Penumbra 2.4

“Jamisson, we’ve found Cryoclasm.”

“What? I’m getting some interference. The room must have some kind of shielding.”

“We found Cryoclasm. She’s in what looks like a cryogenic chamber or something. Probably to keep her effect from spreading. Hold on, there’s a logo on it.” I squinted at the chamber through the curtain.

“It says ChasTech,” said Emily.“Same as the cleaning thing. Who the hell is Chas?”

“Looking into it. Can you retrieve it?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, though Jamisson couldn’t tell. “It looks pretty heavy.”

“Hm. I’ll try to get a few to help you, but everyone else is busy. Let’s see, I could send Adam, and I might be able to convince Plateau to skip class…”

I had been concentrating so closely on the conversation that I hadn’t noticed the door opening behind us until I heard the woman entering make a small, surprised sound. I turned around in an instant, using my power to rotate 180 degrees in an instant. She bolted, slamming the door behind her and I only caught a brief glimpse of dark hair.

“Stay here,” I said to emily as I took off after the woman, tagging her as I ran past.

“Yup.” She sighed, and the subvocalizer interpreted it as a strange humming sound. Her throat worked silently as she subvocalized a message to Jamisson.

By the time I made it to the hall, she was at the stairwell.

She’s fast, I thought.

I sprinted after, taking full advantage of the lack of air resistance and travel time. I reached the door of the stairwell and tore it open, only to see that she was already almost at the bottom

Wow, she’s really fast. Have to do something to catch up.

Without thinking, I leaped over the rail and into the open space in the center of the stairwell.

Oh shit, it’s four stories, isn’t it? I realized as I cleared the railing and looked down, but it was too late to stop.

The stairs flew past me, uncomfortably fast, and the air roared through me as I plummeted face-first down the stairwell. The ground rushed to meet me, and my unconscious took over for a moment. Just before I hit the ground, I used my power, twisting and spinning myself around.

Suddenly, I was flying along parallel to the ground down the hallway, the walls blurring past as I rapidly closed the distance to the woman I chased. I dropped the rest of the way to the ground and started running, legs pumping frantically to keep up with my momentum, trying in vain to slow myself down. I couldn’t rely on air resistance to slow down to a reasonable speed, so I careened down the hall uncontrollably, only able to stay upright by teleporting my legs to catch myself. I lunged out at the woman as I got close, but I stumbled as I attempted to retain control of my speed and she slipped out of my grasp.

I rolled my shoulder as I fell, skidding along the floor on my back, completely out of control. My armor managed to protect me from most of the impact, but my right ankle had been twisted severely when I fell. Once I’d skidded to a halt, I clambered shakily to my feet. I could stand, but it hurt like hell, and I didn’t think I’d be running anytime soon. My vision faded for a moment and I felt extremely lightheaded- likely a side effect of collecting too much air: superpowered hyperventilation. I took a moment to recover, then noticed something odd. I could feel a small area of wind a few blocks away, much farther away than my range usually was and isolated from the rest of my range.

I got her! I thought triumphantly as I realized that I’d been able to mark her with my power.

“I’ve got her marked. She’s about four blocks east of my position, heading east. I’ll take care of her.” I said to Jamisson. He responded almost immediately.

“Are you sure you can catch up with her?”

“No doubt.”

I repeated the same mental motion I’d made when fighting Flicker, and abruptly found myself standing next to Emily, my hand on her shoulder where I’d tagged her.

“Holy crap!” She exclaimed, startled. She was standing inside a mosaic of silver lines which she had created while she waited.

“Hey. You good here?”

“Uh, yeah, oh, right.” She paused for a moment, then resumed speaking over the subvocalizer.

“Sorry. What was that? You can teleport?”

“Yup. Conditionally.” I replied. “I think I’m going to wait until she stops, then jump her.”

“Shadow, why didn’t you inform me of this?” Asked Jamisson from the console.

“Only picked it up recently.”

I felt a moment of movement, then my range around the woman contracted. A moment later, the heating turned on and I realized she’d gotten into a car. I felt vibrations as she spoke; talking on a phone, I guessed.

“She’s talking on the phone. Going to jump her, listen in, see where she’s going.”

I didn’t wait for confirmation. I didn’t want to miss anything.

I pulled myself through the smear of darkness where I’d marked her and found myself in the backseat of an suv.

“-found the lab. I told you it wasn’t a good idea to set up there.”

I quietly ducked down into the space at the feet of the back seats so she wouldn’t spot me if she looked back.

“The nullifier was too much of a risk. It’s a blind spot.”

“Recording this,” said Jamisson in my ear.

“I know you thought you could work around it, but obviously something happened in there that you couldn’t predict.”

So it sounds like our theory about precognition was right, I thought.

“We need to meet. This isn’t secure.”

A meeting? Perfect. I could shadow her and catch them both.

“An hour? Fine. But don’t think I won’t tell the others about this. It would be a kindness. We just lost a valuable asset, not to mention our leverage with the twin.”

Tell whom? Is the Upright Man working for someone else?

“You keep saying that, but somehow I don’t believe it anymore. You seem to be getting less and less reliable. After how easily you dispatched the Wardens of Justice we expected great things of you… Patience… Yes, I am aware. An hour. No more.”

She hung up and I teleported back to Emily. She jumped again.

“Gah! Give me some warning!” She cried. She’d finished the design she was making on the floor and started another on the door.

“You get that, Jamisson?” I asked.

“All of it. Setting a countdown for one hour. Keep me posted on her location, if you can.” He paused for a moment. “Adam should be arriving with Dr. Mind momentarily to get Cryoclasm back to base. For now, go with them, make sure everything makes it.”

“Got it.”

I closed my eyes and started cycling air through my body, feeling where it had been. Sure enough, I could feel two figures taking the stairs up to where we were on the fourth floor.

When they arrived in the hall, I opened the door and gestured them inside. Dr. Mind gasped sharply when he saw the setup of the cleanroom.

“Oh, it’s one of these,” he said.

“One of what?” I asked.

“An instant cleanroom. We used to find them set up all over the place- ‘mad scientist’ villains love to use them, though they’ve been off the market for years. They fold up into a 10 centimeter cube and you just throw them into an empty room that’s about the right size and it inflates- poof.”

He opened a panel on the disinfecting doorway in the curtain and started rewiring it.

“Be glad you didn’t go inside it. They’re almost always trapped.”

Emily looked surprised at that. I guessed she’d been tempted to go in while I’d been away. After only a few moments, the doorway sparked and the purple energy field flickered and died.

“It’s safe.” Said Dr. Mind and entered the room, unclipping a set of flat discs from his gear belt.

“How are we going to move this? Asked Emily as we approached the container holding Cryoclasm.

It was built large enough to hold a full person, and given the thickness of the walls and amount of insulation, could easily weigh a ton.

“Like so,” Dr. Mind said as he affixed the discs to the sides of the refrigeration unit and activated them with what looked like a barcode scanner. “Superconductors. Be careful, they tend to put out a lot of heat.”

The floor creaked and all of us except Dr Mind, who was industriously tying a length of rope around it, stepped back as the refrigeration unit lifted gently off the ground. I winced as I inadvertently shifted my weight onto my right foot.

“This will negate the weight, but it’s going to be just as hard to move- the inertia’s the same. Take it slow, Adam,” Dr Mind handed the coil of rope to the timid looking boy. “And don’t let it float away.”

Adam nodded, and started pulling the rope. Though Adam didn’t appear to be straining and the cryogenic chamber containing Cryoclasm started moving very slowly, the rope hummed as it was pulled taught under great force.

We escorted it along, letting it drift down the halls with only occasional course adjustments. The stairs were more difficult, but we ended up walking down the stairs alongside it as it drifted slowly down the gap in the middle.

I thought it would get easier once we finally reached the street- more room to maneuver- but I was dead wrong. When we stepped out into the light, they were waiting for us: Pyroclasm, and the Upright Man.

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7 Responses to Penumbra 2.4

  1. Whoo. Sorry this went up so much later than normal. Today was (and still is) crazy.

    Check out the new pages I put up, including a character page, an art page, and links to other web serials.

  2. OH SHIT JUST GOT REAL! Really loving the new stuff with Shadow’s power.

  3. En says:

    Catched up, nice story so far, but I found your style somewhat dry (sorry, cannot point out any specific instance, maybe after I have time to mull over it).

    And… eh, I have a couple of criticisms. If you ever read one on my post on Worm’s you probably know I tend to be overly analytical and go off a tangent more often than not. Please do take it as constructive criticism.

    Oh, and I’m probably going to read this regardless, so do not sweat it too much 😉

    I’m not sure how much of it is intentional, but the interaction between the characters is way less than I would expect in a team of teens / young adults. It makes for flat characters and flatter storylines. The bits where the interaction is clear (e.g.: pyroclasm going all big brother knight templar) do flow way better.
    The characters I liked best so far are also the ones with the most “social” interaction between other people (Emily and Adam). Adam only has two (the deal with being given a room, and Damsel of Distress smiling at him and making him feel bit calmer in class) and he/it is still more personable than most mains.

    There’s absolutely zero internal monologue in regards to the motivations of the Shadow. Again I do not know if it’s intentional or not, but it leaves me wondering exactly what he’s up to. That might be my paranoia speaking however.

    The chapters with the shifting PoV are much more confusing than they need to be. Not a problem anymore it seems, but I would suggest prefacing every changing PoV with a line saying who we’re reading the narration from.

    That’s more or less it. I’ll probably post some more bitching about weird stuff, my apologies in advance.
    But look at the bright side, you could have lured PG instead of me here 😉

    • Heh, yeah.

      The shifting POV went out the window, yeah, though as a note, when it’s from Shadow/Will’s perspective, it is written in first person, and everything else is in third person, with one exception for Charlie Daniels in the interlude, because I couldn’t tell that story without internal dialog.

      I agree about flat characters, actually. That’s something I’m trying to work on; it’s mostly due to the massive volume of characters I introduced without establishing a personality early on. The next arc is going to have a lot more interaction between the characters, I promise.

      The lack of Shadow’s internal monologue was intentional early on, but now I’m seriously questioning the decision and regretting it, trying to work some more in. I wanted his motivations to be unclear at first, but it made the character just seem flat instead, which is not what I wanted. Mostly he’s trying to keep secrets from people, but I accidentally had him keeping secrets from the reader, if that makes any sense.

      The original plan was to have Casting Shadows be 10 chapters long, briefly introducing various groups and characters around the city and establishing the setting, culminating with the introduction of Virtue which is coming soon. I ended up having to split Casting Shadows 1.10 into a full arc, though, due to it’s length and my current personal commitments. Once my time opens up, you should be seeing longer chapters with more interpersonal and intrapersonal stuff.

      Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated.

  4. MathKnight says:

    taut, not taught

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