The Aftermath Academy - CH39 (Pyrrha)

I can barely breath, so intense were that girl’s emotions. It’s like when Blue is stacking time without moving much, times a hundred. A crowd of voices swirling around her body, a thousand people all thinking along the same lines of thoughts. I am the Seven Sins, they scream, and I will not be beaten. The Barber’s shade keeps laughing, more active than I’ve ever felt him.

Genevieve makes to move after the girl and I catch her good arm before she can off. “Don’t,” I whisper. “Please. We can’t beat her.” She doesn’t understand. She lost her hand and she still doesn’t understand. This isn’t an extinction event, not even a catastrophe occurrence, we’re not expected to throw away our lives here. And if we go after that girl that’s what we’ll be doing.

She doesn’t see us as people, not really. We’re bugs to be swatted if need be. Any amusement she derives from the encounter will be like a child frying ants with a magnifying glass. A thousand arrogant voices proclaim death from the aura simmering over her skin.

“I won’t fight her,” Genevieve says, shrugging off the pain of her missing hand. It isn’t anything she hasn’t dealt with before in training. “But I am killing that monster. I can win. I was winning. He won’t catch me off guard again.”

“Wait-,” I try to yell, as she blurs off the roof. She’ll be able to pass the girl and find Bone and Chain with no problem. But she’s not thinking clearly. I don’t know if it’s her anger at being bested so easily or if the pain is having more effect than I thought, but she’s forgetting one very important fact.

She has an open wound.

And even if she could take Bone and Chain on her own, if Seven Sins catches her she’s dead. I try to raise Genevieve on the communicator, but all I get is static. I look at my companions, trying to assess the situation. Reed is down for the count, which means the Mohinder and Nelle clones are going to be borderline useless. His creations never have the full range of mental ability of the originals, especially if the original has super intelligence like Mohinder. But when he’s incapacitated they become incapable of following more than the most basic of instructions. We won’t be able to escape the city using Mohinder unless Reed wakes up.

Emilio is weaponless now. He could try to fly after Genevieve, but his speed isn’t great. He won’t catch her, especially if he goes around to avoid the new girl. I think Allie has a lot of tricks that might slow the new girl down, but she can’t realistically reach her. Can she?

Where is she? I don’t see Allie. I don’t sense her anywhere near us. “Emilio, where’s Allie?” I ask. He looks around in confusion, completely certain he just saw her a second ago. Did she go after them? How did she do it without me noticing? This doesn’t make sense. I look around, no trace of her.

I look at the clones, wondering if we can get the Mohinder clone to hop us over fast enough despite its deficiencies, especially if Allie’s taken off too and…oh, oh you are fucking shitting me.

“What the hell are you doing here? Are you serious, are you fucking serious, are you out of your goddamn mind?” I explode at Nelle, who is not a clone. When did Reed make the switch? There was a clone when we first arrived, I felt the deadened emotional state, the lack of desire and independent will. Nelle raises her hands in appeasement. “Hey, I’m sorry, I just wanted some real experience.”

Emilio looks at her in confusion. “Wait, are you saying this is the real one?”

“What the hell? This isn’t a game, Nelle,” I scream at her. Dammit, I got to get a grip. I’ve never lost my cool like this. But she isn’t supposed to be here. What else can go wrong? I try to take a deep breath. “Is anyone’s communicator working?” Emilio shakes his head. Fuck. Did Seven Sins do this or is there someone else involved?

It doesn’t matter. We can’t talk to headquarters; we can’t even communicate with one another. We can’t escape the city unless Reed wakes up. Genevieve just flew off to fight someone who held his own against all of us, while injured, and Allie is missing. The smart thing to do would be to chalk up our teammates as goners and go the opposite direction as Bone and Chain and Seven Sins.

But I can’t do that. There’s literally nothing I can do. I know that. I can’t even reach the combatants before the battle will be decided.

“I can take her,” Nelle says. I look up. “Needle barrage. Even if Reed’s unconscious. I’ve worked with his projections enough. I can get the projection to do a short distance teleport to catch up to that girl and buy Genevieve time.”

Is it possible? There’s the slightest touch of hope, shining through the Barber’s mocking jibes and the memory of Seven Sins’ overwhelming presence. Nelle’s needles can bypass a hell of a lot of power resistance. They can even kill Genevieve outright, not that it ever matters one on one since she can never land a blow. But with Mohinder… even if they can’t get fully through Seven Sins aura, if enough make contact with her skin at all then their secondary effect….

It’s possible. It could work. If Reed were conscious it probably even would work. But can she really get the stupid clone to a decent position? Can she even get it to use its powers at all? Bone and Chain reacted with a telekinetic bone screen when she tried it on him, but nothing I felt from Seven Sins suggests she manipulates solid objects.

“If she touches you, you’re dead,” I tell Nelle. “You understand that right? This isn’t training. It isn’t a simulation and MediKate isn’t standing by. That girl… she’s on a different level than us. If your power doesn’t work, you need to get the hell back here.” Nelle nods, seriously. She’s determined. She walks over to the Mohinder clone and makes some hand gestures. She, the Mohinder clone and Reed’s unconscious form vanish.

Damn, didn’t even think of that. Reed has to stay fairly close to the clone or it’ll dissipate. She better know what she’s doing or she’s risking Reed’s life too.

You should have gone with her, Barber says. It’d be stupid to. I’d be a distraction. My powers are useless against Seven Sins and she might target me if I’m too close. I can’t be a hostage. You misunderstand me, child. I just think you’d benefit… when Olivia kills your friend you’d get some of her powers.

He slams my mind with a memory. Johannes Barber, a few years before he died, trying to murder the child of an enemy. I see his hands grasping the girl by her throat, their defensive powers cancelling out. Bodies littered the floor around them. The tiny girl looks at him with feral eyes and Johannes feels it, her hunger. A hunger to live, a hunger surpassing everything, a hunger so intense that she….

No, no, her power isn’t what I thought it was at all. “Nelle,” I whisper. I launch myself off the building, lashing out my swords towards the ground, a thousand feet below. I can’t reach them fast enough.

It doesn’t matter. I have to try.

The Barber’s shade just laughs.