Startled cries and shouts of surprise suddenly filled the observation lounge as the greasy haired man in the expensive suit was lifted from the floor and slammed into the wall by an invisible force. It had been many years since the last time Kathryn Jilles had been required to use her powers in any kind of crisis situation, and a small smile creased her lips upon seeing that her reaction time had not yet dulled.
“What is the meaning of this?” Any follow ups to the indignant question thrown at the Dean by Jeremy Kreid were silenced by the sudden presence of the powerfully built Close Combat Instructor behind the politician’s assistant, and a heavy hand on the smaller man’s shoulder forcing him back into his chair. The outraged look on Kreid’s face was quickly washed away by a painful grimace as the bald Instructor tightened his grip to ensure silence from his new detainee.
“Who are you?” The petite Dean completely ignored the chaos in the room as the assembled freshmen witnessed the apparently unprovoked attack on the weasely politician.
The brown haired man pinned to the wall struggled vainly to free himself, but with the blanket of telekinetic energy pinning him so thoroughly he could barely wiggle his fingers and draw breath. “This is why plan B sucks…” The air of confusion in the room redoubled as the voice emerging from the straining man’s lips bore no similarities to that of Walter Raines.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“No, I suppose it doesn’t. Walter sends his regards.” The imposter’s struggling finally ceased and he relaxed against the wall behind him and the invisible energy that held him aloft.
“We’ll have to run along and meet with Mr Raines once the introductions are finished.” There was no outward change in the Dean’s stance or demeanor, but the energy holding the pinned man in place began to slowly twist his left arm in an excruciatingly meaningful way.
“And this is why plan B sucks.” The brown haired man closed his eyes and took in a deep sucking breath as he grimaced in pain, before letting out an inhuman, ear piercing whistle.
The world in front of the Dean exploded into blinding white blankness an instant before a nearly deafening concussion in the enclosed room staggered her from her feet. Half blind with ears ringing, the petite woman pulled herself up just in time to see the Combat Instructor collide with the room’s rapidly closing door. Over the intense buzzing from what was likely a pair of burst eardrums, a cacophony of alarms, sirens, and klaxons could be faintly heard in the room. Kathryn could see that Rachd was yelling something in her direction, but she couldn’t make out the words until a mountain of human muscle in the form of Tasha Johnson stepped in front of her to place a hand briefly on her shoulder.
“WHY THE FUCK IS THE DOOR LOCKED?”
Now that the petite woman could hear clearly again, she could pick out five distinct alarms all sounding at once. Radiation hazard, biological hazard, chemical hazard, fire hazard, and attempted electronic security breach. Somehow the imposter had managed to trigger every major alarm system in the HCP facility at the same time. The suddenly overloaded system would probably be locked down until it could manage to reboot, which would include all reinforced entryways into areas with upper level computer access. Areas like the observation lounge the Dean and the Combat Instructor suddenly found themselves trapped in.
An angry snarl crossed the Dean’s face as she realized how perfectly she had played into the imposter’s contingency plan for escape. With a new burst of telekinetic energy Kathryn unraveled the pair of Mirror’s duplicates still present in the room making her telepathy nearly useless. With luck she could at least find the escaping man and find some way to stall his exit from the facility. A surprised smile replaced the angry expression on her face as she discovered not one, but two minds running quickly from the observation lounge.
“Ms Casse made it out before the door sealed and is in close pursuit. Our imposter seems to have taken a wrong turn and is heading towards the fitness center instead of a more viable escape path.”
“That’s me, Dean Jilles.” The petite woman looked to her side in surprise at the younger telepath’s mental statement. “I’ve been whispering wrong directions at him from the moment Antoin got me off my ass. And correct directions at Erin. Dani and Mirror both tell me to tell you that they are on the move to intercept as well, but Erin’s by far the closest with all the weird lockdowns going on.”
“Kathy, get on the console and get this damned door open and Casse won’t be the ONLY one trying to stop that son of a bitch!” The Dean sighed as James Rachd emphasized his statement with another useless hammer fist to the nearly impenetrable door.
“I won’t have any access for at least another thirty seconds while the system resets…” Kathryn Jilles trailed off as one of the smaller students moved quickly to the door next to the enraged Combat Instructor.
“Thank you, Sweet Lord, for electromagnetic locks.” With those whispered words, the small form of Scott Jameson placed his hands against the door as high and low as he could reach, and closed his eyes. The room full of recovering students gave a nearly synchronized startled jump when the sandy haired boy let loose a primal scream, which was immediately followed by an incredibly loud crash as the massive door was blasted from it’s track to impact the far wall.
“You should go…” Scott’s voice trailed off as he collapsed, apparently having strained himself to the point of losing consciousness. Rachd didn’t hesitate for even a second before he took off down the corridor at an inhuman pace, guided by a quiet telepathic voice in his head.
Kathryn felt herself relax the smallest bit, having full confidence in the ability of the Close Combat Instructor to catch and detain the escaping imposter, and began to survey the injuries still present from the flash and incendiary grenades employed in the man’s escape. Before she could manage more than noting a few students were still unmoving, a strangled scream drew the woman’s attention. Kathryn’s eyes went wide as she realized the scream had come from Catalina Blake, the first time the woman could remember hearing the girl use her physical voice in her time at Overton. The older telepath quickly tracked the stricken girl’s gaze to the image on the monitor, and was forced to choke down a cry of her own at the scene unfolding there.
The young woman quickened her stride just a little more as she continued to gain on her quarry, the silent whispering of her friend inside her mind confirming what her senses were already telling her. The heat trail left by the wounded man was a vivid track to follow that grew warmer with each step, the echoes of his footsteps from just around the next corner were visible distortions of the world in front of her that gave away the man’s location far more accurately than the telepath offering directions. Erin smiled as she rounded the corner to note that the footfalls had stopped. Twenty steps ahead waited an intersection with another hallway, her target was laying in wait for her on the right side.
The transparent girl hardly slowed her nearly inhuman pace as she approached the intersection. At the last instant she bent at an impossible angle and whipped her lower body into a slide that took her underneath her ambushing foe’s slashing strike. Using what remained of her momentum the young woman threw a vicious rising kick into the man’s midsection, sending him tumbling airborne and back down the hallway. Wheezing slightly, her opponent rolled quickly back to his feet and produced a second stiletto like blade from the tattered remains of the jacket he wore.
The light around Erin began to dance and distort in a nauseating pattern as she calmly approached the waiting man. He was now considerably taller than she was, standing close to seven feet by her estimation. His limbs were slightly longer than normal for a typical human, and there were no remaining traces of the damage done to his arms when he had triggered the concealed flash grenades back in the observation lounge.
Great, he’s a shape changer that can heal himself. She noted that each breath the man took was still causing him to wince slightly, though he tried to conceal the pain. Doesn’t seem to be able to increase his actual body mass though, or cancel out his pain response. A plan crystallized in the young woman’s mind as she shifted forward to close the remaining distance in a lunge.
Her opponent responded by cutting towards the center of her body, the easiest point to estimate when facing the light distorting girl, and an attack she expected. The angle of attack, reversing the elbow joint as he swung, was hardly something to surprise the young woman as she bent her own spine at an angle that would make most felines jealous, easily sliding around the rapid slash and responding by snapping out one of her tactical batons to slam into her off-balance foe’s kneecap.
The mystery man staggered back with a gasp of pain, but the shattered joint seemed to reform quickly and Erin retreated from a rapid flurry of knife cuts and feints.
“You really think you have what it takes to play in the big leagues, kid? Why don’t you run along and fetch one of the teachers.”
Erin responded by snapping out the second baton and smiling coldly at her opponent. “Just tell me when you’re ready for the hurting to stop.”
The man snarled and tensed to lunge forward, but just before the young woman could move to meet him her exceptional vision noted a rapidly approaching distortion on the far side of the wall to her right. Acting on instinct, she dove away from her opponent’s charge as he attempted to catch her in a rush. The wall to the man’s side exploded outward with incredible force, the unsuspecting shape changer was caught and knocked from his feet by the shower of debris. Face twisted in a mask of rage, the man lunged to his feet and thrust a blade towards the head of the silhouette visible in the cloud of dust.
Rage turned to fear as the knife was calmly intercepted by a large hand, snapping the blade cleanly from the hilt and thrusting forward to grip the man’s hand with crushing force. A desperate attempt was made to bring the second knife to bear, but Rachd countered by simply swinging the trapped man into the wall with enough force to crack several bones, and send the remaining weapon skittering down the corridor to rest near Erin’s feet.
“Casse, why the hell is this piece of shit still conscious?”
“He’s a shape changer coach. He keeps putting himself back together.”
“Ah. Good to know.” The muscular man turned to look down at the winded form on the ground, before viciously stomping both the man’s legs to paste. “If h-…”
“Come quickly, they need help in the simulation room!” Rachd’s statement was cut off by the urgent, anxiety filled voice that echoed clearly through his and Erin’s minds.
“Casse, watch this trash. If he starts to heal, break him some more. If he starts to get up, kill him.” With those words, the bald Combat Instructor took off down the hallway that would take him to the simulation room. Loud and heartfelt profanity echoed back down the hall as he received a telepathic update on what was happening at his destination.
Seeing a window for escape, the mangled form on the ground began to slowly reassemble its shattered legs, only to break off in a cry of agony as a heavy baton smashed repeatedly down into the biological reconstruction. “Don’t do that.” The girl’s voice was completely emotionless as she stood over the mangled man’s body.
“Or what, little girl? You really think you can kill me like teacher says?” The man managed to use his mostly undamaged arm so he could roll himself over to look up at the still transparent girl standing above him. “You know the first kill is by far the hardest. Think you even have it in you?”
Erin leaned down close to the man, her usual color returning so that the man could clearly make out the dead expression on her face and the humorless smile on her lips. His head was suddenly forced back as the razor sharp edge of his own fallen blade was pressed up and into his chin, hard enough to scrape bone. The cold, calculating tone of her next words cut through his facade of confidence, and elicited an actual whimper of terror.
“Don’t flatter yourself, you’d hardly be my first.”
Amelia Jacobson stood over her vanquished metal opponent, arms upraised in victory. She was grinning like a fool in the direction she thought the camera was, and reveling in her moment of triumph. After a few seconds, she dropped her arms and offered instead an impatient expression of crossed arms while tapping one foot. It seemed to the skinny blonde girl that her partner was spending too much time celebrating instead of returning so that the two of them could finish off their second target and get on to the REAL party.
The immense room around Amelia suddenly blared with an incredibly loud collection of whistles, sirens, and klaxons all sounding at once. The powerful young woman’s involuntary flinch at the sudden raucous alarms probably saved her life.
A line of painful fire tore across the blonde girl’s ear and seared along her cheek, whipping her off balance and turning her halfway around to see the second RCU cresting a small hill several hundred yards away. The large cannon mounted on its shoulder gleamed in the artificial light, as the thunderous booming sound reached the startled girl almost a full second after the near miss grazed her head. Acting on a desperate hunch, Amelia quickly threw herself at the mangled, armored, legs of the first RCU, attempting to pull them between herself and her second robotic opponent as it began a rapid fire volley of high speed kinetic slugs from the 20mm autocannon.
The skinny girl almost managed to pull the armored limbs into place before her distant opponent could track to her new, lower profile on the ground. Almost. The hypersonic rounds tore into her right side in a blinding cloud of agony and blood, the powerful girl letting out a pained scream as her right arm was mangled and armor piercing rounds cracked off her ribs with enough force to vaporize the flesh immediately around the wounds. Forcing herself to act through the pain, Amelia rolled to bring her left arm up and hug the heavily armored remains close to her, peeking underneath the leg to view the feet of her distant foe as it slowly approached her impromptu bunker. Short bursts from the powerful cannon hammered into her improvised shelter every couple seconds, the AI operating the RCU working to keep the dangerous woman pinned down as it slowly approached to get a better firing angle. The powerful blond bit down on her lip as she forced herself to focus through the pain, feeling her blood slowly leaking out onto the destroyed pavement, and biding her time until the machine came close enough for one desperate attempt to close the gap.
Collin’s attention was pulled sharply away from the injured teleporter and the Japanese healer he was assisting by a strangled scream behind him. Spinning quickly, the muscular youth nearly toppled in surprise as he realized that the scream had come from Catalina Blake, and it had come from her mouth instead of her mind. Taking in the image on the screen that seemed to have provoked the reaction, Collin felt the blood drain from his face in shock. The monitor displayed the image of Amelia Jacobson, the most powerful student in the freshman class, huddled next to the mangled legs of her first robotic opponent, lying in a rapidly spreading pool of blood. The alternating camera views, still operating on automatic with no input coming from the control consoles, switched to show the approaching RCU as it laid down suppressing fire on Amelia’s position.
Thinking quickly the muscular red headed youth sought and found Beulah Abbott before the dark haired girl could vanish from the room. A quick lunge caught hold of her arm as she recovered from her own shock at the events that had unfolded.
“Let me go, dammit, I’m going to go save my partner!”
“Take me with you.” Beulah stared in open mouthed surprise at his quiet, immediate response. “You’re fast, but you aren’t fast enough to get in and out between bullets. Drop me on that thing and then get her out.”
“If it dropped her, you really think you can take it?”
“I can distract it so that you can get her out.”
“No.” Both turned at the sudden arrival of Tasha Johnson. “Take both of us. Drop Collin on top of it to get its attention, then get me over to Ames. I can get her back on her feet, and she can rip it apart just like she did the first one.”
“Can you handle the extra weight if I go in shifted?” Collin saw no point in arguing with the giantess healer, particularly as her plan seemed more thought out that his own.
“I’ll manage.” The look of steely determination in the Israeli girl’s eyes left no doubt that she would rise to the challenge. “Ready?”
“Ready.” Tasha reached forward to grasp Beulah’s hand as she spoke. A moment later a massive crystal hand covered both girls’ and the inhuman form that had replaced the muscular young man nodded its assent.
The world around Collin seemed to shatter, with the fragments spinning a moment to reform into a new picture. One that seemed to be about fifty feet off the ground and falling fast. “Kick its ass, Collin.” Tasha’s words were barely out before the two women vanished to leave the massive crystalline form to smash into its robotic target from above.
Immediately upon impact, Collin swung his right arm with all the inhuman force he could muster into the anti armor cannon beneath him. The weaker plating covering the top of the weapon buckled under his considerable strength, and his fist crushed its way through the deadly weapon with a muted explosion as the rupturing ammo feed exploded under the force of his strike.
Collin found himself flipped to the ground by the RCU’s hydraulic arm as it staggered under the force of his surprise attack. He noted grimly that his right hand had been largely destroyed by his own attack, but rushed quickly to close the distance with his larger robotic opponent. Like the machine he faced, his shifted form didn’t feel pain of any kind. The only real concern for the loss of his hand was the reduction in dexterity, reach, and mass he had to account for. The RCU opened fire with the smaller hip mounted machine guns, but even loaded with armor piercing rounds the small caliber ammunition wasn’t much of a deterrent for Collins’s incredibly durable form. A quick series of sweeping strikes and both smaller weapons were mangled to uselessness, though the Shifter paid for his successful assault when another heavy robotic hand sent him spinning into the dirt several yards away. Again the crystal form rolled easily to its feet to return quickly to the fray. Collin noted that the heavy strikes from the robot’s massive arms were more than sufficient to damage his powerful form, he would need to be more evasive now that the primary ranged threats were disabled if he wanted to keep the RCU’s attention long enough for Amelia to rejoin the fray.
An explosion from behind him; the direction of the first RCU, Amelia, and her would-be rescuers; sent a lance of fear through the Shifter’s mind as he closed again with his mechanized opponent. He had no time to spare a look after his friends’ status if he was to keep his current foe occupied for long. Collin ducked under a sweeping strike and pummeled into the robot’s motorized knee joint before rolling back to evade a crushing overhand blow, and prayed silently that the explosion was somehow not in the vicinity of his friends.
“And what the fuck are you supposed to be?” The tall young man in the white uniform looked up at the nine foot tall mechanized frame stalking down the hallway towards him. “You lost, tin man? Frosh’s finals are up two floors in SR1, and soph’s are down another floor and way over in the damned maze.” The robotic form turned directly to face the black haired youth, and brought the automatic weapons mounted on its waist to bear as it did so. “Now that is just impolite!”
The robot opened fire as the young man’s eyes seemed to go out of focus and take on a brilliant reflective sheen. Tiny sparks began dancing in the air between the two, accompanied by the tinkling sound of metal on metal as mangled slugs began to rain down on the floor beneath the impromptu light show.
“Dammit Cuckoo, stop messing with someone else’s toys and get out of the damned thing’s way.” The petite black woman, wearing a uniform matching the taller male’s, crossed her arms and glared at the now smirking man.
“The thing has to be broken, Bette, and you need to stop taking it out on me that you couldn’t find a decent moniker just because I came up with an awesome one.” The two were having to yell rather loudly as the robot began firing with its heavy shoulder mounted gun, raising the cacophony in the hallway to near deafening levels, but still making no progress in eliminating the white uniformed man standing before it.
“Yes, you found an out of date term for a sniper that no one else had taken because it also means ‘Crazy.’ I’m just SO jealous.”
“Dean Jilles is asking me to relay a message to you.” Both white uniformed student’s jumped in startlement at the sudden voice in their heads, Cuckoo’s focus faltering enough that he opted to leap quickly around the corner before the torrent of automatic weapon fire shredded him to a red mist.
“Shit, maybe I am crazy. I’m hearing voices now.”
“It doesn’t count if other people can hear the voices too.”
“That’s one of the RCUs that Oversight brought in to replace the freshman final.” The mental voice seemed to be straining as it interrupted the two before another argument could begin. “Someone sabotaged things and they’re all packing live ammo. We need them all neutralized before more people get injured.” The two graduates quickly sobered when the voice mentioned ‘more’ injuries.
“How neutralized are we talking about here?”
“Cuckoo, right? Dean Jilles has a message that I don’t understand, she says you’ll get it. She says ‘Maxim 34.’ Does that clear things up?”
The smile that crossed the dark haired man’s face could have lit up the darkest room imaginable. “She really said that? Consider it taken care of.”
“What the hell is a ‘Maxim 34?'” Bette asked the seemingly vanished voice in her head, then turned the same questioning look to the man standing next to her.
“It’s just a very explicit manner of giving me permission.” The young man’s eyes began to actually glow as he faced the corner being approached by his robotic target. Without bothering to wait for his opponent to come into view, an intense energy wave radiated out from the young man towards the wall. The reinforced metal surface was ripped asunder in an instant, the RCU behind the wall was hurled across the corridor in an explosion of sparks, detonating ammunition, and shattering metal. “Threat neutralized, c’mon Bette. The voice in my head said that there are more of these things!”
“It wasn’t just a voice in your head, Tom. I heard it too.”
“That might just mean I’m a contagious kind of crazy, and I’ve asked you a hundred times, don’t use my given name any more!”
The petite black woman sighed and moved to follow her excited friend. “I really don’t think we should have to use your Hero name until you actually manage to put a costume together!”
Tasha Johnson let out a startled yelp as the world reformed around her again to find nothing under her feet where she expected solid ground. The muscular healer staggered backwards, and tried in vain to catch the smaller teleporter as the shaky landing, after several rapid transports, caused Beulah to slightly miscalculate the location for the final jump and the Israeli girl pitched forward to bang her head against the broken robot legs. Hard.
“Ow.” The dark haired girl was reaching up to wipe blood from her forehead as Tasha landed on her butt with a soft thud, and a stifled laugh. The healer’s moment of levity at the messy landing fled from her face as horror descended instead as she watched the scene in front of her play out.
The badly mangled torso of RCU 1, long ignored by all present as having been fully destroyed by Amelia’s incredibly powerful assault, levered itself off the ground with its single arm to face the newly arriving pair as they landed heavily on the ground. Time seemed to slow down for Tasha as she watched the tube on its right shoulder orient towards them, and a gout of flame blew out the back. Rachd’s briefing raced through her thoughts as everything seemed to go grey around her, all her focus on the tube in front of her, about to unleash her death upon her. Javelin missile. Anti-tank weapon, firing at us. Goodbye world.Tasha started to close her eyes so that she wouldn’t witness her end coming to meet her when a blur of motion moved across her field of vision, followed by a brilliant flash. Silhouetted against the explosion, as Tasha’s vision blacked out, was the outline of a slender female figure with a disintegrating braid trailing behind it.
The creeping unconsciousness that accompanied the intense shockwave was fought off by a burst of furious adrenalized focus from the powerfully built healer. As her power went to work on her own body, her sight came back into focus on the scene in front of her. Directly before her, lacerated by dozens of small pieces of shrapnel but still breathing, the limp form of Beulah Abbott lay draped over the broken robotic legs. A short distance past the dark haired teleporter, lying in a shallow crater of obliterated pavement, was the still form of Amelia Jacobson. Tasha’s eyes widened in shock as she quickly took in the details; the powerful blonde girl’s uniform had been burned almost completely away in the explosion, the left side of her face was charred and that entire side of her body was a mass of burned, bleeding humanity. Her left arm was simply gone from a point just below the shoulder, and the devastated girl was not breathing.
Tasha moved faster than she had ever managed in her past nineteen years of life. The small teleporter was grabbed in one arm and wrapped in the most intense surge of healing energy the muscular woman had ever unleashed outside of her own body. As she skidded to a halt next to Amelia’s broken form, Beulah was laid next to the horrifically injured blonde and Tasha laid a hand on each girls’ chest. She had never before managed to heal more than one person at a time, excepting herself as one of the pair. That thought never even crossed her mind as she reached somewhere inside herself and PULLED harder than ever before. At first it was barely perceptible, an extra trickle of energy as Tasha’s healing power switched erratically back and forth between the her two friends as she tried desperately to save them both. Then more power came, then even more. It was as if a dam had burst somewhere inside the tall healer, and power cascaded out from her in a torrent that lit the two bodies before her with a visible glow. Beulah’s wounds began to recede at an incredible pace, bits of shrapnel being forced out by the deluge of restorative energy pouring into the girl. Her breathing became more even, and Tasha allowed a ghost of a smile to cross her face at the progress she was making.
But something was wrong. There was something in Amelia that was pushing back on the energy the muscular black woman was pouring into her friend. Something that was preventing Tasha from saving the skinny girl’s life.
“Dammit Ames, LET ME IN!” Tasha removed her hand from the now stable Beulah and focused her full attention on the stubborn blonde. All the healers had been made aware of Amelia’s newfound reflexive energy defense, but this was Tasha’s first experience fighting against it. The tall healer’s vision began to blur as she grew lightheaded from the effort. Intellectually, Tasha knew that she was no longer breathing correctly, she was focusing far too deeply on Amelia’s injuries and was likely putting herself at risk in doing so. Not even the tiniest portion of the muscular woman hesitated as she poured even more effort into saving her friend’s life, battering against the stubborn barrier within Amelia until even its incredible resilience began to ebb against her power. She felt the blonde girl under her draw a long, wracking breath, and from somewhere within found the will to pull even harder. No force in the world, not even the incredible power of one Amelia Jacobson, was going to prevent the amazonian healer from completing her task.
“Ms Montez, we need to get more people in there NOW!” Dean Jilles spun away from the scene playing out on the monitor before her to attempt to locate the freshman class’s second teleporter.
“She can’t help.” The response came from Kaori Kimura, her voice straining with effort, from her position kneeling next to a fallen student.
The petite Dean quickly approached the healer and looked down in shock. Teresa Montez had apparently been standing in the precise wrong place when Walter Raines’ imposter had implemented his escape plan. A deep burn covered the right side of her head, seemingly originating from the temple, where one of the flash bombs deployed as a diversionary tactic must have detonated in contact with the hispanic girl’s face. Looking at the somewhat misshapen appearance of her head, visible beneath the intently focused Japanese healer’s hands, the relatively tiny explosive had crushed the orbital bone and likely vaporized the girl’s eye. Judging from the grim expression of concentration on Kaori’s face, Teresa wouldn’t be in any kind of shape to assist in a rescue operation soon, and the petite healer wouldn’t be leaving her friend’s side until she had managed the incredibly difficult task of reconstructing the teleporter’s injured face.
Quick movement towards the door drew the Dean’s attention away from the badly wounded girl on the floor. “Where do you think you’re going?”
The two departing students turned briefly towards the Dean and spoke in almost perfect unison. “To help.” With that Ramón Carrera and Iris Todd were off faster than anyone else in the class could follow. The two were quickly pursued by nearly all the remaining freshmen.
The petite woman nodded in acknowledgement as the students ran to the aid of their classmates, and hoped that they, or the remaining Instructors, would arrive in time to make a difference in the simulation room. Kathryn closed her eyes for a moment, and sent her own consciousness searching through the facility to try and determine who was closest to being able to render aid. In seconds, she found something else of interest.
“Ms Blake, I need you to get a message to Dani and Mirror.”
“Wait… wait…” The Dean was shocked at the amount of fatigue clearly detectable in the younger telepath’s projected voice. Communicating across the HCP facility was an incredible feat, and it seemed to be taking a huge toll on the young woman. “Found them. They’re fighting another RCU just outside the second exam room. Mirror is clear enough that I won’t distract her, what’s the message?”
“Tell Mirror she has to handle number four on her own, Dani is needed at SR 1 as fast as she can get there, or we’re going to lose some of our students.”
“Done. Dani is moving towards SR 1 at best speed, she estimates about a minute before she can get there.”
One minute. Kathryn Jilles mentally ran through all the various corridors and stairways the Weapons Instructor would have to traverse to reach the simulation room and marveled again at the woman’s incredible speed. As she turned back towards the monitor with a silent prayer that Dani would be fast enough, her attention was jerked back to the younger telepath as the auburn haired girl spoke aloud for the second time that day.
“NO!” Her voice was slightly garbled, but her tone conveyed a deep sense of terror as the Dean’s active mind picked up the same thoughts that had provoked Catalina’s vocal outcry.
Alexandra Andrews offered a fey smile in response to the two women looking towards her, then vanished from sight.
Everything had happened so fast. Walter Raines suddenly flung into the wall by the force of the Dean’s mind, the torrent of flash bangs that had stunned and blinded, and badly injured a few of, the occupants of the observation lounge. Alexandra had barely managed to pull herself to her feet in time to see the reinforced door tear free from it’s track and slam into the far wall with a crash audible over even the incredible ringing in her ears and the alarms sounding throughout the room. Not knowing what else to do, Alexandra had quickly grabbed hold of Antoin’s area healing ability and copied it, adding her efforts to the other three healers attempting to restore everyone in the room to full function.
It seemed only a few seconds later the scream from Catalina had jerked all of their attention towards the monitor, where the assembled freshmen and the Dean of the HCP watched helplessly as Amelia was strafed with armor piercing bullets as she desperately sought cover from her robotic attacker. Again, the petite blonde mimic hadn’t yet fully registered the events before her when she saw the trio of Beulah, Collin, and Tasha wink out of the room.
She had cheered with the rest of the class as Collin’s crystalline form had fallen heavily onto the RCU and obliterated its heavy cannon with a single strike. The follow up attacks removing the smaller weapons mounted on the robot’s waist were met with further celebration, as it seemed the powerful Shifter had things well in hand. The mood in the room had swiftly collapsed as the automatic cameras had shifted back to capture the final attack of the seemingly dead RCU 1, as its missile attack was impossibly intercepted by Amelia’s desperate leap.
Now Alexandra stood frozen, watching the events on the monitor continue to unfold as most of the other students went rushing from the room in an attempt to aid their fallen classmates. Collin was putting up a good fight, and Tasha seemed to have the fallen girls stabilized, but after a year of intensive combat training it was easy to look closer.
The crystalline Shifter was being slowly beaten down by the stronger, more massive RCU. It was only a matter of time until it could finish him and turn its attention to the other three, or force enough range that it could attempt to unleash its own missile attack. And Tasha seemed to have gotten Beulah out of danger and Amelia breathing again, but the muscular black woman looked far past ready to collapse from fatigue. It looked as if her battle to remain conscious would be lost at any second.
Alexandra cursed herself for mimicking the healer so quickly. It would be several long minutes before she could get enough feeling back into her mental ‘hands’ to try and grasp another power. Or maybe…
The short blonde girl took a deep breath. She had attempted to swap powers immediately before. The pain and shock that accompanied the sudden shift had been so intense she had released her grip on the new power immediately. But that had been before she’d spent a year in HCP training, and before she had talked with Louise about dealing with painful powers.
Louise told me herself. Every time she uses her power it hurts. The more she uses it, the more it hurts. And she still pushes to work with the top of the class every day. Maybe I CAN do this. But Alexandra found herself delaying, hoping that someone else could save the day. Then the scene on the monitor changed again.
Collin’s crystal form failed to properly deflect another of the massive robot’s hammering strikes, and the descending metal arm crushed his left leg to shards. The Shifter lunged forward, off balance, and held tightly to the RCU’s torso with his one good hand as he hammered the other arm repeatedly into the already damaged leg joints. The petite blonde realized exactly what Collin was doing; he knew he was finished and was trying to spend his last effort to similarly cripple his opponent to give the others a fighting chance to escape. Alexandra’s will hardened, and she made a choice.
“NO!” The short mimic offered a smile to the auburn haired telepath, and the rapidly turning Dean as she realized the two women had likely guessed her intent, but she was committed now, and vanished from the room without a word.
The pain was intense, wracking agony unlike anything Alexandra could remember having experienced before. But she held onto Teresa’s power and appeared next to Tasha with a quiet groan. She couldn’t hold onto the teleporter’s ability, and released it from a mental grip that felt burned raw. Another deep breath, and another moment of blinding pain as the mimic gripped the newly strengthened power of the muscular black woman next to her, and she knelt and poured that energy into her collapsed roommate. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as Tasha’s borrowed power also fed back through Alexandra’s own body, forcing her agony to ebb to a much more manageable level of pain.
After what felt like hours, but was probably no more than a few seconds, the petite blonde felt her dark haired friend stirring beneath her hands. A moment later, Beulah sat up with a startled gasp, taking in the pair of glowing girls above her, and then adopting a stricken expression as she noted the mangled form of Amelia next to her.
“No time.” Alexandra forced another wave of refreshing energy into the Israeli girl as she interrupted her question. “You need to get Tasha and Ames to Dr Saxena NOW.”
“We had a pla-…”
“I’m the plan now. Get them to the infirmary, I’ll get Collin out of here.” Alexandra winced a little at the partial lie, but her friend seemed not to notice.
“Okay, got it. Good luck, Alex.”
“Goodbye, Be.” The still dazed teleporter didn’t take note of her friend’s choice of words. An instant before the trio disappeared, Alex released Tasha’s power and grabbed for another nearby source. She knew that even with the refresh the muscular healer’s power had given her, she wouldn’t be able to mimic Beulah well enough to teleport with a passenger the size of Collin’s shifted bulk. There was only one way she could come up with to save him as well.
Gritting her teeth against the incredible pain radiating out from within herself, the short blonde girl propelled herself across the open space separating her from where the Shifter battled the robot, leaping across the ground with incredible strength. As she closed the distance, the RCU finally managed to get a hold of its clingy opponent and smashed Collin to the ground with one arm. The other raised to deliver the finishing blow to the crystalline form beneath it. The 5’2″ human bullet that came crashing into the machine’s legs threw its attack off target, as the petite mimic attempted to repeat Amelia’s incredible feat of strength in ripping the robot to pieces. The armor plate she held onto gave way in her grip, and the girl slipped away from her mechanical opponent for a moment before being slammed into the ground by a flailing hydraulic arm. She was strong, but nowhere near as strong as the girl whose power she was borrowing.
Alexandra forced herself to her feet and forward quickly enough to avoid a follow up blow that would likely have torn her head off. She could feel her focus slipping, she knew she didn’t have long before she lost her grip on the borrowed power that was the only thing keeping her alive. The petite blonde lunged forward to grab her opponent’s leg again, but this time she simply lifted the massive robot off the ground. She had hoped that she would prove able to destroy the RCU as Amelia had, but had planned for failing that as well. Offering a brief look at the fallen Shifter, Alexandra began a bounding, off balance run. The RCU was dragged along for the ride, flailing wildly but unable to reach the tiny blonde carrying it and finding nothing to grab hold of to stop itself.
Alexandra hoped that Collin would revert back to his normal form and flee as she dragged the robot out of line of sight. She was hoping that she could get it far enough away for him to have a chance at escape. Already she could feel the borrowed strength seeping away, her muscles straining and tearing under the incredible weight she carried. With a last burst of energy, she spun the RCU away from her and turned to dive behind a nearby rock for cover. Every part of her body burned with pain, she was certain that her final effort had broken several of her own bones as Amelia’s power had slipped away from her grasp. The inside of her mind felt as if someone had burned everything away, then sprayed acid over whatever the fire had exposed. The short blonde could barely focus her eyes up as she heard the heavy thudding of the approaching robot. It loomed over the rock with one arm upraised, ready to finish her. Alexandra found herself remarkably calm at her own impending demise, not even blinking as the arm came hurtling towards her.
Suddenly everything pulled abruptly to the side. An incredibly intense wind buffeted Alexandra as the room seemed to sweep past at an awesome speed. As everything settled back to a stationary setting, her unfocused eyes could only make out a red blur leaning over her. From the mysterious reddish form, a familiar voice spoke.
“We’re clear, Tony. Fire when ready.” Almost immediately following Dani’s words, the petite mimic heard a strange crackling sound followed by an incredibly loud explosion somewhere in the distance. The feline Shifter floated into focus as Alexandra tried to sit up, only to be pushed back to a supine position by the Weapons Instructor.
“Stay put, kiddo. You get to wait like a good girl for the healers to come put you back together again.” The massive catwoman reverted back to her human form as she sat down next to the exhausted student. “You know, that was pretty badass for a freshman.