“Uh-oh” the operative said.
When homicide said that, you kept a damn good eye out for photographers and journalists. When the bomb squad said that, you ran. Collins had no fucking clue what it meant when an operative said that.
“Sir?” he asked.
“Not sure how, but they’re making a breakout, towards the side entrance. They’re taking out all the mes on the way but… yeah, no clue how they’re doing it. I’m just going dark in that part of the building.” Hector told him.
“But- but how is that possible? I mean, headshots and all, but they’re killing all your bodies instantly?”
The young man was quiet for a moment. Officer Collins was absurdly aware of the ache in his knees from crouching too long and the little rock digging into his leg.
“Shit,” he swore. “Starve. She’s a directed Null type. She’s gotta be in there. Taker’s down at the Circle, so that just leaves Viral unaccounted for.”
Taker coughed and retched. His ghost armor was not air tight and the gas burned his eyes and his throat. He was deaf from the explosions that this Lord Hive had unleashed upon him moments ago. Through the tears and the pain, he grinned. The gas would fade soon enough. His armor was brighter now, so very much brighter. This underling of Lord Grave was mighty, but not mighty enough.
As soon as he could see again, Lord Taker would show this Hive what he was truly capable of.
Two figures strode through the battle, unafraid of the dangers that surrounded them. The filthy peasants in scraps with improvised weapons fell back. They knew their Lords and the danger of displeasing them. The strange Lord Hive, he of many bodies, slaughtered their servants with ease but fell before Lord Starve with no more than a touch of her power. Lord Viral paused to examine of the fallen.
“He’s still alive.” the white clad man said.
“Interesting.” Starve replied, in a tone that indicated it was anything but.
“No, it really is. It means there’s some sort of connection between them and the real him. They can’t just be basic projections or you couldn’t shut him down like this.”
“And?” She never liked being reminded of her shortcomings. Viral wasn’t worried, Null types were nasty but they couldn’t last long on their own. Anyone with a gun was a real threat to her.
“Let me handle the next one.” he told the woman in brown. “There’s something I want to try.” Viral’s grin was positively pestilent.
Jason picked himself up from the ground, his broken bones already healed, and looked to his friend. Above them, the helicopter he had jumped from turned and departed.
“You are certain he absorbs kinetic energy?” he asked.
“Yeah. Might be more than that but I don’t have a flamethrower to test it out.” Hector replied.
“What does he do with the power?”
“So far he’s just been getting brighter, makes the field around him easier to see. He’s a crappy fighter so I don’t know if he’s getting stronger or what. He hasn’t managed to actually hit me yet.”
Hector’s face was not visible to Jason. His helmet had a mirrored faceplate, so his expression was not visible. Nonetheless, Jason was certain that the Hector he spoke to winced just then. There came a thunderous crash and a shockwave that dispersed the cloud of gas in the Circle’s center. Jason could see two figures, both wearing what looked like armor sculpted from emeralds, surrounded by a small pile of Hectors’ corpses.
“Ah, so that is what he does with enough energy.” Hector nodded. Jason tried to remove the man’s life but it had no effect. He sighed. “I will need your help for this.” he said, handing a vial of flies to Hector then charged the pair.
Viral waited, patient and careful, kneeling on the floor with his arms raised. He had to suppress a smile when he heard heavy footsteps approaching.
“Lay down and I won’t-”
He stood up and approached the young man in black and white armor, no longer bothering to suppress his smile. “Hey there.” He slipped the pistol from the guy’s hand. “You know, I tried to join the Citadel when I was your age.” Viral stopped smiling and shot the operative in his leg, just below the armor plate. “They turned me down.” He started chuckling when the fucker toppled over, still not moving. “Psychologically unfit, they said. Now, does that sound fair?” He shot him again, uncaring that the bullet pinged off his chest plate. “I decided that I’d get a better deal in the Battlegrounds and that worked fine.” He ground the gun’s barrel into Hive’s left palm. “But Stainless ruined that for all four of us.” Viral pulled the trigger. “It was Starve’s idea to come here but I just couldn’t resist the chance to give the Citadel a little fuck you.”
Lord Viral, who had once been known as Joseph Stein, gave the injured operative a final command.
Lord Taker did not have superhuman strength. The first hit he landed, which Jason had allowed to land so that he could measure the threat, had done no more damage than a normal man’s. Jason healed the minor bruise instantly. He was not sure why he could not simply kill the man. It seemed unlikely that it was the armor blocking his sight of the man. Perhaps it was simply some sort of defensive effect?
He was certain it was the green armor that stopped him from being flung back when Jason struck him, a straight arm blow to the chest. He ignored one of the pair, allowing it to pound fruitlessly on his back, while he tried to pin the other to the ground. Taker did not move when Jason grabbed his arm and pulled while stomping on his foot. He did notice a slight increase in the green armor’s glow each time. He decided to try overwhelming the man’s absorption. If that did not work, he and Hector would have to try something more creative.
While he had been fruitless sparring with the Battlegrounder, the Hector he had given a vial of flies to had duplicated. The duplicate would also have a vial, which he would have handed back. The first would duplicated again, repeating this process repeatedly, creating countless lives for Jason to use. Now, three Hectors approached, each with a duffel bag loaded with fly vials.
Just before they reached Jason, they stopped. Jason was not certain why. From this angle, Jason could not take the lives of more than a fraction of the insects, most were too deep within the bags. Hector, all three of him, drew a pistol and pressed the tip against the underside of his jaw. What was-? Jason’s head snapped to the side as his opponent took advantage of the distraction to strike him in the face with a haymaker.
Jason recovered from the punch almost immediately. The sound of not just three, but dozens of muffled gunshots, followed by bodies collapsing to the ground, left him stunned in an entirely different way.