Holiday Cheer, Part Three: Paint The Town Red

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(December 4th)

“Holy crap, thank God you're here!” Mayfly shouted, weaving through the air. “What took you?” The sky around her was filled with sparks of flame, as she dove around columns of air that threatened to slam her into the pavement. Across from her, Jhim was ducking under cover on the roof of the West Side mall, laser melted into useless slag beside him, as he assembled another tool.

“You had the car!” Timebender yelled back, breathing heavily. As she got her breath back, she took in her surroundings. Fortunately for local property values, Crimson Sky had started his operation in the outside parking lot of the West Side mall, just off 17th Street. The flaming sparks ripping to life in the air, then gusting across the lot, weren't doing much more than singing a few streetlamps, although a few were doing some serious damage to the paintjobs of the few cars left in the lot. Off to one side and a safe distance away, a camera crew from Calamity News was filming the proceedings, their reporter gesturing wildly as he spoke into his mike. “Crimson Sky, I presume?”

Beside her, Lucky muttered, “Why does that sound so familiar?”

The masked figure opposite her nodded grandiousely, hovering a few feet off the ground in the centre of the vortex of fire and wind. His bodysuit was black, with red lines running down the arms and up to his blood-red cowl, and his skin was stained with soot. “We meet again, Timebender. But this time, nothing is going to stand between me and my righteously earned victory.” He raised his arms. “Your ninja has wisely retreated from the field of battle already.”

“Fire is sort of his Achilles' heel.” Timebender agreed, taking up a battle position. “It comes from being made in large part of dry wood.” She smiled, cracking her knuckles. “I hope you don't find the four of us too dissappointing? I know that's been a bit of a problem for you in the past. Frankly, after the disaster last time, I sort of thought we'd seen the last of you.”

“Are you kidding?” For just a moment, the pompous facade cracked, and Crimson Sky grinned. “It's true, I needed to get a bit of extra training in, but I've been waiting for this moment for a year and a half! Hit me with your best shot, Champions!”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” Lucky said cheerfully.

“Alright, then.” Timebender nodded to Jhim and Mayfly. “Let's do this.”

In a blur of motion, she exploded forwards. Crimson Sky raised his hands, and fires rained down in her path, roaring across the pavement to encircle her as she dashed to one side. Above, Mayfly dove and pulled back, drawing fire and looping around the storm that Crimson Sky was filling the space between them with. Jhim dove off the roof, his grappling hook catching a lampost just above the flames as he swung across the field, rolling to the ground just as the fire motes in the air shifted course, gusting into the lampost with enough heat to melt his rope.

Momentarily unnoticed, Lucky ran full-tilt ahead, spun around a car, and promptly fell flat on his face. “Ow!” He yelled. Crimson Sky glanced in his direction, and flew further to the right.

“The hell was that?” Mayfly called from above, as she dove towards Crimson, then banked away as the fires surrounding him coalesced into a wall of flame between them. Timebender took advantage of the hesitation to leap forwards, running up the side of a car before its heat could reach her and delivering a solid punch, which staggered Crimson but failed to make a serious impact. She then rolled back as he counterattacked with torrential winds, which nearly slammed her into the mall's doors.

“I'm good!” Lucky shouted back, rolling back to his feet. “Stubbed my toe, that's all.”

“He's wandering through a field of fire, and he stubs his toe.” Timebender muttered, shaking her head. More loudly, she said, “Mind in the game, Lucky! Pay attention!”

“Sorry, this thing is just kind of bothering…” Lucky ducked under a gust of flame, continuing his dash.

“Bother later!” Jhim joined in the yelling, as he pulled a small grenade from his belt and threw it towards Crimson Sky. It detonated less than halfway towards the villain, superheated to explosion in under a second. “We're a little bit busy right now!”

“I know, I know, I just…” Lucky trailed off, and snapped his fingers. “X-Box!”

The entire battlefield froze. In the air, fire motes hung ready, eerily still, and Mayfly halted in her flight to look at Lucky in total confusion. On the ground, Jhim glanced over uncomprehendingly, as did Timebender.

Even Crimson Sky was taken aback. “Excuse me?” He said in bafflement.

“Crimson Skies! It was this great video game about six years ago, for the X-Box.” Lucky smiled. “I knew the name sounded familiar. It was a flight sim, see, but with steampunk stuff, and… uh…” Crimson Sky was giving him the sort of look usually reserved for someone who just ran over the neighbour's dog. “You know what, now is not the time.” Lucky amended hastily.

“X-Box.” Crimson Sky echoed flatly. A thousand flames hovered in the air around him.

“Yes?” Lucky said hesitantly.

The motes of fire flickered out of existence, swallowed by a blast of wind that extinguished every flame in the parking lot. It bowled Jhim over, and forced Timebender to slow time to a crawl to regain her footing. Lucky ducked behind a car, which rocked back and forth, and Mayfly was tossed end-over-end through the air, regaining her balance after a moment.

Crimson Sky drifted to the ground. He ground his teeth, and then kicked one of the less damaged cars in frustration. “Son of a bitch!”

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