The Aftermath Academy - CH37 (Pyrrha)

One of Bone and Chain’s arms slam into me with more force than a wrecking ball and I feel my armor crack slightly from its impact as I fly backwards through a cement wall.

What a dick, hate whispers through me as my armor heals itself. I shoulder off the debris as quickly as I can, slicing through it and running back out onto the street. Bone and Chain is hammering Emilio with a Gatling gun like rapidness, scarcely worse off for his time tied up by the twine. His arms are moving back and forth in a blur, hands twisted balls of bone spikes that slam down on Emilio’s form unceasingly.

“Reed, can you get Emilio out of there?” I ask on the communicator. Emilio might be resisting the assault but I can feel it taxing him. There’s only so long that he can hold out against this sort of relentless attack, which is why Genevieve has managed to stay higher in the rankings.

In a blink, Emilio is teleported off the field. “Any ideas?” Reed asks over the communicator. “Tried to needle him with a Nelle – Mohinder combination but after the first hit he started swirling bone fragments over the surface of his body. Too power resistant to teleport right into him. And I think the couple I did hit him with just made his attacks stronger. Not sure how many it would take to put him down….”

“Yeah, don’t waste the needles. You can try again if there’s an opening,” I say. “Which we might be able to make. Allie, can you make sure everything between him and Genevieve is cleared out? If she has a clear shot without him pulling something, maybe we can do some real damage.”

“Sure thing!” Allie says, disturbingly unconcerned by what’s happened so far. She’s having fun. A double layered bubble materializes over the entire space between Genevieve and our adversary. The interior compresses into nothingness then releases back into the outside bubble. Both disappear. “All clear.”

Genevieve rushes through the open space in a flash before Bone and Chain can bring any more shard clouds to the area. She slams down her rod onto his head, once, twice, a dozen times in a split second and he roars in anger as he’s thrashed around. He might be able to simulate super speed at a distance through varying his density and using his extremities in a whip like fashion, but Genevieve is the real thing. He can’t keep up. His limbs begin to buckle under the impacts, the flesh over his bone armor has all but shredded away, and once again it feels like we have him on the ropes.

Then there’s a burst of light and everything goes white. My armor shielded me from the brunt of it, and it only takes half a second for my eyes to adjust, but Bone and Chain is gone. I see the source of the light, a man in police garb on the side of the street. His muscles shiver uncontrollably as his limbs move involuntarily to grab another flash grenade. I can feel his terror, bewilderment at what’s happening to him, and curse myself for not noticing his presence earlier.

Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, the Barber’s voice whispers in my mind. I feel hate stir more strongly within me. Or haven’t you noticed, your empathy doesn’t do as well when I’m feeling more awake?

“You’re doing this?” I hiss. What, I thought you didn’t like being able to feel other people’s emotions? laughs Barber’s shade. But you complain so much when you can’t. What a little hypocrite you are, stumbling about in the dark.

“Did you say something?” Allie asks me curiously, force crushing the poor policeman in one of her bubbles without even a thought to it. It’s like he wasn’t even real to her, wasn’t a person, was barely even an obstacle or threat.

“No, sorry,” I say. I activate the communicator “Reed, please bring us where you are, we have to regroup. And stay away from the building edges, he has reserve bone puppets. Don’t know if he has the finesse to use snipers, but we just got grenaded so I wouldn’t risk it.”

A moment later we’re all standing on top of a skyscraper. I see the one I crashed through down the street and observe wires starting to stitch across the opening my body had made, the seed city starting to repair itself.

“Damn, thought I had him,” Genevieve said, frustrated at his escape.

“Yo también,” Emilio said. “Fucking tension. Can’t believe he made me let go of the twine with a finger.”

“Lessons learned,” I say. “At least we’re all still alive to remember them. But what now? Is the extinction level threat still on?”

Reed nods his head, “Got it mostly contained for now, but not a lot of progress beating it back.”

“If he thinks we’re a serious enough threat, Bone and Chain will probably go underground now until the next emergency. If he thinks we got lucky, he’ll probably just move to another part of the city and start making more puppets of any squatters,” I say. Just because it’s supposed to be an abandoned city doesn’t mean it is. There’s bound to be some people hiding out in a fully functional tech city.

“Based on his past behavior, I’m guessing it’ll be the latter,” Allie says contemplatively. “We killed most of his toys. He won’t want to go underground without making more and sneaking them away at the least.”

“If he decides to be sneakier, how do we find him again?” Genevieve asks.

“You might spot a disturbance from the air,” I say. Reed could also have the Mohinder clone look for us, but Reed’s projections can’t exist for long when outside a pretty limited range. Doubt we could get full coverage of the city that way.

Or maybe, he’ll come to you, whispers the Barber. What happens next is too fast for me to react to, only interpretable because of years sparring with speedsters.

Bone and Chain bursts through the roof of the building we’re on, concrete shattering around his body as it hurls upwards inches behind Reed, boned claws coming down towards Reed’s head. Then there’s a swirling blue light next to his own head, out of which a small fist slams into it. Bone and Chain jerks, flying off the edge of the skyscraper as a body follows the fist.

A girl floats through the swirling light as it disappears. She’s no taller than Mary, has the golden brown skin of someone with Destrian ancestry, and black hair swept back in spikes that reach her shoulders. Her eyes are brown and slightly feral. If my power wasn’t feeding me information I would guess she was younger than us instead of a year or two older.

“Oops,” she says casually as Bone and Chain hurtles through the neighboring skyscraper, no sign of stopping. Then she sweeps her hand down easily across the back of Reed’s head and he falls unconscious beneath her feet.

The Barber’s shade begins to laugh, making my body shiver as the armor quivers over me. Her? It’s her?! I haven’t seen her since she was a child. Oh, this is too good. If you think I’m a piece of work, you should have met her mother. By the way, you’re all going to die.

For the first time in my life his words aren’t dripping with hate, but with fondness. An affection coming from a complete monster’s admiration for someone it believes to be like him. And as I feel the girl’s utter disdain for us, so much more powerful than a normal person’s emotions that it feels like an incarnate force, I’m terrified that he’s right.