Vim & Vigor 6
Circus was pretty fast all things considered. I wouldn’t call her a Mover with a high-ranking, but being able to parkour up and down a series of buildings without falling because of her balance trick should have earned her some kind of lower-ranking in the category. It took everything I had to keep up, and I nearly got hit while invisible by a car.
I probably would have survived as long as my brain was intact, but I really didn’t want to find out like that.
As I chased her, I had to wonder what she was doing so far north. We were nearing Merchant territory by the Docks, far outside Circus’ normal operating area. Maybe she was getting tired of Heimal and Nemean hounding her, or did she piss off the Cyborg of Brockton Bay?
She only finally stopped running when she approached a set of buildings that looked like they were abandoned, behind a high-rise of some kind. I could tell from the broken windows that lined the red and white one that rose up to maybe four stories high. But Circus entered the second building, the grey one that was only three stories high and had boarded up windows on the first and second floor, while they didn’t bother on the third floor.
She looked around to see if she had been followed, but didn’t spot me since the invisibility field was wrapped around me. Then she entered the double doors.
“Don’t try to go in that way,” Taylor said over the line. “It’s too obvious.”
“I thought as much myself.” I looked up to see that one of the windows on the third floor had been so thoroughly broken that it could be climbed through. Something likely blew it out judging from the glass scattered on the ground. That’d work.
I went over to the side of the building and dropped the invisibility field in the shadows, switching to X-Ray to check my surroundings. It looked like there was no one in the red building next to me, which you’d think a few homeless people or addicts would be inside given the size, but the grey one that Circus went in had someone else in it on the first floor—Trainwreck from the size and shape.
What was a member of the Merchants doing meeting with Circus? I didn’t see her joining up with them. If she did then that’d add… I think about six Capes to their numbers: Skidmark, Squealer, Mush, Stain, and Trainwreck, who joined up not too long ago. But why join the Merchants of all gangs?
She was a rather successful Independent Villain all things considered… well, at least until the Beauty and Beast came to the Bay. If she needed to join a gang then I guessed that ruled out the E-88, unless she was pure Caucasian. The ABB was out too unless she was some kind of Asian and wanted to work under Lung.
Really, even if you discounted that the Merchants were usually drug-addicts, they were at least somewhat multiracial and maybe—
“You’re rambling again.”
“You really need to work on that.”
“Yeah…” I sighed as I took in the terrain a second time before looking down at the bangle. I was down to about half from using Invisibility chasing her. Better not waste time.
I grabbed hold of Telekinesis and used it to pull the nearest manhole cover towards me. Stepping onto it, I raised myself up in the air slowly despite the extra weight deepening the color and energy expenditure by a notch. I don’t have the best balance, but my powers keep it stable as long as I concentrate on it. Guess I qualified for conditional Mover myself now.
With it, I rose up to the broken window and stepped inside. There was no third or second floor in the inside, but rather it had a high ceiling and metal walkways around it like it had been some sort of gutted factory. Neither of them was looking, but Trainwreck looked awfully blue from my point of view. Good to know.
I swapped powers right afterwards as I grabbed the manhole cover, letting the invisibility field cloak my body and it. That way I could watch without them taking notice as they continued to talk, but I had to strain my ears to listen while they were.
“—passed up the Underrunners because I work alone, so why would I work for someone else?”
“Because it’s an opportunity to make some real cash,” Trainwreck said. “Or favors. He could even get rid of the Beauty and Beast for you. Everyone knows they’ve been chasing you down. How long you think that Tinkertech to mask your scent will work?”
“How the fuck do you know about that?”
“My employer has many connections. He can also make the issue disappear, one way or another.”
Okay, now I know he isn’t talking about Skidmark. Heimal had ice powers and Nemean turned into either a werelion or giant lion made of what looked to be solid stone of some kind. Hell, I’ve seen the video of him once pile-driving Hookwolf in his full-on metal form.
I gave it a Like.
The Merchants couldn’t bring that sort of power to the front no matter what they tried to do. So, who were they working for? This could be big. I needed to get closer.
I moved to do so—
—and my foot crushed a beer can. It was as loud as a gunshot for all intents and purposes, and both of them turned their heads my way. Damn.
Circus reached for a pair of throwing knives and held two between her fingers. “What was that?”
“Probably rats,” he said. “I came alone.”
Yes, a large resourceful rat. Not an invisible Cape who is getting out of there ASAP, I couldn’t help but pray silently as I gripped the manhole cover tighter and turned towards the window. I heard enough and decided to get out while the getting was good—
“Gah!” The scream came out on its own as one of the two thrown knives poked me in my back. The chainmail stopped it from going any deeper, but it still caught me by surprise.
“Stranger!” yelled Trainwreck as he pointed towards me with his arm. There was an opening on his unnecessarily big gauntlet, and he braced it with the other hand. Having been shot at enough by Squealer, I saw where this was going.
I dropped Invisibility for Repulsion Shield. It caught what looked to be a makeshift cannon ball before it took my head off. Seriously, a steam-powered wrist-cannon? I didn’t know if that was awesome or impractical, but I did know that I didn’t want to get hit by it.
I sighed, switched back to Telekinesis while the field still had a few seconds active to protect me, and turned to the window—
“Look out!” Taylor said abruptly over the line. I only saw why when it was too late.
Circus pulled some parkour… bullshit and managed to get high enough kick off one of the support beams, and fling two more knives that got caught in my field before she grabbed the edge of the railing and swung up to kick me.
I brought the manhole cover around to protect me, but it just gave her a larger surface to hit and pushed me right out of the window. I turned as I fell with the manhole cover beneath my stomach, screaming, and desperately visualized my power acting like a giant hand lifting me up. What happened was that the manhole cover acted as though the hand was lifting it and stopped my fall about three feet from the ground.
My heart took a second to start working again.
Then Trainwreck busted through the wall close to me, having decided the door wasn’t fast enough.
As the pair of blue-shrouded powered fist came towards me, in an effort to either grab or crush me, I dropped my control on the manhole cover in exchange for taking control of his armor and pushing him back into the hole he burst through with all my telekinetic might. The effort sent him flying back with a surprised noise while I hit the ground. It briefly knocked the air out of lungs, but it’s not that bad compared to how it could have been.
I got lucky that I was using Telekinesis already. If he was a straight brute then I would have had my head crushed before I could switch out to something better suited for fighting him. And it was pure luck that I managed to hear the sound of metal scraping stone to notice that Circus had also decided to jump down with a sledgehammer she pulled out of nowhere.
I visualized a hand grabbing it and my power grasped it, stopping it and her in the middle of the air. Then the sledgehammer vanished and she fell again towards me while swinging her hands back and then throwing them forward—wait, when did the sledgehammer get back in her hands!?
I stumbled back just in time to avoid it crushing my head from her throwing it down like that. It’s more than enough time for her to land into a front roll next to the sledgehammer that vanished, spring back to her feet with her arms chambered, and swings them forward with the sledgehammer once again in her hands. I tried to get out of range again, but it caught me in chest.
“Ooph!” I went down and ended up on my back. That stung. It felt like something cracked in my chest, but I’d heal. Still stupid of me. The moment that Trainwreck got the drop on me, I should have moved to regain my advantage.
She wasted no time in mounting my chest with her knees planted firmly on my shoulders to stop me from moving my arms. Her forearm then came down on my throat to cut off my air as she leaned down to peer into my mask’s lens. “Who’re you supposed to be?”
I only managed strangled groans until she moved her arm back a smidge. “Haah…name’s Vim, ahhh….” I gasped hot air as my chest stopped hurting and I heard lumbering footsteps. Crap. “Can you please stop trying to kill me?”
“How much did you hear?” she asked as the shadow of Trainwreck loomed over me. “Who do you work for?”
“You were speaking too low for me to hear anything,” I lied as I turned my palm upwards and grabbed hold of my Repulsion Shield’s echo. I’m not stupid. I knew the moment that they got what they wanted they’d cripple or kill me. “And I don’t work for anyone, I’m new. I just saw you and one thing led to another.”
“Then this is your unlucky night,” Trainwreck said, before he addressed her. “Boss doesn’t appreciate witnesses, if you’re in?”
A knife appeared in her hand after a very brief pause, so I guess she really wanted those two Capes done in. Right then.
I fired off the Repulsion Shield and the knife stopped in midair. Even if I don’t aim it, it covered me in a field that extended out from my body several inches. So she settled for strangling me again as I grabbed hold of Zero-G’s echo and fired it off to send her floating up.
Trainwreck, who should have been caught in the wide (if short) range of the blast, then tried to stomp my head. The same reason it probably didn’t affect him and the cause of my near-death, the steam-powered armor, stopped like the knife. The field lingered for five seconds after use whether or not I’m using that echo inside of me and I had three left.
I rolled out from under the floating Circus and grabbed hold of Shocker to let them both have a taste. Blue tendrils of electricity covered them both, worming into their bodies in a single blast. She screamed while he only grunted and took aim with his gauntlet for another shot.
I took the chance to grab Telekinesis again and visualized a pair of hands grabbing Trainwreck’s arms. The metal had to weigh more than his limbs, so I was sure he couldn’t stop them with simple muscle as I forced them downwards to his right knee. The impact made his entire leg shake and whatever firing mechanism he had triggered, either from the force or because he was getting ready to take the shot, blowing it off entirely in a spray of metal and whatever fluid was in it—but no blood.
A part of me was relieved I didn’t just cost a man his leg, even if he tried to murder me. The other part of me recalled that my bullet-proof field was down now. He could kill me if he got another shot off.
I could try and pull his arms off with Telekinesis, but I didn’t know if his arms were all metal as well. So I settled for throwing him back through the hole he made and then jerking to the side with both hands as a visualization aid to throw him into a side wall too. No clear line of fire, and he couldn’t chase me with a single leg.
“Goddamn Grab-bags,” I heard him say as I released my grasp on him and looked down to my bangle. Then I bit back a swear. I had a lot less than what I came here with.
How badly did she hurt me that healing required that much energy? Or was it from manhandling Trainwreck? All that metal must’ve factored into the total energy cost. Damn it, I hoped Taylor didn’t need that information.
“Don’t just stand there, run!” Taylor yelled over the line. “Zero-G has a time limit, remember?”
I turned and ran, taking a parting shot to the still-floating Circus. “I see you two want to be alone, so I’ll let you get back to your clandestine tryst. Personally, I think you’d make a fitting couple!”
I knew they weren’t talking about dating. But as long as they thought I didn’t know what they were talking about, it was for the better. That stopped a third party from getting involved and limited the number of people I had to worry about in the future to just Trainwreck, who was part of the Merchants and already hated me, and Circus—AHHHH, IT BURNS!
FIRE! I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!
I fell forward and started rolling to stop the burning. Everything hurt and time didn’t seem to matter until the flames died. It was long enough before I stopped burning and turned to see that a portable gas-torch was lying on the ground away from her as she was struggling to get back on her feet.
Damn, I forgot that she had pyrokinesis to go with the parkour and hammerspace. Goddamn Grab-bag powers. I wanted to blast her again with another bolt to put her down, but I had to heal and I didn’t know how much energy that would take for all the damage I’ve taken.
I forced my body to move towards the nearest alley. The only thought in my head was that I had to run away and heal. So I did that and ran.
I didn’t think at all and only ran. I needed to get somewhere far enough to heal before I could think and plan on how to get away. My body understood that and moved as flesh began to heal and pushed out the heated metal of the chainmail that added to the workload.
Then I hit something ahead of me as I turned the corner. The sounds of glass breaking and a curse reached my ears before I hit the wall. My full awareness returned and I found myself looking down at the girl from the Market that returned my wallet, her glass bottle in a brown bag shattered and spilling its contents.
Before I could say anything, I saw her eyes glow from something bright behind me. My body acted, wanting to move to avoid the pain it just experienced. But she would have been caught by it if I ran, so I stop myself from pushing past her and grabbed the trash can next me to throw it that way.
It crashed into the flaming lion or tiger or bear, or whatever animal that Circus chose to shape it in, and went up in flames as the girl screamed. That was close. I couldn’t let someone else get killed because of me. “Run and call the police, a murder-villain is coming!”
She ran the opposite the way the flame came from. I didn’t know if she’d actually get help, but I was hoping that Circus would settle for trying to escape instead of going after her. Of course, I was probably screwed since she could very well murder me in that timeframe. Not going down without a fight though.
I called up my Shocker echo and crystals started growing out of my hand. Then I heard the girl scream and turned her way. Circus had the flat of the knife pressed against the girl’s neck and there was a bleeding gash across her cheek.
Stupid of me, I should have guessed that Circus could have controlled the fire while she darted around to cut off my escape. “Let her go!”
“You run or attack, she dies,” Circus warned me with the flat of the blade against the girl’s throat. Her outfit was probably somewhat insulated, which was why she could chase after me. “No one would think twice about some alcoholic homeless bitch with her throat slit in this part of town. Now get on your knees and place your hand face-down on the ground how it is.”
“She’ll kill her anyway,” Taylor warned me. “She’s listed as a burglar with no known kills on her record, but that’s only what’s been reported.”
And she’d tried to kill me already. But I couldn’t risk it. “She’s done nothing to you!”
“On. The. Ground.” Circus ordered, turning the blade proper so the sharp end was on her neck. “I won’t say it again.”
“Taylor, go home.” I whispered as I fell onto my knees and laid both of my hands down on the ground. “Tell my parents you don’t know what happened to me after we split up an hour ago if they call. It’s not foolproof, but if they find my body then they won’t blame you—you couldn’t have known and they’d likely just think I’d triggered after the other cover story.”
Circus threw the knife and listened to me cry out as it buried itself into my non-powered hand. “Like I thought, one power at a time and each with a time-limit,” she said, now grasping another knife she pulled out of nowhere. It must’ve been a test shot to see if the same thing that happened before would happen again. “You can’t block my knife while you’ve got your electric powers set.”
Time slowed as she chambered her hand to throw the knife and Taylor yelled my name over the line. The girl used the chance to raise one arm to cover her head as she pulled herself off to the side, probably to avoid getting killed when I was dead to leave no witnesses. I raised my hand to fire a final bolt with the opening she gave me and hit Circus square in the chest. That should buy her time to get away as the knife slammed into my mask.
I felt it fall off my face as a hot flash of pain drew a line over my forehead. It was luck again. The girl breaking free must’ve messed with the force behind the throw and caused the knife to be off by half-a-rotation. I pulled out the knife in my hand and got onto my feet as the girl ran past me…
Then I stumbled forward and onto my knees. The mask broke beneath my left knee and the bangle came into my view. I was empty.
No, it was worse than that. I’d burned all my energy up while still needing to heal. And, like a sugar rush, the crash was kicking in. Shit.
I felt a hand grab me and heard the girl’s voice. Was she trying to help me? It was no good. I didn’t have it in me to properly stand, let alone run and get far before Circus could move again.
“Get… somewhere safe…” I managed to say before I fell down to the ground.
Everything went dark afterwards.