The Story


30 years ago brought the first superhumans, regular people given great power seemingly at random.

15 years ago brought the paranormals, stranger and often weaker in their abilities, but far more numerous.

Today, the world holds its breath...

Or at least, it should.

Most people, though, are just trying to get on with their lives; some successfully, some less so. It's a sensible goal, but it's a bit hard to achieve when shadowy conspiracies and worldwide N.G.O.s are turning your city into a proxy battleground over world-shattering secrets. 

It's bad enough when you've just woken up with superpowers and terrorists are holding your school hostage. It's even worse if you're an illegal vigilante stuck in the middle of the whole Charlie Foxtrot after a supervillain raid drops vital information in your lap. 

For Hannah Eiling-Kingsford and Flint Perez, life is about to get a lot harder to get on with.

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Outliers is a superhero story. Okay, so not so much superhero as vaguely superhero-ish. It's about two teenagers dealing with, among other things, new powers, psycho exes, mysterious datapads and a giant, secret war between the foremost powers-that-be, over information that could forever change the world.

Again.

You know, normal teenage stuff.


Outliers updates Thursdays and Sundays at midnight AEST.

Speak 24-IV


Sorry for the missed update; I was in Melbourne, interviewing for a college.
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End A Conversation.

I flung out a hand, like I did when I used my power, and the big guy tightened his grip on the datapad, drawing it closer to his body. I hadn’t actually done anything, though; I wasn’t going to waste power on anything that wasn’t a sure shot at this point. The main point was to get him to react, and give Edith a second to react. Or, that was what I was aiming for. She’d already started moving, at the same time I had, and a blade of salt passed through the space that the big guy’s wrist had occupied a second ago.

Whoops.

She reformed in the air, still moving upwards. The floor we’d ended up on was a pretty standard open-plan office, with a few cubicle walls here and there, and a surprisingly low roof. She slammed into it, one raised arm taking the brunt of the impact, and dropped back to the ground, clenching her teeth. As soon as she landed, though, she shot forward again, vision hyperfocused on the datapad. One wiry arm whipped around to smack her out of the air as she leaped, and this time I did use my power, redirecting it downwards just as-

Edith flickered in midair, and then she was suddenly lower, and more parallel to the ground. If I had to guess, I’d say she’d switched forms for the briefest second, using the increased control she had when she was salt to change her momentum and position when she reformed. It would’ve worked really well, except-
Yeah.

So we weren’t quite as in-sync as I’d maybe thought. Which, uh, really shouldn’t have been any kind of surprise. It was a mix of wishful thinking and unexamined instinct.

She tumbled along the ground, growling audibly, and rolling back onto her feet directly in front of me. “Look,” I began to say, but she flicked one hand back and a blade of salt swept at my leg. I yelped and managed to jump backwards, but it still opened a burning gash across the front of my shin. It stung, too; salt had literally been added to the wound. On the plus side, it was less likely to get infected now. Yay.

“Hey!” I yelled at her, but she was already gone again. That had been supposed to take my leg off; I’d barely caught the edge of it, and the cut was easily half an inch deep. So… what I had interpreted as “truce”, she maayyyybe had thought was… not that. And with that mindset, my failed attempts to help would probably have looked a lot like actively hindering her.

This time, I didn’t bother trying to do anything as she sliced at the big guy’s legs. He flickered out of the way, and she spun after him. Apparently, though, he’d have enough of her, and with sickening power, a straight blow swept down towards her body. Physical attacks didn’t normally affect her in that form, but intuitively I knew that this one was different.
I wanted to jump in, to do something, but I held myself back. She didn’t want my help, fine. It was a stupid, petty thought, but…

I’m a stupid, petty person.

As the fist descended, Edith’s form split. Two streams of salt rushed around the arm, reforming on the other side. I blinked. I hadn’t known she could do that. As far as I understood, her salt form was still roughly equivalent to her human form; if it lost mass, she lost mass, etc. Doing that must’ve been like tearing her own guts in half with her hands and then pushing them together.

Which did not help the whole ‘terrified of her’ thing.

She flowed over his face, which looked as surprised as mine did, and before he could react, began pouring down his throat. He gagged, and I reflexively winced. I’d seen this one before, and it wasn’t pretty.

Sure enough, the larger part of the salt that was still out of his gullet condensed and snapped back into solid flesh. Edith hung there in the air for a second, her shoulder directly in front of his mouth. The arm attached to it disappeared into his mouth and down his throat. It should have torn his oesaphegus to shreds as it reformed, but judging from the shock and pain on Edith’s face, it hadn’t quite worked out that way.

Even with his mouth gaping unnaturally wide, the big guy’s eyes began glittering with amused malice, and despite the entire arm in his gullet, he slowly began biting down. Edith screamed in pain, disintigrating into salt and shooting away, as he laughed, seemingly completely undamaged. When she reformed, it was on the other side of the room, and her arm was bleeding in multiple places and hanging limp.

Laughter dying down, the big guy turned to me. “So-” he began to say, and I smashed the roof above him with my power and crushed him through the floor with a ton of rubble.

I still wasn’t exactly sure how this new ability worked, but when I’d done the lock, it had been as easy as any other use. This time? It was… not that easy.

Twin spikes of pain shot through my eyes, and I collapsed to the ground, screaming. I’ve never had molten railroad spikes driven through my eyes, but this felt a lot like what I imagined the feeling of that would be.

Slowly, the pain faded to the point that I could see again, and I slowly raised my head to see Edith standing above me, one hand pointed at my face.

“Give me one reason,” she said quietly, wearily.

I marshalled my thoughts. “You can’t beat him alone,” I said quietly.

Her face twisted, but she said nothing.

“Look,” I said, raising my hands as I got to my feet, “we’re at cross purposes, I get that. But what you want from that datapad… it’s not there. Please, please trust me when I say that. I’m not trying to trick you. It’s just…” I trailed off. “If you saw what it did, you’d understand.” Or, I hoped she would. I had to keep reminding myself I didn’t really know Edith any more. The woman standing in front of me, for all I knew, might decide to use it anyway. “But we can both agree,” I continued, “that we don’t want him having it, yeah? So… truce. Just for now. We can sort out the rest afterwards.”

I stuck one hand out, and she stared at it. For a second, I was genuinely unsure of what she was going to do, but then, she slowered lowered hers.

“...fine,” she growled, teeth gritted.

“That’s the spirit,” I replied, faux-cheerfully, looking down at my hand.

She batted my hand aside, and turned around. “Don’t get in my way.” Without looking back, she walked forward and over the edge of the hole.

I sighed, and followed. 

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Speak 24-III

Blocked, Shipped Out, And Bought.

“Edith,” I snapped, before I could stop myself, “break that fucking thing right now.”

She ignored me. Shocker.

Big guy didn’t seem to shaken up by the loss of his hand. He glanced down at it, then back over his shoulder at Edith.

“Funny,” he said mildly, and then tossed me to the side. Onto the roof, thank god. I managed to roll onto my feet, to find him now facing Edith. She still had her back turned, studying the back of the datapad. It was like we weren’t even there.

She must’ve been following us the entire night. I should’ve paid better attention. Then again, I wasn’t exactly going to complain about her showing up now.

“Edith,” I repeated stridently. “Edith! Hey! E!” That one worked. Her head tilted slightly towards, just enough that I could see the edge of one eye. Still silent, though. “Break that fucking thing in half. It’s not- there’s nothing on there.”

The big guy tilted his head at her. Blood still dripped from the stump on the end of his arm. “Nothing interesting here, I’m afraid,” he said dryly. “So I’ll be having that back, now.”

She didn’t move, but I saw her grip tighten. “I don’t think so,” she said, her voice raw. Ooh, that’s not good. She gets all raspy when she’s… not doing good. And right now she sounded like she’d swallowed sandpaper.

“Oh,” he chuckled, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t a question.”

He disappeared into his meat-cloud. Still just as gross as ever. It was definitely smaller now, though. He shot towards Edith, churning up the ground, but she didn’t move until he was right on top of her. Then, in a blink, her hand flicked upwards, sending the datapad spinning into the air, and a second later she disappeared too, a spear of white crystals piercing straight through the meat and bone. Doesn’t seem to do any damage, though; Meat-And-Greet immediately adjusts course, following the pad up into the air. Edith followed him almost immediately, but she was a few seconds behind, and wasn’t going to catch up in time.

Fuck that.

I hit the pad with a nudge of power, sent it spinning towards me. Meaty Chunks had almost had it - I could see a hand half formed in the swirl. He shot up directly past it, curving in a high arc around. Edith did the same, quicker thanks to less momentum, but the pad got to me first, and I snatched it out of the air, grabbing both ends with my hands and raising a knee to-

Shit! I aborted the movement, throwing myself to the side just as Edith spears through the air where I’d been. An instant later, I have to do it again as the meat-cloud finishes its arc and does the same thing.

Shit shit shit. I frantically look around in the half-second I have before. I needed to break the fucking pad, but I wasn’t going to get a second to do it unless I made one. Rooftop meant no running; not that I could outrun those two even if I wasn’t beat to hell. There were one or two nearby buildings that were maybe low enough to do a hop, but right then I didn’t trust my body or my muscles enough to-

I had to cut the train of thought off to dodge another consecutive one-two pass. Edith was second, and she actually reformed in midair for a second, trying to snatch at the pad. I managed to yank it out of the way, just in time. I guess I was lucky, in a way; Meat-a-ccino had already proven he didn’t want to kill me, for whatever reason, and Edith seemed more focused on the McGuffin than me, though I suspected that was subject to change.

Just- fuck! I kept trying to break the fucking thing, but I couldn’t get a goddamn second. Couldn’t throw it at the ground, they’d probably swoop in. Same for tossing it over the edge. If I had a gun, I could just shoot it, but guess fucking what! Come on, come on, come-

There.

A door, leading down into the building below. Being inside won’t be much better, but less space and more obstacles-

FUCK! I couldn’t even marshal my thoughts. Just- go. I faked to the left and sprinted forward. I got a couple of steps unhindered, just long enough to start thinking I’d make it the whole way, before a familiar whirr from behind signals that it’s time to get with the dodging.

I twisted my head around, to take a quick look. They’re both right there, trying to take chunks out of each other as much as they’re gunning for me. Now they seem to be about even; good for them, bad for me. Meatlover went for my legs, while Edith stuck high, aiming for the pad, and by extension my torso. I’m getting one-twoed by my ex and a crazy murderhobo. Wonderful.

Time seemed to slow. Maybe it did, I dunno. Moment of panic, adrenaline rush. The usual. I skipped a step, throwing off my rhythm and slowing me down, then jumped, kicking my legs out to the side and putting me parallel to the ground. The two of them shot over and under me, tearing gashes open on my knee and shoulder, but neither of them got a solid hit or the pad, and I tumbled to the ground as they shot past.

Dead Meat seemed to have cottoned on to my plan, and he reformed directly in front of me. With both hands, I noticed. I hadn’t even gotten back onto my feet yet, so I was pretty sure I was fucked, until Edith sliced straight through him, sending him reeling. How the fuck is it that she’s the only person who’s actually managed to hurt him? I took the opportunity anyway, and turned the roll into a half-slide that got me within a few steps of the door.

Close enough to see that it was held shut with a heavy padlock and chain.

Just fucking typical. I launched myself upwards and forwards, slamming into it with my shoulder, but I don’t weigh anywhere near enough for that to work. It rattles a little, but that’s it.

I grab the lock, and, not even thinking, send a spike of power through it. Seeing as it wasn’t moving, it should’ve done absolutely nothing.

The lock shattered and fell away.

I stared at it in shock. What the actual-

It cost me.

Something slammed into me from behind, sending me flying through the doorway, knocking the thick metal door open as I did. The stairs were right there, barely a landing to speak of, and I only just managed to avoid tumbling head-over-heals down them. It was still an undignified, frantic descent, barely keeping my feet under me, and I hit the wall on the next landing hard. The datapad went flying from my hand, bouncing down the next set of stairs. I reached after it, but my ribs were fucking hurting, and I nearly doubled over with pain.

Edith swept past me, going for it, but just as she reformed, the other guy came out of fucking nowhere, slammming her down into the ground from above. She cried out in pain, and he stepped off of her and snatched up the datapad.

I ground my teeth, and I could see Edith doing the same on the ground. We locked eyes, and I guess we still knew each other well enough to communicate without words.

Truce. 

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Speak 24-II

I Am Death.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t prepared for the sound of someone getting impaled through the chest. You got me, I'm not as worldly as I claim. It was less… wet, I guess. Not as visceral. In fact, it was quite a hard sound. Very crunchy.

Talie hung there, held off the ground by… you know. Her face was… still. Like it hadn't registered with her yet. Her arms hung limp by her sides. Slowly, blood began to trickle out of the wound and down his arm. It didn’t seem that there was enough of it.

He sniffed, and flicked his arm to the side. Her body went flying off, tumbling limply to the ground. “Interesting,” he said, sounding amused. “I suppose that certainly would explain it.”

I’d figured it out by now. He got strength from having mass, but had to consume it to get speed. And he’d consumed a lot already. It was probably the only reason the shoulder-charge that I hit him with did anything at all.

He stumbled back slightly, and I kept moving forward, throwing out blows that had about as much effect as hitting a concrete wall. I didn’t particularly care. Keep him off his feet. I tried hitting him between the legs, like I had last time, but I didn’t have the advantage of it being unexpected anymore, and it didn’t connect. He actually seemed slightly unnerved. Or, he didn’t immediately pulp me.

My ears were ringing oddly. There was some loud noise, that…

Oh. I was screaming. That was it.

One of his hands blurred, and caught my fist. I tried to kick him, but he just tossed me to the side.

“Children,” he said dismissively.

I hauled myself back onto my feet. I needed to figure out how to destroy him. I needed to-

He had me by the neck again instantly. I writhed and twisted, spitting at his face, but even though he was now almost painfully thin, his grip was still like iron. I grabbed his forearm with both hands, swung up and kicked him in the face with both feet. It rocked his head back a little, but the hand didn’t slacken in the least. I growled and started digging my fingernails into his skin, drawing small beads of blood from the skin.

“Mm,” he said, disaffected. “I suppose this was to be-” I spat straight at his eye, forcing him to turn his head to avoid it. It splattered against the side of his skull, and ran down to drip onto his shoulder. “...expected,” he finished.

“I,” I snarled, “am going to end you. I’m going to throw every last little piece of you into an incinerator. I’m going to bury you in the foundations of a building. I’m going to-”

He tightened his grip, and I suddenly lacked the air to speak. “No,” he said, “you’re not.”

My vision began to contract as I struggled, going grey around the edges. Fine. I stopped moving, and focused inwards, pulling together every last scrap of power I had, focusing so hard it felt like I was scraping out the inside of my soul. I didn’t really know what I was doing with it, but that didn’t stop me from condensing it all into a tiny, wicked spear of energy. My thoughts were starting to fog over, but I almost had something, some way of-

The pressure around my throat suddenly released, and my lungs involuntarily contracted in a wheezing, heavy gasp. My concentration broke, and I lost my grip on the spear, letting it splinter and fall away. “...why?” I managed to cough.

He smiled, and I immediately wanted to break his teeth and make him choke on them. “Because that wouldn’t be any fun.”

Then he jumped.

The force of the sudden start jerked my head at an odd angle, and I choked, gasping for breath. The wind smacked me in the face as we hurtled upwards, bitterly cold. Without even shifting forms, he’d sent us at least a dozen stories into the air in a few seconds. Not just up, either; we were moving very quickly laterally as well, even as we reached the peak of the arc.

So in addition to everything else, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Of course.

Dragged behind him like I was, I couldn’t see where we were going, so it was a shock when our fall suddenly stopped with a jolt of impact. The source became clear a second later as my legs smacked against the edge of a roof, then bounced repeatedly off the surface as he skidded to a stop.

I groaned involuntarily. My legs felt weirdly numb, but I was pretty sure they weren’t broken. It wasn’t like I could check, though.

The hand holding me jerked me up again, dangling me in the air. The murderhobo had one foot up on the raised lip of the roof, and was holding me over the edge with a smirk.

I stared him straight in the eyes. Don’t look down.

“You asked,” he said casually, voice raised above the wind, “why.”

Old habits die hard. “I don’t actually care,” I replied, the snark laced with venom. “If this is the bit where you start monologuing at me, you might as well just let me drop.”

He ignored me. “One,” he said slowly. “One. Three.”

I blinked. “What?”

“I was nothing, you know,” he said casually. “Not even nothing. I was a wretch, a wretch’s wretch.”

“Yeah? Maybe you should give it another shot, see how you like it this time around.”

“But I was visited.” His vision seemed to cloud over. “By an angel.

Oh my God. Did I have some sort of sign on my back, that said ‘Religious Crazies, Please Be My Nemeses’? Why couldn’t I have any secular nutjobs?

“She showed me a vision. A beautiful world, filled with strife and blood and glory. All the things I had never known I wanted to see, laid bare before me. And then she blessed me, and gave me a holy mission, so that I could see it come to fruition.”


Wait, was he saying he’d been given his powers? Or, no. It was probably just some crazy story his fucked-up brain had invented after the fact, so he could go around turning people into mulch as much as he liked.

“She showed me the way, showed me the tool I would need.” At that, the hand holding the pad waved slightly. “But alas, she was no true angel. Her commands changed. She shied away from her path, tried to turn me from what she had shown. So I venture forth alone, to spread the beautiful light.”

“Ohhhh,” I said slowly. “I get it.”

He actually seemed surprised. “You do?”

“Yep. You’re fucking crazy.” Smiling seemed wrong, but I did it anyway, vision flat. “Should’ve figured it out earlier.”

As quickly as it appeared, the emotion was gone from his face again. “Ah well,” he said, back to smiling again. “You don’t need to understand in order to further the cause. And you will make such a…” he shuddered joyfully, “beautiful malform.”

I didn’t need to ask what the word mean. “So that’s the plan, then?” I asked, trying not to think about my body distorting and warping like Paladin’s had. “Show me that and drop me in the city centre, right?”

“Ohhh yes,” he said, savouring the words. “You don’t get the honour of being first, but in the large scale, I’m sure it won’t matter all that much.”

Lis, crumpling as her knee shattered. All my friends, bleeding out in the rubble. Talie. This time, I didn’t need to be choking to death to shape my last, desperate attack. The tiny spear formed again, crackling with power inside. “Fuck you,” I said, and-

A blur of white flashed across my vision, and the datapad disappeared from his hand. Along with the hand that had been holding it.

Edith stared at the back of the datapad as she held it in her hands, standing a few feet away from us. “Finally,” she whispered.

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Speak 24-I

FLINT
Flame Your Crew.

Nothing happened.

“It's…” Void managed to choke out, looking confused. “It's just symbols?”

“Hm,” the big guy rumbled. “Interesting. Tell me, how do you fake your powers?”

She spat in his face.

“Disappointing. Ah, well. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to figure it out on my own.” Effortlessly, with the one hand still holding her by the neck, he pulled her out of the crater she’d made in the wall and slammed her back into it.

She choked, a spray of blood splurting from her mouth. “Talie!” I blurted out, charging forward. He let me get close, then without even looking, held up the datapad. I flinched away, covering my eyes, and he backhanded me to the ground.

“Wait your turn,” he said. He wrenched Void out again, but once she was out she immediately twisted in his grip, holding his arm with both hands, and kicked him in the chin. His head went reeling backwards with a nasty sounding crunch, but he didn’t lose his grip on her neck. In fact, he squeezed harder, and I could see her face starting to contort as she struggled for breath.

Hey, great opportunity to be less useless. I threw myself onto my feet, grabbing a nearby piece of rubble and swinging it with all my strength at his wrist. It had way less of an effect than it should’ve, of course, but it still loosened his grip enough that she managed to wrench herself free. He immediately swung at her, before she’d even hit the ground, but she caught the blow on crossed forearms.

As soon as she was free, I jumped backwards again. Not cowardice, just common sense. She could take hits, I couldn’t. Instead of attacking again, though, he just stood there.

Real fond of doing that, he was.

“You’re very interesting, you two,” he said slowly, a smile stretching across his face.

“Oh, really,” I said sourly, as Void backed up to stand beside me. “I’m so glad to hear we meet your personal standards of approval.”

“Is that why you left us standing?” Void asked him warily. “Because we’re ‘interesting’?” A little bit of blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth, and she wiped it away with the back of her hand.

“You?” He laughed. “I didn’t leave you anything. But, you have a surprising habit of getting back up when you shouldn’t. And now… this.” He waved the pad around a little, and both of us flinched. “It’s very, very interesting indeed. I never would have guessed you were a fraud. Do you use technology, perhaps? If so, you conceal it very well. My congratulations.”

I was very, very sure Void had powers. I’d seen her do so many things that an ordinary person simply could not.

But very, very sure isn’t the same thing as absolutely sure.

I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye. “Void?” I asked quietly. “Is he-”

“And you.” Suddenly, I was hoisted into the air. Which, by the by; not a very comfortable position to be in. He’d crossed the distance between us instantly. Void jumped, but before she could react, a fist slammed into her head in a grim mirror of how she’d last hit him, and sent her flying. “You’re interesting in a very different way.”

“Great,” I said, strained. “I’ll add that to my dating profile.”

“You’re so…” he continued, looking almost intrigued, “messy.”

“Um.”

He laughed. “Ah, I do always forget. You can’t see, can you. You can’t sense it.”

“God,” I said, exasperated. “Could you stop being cryptic for like one fucking second?! Jesus.”

He actually seemed amused. “You’re broken,” he said, pulling me in closer, until I could see the tiny chunks of meat stuck between his yellow, uneven teeth. “All twisted and chopped up, and so very, very volatile.”

“That part won’t go on the dating profile,” I muttered.

“I must confess,” he continued, “I am so sorely tempted to show it to you. It would be beautiful. But I’m afraid that might be too much for even me.”

Some dots connected. “Wait,” I said, “Are you talking about my-”

A giant piece of rubble smashed into him from the side, so fast that the momentum didn’t affect me at all. I dropped straight down, landing heavily, and looked up to see Void standing there, panting. “Still think I’m a fraud?” she said. “Also, Skew? We’re gonna have a talk about you doubting me.”

The concrete had pinned the man against the wall, but didn’t seem to have done much to him. In fact, a second later he lifted it and tossed it aside like it weighed nothing at all. “I fail to see any other explanations,” he said, not acting injured in the slightest.

“Here’s one,” she replied. “Maybe your crazy symbols don’t work as well as you thought they did. But if you really want me to prove it…”

I’m not dumb. I dived to the side, just as she punched one fist forward. A distortion shot out of it, travelling across the space between them in an instant, and smashing into his chest. Unlike nearly everything else that we’d pulled, it actually affected him, knocking him back into the wall.

He grimaced, and exploded into his other form, but another distortion tore straight through it and forced him to revert. Frankly, I had no idea what she was doing, but it was working, so I wasn’t about to complain.

“Skew!” she yelled through gritted teeth as she kept punching, walking forward as she did. It looked like it was taking a lot out of her; she looked paler already, beads of sweat rolling down her face.

I nodded, grabbing another piece of rubble and throwing it at him. Unable to move, it actually hit his head, smacking it back against the wall with a satisfying thwack. It worked, so I kept doing it, again and again and-

Void faltered. Just for a second, but it broke the rhythm she’d had going. And he took advantage of it. In an instant, in between attacks and while my next projectile was still in the air, he flickered and disappeared.

And reappeared in front of Void with his arm punched straight through her chest. 

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Stand 23-Vignette


Our Choices.

Now.

“Jesus!” Rebecca Watts yelled involuntarily, as the building rocked and shook around them. “Devin, are you still-”

“Still filming, yep,” her cameraman confirmed grimly, staring down at his camera’s screen. “I got it.”

Rebecca composed herself, placing a steadying hand against a wall. “Alright,” she said, stretching the word out and chewing it a little. “Let's switch to me now, Carlo is going to give the call in a few.” She licked her lips. “How now, brown cow. Howwww nowwww, browwwwwwwn cowwwww.”

They were set up inside an empty office on 15th floor of the McElroy building, access to which had taken no small amount of wheedling on her part. When Carlos had sent her down to cover reports of a “monster” attacking 5th Central, he'd probably expected her to go to the station itself. She'd learned pretty early on in her career, though, that when the big stuff was developing, it helped to be the one network with footage of the big picture.

It also meant that if there was a “monster”, she'd be safely out of the way. If she wanted to be in the thick of danger, she'd take those postings in France that management was always trying to thrust onto her.

A new voice crackled in over her headset. “Watts, you're on in three… two…” Devin swept the camera over to her as she stood in front of the window overlooking 5th Central, and her earpiece crackled as it changed channels.

“...live from the scene,” the anchor, Nnedi was saying. “Rebecca?”

Showtime. She nodded confidently. “That’s right, Nnedi. As you can see behind me, 5th Central has been evacuated, as have the surrounding buildings. Police have cordoned off the street, but as of yet, have not made any statements about the situation inside the station. Whatever it is, though, we can feel the impacts even from all the way up here-” as if to prove the point, another tremor shook the building.

She knew if she was down near the cordon, she’d be able to interview some of the people who had been evacuated. Carlos would probably get on her ass about not doing so later. She saw it as a trade, though; less information now, for better shots later.

“So it’s still not known what’s happening inside?” Nnedi asked.

“No,” she confirmed. “There’s-” Devin suddenly swiveled the camera, and on the attached screen, she could see him zooming in on the station. “Hold on,” she said, staring at the picture as the focus adjusted. “It appears…” It stabilized, and only years of broadcast experience let her hold back her gasp. “It appears someone has... jumped from the platform.”

A figure in pink and white flew outwards from the platform, holding something in their arms. Rebecca distantly heard a gasp from Nnedi, but she was too intently focused on the screen. The angle of the jump didn’t look right, she realized; it was too lateral.

The camera tracked the figure as they crossed the distance between the platform and the next building over, and Rebecca waited with bated breath. They hit the building on the other side, and immediately began slowing as they grabbed it with one arm, something no normal human could do without tearing their arm off. “As you can see,” she said into her microphone, “we’ve just had confirmation that superhumans are involved in this event. The question remains, however; is this figure the cause of the evacuation, or merely responding to it? And where is the Tower?”

The figure reached the ground, hitting the ground in an awkward roll, before clambering to their feet. The object they’d been carrying still lay on the ground, and they leaned down-

“Is that-”

“It appears,” Rebecca confirmed, “that this unknown superhuman has rescued a child from the station. The child appears to be unharmed, and… yes, successfully reunited with their family.” Devin got an excellent shot of the reunion, and she gave him a silent thumbs up. Thank god for the ridiculous zoom on the camera.

“Well, that’s certainly a relief.”

“Indeed, but the issue remains: we still don’t know what was causing all the commotion in the first-” Devin swung the camera up again, and her jaw hit the ground.

“W-what,” came Nnedi’s stuttering voice, “w-what is…”

Rebecca managed to get her voice under control again. “S-some kind of giant, golden monster has just leapt from the platform, and-”

She wasn’t glad for the zoom feature anymore.

“We’ve cut the feed,” Carlos’s voice barked in her ear. “Keep filming, we’ll cut it later.”

She and Devin shared a nauseated glance. “Yes, sir,” she replied shakily.

She forced herself to keep watching the screen. The figure seemed to be attracting the monster’s attention, and it let out a roar that made her wince even from far away, and charged.

“Jesus Christ,” she whispered as she watched them clash amid the mutilated corpses of police officers. “What the fuck is that thing?”

Devin didn’t respond. “Where are they going?” he asked instead, tracking the figure as they ran inside the building that had the train station’s support built in.

“Get some footage of that… thing,” she told him as the figure disappeared, and the monster charged into the lobby. He nodded, focusing in on it as it began tearing the entrance to pieces.

The figure stood there, frozen in the stance of the blow. For a moment, they were still, and then they sagged, staggering backwards. They caught themself, and slowly looked around at the remnants of the monster scattered around them.

Then, a groan, loud enough that they heard it. “Wha-” she began to ask, but Devin was already sweeping the camera up to the station platform, just as it began to collapse.

“Jesus,” she repeated, watching the collapse, and the massive plumes of dust it was putting out. “Did... they do that?”
“I’m not really getting anything anymore,” Devin said, once the station had finished collapsing. Sure enough, the screen was mostly just dust. “Should I keep filming?”

“Yeah,” she said, not entirely sure why. “Maybe we’ll get-” Another cacophonous roar shook the building. “Is that thing still alive in there?!”

“What the hell could survive-”

In an instant, a hole appeared in the center of the dust cloud. A second later, the rest of it was blown down the streets, as a giant gust of wind carried it away in an instant. An awful, visceral crunch reached them a second later.

Standing on the pile of rubble, in the very center of where the hole had appeared, was the monster. It was frozen in place, in a pose that made it look like it had been charging forward. For a moment, it just stood there. Then, it began glowing, brighter and brighter and brighter, until it was almost painful to look at.

Then it shattered.

Golden fragments, and what looked like pieces of flesh, rained to the ground. Standing in the middle of them was the figure, braced with one fist outstretched. Where they were standing, they would have been basically inside the monster.

Suddenly, they sagged, staggering backwards. They caught themself, and wearily looked around at the remnants of the monster around them.

Then they toppled slowly backwards, dissipating into smoke before they even hit the ground, and were gone.

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If you support Serious Series punches,  vote for Outliers on Topwebfiction, or rate or leave a review on Webfictionguide. Every bit of support helps keep the story going, and, more importantly, stroke my ego.

Stand 23-X

To Stand Up To Our Friends.

The building had collapsed at some point. I’d been vaguely aware of the floor falling away from me, and floating slowly downwards, but I’d been distracted by the deafening sound of tons and tons of concrete and metal collapsing around me.

The noise had settled now, though, lowering to the occasional rumble or crash as the debris settled. I couldn’t see anything at all; my vision was completely black. I was sort of beyond panic, though, so I just picked a direction and began walking.

After a minute or two, between steps, light pierced my eyes like rail spikes. My head had emerged from the rubble, and even though it wasn’t that bright, the transition from absolute darkness still made it painful. I winced, squinting as my eyes adjusted, and looked around.

The dust swirled through the air, thick and heavy. It was a sight I was getting very used to today. I watched it pass through me, and was suddenly glad I was intangible. It looked as if it would be like trying to breath through the filter bag of a vacuum. I took a deep, airless breath anyway, not disturbing it in the slightest.

The dust prevented me from making out any detail, but I didn’t need to to get the essentials. The building, and the ones on either side of it, had been crushed to the ground. Now it was all just one giant pile of rubble, an uneven lump of a silhouette. By some coincidence, I’d managed to pick the right direction to end up back on the street, and it was almost completely flooded. I was almost at the buildings on the other side, and my head had only just poked out. My body was still inside the rubble.

I so desperately wanted to collapse, but I wasn’t done yet. I just… just needed to make sure. And then I could lie down and die.

“Maybe don’t joke about that, huh?”

I continued limping my way out of the rubble (unsurprisingly, not having a body didn’t seem to factor in in any way to the pain), until it was only about knee-high. Then, I jumped up, going solid once I was above it, and managed to land without crumpling. I immediately covered my mouth with an elbow, and turned around and began to trek backwards, to where I thought the lobby of the building had been.

Where the monster had been.

Navigating the rubble was hard; without being lightened, it would have been impossible. Still, by the time I arrived, my legs were burning, the injured ankle burning red hot. It seemed to hurt more, now. I think the adrenaline was starting to wear off.

There was a glimmer of gold, half-concealed by a car-sized chunk of metal. It appeared to be completely still. A large piece of a pylon stuck directly out of the pile above it, like it had been impaled in something that was now keeping it upright.

The energy rushed out of me in an instant, leaving me feeling  drained and hollow. It was…

It had worked.

Feeling dazed, I turned around, suddenly filled with a desire to be as far away as possible. I staggered, though, leaning against a piece of rubble, that shifted underneath my weight.

Almost immediately, the debris underfoot began to shift.

“No,” I said out loud, almost emotionless, as I turned around. “No.”

The rubble was shifting, spilling to either side, as the form underneath it rose upwards. I hadn’t been wrong: the pylon had impaled Paladin. It just didn’t seem to have made a difference.

Its golden surface was dented and damaged, oozing everywhere, but it stood anyway, and didn’t seem too hindered.

It roared in my face, the tone of it different than before. It had been… angry, then. But it was anger, it was for a reason. This was insane noise, nothing but mindless fury.

I went dense, and nearly cried at how little difference it made. Barely more than my normal body.

The monster charged me. Time slowed.

I reached down, to my power. What little of it was left. Moving it around had always been like flicking a switch, one that was now currently set to ‘dense’. I grabbed the switch, found the very edge of the limits of the power, and pushed against it with all my might. Please. Please. I need to be stronger. Please, god, work.

Then it was upon me, and I swung-

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If you support overclocking,  vote for Outliers on Topwebfiction, or rate or leave a review on Webfictionguide. Every bit of support helps keep the story going, and, more importantly, stroke my ego.