Thor wasn’t nearly as big as I was.
He was tall, sure, and the ground let me know that he was wearing some kind of boots that made him seem a little taller. He had shoulder pads and a sort of half-cape, and he was carrying a big hammer. He was even naturally a bit muscly. I’m sure that lots of people would have been intimidated by him. But all I could think was that he didn’t even lift.
I cracked my knuckles and stared him down, not saying anything. A lot of times not saying anything was the most intimidating thing that I could do. It was sort of my go to move when meeting a new enemy. Let them do the promo before the match.
Thor didn’t disappoint.
“Big bitch, ain’t ya?!” he asked. I was kind of impressed that he was talking instead of just attacking me. Most people would just start trying to kill me, particularly with a big fight going on.
I nodded, slowly and deliberately. It was the kind of nod that said ‘I’m too cool to have to answer you’, or so I hoped.
“Some of my people told me that there was a big guy in town, last couple days. I thought you might be an Ultra, till they told me you were carrying things with the daggers. Guess you fooled me.”
Once again, slow nod. This time I didn’t have anything in mind for it to mean. It was just the kind of cool gesture that mysterious strong looking strangers made when you rambled at them.
“And here you are, smack dab in the middle of Krishna’s coup attempt. Gotta say, that’s a bit of a coincidence.”
I stopped nodding there, just gave him the ole eyefuck.
“You have any part in this whole situation? Maybe you are a merc that Krishna brought in to take care of me?”
I saw a chance to lie with the truth, couldn’t help myself.
“I didn’t have any part in this.” I emphasized the ‘I’. It had all been the others who planned this and did it, after all. I was mostly just the transportation so far.
“So you DO speak English!” he said, suddenly jubilant. He grinned, like I’d given something away.
Had it been supposed to be a secret that I could speak English? Everyone could. Why would he even doubt that I could? I guess a lot of people thought that strong was automatically dumb. And I had been standing there mutely while he talked. I guessed it was reasonable to figure that I couldn’t talk.
“Yeah, I can talk fine. Who am I talking to?”
I knew, of course, but I wanted to give him a chance to do a cool intro. We were about to have an Ultra fight, and he could fly off at any time, so I wanted him invested in it. Plus, I like cool intros.
“I’m Thor. Come on, don’t pretend you don’t know me. I already told you that I knew you were in town, remember? Do you really believe that I believe that you’ve been in town for a few days and no one told you about the Ultra that runs the place?”
“I know about Krishna!” I responded, quickly. It was rare for me to think of a comeback that fast, and I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to give one.
“You!-“, he cut himself off, clamping down his jaw in the middle of an angry answer.
He set his shoulders, worked his neck around, opened his mouth and breathed out. It was a very practiced move, a sort of rehearsed shrug kind of thing.
“You aren’t worth this.”
He began to move, bending forward at the knees.
I couldn’t tell if he was going to launch himself at me, or just go back to the big fight, but either way I wasn’t going to take the chance. I’d never fought anyone who wasn’t always on the ground before, and I wasn’t keen to. Even as he started to lift off I asked the ground to lock him in place.
I wasn’t fast enough. Maybe if I’d taken a page from everyone else’s book and started moving the ground while he was talking it would have worked, but as it was the earth dome hadn’t risen more than a foot around him by the time he was already blasting off, heading for the window of a nearby building.
I’d wanted the ground to grab his legs instead of trying to lock him in all the way, but there was no time for complaining. I turned to watch him land.
He, for his part, was still facing me, looking a bit surprised. He had turned while he was flying, another very practiced move.
“An earth mover, eh? I haven’t seen a gift like that before. What else can you do with it?”
I had the sense that he had been going to fly off, but seeing my gift in action he’d decided that he had to deal with me himself. That was pretty much perfect.
“Lot of stuff. This, for a start.”
I waved an arm, for kayfabe, and asked brah to knock over the building he was perched in.
Thor was just looking at me for a moment, then he seemed to feel the shudders. Somehow I could tell that the ground was pulling away from one part of the foundation, and pushing on another. Buildings might be basically cubes but they weren’t all made of one piece. If you pushed on them unevenly they could come apart.
Thor didn’t stick around to find out. He flew across the street to land in another window on the far side.
“Shaking buildings, huh? That’s really useful. You could have been a heck of an asset.”
He was talking again, and he didn’t seem at all threatened by the fact that I could shake a building. I left the building that he’d abandoned unstable but standing. Maybe he’d forget and fly back there.
I faced Thor straight on, took a fighting stance, and made a ‘bring it’ kind of gesture with one hand. We had done more than enough opening stuff, it was time to get to fighting.
He seemed to get what I meant. He stopped talking, clung to his window and studied me carefully.
I made a ‘rise up’ motion, and the ground began to hump under me, lifting me slowly up towards his level on a small hill of earth.
He moved his hands like he was about to sarcastically applaud, then in the middle of the motion changed it to a grab for his hammer. He was suddenly MUCH faster, I could barely see him move.
I knew what Thor’s power did. That hammer was basically a truck in terms of how much it weighed. It would blast right through me. I begged the ground to shield me, and the hill flowed up onto my body, quickly surrounding me with like two feet of dirt.
But he had never been aiming at me. The hammer dipped as it approached, slammed through the earth hill that I’d made. I was tossed into the air.
It was an awful sensation. Being away from the ground was like being blind. Being away from it in the middle of a fight was terrible. I twisted around, vaguely aware that I’d taken some kind of hurt, desperate to avoid anything else he threw at me.
I was an easy target for a few seconds, as I plummeted back down to the street, wrapped in dirt. He could have thrown something else, but instead he did a flyby of where I was falling from, snatched up his hammer just as I was hitting the street.
Even with my healing kicking in, I was reeling. My body got fixed up whenever I was touching the ground, but I’d been slaughtered like a dozen times in the last hour. I gave a huge cry, just a sort of big cow bellow.
If Thor had rushed me then and there I’m not sure that I’d have fought back. I was sort of overpowered at the moment, just kind of short circuiting a bit. Lucky for me he started to talk.
“I think I’ve got you figured out, big guy. You didn’t move any earth when I blasted you away from it, and it looked as though the cuts you got didn’t start healing until you hit the ground again. Then there’s the whole ‘no shoes’ look. I’m pegging you as an Antaeus sort of situation.”
I didn’t know what that meant, but him talking helped me focus. I rolled over and glared at him, getting my feet under me.
This time I wasn’t taking any chances. I sunk my feet six inches deep in the ground. That would make it harder to knock me anywhere, and also let me use my gift to hurl myself sideways if he attacked with his hammer again.
“That means you are a tough guy, just so long as you are in contact with the ground. Do I have that right?”
Almost against my will I nodded. It was the first time that someone had talked about my gift so easily after seeing it just the once. It was really impressive.
“All those idiotic greek myths that Zeus taught me, and it actually helped in a fight. Go figure.”
“Zeus, he’s the Pantheon’s big boss, right?” I asked.
I was mostly talking to let myself settle again. I was, and this was a new thing, kind of afraid to start fighting again. This guy wouldn’t try to kill me and fail because I healed quickly. He knew how I worked, and his powers matched well with mine. He could actually win this fight. I could really die.
“Mostly. It’s a whole council situation. If you ever make it out to Australia you ought to look them up. They are always looking for people whose powers match one of their favorite myths.”
“That’s mighty kind of you.” I said.
It was, actually. It was sort of baffling for a guy taking time away from his war to chat with me, and give me advice on future stuff. Wasn’t he planning on killing me?
“I’m known for my kindness.”
Deadpan. I almost chuckled.
“Anyway, I think its about time I wrapped this up. Got Krishna to kill afterwards.”
He hefted his hammer again.
I tensed, arms in front of my body.
He threw it.
I hurled myself to the side, gift sliding me along the ground with all the speed I could muster. No impact where I left from.
He hadn’t thrown it at all, just fake thrown it, like you do to a dumb dog to confuse it when you are playing fetch and feeling mean.
Even as I was realizing this he made the throwing motion again, but it wasn’t his hammer that came towards me. I was raising an earth wall about myself even as the baseball slammed into it.
He didn’t have nearly as much of his gift on this one, the ball was more like a disguised safe than a whole truck, and it just sort of sank into my earth wall. I concentrated, pulling the wall up and over myself.
Another soft impact, probably a baseball. He was… what was he doing?
I realized that I had no idea. I couldn’t sense him, because he wasn’t on the ground. I couldn’t see him, because I’d built a wall about myself.
For a second I considered abandoning the match, breaking the rule I’d set for myself all the way back when I started and just tunneling away. Thor was too much. Every second I held myself in my wall was another second he might be plotting an attack.
Screw that. I gathered my nerve. Even as I did that, a prolonged, liquid impact came on the top of the dome/wall I was hiding in.
Was he…pissing on me?
Rage eclipsed my mounting fear. I urged the ground to strike out at my enemy, straight up. The dome leapt about me, formed by my mounting anger into a series of spikes that shot up with exceptional speed.
People didn’t understand how fast my gift could go. Just like how they thought that big meant dumb, they thought that it meant slow. There was nothing slow about these stone spears, rising up to impale… a canteen?
He’d thrown a bottle of some sort, with a spike through it, it had stuck into a street post above me and dripped water onto me. Of course he wasn’t pissing on me. His flight couldn’t hold him still, it was just arcs. My gaze snapped around. He was still where I’d seen him last, perched in the window and pointing at me.
Pointing? Why hadn’t he thrown anything when I let my shield down. He was making a sort of finger gun gesture.
An explosion was all the explanation I got, casting me back and into the air.
The second baseball, the one that I hadn’t seen. It had been a bomb of some kind. The horrible realization came as time seemed to slow down. For the second time in this fight I was flying helplessly through the air, and this time he took full advantage.
He hurled again, with both hands, whipping them across his body in a sort of X motion, full Ultra speed and strength. I braced for darkness, but he wasn’t making a killing blow.
Instead I felt two lances of incredible agony penetrated my upper arms, as the tent pegs he had thrown pinned me to a house’s wall, three feet off the ground.
“Gotcha!” he cried, punching the air in elation.
If I’d been shocked into immobility before, when my healing was working, it was nothing to what I was feeling now. The anguish pulsing down my arms felt like a living thing, throttling my core and ransacking the center of my mind with hands made of fire. I hurt as I had never hurt before.
“Hang tight,” he told me, and motioned with one hand.
“Mandy, keep this big guy away from the ground. Don’t let him die. He’s going to tell us what is behind this disturbance.”
I barely registered the Ultra who moved out from another building. Of course he had minions about. They could have helped if the fight started going against him. It had never been a duel. Why would he be so dumb as to do that? Why would he fight alone if he had helpers available?
Why had I? I’d locked my team in a cave and wandered up here alone to get my ass kicked. The agony coursing down my arms now had shame for a buddy. How had I been so dumb?
Everyone said how powerful my gift was, and I’d done basically the one thing that could get me killed or captured. It was a huge fail.
And the others probably couldn’t come to rescue me, either. The air holes that were letting them breathe were super thin, and digging around them to widen them would risk burying the whole team.
Jane’s gift wouldn’t help, Fisher was all fucked up, and I didn’t know if Preventer would even care to come to save me.
That just left Condemner. Fire could certainly fit up the air holes.
I thought for a moment about how he’d been described to me. Nirav had called him a demon, a force of nature. A fire that burned the weak and foolish away until there was nothing left but ashes.
Maybe I was better off captured.