Ciel was a city that was normally in a state of frenzy and discord, but tonight the mayhem was extraordinary. Everyone was scurrying one direction as fast as they possibly could: everyone was fleeing from the Adapted who had turned into a monster.
Even with Forest helping to contain him, he’d grown wildly out of control.
“About fucking time you got here,” a familiar voice called. Beside me, a girl in a white tracksuit literally grew out of the ground; most wouldn’t know to look for the little bit of tree root extending from the bottom of her foot and connecting her to the rest of her massive form. Most wouldn’t know she was the girl responsible for keeping him from only doing as much damage as he had.
Despite her immense size, she was the least known Adapted on the planet.
“I didn’t think he’d do this today, Forest.”
“Clairvoyant said soon. Why did you fucking leave town tonight?”
“I should have gone to Manda next week then? I should have left her unattended for that long?”
My friend shut her eyes, “Fine, but you took way too long to get back here.”
“How bad is it?”
“He’s a big enough problem that I can’t hold him.”
I turned to her, bewildered. “How is that even possible? It isn’t like he’s bigger than you.”
Forest shook her head, “He isn’t, but there’s a lot of me to move around. I can’t drag my entire form all at once, it would break. I can’t move enough of me at once to bring him down at this point. When I try to really slow him down, he melts chunks away with acid or he simply rips it apart. He’s a massive wall of muscle tissue, he’s goddamn strong, Titan.”
I set my jaw, “Fuck me, that is bad.”
Forest was the most unique Adapted that I had ever met by far. Unlike Enhancers, she didn’t tailor her body and become a giant tree; she WAS the giant tree. Every fiber of the immense growth was like her whole nervous system, and all of it could intake sensory stimulus. While she didn’t have a gift for fighting necessarily, sheer size and weight was enough to overwhelm nearly anyone.
Except for maybe me…and now Eldritch.
“How much of you has he ripped apart?”
She sighed, “About twenty percent over the last half hour. I’m trying to keep him starved, I really am,” she lamented, “But he’s surprisingly fast for something so huge.”
Killing twenty percent of Forest was like tearing down an entire city block. “How is-”
“Clemency, Shockwave and Beleth will all live. Though considering what Beleth did to start this, I’m not so sure we should have let him.”
I frowned, “Forest, we’re going to need all the hands we can get.”
“And he nearly cost us everything,” she countered. “The kid has eaten nearly two hundred people in the last half hour with me trying to stop him. He was forty feet tall when I seriously lost control of him, now he’s closer to seventy.” She nodded, despite me not replying to anything. With her being in so many places at once, one of Forest’s gifts was to be able to have several simultaneous conversations. Sometimes the body movements were mirrored with all of her manifestations.
It something I was used to seeing by now. “Who?”
“Eldritch’s teammates. I’m bringing them to us so you get a better idea what you’re up against.”
It didn’t take long for several members of the Rogue Sentries to find us. Dragoon and Parasite stood in front of the rest, clearly mortified about what was happening. A pneumatic hiss unlocked Dragoon’s helmet and she pulled it off to meet me face to face.
“Dragoon.” Most people were nervous when they met me, but to her credit she didn’t squirm or look away, she stared right at me.
“Are you going to kill my friend,” Parasite asked beside her.
Behind him, the rest of the Sentries tensed as they waited for my answer. “Not if I can help it. So, the more you can tell me about him, the better.”
Their captain steadied herself before replying, “He’s probably in the middle of that mess and out of control entirely.”
“Emotional volatility. The whole suit is a big hive mind that he has to keep in line. If he’s emotionally unstable, he can slip and lose his grip on the thing. If it gets too big, he is pushed back and dragged along for the ride basically.”
“And since Beleth killed his parents, he has gone haywire.”
All members nodded, solemn. “The more he eats, the more he mutates and develops. What we’ve seen so far is his ability to seek out material to consume, stretch his limbs, separate parts of himself from the core, spray acid, and grant temporary bursts of speed and strength. But, we haven’t been close enough to him to really watch him fight in nearly half an hour and he’s eaten plenty more people.”
“So, you think he’s probably developed some new tricks since then?”
“We aren’t sure. He seemed like he was rapidly developing out of necessity when he was being hunted…but nothing has been challenging him except for Forest for a while. He hasn’t likely needed to mutate anymore. As far as his Neklim mind is concerned, he might be the perfect predator now,” Dragoon said.
I bit my lip, not encouraged by the thought of fighting ‘the perfect predator’. “What is the best way to get your friend back?”
“If you can make him small enough, I think he can probably regain control.”
I nodded, “Any idea how long until he might begin starving?”
Parasite clenched his first, frustrated, “He-it’s been getting smarter, and normally Eldritch makes mass so it’ll last upwards of an hour or two. Assuming this thing isn’t feeling the pressure anymore, I’m pretty sure it will be creating mass with the intent of having a more stable food supply. It probably won’t be running out of food anytime soon.”
One less option at my disposal. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
As I turned to go, I was stopped by a metal glove grabbing my shoulder. “Titan, Shock and Awe told us something about you sheltering them and Surface Dwellers…as well as a hell of a lot of other Adapted.”
I turned back to face her, “And?”
“Are you going to defend the guy who really started all of this?”
I sighed, “I didn’t think Beleth would go this far, or that the consequences would be so dire.”
“He’s a fucking gangster that you’re protecting!” Parasite snapped, “What did you think he would do if you let him go?”
“I told him not to kill your friend.”
A softer voice from the back of the group chimed in, “If Eldritch is stuck in that mass forever, who knows if he is going to come out the same. Beleth might have killed him in a less literal sense already.”
“Menagerie is right,” Dragoon said, “It doesn’t change that this is on you for not stopping Beleth when you had the chance.”
I could have snapped back at her, I could have tried to make her understand the delicate balance between allowing autonomy and preserving order, but Dragoon was someone I needed to sway. For now, I would let her have this. “You’re right. This is on me. And now I’m going to do the best that I can to salvage the situation. Forest, take them to a Relay station. I think they should see what all the fuss is about.”
“We aren’t going to abandon our friend,” Parasite said stubbornly, “If you think we’re going to just walk away, guess again.”
I rolled my eyes, “Honorable, but if you decide to stay, you’re going to get in my way. If I’m going to have a chance to get him out, I can’t be worrying about other people being collateral. You’ve done a good job evacuating and getting people out; let me do my thing.”
His jaw set but Dragoon put an arm in front of Parasite, keeping him back. “Make this right, Titan.”
“I’ll do my best.”
A second manifestation of Forest appeared, much to the surprise of all of the Sentries. “Come along, let Titan do what he does best.”
As soon as they were out of earshot, Forest turned to me, her intense stare betraying suspicion. “You knew this might happen, didn’t you?”
My silence was damning.
“You let this play out, even after you sat down with Beleth and was told what he might do? I know Big Picture talked to you; did he tell you this might happen?”
Forest gawked, “Titan, what the fuck were you thinking?”
“I made a mistake, okay? I was doing the best I could with what Clairvoyant could feed me. When Beleth had the meeting with Xandal, I knew that we were likely heading down this avenue but…I didn’t know how bad the outcome could be. There was a chance he simply roughed the kid up, not do something so extreme!”
“But you knew this might be an option, him going wild and feral?”
“I thought Clemency and Shockwave together could stop him! I thought if enough people dogpiled on him that he could be brought down and you’d never have to be revealed. If that worked, we’d have the Sentries in a place to meet us and join alongside and keep you secret. It was 50-50 for Beleth to lose, and it was even less likely for Clemency and the rest to not bring him down.”
“Instead the Adapted lived and he managed to endure. We needed Playlist to be sacrificial to bring him down earlier, and go figure the kid didn’t want to die.” She shook her head, “You should have just let me go earlier, Titan.”
“You were the best kept secret from the public, from anyone! I wasn’t about to lose that trump card.”
Forest sighed, “You holding me back has cost hundreds of lives, Titan. Was trying to keep me hidden worth that?”
“Yes,” I said without hesitation. “Forest, if I’m going to fight them, I can’t let shit like this get to me.”
“Titan, talking about acceptable losses is a slippery slope,” she said slowly, “And it makes you sound more callous than I know you to be. I know that you see Adapted like family, and you told me to make sure none of us died tonight…but the Zari didn’t ask for this mess.”
I ran my hands through my hair, “I know. I made a mistake and thought I could subvert Clairvoyant’s vision. Silver linings, at least we’ll get Rogue Sentries in our corner when shit goes down…which is going to be soon now.”
“Before we think about that, maybe we should worry about the problem at hand.” She put a hand on my shoulder, “Are you sure you can do this? This isn’t someone you can simply turn to dust in a split second. He’s dangerous Titan, even for you. It doesn’t help you’re sending people away.”
I frowned, “Speaking of people being away, where the fuck is Suppression, the military, fucking anybody from the government? As much as I hate the lot of them, shouldn’t they be trying to do something about the guy literally eating the city?”
“I had to move myself away from them to get here. I can’t account for Suppression and…the military has the response time of a snail. Plus, no one wants to wage war against the capital city. Especially against that.”
‘That’ was impossible to miss. Eldritch was gargantuan, his dark form outlined by the setting sun. The monster was as tall as a seven floor building with a wingspan that was probably half against that long. More off putting was the fact that he didn’t have any kind of structure that was discernible as a face. All of his anatomy was a mess of black tendrils; at this point there were simply too many to register it as anything more than a massive wall of flesh.
I had my work cut out for me.
“You sure you want to send people away?”
“If my power isn’t made for this sort of shit, what is it made for?”
Forest nodded, “How can I help?”
“Don’t engage, I meant what I said to Dragoon: if you get involved, you’re going to get cut down along with him; something this big is going to just need to be clear cut. But, if you can keep people away from him, pull them out of the way and construct a bit of a perimeter.”
“A staging area?”
“Exactly. I want to know I’m not going to get anyone else killed because of my bad decision.”
There was still some lingering concern from my friend. “Titan, are you sure you can do this? He’s seriously dangerous. If he gets a hold of you, even she wouldn’t be able to save you.”
I tapped my temple, “Well, let’s hope the voices in my head keep me safe.” I turned to Forest, “If I start losing, can you pull me out?”
She shook her head, “Maybe, but not reliably. I might crush you in the process. If you go in against him, you’re more or less on your own.”
“Alright. Good to know.”
As I mentally readied myself, Forest dispersed and was no longer visible. I knew she was just underfoot, listening and watching all over. My eyes and ears around the city. Admittedly I wish that she hadn’t given up her position for listening in on Suppression; being able to know what the hell their deal was right now would have been helpful.
Unlike some of the more bombastic or ostentation outfits some Adapted wore, mine was incredibly simple. It was basically just a set of black riding leathers for my upper body and a pair of thick jeans with a pair of running shoes on. The only customization it had was a small respirator built into the back and a gas mask clipped onto my belt loop. As I pulled a pair of straps over the back of my head, I flicked on my filtered air supply. Touching my coat, I felt the contents of two pockets: emergency tools if the time came.
He was closer now, his life sense leading him towards the stream of evacuees who had sprinted past me a few minutes ago. Even several blocks away, he was terrifying to look at since he literally filled the entire road and the sidewalk as well. Buildings were scraped as he lumbered forward, each step a small earthquake.
I felt tiny standing in defiance against such a massive beast.
“Showtime,” I whispered to myself. Running forward, I felt the air around me begin to stir and come alive as I tapped into my power.
According to Snatchers and the Adapted community at large, I was regarded as the most dangerous Projector-Conjurer hybrid in the world. People assumed my power was to create molten silicon from nothing and direct it, much like how Mizu would control the flow of a body of water.
In reality, I created the deluge of superheated material from the existing air around me; all I did was facilitate a reaction to fuse Nitrogen together. As I let my power reach out, I could feel ‘string’ connecting me to the air all around. When I concentrated and pulled the strings together, the reaction started and gifted me the energy. From the initial reaction, I could channel the power to make more molten material or I could use the energy to alter the flow of what I had made, like some kind of volcanic river. If I wanted, I could dispose of the excess energy and supercool the reaction, turning it all to a wall of metal.
At my command, the air fused together. Nitrogen slammed together and fused, absorbing the energy from the reaction to direct the flow forward. From seemingly nothing, a geyser of molten silicon erupted from my hands; pointed straight at the ground, I let it propel me skywards, like some bird utilizing thermals. I landed on a two story building and drew my right arm back, feeling the energy build for another reaction; a massive globe of golden material shot forward, hitting the monster in what I guess you could call the shin.
Eldritch simply stopped for a moment.
I glared up at the most dangerous force on the planet and stymied any doubt I might be feeling. “We don’t have to do this,” I warned.
“Titan,” he replied in a horrific hiss, clearly recognizing me. While I was flattered that a monster knew me, I didn’t like the implications. It wasn’t just a beast running on instinct, it was clearly intelligent.
“If you know me,” I shouted, “You know what I can do. Time to let go of the kid.”
Eldritch didn’t answer and instead brought a hand up, demolishing a two story storefront in the process. A massive step forward shook the ground around me and then the arm came down with alarming speed.
There was that burst of speed that Dragoon warned me about.
Raising both hands, I engaged the reaction and let a geyser of molten silicon carve into the end of his hand, reducing a huge swath of growth to dust. Eldritch didn’t recoil but instead roared with frustration and swung his hand back, letting his tendrils extend and shred through the next door building. Igniting the reaction forward, I jumped and pushed myself away from the whipping tendrils and debris storm he was bringing with. Swiping my hand below me, I allowed the energy to change the state from liquid to solid, making me a silver colored ramp of elemental silicon that I took to the ground. Pointing back, I let fly another jet of molten sludge and ripped a chunk from his arm.
He lifted his right arm and jammed it into a building, his tentacles grabbing a swath of debris; in a huge motion, Eldritch launched a storm of shredded metal, rock, and glass in my direction. Raising my hands, I let fly a molten reply to melt away whatever would hit me.
On your left.
Instinctually now I listened to the voice in my head; it functioned as a kind of rudimentary danger sense that gave me about a one second warning. While it wasn’t usually specific, it usually didn’t need to be. Twisting on the spot and blasting, I disintegrated a twisted mass of flesh that Eldritch had sent hunting. Another earthquake heralded the monster getting closer, his left arm crashing down on me.
There was a sound like an acetylene torch being ignited as the air erupted in front of my palm and shot up into his massive appendage, obliterating swaths of growth as he tried to flatten me.
Acid, coming down.
Focusing, I twisted my other hand and ignited the air around me, forming a protective bubble of molten matter around me. Most assumed I had to direct the flow of my material from my palms, but the truth was I could ignite the reaction anywhere within a hundred or so meters of myself. But like all Projector Adaptations, range came with an exponential cost in effort. Making a little bubble around myself though, that wasn’t too bad.
The acid splashed against the surface but evaporated when it came into contact with a slurry of three-thousand degree metal. I channeled the energy of the reaction into a kinetic flow, creating a small whirlpool around me of molten silicon.
Eldritch pulled his arm back and took a step away from me, clearly not enthused about much of his hand being burned away.
I pressed the attack, running forward and letting a molten torrent fly, carving into the building-sized stumps that were his legs. Even though I was carving into him with a fire hydrant of molten substance, I felt like it did almost no damage before he dragged his arm through a building and brought it down on top me.
My hands turned skyward and blasted up, carving out a safe space as the rubble dropped around me. With his cover of debris, Eldritch moved back, the ground shuddering with his massive strides. The problem with me chasing was that he was moving huge distances with a single step. In two of his massive strides, he had already started turning, putting a hospital between us.
Angling my hands, I blasted behind me and launched myself forward, smashing through the glass on the second floor of the hospital, cutting through the building instead of trying to win in a straight foot race.
The building screamed as a mess of tendrils whipped down, bringing and avalanche of metal and stone with it as Eldritch slashed his elastic limb clean through the building.
Frantically, I used my power to shoot me across a surgical suite. Boring a hole through one wall, I found a window and melted my way out, constructing another slide to get me back down safely.
Around you, entities.
The gloom made them tricky to spot, but Eldritch had left behind several lumps of growth, each taking a leap towards me with arms outstretched. Mimicking Mizu, I created a golden whirlpool around me to eradicate them as they got close. As the last entity died, I used the remaining energy to blast the torrent of scalding liquid into the beast’s leg, searing off another chunk of growth.
Blasting myself forward, I fused all the air around me. Concrete and asphalt turned to liquid as a sheet of golden liquid scorched everything in the immediate vicinity. From the destruction came toxic fumes, fortunately filtered away by my gas mask. Even though I was immune to the lethal heat of the reaction I produced and could extend that immunity to things I touched, I was by no means immune to the toxic byproduct of melting down some metals and plastics.
Eldritch’s legs burned and the massive monster took a massive and hasty step away from me, off balance with hunks of legs missing. He staggered into a skyscraper and it folded under him, the glass shattering and metal digging into the layers of growth as I pressed the attack. Channeling what energy was left from the reaction, I forced the slurry to surge forward and bore into his leg, carving away another room-sized mass of flesh.
Enraged, he ripped his arm through the skyscraper and let the massive spire of glass and steel tumble down.
Using my power, I shot myself forward and left a path of melted street behind me. Running to catch myself, I focused and let my power stretch out and take hold all around. I felt the air around me buzz with energy as I fused all the available nitrogen around his leg. While it took a toll, I had made a molten whirlpool around one of Eldritch’s massive legs.
An unearthly scream rattled windows and broke my concentration as I tried to keep the twister of superheated metal churning. Even with specialized earplugs from Toolkit it was so loud I felt the oppressive sound in the rest of my body.
The molten liquid splashed down onto the street and began to cool; even though he’d interrupted me, I had destroyed half of a leg and thrown him wildly off balance. His arms tried to grab the buildings nearby, but nothing could support the momentum of a several-hundred tonne monster falling to the ground. As he fell, I turned to the other leg and immediately recoiled as it came to life.
From the limb sprang dozens of masses that spread out, running like cockroaches from a bright light. Each was about the size of an SUV and probably weighed two tonnes.
Behind the new army that had assembled, Eldritch’s body was rapidly reconstituting, shuffling mass to make up for the abrupt loss of a leg and a half. As I moved forward to try and keep him in my line of sight, my danger sense started shouting at me frantically.
Charging up behind you.
Acid spray from the right.
There were two more in front of me that my danger sense didn’t need to give me a one-second warning on. Placing both palms down, I shot myself above the charging mass and burned it to a crisp as I just cleared its hulking frame. The two bearing down on me had to avoid the massive pool of molten silicon left behind and were easy enough targets to burn to ash.
One had climbed atop a roof and was coming down; it met a fiery end as I doused it in scalding metal. Still, even with a few instantly being felled, they were everywhere and Eldritch had reformed a body, albeit much smaller that was taking off.
All around you.
An entire wave of the twisted growths charged me, most of them running headlong into the wall of wall of liquid silicon I fused into existence.
To your left, still coming.
My danger sense wasn’t lying; one of the spawn made it through, though at a cost of most of its mass. It threw itself forward and sprayed a wave of acid my way. I hastily fused the air and blasted it back, but some of the acid was missed and found my chest. While Armorsmith had reinforced my garb to be tougher than kevlar, the acid was chewing through it. I coated my hand in the glowing liquid and pressed it to my chest, evaporating the acid before it could find any flesh beneath.
Rebar, behind you.
Through the wall of superheated liquid, a sliver of metal came through; I barely managed to throw myself out of the way of the projectile and felt me control of the wall slip away. It splattered down and half a dozen beasts charged forward; it was costly to simply ignite the around around me and turn the ground into a molten pool, but it was better than letting one of these things get a hold of me.
Brick, on your right.
Acid behind you.
Two stampeding forward.
I did my best to act with a solitary second before all those warning came to fruition. A split stream of molten silicon shot into the two charging masses and slowed them down as I fused the air in front of the acid to evaporate it. As I threw myself aside, a hunk of brick slammed into my shoulder and knocked me over.
Pain shot down to my fingers as I gasped; my shoulder immediately started to stiffen and my vision blurred for a moment as my body reeled.
Three bearing down on you.
Two more throwing things behind you.
I fought through the pain and fused the air around me, immediately cooling the reaction and making a barricade of crystalline silicon; a few chunks of metal slammed against the exterior but didn’t break through. As I ran, the two entities bearing down crashed through and continued to chase like a pair of demonic hounds chasing down a meal.
A column of gold liquid reduced them to cinders.
It isn’t all gone!
I saw it too late, the onyx color of the Neklim making it nearly imperceptible against the gloom of the night: a small hand sized mass of tendrils had been tossed free of that entity. Before I could engage another reaction, it landed on my thigh and burrowed into a small tear in the stitching I didn’t even know was there. Teeth and muscle burrowed into my leg, displacing and consuming a chunk of my quadricep before I could fuse the air and and burn it free.
Five more, coming all around.
Staying out in the open any longer was suicide. There were simply too many threats coming from too many angles to reliably counter them all. Blasting the ground, I shot myself up to a three-story law firm, crashing through a window on the second floor. Another few pieces of jagged metal and concrete came flying in right behind me as I ran away; I knew full well that the aberrations of flesh would be right behind me.
Sparing a second, I looked down at my thigh, concerned at the steady flow of blood staining my pants. While I could grant select immunity to people and things I touched, I was always immune to extreme heat. It wasn’t a gift I could turn off; even though I could create a seemingly infinite supply of molten material, I could never cauterize my wounds.
I dared a few steps, feeling the muscle around it already bunching up, alreadying hindering my mobility. While I could rely on my gift to propel me around, I was already feeling the tax from this fight; I was having to work to get any meaningful damage done to the Druid since he was so damnably massive.
Using my good leg, I shoved myself away and bored through the hole with a jet of liquid metal, burning a chunk out of the monster that was aiming to rip up through the floor under me.
Window. Two of them.
Right on cue, two more hulking beasts leapt up, somehow not causing the floor to collapse under their weight as they barreled forward, each on four makeshift limbs of interwoven tentacles. Swinging my arm in an arc, I cut into the floor and got it to fall out from under the pair; they landed on another trio that were storming the first floor. With them all gathered in one spot, I bathed the lot with a deluge of superheated material.
Another four tried to assault my vantage, but with less avenues for attack, these were easier to cut down. My advantageous position coupled with my danger sense made it easy to clean up the rest of the entities that sought me out.
To your right, it’s all coming down.
“Huh?” I said aloud and then saw what the voice meant.
On the opposite side of the building was a wall of Neklim mass, and he was swinging a massive arm through the whole building. Glass, concrete, rebar, and furniture was caught up in an unstoppable flow of material.
I wasn’t fast enough to make it back out the window, and instead turned and blasted towards the arm, trying to bore a hole through the landslide Eldritch was bringing with him. Focusing, I sprayed hundreds of gallons forward, reducing tonnes of Neklim and debris to ash as I carved a path. While it worked and kept me from getting swept up in the flow, I didn’t account for the floor still being ripped out from under me.
My ankle rolled as I landed atop a heap of rubble, adding another helping of agony to the already injured leg. “Fuck. Off!” I shouted as I turned to Eldritch and fired a quintet of golden orbs, all exploding on contact and blasting hunks of excruciating metal through his body.
“Below?” In the rapidly dimming light, I saw Eldritch swipe down and let his limb extend, his hand raking through the road and remains of the building, scooping me up along with the mound of rubble. He tried to squish me, but I ignited all the nearby air, scalding his hand and forcing him to let go. Even as he did, momentum carried me up and made my head spin from the force of the acceleration.
While he wouldn’t kill me by crushing me, gravity might do the work since he had just thrown me up nearly a hundred feet.
A multi-tiered parking garage was the closest thing I could try and get to, but I was already twisting and out of control from being pitched into the sky. I tried blasting with my power to correct my momentum, but I was too disoriented.
The best I could manage to do was throw a layer of superheated liquid down to soften the impact. I ducked my chin and prayed as I landed.
Even though the asphalt was more or less soup when I hit it, I still felt my shoulder pop free of its socket as I slammed down. Several ribs probably cracked as well given the sudden flare of pain going off in my midsection.
Groaning, I reached into a pocket and snagged a little orange vial and chugged the contents; Organelle had been nice enough to make me a tincture before I came out against this monster. Given how the fight was going, I wish I had her make me more than one. It immediately relieved the pain in my midsection and I could feel my ribs adjusting back into place, but it wasn’t going to have enough kick to fix my arm and leg. Manually I shoved my arm back into socket with a cry of pain before I headed to the edge of the structure.
Eldritch was coming forward, just shorter than the six tiered parking structure and more narrow than when the night had started…but he was still so gargantuan.
“Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any for a test run.”
Reaching inside my coat, I fished out a blue tablet from my other pocket and threw it down the hatch.
Chemtrail hadn’t been sure whether he could make a pill for enhancing powers, but I had demanded he try about a month ago and keep it quiet, especially from his boss. Even though he was Beleth’s employee, he wouldn’t dare say no to me; he’d been wary when he gave it to me, insisting that it could just immediately Overexpose the user instead of providing a boost.
Given what I was fighting, it was worth the risk.
While I was used to feeling the energy of the air around me, the pill I had swallowed made it almost overwhelming. Everything almost felt wired together, all bound by strings that traced back to my fingertips. “A fucking resounding success!”
Stepping to the edge of the parking garage, I took a deep breath and felt the nitrogen collide and ignite the reaction. A fountain of superheated liquid spilled from my fingertips at an unprecedented rate, carving into Eldritch and melting through the arm he raised to defend his torso from the molten onslaught. If my standard rate of delivery was a firehose, this was a dam breaking. Tonnes of Neklim muscle burned away and Eldritch screamed in protest, almost driven back by the sheer force of liquid crashing against him.
The fact he didn’t simply reduce to nothing was troubling; he had likely mutated during the fight to be more heat resistant; his body had come to grips that it wasn’t the perfect predator and had adjusted again.
It’s all coming down again.
Eldritch tapped another burst of speed and threw himself forward. The intact arm swiped and knocked out several pillars of the parking garage before I could burn it away and have it knock the ground out from my feet…but the damage was done. The structural integrity was compromised and I felt the concrete shift and fall out from under me. With the heightened power, I could descend while hosing down Eldritch, carving away more of the immense Neklim that held my fellow Adapted captive.
Still, landing on a sprained ankle was painful.
Eldritch backed away, from me hastily, throwing out a few masses of flesh to give himself a bit of distance to run, a second boost of speed letting him actually flee as I hobbled after him. The few growths he left behind were all too easy to eradicate and purge from existence with this gross increase in power; once I was clear, I blasted myself forward, using my power for mobility in an attempt to chase down the threat to the city.
Down the street!
I barely had time to shoot myself to the side as a car whizzed by and slammed into a row of parked cars, entirely pancaking one and shoving it under the truck behind it. Down the road, Eldritch had been reduced to something the size of a large three story building, but he was lean now, and more agile. An arm extended and wrapped around another vehicle and he whipped it down the street, his elastic tendrils functioning like a slingshot.
They had to be going at least two hundred kilometers an hour and I barely managed to get out of the way by a few centimeters.
I tried to return fire, but Eldritch was a hundred meters down the road, just on the edge of my effective range, and he wasn’t giving me a chance to concentrate enough to douse him. With how fast he was whipping the cars, I couldn’t melt them down before it would crush me. Even if I ducked into a building, he could just through the car straight through with alarming accuracy.
Had he been smart enough to let me believe I had the upper hand just so he could let me to this narrow street where my ability to run was hampered?
Raising my hand, I fused a huge amount of air and cooled it into a silicon shield. With the extra power I had, I could try and weather this-
My eyes widened and I shot myself to the side as a truck blasted through, sending shards of crystalline silicon to the wind. Before I could even though to begin making another shield, Eldritch had snagged two cars and was winding up to throw them down the street.
The first I had to blast myself out of the way from, but the second was headed in line with my momentum; I dumped as much power as I could to try and quickly shift momentum. Pulling my legs in, I would just avoid catching the edge of the frame. As I made myself as small as possible, I felt something catch my foot. The side mirror had just caught my toes, but it was enough to throw me for a spin. I landed on an SUV’s windshield and felt it break under me. My vision blurred as my head smacked the tempered glass…and all the connections I could feel in the air began to wink out of existence as my focus faded.
To add insult to injury, the excess connectivity with the air around me began to fade as Chemtrail’s combat bolster faded, all tapped out from supplying my demand.
I groaned but could barely feel my arms and legs as I helplessly watched Eldritch pick up another car. The last action of the drug was to give me a warning with about two seconds to spare.
Down the road!
I didn’t need the danger sense to see what Eldritch was doing; even with a danger sense, I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it.