Shadow of a Doubt 8.8

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I pulled in the darkness, covering my eyes and ears and hopefully shielding myself from Temple’s influence. The world went black and silent. For a moment I froze, unsure of my surroundings. An instant later, I became hyper-aware of the chill in the air and felt a sudden burst of movement around me. The armored police officers thundered across the lawn to get into more defensible positions, trailing huge wakes behind their torsos and shredding the air around their pumping legs into countless tiny vortices. The armor must have some way to block Temple’s power.

Guardian Angel and Dark Archon still hadn’t reacted. Ahead, I could feel the breathing of the two officers flanking Ransom. It was shallower and faster than before, panicked, but they didn’t seem to be moving.

Paralyzed, I realized. I need to get them out of there before they get caught in the middle of a power-armor brawl.

Before the armored police could reach the van, I teleported forward using the parachute cord, grabbed one of the frozen officers and hauled him away from the door. Ransom, still clutched in grip of the stiff officer, fell to the ground and started to crawl away. Oh right, he was blindfolded so he couldn’t use his power.

The SWAT vans on either side of the metahuman transport van burst open with huge plumes of hot air and disgorged a platoon of similarly armored soldiers, easy to detect thanks to churning cooling vents. The armored officers were outnumbered and flanked, caught between the two groups of Temple Sun troops. How am I going to tell them apart from the police?

Guardian Angel and Dark Archon still hadn’t moved. Shit. They’re frozen.  And I bet they can still see.

An unarmored figure stepped out of the van. I jumped backwards, surprised, before realizing that, just like before, I couldn’t feel his breathing. Temple.

I teleported past Temple to pull the other unarmored officer out of danger, and took the opportunity to mark Temple with the parachute cord as I reeled it in. I hefted the frozen officer out of the fray off to the side of the van and stopped to get my bearings.

On the driveway, I could feel a strange fizzing coming from from a rapidly expanding foam that the armored police had deployed to immobilize the Temple Sun troops. Sharp pops of expanding air marked blasts from the Temple Sun troop’s weapons, as well as what appeared to be harpoons trailing thick cables launched from the police officers.

Where’s Ransom? I listened closely to the air currents around me and found his panicked breathing off on the sidewalk nearby. He was the only unarmored, unfrozen person whose breathing I could feel, and he was curled up in a ball on the sidewalk. I teleported to him, grabbed his shoulders, and flipped him to face upwards.

“Don’t take off the blindfold,” I said.

My voice seemed loud in the silence, but sounded deep and near-incoherent, like hearing someone shout through a thick wall. He said something I couldn’t hear and tried to crawl away as fast as he could while blind and handcuffed. Behind me, I felt the mark I’d left on Temple turn towards me. Shit.

The armored police seemed to be too busy dealing with the Temple Sun troops to take out Temple. The immediate threat instead of the bigger one. Let’s see if I can do this.

A burst of heat and pressure rolled by as part of one of the police armors exploded, probably killing the officer inside. I spun myself around with my power to face Temple. He continued to walk towards me at a leisurely pace. Impatient, I snapped out the rope and tried to wrap it around his neck like I had when I was fighting Ransom. Somehow, he caught it, pulling it off his neck without any effort.

He hauled the parachute cord towards him. My grip tightened on the rope, but it still slipped through my fingers. I screamed as the friction burned a line across my palm. In my distraction, I didn’t think to teleport it out of his grip. He tore it out of my hand and threw it to the side, losing contact with anything living. Within moments, I couldn’t feel the paracord as if it were an extension of my body. Between the pain and the loss of sensation, it felt like losing a limb.

Fuck!

Reeling, I could feel Temple say something, vibrations tickling at my chest and shoulders. I gritted my teeth against the pain and tried to focus on the task at hand. A plan started to form in my mind. Why am I focused on stopping the light from getting in? I started to throw a punch at the empty air in front of me, then teleported to the mark the parachute cord had left on Temple’s neck. My fist connected, the pain in my palm flaring, and Temple stumbled backwards, choking.

Try talking now, I thought.

I moved to slap a hand over his eyes and block the light pouring from them at its source when a sharp burst of air from nearby followed by a sudden explosion of pain in my side stopped my in my tracks. Oh crap, I just got shot!

I teleported back to the marks I’d left on Ransom and put my hand to my side. I winced as the pain flared up, a stabbing pain coupled with a dull throb suggested that I probably had a broken rib. Fortunately, however, it hadn’t gotten through the body armor I wore as my costume.

I shifted my attention to finding my attacker. I found them from the thin cloud of gritty air around where the pistol had fired, off to the side of the parked van where I’d left them.

That’s one of the unarmored officers I pulled out of the power armor fight. Were they shooting at Temple?

My question was answered soon after when another bullet tore past, putting a small dent in the side of the van behind me and ricocheting off into the street.

Shit, definitely shooting at me. Temple must have told them to attack me. Enemies I can’t hurt. Great.

I teleported to the officer who’d just shot at me and grabbed his pistol. I tore it out of his grip before he could respond and, after flipping the safety and teleporting the gun into a pocket, jumped to the other officer. This one was more ready. He threw a shoulder into my chest at the same time as he pulled his weapon back to where it would be less vulnerable.

I stumbled back, but recovered quickly despite my protesting side. The officer stepped back and leveled the gun at me again, but I teleported towards him again to get inside his reach and appeared between his arms. I drove my elbows into his to force him to loosen his grip then snatched the gun out of his hands.

I jumped back to Ransom and raised the second gun towards Temple, two-handed, like the second officer had.

Fuck you, I’m ending this.

I pulled the trigger. It felt odd, feeling the recoil, the burst of air from the barrel, and the rippling path the bullet tore through the air without hearing it, but I knew from what I could feel of the bullet’s path that I’d missed. Can’t aim if I can’t see. Guess I’ve got to walk my shots. The line burned across my palm by the paracord stung fiercely at the recoil, as did the bruise where my armor had taken a bullet.

Temple, for his part, didn’t react at all, beyond coughing a bit as he continued to close the distance between us. I adjusted my aim, but a massive gust of air warned me of something hurtling towards me. I pulled the trigger early and teleported back to one of the officers I’d marked. I felt Guardian Angel sweep through the place I’d been moments ago.

Oh shit, he got them too. I should have seen this coming.

I teleported directly to Temple and pressed the gun to his chest. This should do it.

A sudden impact threw me backwards away from him. I lost my grip on the pistol and dropped it as I skidded across the asphalt of the empty street. Only once I’d come to a halt did I realize what had hit me. I could barely feel the tiny shards as they flew through the air and pieced themselves back together into the form of Dark Archon. Guardian Angel landed next to him, and stood between me and Temple.

I shifted myself to my feet and tried to teleport to Temple, and failed. A moment later, sound returned. Wailing sirens, rumbling engines, and the whirring of power armor servos assaulted my ears as the flickering light from the ruined streetlights blinded me. In front of me, Guardian Angel’s wings faded and Dark Archon’s many-faceted surface shifted back into skin.

The nullifier. Will that undo Temple’s control? Sean and Kevin rushed towards me. I guess not. I sprinted to the side and tried to curve around them to reach Temple, who had reached Ransom and was dragging him back towards the van. Sean dived and tackled me to the ground, and Kevin pinned down my arms. My side burst into a burning pain that made me gasp for breath, no longer able to rely on my power for air.

“Let me up!” I rasped at them, struggling to get free.

The engine of the van revved up to speed, and I could only watch helplessly as it drove away, followed by the two SWAT vans. I heard a deep *thump* from nearby and Kevin and Sean were knocked off of me by a blob of blueish-white foam that pinned them to the asphalt. I looked towards the source of the sound to see one of the armored officers with a foam cannon pointed my direction, half-collapsed to the scorched grass, legs no longer functional.

Her helmet disengaged and flipped back over her head. Her short-cropped hair was soaked with sweat from the fight.

“Well shit, these didn’t last long,” she said.

Every one of the armored officers had taken some kind of critical damage, and while most had survived without serious injuries apart from the damage to the armor, one officer was clearly dead, and another was bleeding severely while he struggled to get free from the ruined armor. The Temple Sun troops had all cleared out when the convoy left, either in the vans or using jump jets to sprint away, leaving behind unnecessary or damaged parts in their haste.

My powers came back as soon as the convoy of black vans was out of view and I covered myself in darkness. Is my mark still there? I reached out, looking for the line of shadow I’d left on Temple, but it was gone. Shit. I looked back at Guardian Angel and Dark Archon, who struggled against the foam that covered most of their bodies.

I teleported my phone to my hand and searched through past messages. Finding the one I wanted, I tapped the number to call it.

“What the fuck do you want?” asked the woman who answered.

“I need help,” I said. “Temple’s been causing trouble again. Could you come help some friends forget some stuff?”

“Oh damn, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with this again,” she said. “Whatever it takes to get this guy out of my fucking hair.”

Myriad ended the call, and as I lowered the phone I looked up into the dark sky. The light from the city reflected off the overcast clouds, tinting the sky a dull, uniform grey. A snowflake fell past and landed on the street, unmelting.

What do I do now?


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One Response to Shadow of a Doubt 8.8

  1. Had less time to work on this than I would have liked, since it was my last full week at work this week, but I think this turned out well. Could use some revision, but when have I ever written something that couldn’t?

    Writing this now, I realize exactly how close I am to the end. This came much faster than expected, but it looks like Eclipse (arc 9) will be the final arc, at least in this storyline.

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