“O-other one?” Ramona got into what she hoped at least looked like a combat stance, keeping her eye on Cameron.
The transformed woman bared her teeth in an overtly bestial display. “You were one of the two that got pinned down in the store and disappeared. So where is the other one?”
Ramona balled her hands into fists. “Like I’d tell you that,” she said, feigning defiance.
Without any preamble, Cameron shot her in the knee.
Trying to scream with a throat no longer made for it, Ramona crumpled to the ground. “Gah! God, why?”
Cameron moved forward with fluid grace and knelt, putting the barrel of her pistol right over where Ramona’s uninjured kneecap would be. “Because I find pain to be a good motivator. Now unless you want more, tell me where the other one is.”
“Wait,” Ramona pled, “you don’t get it: I’m new to all this. This is my first day and this had to happen. We didn’t even expect to find you guys when we came here—not until your guys started shooting. Then we got separated and… look, please don’t hurt me anymore. I don’t know anything. I got lost and—“
Another shot, right through where he kneecap would be. She screamed as best she could. “I told you I didn’t know! Why? God, why?”
Once more, Cameron bared her teeth. “Because I hate your kind. Forgotten science experiments and mistakes perpetuating yourselves through our bloodlines. If it’s allowed to keep up like this, future humanity’ll look like you—and you’re the ugliest freak I’ve ever had the pleasure of killing.”
She chuckled deep in her throat. “So maybe you know something, maybe you don’t. But now, I don’t really care. I’ll hunt the other one down soon enough. You can take whatever information you have to your grave.” With that, she moved the muzzle of the pistol to Ramona’s temple.
“Wait! Before you do that, can you tell me something?”
Cameron barked a laugh. “What?”
Instead of asking a question, she swung her right fist at full force, shifting as much as her mass as she dared into it. With Cameron so close and so focused on being menacing, there was no time to dodge, block or try to roll with the punch.
A single crashing blow rocked Cameron back on her heels, sending her careening back until her head slammed into the rock wall behind he. If that wasn’t enough, she ended up biting her tongue with her extra-sharp teeth. Blood poured out of her mouth as she tried to howl a curse.
Ramona rose—for lack of a better word—fluidly back to her feet, legs more or less unimpeded by the lead slugs in her knees. There was no pain, only pressure, as she backpedaled from her enemy and toward the door. Her engorged fist shrank and reformed into a long spike as she glared at Cameron who was struggling to her feet.
“I was telling the truth about this being my first day. The name’s Glass, by the way: remember it when the rest of my team toss you in jail!”
Pivoting, she drove the spike into one of the fan ports in the door, concentrating with all her might on keeping the weapon solid and sharp. The screens covering the fan on either side and the fan itself were smashed apart as she forced her weaponized arm into the room beyond.
Hooking it in place, she pulled herself through, essentially pouring herself into the room like she did to enter the mines in the first place. She fell into the room in an unorganized blob of liquid glass and uniform material. Used to the disorientation by now, she shook it off quickly and reformed herself while the men inside were still leaping up from their seats.
With a shout, she barreled into the nearest one, tackling him back against the bank of security monitors behind him. Refusing to stop, she straightened out and whipped around, catching the other in the mouth with the back of her hand, then doubling him over with a wild haymaker.
There wasn’t any style or technique to the attack, just the element of surprise and strength and speed born of desperation. As the second man folded into her punch Ramona grabbed the back of his shirt and shoved him hard into the first just as he recovered from being struck. They both went over the back of the first man’s chair, collapsing on the floor in a groaning, broken heap.
Ramona stared at them in utter shock at what she’d just managed to do. Then she remembered herself and her reason for wanting to get into the room in the first place: the scrambler. A sudden, ferocious pounding on the door accompanied by garbled shouting reminded her she didn’t have a lot of time either.
Casting about, she was faced with a bank of monitors set atop a steel desk with various computer equipment positioned under that same desk. Disappointingly, none of them was labeled ‘scrambler: shut down to restore communications’. In fact, there was no guarantee it was even in that room: she was just guessing.
Her eyes flicked over the scene, trying to find some clue. None presented themselves, but something did: all the cords were plugged into a series of power strips, which were themselves plugged into another power strip. All the power to all the devices in the room? Linked to one plug.
Could it actually be that easy?
Behind her, the door beeped as the enraged and injured Cameron finally remembered she had access to the room.
No time to doubt, time to act. Ramona grabbed the plug and yanked it out. Then she pulled a server out of its place under the desk and winged it at the opening door.
Cameron yowled as the metal box full of circuit boards struck her in the chest, sending her staggering back. The sound was almost enough to drown out the beep of her comm connecting to Felix’s mobile switchboard. Ramona didn’t have time to wonder at how it really had been a matter of unplugging the scrambler: she had a narrow opening in which to run and she took it.
Ignoring everything else, she flat-out ran, dodging past Cameron into the open hall.
“–ust got reception back!” Felix’s voice spoke into her ear via the comm. “Everyone check in with your position! Me and Rebound are holding on a hill half a mile from the mine entrance, keeping the snipers’ eyes on us.”
“This is Zephyr. Lady D and I are above the entrance. We’ve encountered heavily armed resistance and have been forced onto the defensive. It would be much appreciated if someone could move to support.”
“On it. This is Green Boarder. I’ve been fighting inside the town, but I’ll come help you. Glass is inside the mine. We got separated and she went to take out the scrambler.”
Ray’s voice chimed in with a relieved laugh. “Sounds like she came through. Glass, you there?”
“”Right here.” Ramona said before she even thought. I killed the scrambler, but there’s a pissed off cat… wolf… something woman here and I’m sure she’s going to come after me. On the bright side, I know where the hostages are. I’m heading toward them now so they can’t threaten them when you guys come in.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ray replied. “Okay, here we got: here’s how we make the push inside…”
A steady patter of gunfire bounced off the two motorcycles as they sat side-by-side on the side of a hill facing the mine entrance. The Purify Humanity snipers had built up a well-fortified nest on top of the entrance from which they could fire on everything below them and launch rocket-propelled grenades at anything that got too close.
“Ready for this?” Ray asked Felix.
His answer was a joyous laugh. “Dude, I am always ready to play with the artillery while riding my valorous steed here.” Felix fondly patted his bike before revving the engine. “Alright, chum: let’s do this! Let’s go Matilda!” He peeled out, extending the forward machine guns of the bike and shifting his left arm to grenade launcher mode.
Like an eager beast, the motorcycle leapt forward, thundering down the hillside, toward the mountain and the mine entrance. Heavier fire focused on him, bullets sparking off armor as the snipers ineffectually tried to hinder his progress.
Back on the hill, Ray made sure the machine guns of his own mount were loaded with rubber bullets before calling up the targeting systems and taking aim at the wooded area above the entrance. Thermal imagining picked out nine bodies, two of which were markedly cooler: the daoine siblings. He locked on to the others and opened fire, spraying the area around them with the less-lethal ammunition.
As he hoped, they scattered for cover, looking to return fire.
“All eyes are on you, TM,” Ray announced.
“Sweet.” Felix opened Waltzing Matilda’s engine up all the way and gunned it up the slope toward the mine entrance. At the same time, he swung his grenade launcher around and fired three shots in a high arc. “Head’s up, folks!”
The three grenades exploded in air, their brilliant arrays of magnesium flares washing the area in light far brighter than the sun itself. Someone screamed up above and most of the gunfire stopped, the rest going wild on full automatic.
With the foes who had been keeping them in check temporarily blinded, Loshuia and Icthiani were able to spring from cover. Red lighting forked into three of the gunmen, sending them to the ground before they even knew they were in danger. The remaining two were at least able to hear the name of the special sword technique that proceeded to lift them into the air and send them tumbling down the steep slope down to the flat area around the mine entrance.
One of the snipers managed to grab up a grenade launcher while still blind and bring it to bear.
What he didn’t get to do was fire, because the weapon was ensconced in green light and jerked out of his hands. It then flew back at him and shattered his nose with its butt. As he dropped to his knees with a grunt, the grenade launcher was flung out of the nest—which then itself started to glow green shortly before being ripped off the mountainside, collapsing down the slope in a hale of planks and tarp.
Lydia landed in front of the mine entrance wrapped in her telekinesis and surveyed her handiwork: the two snipers: one man and a woman, were out cold. Meanwhile, the two men Loshuia threw down the slope from above didn’t look like they were in any shape to fight any longer either.
That left those responsible for the renewed gunfire coming from the mouth of the mine, where crates, barrels and what looked to be actual riot barricades had been hastily arrayed into a defensive position. Hundreds of bullets ricocheted off her TK field within the first few seconds.
Then Waltzing Matilda topped the rise and roared onto the scene. Felix fired off two more grenade rounds, these releasing opaque, white smoke to obscure the aim of the defenders. He gave Lydia a cheeky wave as he rolled to a stop beside her. “Looks like a bad neighborhood. Need a ride?”
“Wouldn’t say ‘no’ to one.” Grinning, she swung her leg over the back of the bike to sit behind him. “So what are we doing? Blowing through them? Ramming?”
Felix laughed. “All good ideas if I was on Gertie or Sally B. But Matilda here is built for speed, agility and maneuverability. That means two words: Rampless Jump.”
Felix revved the engine and tore off again, thermal imagine allowing him to see what the Purify Humanity members couldn’t. A few yards away from the barricade, he fired a set of retrorockets that launched Matilda and her passengers into the air.
And on the way over, he hit a switch that dropped a cluster of flash-bang grenades behind the barricades. Two seconds later, a blinding flash threw their shadow across the interior wall and Felix threw the bike into a sideways skidding stop.
Lydia threw up her hands, wrapping the disoriented enemies in telekinesis while Felix dismounted the bike. “Anyone else still up for a fight?” He demanded, squaring his shoulders and striding forward with a purpose. No one responded, so he just started cuffing people with zip-cuffs stored in his arm.
Meanwhile, Ramona had made her way back to the kennel cavern where the hostages were being held.
Earlier, she’d been worried about the guns the guards there carried, but now that she had time to think rationally, realized that bullets were essentially no threat to her. Armed with that knowledge and a new purpose, she didn’t hesitate as she entered.
It was only when she saw the first guard, sitting on a folding chair completely at ease that she realized something: when she unplugged the equipment in the security room, she’d also taken out their communications, meaning that none of the guards watching the hostages knew there was anything wrong.
Confidence bolstered by this knowledge, her step quickened until she was in a flat-out charge. Running footsteps caught the man’s attention, but it was already too late: Ramona was on him, grabbing his face with a stretched-out hand and throwing him backward, chair and all to slam his head hard against the unforgiving stone floor.
That was her only warning before three rapid shots buried themselves in her gut.
She ignored them, centering her attention on the one who fired them. Three more bullets struck her in the chest as she closed on the shooter: a woman in a trucker hat and a bulletproof vest. There was only time for one more shot before she was in range to simply grab the rifle and rip it out of her surprised opponent’s hands.
Bringing the butt around, she employed a lesson Cameron had taught her in her infinite cruelty: the weakness normal humans had in their knees. Ramona wasn’t bloodthirsty though, so rather than shatter the woman’s kneecap, she brought the butt of the rifle down and around, striking the knee from behind and sending her to the ground.
By then, the dogs were barking wildly and the third guard, a big man wielding a sawed-off shotgun she’d seen earlier was nowhere to be scene.
All question of where he’d gone, however, were banished when he appeared next to one of the pens holding hostages, holding a teen male by the shoulder, shotty pointed at his head. “Not one move, you monster! Not one move, or I’ll paint the room with the inside of his skull!”
Ramona shifted to keep her eye on him and the cavern entrance. “You’re only making this worse on yourself. It’s over: even as I’m talking to you, the rest of the Descendants are taking this place over. Now, you’re no doubt faster than me, but do you think you’re faster than lighting like Lady D has? Or a laser from Teen Machine? Green Boarder will just wrap you in a TK field the second she sees you. Believe me: having a hostage is only going to make your life worse in every possible way.
“You sure do like to talk, don’t you.” a shadow darkened the entrance, quickly resolving into Cameron. Her lips, teeth and chin were still stained with her blood, but her voice lacked any lisp or thickness from having bitten her tongue even though Ramona was sure she’d bitten the tip clean off.
The beast woman sauntered in, flexing her claws. “Well you know what I like? I like to fight. It’s even better when I’m on the Gold because I heal quick—and you’re damn near indestructible.” A dark light filled her eyes. “This? This is the perfect fight for me. Let’s see how long you last when I just rip pieces off your body!”
Letting loose a leonine roar, she sprang at Ramona, claws outstretched.
To Be Continued…