Binding Oaths – Chapter 71 | Arc-5 Erebus

The surroundings of Landscape Unit’s base was oddly serene during this particular fall afternoon; oddly absent of the usual pigeons that hung around the buildings’ top or in the lot. And the only major sound came from the occasional gust of wind as the rising sun cast the base’s shadow farther than usual, making it far more imposing.

This serenity made the sixteen strikes of amber lighting all the more outstanding, especially as one of the strikes, instead of landing in a cluster like the rest in the parking lot, hit the corner of the building. What appeared from the smoking impact was a young man with a shock of dark hair and creamy skin that had a nervous smile stretching his face as he held onto the edge with a white knuckled grip. After a moment the side of the building that he was gripping became unbearably hot, as sweltering as the hottest summer day on any place on earth, then immediately became brittlely cold a second later. Then the man let out a short, sharp whistle and then was engulfed by a bolt of amber electricity from the sky before an identical bolt of energy struck by the smoking crater of similar strikes.

“Madison, boys, you know what to do.” He said as ten men and one truly gargantuan woman with flowing, blonde hair rushed forward.

The men stopped short and took aim with sleek, see-through blasters that whined and pulsed with light as it delivered its destructive pay load before going silent. The woman however ran right to the wall, muscles in her right arm visibly bulging and undulating even beneath her thick clothing, before drawing her arm back and slamming her fist into the wall. The ten rays of energy and super strength hit proved too much for the quickly super-heated then rapidly cooled wall. It shattered in a cloud of smoldering dust and cracked metal, a result of the material being made brittle. The mini explosion also nearly blew the top off of a small sewer grate that had been flush with the now-destroyed wall.

The woman immediately jumped backwards, clearing well over twelve meters in a single bound to land behind her fellows, a nearly identical sewer grate, this one circular, was situated just a few feet behind them. The gunmen stayed to the side, most on one knee and aim trained on the door as they waited for their weapons to recharge while the other group had a willowy woman with brown locks and spread a rippling affect through the air around them. If the, admittedly well paid, gun men were more of introspective sort, then maybe they would have wondered why it was ordered that they take up formation separate from the Supers of their group, but if they were such introspective men then most wouldn’t have been here in the first place.

They didn’t have to wait long, but what greeted them was something none had expected.

Instead of the members of Landscape Unit coming charging out with powers flaring, reshaping their surroundings and as they saw fit. What emerged from the smoke were all four of them walking out steadily with yellow, stone riot shields in one hand and honest-to-god assault rifles in the other.

The men with laser rifles only had enough time for their eyes to widen, and cruelly for their weapons to charge back up just then, before the Heroes opened fire on all of them.

Some of the men had time to dodge before being mowed down, but none managed more than a few steps; the attack was just too sudden, efficient, and none had bothered to wear any significant body armor. The Heroes didn’t even pause after eliminating the regular gunmen, swinging their towards the now pale woman maintaining the distortion field, emptying the rest of their clips at them.

A couple dozen bullets hit the distortion, but stopped upon contact without moving, as if frozen in time. The act seemed to shake the Supers out of their stupor as the Heroes quickly reloaded, then the one in the front of the group stepped forward, dropping the shield and revealing the Defensive Dugout, the leader of Landscape Unit.

“Y- you’re not- “, The woman with flowing hair tried to say.

“Deactivate your powers and surrender.” Defensive Dugout said, interrupting her and keeping her gun pointed at their feet, ready to have it level in a second. “You haven’t directly attacked us yet, so we can argue to the DVA that we should take you in and have all injuries healed. If not then…” She trailed and casually gestured towards the sprawled bodies mere meters away, ground already slick with blood. “You can see how things might play out.” The senior Hero took note of the groups slightly younger members, one wearing a cloak who she wasn’t was a boy or girl, a boy with matted, blonde hair, and another boy who seemed to have little sparks of electricity buzzing around him, all at most in their late teens. She decided to slightly adjust her approach. “This isn’t a game; Heroes fight to win, and despite what the media might have you believe, we rarely fight fair if we don’t have to. This is your one and only warning; stand down.”

They were momentarily struck by the power and authority in her voice.

Landscape Unit was kind of the middle child of the Hero teams in the city; not as overtly powerful as the Pristine Strikers, not as loved as Remedy Squadron, and less of a media presence than Atomic Conjurers. Their leader was known for being professional, but that was about it, and like all Hero teams they won most of their fights. Honestly, the only reason they had decided to assault their base was because, according to Immadesco, they’d helped take out one of the gang’s major assets and that something like that couldn’t go unpunished.

Now the group of enforcers were less sure of how accurate the team’s mediocre reputation was.

Well… most of them anyway.

“Fuck you!” The clearly strong-man type woman shouted as she sauntered forward. “Who cares if you downed the fodder? We’re the ones with real power here, we got assigned to this task because our abilities counter you in every way. You think some guns are gonna change that?” She’d gotten progressively angrier during her tirade and had began stalking towards Defensive Dugout near the end.

Instead of responding, the Heroine simply leveled her gun and shot the woman in the face in one smooth motion that took barely more than a second.

The large woman stopped short in surprise that quickly turned to anger, the bullet had pinged off harmlessly, but the sudden action had made her flinch. And that anger turned into an even deeper rage as she saw the smirk on Defensive Dugout’s face, the only section of her mask that showed skin. She charged and the heroine, with a flick of her wrist, made several truck sized barriers flow up and momentarily stymie her advance.

“Wow, you were right.” Trap-Master said as Defensive Dugout ran back to their ranks, making new barriers behind her all the while. “They really are going to try the same shit everyone else has, huh? It’s too bad I had to go without my usual gadgets for this one.”  The young intern gestured toward her rather generic grey, padded costume with a grey mask, almost casually ignoring the display of powers going on mere meters away. She still sported a utility belt with a choice items reserved for this brawl. Her expression became one of mild frustration when looked back and saw that her mentor was nowhere to be found. “Hate it when he does that.” She muttered, more jealous that her power didn’t let her replicate the trick than anything else.

* * *

Yes. Finally, something they’d been prepared for.

A grin split the face of the woman with the willowy figure and long hair, hood casting a shadow on most of her face. She’d dismissed the restrictive circle she’d surrounded her allies in, allowing them to fan out and flank the enemy while she directed her power forward, like wave. The bullets had dropped to the ground harmlessly, losing all heat and momentum. Gradually the battle-field became frozen, inert in the face of her immutable power. It wasn’t time manipulation, people caught in it could starve if she left them in it, she knew that from past experience. But she personally found the distinction to be largely academic; the in-animate, organic, or any Super-variation, her power could stop anything.

But while she was more than a match for any one of the members here her main focus was to be on Rancid. Their little spy had told them that while he could “produce” more of his shift-able smoke, most of it was a direct allegory for his physical body. So, if she could freeze even half of him when he was either smoke or stone, she could effectively take him out of the entire fight.

Confidence swelled inside her as she saw Defensive Dugout make a gesture to no avail as the environment didn’t shift around, a tactic she was famous for. They’d been shaken by their initial display, especially the kid brought on to deal with Trap-Master, but now that it was power-versus-power things were different. She would deal with Defensive Dugout, Madison would handle Glacial, and they’d corner Trap-Master soon afterwards. Kale saw a few wisps of yellow smoke among the back of Landscape Unit’s ranks and she swore she could taste victory.

The crunching of gravel behind her was her only warning.

Half a second later pain wracked her body as a stone foot shatter her right shin and a fist slammed into the back of her head, ruining her concentration and sending her quickly into the land of dreams. Just before she hit the ground the woman caught sight of an innocuous, small sewer grate that was a meter or so behind her.

‘Son of a bitch.’ Were her last thoughts before everything went dark.

* * *

Glacial was starting to get antsy as he saw the huge woman casually punch away the obstacles he had grown in front of him, practically making the pillar he’d grown in front of her to explode from the force of her punch. He glanced over to see Defensive Dugout was able to shift around her barriers again and that the ground was no longer frozen in places. Good, that meant Rancid had done his job.

‘Now I just need to do mine.’ He thought, the silvery-blue of his costume’s mask shifting as his face creased with worry and his cape billowed in the wind as the strongwomen bore down on him. She would have been in arms reach already if not for how slick his power made the ground; every surface, except for directly under his feet, for several dozen meters around was covered in a layer of ice-like substance. With a mental gesture he made two pillars jut out, striking her from both sides pincer-style. She grunted from the impact, but casually bashed away the blue structures as if they made of Styrofoam.

‘Maybe a little banter was necessary so that he could bait her into a more advantageous position?’

“Do you idiots really think you’re the first to try this ploy? Beating us at our own area manipulation game and to show up with some damage dealers?” He shouted at her, even as he made a spike rise, then curve into the back of her knee, doing no damage but tripping her up.  “We’ve beaten a dozen gangs that have tired the same tactic before and they never realize; All of our powers either ignore or negate each other already. You’re trying to beat us with what we consider a mild training exercise.” While this was only partially true, a lot of their preparedness for this day was more due to information the Subtlety Heroes had been able to gather, but his snide and condescending tone had the desired effect.

The woman’s, supposedly named Madison, neck bulged in anger and a snarl flared onto her face as, instead trying to stand back up, she dug her fingers into ice and braced her legs. With a mighty heave she launched herself forward, shattering the ice beneath herself and hurtling towards her target with nigh-blurring speed.

This rather impressive display of strength was cut short, however, as Glacial had what resembled a clamp snagged her left leg, arresting her momentum. As soon as she landed face-first, he had over six clamps rise up and grab onto the rest of her body; one on each limb, another wrapped her torso, and the last clamped around her neck. All of the them began spread the substance across her body, attempting to encase her.

It wasn’t enough.

His material was as tough as it looked, and while several inches of ice could easily hold any normal person, it was barely a stop gap for someone like her. It would hold her for four seconds, five at most. So, it was testament to how well Trap-Master had been trained to capitalize on an opportunity when she rushed in, able to run at a full sprint as Glacial cleared the path for her, and shoved a small, black cylinder into the woman’s mouth.

“Ayreh Feek!” She shouted an Arabic curse as she ran away and the cylinder began spewing gas directly down the other woman’s throat, the smoke was grey, tinged with white and smelled odd.

The strongwoman involuntarily bit down on the canister before spitting it out and finally breaking free of her icy restraints. Her eyes seemed to be red and puffy she suffered a short coughing fit, steeled her expression and managed to steps, before she was wracked with body-spasming wheezes before collapsing face-first to the ground.

Glacial set to work with giving her body a more thorough coating while Trap-Master kept her momentum and chased after the last of the gang.

* * *

Mark was running for his life. Shit, he couldn’t believe things had gone so wrong. He pumped his legs as hard and fast as he could, wind whipping through his hair as he navigated the field of partial shields Defensive Dugout had created.

He looked over, wild eyed, to see that the leader of the team had even captured Jared, their transport guy. He was stuck in a dome, lightning uselessly slamming into it from above. It did damage, but the Heroine was mending the damage faster than strikes dished out. It wasn’t see-through and looked to be air-tight, he’d collapse from oxygen deprivation eventually.

In a desperate move, Mark flung his arm towards her, mentally commanding three shards of glass to fly out of that sleeve and zoom towards her. Defensive Dugout raised a barrier and deflected the attack with almost contemptuous ease.

This. This was why he’d been so worried once Trap-Master had come out without her suit on. He was practically useless against the rest of them, and Glacial was too far away to make accurate shots on. The best he could hope for was to either run or to get to the hole they’d made and use the shattered glass there.

‘I just need to get clear. None of them have super-speed and I know this city.’ Mark thought before a piercing yell made a pit form in his stomach, the shards of glass under his clothes shifting around.

“Where do you think you’re going, sharmouta?!” Trap-Master shouted as she jumped on top of a barrier near to him and shot at his feet, forcing Mark to take several steps back, and dropped down behind a barrier before he could retaliate.

He hated that, she was obviously using those insults just to dig at them and what they stood for. And the worst part of it all was how it still managed to get under his skin despite knowing that, especially when she sounded so god-damned giddy about it.

“What happened to that bulky suit you wore after Alexander kicked your ass?!” Mark shouted right back as he hid behind a shield, waiting for her to try flanking him, three shards already floating around him.

“Ah, you how it is.” Came the young woman’s reply, her voice far too close for comfort. “Some information got leaked about a glass manipulator being recruited. And I figured it’d be smart to shelf the power-suit for this one.”

Mark spun towards the source, but still didn’t have a sight on her.

“And judging by the frustrated look on your face, I’m guessing you’ve realized that these older ear-piece models don’t use glass in any substantial amount.” He could hear the smirk in her voice now, and with a jolt Mark noted the yellow smoke creeping further towards him. He was taking nervous breaths now, somehow coming too quickly and not fast enough. Trap-Master wasn’t popping out and Rancid, someone he had no way in Hell of hurting, was mere feet away, and he doubted he could out run either of them. Sweat started form on his brow and drip down as he realized he had only one real course of action left to take.

So, Mark did what was arguably his smartest decision in months.

“I surrender.” Mark said as he got on his knees, put his hands behind his head, and mentally maneuvered all the glass shards he’d been carrying onto the ground.

With a shuddering sigh he finally relaxed as he felt stone restraints form around his wrists and ankles instead of the agony of a gunshot.

~ ~ ~

“How do you think the Pristine Strikers are doing?” Trap-Master asked, adaptive combat rife laying at her feet with the safety on, stretching her legs with obvious relief as the DVA containment crew were carting away the gang members. She pointedly didn’t let her eyes linger on the bodies for too long, the smell was bad enough.

“Well,” Rancid started off. “They’re not as flexible, power-wise, as we are. So whatever curveball they’ve been thrown might be throwing them more off kilter than it did us. Honestly the thing I’d most expect a team like them to do in this situation would be-“

His explanation was interrupted by a display of electricity on the horizon, like an inverse lightning strike as a singular, blue-white bolt flashed upwards to one of the few clouds in the sunny sky.

“To call in outside help?” Trap-Master finished for her mentor.

* * * *

Author’s Note: Discussion and criticism of my work is encouraged and appreciated.

Binding Oaths - Chapter 70 | Arc-5 Erebus

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