Honestly, Styx should have expected the explosions and fire. While he technically had been around a lot of tech-genius inventions throughout his life, especially while training with his grandfather, he had seldom actually fought against many of them. (His friend and fellow graduate, Will, from Lander’s HCP notwithstanding.) But the stereotype of Tech Super inventions being potentially explosive was pervasive enough that he should have at least kept the possibility in mind.
The previous, carefully arranged assortment of high-tech machinery that he had looked down upon was now a field of warped metal, sparking wires, and the scorched earth from the small explosions the machines had made. The areas where pulse-cannons were peaking out of the buildings windows were slightly less damaged, only a few scorched bricks to show after his shadows had cut them down.
Styx felt surprisingly… relaxed after wreaking all that destruction, almost refreshed. And now that he thought about it, outside of his extracurricular training before his fourth year and brief instances during Intramurals, it had been a while since he’d gotten to use his power like that. The obvious, and currently apparent, reason was that using his maximum potential was too lethal to use against almost anyone and caused far too much collateral damage. But he didn’t feel invigorated by it for the same reason that most others, if they had his ability, would; the satisfaction he felt was more akin to stretching one’s legs after sitting down for too long. The destruction itself held no allure and he had a strong feeling that his team would be volunteering for more construction help after this; they were known for helping every time Spectrum had to escalate, he suspected it would be no different for him.
<The Company has evacuated all civilians from the area.> Dispatch’s report was clear and concise as always. With civilians out of the way they were free to engage the threats still housed within that building.
“Reinforcements?” Styx asked.
“Should be in route already- Oh, speak of the devil.” Defensive Dugout replied just as there was another pop of displaced air, presumably indicating a small instance where the as-of-yet-unseen DVA teleporter released the anchoring, and suddenly another Hero was standing next to Styx.
The man was immediately recognizable as a shifter, wearing the same shimmery and form-fitting fabric that both Obsidian Wraith and Terram wore. Though his had a sickly yellow and white design that contrasted with the suited DVA agent that had a hand on his shoulder, ending in a swirls at the back of his gloved hands, the color scheme tempering down to a solid white for his utility belt.
“Rancid.” Styx said as a way of greeting and extended a hand towards the senior strongman of Landscape Unit. “It’s an honor to meet you, my name is Styx.”
“Likewise.” The man responded simply in a smooth baritone just as the DVA agent began to speak.
“We shouldn’t risk letting down the anchoring again, the guy in there might start to notice the brief instances of freedom. The three of you will need to finish this solo.”
Rancid nodded his head and without further prompting, shifted. It was a quick, little more than a second, blur of motion before Rancid’s body had turned into a dense, swirling yellow gas that then quickly seemed to condense into stone of a similar color. “Anything I need to know before knocking down that door?”
“There’s a neutralized teleporter and a human bodyguard inside the building who may or may not be legally contracted. If they have any other weapons in there it’ll most likely be the laser weapons we’ve seen going around town.” Defensive Dugout said.
Rancid gave a nod to his leader before leaping off of the building they were on and landing on the street below with a loud impact of cracking asphalt.
Styx knew from the fights he’d seen that Rancid was a high-end, unnatural material manipulator. With his material being gas that he could condense into an incredibly durable stone. Material and energy manipulators at level could generate, manipulate, mimic certain aspects of, and even embody what they held supremacy over. While a power like that wasn’t exactly one of a kind, though certainly rare, with such versatile forms as smoke and stone it made Rancid an exceptional Super.
His bulky stone form easily stomped over and batted away the machinery as he made his way towards the buildings front entrance. Rancid stopped short, however, when the door swung open and a man with blonde hair and a gun dragged another man outside, holding it to his head.
“Back up now and drop that fucking anchor!” The blonde haired man almost slurred as he held the groggy and slightly bleeding black man up by the scruff of his neck and pressed the barrel of the gun to his head.
“Ah, shit.” Defensive Dugout swore under her breath.
Styx saw Rancid stop his advance, but he thankfully didn’t back up or un-shift either. This was a hostage situation and you were never, ever supposed to make yourself an ignorable threat in a hostage situation. The young Hero’s mind was racing now that he saw the man’s crazed yet determined eyes while the black man with blood running down one side of his head shakily returned to fear-stricken lucidity.
It didn’t take much brains to figure out what had suddenly been sprang on the Heroes, and Styx was at least tactically smarter than most. Upon seeing that his defenses had been cut down the teleporter had decided to turn his, most likely unwitting, paid bodyguard into a hostage. Neither Defensive Dugout’s or Rancid’s abilities were suited for safely disabling him without getting the hostage killed, and neither was he with how the gun was pointed at point-blank range. Styx got the distinct feeling this man wouldn’t hesitate to shoot either, the wild and panicked look in his eyes and the almost-slurring of his voice indicated that he wasn’t exactly sound of mind. No, keeping things as a standoff and waiting for the Company to handle this would be the safer call.
Then, just as Styx had resigned himself to doing nothing, the man made a mistake. Upon seeing Rancid stand his ground, the man waved his gun in the Hero’s direction in a fit of panicked rage and screamed another threat. “I swear, if you don’t I’ll shoot this fucking ni-“
Styx nearly hesitated out of sheer surprise, but his reflexes were too well trained for him to miss the opportunity completely. With a familiar effort of will he manifested a shadow blade and quickly impaled the man’s hand, and consequently his gun, within the span of a blink; his shadows didn’t move superhumanly fast but were certainly swift and precise enough to quick strike an unsuspecting target.
Just as the man began screamed in pain mid-threat two more shadows materialized, one slicing at his calves while another snared his uninjured arm and jerked it to the side so hard he let go of the hostage and went tumbling. The hostage immediately rushed forward towards Rancid after attaining freedom, temporarily blocking the Hero’s ability to capitalize on the situation in his mad-dash for safety. Though Rancid needn’t have worried, by the time the hostage was behind him the blonde haired man with crazed eyes was already entirely bound in a tendril of shadow.
With a curt, thankful nod towards Styx, Rancid went about counseling and tending to the bleeding man that was cowering behind his stony form.
Styx nearly jumped when a hand clapped onto his shoulder.
“Nice work, rookie. That was a pretty tight shot.” Defensive Dugout said, her face beaming with a released smile.
“It’s hardly the most difficult target I’ve needed to hit.” Styx said as he reminisced about slicing rubber bullets out of the air by anticipating shots. “Regardless, I’m just glad I was able to quell this without any serious casualties.” With that he focused his attention back on the scene below. Responding to praise in such a way was something he’d long gotten used to now. His grandfather hadn’t often given praise for exceptional work, “Heroes are supposed to be exceptional by default.”, he would say. But people outside of his admittedly bubble-like childhood years expected a response like the one he’d just given, at least amongst Supers aiming to be Heroes.
Something strange in the man’s movements registered in Styx’s brain as he watched, cutting off his train of thought. He was intimately familiar with the typical screams, shrieks, shouts, grunts, cringing, and flinching that cuts from his shadow blades elicited when he cut people and the differences in those reactions depending on where he cut. But the strange jerky motions the man with blonde hair he currently had bound were completely alien to him.
The pieces fell into place when he saw the man’s neck bulge and foam start to bubble out of his mouth.