Stand 23-IV

Far More Than Our Abilities.

I did something stupid.

“Hey, let’s review. What was the last non-stupid thing we did?”

Paladin had landed almost at the complete end of the tracks, just before the station. The people around me were just beginning to notice, pointing and yelling or screaming. Can I jump out the front, stop the train?

“Are you kidding me? At this speed, we’ll either tear completely through the train, or the tracks.”

At the speed we’re going…

The speed we’re going.

“Oh. Oh, this is a bad idea. A dumb, hard, bad idea.”

I jumped upwards and ghosted, floating up through the the angled front of the train. I lifted my legs up slightly, and went solid, and was instantly slammed against the glass as the wind caught me. I gritted my teeth, and slowly leveraged myself into a crouch. Up ahead, Paladin was reeling around, trying to get her footing on the too-small tracks. It was hard to tell for sure, but I was pretty sure she’d ‘grown’ again; the ratio of flesh to light was really small now, and there was a sharp-looking, horn-like protrusion on her head that I was sure hadn’t been there before. It had probably happened while she was in the air, and her wings couldn’t support the additional weight. Was she just going to keep on growing? Where was all the additional mass even coming from, anyway? And-

“Speeding train. Imminent disaster.”

I took a deep breath, went dense and leaped, pushing myself forward. As soon as my feet left the surface of the train, I immediately returned to normal weight, as the glass shattered behind me. With the momentum produced by the additional strength from being dense acting on a normal-mass body, plus the already-considerable momentum of the train, meant I shot down the section of track between me and Paladin in an instant. The wind was pulling the edges of my mouth, and a second later, it yanked my scarf away entirely. It wasn’t the real one, but I still felt a slight stab of loss.

Paladin was on her side, flailing one leg in the air, trying to get some purchase on the smooth surface of the tracks. Up close, she was definitely larger than she’d been before. I could barely even tell where her head was any more.

I didn’t get a better look at her, though, because the next second, I slammed into her, going approximately 150 kilometers an hour.

41 meters a second.

Bonkers fast.

I was glad no-one was around, because I was screaming my lungs out.

I went dense just before I hit, because I didn’t want to die. Considering that, and the speed, I was sort of expecting one of two things to happen. One, I hit her and she goes flying away, like one pool ball hitting another. Two, I just… tear straight through her. I’d been hoping for the former, obviously; not just because I’d rather go with the non-potentially-lethal option, but also because tearing through didn’t actually move her off the tracks. Which, you’ll recall, was the main reason I was doing this insane thing.

Instead of either of those, though, it was more like… well, it was more like one person tackling another. It wasn’t so much me hitting her as it was me taking her along for the ride. Based on the way she’d responded to hits from Awestruck before, it was possible that she had something like impact redistribution. I wasn’t thinking that at the time, of course. Mostly it was just screaming.

After a couple of rotations, the two of us separated, still in the air. Paladin crashed back into the tracks, skidding along them, while I was flung into the air, spinning head over heels. I was completely disoriented, and somewhat nauseated, but I managed to realise that I didn’t want to be dense when I hit the ground. Going light immediately slowed the spin, and after a couple more seconds of frantically waving my arms around, I leveled out, slowly floating to the apex of my arc.

We’d actually gone straight through the station while we tumbled. It was an open air one, with platforms on either side, which was why I hadn’t smashed through a roof on my way up. I could see crowds gathered at the far end of the platform, and beyond them, Paladin getting to her… feet (?), on the stretch of spare track that stretched a short ways beyond the platforms. I could also see the train pulling in, unharmed apart from the crumpled-in front section. I winced. I hadn’t expected it to be quite so… dramatic. Well, I hadn’t really expected anything, per say. I wasn’t really thinking about damages at the time. I think it’d be hard to say it was worse than what would’ve happened if I’d done nothing, though.

Paladin steadied herself, facing back towards the station, and roared, rearing her head back. I could see the people on the platform wince at the sound. The sensible ones, at least. Most of them were pointing phones or cameras at it. I’d be more annoyed, but I’d probably do the same thing. Still, all of Paladin’s behaviour so far had leaned more towards flight than fight, so-

She lowered her head, and charged down the track towards the station.

“Unless that actually hurt her, and now she’s aggravated.”

You are spectacularly unhelpful. I went dense, and dropped like a stone. I’d been directly above the middle of the station, and I angled myself forwards as I fell, trying to land as far past the platform as I could without overshooting Paladin. Blowing off maths class was suddenly seeming like more and more of a mistake.

I landed light, a little closer to the platform than I’d have liked. Amazingly, some people were still standing there, still filming. And as I landed, the cameras, and the attention, turned to me. I’d have been terrified, if I wasn’t already much more afraid of the giant monster bearing down on me.

“Run away!” I yelled at them. “What the heck is wrong with you?!”

“Who the h*ll are you?!” one of them yelled back.

My head jerked back and forth between the crowd and Paladin. She was getting very close now. “Why does that matter?! Who I am won’t change-” Too close. I spun my head back around, gritted my teeth, held up my arms for impact.

Paladin slammed into me, driving me backwards, and actually digging me into the ground slightly. She roared, continuing to push me backwards as I braced, arms either side of her head on what might generously be considered shoulders. I was digging a long trench in the tracks, but she was definitely slowing do-

Something hit me in the gut, and suddenly I was lifted into the air. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and I was disoriented enough that it took me a few seconds to look down and find Paladin’s horn stabbed straight through my torso.

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