Fly, You Fools.
Within a second, the beast was back on its feet, and charging for us. Awestruck interposed himself between it and us, arms outstretched. Comet was still on the ground, so I ran over and grabbed her, pulling her onto her feet as the two collided behind us. The force of the impact staggered us both, but she seemed slower to recover. “Hello?” I snapped at her. “Anyone home?”
She shook her head, composing herself. “We should regroup,” she said, beginning to run towards where the others had accumulated. I followed.
“Are you...okay with this?” I asked hesitantly.
She ignored me.
The Guardians (plus Kai) were all watching the spectacle with what looked like a mix of horror and awe. A deafening crunch as Awestruck tossed the beast through the front of a building heralded our arrival. “Okay,” said Thrust, not looking at us, “I don’t want to reduce the severity of the situation, but this is actually f***in’ awesome.”
Comet fixed him with a withering stare that I even felt from behind her. He muttered an apology, looking away. “We need to figure out how disable her,” she said to the assembled group. “Properly this time.”
“She got stronger,” Fog protested. “It was holdin’ her just fine.”
“Besides, isn’t Awestruck handling it?” Stump asked. He sounded… well, awed.
“He thinks he needs to kill her,” Comet snapped. “We need to prove otherwise. Suggestions.”
“Whoa,” I protested. “He didn’t say that.”
“His actions are. Suggestions.”
“I have a time distortion,” Instance said, “but I’d suggest we save that as a last resort? We don’t know how it will affect her. Aside from that, the webs were the best thing I had.”
“I could make a mirror box?” Kai suggested. I looked at her, surprised. I didn’t think of her as someone who would willingly offer ideas in this situation. “It reflects force, but the power interaction might mess it up.”
“Try,” Comet barked at her. “Now-”
A flash of light in my peripheral vision was all the warning I got. Instinctively, I went dense, but it didn’t make much difference; I was sent flying, hurtling through the air, and then very suddenly not hurtling any more. Neither state was particularly onerous on its own, but the transition between them was… not good.
I could feel my consciousness slipping away, being pulled out of my body like it was attached to a tether. No no no no no! I can’t, I need to be here, I need to help! Shockingly enough, pleading didn’t help. My vision started to shrink, growing cloudy around the edges as it tunneled in. I started feeling cold, and kind of uncomfortable, and for a moment I wasn’t sure how my body was aligned.
No. I gritted my teeth and focused, on the body I was currently in. It felt like swimming against the current in river rapids, except with my brain. Slowly, though, my vision stopped retreating, the sensations stopped growing stronger. I growled, threw everything I had into it, and, painstakingly slowly, I clawed my way back in.
It felt like I’d fallen off a cliff and landed in my own skin. I jerked forward, gasping, as all my senses returned in a rush. I was lying on the ground, sprawled awkwardly. I levered myself upright, and found myself staring through a hole in a building. It went through multiple rooms, in one side and out the other, and given the size and general shape, it wasn’t hard to figure out what had caused it. Through the gaps and the cloud of dust, I could see flashes of gold and grey, flickering back and forth.
Shoot. The others. If that had tossed me this far while dense, what would it have done to them? I was in between them and the paw, so hopefully it would’ve taken some of the edge off, but-
I went to stand, but something in me gave way, and I staggered while halfway up. I felt… hollow. Looking down at my core revealed three large gashes through it, with frayed, ragged edges, each about two inches at the widest point. Spilling slowly out of them was thick, lavender smoke, dissipating away into the air once it got about half a foot away from me. It made me look like a punctured balloon, a hollow shell filled with smoke. Which, I guess, is what I was, but injuries before now had always looked real, not… this.
I didn’t have time to speculate on it. I felt lighter, and not in a good way, but after I’d adjusted I could still move. Judging by the way the concrete crunched under me, I could still affect my density too, so I took a breath, and barreled on ahead, back through the building.
I emerged in a shower of concrete and drywall, skidding to a stop. Directly in front of me, Awestruck was holding the beast up into the air with one hand, while the other pointed downwards, blasting shockwaves at the ground and pulverizing it. The beast roared, slashing awkwardly at him, and he took a blow to the side without flinching, even as it sent a spray of blood spurting off to one side. Once the destroyed area was around the size of a swimming pool, he ceased the shockwaves, and dove downwards, slamming the beast into the pool of dust and rubble. The plume it sent upwards obscured them both for a moment, and when it cleared, Awestruck was hovering out of reach as the beast roared and struggled below him. It couldn’t get its footing, I realized as it thrashed around. That was… clever.
“Well, you didn’t think he got to being top dog by being handsome, did you?”
More being handsome and also very strong.
I couldn’t read the expression on his face as he hovered there. After a second, he slowly raised one hand and pointed it down at the beast. Then, he paused, and lowered it again. “What is he…” I muttered, trailing off. The air around him began to shimmer, like his shockwaves, and he began rising, until he was just above the tops of the surrounding buildings. He hung there for a moment, looking down. The beast had gone silent, and now looked more like it was writhing than thrashing. Then he dived, the shimmer rippling around him like a corona.
Just before he hit, the pit exploded with golden light.
Like the fractal growths that had accompanied the initial… transformation, spikes and angles and jagged shapes burst outwards from its form. One looked like it speared Awestruck straight through the chest, and he went flying off course, digging a trench in the ground with his impact. The growth stopped a moment later, the light now filling almost the entire pit.
And then it unfurled.
It took me a second to comprehend, as two uneven, flat constructs stretched out to either side. They didn’t look much like Paladin’s had, yeah, but it wasn’t hard to recognize the shape of large, golden wings.
With a flap that sent clouds of dust billowing outwards, the beast lifted itself out of the pit, hanging awkwardly beneath its new appendages. It was larger now, even without the wings, and I braced myself. It didn’t attack, though. With one last ear-shattering roar, it spun around in the air, and, with a speed that belied its size (and physics), shot away.
Heading straight for the Tower.
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