I guess I got away with shifting my head as they don’t shoot me again. I hear three people arguing but can’t lift my head to confirm. Targets acquired. You know when your friend says “I got a plan” and the plan is to jump into the middle of a fight and get their asses handed to them? Well this is a bit like that, and I am a bit like that friend.
The kick hurts, I am not going to lie. Even through the layers of armor it lands hard and the best I can do is roll with it and hope nothing is broken. We know almost nothing about these people and their Powers, and that felt like either an extremely strong normal striking to kill or someone with enhanced strength just giving a lazy punt. Whichever it is, it’s enough to roll me three times and I use the last one to come to my feet facing them.
It’s the moment of truth, and I keep my senses on full alert to pick up whatever they will throw next. If they shoot me I need to absorb the bullets, but if they come in for hand to hand, I need to just take it and fight. Anything else and I could easily end up killing them by mistake, or taking off an arm or leg at the very least. They don’t shoot. Not so stupid as it obviously did not work tha last time.
Facing me are two dressed in full combat suits, complete with large G logos and matching colors of blue and white. The third is in sweats and a t-shirt, sheen of sweat on his forehead, as if a passerby just out for a jog. I hope for his sake that is not the case.
I dodge onto my left foot as some sort of neon green ray of force nearly takes my head off. Guy in the back near the boxy looking truck. I have had luck absorbing energy before, but with all the various forms and powers out there, it’s better not to take the chance unless I have to. For all I know it’s a disintegration ray. Coming from his head, which is a new one. He squints his eyes and lets loose another, and this time I jump back just to keep it interesting and unpredictable. The other two are using this to get closer and I need the space to speak.
“Name’s Barghast. How about you all?”
“Gentry,” the one in sweats offers. For all his sweat he seems the most at ease, which worries me. When the others say nothing he waves a hand, “This is Orphan, and back there is Metro.”
“Shut it Gentry.”
“Just being polite, besides which we are supposed to be Heros right? Can’t do that if no one knows our names.”
“I like them, I keep going back and forth on mine frankly. Did you choose or do you have a marketing team?” I dodge another green energy ray.
Orphan is the one that kicked me, and I get the feeling she would like to do it again. I also get the feeling the first one was just a love tap and the next one would put me in the hospital, if I survived at all. She was the worst kind for me to fight. And I still had no read on Gentry. Dammit, I am good at this: Concentrate. Start on the easy one and don’t think just, just feel.
Metro: Blaster. Energy expands on impact. Stunning? Capture? Some sort of restraint powered by his mind. He is not trying to kill me.
Orphan: Power concentrated in arms and legs, Strength and Speed, Brawler but well trained. Waiting for her chance and I have to be ready.
Gentry: Control type, telekinetic? Maybe metal, iron, more? That is how he could smell the blood from so far..
“I don’t suppose you would believe I am just here to talk?”
Orphan makes her move but I was watching for it. She is still so fast I can’t avoid it completely and take one blow on my armored forearm, while she glances her other elbow off my shoulder, throwing me further down the road but with minimal damage. She follows fast. Faster than me.
I get my club out just in time to deflect her rush, catching the outside of her wrist and jerking her toward and past me I just have time to dodge another blast of green energy. I am firing on all cylinders and even I am starting to get impressed, but I can't keep this up forever. I am already tiring and one mistake could put me down. And Gentry hasn’t done a thing.
“So what's up with you Gentry?” I try to get it out without gasping for breath.
“Off duty, but I won’t let it go too far.” Confident bugger.
“Stay out of this Gentry, she is mine. You too Metro.”
“She says she's just here to talk Orphan. So far she’s not actually done anything. We shot her remember?” I am beginning to like this Metro guy. He is talking the proper amount of ‘non-psycho’ that I like to see in a Hero.
“Bullshit. You both know this is a set up. We take her then we talk inside.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I should go inside. That is why I asked you to come out here.”
Orphan hits me again and this time she's ready for my tricks and I cannot deflect them all. I am a decent fighter, but she is better, and she has the speed and strength to back it up. Her arms become a blur, but it's the kick that once again connects, a hard heel to the outside of my shin which puts me directly on the ground. Again my bones are saved by Robo’s armored suit and I can feel it already reacting to the blow, cooling and restricting blood flow to reduce tissue damage and swelling. The guy really does know his stuff.
I roll up out of her reach but it's temporary. She could have pressed me when I was down but held back. So a bit of a Hero in there after all.
“What are you here for?”
And I thought she did not want to talk. But clearly having the upper hand has a way of loosening lips, and contrary to expectation it's often the one in charge that ends up talking.
This time I don’t hold back the gasp for air, “I wanted to see you. See what you could do. Make you an offer to join us.”
“We are being head-hunted/”
“Uh, yeah.. Sorta like that. Your contacts aren’t exactly listed on the company site so..”
“This is the worst recruitment I have ever seen.”
“I don’t know, I am making you think right?”
I gather myself and bring it to her this time. I don’t have much left so I have to make this count so I use power. Defeating her is not the goal, but I can’t seem too weak either. I need to gain their respect without embarrassing anyone. I am not as fast as her, and I am not as strong as her. But I can manipulate where and even in some ways, when, my body is. I don’t do it much as the effects can be difficult to deal with, sometimes literally displacing my sense of self from my body. But I have been learning better control and I put it to work.
She blocks my punch but I micro shift and my fist cracks against her wrist. I follow with my club which draws a stop block and I shift it forward, right past her hand into her clavicle. From the outside it must be too fast to see, looking as if I am just simply faster than her. In reality, I am taking out frames from my side of the motion picture, cutting corners to get through where normally I could not. She won't listen until she respects me. That’s alright, in that we are the same.
I am ready for her kick, and shift just enough so that for the first time it misses. After that I concentrate on her arms and wrist catching and striking with my club, making her feel it. Then I get the heck out of there, using one last shift to shuttle myself out of her range. I feel myself fraying a bit. I am ok. I am right here. The great thing about a full face mask, is they can’t see how much you are struggling.
It is her turn to stumble back and my suspicions are confirmed: Her Power is nearly all offensive, she may be tougher than a normal person, but I could hurt her. I did hurt her.
“Recruitment you were saying. For what?”
“Gentry! You can’t be serious!”
“Doesn’t hurt to ask. I am pretty sure we can’t get her inside, so might as well talk here.”
“Frankly, we are trying to stop the Guardians and GenRite from making more like you.”
“Why would we possibly help you then, “ Metro joins the discussion.
“For all your Power you seem like prisoners to me. Call this an offer to break you out and you can join us if you want. We don’t care that you have Powers, but we don’t want more.”
“Powered like you and me, we make effective weapons for them sure, but they aren’t satisfied. You know it- that is why they keep experimenting to improve and expand the destructive Powers. But I suspect not you personally right? Now you are just guard dogs while they create the next generation. A generation that could be used to commit genocide, destroy nations, all in the control of GenRite- a company that only answers to it’s shareholders. ”
“-Time to go-”
“-Dang it, I need more time!”- I try to subvocalize the response but it must be obvious I am talking to someone other than these three.
“-You don’t have it, Victory in 30-”
“Ahhh. TIme for me to go!”
“Wait, you can’t just drop this on us and run!”
“No choice! All you have to do is leave. Can they really stop you?”
I don’t think I have hooked them, but I can’t stay unless I want to get smeared all over the pavement, or worse: captured and put back on Ice. I concentrate once more on the waves of probability spiking and moving about me. In my mind it looks like a nearly infinitely peaked mountain with a tiny ball in perfect equilibrium, parked exactly where it needs to be to not fall either way. It takes me three...two… one..then I push the ball.