I hurtle across the city using my swords like stilts, slamming them in to the ground below me but not letting them cut through it. Spear, dissipate, spear, dissipate, a steady rhythm between James and Samson that propels me forward as I look for either of my friends.
Finally, I see Genevieve floating over a building and a wave of relief goes through me. She hasn’t engaged with Bone and Chain yet. Maybe she realized how suicidal it would have been. I can tell her the threat to Nelle and she can use her super-speed to go rescue her and Reed. Then we can get out of this city together.
We can…we can… my hope dies as I get close enough to feel her emotions through her power resistance. I immediately begin to try and drain her power. If I can do that, if I can take away her abilities until we kill Bone and Chain, maybe she’ll be ok. Maybe I can save her.
Her fist knocks me out of the air, body moving in a blur that causes a sonic boom. I hit the ground and it craters around me. If my armor transferred energy the way a normal suit of armor does my insides would have liquidated at that sort of blow. Fortunately, it doesn’t, or I’d be dead again as Genevieve’s feet come crashing down on my chest.
I feel it crack though, and for a moment I hate her as the Barber’s emotions bleed into mine. Then I shake away the feeling, as terrified as she is. She can’t control her body.
I can see how it went down. She did find Bone and Chain and, thinking him dazed, she began a relentless assault. If she hadn’t been injured, maybe it would have worked. But no matter how carefully she tried to guard her open wound while attacking at the same time, she just couldn’t do both effectively. Bone and Chain managed to touch her exposed bone with one of his and it was over.
He’s controlling her entire body while she’s stuck watching, screaming in her mind that she doesn’t want to do this, that she’s sorry. Again and again as her fists slam down now onto my face.
The Barber’s healed from Olivia’s casual destruction of my helmet, but as her blows start to crack him again I realize I’ve lost. My power drain doesn’t feel like it’s working, maybe rebuffed by the energy Bone and Chain is controlling her with, but it wouldn’t matter even if it were. It’s like our first fight all over again, but she struck faster this time with even more intensity.
I’ve lost. This is where it’s going to end. I’m going to die here, without having done any good at all.
“It’s ok,” I try to assure her. Once the armor’s gone she’ll crush my skull in one hit, but until then I only really feel the blows on an emotional level as I struggle to hold the Barber’s hate at bay. I refuse to let it take hold of me. I refuse to die hating my classmate. “It’s not your fault.” Tears are falling from her eyes. I close my own. What a shitty executioner I turned out to be. We might have had our differences, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill her even if I had the power to.
I think this as a power surges unbidden in my hand and Samson pierces through his daughter’s side, the first time he hasn’t instantly shattered rather than fight his girl. He pulses with more power than I’ve ever unleashed from him and is gone, his shade’s final thoughts stitching themselves in my mind. Can’t you hear her soul screaming? I won’t see my daughter a prisoner, forced to murder all of her friends. Please tell whatever part of her ends up in you that I loved her.
Bone and Chain’s energy is gone, no longer controlling her body. But I can feel the damage is mortal. “Thank you, daddy,” Genevieve says. Blood pours from her lips. She slumps down and her head falls beside mine. She whispers, “I’m sorry.” For everything.
I feel her die, the lights switching off. I’m numb, possibly in shock. All I can do is lie here, holding my friend’s body in my arms.
Then I feel a warmth in my heart, one that becomes a fire. Strength surges through every part of me, of a kind I’ve never known before.
Hey girl, we got to get going. Just cuz’ I’m dead doesn’t mean you get to just quit. Who else can save Nelle? Come on, no time for a pity party. Get your ass up!
Genevieve’s shade forces me to my feet.