“Is that… what in God’s name is that supposed to be?” Prisca asked in a hushed voice as they stared at the thing facing the city.
It looked, at first, like a giant blueish-silvery sack, barely held in a roughly humanoid shape thirty to thirty-five meters tall – it was hard to tell, as it still stood partly in the water. There was no visible neck – its body simply ended in a conical top. No shoulders, either – its arms simply hung from its upper torso. There were no joints visible anywhere. Its body was pear-shaped, its legs extending from its bottom without any visible hips. It had a half-opened, rather tiny mouth on its head lacking actual lips and showing rows upon rows of irregular, conical teeth set in jet black gums. Above said mouth and slightly to the side, it sported a single, huge black eye with a red iris. The eye was so big, only half of it fit into the socket, with the rest poking out, like a chamaeleon’s eye, only bare. It was swiveling around chaotically, as if it didn’t know what to look at. It would’ve looked utterly ridiculous, if it wasn’t so big.
It’s skin, which had an almost metallic blue-silver colour, was unbroken, smoothly covering everything except for its mouth and its eye. As they watched, it took a single, lumbering step on to dry ground, and the moment its foot – more of a pseudopod – touched the concrete of the street running along the beach, its colouration changed, starting with the parts that had touched ground, a dusty grey colour crawling up its form and covering it from head to toe. At the same time, its whole body contracted, literally compressing itself as it shrank to half its former height, less than twenty meters. It was still pear-shaped, only its upper body was now noticably more human, with pronounced shoulders and thick arms ending in actual, if only three-fingered hands instead of five pseudopods sticking out of another, bigger one. Its legs were more detailed as well, bending with proper knees instead of merely being two straight pillars.
It opened its mouth wide and made a long, low rumbling sound, almost like a man gargling but turned up to eleven.
“Oh, jolly,” Basil said. “It’s not only a giant monster, now it’s a giant, camouflaged, mobile monster.”
“Isn’t this better, though?” Dalia asked. “Smaller now.”
“Harder to hit,” Vasiliki countered. “Better able to hide among buildings, on top of being able to visually camouflage itself. And unless it somehow reduced its overall mass, it ought to be denser now, as well. Several times tougher than before. Exponentially so, perhaps, though I am not an expert in such matters.”
“Assuming that proportions remain the same, mass octuplicates every time height doubles,” Basil supplied. “It just cut its size in half, so assuming its mass is proportional to its size and there are no weird things – well, no weirder things – going on here, that means its now eight times tougher than before.”
“Oh,” was Dalia’s only response.
“Maybe it’s not so bad,” Prisca said hopefully. “It hasn’t attacked anything yet, maybe it’s-“
Whatever she wanted to say was cut short when the giant roared so loudly it shattered the windows of every building from the beach front all the way to their building – and beyond. Vasiliki and Dalia cried out in pain, though Basil and Prisca were fortunately unaffected.
Basil reached out with both hands, grabbing onto Vasiliki and Dalia in order to steady them. “Prisca, overwatch,” he said calmly, trusting the com system he’d handed out to his team members to transmit his words even over the deafening cacophony the enemy had unleashed.
He saw the gilded girl take off, flying up and towards the monster so as to keep an eye on it – and to test its defenses; after all, Prisca was quite safe, no matter how it retaliated against Gilgul. If that thing could even bring up the firepower necessary to destroy her.
The communicators they’d gotten earlier spoke up moments after the sonic assault ended. Father Manus’ deep, calm voice said, <Attention, everyone, the enemy appears to be capable of-> but the rest of it was cut off by another scream which shook the buildings.
Damn it, Basil thought, as he held onto Dalia and Vasiliki. At the same time, he used eye movements to pick out the frequency of his communicator and link it to his helmet systems. Now I will be able to hear it properly.
He stayed where he was, for a long minute, as the girls held their hands over their ears, but though he’d included some protection in Dalia’s mask, it was not nearly enough to protect her from the cacophony.
Finally, the scream abated and the monster – he didn’t even know what to call it – looked around, turning its shapeless head to let its single eye survey its surroundings. It focused for a moment on the approaching Gilgul, as well as several other flying figures, before it focused on the rooftop Basil and the girls stood upon.
Wait, why is it focusing on us? Basil thought, moments before it went down on all fours and propelled itself towards them.
The girls were still stunned by the sonic assault as the ungainly mass of the enemy – Basil didn’t even know what to call it – approached, leaping over a distance of more than a kilometre, so he grabbed them both, wrapping an arm around their waists and leapt off the rooftop.
The enemy slammed onto the building with a massive crack, breaking through the rooftop and all the way down to the ground floor – dispelling any doubts as to what it’d done with its mass when it shrank.
Basil fired his hooks, using them to swing out of the way of the rubble the heavy impact threw around in every direction. One had attached to the edge of the opposing building’s rooftop, and he’d fired the other onto another building at a ninety-degree angle to the first one. Then he reeled in the second hook, swinging towards the far building, disconnected and fired again to hit the first building around the corner, swinging himself and the girls into cover.
Moments after he’d put the building between himself and the monster, it simply broke through it, smashing through the sturdy construction with a roar.
Why is it hunting us? he asked himself, though he didn’t even have the time to say it out loud. The beast was almost upon him, as was the rubble, when he heard a clarion-like scream, and Gilgul slammed down onto the back of the enemy’s head, spear-first, with a shout of “Keep your hands off them!” She hit it with enough force to create a shockwave, snapping its head down and causing its entire mass to flipp – its rear end rose as its head was pushed down, but its momentum persisted, carrying it feet-first over her and the others.
Not one to waste such a chance, Basil shot his hooks out and drew himself and the girls onto a nearby rooftop.
He kept his hold on them as they slowly recovered, Tyche first, then Hecate, while he looked at the damage caused by the monster having charged through one building, then flipped into another across the street.
The first one, utterly gutted, was still in the process of collapsing into a huge cloud of dust, the sound of it fortunately dampened by the protection Basil had built into his helmet. The second building, the one the beast had been inadvertently flipped into by Gilgul’s attack, had lost most of its facade as it slammed into it, and was now teetering on the edge of collapse as well.
Gilgul landed next to Basil, resting her weapon on her shoulder. “That thing is tough,” she spoke, her voice barely audible over the cacophony of the collapsing building. “I barely cut a foot into it, and even that took off a huge chunk of my time.”
“It is even thougher than its size and mass would suggest, then,” Basil concluded as the second building started collapsing atop their foe, as well. “Unless we find a weakpoint, you’ll probably be more useful conserving your charge for defence and interference.”
His girlfriend nodded, appearing stoic thanks to her all-covering armour, but he knew her well enough to know that she was upset – even though she’d just recenty gotten her powers, and she’d only been in two really serious fights since, she’d started to take a lot of pride in them, specifically in being the heavy hitter of New Lennston. This was the first enemy she’d run into who was capable of resisting her attack to a meaningful degree.
Hecate and Tyche had finally recovered, and were looking down at the devastation left behind by the brief exchange. The street below was choked with ash, what few cars were still visible now ruined by the debris and both buildings had come down entirely – fortunately, though, Esperanza’s practice of constructing every building to be tough enough to survive heavy earthquakes (and, maybe, even a future DiL attack) prevented the surrounding buildings from being torn down along with them, though they did take visible damage.
A new voice, that of a calm woman, spoke through their communicators – in Basil’s case, right into his ear. “Be advised, the enemy has moved to sector twenty-nine. Follow the dust cloud. It has also been officially designated as Crocell.”
“Crocell? That sounds familiar…” Basil commented as he looked to his right, where Hecate and Gilgul stood.
“No idea,” the gilded redhead replied.
“The forty-ninth spirit from the Ars Goetia,” Hecate supplied calmly, though one could still hear the pain in her tone. “Duke of Hell, associated with water… kind of on-the-nose, as handles go.”
“Air humidity just doubled,” Basil interrupted, the moment his sensors picked up on the new data. He activated his microphone, sending a message to the control room. “Control, my sensors register a sudden rise in air humidity. Are there any powers on our side responsible for that?”
<Negative,> came the reply after a few moments.
“Hm.” He looked down at the collapsed building Crocell had been buried underneath. “Stand ready,” he told the others, “We don’t know what this thing is really capable of.” A humming sound caused him to look up in time to see several capes and cowls arrive, standing atop a transluscent disk, which connected to the hand of a flying woman in white by a tether. More heroes (and villains) were arriving every second, until there were nearly sixty on the rooftops around and the air above them, all looking out for the enemy. Amy was approaching, as well, the other flying capes splitting up and giving her a wide berth, except for four cowls which fell into formation behind her. There was no sign of Lamarr, Kraquok or the Feral Family, though. Nor were the Subjugator or Totemic in sight. Prospero stood on a rooftop a little further back, alone save for an airy apparition, roughly humanoid in shape.
Just then, Crocell walked out of the dust cloud and the rubble, moving on all four limbs – nothing seemed to be broken or impaired.
However, its appearance was different. There were patches on its body which seemed to be made of steel now, rather than concrete, while others looked like glass…
Basil snapped off three shots, one to its eye, one to a concrete section and one to a patch of glass on its left elbow.
“The hell, Brennus!” Hecate cried out, startled.
“Dude, ice cold,” Tyche added in an impressed tone. “Totally ineffective, but those were some nice shots.”
He snapped off three more shots, aiming at different spots of the same areas. Crocell barely reacted, not even to the shot to its eye, even though Basil could see that it did cause damage, however
“They were very effective,” Basil replied in an annoyed tone. “I just didn’t intend for them to cause damage – just wanted to test…”
The fighters all around on the rooftops and in the air opened fire on Crocell. Beams, spheres of power and more flew at it before it could fully exit the rubble it had created.
It’s form was buried under the effects, over twenty different attacks at the same time. The cacophony of the impacts was nearly enough trigger his mask’s audio cut-offs.
Which was caused just by the primary impacts. What followed were the results of disparate powers connecting and interacting. Spheres of super-dense water were flash-heated by laser beams, exploding into steam. Greenish streaks of acid reacted with some kind of yellow bile-like substance to detonate into colourful (and devastating) explosions. Weird purple energy reacted with some kind of jet black smoke to flash-freeze everything the latter had been in contact with.
“Someone wants this to end quickly,” Tyche commented dryly. A glance showed Basil that she looked only amused, not worried by the massive destruction they were faced with (the assault had filled most of the street below).
“Naturally,” Hecate replied in a curt fashion – one could hear her eyes rolling. “What were the shots for, Brennus?” she asked, turning her head to look at him.
“I wanted to see whether it not only mimicked the appearance of materials, but also their durability,” he explained. “If it did, then its glass-like parts would be exceedinly vulnerable; we could, perhaps, goad it into turning mostly into glass, then shatter it rather easily.”
“Didn’t look like it, though,” Hecate concluded.
He shook his head. “This rifle can shoot a hole through seven centimeters of solid steel, but it only grazed it in all three areas – eye, concrete and glass. So the changes are either only cosmetic, or it has some other defence which makes up for it. Or perhaps it just takes a far bigger attack than mine.”
“I didn’t really cause any noticable damage, either,” Gilgul supplied. “I’m not entirely sure, but I think the cut I made had already regenerated by the time it stepped out of the rubble.”
“Great, it regenerates as well,” Hecate grumbled, just in time for the attacks to abate. Basil, meanwhile, had sent a text message through his communicator to the control centre, about their observations. “What’s next, a-“
A brilliant white-blue lance of light shot out of the cloud of chaotic effects that had covered Crocell. Six defenders in flight were vaporised in an instant, a seventh fell to the ground with the left half of her body just gone. It was not silent – the attack came with a massive concussive sound, a shockwave that dispersed the assault on it.
The beam continued as Crocell – covered in wounds that had cut deep enough to kill most living beings, it’s flesh rent from its shoulders, it’s back and its upper arms – swung its head around, energy pouring forth from is misshapen mouth, drawing the beam across the rooftops, forcing heroes and villains alike to scramble for safety.
It was moving towards the rooftop Basil and the others stood upon.
“Of course it has a beam attack!” Hecate shouted, exasperated, as she dissolved into green-black smoke, half flying and half leaping to the ground below.
“Sucks to be us!” Tyche supplied as she turned into red-black smoke in turn, leaping up instead, to get over the beam.
Basil didn’t comment, he only leapt off the rooftop, firing his hooks to swing around the next building – it’s rooftop already scoured away – and away from he girls.
Gilgul waited until she was sure they’d all gotten away, then shot up just moments before the beam would’ve hit her.
He watched through his ravens, placed around the scene, as Crocell adjusted its beam, swinging around again.
It was going after Tyche.
Its breath followed her, but she reacted the only reasonable way she could – putting another coin in the ‘is Dalia really a ditz or just pretending to’ jar – by turning solid again, dropping straight down and past the beam.
Again, Crocell followed and Basil was not at all sure that even her prodigious luck could save her from its continued attention.
It turned out, though, that that wasn’t necessary – or perhaps it was already at work – for Waverider was fast approaching Crocell from behind, riding a whale-sized mass of crackling, diffuse energy; he must’ve been charging his power since the beginning of the fight, to have this big a punch ready.
The wave slammed into the wounded Crocell – it had not recovered any of the damage it had sustained so far, unlike the small wounds Basil had inflicted with his rail gun. Waverider leaped off it with the fluid ease of a champion surfer and gymnast, flipping backwards as his attack slammed into Crocell’s unprotected back.
The explosion was so violent it shattered glass for several blocks around, where there was any left. The read outs on his mask told Basil that the two closest ravens had sustained damage as well, despite their sturdy design. Still functional, but damaged.
When the dust settled, Crocell was nowhere to be seen, only a messy crater covered in rubble.
A huge, porcelain-white hand appeared beneath Waverider, gently catching him. His father-in-law’s power.
<Attention: Crocell’s status is unconfirmed. All combatants with enhanced perception are asked to verify,> came the announcement from the communicator, patched directly into Basil’s helmet as he swung onto the rooftop.
Absentmindedly, he sent one of the already damaged ravens to the crater to investigate while he himself checked on the girls.
Hecate was with Tyche, helping her up where she’d landed on the street – she didn’t seem hurt, though, only stunned. Gilgul flew to Basil, drifting gracefully through the air.
“Is it over?” she asked warily as she rotated in the air without breaking her movement towards him, looking straight at the crater.
“I’m investigating,” he replied, focusing on his raven again, now that he knew they were alright.
It flew down into the crater – where it found a hole in the ground, barely visible due to the rubble concealing it, mist – not smoke, but actual mist – wallowing up out of it.
He immediately contacted mission control. “Crocell is hiding underground, generating mist!”
<Understood. Please b-> The reply was cut short when Crocell burst out of the ground beneath Waverider and the hand holding him up.
It leapt up, until its chest was at a height with them – all wounds gone from its body, which was now colored a bright white, not unlike Waverider’s attack had been – and its sole black-red eye could focuse on the defenceless man on the porcelain hand. With its arms lifted above its head, it roared and swung, bringing both fists down on him.
Again, Father Manus came to the rescue, though Basil could not tell where he himself was, dismissing the hand holding Waverider up and, simultaneously, manifesting another one next to him, slapping into him open-palmed to knock him out of the way of the lethal blow.
Crocell’s fists smashed the hand into porcelain shards which quickly faded out of existence, but it had succeeded in its task – Waverider tumbled to safety, until another hand appeared to catch him, quickly flying away to let him recuperate – he would be out of the fight for a bit, after an attack that big.
Basil snapped off two more shots, aiming for Crocell’s eye. Both hit home – it was a still a pretty big target – but it didn’t even react, in spite of the damage done to what ought to be a sensitive spot. The wounds vanished within moments, too superficial to even ooze any liquids.
Crocell landed heavily, next to the hole it had created, which was filled with thick mist.
More moisture began to condense around Croquell, shrouding it as Basil’s sensors detected an even greater rise in the surrounding air’s moisture. Whisps of mist were taking form all over the place, low to the ground yet but still growing.
The communicator spread the word as they picked up on it and Basil watched as the more experienced defenders took charge, ordering the others around, organising them.
More mist formed directly on Crocell’s body, pouring off of it in waves, almost entirely obscuring its form.
Basil didn’t take his eyes off of it, but he used his ravens to look around himself – the girls had all joined up with him again. “I assume the heroes are about to disperse its cover,” he told them. “Once they do, we ought to hit it with everything we have got. Gilgul, go in close, but do not let it hit you needlessly – your time is too precious to waste. Hecate, Tyche, unload on it from a distance. Stick close, so Tyche’s luck will protect you.”
His two original teammates nodded and leapt away, switching to their smoke forms. Gilgul, though, stopped to look at him. “What are you going to do?” she asked, her voice worried. “You’re the most vulnerable one here.”
He frowned beneath his mask, annoyed by how right she was. Gilgul was nearly untouchable on top of being a disposable projection. Tyche’s luck had not failed her yet. Hecate had, apparently, seriously worked on her defensive capabilities. They both had those smoke-dolls of hers, as well. Which did not work for Basil at all – he could not even turn one on, nevermind stay in smoke form. With his armour gutted as much as it was, he would not survive one hit from this thing.
I really, really need more funds. With real power armour, I could carry around a real railgun, not this tiny little thing and put out some serious damage.
Shaking his head, he focused on Gilgul again. Barely a second had passed. “I will keep an eye on it with my ravens and look for a weak spot. My rifle can not actually cause any meaningful damage, after all. I will also keep an eye out for anyone requiring first aid.”
She nodded and flew off, straight for the enemy just as a strong wind picked up.
A cowl – Basil recognised her from a documentary, though he could not recall her actual name – stood on a lower rooftop nearby, a woman in a brown bodysuit and birdlike mask, both looking feathery but strangely plain, unlike the usual costumes favoured by capes and cowls, and the air was gathering around her, then flowing in a steady stream towards Crocell, blowing the mist away.
For whatever reason, Crocell had remained in place, without even varying its position from when it had landed after its failed attack on Waverider. Its eye swivelled around, looking at the brown bird woman.
Gilgul took her chance and slammed into its chest with a booming sound, blowing what mist remained around it away as the massive beast was thrown back, falling hard onto the mangled street.
We really need to get it out of the city, Basil thought. Catastrophy-proof or not, there was a limit to how tough one could make a whole city, and Esparanza City really should not be destroyed again.
He kept watch, distributing his ravens around the area to watch Crocell from multiple angles, keeping the damaged ones closest. Three ravens patrolled, instead, scanning for people in need of his medical expertise or a quick evac. It irked him that he was limited to being little more than a spectator, and it angered him that he got annoyed about that.
Below, Crocell was fighting Gilgul, who was doing a good job of keeping him pinned. The brown bird… Nightingale! Her cowl was Nightingale – she was dispersing the mist Crocell kept generating, to keep visibility up.
Meanwhile, everyone was unloading attacks on Crocell, aiming for its head and its lower body, so as not to hit Gilgul. He could see Hecate and Tyche add their own fire to the mix. Tyche’s gun was technically weaker than his, but her luck meant that she almost always hit her target’s weakpoints. As for Hecate… he wasn’t one of those people who looked down on contrivers for having their own weird explanations for how their creations behaved, and he’d actually listened when she explained that her staff was not actually shooting fire (which was why it didn’t produce heat, either). It was powered by the Torch and the Dead, two of her ‘aspects’ – the flame aged her targets, decaying them. Living organic matter was not affected, unless she wanted it to and no matter how tough a target was, it always did at least some damage. It also packed quite the punch, as well.
He couldn’t actually tell how effective their attacks were, as the deluge of powers kept Crocell quite out of sight – until a bright white cube rose up into the air above the fight.
Not a cube – a tesseract, he thought, recognising the power moments before the tesseract – about half the size of a grown adult – lit up, shining brighter than the sun.
The white light filled his entire vision, yet it did not blind him. Instead, everything stood out in stark detail, especially Crocell, whom he could now clearly make out beneath the attacks converging on it.
Hollywood’s power. Illuminates an area, distinguishes between friends and foes. Foes are blinded, while most powers which provide concealment are cancelled on them. They are also made plainly visible, easier to be hit by any friends, who also have an easier time navigating the area.
Her power was one of two reasons why her team, in spite of its rather modest size, had been able to police most of Esperanza City on its own for the last decade.
The second reason was walking down the street from the opposite of Crocell, approaching the pinned beast. Charybdis, with her brother Silver Falcon right behind her and ready to take her to safety if necessary, moving like she was walking down the walkway at a fashion show, stopped twenty metres away from Crocell and visibly released her breath.
Basil twitched with his eyes, activating his microphone. “Gilgul, break contact now!”
She shot up, leaving Crocell behind, just as Charybdis opened her mouth wide.
Basil felt her power’s tug, despite the great distance, as she sucked the air and the mist in front of her in.
Everything in a cone in front of her began to drift towards her, slowly at first, but quickly speeding up – and not just the rubble, mist and air, nor the cars left by the roadside, no – everything. Basil watched as the powers raining onto Crocell began to bend, the assault being drawn in. Laser beams, fireballs, streams of ice, everything was sucked in as her power ramped up.
For a moment, Crocell seemed to be almost given a break as it began to rise up, free of the assault of attacks – but then the suction became strong enough to affect it, as well, and it began to slide towards Charybdis open mouth.
Basil fired his hooks onto the roof he was standing on, to steady himself and watched as everyone kept firing into the tornado of wind and power that was forming, contributing more attacks to be sucked in.
He didn’t know whether sucking Crocell in would kill it or not, considering its regenerative capabilities, but it certainly wouldn’t get through undamaged.
Yet Crocell seemed to not like that idea. It ducked low, digging its fingers into he concrete to hold on.
The defenders adapted, those whose projectiles caused a stronger kinetic impact repositioning themselves to fire into its back, at its hands, at the concrete it was holding onto, all in an attempt to dislodge it.
The attacks on the concrete in particular seemed quite promising and Crocell seemed to be at least intelligent enough to recognise that, because it turned its head by nearly one-hundred and eighty degrees, opening its maw as a blue-white light emerged from it, aimed at the metahumans trying to dislodge it.
No one made a move to evade, and for good reason – as the beam spilled forth, it was sucked in by Charybdis like it was water, drawn into her mouth.
Not so intelligent, perhaps, Basil thought, looking on as Crocell slowly turned its head towards Charybdis, breathing energy as if it was achieving something useful.
It kept going like that, for nearly half a minute, pouring more light out as it tried to kill her, to no effect, until the concrete it was holding onto was finally too damaged to hold it, and Crocell lost its hold.
Charybdis suction had increased so far, meanwhile, that it was no longer being slowly dragged across the street – instead, it was nearly lifted off its feet, sliding towards her.
The beam cut off; instead, it seemed as if it was making some kind of sound, but that, too, was lost.
This might be it, Basil thought hopefully. If she sucks Crocell in…
Crocell dropped to the ground, impacting it so heavily cracks spread like spider-web across the street and nearby buildings, standing rock-still even as the suction continued.
For a moment, most of the attacks being poured into the tornado or aimed at Crocell cut off, as everyone stared at the monster in shock, watching its wounds – oozing something almost like blood, though much thinner – bubble like they were boiling, only to reveal unharmed skin once the bubbles burst. It seemed to be no longer affected by Charybdis suction.
The attacks began anew, those which had paused, at least, now all aimed at its back as the heroes and villains repositioned themselves, trying to push it into Charybdis’ mouth.
Only to cut off when it began deliberately approaching her.
If it is confident enough to approach her, it may well be immune to being sucked into her mouth, was Basil’s fear at the moment. Charybdis had only the one power, and impressive though it was, it left her no more than a normal woman against threats which could circumvent it.
I wish I had been able to complete that disintegration ray, Basil thought bitterly. It had been an idea that had come to him several times, all the way to his first haphazard works at home (though he was starting to question whether he’d actually built that reactor and the computer in just two days – he couldn’t be sure about anything anymore) and several times again since, but it had always been just pieces, and pieces which did not fit with each other, either, so he hadn’t been able to improvise he final product from the separate bouts of inspiration which had petered out to nothing.
His hand tightened on the grip and barrel of his rifle, watching as Charybdis allowed Crocell to approach until she was nearly in its reach, steadily absorbing attacks which were now being once more poured into her, instead of aiming at Crocell.
Then she closed her mouth, cutting the suction off. Crocell stumbled for a moment, and it was all she needed – or Basil.
Stage one, complete. “Hecate, Tyche, get some cover! Stage two is going to pack a punch!”
Crocell righted itself and reached out with one arm for Charybdis.
But the heroine just stared it down, until she opened her mouth – and everything she’d sucked in, the rubble, the air, the fire, the lasers, the ice, Crocell’s beam and all the other powers, it all came out again compressed into a sphere the size of a minivan made out of… damn near everything, slamming into Crocell with a booming sound that shook even Basil.
Whatever it had done to protect itself from her suction, it clearly wasn’t sufficient for this. The blast took it in its belly and threw it back far enough to fly past the roof Basil stood upon.
Crocell flew out from between the buildings it had been in and landed heavily in one of Esperanza City’s open squares, decorated with fountains, small patches of flowers and greenery and lots of seating. Not that most of it looked any good, after the dust cloud Crocell threw up with its impact covered them in gray dust, or the cracks from the impact spread all over the place.
Hell, Basil felt its fall all the up to the roof he was on. He recalled his ravens and disconnected his hooks from the roof just as Gilgul landed next to him, moments before Hecate and Tyche landed, as well.
“That. Was. Awesome!” Tyche exulted with a wide grin plastered on her face, waving her rifle around in an utterly irresponsible manner (Basil activated its safety remotely, just in case).
“I… have to agree,” Hecate admitted, leaning a little on her staff. “I knew the basics about Charybdis’ power, but I’d never seen it in action before.
Before replying, Basil momentarily looked up as Hollywood’s tesseract flew over them to take up position above the square.
“She is their heavy hitter for a reason,” he supplied, taking a look at the once more visible monster.
It looked to be more damaged than from all the attacks it took before. It’s gut had been vaporized down to where its spine should be, though Basil saw no indications of any kind of bone structure or internal organs – just red ‘flesh’ bleeding that strangely thin red liquid, gone in a chunk from its groin up to its sternum (if those terms even applied to its physiology – Basil doubted it, honestly) and almost all the way through, nearly bisecting it.
It was still alive though, its eye moving around, unable to focus on anything – Hollywood’s power alone may not have been enough to block its sight, but the light combined with the dust seemed to do the trick.
The insides of the wound began to bubble even as the defenders of the city gathered on the buildings encircling the square, staying further apart in case it began spitting that lethal beam of its blindly. Though they’d already taken losses, Basil was pretty sure he was counting more people than had been there before – reinforcements, certainly.
Before anyone had decided what to do – simply attacking it didn’t seem to have much of an effect – its wound had closed and Crocell rose up over the dust cloud.
Again, a strong wind blew, but instead of dispersing the cloud, it gathered it up, creating a pillar of dust around Crocell to blind it.
“Get ready,” Basil told the girls. “I am pretty sure it is going to go on the offensive now, after having taken that kind of hit.”
The girls nodded, bracing themselves, with Gilgul taking a step forward to stand in front of Basil and the others.
Just in time for Crocell to burst out of the pillar of dust, going from standing completely still to an explosive charge in half a second, flat.
“Here it co-!” Basil’s sentence was interrupted when the ground beneath Crocell turned silvery-grey and it… stumbled and fell hard on its face.
“The hell was that?” Tyche asked with barely suppressed laughter.
Basil turned his head, following the sight of his ravens which had already made out the most probable source of the effect. The girls followed.
What caught their attention first, though, was Kraquok. He was already grown, almost as tall at the hip as Crocell’s shoulders, and he was walking on four limbs, his legs and his middle pair of arms, to be precise. His claws were longer still than they had been before, proportionally, while his human face just looked amused, his crocodile-like maw dripping saliva.
He was walking just behind a group of sixteen in a loose but clearly practiced formation. One of them, a girl barely older than Basil, had an arm extended, her hand turned a silver the exact same shade as the ground underneath Crocell, which was now holding it entirely immobile, unable to break contact with the silver. Another, a boy who looked like he was her younger brother, had his arm extended as well, his hand glowing golden, though Basil didn’t know what he was doing.
Everyone around on the rooftops took a deep breath, watching two titans of the metahumans world – one of the original cowls and the legacy of one of the original capes – marching onto the square, towards their quarry.
And then Basil and his friends just watched as they went on the offensive.
Alright, so, clearly, an explanation is in order. I’m going to keep it brief, though, for various reasons, chief of which being that a) I don’t like to complain and b) there’s a lot of personal stuff involved.
The last two months have been a weird mixture of slow and incredibly stressing for me. There was financial trouble, two new jobs to get used to, a death in the family, classes at the university, essays, a term paper, several bouts of sickness (I was on antibiotics twice in November alone) and some really, really, really stressful (and incredibly infuriating, as I had NO fault in it, yet had to deal with it pretty much on my own) troubles with university bureaucracy.
I’m not going to say I didn’t have the time to write – that would be a lie. The truth is, I simply did not have the energy to even check my e-mails for most of the last month, honestly. Or the comments here on the blog. Or really do much of anything, aside from chatting with friends and playing some games.
As an aside, to the people on the IRC channel – I haven’t forgotten about you, I simply can’t log onto darkmyst! All other servers work, just darkmyst seems to not work for me for whatever reason.
So, yeah, it’s been a shitty time.
On the other hand, I watched the new Star Wars movie yesterday (well, the day before, now). Go watch it. NOW.
Anyway, that was pretty invigorating, and so I cranked out about 60% of this chapter in the day since. I honestly intended to have this go on to at least 10k words, to cover the Feral Family’s and Kraquok’s fight with Crocell, and several other things, but this being Christmas time, I also had family come visit, so not much of a chance to write nearly as much as I’d liked.
What else to talk about…
Obviously, I utterly suck at keeping to.a schedule. I don’t know how to fix it, though some people have suggested opening a patreon account, both so I can drop at least one of my jobs and so I’ll have a constant motivation to actually write, even when I feel so drained. Or maybe just having a steady income from this will prevent me from feeling drained in the first place, who knows?
Anyway, I decided to take a closer look into patreon and everything. I’ve said repeatedly, before, that I didn’t want to use patreon until I could keep up a steady schedule for a while, but clearly, that ain’t happening yet and honestly, I could use the money, if only so I don’t have to do the shittier one of the two jobs.
Further news… I’m planning to put SOMETHING out for Christmas. Here, or on the Dreaming (since that one is, due to my atrocious writing pace, still in Christmas time in-story), depending on what I manage. It may be short, owing to, well, family and stuff, but at least I don’t have classes or work for a while now. Might just be some kind of Christmas-y interlude or something, if nothing else works. It should be out sometime from the 24th to the 26th.
Apart from that…
Well, once again I apologize for repeatedly breaking my promises and being so bad at keeping to my self-imposed schedule – which is already quite slow to begin with, and there’s really no excuse for not putting out at least one update a week, but… well. Can’t always get what I want, obviously.
With that said, I wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas already, and much fun and unhealthy, but incredibly tasty food. I know I, at least, will take the excuse to pig out like crazy.
Use IRC cloud you poop.
tried to. anything going through my homenetwork won’t work
Eeeeh, don’t sweat it. Your job as the night guardian at Freddy’s is more important than having faster updates.
Unless you could slack a bit on the work? I mean, what’s the worst that can happen if you stop looking at the remote cameras for ten minutes?
Considered a Patreon account? There’s enough people here that it might the financial trouble a little. Who knows, perhaps it might help a lot.
it’s in the works, actually. I’m just trying to figure out a proper way to do it – how to organise perks and stuff. Mainly though, I have to really calculate how much money I absolutely NEED and what I can offer everyone in exchange for more.
You could offer people mini-chapters devoted to particular characters. Their choice who and all that, as an occasional thing. Could poll from your patrons to decide.
Could let them choose from a list, that way you’re not sitting at it wondering ‘how the hell do I make enough to fill up this page’ with a minor character.
I think you are overthinking it with perks, I am fine giving money if it gives you enthusiasm to write more. mother of learning Patreon does not have bonus’s. the author put it up because his fans wanted a way to support his work and now he is now releasing updates once every 3 weeks insteed of a month plus miss deadlines.
I agree with Brandan here. I imagine plenty of people would be happy to throw money at you. I’d join them, if I wasn’t in the poverty line already.
Still, just go with it. You can always expand later (and you may suddenly find you have enough money to do so).
not sure if i can spend this month, Christmas spending has ran me dry, as soon as i can, 10$ will go to your patreon.
Ah this just made my day! Thanks for all the hard work!
It has been a while Tieshaunn, but the wait has been worth it.
I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope the future holds better times for you
I suppose that this comment can act as the start of a typo thread.
I didn’t see a typo pe se, but assuming proportions stay the same, doubling height means eight times the weight, not four.
fixed, thank you
Thanks for the chapter and Merry Christmas!
oh hell yesssss. i have beem waiting so long to scratch that itch. also I saw Star Wars on Dec. 17th, not that its a competition or aoything…buuuuut if it were I would be winning;-P. also also sorry bout your bad luck.
I wanted to watch VII in english, and in the Lichtburg (germany’s oldest and biggest cinema). They only had one english showing without subtitles, so it had to be the 21st^^
p.s. im in line to watch it again now! merry christmas to me! mid west america is 6 hours behind time stamp.
> not that its a competition or aoything…buuuuut if it were I would be winning
I drove across the Alps and back to watch it the 16th 😛
See now you would think that you just won the “totally-not-a-competition” competition. seeing how you saw it a day earlier and all. bvuuuut You had to travese a dangerous mountain range known for terriable whether conditions, yetis, and canibals. where as all i had to do was take a 15 minute car ride to the theater, sure there is the risk of aeing shot at, but then again mame a plabe that that isnt a possability in America!
Deleting the link to your serial. Although I was enjoying it, I dont remember it well enough to easily resume at this point anyway. So long and thanks for all the fish 🙂