Tear The World Apart, Part 15: From The Brink

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(June 29th, 2008)


“I just want it on record that I hate you and I hate your plans.”

The explosion of the lower wall of Malefico's Sub-Basement 3 oblierated whatever Dr Ecchs was planning to say in response to Nightshade's bitter comment. They had been through Phase II – point-defense lasers – as well as the dubiously useful Phase III, which involved armies of Ultiminions leaping from the shadows at the Antiheroes. Four of their attackers had fallen, leaving sixteen racing through the building. Faced with no other options, Ecchs had initiated Phase IV – running like scared children.

Phase IV was doing badly.

“I hate to ask, but what was Phase V?” Nightshade glanced over her shoulder as Phil sent deadly poison-tipped tentacles burrowing through the floor, collapsing the ceiling above them and obscuring the five Antiheroes still charging after them, Cataclysm in the lead. Above, they could hear the sounds of the others as they finished clearing the building and moved into the network of tunnels that connected Malefico to its neighbouring skyscrapers.

“Um… haunt them.” Ecchs admitted the line sheepishly, turning sharply at a jeweler's shop and racing down the corridor, past the shops that Malefico employees usually stopped at on their way home.

“Haunt them.” Nightshade's voice was flat.

“Yep. Vengeful ghosts. Very scary. They'd never get a good night's rest. Ada, you first.” Ecchs waved in front of him as the lighting flickered and the scream of Cataclysm's blasts filled the narrow concourse. Dr Byron nodded, quickly running forwards towards the parking garage. She skidded to a halt as the doors began to creak open. Simultaneously, Cataclysm spun around the corner behind them, the ripples around him starting to spin faster.

“Well, that's that.” Ecchs raised his gun annoyedly. “Shame, really. I had high hopes for Phase IV.”

As Cataclysm raised his arm to fire, two more Antiheroes appearing behind it, the doors blew off their hinges. A pair of guided missiles raced around the shocked villains, who dove for cover as Cataclysm's answering blast left the entire building shuddering. Ecchs gaped as two shapes flew past him, with a small army of strangely-shaped robots hot on their heels. “My suits! Those are my power suits!”

“We thought we'd borrow them.” A cheerful voice came from the Blackfly armor, and a blond woman turned to wave at the crew. “Mind helping take these guys down?”

“Oh, hell yes.” Nightshade grinned savagely, as she charged forwards to take part in the battle. “These are odds I can live with!”


Meanwhile, the battle at the harbour was going badly. The Antiheroes had come in overconfidantly, trusting in their numbers, and four of them had already paid for it. But the harbour's defenders weren't doing much better. Epsilon was lying in a blood-stained heap near the pier, Gwen was collapsed on the ground with a badly-injured Styx standing over her, Spinaround had been blasted by a massive electrical beam and fallen into the harbour, and Omibus had entered the fray only to find herself surrounded and forced to fall back again. Mayfly was now tearing through the sky, trying to hold off those damned hawkpeople and fight effectively at the same time. Outnumbered to eleven to six, it was looking bad.

As she flew, she looped around Overkill. “I hope you're happy, jackass!”

The Antihero gave her an annoyed look, aiming a blast of energy her way. She twisted around it, letting it disperse harmlessly through the air. “I found my purpose. None of you ever considered how valuable I was. You just prattled on about how important it was to protect the villains! I helped you take down Dr Ecchs, and all you cared about was that we might have hurt his feelings!”

“Uh-huh. You are not a very good example of Antihero doctrine, Overkill. Or of Antihero anything, really. You can't aim, you can't fight… they must have been really desperate for troops to hire you.”

With a roar of rage, Overkill levelled another blast at her. “You're just a hopped-up crook who got lucky! You don't deserve to be a hero!”

Crossing her fingers, Mayfly twisted again, letting the power holding her wings up die. She wasn't quite fast enough. One wing was caught in the edge of the blast, and let off brownish sparks as it flared halfway into life and then died. However, the two people chasing her were even less lucky. Both took the full brunt of the blast, spiralling out of control and crashing to the ground. Mayfly had just enough time to hear Overkill mutter, “Oh, not again…” before her attention shifted to the ground rushing up.

“I got ya, sugarplum!” The impact was muffled, as Mayfly slammed into Blastwave, the two rolling across the deck. As Mayfly rolled to her feet, rushing over, she saw that a pair of large men were racing towards them, one wielding a pair of silver blades and the other that damned fire-starter from earlier. She shook her head, trying to lever Blastwave to her feet. “Damn it, what were you thinking? I'm in a power suit!”

“Could ask you the same thing.” Blastwave coughed. “That was a good idea, but a dumb move. Your suit's offline.”

Mayfly sighed. “Yeah, it is. Which is why you should have left me.” Charon stepped into the path of the two Antiheroes, slamming one into the other, and Mayfly checked her readouts. Nothing. The power was totally dead. “Are you okay?”

“Be fine.” Blastwave started to rise, then gasped in pain. “More or less.”

“Shit.” The bladesman was fighting Charon now, and the firestarter was coming their way. “Can you move?”

“No chance. But I can cover you. Get going.”

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Mayfly paused to look at her companion in shock.

“You can still fight another day. I. Can't. Move.” Blastwave pushed herself to her knees. “Seems pretty simple.”

“To hell with that.” Ignoring Blastwave, Mayfly stepped over her. “Maybe we'll make it, maybe not, but I'm not running. I'm still a girl in armour.”

“Slow armour. You can't fight in it!”

“I can try.” Mayfly gritted her teeth, facing her opponent. “At least we'll buy the others some more time.”

“Damn it, sugarplum!”

“Are you two done, or should I come back later?” The firestarter raised his arms to point at the pair.

“Could you? That'd be swell.” Mayfly gave him a sweet smile, fighting back the surge of fear. He rolled his eyes, fire spraying outwards towards them.

“No. Goodbye, 'heroes'.”

The fire scorched the surface of the pier as it raced forwards. There was no time to dodge. Mayfly raised her arms to try and protect herself.

And a tree appeared in front of her, blocking the blast.

“Ash?” Mayfly couldn't keep the goofy grin off her face, as the tree developed a cybernetic face.

“Greetings, Miss Mayfly. I am sorry for any delays, and am here to help.”

“You're on fire.”

“No matter. This is merely a drone.”

Across the port, dozens of trees were shifting out of invisibility, throwing pine cone grenades and launching leaf shurikens at the shocked Antiheroes. They were falling nearly as fast, but more were coming. Mayfly gaped. “How many drones do you have?!”

“Over a thousand, when this operation commenced.”

“Oh, yeah.” Mayfly and Blastwave shared a grin. “I think we've got a chance now.”


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