Finest Hour, Part Two: Led Astray

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(September 24th)

The instant that they were deposited at the entrance to Rex Mundi's lair, Overkill knew something had gone wrong.

The plan had been simple – smash through the gates of Mundi's compound, using a surgical strike to gain entrance to the facility. Then, while twenty soldiers held the outer courtyard and thirty more spread out to do as much damage as possible, Skew's core strike force would follow Technopath, their resident cyberkinetic, to where the narrative engine sat and capture it. It was acknowledged possible that the Resistance would already be present, in which case the team was to press through the battle.

At no point did Skew consider the possibility of there being a small army present, battling no one.

Instead of the open clearing that he had expected, the Antihero strike force landed in a thick forest. The tall fences that marked the edge of Mundi's compound were just visible, surrounded by trees on all sides – the compound itself was covered. Almost immediately, the trees around them came alive. Vines slashed down from the branches above, while exploding pinecones began to rain down. Overkill brought his bazooka up, cape streaming behind him, and fired wildly into the treeline. As he did, his blasts blew trees to splinters and vaporized long metallic wires and strands.

“It's a trap!” Someone screamed, as a storm of sharp-edged leaves cut into three soldiers on Overkill's left. Gouts of flame and jets of electricity responded, as Calamity grabbed one tree and swung it like a bat, slamming it into three more.

Overkill backed away as he blasted. Each blast tore through a dozen trees, but there were hundreds – thousands – more everywhere he looked. “What is going on?” He wanted it to sound like a roar, but his confusion leaked through his voice. “I thought Ash was neutralized!”

“He was.” Back-to-back with Overkill, Skew grimaced as he focused his powers, sending a half-dozen trees into the upper atmosphere. “These are Weltgeist's soldiers.”

The treeline next to them exploded as Typhoon slammed through it, sending trees flying in all directions. “Why is she here?” He shook his head. “Why now?”

“I don't know, but it doesn't matter. We break through!” Skew yelled. He clasped his hands together, and his strike team vanished and reappeared across the fence, at the compound wall. Already, there were only nine of them left. The walls were scorched and marked with tiny holes, and there were vines crawling through the gaps. Skew shook his head. “Overkill! Clear a path!”

Overkill nodded, and brought his gun around. A wave of orange energy poured out from him, vaporizing the ground and walls, and causing the vines to wither and die as the robotic parts keeping them alive exploded inside them. He swept his gun around, destroying a few trees that were sneaking up from behind, and then staggered as the world shifted and blinked around him again. A moment later, the team was inside the compound's walls, in a featureless metal corridor. Typhoon caught Overkill as he staggered. “Sorry.” He muttered. “I don't usually use my powers so much at once.”

“Not a problem, you cleared the way.” Skew assured him with a smile. “Technopath! Get us to the narrative engine, quickly!” As he spoke, his soldiers fanned out, preparing for battle. Typhoon and Passionguard covered the opening that Overkill had created, using wind and strength to keep the tree ninja from approaching, while Songline stood behind, weaving walls of pure sound to force the enemy to approach in small groups. Technopath, her gold-and-grey suit crisscrossed with thousands of crystal wires, laid one hand against a wall and grimaced. “Power's dead here.” She reported. “I can feel something further in, though. Can you…?”

“I hate blind jumping.” Skew shook his head, and triggered his comm. “Calamity. Status?”

“We're holding, but hurry the hell up! Weltgeist's whole damned army might be here!” Came the terse reply.

“Right.” Skew nodded. “Overkill, clear the way.”

Overkill nodded, and brought his gun around again, gritting his teeth as he felt the familiar power flow through him. For just a moment, as always, he felt exultant. This was how it was meant to be. Then the power left him with a rush, and he staggered backwards, leaning against one of his fellows – Beaumonde, he thought, the blue velvet vest was very distinctive – for support. “Far enough?” He croaked.

“Good.” Skew nodded, and blinked the team down the long hallway that had just been opened. Instantly, they were under siege again. As more tree ninja gave pursuit, explosions rocking the corridor as they fled, dormant systems came online, power rushing through to activate robotic deathtraps and thousands of tiny metal cockroaches. Still at the outside gate, Passionguard cried out once as she was overrun by hundreds of tiny thorned bushes, tearing them off her as she tried to hold the gate. A moment later, Typhoon blasted through them, then fell under a horde of trees. Next him, Overkill saw Youngfire blast away from the group, his red silhouette exploding into a horde of roaches, and then rolling away from Weltgeist's advancing minions.

Technopath raised her arms, and the roaches broke off their assault. “Down two floors.” She said. “I can track all the systems from there.” As Overkill lowered his gun, blasting the opening, Skew blinked over to Youngfire's side. “Can you stand?” He asked.

Youngfire winced, and shook his head. “Go.” He muttered.

Skew winced, and then nodded. “Right.” Overkill winced as well. Skew could have gotten Youngfire to safety, but long-distance jumps cost him time. Saving Youngfire would likely have killed others. “We'll be back.” He said over his shoulder, as the team's six remaining members jumped again.

This time, the jump carried them into a small control room, one wall mostly obliterated, but with its consoles still intact. Technopath rushed to a console, while Skew looked around. “Can you hold here?” He asked, as more ninja began to pour through the gap.

Songline sang a pure note that caught three pinecones and flung them back up the hole the group had dropped down, where they exploded through the ranks of the trees. “Two minutes? Sure.” She nodded. Skew smiled, and closed his eyes. A moment later, they snapped open.

“Crap.” He muttered.

Everyone except Technopath looked over at him in surprise. “What…?” Overkill started.

“The whole interior's laced with teleport denials.” Skew said with a grimace. “We've been vaporizing it as we went, but…” He looked up. “Something must have re-activated. Overkill, get over here and blast me another corridor.”

As Overkill started over, Technopath let out a soft whimper. “Oh, no…” She shook her head.

“What?” Skew asked.

“This isn't the base.” Technopath said quietly. “It's some sort of backup location Mundi has in case his real base is compromise. There's no psiportal here, no narrative engine. Just the usual dormant traps and a lot of spare room.” She looked around at her companions, despair in her eyes. “It's a trap.”

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