The shells slammed into me all at once. When you are Ultra tough bullets don’t go through you, even big ones like these, but its like getting punched. I was basically getting punched very hard and very fast. I staggered backwards, holding my arms in front of me like I was trying to block the bullets from hitting my body. One caught me in the head and I went crashing down.
Shooting me wasn’t stupid. I only have first degree Ultra toughness. Enough bullets could kill someone with that power. But not when I was touching the ground. No way. He poured power into me, healing the impacts as they struck, constantly restoring whatever damage was being done.
I surged back up to my knees, trying to keep track of who was where despite the frantic battering. Most Ultra fights end with someone getting caught off guard. I’ve been in enough to put a priority on keeping track of who is where and what’s going on, even when a bunch of jerks are blasting me.
I couldn’t sustain myself at up on my knees and I slammed back down on my back. Through the ground I could feel Mario walking back between the 4 guys who were letting me have it, while the kneeler had jumped back to his or her feet and the 2 in the back were still there. The 4 soldiers who were shooting me had split into 2 pairs.
After another moment the shots slowed. Some were reloading. I quickly pushed myself off the ground and back to my feet, which is mostly only doable from a flat on your back position if you have Ultra strength. I got a step towards my pull wagon before they were back to firing at full speed again. Quick reloads.
This time I was readier for the shots, I sort of leaned into it, and the ground dug the nearer of my feet towards them into itself a few inches, bracing me. I shouted above the gunfire.
“Th-“ I was cut off as a shot hit me somewhere in the jaw or head and I raised my arms up to guard my face. They redoubled their fire. If it wasn’t for the ground holding me in place I would have toppled. Instead I sort of wobbled there for a second, battered back like I was doing limbo, then forward like I was ducking.
I was getting really angry. Who shoots someone without talking first? I dove toward my cart, and in the brief moment when I was off the ground I nearly got knocked out. I ended up rolling next to it on my hands and knees as they unloaded into me. I’d hoped to get behind it, but I was in front of it instead.
I dug my hands and feet into the ground and just held on, enduring. The thunder of their guns went on for what felt like forever, but was probably just a half a minute or so, then all of a sudden they stopped.
I slumped back on my ass and looked them over. They were still standing in their pairs, but Mario was back where I couldn’t see him. A woman had come forward, from her steps she was the Ultra. She’d be in charge, no doubt.
She had on a sort of boss version of what they were wearing. Same basic stuff, but small shoulder pads and some sort of decoration on her chest. She had a gun belted to her side, and no gloves. Probably a power that worked through touch then.
She said something in a language I couldn’t understand, and they each answered quickly, none taking their eyes from me. I thought it might be French, it sounded like an old wrestling villain from my shows who’d had a French gimmick. That would make sense, France was Union nowadays.
I guessed that they were saying how many bullets they had left. That was a bummer. I’d been hoping that they had stopped shooting because they had run out. They shot me a LOT in a very short time. Probably too much to hope for though. They seemed to be trained in this sort of thing, and Mario had said they had a Tally of 4.
“Give up” she said. She had a slight accent, but not as cartoonish as the old wrestling villains who played foreigners. “You aren’t going to beat us. We just want to question you.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I said. “Your buddy Mario said no one comes back from questioning.”
She looked upset at that. She gestured at the soldiers again.
Before they could fire I reached over my shoulder and grabbed one of the disk weights in my wagon. I’d been intending to throw it at her, but my throw sort of wilted into holding it against my chest as they opened fire again.
I focused hard, feeling through the ground as hard as I possibly could. While they were shooting me I couldn’t really DO anything. If she rushed me and she had Ultra strength I could die very easily. I held the weight to shield my core, gritted my teeth and kept my awareness of her position even as my head was knocked about by gunfire.
She was just standing there, watching me get shot. That was fine by me. I hunkered down and endured, every instant another impact, a high caliber bullet rendered by my Ultra toughness into a virtual punch. It went on and on, then stopped again.
As soon as it stopped, I rose to my feet. She took a step back, almost despite herself. Her mouth was hanging open a little. The soldiers also took a step back. From their perspective it was totally understandable. I’m huge, and they’d shot most of their bullets into me, and here I was standing up.
“Those Ultras you killed. That how you did it?” I asked, nodding my head toward the group on the right. “Those pea shooters?”
She shook her head, lips pursed tightly together. She put out a hand and the weirdest thing happened.
The whole landscape behind her sort of flowed together, sliding like it was a picture that was getting crumpled up down into a short bar shape in front of her hand. What was revealed was nearly the same, but with some additions. Behind her, the others were suddenly revealed. Mario and an extra soldier and a prisoner in hand and leg irons. They’d been hidden by a distortion or mirage, which was now sticking out from her palm like a sword. It was like she had a heat ripple extending from her hand.
“Cool” I said, meaning it.
She didn’t react at all, standing there motionless, seemingly considering. The soldiers weren’t reloading again, so they’d either done that while I was concentrating on her or they were out of ammo.
I decided to get things started by hurling the weight at her. I curled up my arm and then sent it spinning towards her like one of those plastic disks kids toss around. It had some real velocity to it, Ultra strength and all, and I was disappointed when she neatly stepped to one side.
It sailed on past, curving a little before plowing a furrow into the dirt. I’d been hoping that she would use her mirage-sword thingy on it, both because then I could see how sharp it was and because if she cut down the middle she might just get hit by both halves. It was smart of her to dodge though.
She rushed at me, footsteps pounding on the ground as she neared. She had Ultra speed 1, no doubt about it. I barely got my arms up when her projection came around, slicing deep into my forearm. I tried to reach out the other and grab her but she was already jumping back.
My arm had a rounded furrow carved out of it. It was about the width of a glove ball, burned into my forearm just about to the bone. I howled in pain. It was already healing, meat growing out at a rapid rate, but this really really hurt.
“Gahrrgh!” I yelled, shaking my other fist at her. I wasn’t really expecting a response, but she surprised me.
“It is unfortunate that you have a healing power,” she observed, calmly, like we weren’t in the middle of a fight.
“Screw you!” I yelled back. “You’ve got ninjas and guns and some kind of magic sword. Don’t bitch about me getting better quick.”
“You mistake my meaning,” she continued. “It is unfortunate, for you. Now, this will be prolonged.”
She ran towards me then, in earnest. Ultra speed brought her close and slashing even as I raised my arms in a partial block. It earned me another bloody furrow carved from my forearm, and then she was beside me, continuing her strike and carving a bloody valley across my side.
I swung clumsily at her with the less mangled arm while stepping away, but she followed easily, batting aside my arm with her own and cutting once more into my ribs with her sword field. I kicked, in desperation, and she stepped back out of the way of that one. She took distance, backing up once again.
Glad for the respite, I breathed heavily. My injuries healed and pain went away. She observed carefully.
I breathed heavily, then spat in her direction. While she watched I stalked back to my wagon and got another weight. I didn’t really have a plan for it, but it didn’t seem like it could hurt.
“I’ve taken your measure,” she announced, “give up now, or I’m going to dismantle you. You aren’t fast enough to meaningfully resist. I’ll cut you apart, piece by piece, and I’ll keep you split up so your gift can’t repair you. Compared to that, questioning would be a mercy.”
I beckoned her forward with the hand that wasn’t holding the weight. It wasn’t a terribly badass move, but she spoke better than I did so I figured if we exchanged more words I’d just sound even dumber.
She dashed in once again. She wasn’t the only one who’d gotten used to the speed of the fight on the last exchange though, and I got the weight up to striking position even as she closed. Just before I swung, I felt the impact of a bullet, which ruined my strike and sent me reeling.
The last soldier, the one who’d hung back with her, he hadn’t used up his bullets in the initial salvo, and now he was picking his shots. This was bad.
Staggered by the bullet, I didn’t offer any serious parry to her first strike, and she slashed her blade thing right along my jaw. I got my arms up as her second slash came in, left arm guarding low and right arm guarding high.
My arms took no hit, her hand passing by. She’d switched the projection to her other hand, and it slammed into my left armpit as she pivoted around my swinging arm. The pain was phenomenal. I nearly blacked out, toppling over as my healing gift attempted to repair the stab’s damage.
She didn’t let up, lashing down at me as I rolled away and carving a series of deep furrows across my shoulders and back. Only a frantic kick backed her off for an instant, and as she jumped back the sharp shooter took the opportunity to blast me again.
She came back again, no words this time. She wasn’t letting me heal. She weaved her way around my kicks and slashed down towards my neck, only to roll the projection across my intervening arm, fitting a slash in another she’d made earlier, cutting bone deep and sending lights flashing across my vision with the intensity of the pain.
This was too much. I was going to die. I reached out to my gift for help, for safety. He dragged me across the ground, moving the earth that I was on and leaving her slashing the ground. The sharpshooter tagged me again as I slid off, but I could absorb that without too much difficulty.
I came to my feet a couple dozen feet away from her, by my road. She hadn’t followed up, once again watching me carefully. I repeated my ‘come get some’ gesture. Maybe doing it twice made it cooler. I hoped so.
This time she closed in slowly, no more berserk charge. Her attention seemed concentrated on my feet. She was probably trying to figure out how I’d slid away from the last impending execution. I set myself in a fighting pose, fists up in front of my face.
When she got closed I stepped forward and kicked. She’d already started to step away as before, but my gift made the ground cling to her feet and it slowed her enough that I sort of connected. I got her in the thigh and sent her rolling across the landscape.
“Hah!” I yelled. Then I got shot, a lot. The whole unit was opening up again.
They drove me down, actually knocked me off my feet and sent me toppling onto the road. I braced and endured, and it was over much faster.
She’d got back to her feet, but she was limping a little. No Ultra toughness. Woah. Some balls on these Union Ultras. No wonder her guys hadn’t shot much while she was close. Bullets could kill her.
“Give it up.” I said. “You tried hard, but you aren’t gonna win this one.”
She scowled for a moment, then dashed again. I raised my arms up in a move that was half block, half cringe. She wasn’t heading for me though. Before I could react she had the prisoner, lifting her up and spinning her to face me.
“Really? A hostage? You know I’m Regime, right?” I asked her, bluffing badly. The prisoner was an older blond lady, had a sort of a ‘someone’s mother vibe’.
She shrugged, as well as she could while holding a palm to her hostage’s head and restraining her with the other arm.
Mario came forward again, yelling something at her in French. If I was any judge it was some variant of “what are you doing?”. She responded in the same language, shutting him down. They went back and forth a few times, then she addressed me.
“Dale, if that’s your real name. You give up, let us restrain you, or this woman gets killed.” She looked me right in the eye as she said it. The soldiers seemed unsure of this whole tack, reacting independently for the first time. Some were looking at Mario, some were still focused on me.
“You want me to give up, just cuz you are threatening some dagger?” I asked. I didn’t like to use the racial slur, but convincing her I didn’t give a shit was one of the ways I could end this.
“Last chance!” she warned me, tensing up.
“Rachel!” Mario yelled, angrily taking her arm. As she shook him off I made my move.
I put my utmost concentration into it. If I messed this up someone would die. The ground rose up behind her in a swift, silent wave. She had the speed to dodge out of the way, but with her attention split between me, her captive and Mario she didn’t notice it coming in time. A half ton of earth and road slammed into her like a wrecking ball, sending her sprawling into her soldiers with a tremendous crunch.
Anything could have happened then, and I was braced for whatever, but Mario was the fastest to react.
“Halt!” he yelled to the soldiers, freezing them in place. “Don’t fucking move or this guy will kill us.”
I probably wouldn’t but even I’m not dumb enough to say that at a time like this.