Liz took a deep breath as Hector set her down gently. Once she’d calmed down a little, flight was exciting but a long way from stress free when there wasn’t a plane, she looked around and saw… her boyfriend. Another him, this one was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of that weird, futuristic suit. The new Hector was talking to a stranger in the middle of the street, an overweight man in his forties, balding and rough looking.
There was a long line of slow moving cars in the street, people on foot or on bikes. The sound of warning sirens echoed in the distance while everywhere peoples’ phones and radios blared out evacuation orders. Her calm shattered almost before it’d come back as the nearest people crowded in, asking for help, demanding it, just trying to touch the Hector next to her.
The one in jeans carried on his conversation with the stranger, his posture growing vaguely threatening, while the one next to her seemed… hesitant. Liz didn’t think she’d ever seen him do that before. Hector didn’t seem to be reacting to the questions at all, just flinched away from the touches. Pretty soon, they were both hemmed in, surrounded.
Seven sets of feet took seven steps in perfect synch. They arrived in a warzone.
Anna Insight should’ve been the first to react. Even before they set foot in Phoenix, she was pushing her awareness out as far as she could without focusing in a single direction, ready for anything. Doing that in the bizarre in-between state that Strider put them in tended to make her a bit nauseous but anything less than total caution when you were walking into an active Class Two was essentially the same as suicide.
Even so, Avery Ware’s hand was clamped to her wrist and the green tint of the other girl’s power was in the air before Anna knew what was going on. Danger sense, enhanced reflexes, a stealth field that was a combination of near-perfect invisibility and a don’t-look-at-me effect, add it all up and Avery was one hell of a bodyguard. It didn’t do anything for the rest of their team.
Anna fled down the street, trusting her passive awareness to guide her feet even as Avery chose their route to keep them both from joining the five bodies that had just fallen to the ground. She saw everything around her but she couldn’t afford to focus, not right now. The hospital loomed above them, filled with corpses and two dozen copies of-
She stepped over a severed leg, ignoring that it was covered three distinct skin tones, ignoring that it was visibly regrowing its missing body. Avery’s hand on her chest stopped her in her tracks as three figures in black bodysuits with white armor panels flew overhead in a gentle curve and one of them slammed into the ground without giving any sign that it even tried to turn aside.
Anna focused on her job, speaking into her communicator as steadily as she could, ignoring the sight of two figures in black in white, carefully cradling a broken boy who’d once terrified her between them, carrying him to safety. She couldn’t let herself be distracted by the immense, tangled current of Hectors in the sky above, sending out tentacles of itself and coiling back and forth in a great, churning mass that was like nothing she’d ever seen. She couldn’t stare at the bright shining star of a man in the heart of the hospital that had torn off pieces of his own power and wore them as armor and weapon both, that fought with righteous rage and defiance against-
She focused on describing it, that patchwork thing, even as she ran. Leaching Jason’s ability to rip out someone’s life and use it to bolster his own, regeneration to rival William Power, strength nearly on par with Isaac, influence over heat, a dozen variations on the Crowley empowerment and the same skill and knowledge of their use that the rightful owners held, she described it all. Anna struggled not scream or cry or vomit as she ran and warned her still living comrades about the worst part. It had a hold on Hector’s near limitless duplication and multitasking, letting it actually coordinate all of that without flaw.
The stranger and the other Hector pushed their way through the crowd to get to Liz, helped her get away. The armored Hector just stood their, hesitant. She’d never seen him like that before, almost turned back, but ignored it in favor of listening to the Hector that had a grip on her upper arm as he shouted instructions into her ear.
“This is Jae! He’s a smuggler, between here and the Battlegrounds mostly, but he can get you out of the city, keep you safe!”
Again, Liz took a deep breath, reclaimed her calm. Her gaze focused on the big man as crouched down before a great sliding door. It looked like something you’d see on a warehouse or the back of a big store but there wasn’t a ramp or an elevation. The recent, not training, not really, the recent studies she’d done with Hector came to mind. What was the man’s power? He got the door up, revealed a battered old mac truck in a large garage, complete with trailer.
Liz focused on the man and, as easy as reading off one of the flash cards Hector had helped her make, she knew what he could do. “Stop!” she shouted. The man and Hector both turned to her. “Not just me. We- we have to take as many of them as you can fit.” she said, gesturing at the slow moving mass of people around them and the growing crowd that was centered on- on her other boyfriend.
The stranger, Jae, didn’t answer. He just gave Hector a questioning look. Her boyfriend didn’t answer either, not at first, just took a moment to visibly consider the idea. A second longer and Liz would’ve done something, said something, then Hector nodded. “Do it.” he ordered, then slowly divided into three.
She hadn’t ever seen him take so long to make more of himself. There was actually a visible process of… elongation was the best word she could think of as the two new Hectors stepped forward and to either side. Still, soon enough, all three were diverting people into the back of Jae’s truck. Liz and one of the Hectors were the last in, pressed shoulder to shoulder against the crowd of elderly and children.