Holy cow! Thanks, Leslie!
Paragon vanished through the hole he had punched in the roof. Guardian Angel ran over to the edge of the hole and peered down. Paragon had already reached the floor of the main shipyard- what appeared to be a massive indoor dry-dock for constructing ships. A hail of gunfire peppered Paragon from all sides, but he took no heed. The gunfire was probably more dangerous to the Anchor Boys themselves than it was to him. Paragon grabbed the nearest gang member and shouted something Guardian Angel couldn’t make out. After a moment, he threw the Anchor Boy thug into another thug out of Guardian Angel’s field of view and grabbed another.
“That’s one way to do an interrogation,” Guardian Angel muttered.
The fighting continued below, Paragon continuing to interrogate gang members at random about the location of Randwulf and Davy Jones. Guardian Angel saw a man step out into the shipyard who stood out from the others. He was masked, and didn’t bother with cover like the other gang members did. The man approached Paragon, getting within ten feet before he noticed him. The gunfire within the building had gone quiet, gang members not wanting to risk hitting their own.
The man held out a hand and a balloon of flesh formed around it, inflating rapidly into a naked humanoid figure. The figure’s features sagged like partially melted wax, but it was unmistakably Paragon, out of costume. It stood, placid, by the man’s side, head lolling and limbs dangling. The man who had created the doppelgänger held a pistol to its head with his free hand, his other hand still embedded in the puppet’s back.
“Move and I shoot,” the man said, audible over the rattle of gunfire that continued from the building’s façade. “Any injury this takes, you take too, and I bet you aren’t so tough under your fancy magic armor.”
Paragon froze. His eyes flickered around the man, assessing the threat.
“You’re bluffing.” Paragon said, eyes narrowing.
Without speaking, the man drove a knee into the puppet’s stomach. Paragon doubled over, breath knocked out of him.
“No, I am not.” The man said with a level, calm voice.
He could actually kill Paragon, Guardian Angel realized. The force field is nigh-impenetrable, but underneath it he’s just Uncle Ben.
Guardian Angel pushed up to a knee and grabbed the rifle he’d taken from the sniper earlier to his shoulder and took aim through the scope, the way he’d seen it done a thousand times in movies. He took a breath, then stopped and looked over the top of the rifle again. If I miss this, I could kill Paragon.
“What do they call you?” Paragon asked.
Is he stalling?
“I was thinking Ransom,” the man said. “Simple, yet descriptive.”
“Good choice. I always hate it when people pick garish names like ‘Skullcrusher’ or ‘Blood Lord.’ Though to be fair, Blood Lord did drink an awful lot of blood, so the name was at least partially applicable.”
He is stalling. Waiting for me to act?
Guardian Angel aimed through the scope again and held his breath.
“Don’t try to distract me, Hero,” Ransom growled. “You know, I think I might just jumpstart my career by removing one of the most powerful Metas In the city.”
Ransom pressed the gun to the puppet’s head again.
Fuck it, can’t make this worse.
Guardian Angel fired.
The sound from the rifle was loud enough to make Guardian Angel’s ears ring, and the recoil punched the scope back into his eye. Guardian Angel pulled back, clutching his eye and cursing, then looked through the scope again so he could see if he had hit what… who… he had been aiming at.
Before he could tell, Guardian Angel felt a sharp stab of pain in his side and arms grabbed him from behind. He let out a surprised gasp and snapped out his wings, dropping the rifle in the process. He heard a cry of pain behind him and the grip on him released. He spun to face his assailant.
The sniper had evidently recovered from the Cocatrice, because now he stood facing Guardian Angel, stance wide and low. He held a combat knife in his right hand, but his grip on it was tenuous. The sniper adjusted his grip on the knife and grinned. He flicked his long hair out of his eyes.
“So,” the sniper said. “An angel? Din’cha know M-Tron’s put you out of style?”
“I am aware-”
The sniper lunged at Guardian Angel, slashing out with the knife. Guardian Angel turned to the side and snapped out his right wing, catching the sniper with the top edge. The man grunted and fell back, but then rolled back to his feet. He bounced from foot to foot, beckoning with his left hand while he moved the knife in his right hand in hypnotic spirals.
“Got a bit of extra reach there,” the sniper said. “Makes up for the knife, I suppose. Nice fair fight.” He grinned. “I hate fair fights.”
Guardian Angel tried to think of a witty response for a moment, and was almost caught off guard when he sniper lunged in again. Guardian Angel took a step back, to find nothing beneath his foot. He buffeted with his wings, attempting to push himself back upright before he fell into the hole Paragon had punched in the roof behind him.
While Guardian Angel was occupied with not falling, the sniper dived in closer, stabbing out with the knife. Guardian Angel caught the man’s arm and pulled his wings in. He pivoted and pulled himself up along his opponent’s arm, pulling the man past him in the process. The sniper’s foot caught the lip of the hole and fell, but Guardian Angel snapped out his wings and kept a firm grip on the his arm, but was still dragged down to his stomach by the man’s weight. Guardian Angel felt a *pop* through his hands and the sniper screamed, the knife dropping from nerveless fingers down into the Maven Shipping Company building.
Guardian Angel tried to haul the sniper back up onto the rooftop, but his gloves slipped. The man screamed again and his arm convulsed. Guardian Angel lost his grip with his left hand, straining to keep the sniper up with just his right arm. The sniper reached up with his other arm, grabbing onto Guardian Angel’s arm with his other hand.
The glove came off, peeling off of his hand as the sniper tried to use the edge of it to climb up Guardian Angel’s arm. The sniper fell, screaming once more as he plummeted down the three stories to the concrete and steel floor. Guardian Angel fell to his stomach, reaching down into the hole as if trying to grab the falling man again.
Below, Paragon heard the screams and turned to see the sniper hit the ground, Guardian Angel could see him wince, but could not bring himself to process what had just happened. The only sensation he was aware of was the cold. His right hand was exposed, the white glove that had covered it drifting down into the gunfire below. The burn scars on his hand ached and tightened, almost like another glove. He saw a stray bullet catch the glove as it fell, punching a hole through it with no resistance, and it plummeted, no longer graceful.
Ransom had been dealt with, Guardian Angel saw, draped across the railing of the deep groove in the center of the shipyard. Whether or not his shot had helped, it was impossible to tell. The rifle had caught on the ragged metal of the hole into the building and, unable to think of anything else to do, Guardian Angel grabbed it and pulled it up. He looked down into the building.
I should help, but… “Get behind me if you’re not bulletproof,” that’s what Paragon said before. I’m not bulletproof.
A klaxon wailed below, heralding the opening of the huge doors on the seaward side of the building. Water poured into the lower area, washing over where the sniper had fallen. The water frothed and churned as it rushed through the floodgates. Within minutes, it had filled completely, leaving only a strip of concrete on either side dry. Towards the front of the building, the surface of the water roiled and swelled, and Davy Jones stepped out, dragging behind him heavy chains which wrapped around his chest. The chains, along with his clothes and hair, seemed to float in the air behind him, drifting in unseen currents. He shrugged off the chains and they drifted to the floor one link at a time.
Davy Jones surveyed the area, then turned to face Paragon with a mad grin on his face. All at once, the water that had filled the lowered area sloshed to the side Paragon was on, pouring out of the dock. Paragon himself tumbled sideways through the air, along with a number of the surrounding Anchor Boys and the various tools that were scattered around the floor. All around the room, the Anchor Boys were lifted off their feet, and tumbled head over heels across the building, floating through the air.
Why is he targeting his own men too?
Guardian Angel’s thought was interrupted as his stomach lurched and the roof seemed to tilt underneath him. He scrabbled at the rubberized membrane for traction before he could start to slide towards the hole in the rooftop. He grabbed on to the edge of the hole to stop himself from floating away.
Below, Paragon braced himself against the air and pushed off towards Davy Jones, but the effect released, then reversed, flinging Paragon out over the water, which now sloshed out to the other side. The contents of the building were tossed back and forth, and only Davy Jones stood on solid ground. Guardian Angel’s head spun as the world tilted and he threatened to drift off into the air.
Paragon kicked off again, this time aiming upwards, for the hole in the roof. He missed at first, pushed off-course by Davy Jones’ power, but managed to pull himself along the underside of the roof and through the hole.
“Wow,” Paragon panted, short of breath. “He was never this powerful before. He could target one person at a time, never a whole building.” He shook his head, still breathing hard. “Randwulf isn’t here. Best answer I got was ‘in the ocean,’ which makes no sense.” Paragon took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “Almost ran out of air there,” he said. “Let’s call it a day. Last thing we need is Blackwell getting a foothold at the docks, and if we keep interfering here, that’s what’ll happen.”
They took flight, making their way across the city to land in the park near Paragon’s house.
“In the ocean?” Sean mused as they walked the rest of the way back, in civilian clothes. “Did you see how Davy Jones came in? He just climbed out of the water. Like he was swimming or something.”
“Oh? I was wondering why the dock flooded. Did he-” Ben stopped mid-step, eyes widening. “Oh my god, submarine.”
“What?” Sean turned to look at him.
“The bay gets deep really quickly,” Ben explained. “It’s not impossible that they have a submarine parked out there.”
Sean was stunned for a moment, then said, “How the hell would they afford a submarine? The Anchor Boys are just a protection racket.”
“I don’t know, but it makes lot of stuff from over the years make sense.”
They were silent for a moment, then resumed walking.
“I’ve been thinking about why Davy Jones was so much more powerful today, and a Metahuman I’d never heard of to boot,” Ben said a few blocks later. “I’ve come up with a possibility, and not a pleasant one.”
“What is it?”
“Randwulf might be a power enhancer.”
“Shit, that’s the last thing we need.” Sean inwardly cursed his luck. It seemed like everything in the city was falling apart at once.
Power enhances were rare -as rare as nullifiers, one of the other types of Trump power.
“If it’s true, the Anchor Boys are going to get big fast, like Blackwell did when word got out that they can give people powers. They’ve mostly stayed together because Blackwell didn’t want to deal with the docks, but it looks like Blackwell was making a move on them.”
“You think Blackwell was after Randwulf?” Sean asked.
“It’s possible. With a power enhancer, the Anchor Boys might be a serious threat to Blackwell. If they got wind of Randwulf, taking action against the Anchor Boys before they amass strength makes sense.”
Ben thought for a moment.
“I’ll talk to Mind about scoping out the bay,” he said. “He has a sonar buoy prototype that might work. In the meantime, get yourself some sleep.”
They parted ways, and Sean started back to the University.