’s mind, but she wanted that bitch dead. That was easier said than done. Lastly, she looked at the guy who took a small step forward and opened his mouth.
Rage filled Lilly as Mr. Morningstar used his power on the crowd of criminals. A few of the weaker minded ones actually started to buckle under his persuasion, but only a few. Morina swayed a little on her feet, but shook her head before shooting daggers at the man. With her own internal fortitude and Nightingale’s nullifying armor, Lilly didn’t even bat an eye lash.
“Surrender and you will be treated with respect!” was Mr. Morningstar’s last line.
Lilly raised her pistol and put two shots downrange aimed for the man’s center of mass. They hit an invisible barrier a few feet from the group of Heroes, and she noticed another Hero grimace with discomfort. <Gotcha.>
Lilly’s plan was to overwhelm the telekinetic and put a bullet in Morningstar’s brain. The memory of him mentally torturing her by bringing Seth into the Protectorate’s little prison section nearly made her see red. If it was just the two of them she would have ripped him to pieces with her bare hands, but they had other things to worry about.
The Heroes probably had a plan of what was going to go down. Lilly’s team had a semblance of a plan that would have been better with more prep time. The people who didn’t have any plan were Nightingale’s new recruits, so they did what they did best: they attacked.
<What else are they going to do…just throw them back in prison. Those guys have nothing to lose.>
Lilly watched as the big guy who’d been speaking for the prisoners began to shudder and scream. His bones broke and his skin stretched as it went from a pale to a deep red. A crown of thorns sprouted from his skull as he shot up three feet, and his muscles and veins bulged. Fangs descended from his mouth dripping a tar-like acid, and when he finally opened his eyes they were twin orbs of crimson fire.
He roared and the shockwave echoed down the hall toward the Heroes.
<Holy shit!> now Lilly recognized the guy.
There were a few Supers – mostly on the bad side – who legitimately thought they were gods. Seif al-Din would have been that way if not for his twisted faith. The beast before them had terrorized the West Coast for nearly a decade before he’d been brought down by a team of Heroes. He called himself Belial, the Duke of Damnation, and he honestly believed he was a demon from hell.
Looking at him in the flesh, Lilly had trouble disputing that. He was strong, fast, durable, could breathe fire, could hold you in a trance if you looked into his eyes, and was just a good old mean son of a bitch.
“Lead us, Belial!” Nightingale screamed as she used her own power. Globs of black goo flew from the nullifier onto the big hell-beast. In no time at all she’d covered his entire chest. That was good enough.
Lilly felt a squeezing sensation as something – or someone – tried to squeeze the life out of her. It was unsettling and a bit uncomfortable, but she felt no less alert or drained in any way. <Fuck you, Reaper, and thank you, Nightingale.> Now it was an even fight.
Belial shook his head back and forth, gave another earth-rumbling roar, and charged forward. His considerable height and girth blocked most of the hallway, so Lilly didn’t see what happened next.
“You need to go.” She turned to Morina. One of the few people in the world she could call a friend.
“But I want to stay and watch the show.” The blood manipulator was licking her lips as she swayed on her feet. Reaper was doing a number on her.
“Maybe next time. You’d want to work with me in the future right?”
Morina looked at her and blinked with genuine confusion. “Work with someone?” It was like the thought had never even occurred to her.
“Yeah,” Lilly grinned. “I think we’d make a hell of team.”
“We could make the world bow before us.” Morina’s face lit up with a savage and truly disturbing light.
“Suuuuure.” Lilly glanced behind her. She could smell ozone. Someone was throwing an electrical attack at Belial, and his forward progression had slowed.
<Reaper and the telekinetic,> she surmised. <Hunter is probably repositioning their people now.> she’d spent long enough talking with Morina. They needed to move.
“If anyone but me comes to get you, you turn them inside out. Understood?” Lilly got an exaggerated head nod in response before a blast of darkness took the blood manipulator away.
There was a chance that Hunter would follow her, and she pitied the man if he did. Morina was no push over, and Hunter didn’t have any jurisdiction in that country. It would be a hell of a diplomatic nightmare.
“We need to get out of here.” Nightingale walked over to stand next to Wraith.
“Easier said than done.” Lilly tried to see around Belial as he struggled against the unseen force. “Hunter is a tracking teleporter. Wherever we go he should be able to follow.”
Speaking of the man, Hunter appeared in the other corridor with Mr. Morningstar and another Hero she didn’t recognize. Lilly had enough time to duck out of the way before he let it rip with his giant rifle. The shot blasted into Stal and threw her backwards. She screamed in pain, but it didn’t look like the round broke skin. It probably just hurt like hell. When she got back to her feet she was ready to tear someone’s head off, so Lilly obliged.
“Go get him.”
Stal charged forward and Lilly grabbed her as she passed. There was an explosion of darkness around them, and then a second explosion farther down the hallway. It was a short range teleport to get Stal close without having to take another hit. The strongwoman charged out of the darkness and hit the unknown Hero right in the chest.
Hunter and Mr. Morningstar had jumped away when they were overrun by the darkness, but the new guy didn’t know Wraith like they did. Stal’s hit carried them both through the far wall and out of sight.
“Get Hunter,” Lilly commanded. “If you can nullify him he won’t follow us.”
That was true, and it was what they needed to make their escape, but it also let Lilly get the last member of the group alone.
<Payback’s a bitch old man.>
Lilly grabbed Nightingale and they teleported the short distance a second time. Lilly felt the two Heroes as the darkness spread upon their arrival. Hunter had backed himself into a corner and was calmly swiveling his rifle back and forth. Once the darkness cleared he’d have clear shot at the two villains. Mr. Morningstar was on the opposite side. Close, but not close enough to get to before their cover dissipated.
<No…no…NO!> Lilly shrieked as she saw her revenge slipping through her fingers.
There was no question at all that Hunter’s rifle would blow a big bloody hole right through her, and no sense of vengeance against the leader of the Protectorate was worth that.
<No not yet!> she yelled at the darkness as it began to thin.
She flexed her mind, begged, and pleaded for the darkness to stay with her.
Surprisingly, it obliged.
The darkness held on like a fog around them. It wasn’t as thick as the explosion when she teleported, but it was there obeying her command.
<Awesome!> she thought as a savage grin crossed her face.
She didn’t think much about Nightingale and Hunter. She pushed the villain in the Heroes’ direction and left the rest up to them. She couldn’t care less if they both died, Nightingale still creeped her out.
Lilly’s attention was completely focused on Mr. Morningstar. The old Hero had his arms up in a defensive stance as he backed slowly away from the origination point of blackness.
<He has no idea.> Lilly struggled to stop a giggle from escaping her throat. Not that it would have mattered. Sound didn’t translate well in the black world she was clinging to.
She was conscious of a growing pressure in the back of her mind, but she ignored it in favor of focusing on her victim, and he was going to be her victim. She crept quickly to the side of him and watched his movements for any indication he knew she was coming. He didn’t, but his head was starting to move frantically back and forth. He knew the limits of her teleportation-induced darkness, and this didn’t fit with what he knew.
<Surprise,> she meant it for him, but the roar of Hunter’s rifle firing nearly made her shit herself.
The pressure in the back of her mind spiked and she lost whatever newfound grip she had on the darkness. The fog began to thin quickly, but she felt Nightingale and Hunter struggling for control of the rifle with the last wisps of shadow.
As much as Lilly thought Nightingale was a creep, this was a situation where she had to trust the other woman. Trust wasn’t something she had a lot of these days, but she needed to have it now. She needed to trust Nightingale to handle Hunter because she couldn’t deal with him and Mr. Morningstar.
Her repositioning helped her when the darkness faded enough to get a look around. Morningstar was looking in the wrong spot and not ready for Lilly to grab a hold of his shoulder and teleport him away. They landed not far away in another explosion of shadow. She gave him a quick kick in the spine before he could take a swing at her.
The old Hero grunted in pain as the kick threw him to the ground, but he hadn’t stayed alive so long in his profession by being a push over. He rolled with the kick and came up in a fighting position. Lilly didn’t even bother trying to hold onto the darkness. She just went straight at him.
Frustration, rage, anger and sadness empowered her blows. She danced around with Morningstar and ignored everything else going on around them. It was a horrible strategy, but she couldn’t help it. She was focused on one single goal: defeating the man who had torn Seth from her.
His fist hit the side of her face much harder than was reasonable for an old man, but she used the power and momentum against him. She rotated into the punch, engaged her core, and threw her leg around her. She aimed for his head, but he saw the move coming. He got an arm up to block. It saved him from getting knocked the fuck out, but she felt something snap under the weighted impact of her boot.
His growl only confirmed it.
“STOP!” He yelled as he clutched the broken arm to his chest.
The power washed over her, but she brushed it off and walked forward. He dodged her next few punches and backpedaled to gain more space to maneuver. She didn’t give him a chance to breath. She kept after him.
“STOP!” He tried again, but the power didn’t do anything.
She feinted left and went right. Whether it was old age, exhaustion, or the old Hero was finally panicking, Lilly would never know. The only thing that she cared about was when her fist lashed out and caught Morningstar in the throat. His backpedaling became a fall as his good arm shot to his mangled larynx. He landed hard, with none of the grace he’d shown after her first attack, and he didn’t get up. He coughed and wheezed and his eyes bulged as he fought for breath.
“It sucks doesn’t it?” Lilly kept her distance in case Morningstar was playing possum and waiting for a shot at her. “It sucks to be sitting there helpless while someone else fucks with your life.”
His face was getting blue and his movements were more uncoordinated, so she stepped closer as she slid the pistol from its holster.
“Take it in, old man.” She took a deep breath and resisted the urge to look around. “This is where it all ends.”
The promise she made to Seth flickered in her mind, but she quickly pushed it down. Mr. Morningstar looked like he wanted to say something. She doubted it was an apology, and she didn’t want to hear anything else.
She pulled the trigger twice and put two bullets into his heart before aiming high and putting a final round in his head.
<AH!> She felt the importance of the moment wash over her. <Whoever said revenge didn’t fix anything was so full of shit.> She smiled behind her mask and turned to survey the field.
A bullet hit her in the chest mid-turn. It was her turn to have the wind knocked out of her. She fell hard to the ground as her whole world spun out of control.
<Why do I always get the big homicidal monsters?> Daisy groaned as she pumped out electricity into the charging beast.
Her and Amped were tag-teaming the creature while Hunter took a team on a flanking mission. Amped was holding the shifter back with telekinetic force while Daisy pummeled it. She had the easier of the two jobs because every once in a while…
“Incoming!” Amped’s face was scrunched with exertion.
The warning was not needed. Daisy clearly saw the glowing fire building in the demon’s throat before it roared forth its fury. The inferno hit another barrier a few feet from them. It was still hotter than hell, but Amped was able to hold the two barriers.
They had a laser blasting Hero Daisy didn’t know the name of partnered with them, and she was taking shots at the demon’s unarmored head, hands, and legs. It didn’t look like it was doing much good. Every once and a while she’d get lucky and hit something sensitive. The demon would growl, pick up his clawed hand or foot in pain, and get blasted a few feet back by Amped before he got his talons back into the floor.
It was a game of back and forth. One side would gain some ground then lose it. It was all pretty pointless and they needed to change up their tactics. With hindsight being twenty-twenty having Mr. Morningstar bellow out for everyone to cease and desist was a pretty stupid move, but they had their rules of engagement and escalation of force procedures. They had to at least give the villains a chance to surrender. They were Heroes after all.
Daisy ceased her electrical attack and the beast started to crawl forward inch by inch. Their laser-firing friend let loose another string of blasts into the creature’s face. It didn’t do shit but make the creature shake its head, but if not for the blast of light Daisy would have missed it. She was busy looking for another target, and the light illuminated the damage the blaster had done. You could barely see it, but it was there.
Nightingale had wrapped her nullifying armor around the shifter’s chest. It was a dark, glistening black blob that shut out Daisy’s reaping ability and made the attacks on his torso useless. Or so she thought…
The light from the laser illuminated the armor as it continuously struck the creature’s head. The part where Daisy had been unleashing her electrical attack looked fine to the untrained eye, but Daisy had a shit load of training. She saw that the material was a little less black, and a little less shiny than the rest of the impromptu armor.
<Yahtzee!> she grinned as the possibilities ran through her mind.
The most obvious was that since the compression armor created by Nightingale wasn’t being reinforced by the nullifier, it had limits. If they hit it hard enough one too many times it would break. Then they’d just have to deal with the super strong and durable hell-creature, but at least she would have more options there.
“Hey, four-eyes!” Daisy didn’t know the other Hero’s name, but she had on some cool glasses. “Follow my lead.” She pointed at the creature struggling to reach them and unleashed another torrent of electricity into the creature’s chest.
The laser Hero followed her lead and they poured power into the nullifying armor. Under their combined attack, the armor started to show wear and tear. It went from black, to a dark gray, to a lighter gray, and then it started to crack under the pressure.
That was good for them, but the demon started to realize the situation and redoubled its efforts.
“Any time now guys,” Amped grunted as the beast slowly started gaining ground. “I can’t hold it much longer!”
It was amazing that Amped had held the giant shifter for as long as she had, but that time was rapidly coming to an end. When it did it was quick and without warning. Amped was standing there shaking with effort one second and then just simply collapsed.
The demon rocketed forward when the force restraining it suddenly vanished. Daisy and the laser Hero dropped to the ground as he soared over them. He took a swipe in passing, but missed. As he soared over them Daisy channeled a huge blast of electrical energy into him at nearly point blank range. The armor, which already looked like a thousand-year-old clay pot shattered under the force of the attack.
The creature landed ten feet from them and dug its claws into the ground to make a hairpin turn. Its throat burned red as it opened its maw to roast the Heroes alive, but Daisy beat him to it. She reached out and grabbed the shifters life-line and squeezed.
The fire died in his throat with a gargle, and he swayed on his feet. He didn’t go down. He was too tough for that, but he’d definitely lost his edge.
“Hit him!” Daisy ordered, and laser girl started pounding him with attacks.
He struggled to keep his footing as blast after blast struck him in the head, torso, and legs. His life-line was taut iron, but second by second she was wearing him down. One laser hit him hard in the shoulder and threw him into the wall. He slid down slowly while trying to steady his legs. She launched another blast that hit him low and he crumbled. He tried to get up, but she finally overwhelmed him. His whole body shuddered as he gagged and vomited all over the ground. Slowly the horns receded into his head, his skin went back its normal pale color, and he shrunk back down to normal size.
Daisy didn’t realize that she was sweating profusely and shaking from the fight. She’d used about eighty percent of her stored electrical energy to take down the monster. Laser girl didn’t look too much better, but they shot each other a grin. There’s no bonding experience quite like bringing down an evil asshole.
“Ok.” Daisy took a deep breath and refocused. “Grab Amped and get her to safety. She did a hell of a job saving us from being deep fried. She needs a healer ASAP.” She looked down the hallway where a number of bodies were sprawled.
Her attempts at leeching the demon and Nightingale’s team might not have worked, but she took down the rest of the prisoners who’d escaped.
“We need to get someone in here to secure the prisoners. Let’s…”
The resounding roar of Hunter’s rifle firing cut her off mid-sentence. She found herself running toward the sound of the gunfire without thinking. Her kinetic absorption was dialed up to the max as she rounded the corner in a slide to avoid any ambush. She slid into the opposite wall, pushed off with her feet, rolled, and came up running. In front of her was a gradually receding darkness that could only be made by one person that she knew of.
She didn’t go running right into that darkness because she wasn’t an idiot, but she stalked around its perimeter until it had faded enough for her to see. There was no Wraith or Nightingale, but she did see Hunter. He was on the ground with a blob of black firmly affixed to his back and a knife wound to his gut.
“I’m fine. The bitch snuck up on me,” he grimaced as he waved her way. “She went that way.” He pointed to a large hole in the wall of the prison that led out into the yard.
The sounds of fighting and gunshots showed that the fight out there was anything but over, so she ran to join the fun. She leapt through the wall into another combat roll to avoid any waiting ambush and came up ready to fight.
Destruction was everywhere. The maximum security prison looked like it belonged in Fallujah not Colorado. There were SWAT teams on the scene now. They were working inward from the periphery grabbing villains the Heroes had already taken down and securing them with whatever was needed to secure their powers. They were letting the Heroes handle the fighting unless they came under direct attack.
She pulled her eyes from them and searched the battlefield. It didn’t take too long to find Nightingale. She was sprinting across the open ground, dodging gunfire, and working toward something. Stal was with her. She was using her body to cover her teammate, and it was working. She calculated their trajectory and quickly saw where they were heading. Two figures were down on the ground.
<Here goes nothing.> Daisy sure as shit wasn’t going to let them get away.
Kinetic energy collected in the soles of her feet before she launched herself into the air. It was a high arch, but she was right on target. The SWAT team almost took a shot at her until Dispatch likely told them to stand down. She planned to come down right on Stal’s head. The strongwoman might be tough, but she was confident that would do some damage.
The two villains were hovering over one of the people on the ground. At the angle she was coming down, Daisy was going to squash whoever that was too. <Too late to stop that,> she mentally shrugged as gravity pulled her toward her targets.
She was still a solid thirty feet from her goal when Stal and Nightingale vanished in a puff of blackness.
<SHIT!> Daisy landed in a shower of dirt and grass.
She was angry for sure that they had escaped her for the second time, but that was nothing compared to the emotion when she saw the other figure on the ground. Her composure broke as she saw the lifeless body of Mr. Morningstar with a smoking hole in his forehead.
She felt an uncontrollable rage building in her that she needed an outlet for, so she unleashed her power.
She dropped everyone in a half mile: police, Heroes, and criminals alike. With everyone down there was no one there to see her cry.