Sunday, February 11, 2018

Battle Vixens! - 7

Episode 7: Trouble

Trouble. That was the first word that came to Light's mind to describe it. It was a weird term to use, but the appearance of that word connected back to the night before her powers had first appeared. It felt certain that this was it, the promised trouble itself. Light's fur stood on end just seeing the thing form, and her fight-or-flight instincts kicked up even harder than they already had been by the last few minutes. The police girl must have had the same kind of reaction, as she began firing on it as soon as it landed.

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG click click click click click click. The normal people around were screaming and mostly running away; one or two were standing there in shock. The creature, or whatever it was, drew itself up and then started charging, apparently unaffected by twelve direct hits to the center of its body.

Light ran forward, and around the thing. Its right foreleg was already up and ready to slash; the police girl was standing there with the gun still in her hand, either continuing to try to fire it or just too shocked to move. The sword appeared in Light's hand again and she leapt with it, clashing length-wise against its claws, catching a swipe that would've torn the other girl in half. The force of it sent her flying backwards through the air, just barely long enough to regain control of her positioning and land in a kneeling position halfway into the alley she'd just run out of. Its hook-claws grabbed her sword, wrenching it out of her grasp, but she just unsummoned it as soon as she realized it wasn't in her hands anymore.

The other girl had finally shaken it off, just in time to jump out of the way of the next swipe. Now Light had a clear view of the thing's front; it did have wounds from the bullets all across its underside, leaking a little bit of the vague black mist it seemed to be made of, but they looked remarkably shallow. Its face was completely flat, with glowing red eyes because of course they were, and also a mouth that seemed to be composed entirely of gigantic teeth, with no lips or anything to hide them. Well, at least it had eyes, which meant it relied on sight to at least some extent. Light gave it a blinding bright flash to look at instead of the two of them, and then set to work on placing numerous illusory fox-girls around for it to attack whenever it did start seeing again.

The other girl, sword in her hands, circled over to the thing's side while it roared, swiping at the air in response to the flash. Light stood up slowly, finally a little out of breath from all this running and jumping around, not to mention the amount of light manipulation at work just now. But she walked forward anyway, reforming the weapon in her hand and watching for an opening.

With some visibly hard concentration, a few floating water spikes formed from the air again, and she charged up, slashing with her blade and causing the spikes to stab it as they followed her motions, then dissipate and splash across its side. The blade and spikes both made visibly deep cuts and holes in it, the sword going all the way through the body rather than getting stuck partway through. Of course, with pain to guide it the creature didn't need its eyes, and swung hard at the fox-girl with an unnatural speed. She dodged the swipe by a couple of centimeters maybe, and that only because she was already on her way back away from it; her flowing cape-thing wasn't so lucky and got torn half to shreds.

Light spent a little more concentration to make her temporary ally invisible, allowing its next hyperspeed slash to just go through the air. It had its uninjured side toward her now, and her breath was back; that was enough. The white-haired girl ran at it, leapt into the air, and fell blade-first at its shoulder, digging the weapon into its body down to the hilt and immediately wall-hopping away toward its back to avoid retaliation. Only after she'd landed did she start to process the sound the thing made.

It was at once a hiss, a loud, low guttural rattling and a high, wailing screech—a little like hearing two or three different animals in distress all at the same time. But there was something distinctly unnatural and wrong about the sound that she wasn't sure she could place her finger on. Even though it meant that monster was feeling pain, and so must be taking damage, it was an unsettling sound, maybe enough to terrify anyone hadn't already seen what it looked like. Hearing it stunned her for a second, and she was grateful to have illusions to keep it from actually taking advantage of that.

Light called back her sword, leaving its deep hole in the thing's shoulder to spout more black mist. The other girl had run up next to her, mostly because that was the opposite direction from the area the monster was attacking right now. Since it was facing away from them, she took a moment to narrow down the illusions to just one particularly good at dodging and then concentrate some of the sunlight above them into a heat laser—like the ones she'd aimed at Ning the other day, but with an intensity that would do much more than a mild sunburn. The hulking thing made its awful noise again, when it caught that full against its back, and whirled around before jumping up toward where the laser was coming from, swiping up toward the source with its good arm.

She couldn't keep this intensity up for more than a couple of seconds, and returned focus back to invisibility and an illusion or two. The other girl had found a sewer drain to pull water from, and got three or four times the little blades she'd been able to make from vapor to just start swirling around her in a tornado of pain. But she didn't seem to know how, or maybe be able at all, to just send them at the monster, instead choosing (or maybe being forced) to charge right at it. Well, she was invisible, but that many rapidly-moving parts was just plain impossible to hide properly with Light's powers, so she went for another flash in its eyes timed just as it landed from attacking the air and the water-wielder came close.

Her play was to jump right at its chest and stab it with her sword, letting all the water blades follow suit and bury themselves all over the thing's wide body. The sword's aim was where Light guessed a heart surely would be, if something like this had organs like that. But of course this didn't kill it right away, and she hadn't caught on to how wise the backup plan of "jump away immediately" was quite yet, so the thing was able to grab her off of itself, holding her in one of its giant hands.

She was obviously not going to struggle free of that, and it might have started crushing her already. Light ran. Its mouth opened, wider than it had for making noises earlier. It opened and opened, looking like a snake unhinging its jaw. Halfway there, the thought occurred to her that that thing was going to eat that girl. It was a good thing she was already on the way to do something about it.

Another flying leap from the ground took Light up onto the wrist of the arm holding the other girl. Her momentum wouldn't let her land there, so she kept going with another jump forward off of it, toward the gaping mouth. But since her arms were free and not wrapped in giant monster-claw-hands, she was able to lead with her blade, sticking it right into its disgustingly way too open maw, angled up slightly. Then Light's feet were on its upper teeth and she bounced back again, landing on the wrist for real this time. The sword's tip was sticking out of the upper-back of its head very briefly; then it disappeared, just in time to be lodged firmly into the wrist just behind its hand. Then it finally let go of its captive and staggered backwards, spewing mist from the several holes all throughout its body.

The other girl landed roughly, gasping for air. Light tumbled for a bit and popped back to her feet, feeling rather winded herself. She brought her sword back again, holding it out in front of her, standing defensively between the big beast and the police girl, only for it to collapse onto its back, destroying more of the road in the process. Then it faded, just as it had appeared, turning to black mist and then seeming to blow away down the streets in a strong wind nothing else felt.

"Hh..hhhf...that was, way too close." Light released her sword after a second and turned around. "Are you...okay? Anything broken?"
She was already kneeling, and slowly stood back up. Instead of answering the question, she stated, "You could away at any time." Her voice had returned to the steady, genuine calm it had had at first.
"What, and leave you to die? That..thing to run around and hurt people!?" She wasn't even sure exactly why she thought it would do that if left alone, but it felt so...obvious somehow. "What kind of person lets that happen?"
"I...thank you. But, it wasn't a good idea." She pulled out her pistol again, pointing it at Light. They were just far enough apart to make trying to smack it away or grab it a very bad idea. "I have to...uphold the law. You know I have to take you in for questioning." Something about the way she said 'have to' here seemed to suggest she didn't want to at this point.

Light put her hands up. The light was was almost certainly sunset. There wasn't that much less light right now, but her usual powered-by-the-sun-ness didn't seem enough to cure the exhaustion from all the recent running and fighting. When the sun did go down she'd probably be in even worse shape. "Well, I never attacked you. Just for the record. And I'm not doing it now, either. Look, I'm not even gonna run away. I just don't want to change back."
"You should..reconsider—"

The girl dropped her gun, convulsing to the ground. Light's mind had to trace back a couple of steps to realize she'd seen some electricity arcing at her from behind, and then noticed Ning standing just a couple of feet back from the police-girl. A quick glance down made it clear she was still breathing, just stunned; it probably had been about the level of a taser, or slightly more to get past heightened fox-girl defenses to basically everything. The small girl made a 'come on' gesture, and Light took off running behind her, both of them fleeing the scene.

They didn't stop until they got back to Gerald's house, and then inside. Light was panting heavily again; the sun was mostly gone now and her tiredness had only compounded from that panicked run. But the lights were on in here, which was enough to help a bit. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner," said Ning. "I saw it on the news, and the helicopter footage of you fighting that huge monster, and started running right away. least I helped you get away, right?"
Light sat at the front of the nearest chair. "Yeah, that was..thank you, but you...really shouldn't have done that."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean—she's a policeman. Woman. You assaulted a police-person. And she just wanted to question me."
Ning crossed her arms. "Questioning someone doesn't involve pointing a loaded gun at them."
"Things were a little tense. She saw a lot of people get killed by a fox-girl the day before. But—I mean—it was also a bad move tactically."

The smaller girl didn't appear to understand, mostly just still seeming mad about the whole gun thing, or possibly disappointed that Light wasn't happier to have been rescued. "Look, I really appreciate that you came to help me and that you did help me get away. I do. It's just—we don't want them to find out you robbed the bank, and we don't want them to find out that we or I am working with the person who robbed the bank. The evidence points to someone with electricity powers, and you just showed them I know someone with electricity powers. And on top of that she has water powers and can use them to detect me past illusions; I don't know if she might even be able to track us here with those."
"Well—well what else were you gonna do?! Go down to the station where they'd make you tell them everything? Try to run away and get shot?"
Light realized something. "Actually...wait. It wasn't loaded."

"You should reconsider running away."

Rowan stood up again. She'd been about to let that girl get away. Her magazine had been spent within a few seconds of seeing the monster, and she hadn't exactly thought to bring extras before deciding to chase down a shadow on the rooftop. It was wrong, what she'd thought about doing. A person doesn't become immune to the law just because they saved a police officer. Or because the officer tried to kill them.

Her body ached, but breathing, standing, moving her arms..all seemed to work fine. Sensing the flow of water in her blood, it seemed like there was some moderate to pretty bad bruising, but thankfully nothing broken and nothing internally bleeding. That was worse. That she'd actually done. What had she turned into for those two or three minutes!? Shooting someone who was basically a civilian, someone probably innocent and apparently only interested in helping out? Her mind spun back to the day before...the crazed look in that girl's eyes. Was that a crazy person gaining undeserved power, or the power making her crazy?

No, no, that couldn't be it. She was herself—was Rowan, still. It had been...what she knew they were capable of, had seen happen to her friends and coworkers. None of them had deserved it; there were families missing fathers and mothers, husbands and wives. That was all; something about the way this white-haired girl was acting had brought her to that moment, and she'd just...snapped. It took a giant black mist monster appearing out of nowhere to un-snap. Coming back to work the day after that happened had been a mistake. He'd thought he'd be able to handle it, as he had a few times before in the past when officers he'd known had gotten killed, but this had just been too much.

The word was out that it was safe to come here again. There were police, emergency responders, news crews flooding in. Rowan stood still. Trying to kill that girl was wrong, and she was lucky that it turned out to be a decent person who wouldn't just let a cop get killed to make her escape, no matter how little the cop acted like they cared about the law. Somewhere in there, in the middle of the fight with the giant creature, she'd realized all that. And then pulled an empty handgun to encourage her to get away, planning to pretend she hadn't realized it was empty until it was too late. It hadn't happened that way; someone else had hit her with a taser or something. She hadn't heard them coming, and didn't hear anything but two pairs of feet running away while briefly lying on the ground. But it had still been her plan: Try to apologize for doing the wrong thing once by doing it again, in the opposite direction. Two wrongs didn't make a right, as far as the law was concerned.

Finally, people had arrived and started to ask her questions. One of the officers from this precinct asking if she was hurt, and how badly. Newspeople asking all kinds of things while being shooed away—what was that she'd just fought, where had the other person gone, so on so forth. Some of the other police were even asking things like that, and more. She opted only to answer the first oquestion, explaining she was injured and wasn't sure what would happen if she changed back in this state, best to have it looked at right away like this. They helped her over to some non-shattered road and into an ambulance parked at the edge of it. Nobody was going to ask her anything much until they were sure she wasn't going to die, which would give her more time to think. That was what she needed the most right now.

Amory saw Blake leaving the bathroom from a distance, on his way out of class with a crowd of other students. An impulse told him to follow, and he did—slowly, from a distance. It didn't seem like he noticed. He went on to stare at some posters for a while and then leave. That was...weird behavior if he ever saw it. The posters were—well, first of all they'd been there forever, so there was no way he hadn't seen them before, and secondly they were not that interesting. Just a picture of Isaac Newton with googly eyes pasted on, or a large-printed version of the cover of an obscure scientific book most of the professors, much less the students had never heard of.

When he left, Amory finally followed to where he'd just been. Was there a secret message on the posters or something? Well, no—a quick glance told him that they were the same old posters as before. But there must have been something there, some reason for him to...there. A door just across from the wall those posters were on was cracked open, just slightly. The classroom past it was empty, but the door wasn't on the system that usually auto-locked the classroom doors outside of classtime, and nobody had bothered to lock it manually.

A careful search eventually led Amory to a girly pink backpack. The conclusion that someone had just left their backpack behind here was rebutted by the fact that it was in a far corner of the room, rather than next to or on top of one of the desks. Someone had to have put it here deliberately. Blake hadn't even come in here, but he'd been conspicuously and suspiciously nearby for a notable period of time. So maybe this was it. What 'it' was, he still wasn't sure.

What now? Amory's sense of decency forbade him to actually open a girl's backpack and dig around inside, especially if he was wrong about it. The classroom was always unlocked anyway, so if someone had left it behind, they would be able to come looking for it here instead of having to wait for the building's main offices to open to check the lost and found, so he couldn't justify even picking it up.

Eventually he came up with something. Of course, as roommates, they had each other's numbers, to let each other know if something was going on or ask to be let inside in case a key was left behind. So Amory got out his phone and sent an innocent text asking what his roommate was doing for supper. It was the opener for a conversation inviting him to join Amory and some friends or something, if it was responded to. Instead, a very audible came from inside of the backpack.

That was it. Blake's phone was in here for some reason. Amory's suspicions seemed much closer to being proven true. But maybe it was a coincidence? Well, the buzzing had come from right near the top. He knelt over, slightly unzipped the pocket the phone seemed to be in, and found what he knew to be his roommate's model of phone. It didn't exactly say "This is Blake's" on front, but one more test would clinch it. He waited a minute or two, then sent another text saying "actually nevermind". The phone buzzed, and showed that a text from Amory had just arrived, the second of two unread ones.

Amory zipped the backpack up again, and stood up. Blake's phone was in a pink backpack in a room he'd stood next to for a while. It wasn't direct evidence of him being one of the fox-girls and going around playing superhero while trying to maintain a secret identity, but it was a very hard to explain set of events. It was enough to justify asking him directly. But that was best done back in their apartment, where it would definitely be a private conversation. And he didn't want to give his roommate a panic attack by taking the backpack or anything in it; the worst thing would be if Blake suddenly decided to run off into hiding or something like that because he thought he was compromised. So he started on his way home for the day, and began to try and plan what he would say to even start the bizarre conversation they were going to have to have.

1 comment:

  1. I had been wondering about how the new forms would react to injuries and changing while still injured. Guess we'll be finding out about that later.

    I had also been playing around in my mind with the idea of how lasers would work with Light's power. I am glad to see it was not just I that thought of this :)

    The concept of the powers the fox girls had got me thinking of what it would mean to have one of these powers, specifically fire. Fire grows as it consumes more things. This means that it would be an entirely valid, if not quite ethical, tactic for someone with fire powers to start a fire around them and allow it to quickly grow in size. It's a power that would feed itself. The more fire you have, the faster it will spread, until you run out of oxygen or fuel for the power. In theory, the person using fire could also absorb the fire and put it out afterwards, stockpiling the energy for use later or perhaps to energize themself.

    That's not even going into the synergy such a power would have with someone like Light. The fire would, of course, be giving off light, thus allowing a way for Light to operate at night. Even more than that, light is also good for starting fires, when focused as a laser. I have been hard pressed to think of a more synergistic combo than fire and light powers together, especially if power from absorbing light could be turned into more fire, or vice versa.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of other powers and potential synergies we may see between future and current characters! :D