It was a simple plan. It should have worked.
The failure came, like all failures, from a disconnect between my expectations and the reality which actually developed.
I was familiar, like virtually everyone else from my time, with the concept of ‘circling the wagons’. I’d seen it in ancient movies that I’d streamed when I was small, heard references to it in other media, and generally marinated in the concept. It was a simple one, once learned it would be hard to imagine forgetting it.
My followers, of course, were creatures of the new world. They’d grown up in an entirely different context, with its own patterns and memes to get used to. The one they were applying was something like “Obey your leader or you will be immediately murdered.”
So when I turned my truck in the beginning of a U-turn, they didn’t follow directly behind me, hen & chick style, they made the same turn that I did, blindly mimicking my movements.
When I got to the next part of my maneuver, where I was to turn back the other way and form up with them, I collided violently with the truck behind me, who was attempting to execute a ninety degree turn.
There was no time even to curse before a violent shudder signaled the truck’s collisions, and an inevitable followup shudder the rest of the ridiculous pileup.
I clenched my teeth, eyes bulging with rage for which I could find no outlet. Should I disembark? Get out and yell at people, get the drivers to back up and do the right thing?
Useless. We’d be here ten minutes.
I passed a hand over the steering wheel, right where the press for the horn was. I used my gift, diving into the metadata, questing for ‘Loud’, or something similar. If I could just steal a communications attribute I might still salvage this idiocy.
“Big, Vehicle, Cargo” came back. My gift was applying to the truck as a whole.
Just perfect. I’d need to open the hood, get at the actual horn itself, tear it out in order to get my gift to scan it right.
“Boss, should we get out?” asked a warband member, nervously.
I looked back over my shoulder, pushed my features into a pleasant smile.
Ok, it might not have been that pleasant.
“Yes,” I said. “Let’s all get out.”
We disembarked pretty rapidly after that, as did the rest of the squads. The third truck had managed to jam one of its doors in the slow speed collision, but they just tore a whole in the side and stalked through.
For a moment chaos ruled, a mob of fifty Ultras milling around, squad members looking to their leaders, leaders looking around in the confusion.
“Get the fucking smoke machines on!” I roared, “And get on those lasers! 4th Squad, you need to be doing what you fucking trained for! Other squads, get ready to fight!”
I might not have had any special blends for my voice, but I could still make myself heard when I wanted to. They leaped to obey, swarming back onboard the mass of trucks and jumping to their positions.
“All right, now…” I yelled, then paused.
Ideally, I’d like for the enemy to come to us at this point, but they hadn’t shown any signs of that so far. If I sent the infantry forward into the precious zone then it would get ruined, but if I didn’t do anything then She might get antsy. I paused for a moment to consider what to do.
It was a fateful pause, as the enemy chose that moment to launch their attack.
From the ruins around us they poured out, dirty figures in rags and ill matching uniform segments, essentially identical to my own Posse members. They surged into us from where they’d been lying in wait within the basements and crevices of the wrecked buildings.
They’d chosen the wrong crew to try this on, though.
Lesser Ultras might have been thrown into disarray or panic by a sudden onslaught, but these were the girls of the Yard. Unpredictable Ultra fights were their bread and butter, the thread from which their lives were woven. They fought back instantly and without hesitation or mercy.
In the first few seconds of the battles joining I saw a woman slap another one’s head off and launch it across the fight street, someone torn literally in half and another one exploded from the crotch upwards. I was pretty sure that my team had been on the good side of at least most of that.
The corpses, at least those that I thought were enemies, had weird streamers of energy coming out of them, drifting towards the intact target buildings. Like souls leaving the body or something, visible tendrils of energy.
That was all the time I had to observe, as the fighting spread to engulf my own position. The Ultra who’d been standing in front of me was born to the ground by a pair of foes, their desperate faces distended with bloodlust and fear, and another leaped for me.
I ducked her grabbing arms, stiff armed her across the face and called upon my gift. I didn’t waste time reading her metadata at any great length, just stole ‘living’, and let her topple to the ground as a corpse, another trailer of weird glowy misty stuff pouring out.
I stepped smoothly aside from the falling body as stolen life poured through me, every sense alight with doubled furor. The battle seemed to slow around me.
I took a step towards my pinned soldier, but the enemy had already rammed some kind of bladed implement through one of her eyes, so I just turned my stoop into a brutal knee across one of the killer’s faces, sending her reeling into her partner.
Someone punched me in the back, but it wasn’t hard enough to be a focused strike, probably just an ally bumping into me. I didn’t lash out, stayed focused on the two before me, kicked again, nailing the inside of one of their thighs.
A gust of smoke washed across our crew, far stronger than the haze machines should have created, I dropped to the ground as I misplaced a foot in the sudden violence, but I turned my fall into a desperate grab at someone’s shin.
My gift beckoned, but I couldn’t take another concept so soon, and I wasn’t about to give ‘living’, to what might very well be an enemy. I just wrenched at their knee, toppling them down upon me and the dead girl from a moment before.
She came down across me, coughing and gagging, kicking and squirming. I recognized her as one of my own a heartbeat before I’d been about to grab her throat, so I rolled aside instead, passing from smoke into actual goddamn flame.
I screeched in animal fury as the fire engulfed me. No wonder there had been so much goddamn smoke! My enhanced senses relayed the searing heat from every bit of exposed skin, worst of all, for some reason, from my fuckling hands.
I rolled through onto the other side, kicking and bucking in a frenzied bid to put myself out. It hadn’t been Ultra strong fire, or not very much so, as I was still alive, but I was blind and mewling around, and She wouldn’t tolerate that from her point of view on a battle for very long.
At that chilling thought I shot back to my feet, fire momentarily put aside, just in time for some asshole to closeline me back into the goddamn fire! I roared in pain as the flames washed over me again, ashes filling my mouth.
But I was ‘Living’ for two right now, and Ultra tough to boot, so I shot up out of the fire again, bouncing back out like a cork from a raging sea, eyes straining to get some point of view, SOMETHING for Her to see. My hands swiped mindlessly before me as I pushed my way free.
A scene of bedlam met my eyes, Ultras brawling and blasting all across the trucks, or at least their wreckage. Dusty figures in tattered rags cursed punched one another amid the smoke and flame, while striving always to avoid the esoteric energies which crackled and blasted across the battlefield whenever anyone found time to focus a gift. Toppling figures streamed those strange patterns, always heading towards the same building.
Flames and smoke rose and died without pattern or reason all across the battlefield, scorching one fighter and leaving the next intact. It was a picture out of an ancient painting, like some bygone monk’s depiction of the deepest hell.
She’d love it.
I glared furiously around, swiping at my body to try and put the fires out, even as I sought their source. This was more than a smoke machine, more than just the after effects of some blasting gift, this was one of my enemy’s trump cards. It was Guinevere’s gift.
It should have been impossible to pick anyone out amid that insane battle, but I was doubly alive right now. It let my senses do things I couldn’t reasonably explain, and I found my gaze instantly arrested by a slight figure crouched on the edge of one of the ruined buildings upper floors. She wasn’t hurling flames or doing anything obvious, but within a few seconds I saw her head tilt, and then a flaming Ultra crash sideways into another one of my minions, which was enough for me to go on.
I shot forward like a cannonball, shoving and pushing my way through the mess, but almost instantly had to fall back as some asshole tried to take my head off with a giant sword.
My backstep bumped me into someone else, who toppled over, but I was able to jump over their body as the sword came around again, narrowly missing me. The woman singing it was using both hands, screaming something I didn’t bother to understand.
As soon as my back foot hit the ground I reversed myself, throwing myself inside her arc before she could come around for a third strike, driving my shoulder into her neck and upper chest and sending her reeling, sword flying from her hand. I staggered a few steps after her and someone shot me.
It was a hell of a blow, just a massive impact to the side of my head out of nowhere, probably a high caliber rifle or something similar. It rocked me on my heels, and I slid/dove forward into a tackle on the woman that I’d just staggered, closing in to deny whoever was firing on me anymore shots.
Her arms draped pointlessly over my back, and she actually did some hammer punches onto me, as though that might do any good. My estimation of the quality of King Arthur’s soldiers dipped even lower.
She’d needed a sword, which meant she wasn’t Ultra strong, which meant she could punch away on me all day. She ought to be covering my face with a hand, or grabbing for a tool on her belt, or doing anything which might matter, but she squandered the last instants of her life on meaningless rage.
I pushed her a few steps, eyes wide and staring, looking for the densest clump of boots and legs, then launched her off of me and into it.
I threw myself to the ground immediately after, dropping into a sort of crawl or dive, keeping my forward momentum without rising up for any distant sharpshooters to target.
Was I being insanely overcautious? It was hard to imagine that anyone could have picked me out of all that nonsense to shoot for my head, but the impact had been real. Most likely it had been some gift, or a thrown stone from someone off to my side, but I couldn’t take the chance.
I pressed ahead, slipping around the tackle of someone I was like nine tenths sure worked for me, and arrived at a solid press of bodies.
These assholes were shoulder to shoulder, and the instant I got close to them a pair tackled down on me, pressing me down into the dirt.
One of them had Ultra strength, and she immediately started wrenching at my head like she was going to tear it off. The other had hold of my arm and was doing something similar, and also seemed to be jamming a knife or something into me.
I grabbed frantically for the blade, choking from the strong one’s grip, and grabbed ‘Sharp’ away from it. Their hands loosened instantly, blood gushing from severed fingers.
I didn’t give my blend time to stabilize, immediately forcing ‘sharp’ onto the strong one, hoping it would be an unstable result. Taking two blends at once was horribly risky, something I’d very rarely done.
I didn’t have time to see the result in detail, but she toppled off to one side. Hopefully it had replaced ‘breathing’ or ‘thinking’ or something similar.
I got a hand under me and tossed myself forward again, passing through the gap in the line where those two had been and into the shade of a ruin.
The smoke and dust was just about as bad here as it was out in the scrum, but at least I wasn’t on fire for the moment. I looked furiously about and spotted a ladder leaning against a wall, its top vanishing into the room above.
I didn’t spend another second in there, racing to the ladder instead, hearing someone at my heels and trying desperately to convince myself it wasn’t another Ultra Strong foe.
Heck, maybe it was an ally, following me to glory. It wasn’t impossible.
I shot up the ladder onto the second floor, kicking away the hands that scrabbled for my feet, then the ladder itself, and turned to face Guinevere.
She was still crouched at the edge of the window, still doing her thing, gazing out over the scrum and directing the flames. She’d heard me come up, however, and she spun around to face me before I could reach her.
Of all the possible things she could do I never imagined she would try and talk.
But, impossibly to believe, she thought we had something to say to each other. She opened her mouth and held out her hand, like a total fucking idiot.
I tackled her off of the edge, sent us hurtling back down into the chaos, before she could get a syllable out.
Sorry for the fucking interruption, you bitch.
I landed on top, jumped back up for what felt like the tenth time today. The instant I was on my feet I was stomping, aiming at her face and mostly connecting, I lost myself in a transport of violence.
I snapped back to alertness a few seconds later when I lifted a boot up and saw the intact spit curl underneath. Right. Ultra tough, I wasn’t hurting her at all.
The realization, and the instant’s paralysis that accompanied it, cost me dearly, as she twitched a finger and covered me in flame.
Her fire didn’t seem to have any ‘force’ behind it, it didn’t damage me through my Ultra toughness, but it did let her get her telekinetic grip on me, and a second later I was hurtling sideways, slamming back through a wall into the building she’d originally been lurking in.
I forced myself back to the edge, the flames dissipating as soon as I was outside her sight. I took a quick second to look the battle over. My team was winning, but it was a lot closer than it ought to be. I needed to get moving.
Actions (choose 1 or write in):
- Fight through the scrum in the direction the ‘streamers’ are headed. They are likely pointing to King Arthur, and if she empowers another army the size of the first it will be very bad.
- Fight through the scrum to get back to Guinevere, her fire is the only thing keeping their inferior troops from getting utterly owned by my Utlras.
- Fight through the scrum to Smasher, she looks to be losing to Lancelot, and that would be a big hit to morale.
- Go check on Builder/Owner. They might be in trouble, and Builder’s gift could be doing a lot more than it fucking is.