Heavy is the Head: Confront

    Darkness, immediately.

    Even with my seismic sense, being rendered blind was a shock to the system.  Like every other human alive, I relied quite heavily on my sight.

    Still, footsteps.  

    One set of immense steps, one unyielding an metallic, two normal footfalls trying to skirt around me.  

    One set missing: Mutant.  He was able to fly with his travel form.  

    I ripped the ground and pulled a curtain of concrete over my head, only an instant before a blow collided with it.  I was right, the bastard had been flying over me. Before I could reform the rock and grab him, he shifted back and flew away, out of my reach.  I tried shifting to move myself free from the darkness but with only one person to target, Lightshow kept me blind.

    Metallic footsteps, Dragoon.  Flanking.

    A wall of ground separated us just in time to block a few bullets from her power armor.  Nodding my head, the hunk of floor shot at her and forced her back; at the edge of my range, I morphed the ground into a field of spines, something to keep her away for a moment.  

Heavy steps, closing quick.

I bent my knees as I shifted the ground under my feet and glided away while turning the floor in front of me into mud.  As expected, the weight made Eldritch sink and bought me a precious second as I moved myself again, feeling Dragoon sprint around the edge of my spikes to try and get a new angle on me. 

Too much time since Mutant had dropped on me.  Another curtain of ground to protect me from him dropping straight down on my head, and just in time too. I wanted to twist the concrete around his arm, but Geyser split the ground and demanded my attention.

While I covered the crag he made, Mutant took flight again and escaped my range.

The ground is shaking, Eldritch is coming headlong.

The massive Druid had escaped the quagmire I had made and was barreling forward; while I could tell where he was coming from, I didn’t know what his arms were doing. Forced to play it safe, I erected a wall of concrete between us and shoved it back into him.

He stumbled, not braced for me to answer his aggression with my own.

Metallic footsteps. Behind you.

I barely put a wall between us as another salvo plinked against the concrete. In many ways, Xandal had made this infinitely easier for the Sentries to fight me; no walls meant they could run and keep clear of my reach while keeping eyes on me. And thanks to there being four of them attacking while I was deprived my vision, I couldn’t effectively counterattack; controlling the ground was natural but still required concentration. Doing different tasks at the same time was exceptionally difficult.

Every attack they made only allowed me a defensive response and wouldn’t let me properly capitalize.

As I turned to face Dragoon, for a moment, I could see. Even though the place wasn’t well lit, it was a bit of a shock to my system to be removed from the inky blackness Lightshow had subjected me to.

And then it was like someone detonated a flashbang an inch from my eyes. From complete deprivation to abrupt overload, it was agonizing. Even though I closed eyes immediately, there was an afterimage dancing on the inside of my eyelids.

No footsteps from Mutant though; he was the only one who could fly and would be swooping by soon to attack while I was still blind.

I wrapped a dome of concrete around myself and felt something impact the side for an instant.

Heavy footsteps closing fast.

While this little enclosure could likely tolerate a hand grenade being tossed against it, Eldritch would smash it like an eggshell.  Feeling the concrete beneath, I took a deep breath and moved the ground, sinking and essentially making a small channel to move through.  As expected, the massive Druid obliterated the small bubble of concrete as tonnes of Neklim muscle bashed it aside.

I wasn’t going to win if I couldn’t change the tempo of the fight. I needed to cope with Lightshow first. Being able to track Mutant would be invaluable with since I couldn’t follow him with my seismic sense.  Plus I needed to see to better deal with Eldritch since he could reconstitute his body and moving too much concrete risked bringing the building down around my head and I’d rather avoid that if possible. Being able to better isolate his limbs and strip the flesh away would be necessary.   

As I rose from the ground, I created a spike and aimed for center of mass, a bit surprised how quick Lightshow was to evade. Even though not regarded as an Enhancer, she was clearly faster than most. Still, she wasn’t quick enough to evade me turning a whole 4 meter section of floor into spines and jagged edges.

While the Projector stumbled and cut her legs, I felt the world suddenly shake and my equilibrium fail.

Dragoon hadn’t moved enough for me to notice, she had simply lobbed a stun grenade across the room at me.  Disoriented, I fell to my hands and knees, dimly aware of a crack in the ground opening as Geyser stomped down.  

It took a tremendous amount of effort to close the crack before it could quite make it to me, and even so I didn’t much notice Dragoon move around my barricade until a sharp pain radiated from my side.  

Bullet impact to my ribs, the armor plating in my coat preventing it from tearing into my flesh but it didn’t prevent it from cracking part of my ribcage.  

Heavy footsteps coming beside you.

My fear of Eldritch getting close to me helped snap me from my daze and provide clarity.  Turning to him, I warped the ground into a wall of concrete lances, many of them finding purchase and impaling the monstrous Druid.  

A little blur of movement caught my eye; shifting the ground, I pulled myself away as Mutant descended from the ceiling, his fist in beetle form smashing into the floor.  

If the hit had connected, that might have killed me.  

My response was sluggish and the pillars of concrete weren’t erected fast enough to hold him before he turned back into a bird and darted away.  A few meters away, Lightshow pulled herself free and leapt away from my twisted landscape, blasting me with another dazzling light.

My retinas thoroughly scalded, I shambled backwards, raising my arm as if that would somehow help dim the light.  

Footpads, right in front of you.

Mutant’s wolf form.  He was getting greedy, assuming I was off kilter enough to not retaliate.  

I threw myself backwards and moved the ground under him to try and maintain distance between us, but neither action happened quite fast enough.  Claws raked across my face and two gashes across my cheek began to bleed violently. As I fell, I came free of the light that Lightshow had surrounded my head with and got a glance at Mutant as he tried to shift back into his travel form.

Before he could flap back to the ceiling, I generated a pillar of concrete and slammed into the bird.  Mutant reverted to his human form and fell to the ground in a heap; too much damage had forced the shapeshifter back and meant I had one less problem to deal with.

Eldritch roared, the volume making my ears ring as I felt my knees shake.  I was dimly aware of him charging forward having torn through my array of spikes. Collecting myself, I shifted the floor and made his monstrous form try to do the splits, dropping him face first onto the unyielding floor with a thunderous boom.  I reallocated the floor and put the thickest walls around him that I could without collapsing the building. Wrapping it over the Druid, I encased Eldritch in a sarcophagus of stone. One more removed from the equation.

Gliding away, I pulled myself towards Dragoon and the edge of our arena, elliciting a small panic from her.

She tried to run, but I was done letting her linger around the periphery of the fight and take all the pot shots she wanted.  As she attempted to flee, I made a column of concrete and bent it down in front of her, forcing her to pause within my range.

Once close enough, I pulled her closer to me; the ground shifting beneath her feet immediately upset her balance and made her shot for my head go wild.  When she was closer, I wrapped concrete around her, like a cocoon before pulling her halfway underground. Despite the strength granted by her suit, she wasn’t capable of moving several hundred kilograms of concrete with her arms bound up even though I felt her struggling.  

Another threat dealt with.  

A squirming and tremendous amount of strain from below ground caused me to snap my head around at the immense mound of concrete I had buried Eldritch in.

Steam rose from his prison as an arm ripped free and an acrid scent filled the air.  Along the surface of his Neklim suit, there was something dripping free: Muriatic acid.  Last time we had fought, he’d mutated some kind of speed enhancement, this time he’d developed acidic excretions.  

And it was potent enough to dissolve the floor.         

“What the fuck,” I muttered as Eldritch rose from the floor, enraged.  Geyser tried to prey upon me being distracted and stomped down, creating a crack in the ground, but it was easily covered and negated.  

The Druid stomped forward and swung his arm, throwing a volley of acidic solution towards me; I barely erected a barrier in time and some still managed to splash onto my coat, chewing into the armored coat.  An obsidian colored arm bashed through the barricade as he continued forward, relentless. With an extra tool in his arsenal, I couldn’t contain him reliably.

My only course of action was to whittle him down.  It was fortunate it had taken him this long to mutate; now at least it was just the two of us in a duel and there was less need to hold him in place.  While Geyser was present, his gift was almost irrelevant. If I was ever incapacitated by the Projector, it was because I’d already lost the fight.

Another failed attempt from Geyser to gas me was easily paved over as I pulled myself away from Eldritch, erecting a number of blades that I thrust into his legs, cutting through a few layers of growth before he bashed it away.  As his arm was lowered, I raised arms of concrete that dug into his mass he called an appendage. With a little gesture, I pulled the hooks down, ripping swaths of flesh free as he stumbled.

Irritated, Eldritch threw another spray of acid my way, but I was ready to displace myself and avoid the caustic barrage this time.  Another bunch of spikes pierced into the mass of neklim and actually forced him to pause. Goliath had told me that he’d managed to damage the progenitor of the growth and it seemed to halt the suit, but the stop was short lived.  Eldritch spun and ripped the concrete spears free, throwing them at me with extraordinary force. Several of them slammed against supports and I glanced nervously at the ceiling. He stomped forward and I went for a more narrow focus, erecting spines to jam into his legs and hold him still for a moment.  Steam rose from his legs as he ripped himself free, the tendrils there equipped with the same acidic solution.

It seemed just like the bursts of speed from last time that utilizing his mutations had a slight buildup time required.  He needed time to replenish his acid storage.

Around me, the lights extinguished; I was hoping some of the cuts had been deep enough to bleed Lightshow dry, but no luck.  Still, I felt her stumble forward and try to escape my range.

It took effort, but a fist of concrete rose in front of her and slammed into her chest, cracking ribs and knocking her onto the ground, her whole body curling in pain.  

The darkness around my head faded, and just in time.  Eldritch had reconstituted himself and put a majority of his mass into one arm, extending his range while I had been blind.  As it came crashing down, I pulled myself underground, still feeling the absurd force of the impact as I distanced myself. Pulling myself back from the concrete, I saw Geyser stomp again, but this time he didn’t direct the crack at me.

He used the weakening in the concrete to help Dragoon pull herself free since Geyser knew his Adaptation couldn’t do anything to me.

“Clever,” I growled with a sneer; he tried to use his power with me, and I negated it with little effort, as he clearly expected.  A spire of concrete shot up and found a weak spot in his armor, piercing his side. I left him impaled, effectively rooting him in place.  

Metallic footsteps around you somewhere.  Heavy footfalls in front of you.

Eldritch was literally so damn dense I was having trouble differentiating other people’s footfalls from his movements because the noise was so great.  Still, it was obvious they intended to come from two angles at once.

Chunks of concrete rose to intercept Dragoon and keep her fire away from me while Eldritch charged.

What I wasn’t expecting him to do was deliberately swing and extend his arm like he was suddenly made of rubber.  His elastic tendrils whipped through and tore a number of supports around me, and I only had a moment to delve underground before chunks of the ceiling came tumbling down on top of me.  

It was known Eldritch could generate mutations as he stayed in his Neklim suit, no one had ever seen him with more than a single mutation.  Had he had the second mutation all this time and refused to use it?

As I reappeared, his massive arm took another swipe, but this time I was ready.  A bladed monolith of stone rose from the floor and carved into his arm; momentum ensured he cleaved through the massive limb completely.  Just like last time, once the arm came free, the mass of onyx colored tentacles withered and turned to dust.

“You never learn,” I scoffed as I jammed four different spikes into his torso, each coming out the other side.  “Now, stay put this time.”

Dragging myself back, I altered the floor beneath Dragoon and felt her heavy suit begin to sink in the muck.  “And you, it is high time you stopped-“

A little glimmer of movement caught the corner of my eye and I turned just in time to the see the end of a rod of metal coming down.  

I tried to pull away, and I kept it from caving my skull in, but the metal staff slammed into my clavicle and shattered the bone.  Pain nearly blinded me as I staggered back, unable to think clearly enough to burrow and get away from the last Sentry who had been waiting in the rafters, waiting until I had gotten bold enough to gloat and be self-confident.

They had lied about Parasite’s whereabouts to make me forget about the Enhancer who should be able to do the least to me.    

Stepping back to get away didn’t do any good, Parasite was far too fast with his inhuman agility.  A single bound caught up to me, and a fist slammed into my solar plexus, depriving me of air. I tried regain composure and straighten my posture, but the Enhancer swung the staff and slammed against the meat of my thigh; it was miraculous he didn’t break my femur.  

I screamed in pain as I sank to my knees and found no mercy at the hands of Parasite.  His hand gripped me by the throat as he hauled me up, his arm flush with the extra mass of the ‘passenger’ inside his body.  Dangling in the air, I felt perfectly vulnerable; I was denied my power and felt blind without my seismic sense. This was it, whether he even knew what he’d done, Parasite had ended the fight.  Instead of a sneer or an angry scowl, the prick was giving me a smug grin. “You don’t look so kingly now, do you?”

With a grunt, he tossed me up, like one would toss a ball right before you took a swing with a bat.  

Before I could land, he twisted and drove his heel into my midsection, launching me back into the rubble from where Eldritch had caved in part of the building.  

Metallic steps, regular, and heavy.

Parasite, Dragoon, and a regenerated Eldritch were all approaching slowly, confidently.  They knew I was beaten far too badly to fight on multiple fronts. Broken ribs, split clavicle, serious internal bleeding, and a concussion from being thrown onto the debris.  Blood trickled down my scalp and over my ear as if to remind me of the latest injury.

“Give up,” Dragoon demanded, “You’re done.”  

“I know how hard I hit you,” Parasite remarked, “You need a hospital, and soon.”

Eldritch didn’t say anything but was content to just loom and keep growing, reclaiming all the size I had stripped from him.  

I set my teeth and took a deep breath, commanding the ground below me to shift around me, ferrying me outside, away from the Rogue Sentries, away from my pathetic defeat.  

Emerging from the ground, I gasped for air and dragged myself down an alleyway, my whole body protesting movement.  My adrenaline was fading fast, and pain was setting in. I felt my seismic sense dim and grow hazy, my grip and control on my power dwindling as I kept pulling myself forward.  

“You know, you weren’t supposed to lose,” a voice called out as I leaned against the side of a building.  “I really thought that you’d be able to hold your own for longer, but you really weren’t expecting Parasite to drop down, were you?”

My eyes widened as I recognized that voice, a voice I hadn’t heard in nearly 3 years.  But…no footsteps, no feedback from my seismic sense.

I looked up and saw him flying around on what resembled a massive hummingbird made from vivid neon colors.  Around him, fog began spilling out and coating the surrounding area.

“Empath?” I asked softly, horrified.  

“Empath died in Asylum,” he called back, “Where you left him to rot!”

A new hit of adrenaline hit me as creatures took shape in the fog.  Monsters all generated in vivid hues, like they were made from a neon sign.  A pair of demonic looking canine beasts lunged and found the business end of a concrete spike, a few massive snakes were subject to being guillotined by blades of rock, and a harpy-esque monster was flattened against a wall by a pillar of stone.  

The fog continued to spread and I continued to pant; killing just those quickly made apparitions was exhausting.    

“You and I were such good friends,” he called out as his bird kept him above me, looking down, “But you left us to die, Landslide.”

Landslide, my old Adapted moniker, and the one I used before I shed my mask and remade my persona.  The name of the half-rate gangster who had lived on the other side of the globe.

The same man who had hid in fear while Snatchers had grabbed the rest of his squad and dragged them away to that hellscape they called a research lab.    

More brightly colored spectres formed around me and one that resembled a tiger managed to scratch at my chest; the claws didn’t rip through my armor, but they did remind me how many ribs had been broken earlier.

“And then I learn you’re running around without a mask on now, pretty bold for a coward!”  

Another wave of monsters, another group turned back to mist but not before one left a nice gash along my calf.  Another avenue for blood loss and fatigue.

Using my Adaptation was being more and more troublesome, more and more difficult to keep fine tuned and controlled.  

“Do you know how long I have been waiting for this, Tony?”

The name hit me like a kick in the chest, a reminder of my old life, a reminder of what a failure I used to be.  “Max, stop!”

I saw him recoil a little bit as he hovered overhead.  “Max is gone too, Tony. Psycho, that’s what my friends call me now.  That’s all anyone calls me now!”

“Psycho,” I said, raising my hands in surrender, “Let’s talk this out.  We were friends, maybe we can figure this out.” It made me feel sick to have to try and bargain with anyone, but there was no way I was winning this fight and…I owed him.  

He came a little lower so I could appreciate the intensity of his stare; the white coat was a new look, and his face had changed too, thinner, like he hadn’t eaten in weeks.  The only thing the same was his strip of cloth with the teeth printed on. Fog continued to spill out, solidifying his control over this area.

“You know, I hear voices when I’m like this,” he said with a tilt of his head, “And for once, they are all saying the same thing.”  Around me, neon colored beasts began to take shape, becoming more and more tangible as his steed quickly flitted back away, far from my reach, “All of the voices say you should die.”  

Around me, half a dozen creatures sprung to life and pounced.  Gritting my teeth in exertion, I warped the ground and created a wall of spears, impaling all of the brightly colored constructs except one.  A weird hybrid of a harpy and a snake bounded over and sank two rows of fangs into my arm before I could conjure another spike to impale it.

More pain blurring my vision, more blood loss adding to the fatigue that was occluding my senses.  

“You should just give up, Beleth,” Psycho shrieked as fog continued pouring out from his sleeves, “This only ends one way!”

Taking a deep breath, I moved the ground under my feet and went below ground.  While it seems like it should be an easy trick, it was the most difficult application of my gift by a longshot.  Moving the ground around me in a way to not distort the surface and give away where I was burrowing too while not crushing myself with the rock and dirt around me was not an easy prospect.  It was made more complicated by the fact that I had to part the ground by my head and push myself with the ground at my feet.

As battered as I was, there was a good chance me trying to burrow could go very wrong and I could end up crushing myself.  

For a moment, nothing else existed and I felt the ground cave around me, parting and shifting to guide me through the displace material…and it was incredibly relieving to emerge from the dark.  

I wasn’t entirely sure where I had ended up, I’d aimed to go under a building and hopefully make it out to the street; it seemed like I had managed to go under and just come out on the opposite side.  

Either way, it bought me a moment of reprieve from-

Fog rolled in around me, and shades of orange, yellow, and green began to take shape.  

“Where do you think you’re going?” came a shrill scream from the top of the building.  Psycho had simply gone up to perch and wait, willing to be patient to spot me.

Another onslaught of creatures materialized, these seeming to be more solid and less ethereal; all of them took more effort to bring down and contributed to my mounting fatigue.  As the initial wave died, more were created with the immediate instruction to end me. I stumbled back as what looked like a minotaur formed and charged, bulldozing through a wall I erected; an arc of electricity blasted it square in the chest.  

Both Psycho and I turned and looked across the street in surprise; Shock shambled out from a storefront with a chunk of rebar jammed in his shoulder and the face mask on his reinforced motorcycle helmet cracked.  Still, electricity arced around him and a trio of flashes spelled the end for a few more delusional monsters made by Psycho.

“You send, one guy after us?” Shock shouted, breathing heavy.  “That’s fucking insulting!”

Right on cue, Awe came flying out onto the street, slamming into the side of a car someone was unlucky enough to be driving.  The metal folded under him as another form followed right behind, glowing with long brown hair. Like Psycho he wore a cloth with the red teeth painted on.  

“Bargain!  I said to get rid of them!”

“Shock,” I asked, my voice shaky as I felt an oppressive wave of fatigue wash over me, “Who the fuck is this guy?”

“Bargain, don’t know more than that,” he said as shot a bolt of electricity into his twin and charged him, “But the guy won’t go down, and he’s beaten my brother basically to death twice now with no problem.  It’s all we can do to keep him off me.”

I saw what he meant immediately.  As Awe tried to exchange blows, Bargain’s hands glowed and a single hit collapsed Awe’s chest cavity.  He tried to fight through it, burning excess voltage to stay standing, but Bargain hit him three more times in rapid succession, flattening my Enhancer.  

“Who the fuck is this guy?” I repeated as he turned to look at us.  

“Boss,” Shock said, oddly serious, “You need to go.  You’re looking worse than we are.”

I wanted to argue, but another dozen apparitions were taking shape around us, these ones looking substantially more corporeal that the previous waves had; it seemed my enforcement refusing to go down quietly had enraged Psycho.  If he worked at all like Empath used to, stoking an emotional fire in him would only elevate his strength.

“Okay.  You two get out too, yeah?  Nikolai,” I insisted, “You and Vladimir get out of here.  I need my men.”

A wry chuckle escaped from Shock,  “My brother isn’t dead yet, and fortunately there’s plenty of friction going on with those two fighting.  You run, I’ll charge up Awe; he’ll carry me away and I’ll call for Goliath.”

What had happened to Stag?  I didn’t want to think about it honestly; Psycho had clearly brought monsters with him.  Hive would live if Stag had been ripped apart but…it wasn’t pretty when she had to rebuild a split.  

Electricity danced across Shock’s suit as it collected in his hand; a bolt went from each finger tip: one shot into the limp body of his brother while the other four impacted with the new brightly colored creations and exploded.  “Get ready,” he whispered to me. While I was still here, I gave what contribution I could and made some haphazard rock formations to slow down the creatures that were now taking their time closing in on us as more were forming behind them.

Psycho was making a small army to overrun us in one fell swoop.  

“Awe, backpack time!”

Knowing what came next, I let myself hit the ground for a moment as my enforcer threw his arms to the side and dumped every bit of electrical charge out; the air around us was energized and lit up as lightning bolts streaked around, searing buildings and demolishing the battalion of monsters conjured by Psycho.  Several fingers of electricity slammed into Bargain and forced him back a step as Awe was donated more electrical charge, his battery refilled.

Awe started to glow as he started burning through the excess power, zipping forward and kicking Bargain hard enough to drive him back to the curb.  As he turned and bolted to me, I put a wall behind him to separate us from Bargain. Kneeling beside me, Awe scooped up his brother and gave me a nod, “Get out of here, I’ll get Shock home.”

Shock couldn’t technically Overexpose himself, but he could use every bit of voltaic energy in his body which induced syncope; in the aftermath of the electrical storm Shock made, Awe  ended up overcharged and would carry Shock over his shoulders to safety since he could run away at absurd speeds.

Still, Awe could only ensure his sibling and he escaped.  I was still on my own, I’d just been give a moment to catch my breath.  

As Awe lugged his sibling away with massive  bounds, I could see wisps of fog coming back.  Shock’s storm of electrical discharge had pushed Psycho out of the area only momentarily much to my detriment.  I moved the ground under me and glided away, almost unable to walk with the swelling in my leg thanks to Parasite managing bruising my femur.  

I made it down the street, around a corner, and then collapsed.  The beating, the fatigue, the blood loss, it was all catching up with me.  I wasn’t durable like my lieutenants, I wasn’t built to withstand this sort of trauma.  

Parasite had effectively bludgeoned a regular person when he’d attacked me, and holy shit did he hit hard.  He wasn’t wrong about me needing to go to a hospital.

I crawled beside a dumpster and sat up, resting against a wall as I forced myself to breathe.  Each inhale was painful thanks to half my ribs being in pieces. I reached for my phone, hoping  I could call Hive, anybody…

Shattered.  My mobile hadn’t survived the night.  

I threw it aside and let my head fall back as my vision blurred around the edges some more.  

Maybe I had made it far enough away without Bargain or Psycho follow-

Fog began to creep around the edge of the alley.  

“Fuck me,” I lamented quietly as I could practically feel his insidious presence.  He was right, the Empath I had known was definitely no more; instead a monster had taken his place after Asylum broke him.  

I tried to stand, to at least die on my feet; instead I toppled and landed hard on the arm that had been bitten as my vision swam.  I groaned as constructs began to form and stalk forward, my demise imminent.

As all started to fade to black, I became dimly aware of a glowing blue light as my eyes closed…

—————————–

“Come on, wake up,” I heard from a voice that sounded far away.  “I know you’re still in there, wake up.”

My eyes slowly opened and I was dimly aware of a girl with short blonde hair staring at me.  “I-”

“That’s a good mob boss, there you are,” she said, somewhat sarcastic.  “Strongly suggest you don’t get up for a minute, you took a hell of an ass kicking.”

“Where?”

“La Mansion de Titan,” she said with festive flair.  She noted my perplexed look, “I’m not being facetious, Beleth, you’re in Titan’s house.”  

“Titan has a house here?” The more I talked to her, she seemed familiar.  

“His little hub for recent activity apparently.  He wants to talk to you actually.”

I felt suddenly very awake at the thought; Titan knew about my dealings and knew I was going to work with Suppression.  He was going to kill me, just like everyone else who worked for Xandal.

Struggling, I sat up and noted all the tape wrapped around my torso, arms, and leg.  “How long have I been out?”

“Four hours,” she replied as she rushed to my side, abandoning the table she had been sitting at, “Seriously, Beleth, stop.  You’re going to rip wounds back open. You have to give the stuff time to work. I’d rather you not have to fix your ribs again.”

What was she-

“Organelle,”  I finally concluded, looking at her.  “Didn’t recognize you out of costume.”     

“In the flesh,” she replied, “But seriously, stop.  I stimulated cell growth in your skeleton to deal with the eight broken ribs and to help your marrow replace the blood you lost.  But, you’re still fragile. It’s a good thing Playlist found you as fast as he did, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be with us anymore.”  

“Right place, right time,” a voice called from the corner of the dimly lit room.  

I turned slowly to see a kid of about sixteen loitering with a white tank top and a purple scarf wrapped around his mouth.  “You grabbed me?”

“Right about the time you passed out.  Got you to a Relay station as fast as I could.”

“Relay station?  What the fuck are you talking about?”

“It’s how we get around so fast,” Playlist replied, “Relay has little points set up; I get to them with someone and give him a call, he brings us here.  The more often he uses a gift in one set area, the easier it becomes. We set up a bunch of spots around the city for me to bring people in need.”

I shook my head, confused, “What the fuck are you all talking about?”

“Maybe,” Organelle said, jumping ahead of Playlist, “You should talk to the big guy yourself.  He should be here any second now to talk to you anyways. Let’s let our patient get his rest, Playlist,” she insisted.  The youth shrugged and followed her out, and I could have sworn I saw an earbud in his left ear…

Alone, albeit abruptly, I  had a moment to take in my surroundings.  Wherever I had been taken, it was markedly upscale.  The bed I was laying on was plush and had satin sheets which was almost unheard of on Tso’got.  There was actual wood work and proper baseboards around the room which was, again, something reserved for only the wealthiest of people.  Vinnel trees were one of the only plants native to Tso’got that provided usable lumber, and they really weren’t that common. A table sat in the middle of the room and a few comfortable looking chairs were scattered around the edge as if it was set to play cards.  

And then I felt my blood pressure spike as the door opened again and a man in a black leather coat stepped in.  

Short brown hair, a strong jaw, and a confidence that was nearly palpable; it was Titan, the strongest man on the planet.  

And I was in a room with him, alone, within hours of trying to deal with an organization that directly opposed our existence.  

“Beleth,” he said politely as he took a seat, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

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