LI: Generations Aflame #13

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Lidecker Institute Volume 3: Generations Aflame
Just a brief glance at Kura’s handiwork on the mountainside left Maya with the sensation of standing on a ship in stormy seas. She turned away from the sight completely and screwed her eyes shut just as Tammy’s lighting bolt blasted a branch off a nearby tree.
 
The noise was terrible, as was the answering chatter of the leader trying to return fire both without looking at the disabling mural Kura created and while hunched over, emptying his stomach into the steaming, muddy ground. His helmet’s visor was open, probably just in time to save him from being in a worse situation.
 
The other gunman was firing on full automatic as Olivia charged up the slope, her outline almost hidden by the sparks from all the ricochets coming off her body. His magazine ran empty in under half a minute and he quickly turned to the third man, the one with the net. “See if you can get her, I’ve got the one we’re here for.”
 
“No problem.” the net carrier said, taking a step forward. With the flick of a switch, the tuning fork appendages separated from each other and extended forward. Another switch caused a heavy, metal bar with a spike on the end to drop out from under the butt to dig into the earth.
 
He waited until Olivia had closed to within a few yards to pull the trigger, sending out a crackling, blue web of electrical arcs from between the tines which encircled Olivia and lifted her off the ground. The stabilizing bar sunk further into the ground under her weight and the net carrier used the control panel to start reeling her in as if her were a deep sea fisherman landing a marlin.
 
“On your knees, kid and you won’t get hurt.” said the second gunman, starting back toward Maya.
 
“Please don’t do this.” She stammered, not turning around.
 
“I’m getting paid good money to do this, so unless you’ve got a fat stack of bills in that hoodie, we got a problem, kid. Now get down on your knees.”
 
Maya was shivering and it had nothing to do with the cold, or at least not much. Nor did it have a lot to do with fear. She was feeling… weak. And it was getting worse by the minute. If she tried to comply with her attacker’s demands, she feared she might fall over and never muster the strength to get up again.
 
“Do you know what they want to do to me?” she asked. Thin curls of smoke started to waft from her.
 
“Don’t know don’t care.”
 
Her voice was coming thin and wispy now. “Experiments. They’re going to inject things, and keep me locked up, and I’m never going to see my friends again.” A tear started to form in her eye. It was boiling. She started swaying on her feet.
 
There was a tense moment of silence between where she didn’t know what the gunman was doing, punctuated by another lightning bolt striking a tree between Tammy and company and the gunmen, sending the thing down and shielding the girls from view for a moment.
 
Finally, the gunman spoke, no longer as sure as he was before. “Still don’t care.”
 
“Oh.” said Maya, because she had nothing left in every sense of the word.
 
Soot made a ‘meep’ sound which sounded to Maya’s mind like a sound of concern. Then the stump he’d been setting on caught fire. It wasn’t just a small spark either: the entire pillar of scorched wood transformed into a roaring conflagration.
 
The man threatening Maya cursed and opened fire on the stump, only managing to shoot a few chunks off the rapidly charring wood before the flames began to bend and stretch toward Maya like shoots growing toward the sun. The first tongue of flame flicked across her forehead and seemed to sink into her skin.
 
Maya gasped, but acted on instinct, drawing the flame further in. It was like inhaling fresh air after being in a stuffy room for hours: she felt invigorated.
 
The got the gunman’s attention all over again. “Stop it!” He shouted. “Stop it right now!”
 
Not far from them, Olivia was still caught in the electromagnetic net and had been reeled in until the prongs were around her waist. Realizing that steel was now more of a liability than an asset, she dropped the thermos, reverting back to flesh and blood. “Let me go.” She forced out as the painful tingle of the net surged across her skin.
 
“You shouldn’t’ve come up here.” The net user said. “Because there’s only one of you we’re being paid to bring back alive.” One hand still on the net controls, he reached for his side arm.
 
Olivia fought the pull of the net just enough to get her hands on her charm bracelet. “I don’t even know these girls very well, but you guys, and everything all these people are trying to do to Maya? It’s horrible! How can you live with yourselves doing this to kids? Jesus, Kura was right, we are living in a movie—a cartoon even, with villains that twirl their mustaches.”
 
“Guess what?” asked the net handler, bringing out a pistol. “I don’t give a shit.”
 
He pulled the trigger, but it was too late. The bullet went straight through a head composed of liquid metal with barely a ripple. Olivia, now composed of mercury, which is diamagnetic, dropped out of the electrostatic net, giving the him a glare with featureless, silver eyes. He fired three more times into her chest with a similar lack of results.
 
“I never hit anyone in my life.” Olivia said, drawing back her fist, “But you really deserve it!” She let fly with a punch, which was clumsy and unskilled. The net handler blocked with his gun arm, but the surging mass of her liquid body and will-hardened fist combined the drive his arm and the gun in his hand back into his face. The gun shattered his visor, sending tempered plastic back into his face as he went over.
 
Olivia stood over him, looking at her suddenly inflated fist with awe. “Wow. I had no idea I could do that.”
 
Meanwhile, the leader of the now increasingly unlucky trio had finally reached the end of both his gun’s magazine and the contents of his stomach. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he took stock. One of his men was down, the target was becoming ensconced in flaming tendrils that were sinking into her skin, and the other three girls were nowhere to be found. The last part worried him the most, especially since he only knew what two of them were capable of.
 
“Get her under control!” he barked to the other gunman, “We’re bugging out!”
 
“How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
 
“Your suit’s fireproof, suit, just grab her.” He pulled the empty magazine out of his weapon and was reaching to replace it when a snowball hit his helmet, spattering his exposed face with ice. Only it didn’t feel like ice. It felt as if he’d just been hit in the face with pepper spray.
 
Screaming in both pain and shock, he fumbled the magazine and reached up to wipe the caustic stuff out of his eyes. Tammy, Kura and Steampunk took the opportunity to rush him.
 
“That was awesome!” said Tammy, beaming at Kura.
 
Kura grinned. “Hey, it’s not just taste and sight: I can mess with all the senses!”
 
While they were talking, Steampunk got to the leader of the kidnappers first. Before he even knew she was there, she tripped a valve on her wrists and sent scalding steam into his open helmet. His scream instantly turned into an anguished howl and he dropped his gun entirely in favor of crawling at his burned face.
 
Steampunk took a step past him and buried a fast, precise point in his lower back that made his leg give out beneath him and when he fell, delivered a hard, jarring kick to the shoulder of his dominant hand. She stared impassively down at him as he mewled in pain. “If you attempt to harm any of us, I will not hesitate to escalate to lethal force.”
 
“When did Steamy get so hardcore?” Tammy whispered to Kura.
 
If she heard it, Steampunk didn’t let on. Instead, she rounded on the last man standing, who between Maya, Olivia and Steampunk couldn’t decide who to keep his gun trained on. “Put down your weapon and you will not be hurt.”
 
He looked from Olivia, her punching arm still engorged, to Maya, who had her eyes closed as the last of the fire from the stump poured into her, leaving her looking more hale and healthy than she’d looked when the attack began. “Not a chance. You five walk way first.”
 
“I’m pretty sure you’re massively outnumbered, guy.” said Tammy. “So you don’t get to make the rules. Besides, if we don’t send you to jail, you’ll report to your bosses about us and the next time they send someone after Maya, it’ll be worse for us.”
 
The gunman took several steps back, almost slipping in the mud along the way, and flicked a switch on the side of his gun. “No way am I going to prison again. And believe me, I can take you all with me if you try anything.”
 
Maya opened her eyes, returning to the here and now after what felt like a week floating on a warm, fluffy cloud. “Wha…” She muttered when her eyes fell on the armed kidnapper taking aim at her friends. “No, stop, please.”
 
“It’s okay, Maya.” Tammy put her hand on the smaller girls shoulder, noting the warmth exuding from her. “We’ve got this.”
 
She pointed the wrench like a wand. “Hey, Quickdraw: you think you can pull the trigger faster than it takes a lightning bolt to fry your ass?”
 
A wild look was coming into his eyes, the look of a hunted animal. “I fry, I twitch, and fire a 25mm grenade right at your feet.” He swung his weapon to aim at Maya.
 
From within the smoking remnants of the stump, an unhappy chirp was heard seconds before Soot emerged, burning white-hot and charging that the man who dared threaten ‘mommy’ (or so Maya’s senses interpreted the feeling).
 
In a panic, the gunman pivoted to aim as Soot and started to pull the trigger.
 
Olivia shouted and reached out. Her liquid body easily elongated to cover the distance and she snatched at the gun, pulling the muzzle upward less than a second before the grenade round fired off. Instead of hitting Soot a few feet away from the group, the grenade disappeared up-slope and exploded somewhere on the upper reaches.
 
Grabbing the gun away, Olivia swung the butt around and clocked the gunman upside the head, sending him crumpling to the ground. Before he even settled, Soot was on him, ferociously singing his pant leg.
 
“Soot, no!” Maya recovered from her shock at the whole thing to rush over and pick up the fireling before he could do any bodily harm. She cuddled him for a moment before looking to the others. “Can we leave now? Please?”
 
“Well we’ve got to tie these guys up first and call someone to pick’em up.” said Tammy.
 
Olivia removed the ‘mercury’ tab from her charm bracelet and had the cap on over the liquid before her body was fully done reverting to normal. “Tie them up with what? I know I didn’t bring my giant coil of rope up here, did you?”
 
“We really should have.” said Kura. “But that’s okay: they’re kidnappers, right? They’re bound to have bought rope or duct tape or something with them. We’ll just check their snowmobiles. Come on, Tammy, let’s loot.” She tugged the other girl’s sleeve, but found her staring up at the mountain instead. “Um… Tammy?”
 
Tammy didn’t look away. “Kura, look up there and tell me what I’m looking at. And please tell me it’s just the resort’s snow machines.”
 
Following her line of sight, Kura and the others looked.
 
High up on the mountain, not far from where the grenade landed, the snow was shifting and cracking and generally starting to slide way away from the rock face. It was moving relatively slowly at first, but it was accelerating.
 
“Oh.” said Kura, eyes widening. “Oh shit. Okay, time to go, guys. We’ve gotta take the snowmobiles.”
 
“What’s going on?” asked Maya.
 
“Haven’t you watched any movies?” Kura asked. “We went up on a snowy mountain, made a lot of noise—It’s an avalanche! Come on, let’s get out of here!”
 
Maya started up at the rapidly expanding field of collapsing snow. “An…” Then she looked at the would be kidnappers. The leader was cursing at them ad trying to stand on his unresponsive leg. “But what about them?”
 
“Screw them!” Kura says, running for one of the snowmobiles. They were going to sell you to guys that were going to dissect you!”
 
Tammy took one last look up the mountain and nodded. “Can’t say I disagree with her, Mai.”
 
“But it just seems…”
 
“If there was time.” said Tammy, “But we’ve got to go!”
 
Olivia gave the snowmobiles a pensive look, especially the one Kura was frantically trying to start. “Do any of s even know how to drive a snowmobile?” Everyone but Maya turned to Steampunk, who nodded stoically. Olivia shook her head. “That’s great, except there’s five of us,three snowmobiles and only one person who can drive.”
 
“Well Maya can fly, apparently.” said Tammy, also trying to start a second snowmobile. “And Kura can sorta fly…”
 
Cold hit Olivia’s gut and she shivered. “Oh god, we’re going to die. It was… kind of fun up ’til now, but we’re really going to die, aren’t we?”
 
By now,t he ground was starting to vibrate under their feet. Maya looked around at her friends, her kidnappers, and finally ate the muddy waste around the tree stump from where she’d landed in a fiery explosion. The snow had flashed to steam and boiled off almost instantly…
 
“N-no.” She said quietly, so quietly in fact that the others didn’t hear her and kept bickering.
 
“Look, all we can do is try our best and hope not to die.” said Kura. “Someone famous said that… I think. And if they didn’t they should have, because it’s really smart.”
 
“We could crash and break our necks!” said Olivia.
 
“Or, you know, be buried under tons of ice and snow.” Kura countered.
 
Maya took a deep breath. Somewhere in her, the fire Soot had fed into her stoked, filling her with energy and a vitality she hadn’t felt since her parents died. “I-I said we’re not going to die.” She said louder. This time they heard her and gave her variations on the same confused look.
 
Swallowing, Maya concentrated on the fire and on the change allowing herself to burst into flame—to become flame. Her hot aura washed the chill out of all of them and baked the mud at her feet into hardened clay. “I can stand in the way. I can stop it from hurting you if you keep behind me.”
 
“Whoa…” Tammy mumbled, staring at the timid girl she’d come to know so well standing there, looking like a fire elemental from one of her brother’s roleplaying games.
 
“That is so cool!” Kura exclaimed.
 
Olivia chewed her lip. “Maya, are yo sure you want to do this? I mean, fire against an avalanche, you could…” She couldn’t force herself to say more.
 
“I’ll be fine.” said Maya, wishing she believed it, “I burn really, really hot. J-just get behind me and, um… maybe turn into something heatproof to protect them?”
 
She only gave Olivia time to nod and start searching through her charm bracelet before turning to go face down an avalanche.
 
To Be Continued…
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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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