The second blast took me right in the face, knocking me to the ground.
If it wasn’t for the monkey protecting me, I’d at least be missing my teeth right around now.
I sat up, dazed, but before I could react, and do anything other than prevent the monkey from going on the offensive, I heard a strange, animal-like wailing, and then something slammed into my throat.
I choked, gasped, and saw Hennessy’s solemn face, her mouth open in that strange wail, her hand around my throat.
Wings bloomed from behind her back and she took off, pushing me by the throat over the water of Lake Michigan.
She was fast, and all the time she was pounding me with telekinetic blasts to my face and emotional pressure, raw, burning rage pounding against my head, so I did not really manage to do much for a few seconds – but then I got my bearings.
I drew my arm up and slapped – gently – her arm aside, breaking her grip on my throat and dropping down before she could react.
The cold dark water of Lake Michigan came close and closer, but I was not interested in taking a bath right now. Calling on the monkey, I allowed it to manifest around my legs, blue-black shadow-like fur manifesting inches from my skin around my ankles and lower shins, as I landed on the water, the monkey absorbing the impact and allowing me to stand on it.
I immediately took off, running for the nearest island while pouring on the speed, Hennessy’s wail following me as she hunted me, shooting her telekinetic blasts – she had incredible aim, smacking me around on the water and very nearly getting me wet. In fact, I was forced to let the monkey emerge around my wrists and forearms, so they too could help me maneuver on top of the water.
Those blasts hurt, but they’re not as strong as what she loosed against the villains. Was she holding back, or was she weaker for some reason?
I took the blasts, rolling with them, until I reached, strangely enough, a pier on an island. I remembered the island (good place to take your SO for a date, especially when you wanted to get her out of her clothes) from many a date with Tamara.
Now that I thought about it, this might have been the place in which we conceived Hennessy.
My life is straaaaaange.
There hadn’t been a pier here before, and the new one looked kind of haphazardly built of old tires, driftwood and other planks scavenged from wherever.
At least the lighthouse atop the island’s raised plateau still stood in all its dark glory, as did the ruined old town near the shore.
I swear this place can feel like gloom and doom in broad daylight. Probably not a good sign for me.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten much all that ahead of Hennessy, and I’d stopped just long enough for contemplation that she’d caught up. I knew so by virtue of the blast that took me in the back – and then the world broke.
* * *
I’d always been a fan of fairy tale imagery. Mythology as well, and old testament stuff, too (not the wishy-washy new testament things).
Especially lost woods. I don’t know why, but the image of a gigantic, labyrinthine forest just drew me right in. For a while, I’d spent quite a bit of money (one thing I never lacked for) collecting pictures that fit my little fancy, and I’d built up quite the collection.
Actually, I should check up on my safe houses, see if my stuff is still there.
But nevertheless, I had never seen a picture of a lost wood that compared to what I saw now.
I saw… flesh. Mounds and hills and mountains of flesh. I saw the arms of a slender woman growing from a ground that was smooth flesh, or raw hide, or scales. I saw the same arms, repeated innumerably around me, colossal in size, forking at the joints to grow branches of limbs, all reaching out in gestures of gentleness, offering help and comfort to whomever passed by.
There were the heads of lions, male and female, growing like a bush nearby, the legs of an eagle emerging from the center, the wings of doves and stranger things, repeated a thousand thousand times, sprouting from the back of a colossal female torso with skin whiter than marble, but no head or arms, emerging from the waist up from the ground.
There was an ocean of boiling hot blood, set ablaze with red, blue, green, purple and black flames that reached to the skies, there were plains covered by tentacles and legs swaying in a wind that came from an ox’ head as big as the Empire State building.
I saw a gentle world made of flesh, human, animal and other things. And there were the eyes. Everywhere, all over everything, whether human limbs, or torsos, breasts or heads, bird’s wings or bat’s wings, eagle’s talons and ox’ horns, everywhere there were glowing red eyes, in all sizes, but always the same, shaped like Hennessy’s, with only the colour different. Blood red orbs stared at the world of flesh, almost glowing with gentle fire.
I saw streams of blood, boiling hot and almost freezing cold, in all colours of the rainbow, pour down from the skies and into the burning ocean.
And I saw it bleeding, cutting itself off, every movement, every little action demanding that it mutilate itself, burning away pieces of itself as fuel.
* * *
Another blast hit me and smacked me into a rock the size of a car, breaking up the vision I’d seen just now.
What in the name of Lady Light’s billiard cue collection was that?
Hennessy was still wailing, and I noticed a tell just before she smacked me through the rock with another blast.
Every time she fired off one of her blasts, her wailing rose in pitch for a moment, then dropped off again.
That was all I needed to know to take her down, within seconds if I wanted.
Now there was only one problem. Namely, the fact that I wasn’t going to. Even if I barely knew her, even if I hadn’t known about her until minutes ago, she was my daughter. I had done many a bad thing in my life, but beating up my daughter, even when she was attacking me with near-lethal force, would not be written down on that list any time soon.
So I took the next blast, rolling with it to put some distance between us. There was something off about them, and I needed more information, hopefully to find a way to stop her without hurting her.
As I flipped backwards, I let more of the monkey emerge, coating my left arm and leg entirely, and crawling up the left side of my neck. Jet-black flesh, with even darker nails, emerged out of thin air just inches around my hand, forming my namesake monkey hand. I dug it into the ground and ripped out sod and dirt, throwing it in the air the moment the pitch of her wail rose.
Her blast took me in the chest with full strength – and it did not pass through the dirt I had thrown up, even though it was exactly in between us and I’d been hit from her direction.
Damn that hurts.
I let the monkey cover the left half of my body and my lower left jaw, the black fur flowing as if there was a strong wind blowing. Hopefully, this would be enough, because I dared not unleash more of him – the monkey was almost in battle rage, and I didn’t want it to hurt her.
The next blast, I blocked with the monkey’s left hand, enlarging it to double size – and she still tore into the black flesh, almost to the bone.
My little girl’s got moxie.
Another blast, and I blocked it again, the hand barely healed as she flayed it to the bone.
Wait a minute…
I jumped backwards, nearly half a mile, and threw up dirt and sod again. Her blast hit again, without disturbing the dirt – but it was blocked by the rejuvenated monkey hand.
If I’d been a cartoon character, a little light bulb would have lit up above my head right around now.
These aren’t blasts, not really. She creates them anywhere within line of sight, even if there’s something in between.
Which didn’t fit, because in her fight against Patchwork and Necrophobe, her blasts had definitely had to travel the distance, allowing the villains to evade.
Whatever was going on with her power, I needed to stop her, because I could tell that her attacks were growing stronger. And as if that wasn’t enough, I saw a lily white arm bloom out of thin air, inches from her thigh, it’s nails made of crackling blue fire.
I need to get out of her field of vision.
Suiting action to thoughts – hehe – I pulled one of my favourite moves, diving towards her, ducking forward. She was so surprised by that, apparently, that she focused her sight over me, creating an explosion of soil.
Her eyes tried to follow me, but I poured on the speed before she could angle her flight to follow me and jumped up to reach her from behind.
And then glowing red eyes opened all over her seven misshapen wings, staring in every direction at the same time.
You have got to be kidding me.
She blasted me back towards the water, flipping me tail over tea kettle – and where in God’s name does that saying come from? – which revealed to me a sight I was not really glad about. Several figures were flying over the water, towards the water.
I landed on the pier and, before she could attack, let the monkey cover my left eye, it’s burning red eye appearing over mine, zooming in on the approaching metahumans.
Her team. Great. And Tamara, too.
This was going to turn into one hell of a clusterfuck, especially if they recognized my power… recognized me.
I heard her wail’s pitch change and jumped again so strongly I cracked the wood of the pier – only for it to be torn to kindling as her blast hit it.
Soaring up above her, I focused on my – on the monkey’s – feet and jumped again off the air, creating a booming sound as I flew towards her.
There was always a three second gap between her attacks, if not more. I didn’t know what I could do without hurting her if I got close, but I wasn’t gonna resolve this by just evading her attacks, either.
Only I hadn’t taken the arm with the burning nails into account – it reached out and pointed at me, a sphere of fire the size of my chest flying at me at a blinding speed.
I raised my left arm and tried to grab the sphere with my monkey arm – sometimes, it interacted weirdly with ranged attacks, allowing me to catch and throw them back.
Not with this one, though. It burned into the arm – and then kept on burning, eating through the flesh and towards my real hand.
I pushed the monkey’s flesh out, excising the afflicted portion, letting it drop and disintegrate as the fire ate it up, regrowing it as quickly as I could.
Her next blast drove me so hard into the earth it created a small crater, and then her wailing got louder and I saw a female leg, black as the night, and a golden – literally golden, not just yellow – talon emerge from the crystal floating behind her back. At the same time, her wings expanded, and though still misshapen, were now thrice the size of her body, dotted with eyes ranging from the size of a finger nail to football size.
Mouths appeared in the gabs between eyes, soft rosy and red lips with vicious pointed teeth, and then in the palm of the fire-nailed hand, along it’s length and all over the flesh of the jet-black leg.
I could guess what was coming, and let the monkey cover my ears, too.
Not a second too early, for the wailing scream that followed shook me, dizzying despite the protection my monkey provided.
I should have been annoyed, or worried, or angry. Instead, I just felt proud.
My little girl’s a powerhouse!
A bubbling, deep belly laugh overcame me, and I shook on the spot even as her wailing scream shook the very earth around me, pounding me with the kind of decibels you don’t get even at the most hardcore rave.
The emotions she was projecting changed, adding exasperation to the burning rage – maybe not the smartest move on my part – and she charged towards me, her wings melting together into something more akin to a pair of feathered bat wings with eyes. The arm she’d manifested earlier shifted upwards and back, floating in the air next to the crystal at her back, and shot a steady stream of fire spheres at me.
Oh no my dear, this is the kind of stuff I have more experience with than you.
I dug my monkey hand into the soil, enlarging it to car size, and threw a large chunk of earth against and through the spheres.
The following explosions tore it appart, and she shot through the dust – only to find me gone, because I immediately dove into the hole I made and dug downwards.
Moving forward a few meters, I burst out of the ground, reaching for her dirt-covered body with both my monkey hand and the other one, trying to get her into a bear hug.
* * *
Vek and her team – what little remained with most of the veterans now at the wall – landed on the very edge of the island, just half a mile from the two battling metahumans.
Mrs Benning tried to run towards them, only to be stopped by Dearheart – Give the girl her due, she’s got brains, if not manners – and shouted: “Henny! Kevin! Please, stop!“
Neither of the combatants reacted to her words as Mister Paterson – the Aap Oordra, one of Chicago’s most beloved thrill-villains and pranksters – kept coming at her, despite getting knocked down again, and again, and again.
“Give that asshole points for persistence, at least. Not smarts, but persistence,” commented Dearheart with a sneer, while the rest of the juniors, and the two only other adult heroes, took up fighting positions around them.
“Dearheart, be quiet, please. Does an-“
She was cut off by the sound of the very earth breaking.
* * *
“You need to attack less and plan more, Hennessy!” he shouted, evading another fire sphere. She’d stopped using her – ultimately ineffectual – kinetic blasts and had spent the last few seconds trying to burn me alive.
I evaded another sphere and the accompanying explosion – she’d had a second fire-nailed forearm and hand sprout from the elbow of the first one, and from then on, the spheres had exploded like high explosives, with both fire and kinetic force – and threw rocks at her.
Yeah, rocks. I know, I should at least be chucking cars, or bystanders, but there were none around.
With an explosive motion, six more arms, now normal-sized, sprouted from behind her, wrapping around her dirtied body, grabbing hold of her, two even groping her own breasts.
For some reason, that bothered me a lot.
The rocks smacked into an invisible armor around her, barely touching her – though they did move her.
I chucked three more football-sized rocks at her, evading another two spheres in the process, fliping around like a, well, a monkey, trying to find an angle for attack.
“Listen, Hennessy – or do you prefer Chayot? – I don’t want to fight you. I know you’re angry, maybe you even hate me, but we can talk, I promise!”
She looked at me, with tears forming in her eyes, and made a gurgling sound.
At least she’d stopped chucking fire spheres at me, and even her mental assault – How in God’s name is she getting past the monkey? – lessened.
“Please, let’s sit down and just talk, alright?”
“Wrrrr-ssssss iallllliiii,” she hissed.
An idea started to form in my head.
“Hennessy? Can you… understand me?”
“Ullackkkkk,” she gurgled, then nodded.
Oh God, no.
My daughter couldn’t speak. I’d known a few cases like that, metahumans who couldn’t communicate normally – one of them had been a good friend of mine – and they were rarely… well.
I felt pity for her, and I immediately realized that that wasn’t a good thing to do in front of an angry teenage empath.
“Gggggguuuuuuuuahaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!” She screamed, and her scream kept building – until she started having a seizure.
“Hennessy!” I shouted, shocked, but she just thrashed around in the air… and then went limp.
Hanging in the air, as if suspended by her shoulders, flesh blooms from all around her, masses of limbs and eyes and torsos enveloping her fragile looking form.
The flesh was moving as if it boiled, forming and then again absorbing limbs and heads of all kinds of animals, and then it parted like water, horizontally, revealing her form once more, curled up with her arms wrapped around her legs, her eyes closed, her face solemn as ever.
Metal formed around her, two golden rings turning within each other, missing sections along their lengths, covered inside and out with red eyes. The flesh above and beneath her twisted and grew.
Below, it formed a lion-like body, all catlike grace and savage strength, with pure white fur and an ox’ hooves for the last four limbs. Yes, last four. It had seven pairs of legs, two pairs of ox-like legs, two pairs of lion-paws, two pairs of eagle-talons and a pair green-scaled red-eyed snakes, as well as a dragon’s neck and head for a tail. Instead of one head, it had three, ox, eagle and lion. Behind those three legs was a half-spherical depression in which the sphere formed by the two metal rings rested.
Above, the flesh formed into a nude, golden-skinned woman, ending at the waist, which formed a half-spherical opening to connect to the sphere, essentially having Hennessy in her two wheels as the gut. From the back of the woman, six burning wings sprouted, her face was beautiful and solemn, her hair made of fire and in her hands she held a fire saber longer than she was tall and a spear that was twice that length.
All of her heads save for Hennessy’s real head opened their mouths, howling in rage.