The Aftermath Academy - CH40 (Olivia)

I’m lost. Don’t like admitting that, but there it is. The stupid self-healing buildings closed up whatever holes I made when I knocked that weakling through them. Which means I have no trail anymore. I thought it would be as simple as flying in a straight line, but there’s no way I hit him this far. I’m pretty badass, but my power doesn’t work this way.

I was far from full power, and I was holding back a ton so that Krieg’s teleporting device might work, and I wasn’t even trying to hit anyone. Just ran into him when flying out of the portal. Given those things and his power resistance it makes sense to me that my fist didn’t just carve through his skull. But it also means there is no flipping way I hit him through twenty blocks of buildings.

Which means I’m lost. For sure. Shoot, that Genevieve girl flew past me superfast too. What if she drags his ass off somewhere? Maybe she already did and that’s how I passed him. Hmmm, not sure what to do then. Guess I could fly up higher and use my Greed to try and find him.

I start to rise up higher when I feel a sharp pain up and down my leg and begin to plummet instead. The hell? I look down as the ground rushes towards me and me and see needles puncturing up and down my entire leg. Nelle Ace’s power. What a drag.

Literally. It’s dragging me down. Every one of her needles is doubling my weight. I’ve got to be at least a few tons already. I slam into the ground as I increase the power of my Envy exponentially to compensate. There we go, my strength is increasing to match hers.

She’s standing only a few dozen yards away. I look for her handler but don’t see one. It doesn’t make sense, it’s insane for the real one to be included on a mission against Bone and Chain. But I knocked out Reed and Krieg was very clear about the limitations of his abilities. Did he surpass them? Or is the clone’s handler hiding? The Mohinder can’t be a real one. One of his powers is super intelligence and this tactic is just stupid. If he were going to teleport needles into me he’d do it from the far edges of his range, while hiding, not plainly visible a short skip and a hop away.

Or it would be if I weren’t trying to lift so much weight I don’t even know the number for it. It’s got a freaking letter in it though, I know that. Like 3e150? My mental math is distracted by needles flying through my eyes. Fuck. Actually, not as painful as the Capsaicin that bug hero girl used, which I still think is genius. But needles in the eyes? Can you say eye scream?

More annoyingly, it fucks up my depth perception. My Pride’s going full blast to keep the needles from flying straight through my skull and my Envy’s barely keeping pace with the secondary effect, so I can barely use any Greed.

“Not so tough after all, are you?” Nelle asks. It’s the real one. I only know one clone smart enough to taunt people and Reed didn’t make him.

“Are you serious? You’re questioning if I’m tough when I’m flying with like a thousand needles that exponentially increase my weight? I’m going to fucking kill you,” I scream, staggering a few paces towards her position, gaining a better idea of the exact distance between us.

I slip a few inches and a moment of genuine fear hits me. I have to end this, quickly. I don’t know how many needles this girl has left, or how they’re able to so precisely target open patches of skin, but I’m not going back to center of the Earth. Been there, done that, it sucked.

I stagger a few more paces, triangulating their distance further.

“You’re right. I’ve never seen anyone take this many needles before except Pyrrha, and that’s only because her armor doesn’t care about weight. But in the end it won’t matter. You’ll sink to the center of the Earth until you’ve starved to death.”

Taunting me. A very hero thing to do. But they’re semi-protected by The Rules of Engagement. You kill a hero and a stronger hero comes. You kill the stronger hero, an even stronger one comes, probably a designated Untouchable like Nova. You even try to seriously harm one of those, and a true Untouchable like The Butler finds you and tortures you to death for threatening one of their friends.

No one will avenge some no name executioner, and I never starve.

I don’t taunt her. I don’t give any indication I can do anything as I transfer some of my power from Envy and slip beneath the surface of the earth. I have a moment of panic as I sink, terrified I’ve failed, that I’m heading back to that hell for good this time.

Then I stop. I feel the needles begin to snap across my skin as her power stops working. My eyes are still fucked though. But now I can spare some more power to up my Greed, increasing my sight of the world. I fly upwards back up through the street.

“Clearly they’re failing you these days at That Academy. The first thing they should teach you is that if someone’s actually a threat, don’t waste time taunting them until they’re already dead.”

Admittedly, not as satisfying. I look at the corpses in front of me, hanging from the teeth of my manifested Gluttony. Black teeth the size of my arm pierce upwards through Nelle’s heart and through the Mohinder’s clone’s brain. I confirm it’s a projected clone, as it is already dissipating into the air.

Nelle, on the other hand, remains strung up on the lower teeth of my projection. Blood’s soaked her shirt. Her eyes don’t hold a glimmer of light in them.

“You did a good job,” I tell her. “Much better than the last executioners who tried to kill me. Really tested my Envy’s limits. Not that I had to. It would have been smarter to attack from range, but I would have gone below ground sooner and retaliated with some Voracious Avarice before my power was stretched too thin. You still might have gotten me with the real Mohinder if he had a way of tracking my movements below ground. But I’m guessing you couldn’t do a range attack at all because Reed’s unconscious and the clone was too limited, right?”

The short-haired red-head can’t answer, on account of being dead and all. It’s a shame. There’s another question I would really like to know. “How many of Lilith’s little brothers and sisters have you murdered for your training?” I whisper to the corpse, leaning in conspiratorially.

She’s as talkative as you all are. I sigh, backing up as my Gluttony chomps its jaws down, munching off the top half of Nelle. Her lower body slumps to the ground.

“Are you talking about the kids?” a girl asks from on top of a street lamp.

I’d blink in surprise if I didn’t still have pieces of needles gunking up the whole ocular system. Fortunately, my stronger Greed is showing colors now or I’d have missed the shocking pink hair. She looks a couple of years younger than her classmates. That doesn’t mean much, since I probably also look a couple years younger than them. Still, she doesn’t appear disturbed that my projection just ate half her classmate.

“Yes,” I tell her. “I’m talking about the kids.” This girl…I know her first name is Allie, but I can’t for the life of me remember what her last name was. Her powers were varying energy infused bubble forms. Super high defense, flexible offense. Krieg’s dossier didn’t mention anything that would make her a serious threat but advised caution.

“Why would you care?” she asks innocently. “They’re projections, aren’t they? Created beings?” Normally someone asking me that would make me angry. Really angry. But her tone is one of childish curiosity, genuine interest in my opinion.

“One of my best friends in the world is a created being,” I tell her. “Just because they weren’t born like the rest of us doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to live. It doesn’t mean you aren’t murdering children.” Technically two of my friends, but only one was created intentionally. And that’s not counting you imaginary folks, though given how quiet you all are I’m not sure I can call us friends.

Allie smiles, “I don’t kill kids.” She hops down from the lamp post and waves her rod towards me. I tense, expecting an attack. Instead a bubble surrounds me and an instant later I’m good as new. No more needle remains, not even the tell-tell pain of Krieg’s nanobots trying to repair me. One second I’m hurting all over, relying on Greed to see, and the next it’s like my fight with Nelle never happened. “But I do like to fight. Why don’t we have a round? I don’t get to very often, and I think you’re like me."

What she is saying doesn’t make sense. They wouldn’t let her keep training as an Executioner if she couldn’t perform the most basic job function, no matter what the scenario. And healing a dangerous opponent? Not even a sane hero would do something like that. And I have no idea what she could mean that I’m like her.

I try to respond that I would love to have a go, but really have a job to get done. But before I can get the words out Allie is standing beside me, smiling widely with her rod pointed at my chest. I see a small bubble at the end. It touches my Pride…and I’m blown through the building behind me.