If Dave was a more introspective person, or didn’t currently have a mind-numbingly addictive drug burning through his system, that might have made him pause for thought. Instead, he simply shook off the debris and ignored his many injuries that were slowly healing as he let the exaltation consume him once more.
He’d been so unsure of himself before, so weak, even though he’d always been an exceptional Super; the mere thought of attracting the attention of Heroes had been terrifying. They’d seemed indomitable before, and his previous boss’s nearly threatening warnings to use his power sparingly because of his size hadn’t helped either.
But then he’d joined up with the White Boars. They were mostly just a bunch of wannabes and upstarts, which made it all the easier to rise up the ranks with his power. The pay being exceptional hadn’t been half bad either.
It had still been just another gang back then though, with same exact shit excuses from the lieutenants: “Don’t use your power in public.”, “Don’t stay changed for too long.”, “Don’t let anyone not part of the gang see your face when you change back.”.
With, “Don’t go out bragging or your dead.”, being a terrifying new one.
This had gone on for months before he’d been recognized by the boss, guy called himself “Immadesco” and dressed in a pretentious looking red suit all the time. Dave kept his mouth shut during the meeting regardless though, he was a grunt, but not stupid. The rumors about what happened to those that disrespected or deserted the Boss was pretty much shared as dogma throughout the gang.
Boss had wanted to reward him with a new “serum” that had some weird Greek sounding name, meant to enhance a person’s power without needing a true Enhancing Super on hand. Dave would have called bullshit on anyone else and told them to test their new drug on some other chump with nothing to lose. But it was made pretty clear that his reward was not optional. Besides, the dosage was pretty small anyway, barely enough to fill a shot-glass.
The one thing Dave hadn’t expected when he was ordered to take it while in the warehouse with Immadesco was for the unassuming and small amount of liquid to actually work.
All the apprehension of being ordered to meet with his boss and the fear of having to test some shady drug melted away instantly. Dave’s ever-increasing friction with his cousins in the south, his debt, the constant paranoia over getting stabbed in the back again; all of the usual and ever-present worries in his mind simply melted away at the feeling of the dull-brown liquid flowing down his throat.
But then he felt lost. He felt like he needed to do something, that he needed someone to help him. He should be doing something with his new-found freedom, shouldn’t he? Then Immadesco had opened one of the larger doors and given him one simple order, “Go wild.”. His thin nasally voice slid over Dave’s mind and he was out the door and shifting into his Minotaur form, disregarding his clothes as they ripped from his expanding frame and muscle. Every citizen in the nearby harbor could hear him scream in rapture as he charged forward, but none were prepared for the destruction that followed.
Dave finally blinked the rest of the cement dust out of his eye’s as he lumbered forward before truly getting into his stride again, surprisingly nimble despite the muscled and bulky appearance of his shifted form. His bovine red eyes flared in their relatively tiny sockets as he spotted a small car driving recklessly a few blocks away right before he dug his hooves in and gave chase.
He easily caught up to the speeding silver vehicle, his long digitigrade legs moved with unnatural speed as he prepared to charge right over and crush the screaming motorist, his gaze focused solely on the road immediately in front of them.
Which made it all the more surprising when a dark purple blur, barely perceptible against the night sky, streaked down and slammed into his chest. The blow actually managing to knock him unto his back where he could now clearly see the imposing form of Obsidian-Wraith herself glaring down at him.
“Alright, Heffer, give up now and- !”, she started shouting before Dave rolled back to his feet, either ignoring or not registering the pain of his obviously broken sternum, and made a hasty swipe at the floating Hero.
She simply glided back from the awkward strike and waited in midair with her arms crossed as Dave raged and prepared to charge again. But was yet again sent stumbling as a similar but less powerful force cracked against the back of his head.
He spun wildly in response to the sudden attack and actually felt his elbow clip something as he turned and was just in time to see a figure in a blue and gold suit go careening through a house’s shingles. Dave felt another blow to his left arm, but didn’t deign to acknowledge it as he concentrated on the burning that built in his chest then quickly traveled up and through his mouth in a gout of violet-flame and swiveled his head every which way, melting off sections of masonry on a few unlucky buildings.
The experienced Heroine flitted away from the sudden and unnatural blaze, waiting for him to either stop or find an opening in his seemingly random attack pattern.
Dave spun his head once he caught sight of her and tried to concentrate his rarely used power on the flying figure right when, “*Gucck!*”, he gagged upon having felt something small and hard go through the front of his neck and down his throat. He immediately clasped his hand around the source of the sudden sensation of a hole in his trachea as half-a-dozen solid black balls surrounded by halos of light shallowly punctured his chest and legs, leaving small but visibly bleeding holes across his front.
After realizing that the neck injury was nothing lethal or crippling Dave quickly brought his arms up to ward off the other shots and searched for the source of the nuisance and found a hulking grey figure clinging to the side of a nearby building.
The Minotaur snarled and a small part of his mind recognized the creature as a Hero named “Hugh” right before the famous Shifter’s eyes flashed with a baleful light and he felt horrible. His body now ached and sweated as if he’d run a marathon and his mind felt strained and tired, barely able to stay on his feet, the criminal Super stumbled lightly and nearly toppled when a volley of bright yellow energy orbs slammed into his chest and caused him to spasm to his knees.
Still not registering the pain and injuries on him but feeling the affects of the precious liquid start to wane as the damage mounted faster than his regeneration could counter. He took a step forward then grunted in surprise as the joint in his right leg suddenly wavered at an unnatural angled.
He looked down and saw a small figure in a red and silver costume was on his knee and had slammed a gleaming blade into his kneecap while another Hero in orchid armor was directing a group of floating blades to try and cut his joints. The smaller one’s masked face looked up and then she blurred away in a burst of speed before the Minotaur got a chance to grab for her. Instead he went for the more heavily armored one, but soon had to defend his face as she sent all of her gleaming spinning blades up to attack his eyes and nose, by the time he had batted them all away and looked back she was already gone.
What can only be described as a battle-cry was all the warning he got before the heroine in the gleaming suit that he had clipped came soaring through the air and landed a haymaker directly across his jaw, no longer concerned with holding back, and managed to knock-out more than a few fist-sized teeth.
For the first time in the whole battle, Dave screamed.
Not in pain, but in terror as the fear and anxiety the drink had taken away began to come back in full force. Suddenly his mind became focused on retreat and he remembered that he was part of a gang and angled himself toward where he thought one of the bases would be in this section of the city.
They could help him, they would help him. Help him kill these Heroes and then give him more of the bliss and strength inducing serum that made him stronger than ever.
The fact that Dave wasn’t actually any larger or stronger than usual was a piece of introspection he wasn’t presently capable of.
Dave crouched and tensed the muscles in his legs, the various injuries along them being exacerbated and bleeding more profusely. He jumped with as much force he could muster and sailed down the street, feeling various blasts and shots hit his back as he flew, before slamming into and cracking the street with his landing and running in almost a scramble on all fours.
He barreled down two blocks like a freight train towards where he thought the nearest White Boar base would be and dimly noted that a clog of traffic was coming up fast in his path. Dave eye’s flicked to the top of a small apartment complex right at the edge of the traffic jam and saw a lone figure standing there. Another Hero clad in what looked like a gleaming black suit of armor just stood there with his arms out towards him, not moving or even making a sound, just standing there. Dave let out sound between a snort and a chortle as he got closer.
‘No way he can stop me…’, Dave’s now less drug addled brain slurred in thought. ‘That purple bitch caught me when I was just playing, but I’ve got real speed now.’, with a slightly more solid thought in mind Dave squared his shoulders and increased his speed.
Then the darkness came alive and attacked him.
Dozens of shadows from parked cars, buildings, lampposts, and benches leapt forward as deadly blades that wrapped around and cut deep into the Minotaur’s ankles, largely circumventing his momentum and causing him to slam face first into the street with a tremendous crash.
Before he could even gather his thoughts the shadows from six different alleys rose in the form of massive bladed hands and lashed out, latching onto Dave with deep lacerating and bloody grips before lifting him bodily into the air. More shadows came then and the ones already upon him began to widen.
The Minotaur tried to flail, but four of the six shadow hands easily arrested his motion, the others that had truly gouged his ankles had let go and were joining all the new ones in curling around him, swarming all around until his vision was filled with spinning blades of animated shadow.
Dave’s last acts of defiance were to breath violet fire again and simply try to brute force his way out of the animated darkness containing him. Hope blossomed within him briefly as his fire burned a clear hole through all the shadow constructs, but soon died as a shadowy hand took hold of his head from behind, preventing him from turning his head and burning the rest or any buildings. His attempt at using pure strength to brake free proved to be just as useless, some of his muscles even seemed completely unresponsive as the storm of shadows continued to stab and slash.
Suddenly Dave felt something through the liquid in his body that had made him impervious to pain, a small but sharp tugging sensation in his lower back which was followed quickly by his entire body going limp and his fire-breath dying away as the shadows consumed him again.
‘No, I won’t fail. I can’t fail. I’m… supposed to. Supposed to do?’, were Dave’s thoughts as the last vestiges of the serum began to wear off. ‘Oh god… I’m going to die. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.’, he wept all the way into unconsciousness as his form finally shuddered and began to shrink and the shadows stilled.
* * *
Shane would never complain about guard duty for fleeing civilians being boring after tonight.
Styx had almost his entire being focused on maintaining the sphere of flowing and cutting shadow blades that contained his target. The criminal breathing god damned fire again had caused a small part of him to panic, but his plan to just hold the Minotaur’s head still and keep cutting into any ligaments he could find had payed off.
So distracted Styx was that he almost doesn’t notice his teammates traversing the rooftops towards his guard position, he snickered behind his mask as he saw Samshiel riding Hugh’s back.
“You got him Styx?”, his mentor asked with a surprising amount of concern in his voice as he watched his Intern hold his arms out, hands clenched into fists. The gesture was at least familiar, he’d noticed before that Styx used hand gestures when doing things that were both large scale and complex.
“…He’s still squirming.”, Styx’s voice was visibly strained, but nothing that was immediate cause for concern, “But he can’t break out and I think I can take him non-lethally.”. Not three seconds later Styx suddenly un-clenched his hands and every shadow seemed to freeze in place, save for a few that were still shifting slightly. “…Alright, yeah. He’s shifted back and seems to be unconscious now.”, he informed his team as the sphere of deadly shadow constructs unraveled to show the ferocious minotaur was gone and a heavily built and completely bald middle-aged man had taken his place on top of a platform of shadow. His body was crisscrossed with multiple lacerations across his torso, arms, and legs; but the man seemed alive, nor did his injuries look life threatening.
“Holy shit.”, Styx heard Samshiel whisper fiercely before Dispatch spoke up in all of their ears.
<Situation status acknowledged. DVA personnel with the proper containment gear is inbound. Watch over the target for signs of awakening and use proper amount of force to re-neutralize.>, Dispatch spoke in a calm and crisp voice that brokered no argument.
“You heard the lady!”, Spectrum barked out in a tone that brought every Intern to attention, “Hughs and Obsidian; I want you two standing guard, weaken and knock him out again if he tries anything funny.”. Both Heroes gave curt nods before jumping off of the apartment building they were all on and down towards the slightly raised shadow platform that Styx had moved next to the sidewalk for their convenience, and so that they didn’t have to step in all the blood.
As Styx let go of all of his shadows and focused his attention on putting the criminal Super in a cylindrical shadow from the neck down, lose enough to not aggravate any injuries but certainly small enough to make shifting a very bad idea, he decided to take a quick look at all his fellow Interns.
Simikiel had a deep scowl on her face as her fists shook in frustration, Gadreel had her face downcast and seemed to shy away from them, and Samshiel was staring wide-eyed at the criminal’s rather gruesome looking injuries, his face paling significantly when his gaze strayed too long on the veritable shallow-pond of blood that had come from the massive Minotaur’s form, with bits of hacked off skin floating on its surface.
For his part, Styx merely felt unsettled at having mutilated another human being and was dreading the inevitable debriefing and the media fallout, ‘Well, things could be worse. At least none of us died; it’s more than some Interns in their first team battle could say.’