The flaw in Seth’s plan became clear within twenty seconds. Morina had no idea how to climb down. Her legs were flailing beneath her and she was using nothing but arm strength to go hand over hand. Within ten feet her arms were shaking like she was standing naked in sub-zero temperatures.
“Wrap your legs around the cable.” Seth instructed.
“What?” Her breathing was ragged, and the only thing that kept her from plummeting to a broken leg was adrenaline.
“Look up,” he commanded, and once she was looking at him he showed her what he was talking about. “Now pinch your feet together with the cable in between.”
Her arms stopped shaking immediately. “Where the hell did you learn that?”
“High school gym class. Everyone had to learn to climb a rope.” Seth rewrapped his leg around the cable and prompted her forward.
She was still shaking from exhaustion, but she made it down without falling.
“Now what? Are you going to melt another hole?”
They were standing in front of another pair of elevator doors. Sounds were drifting down from above them now. The tactical team sounded like they’d been able to put out the fire and were repelling down to the empty elevator. It would only take them a moment to figure out where they’d gone, and another moment after that to stick a gun through the hole and start picking them off. They needed to move quickly.
“We’ll do this one the old-fashioned way.” Seth stuck his fingers in the groove and pulled the twin doors open. They opened enough for him to squeeze his head into, but refused to budge anymore. “Help me,” he cursed.
Morina grabbed one side and threw her whole body weight away from it. It helped a little, but not a lot.
<Piece of shit!> The anger flared, and with it his metalokinesis.
There was a shriek of warping metal as Seth pushed with his mind. The twin doors shot open and stuck open long enough for them to scramble through before he pulled and they slammed shut.
<Good luck getting out of that.> He knew he’d jacked something up in the opening mechanism. The tactical team was going to get to the bottom of the shaft and be stuck. <Unless they blow it open.>
“We need to move.” They were in a dark underground garage, but motion-sensor lights began to activate.
Government vehicles sat parked all around them. There was even an armored troop carrier squeezed into the back, but he ignored it. They needed to divert attention not draw more to them.
“Keys…find one with keys.” Seth called out and they went to work searching.
It was always amazing what people would do when they thought their vehicle was in a secure space. Nearly every car was unlocked. They pulled the doors right open and rummaged around looking for the keys. They checked center consoles, glove compartments, and under the pull-down mirrors. The cars might be unlocked, but so far no keys.
Seth was getting more and more worried as the line of cars grew smaller and smaller until finally, “Got one!” He checked under the weather mat on the driver’s side and found a set of keys.
It was to a big GMC SUV, black, with tinted windows, and he hoped it was armored but didn’t bet on it. Either way, the thing was going to guzzle gas, so they wouldn’t be able to get more than a couple hundred miles.
“Let’s go.” He hopped in the driver’s seat and started her up.
The SUV roared to life and he felt her power flow through him. If they were going to escape, this was the car to do it. Morina hopped in the passenger’s side, and he gunned it.
The smell of burning rubber filled the air and the SUV shot forward, passed all the other cars, and toward the ramp that would lead to freedom. At some point they crossed some invisible barrier, and Seth heart leapt into his throat. One second they were speeding toward the exit, and the next sections of the wall were popping out to reveal Gatling guns.
“Get down!” He yelled, but Morina was way ahead of him.
They couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the engine, but a whine emitted from all of them before a hailstorm of bullets rained down on the SUV.
It felt like angry gods were pounding on every square inch of the car, and the two of them would have been swiss cheese if the vehicle didn’t have some type of armor. Sparks flew and the front windshield quickly became a spider web of cracks, but the American-made auto beast just kept rolling.
“Do something!” Morina screamed. Her arms were covering her head and she was as close as you could get to huddling in the fetal position while sitting in a seat.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do?” Seth was trying to gauge where they were through the windshield and it was growing more difficult by the second.
“You can manipulate earth…we’re underground…put two and two together numb nuts.”
She had a point, but that didn’t mean it was a good idea.
<Ok, I can do this.> Earth was not one of his better elements. He didn’t have fine manipulation of it down like he did with fire. <This doesn’t need to be subtle.> He grinned despite the destruction flying all around them.
He flexed his power and targeted everything behind him. They’d passed half the guns firing at them, and doing what he was planning on doing was going to keep the tactical team from following them using their vehicles as well as silence those guns. He reached for the earth, felt it, and pulled. There was no specific target, no plan, he just pulled everything behind him down.
The whole underground parking structure seemed to wobble. It was either that, or the serious bout of exhaustion that flooded through him was making his vision waver.
“Shit.” It might have been the latter because Morina emerged from her protective huddle and grabbed the wheel.
Whatever Seth’s condition, it worked.
The earth began to crumble behind them. Smaller chunks started to rain down and deflect the rounds that were still trying to blow through the SUV’s armor. Those smaller chunks were followed by larger chunks until everything collapsed. The flashes of tracer rounds died behind them, and whatever power source was driving the guns in front of them must have been knocked out because they went silent too.
They were safe and home free, but stuff all around them continued to rumble.
“What the hell is that?” Seth’s foot was still pressed to the ground, but Morina was driving now.
<So tired.> Seth could feel unconsciousness gripping at him. <This shouldn’t be happening.> None of it made sense until he looked down and saw red gradually spreading across his orange jump suit. One of the rounds must have finally beat through the seemingly bulletproof windshield and struck him in the chest. With his fight instinct in full gear, he hadn’t even noticed.
Even if he had been one hundred percent, Seth probably wouldn’t have been able to stop what happened next. Unlike wind, water, or even fire, earth was complex and interconnected. You pull one stone out and it moved ten. That’s what was happening here. Seth had pulled a lot of earth down, and now something needed to fill the void.
“Come on you stupid piece of shit!” Morina was screaming at the SUV.
It was still roaring forward, but taking that many rounds had still done some damage. There was a grinding noise coming from the engine block, and them pushing the car as fast as it could go wasn’t helping.
Slowly at first, and then more quickly, the tunnel around them began to collapse. Even in his injured state, Seth could see the literal light at the end of the tunnel, and it was blocked by two patrol cars with four officers using them as cover. After driving through high-powered machine guns, Seth wasn’t worried about a couple cops with pistols. He pushed the pedal down to the floor.
The SUV charged forward and the cops opened fire. He couldn’t tell if they did any more damage, but they dove out of the way when the SUV flew out of the opening. They smashed hard into one of the patrol cars and plowed it aside. Morina pulled the wheel to the right and the battered and broken SUV charged down the mostly-empty street with its battered and broken driver trying to stop the sucking chest wound with his own hands.
“Fuck…fuck…fuck!” Morina cursed over and over. She couldn’t see shit and they were all over the road.
Seth was barely holding onto consciousness, and the SUV sounded like it was on its last leg. It all came grinding to a halt when they went up over a curb and hit something unyielding. The airbags deployed, punching Morina in the face, and sending a splattering of Seth’s blood across the front of the car.
“Come on…son of a bitch…” Morina struggled to untangle herself from the seatbelt and the airbag. She pulled out a knife and stabbed the airbag to deflate it. Then, she reached over, put it in reverse, and yelled at Seth to hit the gas. He did. She threw it back in drive, and yelled at him again. He complied again despite being nearly dead.
She reached into her pocket for her phone with one hand while driving with another. The display was cracked, but it didn’t matter. She hit the first number on her speed dial and hoped someone picked up. If not, she and Seth would both be looking at an eternity in an underground cell.
<Well, maybe not him.> She thought as she looked at Seth’s blood-soaked body, and back toward the parking garage he’d destroyer. <But I sure as shit will.>
They hightailed it away at the SUV’s new top speed of twenty miles per hour, but they weren’t going to outrun anyone like that. She really hoped someone answered.
Lilly came out of her teleport into a roll. It didn’t matter that the blast of darkness concealed her exact point of arrival because it blatantly announced her general location.
She felt the rounds of Hunter’s cannon rip through her darkness. His aim was off. He was shooting blind and hoping to hit something. That was a good sign. <Is it?> she automatically questioned. <Is he spraying and praying, or is he making me think he is so I get complacent?>
In the middle of a teleporter fight that type of thinking could only be fleeting. All it took was one wrong step and the other guy would get you; especially when two top-tier teleporters like her and Hunter were going mano-womano.
Teleporter combat was different than other types of Supers duking it out. Sure, other classifications of Supers might have to think like chess players – always thinking a few moves ahead – but teleporters were playing that chess game where there were three of four boards stacked on top of each other, and you could move pieces between them. Teleporter combat was three dimensional and hinged on a lot of different factors.
The first was speed, and Lilly was fast. She came out of her roll, planted her foot and pushed off with a burst of power. It threw her clear of where she was as Hunter continued to saturate the area with lead. She used her new-found command of her power to make the darkness linger as she slipped into an alley and out of sight. That was the second aspect of teleporter combat – the nuances of their powers.
Some teleporters were straight up transporters from Point A to B. Hunter was more in that classification than Lilly, but if she thought that way she was going to get a bullet in her ass. Hunter was second to none in being able to track other teleporters. In that regard, Lilly wasn’t exactly a slouch. She could use other teleporters’ rifts to travel to where they were. It was an unpleasant, bumpy ride, but she could do it. Nevertheless, however good Hunter might be at tracking, Lilly had her darkness manipulation, and that helped level the playing field. That led to the third aspect of teleporter warfare to take into consideration: the battlefield.
<To stay or go, that’s the fucking question?> She ducked into the side door of a building and took cover behind a counter.
Hunter would want to keep the battlefield local and use line-of-sight teleportation. He had backup here, and as an American Hero it would lead to international incidents if he ended up in other countries. The obvious thing for her to do was get the hell out of there, and normally she would have. Hunter’s power was one problem. He could follow a lot easier than other teleporters, which didn’t give her the advantage that bouncing around usually would. Second, she had responsibilities here. Stal and Nightingale were still around, not that she really gave two shits about them after the crap they’d pulled. She was more worried about what Damasdouche and Seif al-Din would do if she abandoned them. Last but not least, she was still waiting on word from Morina.
Worst case scenario she’d bounce, but for right now, she was going to fight one of the greatest teleporters of this generation. <There’s a reason they call him Hunter.> She tried and failed not to think about it as she caught her breath.
She pictured in her mind’s eye what was happening. Her darkness was fading, Hunter was clearing the area, he was teleporting down to a position with a better line of sight to where she’d teleported, he was checking the area for the rift of her teleporting away, he wasn’t finding any, he was advancing down the alley closest to where she’d appeared, he found the open door and…
There was the clink of metal hitting tile. <Shit.> She teleported away just as Hunter’s grenade detonated and shredded half the items in the small store. <If these people don’t have super insurance after what’s happened in the last few months then they’re retards.>
She appeared on a roof top and started sprinting away. Without even thinking she raised one of her pistols and fired blindly behind her. She didn’t know if she hit anything as she reached the other half of the building and leapt off… only to find herself looking down at the barrel of Hunter’s gun. She teleported and he fired at the same time.
He missed, but she was sure she’d peed herself a little.
<I need to confuse him.> It was easier said than done, but she went to work.
She executed half a dozen teleportations in a handful of seconds. That would slow him down. He needed to clear every point she’d visited before moving on. She came out of her final teleport back on the rooftop where the whole shitshow had started. She still had a bunch of her weapons in place and continued her ruse to confuse him. She grabbed a rifle and some ammo, but sent half her ordinance to one location, the other half to another. She made sure the booby traps were good to go once she left, and then she teleported to a third location. Not only would Hunter have to deal with a surprise when he arrived, but even after combing through the rubble he’d have three different options. Two led to dead ends, and she planned to be long gone from the third as soon as possible.
<You can be the fastest, strongest, best Hero in the world, but nothing…nothing…beats a teleporter’s preparation.> Her father had always told her that, and her personal experience validated it.
There was a reason she was able to stay a step ahead of the Heroes and DVA before hitting twenty. There was a reason she was wanted and infamous. She was always prepared. She always had an exit strategy, and she always had a trick or two up her sleeve.
She gave the roof one last look before vanishing. This time she held the darkness in, which resulted in an extra-large explosion at her destination across town. It was a mostly empty alley across for a rebuilt coffee shop, but nobody seemed to notice her arrival.
It was a good thing too, because her phone started vibrating like it was trying to get her off. She fished it out of her tactical vest and saw there were several missed calls and text messages. Each one had more capital letters, exclamation points, and profanity than the previous, and now the sender was trying to calling her again directly.
“Morina? What’s wrong?”
Her stomach dropped as she heard the blood manipulator’s frantic explanation, and all the preparation went right out the window.
“Where?” Was all she asked before there was a small puff of darkness and she was gone again.