Same Old Dull Routine.
The whipcrack retort of the gun (not ear-shatteringly loud, though; apparently, a subsonic round) cracked out across the rooftop, and everyone’s heads snapped towards the source. Occam, though, standing a step back from Foresight in a half-crouch, didn’t look away. That, and the mouth-agape shock on his face cued the rest of us to turn our gazes to the bullet’s intended victim.
He was absolutely still, frozen halfway through a lunge, and his free hand, the one not holding the knife, was raised close to his chest. It was exactly the sort of moment that would be followed with a scarlet stain spreading across his clothing, or him toppling over to the ground. Instead, his hand shifted slightly, fingers uncurling, and there was a soft, dull ping as something fell from between them and landed on the ground.
“No fuckin’ way,” Tide whispered next to me.
The crumpled piece of brass spun a few times, an uneven circle, before slowing to a halt. Slowly, a smug, smug smirk spread across Foresight’s face, and he lowered the hand. “Better luck next time,” he said.
Apparently, the boy took it as a cue, because there was another crack, and again, the hand came up, almost impossibly quick, and caught it out of the air. No, that wasn’t it. He hadn’t moved faster, he’d moved earlier. Slightly before the gun had actually fired, I was pretty sure. I hoped it was just that, because if he was actually faster than a speeding bullet…
Look, I don’t know what I’d do, or who I’d do it to, but it wouldn’t be pleasant.
The second shot shocked everyone back into action. Occam lunged, both swords stabbing forwards, and Foresight threw the bullet into his face. Acting on a hunch, I turned my attention to the boy, and sure enough, he was already squeezing the trigger for another shot. Because it’d definitely for sure work this time!
Well, time to be useful, I guess. He gave an alarmed cry as the gun suddenly tore itself out of his hand, flipping up into the air with a brand new dent halfway down the barrel. I’d actually expected the bullet to tear out of the gun completely when I redirected it upwards, but the gun had such a neat arc in the air that I couldn’t complain. He clutched his hand to his chest as it clattered to the ground in front of him, obviously in pain. His index finger was almost certainly broken, considering it had been inside the trigger guard at the time, and there was a pretty decent chance it had damaged some other stuff too.
On the flip side, I was back down to zero in the power department. But, then again, that had quickly become the standard over the last few days, so it wasn’t as much of a blow as it might have been. Being useless? A bit more of one.
Foresight had done something, and I saw, in the corner of my eye, one of Occam’s blades fly out and embed itself in the ground, accompanied by a nasty crunching sound from its creator. It had actually landed quite close to us, only a foot or two away, and I idly wondered what would have happened if it had been flung away with more strength and hit me or Tide.
“Too close for comfort,” she said, voicing the thought aloud.
“Yeah,” I agreed, as Foresight landed a good gash on Occam’s left arm. “Typical - oh, brace.” I grabbed onto a nearby block, Tide doing the same, just in time for Freefall to come streaking out of the sky and hit the forcefield again.
The expected impact didn’t come, though, and it only took a second to figure out why. Pincer had shaped his umbrella upwards, making it concave, and the shockwave had followed its contour, fizzling out uselessly into the sky. Huh. Cleverer than I’d have thought, from any of the people below that barrier. Then again, as my little taunt with Junction had reminded me, I didn’t really know anything about any of the Cabal beyond powers. They all existed in one category in my head, “goons”, maybe with some modifiers for how annoying they were to fight. Maybe Pincer was actually a tactical genius, who knows.
The more important part was that, without the threat of the shockwaves dispersing her, Edith was now free to act. And we had absolutely no way of stopping her. And, with the angry, hungry look she was giving us, she obviously knew it too.
“Get Jess back,” I said to Tide. Then, in a louder voice addressed at Foresight, “Stop playing with your food, asshole.”
He looked back at me, sneering, and without even a glance back in the other direction, hurled the dagger straight through Occam’s foot.
I rolled my eyes as he screamed and collapsed to the ground. “Next time do that from the beginning.” He flipped me off and turned back to his downed opponent, watching him with amusement as he clutched at his injured foot and swore.
A soft ripple of force hit me from behind as Freefall landed. She wasn’t injured, but her posture was worn and tired. “Annoying,” was all she said. Seeing her return, Pincer stopped maintaining the forcefield, hands dropping to his sides and slumping over. Edith didn’t move, though; probably giving him time to to rest so he’d be able to shield her properly when she did.
“Got that right,” Tide muttered. “Had bloody nothing to do this whole feckin’ time.” Under ordinary circumstances, I’d have been more worried about the resurgence of the accent, but frankly, there were worse times for it.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m sure that won’t be true for much longer.” Edith still wasn’t moving, and it was starting to freak me out. “Anyone have any trump cards they’re hiding up their sleeves? Because now would be a really good time to pull them out.” A thought struck me. “Tide, does your power work on air?”
“Sort of? It feels like it does something, but nothing actually happens.”
“Well, try that, I guess. Can’t do any more harm than doing nothing.” Yeah, it was definitely fear tactics; she’d started coming apart from the outside in, a much slower dissolve than the near-instantaneous one she normally went through. “Anyone else?”
Freefall shook her head. “I can already hurt her,” she said. “Just need to be able to get to her.”
And there it is.
I clicked my fingers. “Right. Right, okay. Yeah, that’s it. Take out Pincer, and Freefall can block her off from being able to switch.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be much easier,” Tide said doubtfully. “Especially if we’ve got her hounding us at the same time.”
“I’ve got a good feeling about that thing with the air,” I said. “We’ll figure something out.”
“How are we going to break through his shields, then? If Freefall does it-”
“Too much energy,” she confirmed. “Wouldn’t have any left.”
“We’ll figure something out,” I repeated. A snarl from the side cut off any further discussion, and we looked over to see Occam struggling to his feet. He was obviously off-balance, one foot damaged, but he was standing, and he still posed a threat.
Foresight snorted, and began moving to hit him again, but I waved him down, and he actually cooperated, surprisingly enough. “With them,” I told him as I hobbled past, pulling the discarded sword out of the ground. “You’ll be more use.”
I flipped the blade in the air, then caught it by the handle, facing the right way up, and faced Occam. “En garde,” I said dryly, “motherfucker.”
If you support the elegant art of fencing, 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.