NOTE: Last week’s update (7.D) was an April Fools’ update, and as such is non-cannon, if you missed the disclaimer at the bottom. Also, if you missed it, go check it out- it was written by Tieshaunn, author of Brennus, and it’s pretty awesome.
Also, I seem to have forgotten to add notes about the chronology of this arc- the last three arcs (Cold Feet, Shadows of Giants, and Be Not Afraid) are all simultaneous, which is why some events seem to be recurring.
The door into the stairwell burst open and Kismet stood silhouetted in the light from the first floor. The red-haired man turned to face her, his back to the wall Plateau had erected.
“Jet’s down,” Kismet called to the others. “And there’s an extra copy of Legion for some reason.”
“And here I’d hoped you would stay with them,” the man said, voice hoarse.
“Not so lucky,” Kismet replied.
The man snapped out an arm. Kismet dodged to the side, a moment before a burst of white-hot plasma shot from his palm towards her.
“Well, isn’t that something,” he said. He fired another shot, and she dodged it effortlessly. “All I need to do is put you in a position where you physically cannot react fast enough.” He grinned. “Should be easy enough.”
Kismet gripped the handles of the tonfa strapped along the sides of either leg and pulled them loose. “We’ll see about that.”
She started to jab downwards at him with the tonfa in her right hand, saw him swat it aside moments later and changed tactics, feinting and swinging the second tonfa at his side. The future changed. Instead of blocking the first, he now would catch the second with his other arm, but it was too late to stop her momentum. The tonfa clacked against his forearm, sending a shock through Kismet’s wrist.
She followed up by pushing the first tonfa forward and completing the jab she’d started earlier. He reacted without hesitation, shifting to the side just enough to avoid the blow. A few moments in the future, she saw him firing the energy weapon built into his wrist. Three shots, one to either side of her, then one in the center.
She had a few seconds to prepare, but as soon as she started to move out of the way, his aim shifted to her new position. He would hit her anyway. In a last-ditch effort, she pulled the tonfa in front of her and lined it up with the burst of plasma. The shot would tear through the length of the weapon, splinter the wood and shower them both with burning splinters of wood-
And then the future changed. Somehow, he had taken advantage of the split-second blind spot she had when the future changed and closed the distance, still grinning. She tried to scramble backwards on instinct, but caught the lip of a stair and fell. She caught herself with her hands, dropping the tonfa in the process. He snatched the tonfa and slammed it across her skull.
The world went black.
Inside the basement, the others were wrestling with the Cherubim. One of the Cherubim had been immobilized by pillars of linoleum created from the floor by Plateau. Jessica backed away from the other one, which walked towards her at a steady rate. She fired off a burst of glowing plasma balls with her left hand, which burst into arcs of electricity that had no apparent effect. Abandoning that tactic, she powered up the energy blade in her right hand. The superheated helium that formed the blade gave off waves of heatWaves of heat came off the super-hot helium that formed the blade, raising the temperature in the room by a few degrees.
“Stay back!” she warned. “I know you used to be a person. I don’t want to test this on you.” The Cherubim stopped, regarding her with a blank expression on its angular face.
“Seriously, that’s your hangup?” Lilith said as she walked around the edge of the room. “It’s a cybernetic killing machine.”
“Well I happen to know a cyborg and he’s not bad at all,” the tinker shot back, eyes still fixed on the Cherubim
“Well yeah, that’s where the ‘killing machine’ part comes in. Or did you miss that?” Lilith snarked. She reached the entrance to the stairwell and pushed aside the hanging plastic sheet. “Anyway, thanks for opening the door.”
Plateau spun around to see that the wall he’d created earlier was gone. He’d used the mass to restrain the Cherubim.
He moved to recreate the wall and cut off her escape, but Lilith spoke. “You don’t want to do that. If what I saw at the school is any indication, you only have so much to work with, and if you want to keep me from escaping, you’re stuck in here with the big guy. Besides, I already got what I wanted.”
Jessica looked behind her and froze. “Where’s Adam?”
Lilith vaulted over Kismet’s still form. “You stay put,” she commanded the heroes in the room behind her, then bounded up the stairs. The hum of rotating chopper blades started up from above- the invisible helicopter from the school.
The Cherubim that had been advancing on Jessica took advantage of her distraction and grabbed her in a two-handed grip, huge hands easily wrapping around her arms. The tinker sucked in a surprised breath, then her eyes narrowed and her jaw tightened. She stabbed the plasma blade into its abdomen, and cloud of acrid blue steam burst from the cyborg with an awful squealing hiss. The red glow of the blade could be seen even through the melting ceramic shell around the Cherubim’s core as the super-hot plasma bored through it. Its grip tightened, sparks dancing around its hands, and the handle slipped from Jessica’s fingers. A gout of fire and molten ceramic poured out of the Cherubim as the blade slid down its torso.
The Cherub fell as the muscles holding it upright were severed, grip still locked on Jessica’s shoulders. It dragged her down, twisting the energy blade around to completely sever one of the cherubim’s legs. Jessica screamed as the molten ceramic dripping from it burned through her heat-resistant costume.
Plateau extruded a long, thin staff from the floor and snapped it off before running over to help the fallen tinker. He swung the makeshift staff at the Cherubim, knocking it to the side.The plasma blade cut back into it, tracing another jagged path through its torso.
No longer pinned under the creature, Jessica grabbed for the handle of the plasma blade and thumbed the switch that disabled it. The blade retracted briefly, then she reactivated it to shear through the Cherubim’s arms at the elbows. She disabled the blade again and rolled away, the Cherubim’s white forearms still gripping her shoulders. Gouts of blueish steam from its still-smouldering body filled the room with the acrid, chemical stench of evaporating coolant.
Plateau staggered away as Jessica tried to pry the lifeless white hands off of her shoulders. Her breathing picked up and became ragged with the effort before she gave up. She looked up at Plateau from where she lay to see him swaying on his feet, eyes vacant.
“Get on the floor!” she shouted as she realized what was happening. “Don’t breathe the smoke.”
Plateau looked at her, confused, then shook his head as if to clear it of cobwebs. He dropped to his hands and knees, below the cloud of blue smoke that now filled the room. He breathed heavily for a moment, and then looked over at Jessica. “Thanks,” he gasped. Together, they started to crawl towards the exit under the blue haze.
Jessica gritted her teeth against the pain from her burned leg and the crushing grip on her shoulders. She made it to the door and pushed through the hanging sheet of plastic into the stairwell. She stopped when she saw Kismet collapsed on the stairs, groaning.
“Kismet?” she said, steeling herself against the pain to crawl closer. The blue smoke had been contained by the hanging plastic that covered the entryway, so the tinker was able to pull herself upright with the handrail affixed to the wall.
“Wait, did you hear that?” Plateau said from behind her.
“Kismet’s injured,” she replied. “And from what she said earlier, so is Jet and maybe Legion. We don’t have time for-” she cut off as she heard it too; a woman’s voice was calling out from the doorway that Lilith had entered through. “Is that…”
“I’m going back,” Plateau said,
“We need to try to catch them,” Jessica protested.
“With four of us injured, it’s too much a risk.”
“You don’t understand, Adam-”
Plateau ducked and crawled under the plastic in the doorway once more, returning into the mist-filled room. He moved on one arm, breathing through the fabric of his right sleeve to keep the worst of it out of his lungs. His eyes burned from the haze in the air, but he continued towards the voice. When he made it to the other door, he reached upwards and fumbled for the doorknob, and after a few tries, managed to turn it. As soon as the door clicked open, he pushed through and closed it behind him to keep the mist out.
“Hello?” He called out, turning away from the door. This room was nearly identical to the previous one, except for a dark-haired, fair-skinned woman on the operating table. She had been bolted down with thick bands of white ceramic, similar to what the Cherubim were made of.
“English?” She said, tilting her head back to look at him upside-down. “And not the girl or Samael. I don’t suppose you’re here to let me out?”
Plateau rushed to the operating table and started trying to unbolt the restraining bands from the woman’s arms and legs. “I don’t know who you are, but I’ll get you out of here,” he said.
“Thank you. I’m in your debt. Are you with the CMC? One of the other cells?” She swept her eyes across him and furrowed her brow. “Baseline? And no cortical stack? Why would you risk yourself like that?”
Plateau shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He finished unscrewing the bolts that secured the last of the restraints and threw it to the floor.
“Right, I suppose you couldn’t tell me.” She sat up and rubbed life back into her wrists. “Not sure if you’re brave or suicidal.”
“Who are you?” Plateau asked.
“Raine Hope. I’m from the New Tokyo headquarters. Metatron-”
Plateau froze. “New Tokyo, Japan?” He took a step backwards.
Her face fell. “So I guess you’ve heard.” She hopped down from the slab, standing . “Rokuro, Sumiko, and Brahms and I are the only ones left. Everyone else-”
“You’re from Japan? How did you get out?”
“Get… out?” Raine’s eyes widened. “Where are we?”
“This is the United States.”
Raine backed away, a horrified expression on her face. “Why would she send me here?”
“Plateau, there’s been a Nightmare-level power surge in the city. Get back to the city immediately.” Dr. Mind spoke over Plateau’s earpiece.
“Oh fuck,” Plateau said on reflex, at the same time as Jessica said “Oh no.”
“I’m going ahead,” Jet’s voice replied in Plateau’s ear.
“Nightmare?” Raine asked. The house shook with the loud boom of Jet accelerating to the speed of sound.
Plateau was too distracted to be surprised that she had heard. “I’ll explain later. For now, we need to get back to the city,” he said, then spoke into the subvocalizer, “They had a Japanese woman captive, Raine Hope. She might know where they took Adam. We can go after him once the Nightmare is dealt with.”
“You don’t understand,” said Jessica. “He’s got Dr. Destructo’s notes. We have to get him back.”
“Oh dear,” Dr. Mind said, voice tight. “I thought I’d destroyed his research. Jet, come help against Tide of Sky. Everyone else, go after Adam. Retrieving him is the first priority.”
“More important than a Nightmare event?” Plateau said in disbelief.
“The Disast-O-Beam, the gravity engines, the dark energy vortex bomb, If metatron gets those schematics, she could take over the world,” Dr. Mind said.
“Conquer the wo-” Plateau started, surprised by the cliché.
“Yes,” said Raine. “Metatron is assembling an army of Cherubim. Based on what she could do with Eve, if she gets her hands on this ‘Adam,’ she will conquer the world. We must go now.”