Chapter 14: Streamline

I could hear them before I could see them. Maybe fifty or so voices echoing off of the main street. We’d stopped quite far back, to try and make our approach a little more discrete, but I knew that they’d have heard us by now. It was impossible not to, a massive convoy of trucks coming through the abandoned streets of a third of the city’s corpse. Nothing about that was quiet. Plus, we had made our plans known well in advance. I was just glad my theory had been right. People were moving out of their trucks now, Walter was sending in foot soldiers before anyone else, even though he’d said he wanted me at the front. Or maybe he just trusted me to act on my own. I waited as the men moved past me, and let them take in the fine details of my suit. They probably would never have guessed that the LED’s on my chest were moving in time with my heartbeat. It was probably far too slow for the situation we were in.
“Hey, really quickly, you said something earlier. When we were fighting the lady with a shotgun,” Thunderbolt said.
“Rumble,” I added.
“Yeah, her. You said to stay calm. Was that for you or for me?” She asked. I hadn’t realized I’d said anything of the sort. I don’t know really. If it had been subconscious and I wasn’t just a forgetful idiot, then maybe it had been for me. But, then again, I could just be an idiot. I don’t exactly act much better than one.
“No clue,” I said, and Thunderbolt laughed.
“Seriously?” Just as I was about to reply, a gunshot echoed around us. I pulled my foot off of the ground, and let Thunderbolt get a grip on me before I slammed on the accelerator. No matter which side had fired, an exchange of any kind wasn’t going to be good. If Streamline had fired, that would mean he had brutes prepared. If we had fired, that would mean he was preparing brutes. I hoped to god that we’d been the ones to fire, but I knew that our side would have better trigger discipline than that. We rounded the corner, and I saw soldiers desperately trying to flee from a gigantic man swinging around a mangled stop sign. Just. Fucking. Great.

His muscles seemed to still be crawling beneath his skin though, which provided Thunderbolt and I with a unique opportunity. Let’s say we strike the metal pole the sign is attached to with as much lighting as we can, while this guy is still forming. Maybe the electricity forcing his muscles to contract could stop his… ugly transformation. That, or just knock him out cold. Of course, there was the risk that lightning arced to the bike and it exploded beneath us, but Thunderbolt didn’t need to know that. All she needed to know was to hit, and to hit really fucking hard.
“See him?” I pointed as we drove towards him, and I felt Thunderbolt nod.
“When I say so, hit him as hard as you can,” I said.
“What if I fall off?” She asked. She was really scared.
“You won’t,” I revved the engine as we got closer to him, and he looked at me with glazed over eyes and a stare that gave me the impression that he really wanted me to die. He roared, of course, and smacked his massive club into the ground. This brute was going to be the first of many tonight, there was no doubt about that, but I was slightly worried at how early we’d encountered him. I’d expected a few more men of the smaller variety to try and kill us all first. Maybe Streamline was scared. I can only dream.

I watched a soldier fire a burst of rounds into the brute, and very quickly duck out of the way of his slow swings as we approached, and I figured out exactly what would happen when we fired, or rather what I’d have to do. To hurt him as badly as we possibly could, we’d need to be close, really close. I could get us right up next to him if I wanted, but that would also mean we’d go speeding past. The best course of action would be to brake just in front of the guy, and he’d be able to hit us. Ah, fuck it.

“Now!” I shouted, and slammed my foot into the ground as I broke. It didn’t do much to help slow us down, but it did let us get a good shot. Thunderbolt and I blasted lightning from our hands in almost the same instant, and it slammed into the brute. He writhed and screamed from the power surging into his body, and swung at us with his stupidly oversized weapon. I put my other foot on the ground to keep the now motionless vehicle balanced, and used my right hand to stop the pole in place with electromagnetism. My fingers started to ache pretty quickly from holding onto such a heavy hunk of metal, and simultaneously pumping the brute full of lighting.
“Thunderbolt! Hit it harder!” I shouted, and she nodded. My right arm fell to my side. I couldn’t keep it up for any longer, and the signpost fell to the ground. I barely heard it smack into the bitumen through the crackling of the lightning, but now I didn’t have to focus on that, I stopped the flow of lightning from my hands, and redoubled with as much power as I could muster. We weren’t going to be able to fight to many of these things. I let out a furious roar as I fired into the beast, and it fell to its knees, and its grip on the signpost let up. I got up off of the bike, and walked closer to the brute, still firing from my hands. I placed my hands on its chest and felt the power surge back into me as both Thunderbolt and I fired into it. When it didn’t react to my touch, I let the flow from my palms stop, and I could feel Thunderbolt doing the same. I took a step back from the now unconscious brute, and promptly kicked it in the chest. It fell over backwards, and I was quite happy to see that it wasn’t going to get up for a long time.

I headed back over to where Thunderbolt was sitting on the back of the bike. She still had sparks flying around her hands, and even though I couldn’t see her eyes, I was pretty damn sure she was upset. Fighting those things was always scary, so it was no surprise when the radio flicked on.
“We saw the lightning. You guys good?” Walter asked from the other side. He was dropping protocol to be kinder to Riley. Of course.
“Brute number one is down,” I sat back down on the bike as I spoke, and revved the engine.
“We’re continuing forwards,” I looked at Thunderbolt, and she nodded. I thought about creating an isolated channel for the two of us, but Walter wouldn’t be too happy if he couldn’t reach me in a pinch. I expected us to be in a lot of those very soon.
“Say something so I know you’re good,” I said to Thunderbolt as she wrapped her arms around my waist again.
“I’m good,” Her voice came out modulated, of course, but it was all the confirmation I needed. We took off once again, and the moment we rounded the corner onto the main street, I made a U-turn, and drove away from the gathering as quickly as I could. Flames leapt up from the crowd, followed by an eruption of cheers. I guess our buddy Pyrus wasn’t as gone as we’d hoped. Still, it told me that Superhumans could survive whatever it was Streamline did to them, so that was a bonus.
“Why are we going away from them?” Thunderbolt’s voice came through the radio. The voice through the helmet was too quiet to reach over the engine.
“Because I don’t want to get roasted just yet. Besides, you’ve seen how I approach a fight,” I slammed my foot down into the ground now that we were a suitable distance away, and spun the bike back around. For a moment the world seemed just a little lighter than it had before. I flicked the headlights of the bike on, and Thunderbolt shifted behind me.
“You’re going to make an entrance,” She said.
“Yep.”
“How?”
“I don’t know. I’ll wing it,” I said, and slammed down on the accelerator. We weren’t all that far away, only three or four hundred meters, but it was far enough away for me to think. There was always the more extravagant option of blowing the bike, which I might’ve considered if it wouldn’t have led to a blast of shrapnel between my legs, and Thunderbolt wasn’t with me. I could try and outrun a lightning bolt, but that’d probably just lead to me, again, blowing up the bike. I could try and blast the group of rapidly approaching men with lightning as I went, but that would just leave me without control. Then, the idea hit me. I guess this bike is going kaboom after all.

When I thought the group was close enough, I turned back to face Thunderbolt, and smiled at her.
“Trust me,” I said, and before she could protest, I let go of the handlebars and spun around to grab her. Once I had a tight grip around her, I pushed myself into a standing position on the back of the bike, and took a step onto the back of the seat. The bike was wobbling without me in control, and about to fall off balance, so the weight I was putting on the back made the front wheel lift off of the ground and the back wheel start to screech. I jumped off of the back, pushing away from the bike and sending it up into the air. At the very peak of my jump, I spun around, and pulled the bike back towards the two of us with a burst of electromagnetism, and it almost collided with me. I charged my foot with electricity, and slammed it into the seat. The bike went flying away from me, and exploded above the now flabbergasted gang. We hit the ground and rolled away, and I was caught up in the fluttering of Thunderbolt’s cape. I still had no clue why she needed a cape. All in all, the process of turning the bike into a missile probably took a few seconds, and nobody would have witnessed the detailed movements. It probably looked like I just dove off the back of the bike with Thunderbolt.
“Holy shit what was that?” I heard Kronos say from the other side of the radio. I could barely make it out through the ringing in my ears.
“Skyfire and I are engaging Streamline. Backup would be nice,” Thunderbolt said, and I stood up off of her, and grinned. It sounded like the adrenaline was getting to her. She stood up, and we turned to face the crowd of Streamline’s men. I didn’t really know what to call them. Gangsters didn’t really fit, and they weren’t organised enough to be an army. Perhaps ‘thugs’ was the most appropriate description, but then again, some of them weren’t.
“We’re coming around,” Walter said, and I looked back to see one truck round the corner. That made sense. After encountering just one brute, I’m sure Walter had a much better understanding of them, and I severely doubted he’d want to risk his men in a fight with one of those things. I turned back as the thugs fell silent, and two men in long coats stepped out of the crowd. Streamline and Pyrus.

“Sparky! It’s been quite some time. I saw what you did at the Park building. I’m quite glad you showed off actually, it made it so much more worthwhile when my boys brought me this,” He pulled down his right sleeve as he raised his arm into the air, and showed the mess of wires and pneumatics connecting a blade to his wrist. The blade shimmered slightly in the light of the fires. Well, even though he had his hands on that, he still hadn’t upgraded his lighting. Dumpster fires were scattered around what looked like makeshift bleachers. They were set up in a ring, and there were about thirty goons sitting or standing in those, combined with a good twenty staring me down behind Streamline. I heard the creak of the brakes as the truck stopped behind us, and the team filed out, promptly followed by Walter, who hoisted a rifle out of the driver’s seat with him.
“So you brought friends this time! Nice to see you, Lachlan,” He grinned slyly, and pointed to Atlantis, who literally growled at the guy.
“You!” Pyrus boomed, and a tiny explosion erupted around his feet. His coat flapped from the pressure release, and his hand glowed as a ball of flame formed around it. So, he wasn’t happy to see Cherufe. Thunderbolt backed up to stand with rest of the team, and Walter walked up to me. He pointed his rifle towards Streamline, who held up his hand to stop his thugs from swarming in front of him.
“Which one should I shoot?” Walter asked.
“General, I’d wait a moment. He wants me to talk,” I pulled out a little device from my pocket, and fit it into my mouth. It was uncomfortable, and it made me want to vomit, but it was the best thing I could come up with to recreate the voice the helmet gave me. I took a step forwards, and so did Streamline.
“Hurry up and start this already,” I said, and he grinned.
“Ooh, you do know how to be intimidating. Too bad he knows better,” He raised his left arm, and his veins bulged. One of the guys standing to his left fell to the ground in pain, and then stood back up as his body suddenly doubled in size. It looked like his skin was on the verge of splitting open, and his bulging veins and twitching muscles weren’t doing him any good. The brute let out a monstrous roar, and smashed his fists together. Fortunately, Streamline had chosen someone with longer hair, and not Nick, so this dude had hair in his eyes.
“Shoot him,” I said, and Walter’s rifle made a sound like a cannon. The bullet, which looked more like a bloody tank shell, smashed into the brute’s chest and sent him reeling backwards. That thing didn’t look bigger than any standard rifle, so how he did that, I don’t know. He tossed the rifle to the side, and drew a pair of pistols from his waist. I looked at him, and he smiled back at me.

“To put it simply, ha, I exaggerate things,” He said, and Streamline fell back into the crowd, who were now swarming towards us. Pyrus was leading the charge with the brute, who had regained his footing, and Cherufe looked ready to fight him.
“I’m going to melt your fucking face off!” Pyrus screamed, and Cherufe suddenly looked a lot less like she wanted to fight him.
“Your call, Excalibur one,” Walter said, and I flicked my radio on.
“Cherufe, take Pyrus. He’s angry, so he’s going to fight like an idiot. Miracle, focus on keeping us alive. Atlantis, watch for Streamline. The rest of you, take on the little guys, but keep watch in case I need a hand,” I spat out the small modulator before I accidentally swallowed it or broke it.
“And you will be?” Tempest asked.
“I’m going to take on the big guy. Duh,” I said, and we charged. Immediately, Miracle and Thunderbolt took up a position next to Walter. Of course they did. The rest of the team just kind of ran, and Cherufe immediately started firing at Pyrus. I’d let the two of them clash for now. I had something far better to do.

I met the brute head on, and in the opening blow, our fists collided. Turns out, that was a bad idea. My hand shattered upon impact, and the force of the hit echoed back into my arm, breaking the bones and dislocating it. But, since it was the opening blow, Miracle was able to heal it pretty damn quickly. The brute took a few steps away from me to assess the situation, which proved to be a rather bad idea for it. I ran at it, and carefully placed my feet to kick it backwards slightly, and run up its now tilted chest. It was a short run, but it let me plant both feet on the brute’s head, and send it flying into the ground with a resounding crack. It picked itself, and charged at me again, even with all of that blood streaming out of its nose. Well, at least I’d managed to make it bleed. A broken nose didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment though, and its massive swings certainly didn’t help. I ducked beneath its flying fists, and he hit one of his allies in the back. I heard the dude’s spine break, and when he smacked into a nearby wall, he didn’t get up. Okay, now I was a little scared. I ducked underneath his fist again, and the brute was struck by a hail of bullets from Walter, allowing me the opportunity to push him back with some lightning. Stray bolts flicked off to some of the thugs surrounding me, and they either ran when they saw their buddies get hit, or seized up from the shock. Walter’s aid left when Thunderbolt got hit from the side by a baseball bat, and he returned his focus to keeping Streamline’s grunts off of them. I let up with my lightning, and used the brute’s dazed state to get close, and hit him as hard as I fucking could. I slammed my fist into his stomach, and he fell onto his ass. I hit him again and he slid back, steadily moving further and further backwards with each hit. When he was starting to get close to the bleachers, I hit him in the chin with one massive punch, and the brute flew back into the bleachers, destroying them with his sheer body-weight. I walked up to the brute, and pressed my fingers against its neck. Nothing, which meant Streamline was gearing up to fight me with someone else.

I felt the point of a knife strike the back of my suit, and I spun around to see a very terrified looking bald guy.
“If you were going to stab me, perhaps the back of the neck would have been a better idea,” I said, and he tried to slash at my neck. I caught his wrist, and twisted his arm so that he’d let go of his knife. He screamed in pain, but stopped the moment my fist collided with his skull. Another one down, but more and more men were flooding out onto the street. Where they’d been hiding, I doubt I’d ever know. I cracked my knuckles as they began to surround me, and glared at the first guy to step in front of me.
“Bad idea,” I said and ran forwards. I tackled the first person directly in front of me, and he slumped over upon impact. I shoved him aside and caught an oncoming blow, twisting the arm of my attacker and planting my fist directly in their stomach. They fell to the ground as well. The next guy came at me with a knife, and I slammed my palm into his chest. He gasped, and dropped his knife. I grabbed it and spun around just in time to block the guy that was coming up behind me. He drew back his blade, and slashed at me. I stepped back out of his way, and tossed the knife to the ground. Lightning jumped from my palms and slammed into my opponent, and he too fell. The next guy tried to bring a bat down over my head, but he was just a little too slow, and I managed to catch it. I wrestled it from his grip, and kicked him in the stomach to take him out of the fight as well. I swung the bat around in a circle, and hit three guys in the ribs. They crumpled up as they fell, and probably only did more damage to their ribs. I made my way closer and closer to Walter, steadily backing up and taking on thugs as I went. I grabbed someone’s leg out of the air as they attempted to kick me in the face, and threw them into the ground, and caught a number of punches from people who thought that would do the trick. I even went on the offensive for a second, and knock three guys out with a single punch each.

I finally made my way next to Walter, and he grinned at me.
“How many are you at?” He asked. Was he seriously keeping score.
“No clue. But I’ve got a brute, so I think I have you beat,” He laughed, and slapped me across the back as lightning crackled next to us. Miracle was doing a good job of getting a punch in every now and then, but this group mainly consisted of Thunderbolt and Walter protecting her. I had to admit though, Thunderbolt had really come out of her shell during this fight.
“Coming through!” I heard Cherufe shout, and she ran past us as she tackled Pyrus into the ground. I followed her through the gap she’d created in the crowd, and watched for a moment as she battled Pyrus. She kicked him in the chest, and shot a stream of flame into him as he lay on the ground. The ends of his coat were on fire, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was laughing away while she burned him, and I was beginning to get an idea why. Just like her, he was invulnerable to flames. So maybe if I spiced it up a little bit…
“Cherufe! Toss him over here!” I grinned, and she looked at me, and smiled. She picked him up by the collar, and threw him at me. I caught him in a field of electricity, and he writhed as it struck him. I wasn’t putting in enough effort to knock him out or to seriously hurt him, but just enough to keep him in place in the air while I moved towards him. He was struggling against my grasp, and firing off streams of flames from his hands into the crowd. He was hitting his allies, but he was also furious. I guess he didn’t want to turn into a brute again. I didn’t want him to either, so I thought it would be best if Cherufe and I finished this off quickly. I stood up right next to where Pyrus was floating in the air, and drew back my fist.

“No, no,” He sounded worried, “Don’t do that,” Too late. I slammed my fist into his stomach, and dropped the electrical field he was trapped in at the same time, and he exploded away from my hand. He spun in the air, I suppose that was because of my fist, and he did a full one-eighty by the time he was back in front of Cherufe. She punched him as well, and he fell down onto the ground. He struggled to get back up, weak flames flashing in and out of existence around his hands.

“Edward!” Walter roared into my earpiece, and I spun around to look at him. A thunderous footstep slammed into the ground between us, and I was met by another brute. He charged at me, and ran so fast that I had absolutely no time to react. He slammed into me, and then into a nearby building. And then through the wall. And then through the next wall. And then through the next wall. This repeated a few times before the brute stopped running, and we ended up about a block away from the action. I struggled to get up off of the ground, but my body felt weak and unusable. I had no idea what had just happened, and my head hurt like hell. I put my hand against my head as I tried to get up, and pushed off of the wall that the brute had thrown me into when he suddenly stopped. He was still standing there, hunched over and breathing heavily.
“Why no go splat?” The brute asked. Great. Another talking one.
“Because,” I coughed, and the brute grinned.
“Because fuck you,” I said, and blasted it with lightning. It wasn’t very creative, but its writhing afforded me the time to run past it, and I followed the holes it had made back to the action. I could hear its thundering steps approaching behind me, but I was a little caught up in the moment, and the fact that my hand was coated in blood. I slid over to Walter to escape the brute’s field of vision, and partly because I tripped on my weak legs. I landed in front of him, and Thunderbolt gasped when she saw me.
“Thanks for the heads up,” I said and he grinned.
“Nice job running back here on a leg that badly bruised, dumbass,” Miracle said, and extended a hand to me to help me off the ground. Things were moving faster than I had expected, and Streamline’s brutes seemed kind of soft. The one that had been following me roared as I stood up, and I had to check to make sure he wasn’t coming for me. Well, he was coming for me, he just hadn’t seen me yet.
“Hey. You didn’t just get tackled by that thing,” I said, and Miracle nodded.
“That’s true. I would’ve paid more attention,” She said, and I almost hit her with some static. Almost. The brute roared again, and charged at me. Walter spun around, and fired into the brute, and it stumbled backwards as his massive bullets slammed into its chest. He holstered his weapons, and ran at the brute. He left a trail of flames on the ground as he suddenly sped forwards, and he slammed a fist into the brute. It stumbled back, but Walter also had to pull away. His fist was glowing red, that is, until Miracle worked her magic on him. I ran up next to him, and he pulled out his pistols again.
“Surprisingly, I’m not very good with anything other than these,” He said, and turned back to the group surrounding Thunderbolt and Miracle. One of the bullets made impacted with someone’s head, and bounced off before disintegrating. The guy it hit was unconscious, and Walter hurried back over to the girls, leaving me alone to fight the brute.

A high-pressure stream of water smacked into the brute’s chin, and he stumbled to the side. Atlantis ran up to me, and watched with me as wind swept flecks of dust and long-dead leaves off of the ground. The wind streams formed loops around the brute’s arms and legs, and he was suddenly thrust back into the wall of the building behind him. The bricks shifted and crunched, but the brute didn’t seem too worse for wear.
“Atlantis, what do you think? Are these guys getting boring or what?” I asked, and he grinned.
“That depends. What are you thinking?” He asked. He slammed his elbow back into a guy that was trying to sneak up on him, and what felt like a light breeze caught the guy’s unconscious form before he hit the ground. From how it looked, Tempest wasn’t even moving his arms.
“Douse them all. Soak anything and everything you can,” I said, and he grinned. He took a step away from us, and water exploded from his hands, and flew around the battlefield. As he worked, Tempest took to spreading it around with his own powers, and they managed to soak a fair bit of the battlefield before the brute roared again.

Tempest’s bindings had broken, and the brute was standing once again. He stood in front of me, his monstrous body looming over my own, and he spoke once again.
“GO SPLAT!” He roared, and swung his fist down on my head like a hammer. He would’ve hit me if one of Walter’s bullet’s hadn’t knocked his arm to the side. The brute’s fist smashed into the road, and sent chunks of bitumen and dirt flying. He roared again, and slid his fist across the road to strike my legs, and I jumped up onto his arm. It was wide enough for me to plant both of my feet on it, and I pumped lightning down and through my legs. He raised his arm as fast as he could to get me off of it and launched me into the air above him. I flipped around, and grabbed onto his neck as I fell behind him. I wrapped my arms around his throat and squeezed down as hard as I could.

The brute made this mangled, half screaming sound from the pressure I was putting on his neck, and reached around behind his back to grab me. He placed his hand firmly on top of my skull, and squeezed as he brought me in front of his face. He was fuming, quite literally. Little puffs could be seen coming off of his nose from the cold, and it was about to get a whole lot colder. Atlantis’ streams of water finally hit the two of us, and loosened the brute’s grip on my skull. I punched up into his arm, and smashed my foot into the side of his ribs in quick succession, and the brute let go of my head. The brute screamed at me, very obviously upset that I was getting out of his grasps again, and slammed his fists into the ground. It was throwing a tantrum.
“Whatever you’re going to do, Skyfire, you’d better do it soon,” Atlantis said as his fist made contact with an oncoming man. The guy fell away from his punch with a bloodied nose and a bleeding lip, and made way for the next guy to take a swing. Suddenly, I was slammed by a massive fist, and sent rolling across the now drenched battlefield. It looked as though it had just rained, but the sky above us wasn’t going to make that happen. Not this time. I slammed into a pair of legs, and that finally stopped my rolling. I was sort of surprised that whoever I’d hit didn’t trip, but when I looked up, I could see why.
“Hey Miracle. I broke my ribs again,” I said, and she kicked them just to make sure.
“Oh, you did? I never would’ve guessed,” She leaned down and extended her hand to me, and the pain in my chest ceased the moment our hands met. I stood back on my own two feet, and turned to face the brute that was now looming over us.
“WHY WON’T YOU GO SPLAT!?” It screamed, and Thunderbolt rammed her knee into its stomach. It crumbled down onto its own knees, holding onto its stomach like it had been shot.
“Well? Do your thing!” She said, and slammed her fist into the brute’s head. Damn, she was a bad-ass. As the brute leaned onto its side, she kicked its head and sent the whole damn brute up into the air. It landed a few meters away and with a heavy thud, and I decided to get a move on before she turned that strength on me.
“You sure it’s just the electricity she’s got?” I asked Walter, and he grinned.
“About fifty-fifty. Now hurry up!” He said, and fired a volley of bullets into oncoming men. Seriously, these dudes just keep coming.
“On my mark!” I shouted, and got our entire force to look at me. Eight people, but a force all the same.
“Jump!” I slammed my palm into the ground, and Atlantis’s help paid off. Electricity surged from my hand into the water and dust and mud covering the ground. It sizzled and hissed as the water began to boil from the sudden combustion of dust the electricity caused, and all of the thugs on the battlefield screamed and writhed in pain. The electricity exploding from my hand made its way to the brute as well, and it charged at me. Walter was exaggerating the amount of time the team could spend in the air, but from the way he was sweating, I knew he couldn’t keep it up for long. I pulled my hand away from the ground as the last of the thugs fell away, and caught the brute’s charge head on, meeting his fists with my own. I ducked underneath one, and jumped the other, planting another kick on his bruised stomach, and waiting for him to recoil. He pulled back just as I had planned, and a gunshot echoed across the near silent battlefield.

The water Atlantis had spread around splashed up into the air as the team landed, and the brute fell. Not unconscious. Dead. I turned to look at Walter, who was panting like a dog, and bleeding from his nose. I walked over as Miracle laid him down to treat him, and looked him dead in the eye. He was mortified by what he’d just done, especially in front of those two.
“I am a soldier,” He said, and struggled to grin. He coughed up blood. So using his powers had taken that much out of him. That thing must have one thick skull.
“It was already dead,” I said, and he raised his hand. I grabbed it, and shook it as he lay the grey mud. It wasn’t really mud, it was a mixture of ash and water. The ashes of old lives, now long dead.

Unsurprisingly, I was struck from the side by a fireball. Once again I was rolling across the ground, but this time I stopped myself, and I pulled myself out of the mud to get a look at where I’d been hit from. Pyrus was still standing, incredibly. Cherufe had backed away from him now, but the rest of the team was getting into formation around him. Walter raised his weapons as he struggled off of the ground to help them, and Pyrus grinned. A massive fireball exploded away from his body, and knocked the entire team to the ground. I heard the sound of a helicopter overhead, and a sudden thought struck me. There were two reasons that helicopter would be here: It was either reporters sticking their noses into dangerous business, or it was the military. If it was reporters, that probably meant the military wasn’t too far behind. It also meant we were making a mess. I walked over to where the team was lying in the mud, and pulled Miracle up from where she was lying on her face. She was covered in mud, and I bet if she knew the whole story, she’d be mortified. I tried to wipe some of it away, but she flinched as I did so. She must’ve been clamping her eyes shut from the pain. I pressed my palm to her cheek, and did my best to start healing her wounds. Pyrus’s coat was all but scraps now, and the majority of his clothes had been burnt away. The dude wasn’t in good shape, his stomach was covered in burn scars, and one very conspicuous slash across his chest.
“Edward?” May whispered. It looked like Pyrus hadn’t heard. I doubt he would’ve over the erratic bursts of flames erupting over his body.
“Are you alright?” I asked, and she nodded.
“Good. You need to take care of the rest of the team. Walter probably got burnt the worst,” She nodded once again.
“How come you’re okay?” She asked.
“As it seems to be the theme of tonight, I have absolutely no idea,” I said, and she grinned. She pushed herself out of my hands, and crawled over to Walter. I don’t know why, but I snapped my fingers, and she seemed to move a little easier.

I stood up, and walked over to Pyrus. He did nothing to slow my approach, so I suppose he knew what was going to happen.
“You know you won’t be immune to my powers,” He said, and I grinned.
“I don’t need to be,” I replied, and slammed my elbow into his jaw. He planted his fist in the mud and lit a flame around it, suddenly hardening it to get a grip and stop his sudden sliding. He rubbed his free arm across his jaw, and drew a streak of blood across his face.
“Son of a bitch,” He said, and blasted a fireball at me. I raised my arms, and let the suit take most of the hit. The rest of the impact went straight into my arms, and bruised them pretty badly. How did fire hit so goddamn hard? I really couldn’t be bothered to contemplate the science behind it. Once the smoke around my arms cleared, Pyrus ran at me, and punched me in the jaw. His fist felt hot, and he knew that it was. He held it against my face for as long as he could, and grabbed onto my suit before I fell. I slammed his fist into my face over and over and over again, and quickly switched his grip from my suit to my throat. That was his mistake. It gave me direct skin to skin contact, which meant I could zap him as powerfully as I wanted. He clamped down on my throat, and started to heat his hand. He was slow, like he was trying to torture me. I hadn’t even been the one to beat him. Now if he would just stop hitting me in the face so I could concentrate, he’d be unconscious. I grabbed his fist in an attempt to slow him down, but instead of choking me any further, he let go of my neck and grabbed onto my face. He placed one of his fingers over my eye, and I saw his hand begin to glow red. I realised what was going to happen far too late.

He had promised to melt someone’s face.

In the same moment that I realized what he was going to do, Pyrus’s hand was flung away from my face. It exploded in a ball of flames, perhaps a little too powerful for Pyrus. He backed away from me, staring at his burning hand, and back at me. I hadn’t moved, so I could only assume what had happened. Kronos. I ran forward, and drove my knee into Pyrus’s stomach, and he fell. The fire on his hand burned out in the mud. I walked up to his unconscious form, and quickly backed away once I got a whiff of the stench. It smelt like rot, but it was far too early for that, and he wasn’t dead. I held my nose, and lifted up his previously burning hand, and confirmed my theory.

His hand had exploded. The fire took care of the rest. He would’ve screamed if the combined horror of having his hand explode and my sudden hit hadn’t knocked him out.
“Well goddamn. I guess I’m the only one left,” A voice said from nearby. Streamline. He strolled out into the mud, the device strapped to his arm still shimmering in the faint light. Most of the dumpster fires had been extinguished by Atlantis. He strolled forward, and metal creaked behind him as the bleachers he had haphazardly built collapsed. He glared at me with a fury in his eyes, and raised his shimmering blade to me. I could still hear Miracle moving through the mud, which meant she hadn’t managed to get the rest of the team back on their feet yet. That was not good. I felt a hand come down on my shoulder, and turned to see Walter standing next to me.
“That thing he’s wearing. What is it?” He asked, and Streamline grinned.
“This, my friend, is some special tech I stole from the good people at Park Manufacturers. I heard it can cut through anything,” He said, and slashed through a nearby streetlamp to show it off. He was sort of right, it slashed straight through and fell to the ground with a massive crash. The broken ends of the streetlamp sparked, and the hydraulics in the device hissed.
“Actually, it’s a high-frequency vibrational knife. It’s a factory tool,” I said, and Walter slumped over onto my shoulder. He was grasping his chest. Small remnants of flame were licking the sides of his hands, where his shirt had probably burnt through. Miracle ran over to lie him down on his back, and Streamline absently swung around his weapon.
“And how would you know that?” Streamline asked. Shit. I didn’t have a good response for that one.
“I know the guy that designed it,” I said. He smiled.
“You know Harold Lucas?” That wasn’t actually right, but yeah, I did know him.
“No. That’s his son’s work,” Walter glared at me from the ground. I probably shouldn’t have said that.
“Well then. Before we get started I should probably congratulate you. I had three hundred men in my group. Now, they’re all dead or unconscious. I think you should probably pay for that,” He said, and he ran at me. I took up a fighting stance, and he slammed into my chest with his fist. He hit hard, and I doubted he was going to turn himself into a brute, so I could temper my expectations based on that. That was probably going to be his strongest punch. I slammed my fist up and into his stomach, and he spat in my face as my fist made impact. I guess he didn’t like me.

“So tell me Sparky, why choose to play the hero? There’s plenty of space you could’ve just taken for yourself. I mean, just look around-” I slammed my fist into his jaw as he spoke, and knocked him to the ground. He held his hand above him to stop the knife from touching his body, and for good reason too. That thing, although I wasn’t going to say it, was built to cut through things far stronger than the armor I was wearing. He pushed himself off of the ground and swung at me, and I barely managed to duck out of the way. I was getting tired. I grabbed his right arm, and tried to weave my fingers between the wires and tubes on wrapped around his arm, but the moment my hand made contact with one of them, he slammed his fist into my stomach.
“Oh, no,” He punched me in the face.
“That’s not going to happen Sparky,” He kicked me in the stomach, and grabbed onto my throat. I really wasn’t doing too well in this fight. I pumped electricity into his arm, and his grip on my throat tightened. Okay, so maybe that was a bit too much lightning.
“Ouch,” He said, and drew back his arm. He was going to fucking stab me with that thing. I grabbed onto his arm with my hands. I punched down on his elbow, and he let go of me. I kicked at his legs, to try and knock him down, but he jumped over my kick and punched me in the face. He stomped down on my chest, and grinned at me as he pinned me down.
“Now this makes much more sense. You should be beneath me,” He said and drove the blade into my arm. I’ll be honest. I fucking screamed. I could feel the blade humming in my arm, quickly moving from side to side and opening the wound further. He moved it as well, just to make me feel more pain. Slowly, he pulled the blade out of my arm, and punched me in the throat. I tried to stand up, but I was bleeding pretty badly, and I was starting to feel weak. He took his foot off of my chest, and stomped on my face.

He wandered away from me, and snuck up behind Miracle. She heard him coming in the mud, and tried to hit him before he could get to her, but it did no good. She missed him, and he punched her in the stomach. She crumpled from his hit, and he held his blade up to her throat.
“No, please,” I heard her say over the radio.

I cracked. I pushed myself off of the ground, and drew my sidearm. I fired three rounds into the wires for his weapon, and the near-silent hum it had been producing finally died. He turned to look at me like I was an idiot. I had seriously fucked up the wound on my arm, and probably gotten a shit tonne of mud in it, but I really didn’t care. I fired another three bullets, and they slammed into his back. Spots of blood formed on his coat, and he dropped Miracle in the mud. She scrambled away from him, and went back to trying to heal the team. I guess it was taking so long because she was scared. Great, I was going to have to fight this guy with a useless arm. God fucking dammit. Blood squirted out of my arm as I turned to follow his movements.
“You shot me,” He said. I fired another bullet, but this time, it went through his knee.
“Son of a bitch,” He screamed, and ran at me. As he ran, his footsteps started to echo and his body grew larger. It looked like he was approaching me twice as fast as he was, but in reality, he was simply growing. He slammed his now massive foot into my ribs, and threw me against the bleachers. Whatever kind of tournament he’d been holding; we’d definitely ruined it. Thunder rumbled overhead as I slammed into the bleachers, and the sky above us split open, giving way to a torrential downpour. That had come along out of the blue. Streamline towered above me, his monstrous form towering above even the other brutes. He placed his foot on my leg, and pressed down as slowly as he could. I wasn’t winning this fight in this state.
“Really quickly, before I, um, go splat, do you call them brutes? Cause that’s what we call them,” I said, and he cocked his head to the side.
“What do you mean?” He asked, and lessened the pressure on my leg.
“You know, the big guys. We call them brutes. It actually just started as an offhand description for Nick, but it kind of just spread,” I said, and he stomped down on my leg.
“Quit stalling. Die,” he said, and raised his leg. He was hit from the side by a monstrous punch, and I think I heard his jaw break. He fell, crashing into his bleachers, and for a moment, he didn’t get up. Good, that meant we had time to either get away, or get fixed up. I looked over at where the punch had come from, and Thunderbolt was standing there. Her hair looked like it had been burned and her cape was completely gone. She stood above me, and extended her hand to me. I guess Miracle had healed her.
“You okay?” She asked. God, that altered voice did not suit her. She was… too short for it.
“Not even slightly,” I said. I tried to move, but my shattered leg and my incredibly fucked up arm muscles weren’t doing me any good. I heard metal crunch as Streamline started to stand up. Thunderbolt backed away, and took up a fighting stance. If I couldn’t get back up now, or no one else could, she’d be the only one left on the battlefield to fight that thing, and although she was probably pumped up on adrenaline, I severely doubted that would help her beat Streamline. I had two aces up my sleeve, I guess now was the time to use one.

“Help me up,” I said, and raised my one good arm. Thunderbolt gladly took it to help me up, and moved to help me stand with my bloody arm. It hurt like hell, but it was better than putting any more weight on my leg. Metal crashed against wood as Streamline’s bleacher’s fell, and he stood. He’d tossed what remained of his coat aside, and was struggling with the mangled remains of the knife. He tore it off, and threw it away like scraps. That shit was expensive, but there really wasn’t anything that could be done about it now. That sort of tech needed to be kept very, very secret.
“Oh, that’s cute Sparky. She your girlfriend or something?” Streamline’s voice was deeper, and his jokes didn’t exactly sound as humorous now. It sounded more like a bear trying to make a quip. I could feel Thunderbolt’s arms shaking as he spoke, and she glared at him.
“No, but he is my friend. So I’d like it if you left him alone, unless you want another one of those punches to hit your jaw,” she said. She sounded far more confident then she had earlier, but I had no idea if that was just adrenaline talking, and she was going to collapse after this, should we survive, or if she just genuinely was more confident. It didn’t help that I could hear her voice waver as she spoke.

Streamline rubbed his jaw, and considered it.
“Well, he’s going to bleed out anyway. I could put him out of his misery, or I could have some more fun,” He said, raising his head to the sky. I felt a drop of water land in my wound, and amongst everything else, that stood out. I tried to move my fingers on my left hand, but it hurt, and they only weakly responded. I knew my leg wouldn’t move. The bones weren’t solid enough for my muscles and tendons to pull on.
“So I think I’ll make you suffer too,” He said. He ran at Thunderbolt, and raised his fist as he did so. She didn’t move, she looked like she was too scared to. The way he had his hand raised, he looked poised to try and take her head off. Just before he was about to hit her, I shifted my weight, and knocked the two of us to the ground. Perhaps I was too late, because Streamline got a glancing blow on my shoulder. I pushed myself off of Thunderbolt, and stood on my own feet. It hurt like hell, but it was better for her to stay down for now.
“Oh, how sweet,” Streamline said, and slammed his fist into my stomach. It felt like it would’ve broken through if it wasn’t for the armor, and I looked up at Streamline. The lights on my chest were starting to slow down, and by now he must’ve figured out that that was my heartbeat. He smiled, and raised his fist once again.

A green flash of light swallowed the battlefield, and my wounds healed. The feeling of my bones and my muscles slipping back into place and threading back together was grotesque, but once the repairs were done, they felt stronger, and harder. I charged at him, and ducked beneath his oncoming punch. I sprung into the air and slammed my foot into his jaw as I spun, and he toppled over, slamming down into the mud on his side. Thunderbolt gawked at me as I landed in the mud, and I backed up next to her.
“Wasn’t that…” She trailed off. Streamline was standing back up.
“My broken leg? Yep,” I waited for Streamline to come over to us to try and kill me again, but he seemed to be struggling with the pain in his jaw. We had both tried our damnedest to break it.
“Doesn’t that mean it will fade?” She asked. That was a good point. But this felt different somehow, more permanent than normal. Like my body had decided it was time for an upgrade.
“Maybe. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wait around to find out,” She nodded, and we charged Streamline together. She jumped, and smashed both of her fists into his chest, making him stumble. I swept his legs out from under him, and he fell back down into the mud. I kicked him in the ribs, and jumped out of the way of his arm as he tried to swing at me. He sent a hell of a lot of mud up into the air as his fist hit the ground, and he let out an angry roar. We were pissing him off, which was good and bad at the same time.

“Thunderbolt! Get back,” I said, and she backed away from him. He pushed himself out of the mud, and onto all fours. He was standing like a gorilla with his hands in the mud, and leapt forwards to land behind us. I was almost surprised the ground didn’t shake as he hit it. He slammed his fist down just barely in front of Thunderbolt, and a splash of mud hit her uncovered hand. I heard her hiss through the radio, so obviously May hadn’t been able to completely fix any burns Pyrus would’ve given her. Oh well, I couldn’t really focus on that at the moment. I jumped out of the way of Streamline’s fist, and like with the last brute, landed on his hand. I ran up his arm and stood on his back, which was at a much nicer angle than hanging from the other guy. I placed my hands onto his back, I blasted electricity directly into his spine. He screamed, but it wasn’t enough. He stood up as quickly as he could to toss me away, and I was thrown into the sign of the building behind him. Cafe Roma. I heard another massive impact as I slipped away from the side of the building, and I made my way around a pile of metal obstructing my view. Thunderbolt was dodging his punches still, but we weren’t going to get very far like this. I didn’t even know how Walter wanted this guy. Did he want him alive? There was no way that I knew of to stop him from using his powers, and taking so many men into custody would be a nightmare for police, especially since they didn’t technically have a warrant for any of them. Pyrus would probably be the easiest one, and that was saying something. The dude would probably burn down whatever prison he was locked in.

Thunderbolt jumped back once again as Streamline’s fist came down, and I made my way back into the fray. Lightning crackled overhead once more, and Streamline’s horrifically altered body was silhouetted in the light. He looked pretty damn scary, but we could beat him. We had to. I ran up to him, and jumped into the air. I drove my knee into his face, and knocked him to the side with a quick follow up punch. He roared in anger, slowly becoming less and less coherent. He was becoming more like the rest of the brutes over time, which meant he’d eventually be mindless, but also that the power would fade, and he’d be left unconscious. He slammed another fist into the earth, just barely missing me, and he ran towards where Miracle was healing up the team.
“No you don’t,” I said, and pummeled him from behind with electricity. He screamed, and fell down onto his knees. Thunderbolt hit him too, and he slowly moved towards us, scraping trails in the mud as our electricity pulled on him. He wasn’t even bothering to scream at this point. Had he given up?

He jumped up, and landed directly in front of us. So no, he hadn’t. He swept his fist across the mud, and threw some into my eyes. My lightning stopped its flow the moment I couldn’t see anymore, and I struggled to wipe it away. He slammed his fist into me, and I wiped enough mud away to see Thunderbolt rapidly approaching me. I hit her, and she fell to the ground from my weight. I tried to stand up, but the moment I did I was in Streamline’s grasp. He picked Thunderbolt up as well, and stared at the two of us.
“What was it the other guy said? Oh yeah. Go splat,” He said, and reeled back his arm. He was going to throw us into the rubble of his bleachers, which honestly looked like it was going to impale us rather than crush us. Thunderbolt didn’t move. She didn’t say a word. All I could hear over the radio was the sound of her hyperventilating.

And then he just dropped us. His hands opened up, and we fell to the ground. I hit the mud with a splash, and ran over to Thunderbolt to make sure she was okay. She wasn’t. She’d passed out. I picked her up, and turned to Streamline, who was lying face down in the mud. His body was slowly shrinking, and he had a dart sticking out of his neck. I quickly scanned the area, and saw exactly what I hadn’t wanted to. Miracle had her hands in the air, and soldiers were moving to grab the team, who still looked pretty badly beaten up. A soldier moved up to Miracle, and forced her onto her knees. I had to do something before she or anyone else had their masks removed, and before anyone tried to hurt Thunderbolt and I.

Soldiers swarmed around us, and I decided it was time to use ace number two.
“Blink!” I shouted, and in an instant, we were far, far away. Blink smiled at me as he let go of my hand, and disappeared in his smoke, leaving me to deal with a startled Miracle, and our soldiers. Oh well, it was far better than Streamline. I gently lowered Thunderbolt to the ground, and as soon as her weight was off of me, as little as it was, I collapsed. From exhaustion or what, I had no idea, but I just collapsed.