Scene 11 – October 20th
Exterior Townhouse, Evening
“Well, this is my stop,” I told Canaveral. “Thanks for escorting me home.”
“Don’t mention it,” he told me. “Seriously – don’t. Director Shepard would have preferred me to stay hot on Legion’s heels.” He shrugged. “She was gone anyway, and with the kind of luck you apparently have…”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I’m half surprised she isn’t waiting for us here.”
“Hey – don’t jinx it!” We share a laugh. “Did tonight help you come to a decision, at least?”
“It…” I sighed. “Not really. This crisis kind of interrupted my thinking, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do. Don’t feel bad about it.”
“Why would I feel bad about it?”
“Well, I feel kind of bad about it, so…” We laugh again. “If you’d like to come hang out on a night that we’re not trying to track down an unpredictable shapeshifter, give me another call. I’ll let you know if we’re available.”
“I will.” I turned to enter the townhouse my father and I shared and started digging in my bag for my keys – I had foolishly left them in my pocket when I had changed into my costume, and as dad was visiting a friend tonight the door was locked – but was interrupted by a strange noise behind me. When I glanced back, I saw Canaveral’s face covered by a long, grotesque hand that lifted him off the ground, claws digging into the white fabric of his temporary cowl as he struggled. A moment later it tossed him aside and its far-too-long arm retracted, revealing his attacker.
She was a little shorter than the previous versions I saw, but more heavily built. This one seemed to have settled on green as a color scheme – a green skirt so dark it was nearly black, a pale green sleeveless shirt, and green hair that obscured her face. And she was staring right at me.
“Who are you, child?” Legion asked. “What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” I couldn’t prevent myself from shooting back. “Should I be asked you that question?” I mean, I’m the one who lives in this city!” I felt something moving from the direction Canaveral had been thrown, and hoped I wouldn’t give away what he was doing.
She sighed. “Of course you do. Well then, young -” Her head suddenly exploded as a manhole cover traveling at the speed of a freight train flew through it like a frisbee.
“Run, Newton!” Canaveral called, landing from a flying leap in between me and the supervillain, who had crossed her arms as though annoyed.
“I can’t just leave you!” I protested as Legion’s head grew back. Tendrils crawled out of her back towards various bits of gore, which melted and reformed into her body. “…besides, I think I’d vomit if I tried to move too fast right now,” I joked. “I mean, ew.”
“Newton,” he growled. “Go.”
Instead, I dodged – I felt the ground cracking beneath our feet, and an explosion of spines and bones erupted under Canaveral. I pushed him, flinging him to the side and away from it and simultaneously sending me to the other side. Before I could touch the ground, I pushed against the earth, sending myself higher into the air.
It took me a moment to reorient myself – I closed my eyes for a moment to track the world with ESP, which didn’t seem to care what my inner ear was screaming about – then I pulled at the supervillain, launching myself towards her. Legion was rooted into the ground, having shifted herself through the asphalt to create that burst of spines. I came at her fist-first, not sure what I could do against her but knowing that I couldn’t do anything else.
She caught my fist in one hand, which extended to hold me above her head as I tried to grab at her. “Give me a moment, child,” she chided. “Let me just deal with this pest, and then we can talk.”
“Leave the kid alone!” Canaveral barked as he rushed in. He stopped on a dime as she swiped at him, staying just out of her reach – her reach at that moment, anyway – then bounced into the air to dodge her second swipe. His chain drove itself into one of her eyes and out the other – this was pretty gruesome, and I found myself thankful that I had never been squeamish.
“I just regrew my head, do you really think I put my brain back in it?” Legion asked. “Come now, Mr. Armstrong.”
She was clearly storing more mass than she ought to be able to in a body that size – I could tell from my ESP that she weighed far more than she should, not to mention how dense her fingers around my fist were – like rocks. And there was little reason for her to bother with fat when she had such complete control over herself – she was probably nothing but muscle and bone, given her incredible strength. If she even had to bother with such things when she could just shapeshift bones into whatever shape she wanted – on the other hand, she certainly moved like she had joints.
If she had joints, then she had weak spots, too.
I had never tried grabbing a specific location on an object before, but… I took hold of her forearm and bicep on the arm that held me with my TK, and pulled and pushed and twisted in opposite directions, as hard as I thought I could handle.
…ow. That was gonna bruise.
It had worked, though – with a stomach-churning squelch and pop, I had dislocated her elbow, and her hand and arm dropped, instinctively releasing me as muscles reflexively failed.
Again, I pushed at the ground before I could strike it, and found myself high in the air.
She glanced up at me, apparently unconcerned with Canaveral’s attempts to find her brain. “You’re not going to stop, are you?” she asked.
“Nope!” I said as cheerfully as I could manage, beginning to fall back to earth. “Not until I’ve put at least one of you behind bars, and preferably all three!” I was doing my best to channel the nonchalance and irreverence that Canaveral had had against the drug dealers, although with only limited success.
“At least one of three, hm? Well, I’m a little busy tonight. Places to be, people to see…”
“People to see or people to be?” I quipped, and Canaveral snorted from where he struggled in her grip.
Legion laughed – the bright, tinkling laugh of someone enjoying themselves – and her hair parted itself to expose a pleased smile, curling up and tucking behind her ears. Was Canaveral really that low of a threat to her, that she had the mental capacity to not only banter with me but also mess with her own appearance, while still holding him off? “Just to see, tonight. No impersonations on the menu this time.”
I landed lightly on the roof of my house. I had to keep her talking as long as I could – not only would it give other heroes a chance to get here and help me and Canaveral, but any information on what she was doing was bound to be helpful. “Are you sure? Because you’re doing a great impression of someone’s older sister right now.”
She glanced down a Canaveral, who had mostly escaped her grasp but was now attempting to force his way closer to her despite one hand being firmly planted on the top of his head. “You know, you’re not wrong.”
“Newton!” Canaveral yelled. “Get the hell out of here!”
“Is that what you’re going by?” Legion asked. “Newton?”
“Dunno if I’ll keep it, but yeah,” I confirmed. I flipped off the roof and aimed for her elbow again. I didn’t really expect to hit, especially given how telegraphed this would be, so I prepared to alter my trajectory and strike her in the chest instead.
…well, I didn’t hit her elbow. I also didn’t hit her torso, as she expanded into a wide ring and allowed me to pass directly through her. I rolled and bounced off my feet, barely avoiding the tentacle that her unoccupied arm had turned into by dodging back around her – it came close enough that it tore my flannel, but it didn’t cut through the suit. “Speaking of people who don’t stop…”
Legion sighed. “This is getting very irritating. I hoped it would be the simplest stop, but no,” she complained. “You just have to make this difficult, don’t you?” Suddenly, the asphalt below me wrapped around my feet. I struggled, but it bound me too tightly to allow me to move, and it was creeping up my legs.
“How the hell?”
“Asphalt is made up organic compounds,” she told me, then turned to face Canaveral, who had backed away from her and was staring at me in horror. “Why don’t you settle down some, Canaveral?”
He balled up his fists. “Leave the kid out of this, Legion,” he ordered. “They’ve got nothing to do with whatever brought you here!”
She chuckled. “You think so, hmm? Well, I suppose so… but…” She gave him a sly grin. “You’ll have to give me a chance to speak, instead of launching things through my appendages. Deal?”
He gritted his teeth, but nodded. “Deal. Newton…” he glared at me. “Go.” The asphalt, which had by that point reached by waist, peeled away, splitting into a pair of large, dark birds, both of which flew off.
I glanced helplessly between the two of them, but after a moment I finally went.
Scene 12 – October 20th
Exterior City, Continuous
It was painful, leaving Canaveral alone. On one level, obviously I knew that he was an experienced hero and had fought Legion before. But… he had clearly been struggling, and he had little backup. Her ability to consume organic matter was clearly far more dangerous than I had initially thought, with her having absorbed and controlled asphalt of all things, and that meant that the mass of the entire street was at her command (in retrospect, no wonder she hadn’t shifted even a little when I used her as an anchor for my TK).
As I moved, I couldn’t help but think… what had I just done? I had leapt into a super-powered battle without even thinking. Was I meant to be a hero after all?
…no, I had been useless, I realized. Worse than useless, in fact – I had probably been distracting Canaveral, and that was why he was having difficulty. He had been trying to get me to run the entire time, and what did I do? I stuck around and made things harder for him. What kind of shitty hero would I be?
Hell, Legion had clearly not been taking the fight seriously. She had barely paid attention to Canaveral and seemed to be trying to stay deliberately nonlethal with me. She had caught me twice, both without apparent effort, and could have almost definitely absorbed me then and there if she wanted to.
Unless the PA4 that I was wearing wasn’t organic? I had no idea what it was actually made of.
Still, I doubted it would have actually stopped Legion if she had been really trying. It was just a costume, psychic awakening or not, and it wasn’t even armored except from the knees and elbows onward (which, I had to say, is a weird place for it to be armored). If she could mimic asphalt, I was sure that she could mimic some kind of carbon-fiber blade and cut ribbons through me.
I had to pause on a rooftop as it suddenly hit me – I really had been close to death! The gun hadn’t seemed real and still didn’t, somehow – maybe it was because, like I had told my dad, I had never felt in danger with Canaveral there – he hadn’t been challenged at all by the gangsters. But Legion… she had been holding him off all on her own, with no difficulty at all. And she didn’t have to be on her own. Any time she wanted…
I suddenly felt the need to be closer to the ground. I needed a few moments to just… not be in this context. Not be in this costume, not be in this rooftop world, to not be Newton and to be Quinn instead.
I took a moment to leap off the roof, landing in Vivaldi Park, and sat down on a bench. I glanced around briefly with my eyes and ESP and, seeing no-one around, reached for the tiny button on the clasp of my belt that would loosen the PA4 and allow me to pull the mask off.
Before I could, however, a tree behind me warped and shifted and, bird in its branches and all, became a woman. I sighed, and put my nervous breakdown on hold for a moment.