Exposed – she was tough, but not very strong. If anything, she was weaker than her sheer mass would suggest. Defensive mutations, sacrificing power for survivability. She was tall, broad, closer to a male heavyweight lifter than any kind of woman, but was on record for only having the strength of a normal teenage girl. What made her problematic was how tough she was, her body adapted to easily resist temperature extremes and electrocution, as well as being slashed, stabbed and especially blunt impacts. What made her dangerous was her ability to generate fire or ice, the ‘or’ being operative, from her hands. She could shoot streams of flames that’d not only burn, but adhere to solid objects and, provided there was fuel available, spread out; alternatively, she could fire something halfway between a foam and a liquid, a substance which would absorb any heat it got into contact with and turn into ice. If she covered a person with it, they’d end up like the two preschoolers kneeling by the swings, arms wrapped around each other – frozen solid from head to toe, as all warmth was leeched from the victim, the liquid that’d covered them expanding into irregular icicles.
El Conquistadore – he was the real danger to watch out for. His power meant that he had complete control over any water outside of a living body, so long as he was in contact with it – and as Melody walked out from her hiding place and approached them under the cover of her cone of silence, she could see that he wasn’t just wet, he stood in a puddle of water which extended into multiple streams connecting him to the four pools of water and the pool of blood and gore. Smart, smarter than his lifestyle suggested he was, which bode ill for anyone facing him. Via those streams, he would be able to control all that water at will, move it around like an extension of his body, use it to smash people to paste, to drown them or otherwise to assault them. Worse, if he managed to make physical contact with exposed skin – and Melody was quite aware of the fact that most of her upper body was fully exposed – his power would extend into her body, and he could paralyze her, tear apart her insides at a moment’s notice or simply cause her to explode. Her physical toughness was unlikely to be sufficient to even slow him down.
I need to take them out fast. But first, I need to make sure I won’t hit the civilians, as well. Without the tuners in my armor, I don’t have the precision to take them down from this angle, without at the very least crippling the father and son, she thought, stepping closer, trying to stay behind the two villains.
If she could get close enough to strike, physically, then she might be able to take out El Conquistadore before the battle even begun; Exposed on her own was dangerous, but Melody was confident she could take her on by herself without endangering the civilians.
She was barely halfway along the way to reaching the villains – not making any sounds at all meant she was well-concealed from detection, so long as they didn’t turn their heads – when the young man that was bleeding out through his stump, his father unable to staunch the bleeding, looked up and straight at her.
He moaned, in pain most likely, almost certainly involuntarily, but it was enough. El Conquistadore turned his head and looked, only for his eyes to widen when he caught sight of her.
“You,” he snarled, his beautiful face contorting into utter hatred. “I remember you – you’re that cow that made me shit my pants in front of everyone!” he explaimed, speaking with an unmistakable, though easily understandable, Spanish accent.
“Oops,” she replied, feeling her face heat up a bit, actually. “I forgot I used my brown note, back then…”
Just as she had expected, those words only made him angrier, as a vein began to stand out and pulse on his forehead.
“You forgot!? You turned me into laughingstock, you coño!” he shouted, as the water and blood rose out of the pools around them, like fat, bloated spiders standing on spindly legs, ready to strike.
I’ve got to deal with this the same way Brennus took on Mindstar – an enemy who’s way more powerful than me, who only needs to hit once to beat me, so I only get one shot to do this right, she strategized in her head, even as she deliberately put a swagger into her step, the way she’d seen older performers walk when they wanted to appear extra-sexy. Add a sweet, but condescending smile, tune her vocoder for maximum mockery…
“Well, I just assumed you of all people would be able to clean up easily,” she said.
That did it. The bastard lost it, screaming, his pretty face distorted in anger; a gesture made the streams of water he was using to stay connected to the pools leap up into his hands, held like reigns or leashes, and he snapped them towards her.
“You puta, I’m going to…”
Four blobs of dirty water and one blob of blood and worse shot at her, but she was already moving, having expected a straight-forward, blunt attack like this.
If he’d been smart, if he’d retreated instead of attacked, put the hostages between himself and her, spread the water out to make the terrain impassable and hem her in… she could have been in serious trouble.
This, this was easy to deal with. Dude has a surprisingly thin skin.
She shot forward, low and fast, moving her legs as hard as she could; with strength far in excess of what would be needed to normally move a body as heavy as hers, that meant some serious burst of speed that she could generate, using it to close the distance between herself and him.
“… grab those fat cow tits of yours and…”
Melody dove underneath the attack, rolling past him. She was so close to the armless young man now, one of his feet was between her knees, as she came to a halt, twisting left at the same time that she stood up.
El Conquistadore was slow to react, turning at the waist, left arm trying to track her, but too slow to do so. His lack of actual training showed, because he’d have had a better chance of tagging her if he’d just lashed out with his power, rather than try to bodily turn and aim at her.
Exposed, on the other hand, was already in the perfect position to hit her, the civilians, or even both.
Melody didn’t give her the chance. As she came up, she grabbed the woman’s outstretched right arm. She couldn’t be sure that a punch or a kick wouldn’t be absorbed, or at least mitigated by her weird biology – but Exposed had been so kind as to publish her precise weight, and keep it updated to boot.
Seventy-eight kilogram and some change was far below the kind of weight Melody felt confident tossing around.
She pulled on Exposed’s arm, taking her off her feet, and swung the woman with all her strength at El Conquistadore’s legs.
He cried out, his legs smashed out from under him, flipping him over and disrupting his concentration on his power.
The blobs of water and gore collapsed, momentum causing the resulting flood to surge towards them, but at least the actual attack was foiled.
Melody continued her swing, then released Exposed’s arm, tossing her across the misshapen area and into one of the empty pools.
Dirty water washed over her feet, the prone El Conquistadore and the civilians, and Melody kept moving, knowing full well that she was one brief touch to her exposed stomach, arms or face away from being completely at the scumbag’s mercy.
She put her feet on his wrists, while he was still sputtering and spitting out water, and bent over.
He began to say something in Spanish, but she just thrust her hands down, crossing her arms. Her armored fists hit the wet, soggy ground next to his ears. She’d crossed them, so the back of her left gauntlet was next to his right ear, and the back of the right one next to the left one.
Speakers just a few centimeters away from his ears.
She dialed the volume way up and triggered them, even as the parts of her visor that fit like headphones over her ears clamped down and sealed themselves to protect her sensitive hearing.
Even so, the noise was horrible. A huge, sharp, high-pitched wail, so powerful that, even though the gauntlets were designed to focus sound only in specific directions – in this case, directly into his ears – she could feel the vibrations in her bones, in her teeth. Water was blown away all around them, and the father and son were thrown over, from sitting up on the ground to lying flat, followed by the mother and her child, whom threw herself over the boy and covered his ears with her hands for good measure.
Their reactions were nothing compared to El Conquistadore’s, whom bucked and strained, almost managing to dislodge her from atop him. His eyes were wide, and filling with blood already as capillaries burst, his mouth wide open as he screamed – but Melody doubted anyone could hear even a hint of it, next to the wail her gauntlets were generating.
The sight turned her stomach.
She still kept it up until he went limp, blood running from ears, eyes and nose, before she cancelled the shriek.
The sudden absence of her gauntlets’ wail plunged the area into almost painful silence – which was promptly broken by the roar of a stream of fire, coming right at Melody’s head.
She could have jumped up to dodge the shot, but that’d expose her to a follow-up attack while she was airborne and thus far more restricted in how to react. She could have used her sonic shield, but, it wasn’t very good at dealing with heat.
Instead, she threw herself forward, rolling out of the way as soon as she heard the roar of flames.
The stream cut through where her head had been just a second ago, and was then followed up by a spike of ice cutting through the air towards her.
Melody planted her feet in the soggy ground and slammed her forearms together, side by side, triggering her sonic shield – the one-directional version of her cage, as she lacked the multiple speakers of her power armor that’d allow her to project the more powerful version.
Even so, the icicle smashed into it and bounced off in pieces, failing to even push her back, in spite of the slick mud she was standing in.
Exposed climbed fully out of the pool that Melody had thrown her in, her odd face twisted in a snarl of anger.
“You’ll die for that, you fucking cow!”, she screamed, gathering flames around her hands, clenching them into fists.
Melody huffed at that. “You were going to kill me anyway, so that rings rather hollow as an added threat!” she replied, starting to walk slowly to the left, as if trying to circle her enemy, though mainly, she wanted to make sure the civilians wouldn’t be in either of their firing lines.
If I get close enough… could I repeat El Conquistadore’s takedown? Her physiology is clearly not entirely human anymore… frankly, she’s basically a Chimaera type, and mostly a defensive one at that, so… would it even work? she thought to herself, feeling far less confident than she pretended to be.
Fortunately, acting confident even when she wasn’t had been one of the first and most useful lessons she’d learned being a performer.
“Maybe I’ll draw it out now,” Exposed snarled, her hands filling with fire again. “Roast you from the toes up! I wonder how you’ll be singing while I do that!”
Fuck, these crazies are so boring to listen to, Melody thought to herself, feeling weary.
Not too weary to dodge the next blast of fire though – thank God for all those training sessions she’d hated for taking her out of her workshop.
Roll over shoulder, to the side – Exposed tried to anticipate that, using her other hand to add a second stream of liquid fire, but she’d either forgotten or not realized that Melody was physically enhanced as well; the second stream lagged behind her, missing wide.
Still, all was not well – too much of the area around the civilians was burning, and just one mistake on Melody’s part could spell doom for them, if they were caught in Exposed’s fires. Worse stills, the fire she created didn’t seem to stop burning. Rather, it spread, even with nothing to fuel it, flowing over the pavement like a thick, viscous fluid.
Melody ran, breaking out to the left, seemingly to circle around Exposed.
The misshapen woman tried to track her with her arm, but here a downside of her specific delivery method became clear – she was essentially shooting liquid, rather than some kind of beam; it was slow, like trying to follow a target with a water hose, the fluid lagging behind the nozzle.
Running a spiral let Melody evade it and close the distance, as the woman utterly failed to adapt, just standing there and spinning about trying to hit her, laying out an ever-tightening circle of fire.
Can’t get out of this without getting burned now, Melody thought, closing in.
“Stop running and stand still, already!” Exposed shouted, sounding a great deal younger than she looked – filled with an almost childish indignation that only made her seem more unhinged.
Fuck you, Melody thought, as she closed in and leapt onto her.
Exposed squealed, but was neither fast nor trained enough to react – being forced to take martial arts classes paid off, as Melody leapt onto the woman’s back, or to be more precise, she grabbed her outstretched arm while leaping, the same one that was emitting the stream of burning liquid, and used it like a lever to swing herself around her enemy, putting her whole weight into the motion to again plant her feet and lift her up.
“What the-“, was all that Exposed had time to say, before she slammed head-first into a patch of cracked pavement with such force, her head was half-buried in it.
She did not pass out, even with that; instead, she kicked out, wildly, catching Melody by the shoulder.
The kick was nothing special, it would not even have budged Melody, with her feet planted as they were – but indeed, raw pain shot through her body and she reared back, crying out, almost stumbling into the ring of fire around the two of them.
What was that? She looked at her left shoulder, and saw the skin there frozen, cracking open to show raw redness beneath. How? She looked at Exposed’s foot – it was oozing with a clear, white-blue liquid, sizzling with cold as it dripped to the pavement.
She can emit that stuff from parts other than her hands? A trump card she held back until now?
Exposed put her feet down and pushed with her arms, pulling her head out of the hole it’d made in the ground, whirling around to glare at Melody.
Though her strange physiology had saved her from having her head caved in or her neck snapped, she had taken some serious damage – her already misshapen face was smushed further, there was no other word for it, the nose ripped open and flattened, several of her flat teeth missing, visible through torn lips, and her forehead had been ripped so badly a flap of skin was hanging down, covering her left eye.
Even so, she was already, and visibly, starting to mend.
“Ahhhh’ll kiiiill youuuuu!” she screamed, mad with rage – but she didn’t watch her footing, nor the use of her power, and slipped on the very frozen gel her right foot was still spreading, forcing herself into splits.
Ain’t gonna get that good a chance again! Melody thought, jumping forward, and thrust her thumbs into her ears, as hard as she could, even though her shoulder screamed in blinding pain.
Exposed screamed in pain, as Melody felt the sickening sensation of her thumbs piercing the woman’s ear drums.
Go down already! Melody thought, screaming wordlessly at the same time, unable to form the words out loud, and triggered her gauntlets at the highest setting, channeling it through her thumbs and right into the villain’s skull.
It felt like her bones were cracking, breaking, but the effect on Exposed was nothing short of gruesome, as her widely-spaced eyes flew open and bugged out, going cross-eyed, blood vessels all over her face bursting, as the vibrations ran through her cranium and bounced around inside.
Melody was way beyond caring whether or not she killed. She could feel sick and rotten later, after she’d taken these monsters out.
To that end, she kept up the assault, even as bloody froth bubbled out of her enemy’s mouth, and she would have kept it up until Exposed’s brain liquefied, if she could.
However, as her punches and shoves proved unable to dislodge Melody – Exposed really did not have a lot of physical strength – the villain changed it up, pulling out another trick which wasn’t on her record.
Blue and red liquid, droplets and rivulets, oozed out of her skin, all over, and reacted against each other, before Melody could do more than lean back, her thumbs still stuck inside the woman’s ears.
Heat and cold reacted with each other, and there was a powerful explosion, which literally blew her off of the villain, a sharp pain in her thumbs making her feel like they’d finally snapped for good.
Melody tumbled across the ground, until she slammed into an outcropping of concrete, hard enough it stunned her even through her enhanced physique.
Exposed was even worse off – the woman was screaming at the top of her lungs, scrambling about, trying to get on her feet, yet unable to. Blood was pouring out of her ruined ears, and though Melody had been unable to kill her, she’d utterly destroyed her inner ears, completely robbing her of any sense of balance.
She lay there, dazed, watching the woman spew burning and freezing liquid here and there, her screams so loud they cut even through her daze and made her ears hurt.
Fuck, I didn’t mean to torture her, Melody thought, horrified at the display.
She got up, slowly, walking towards the trashing woman, as she stopped using her power and just rolled left and right on the ground, screaming way past the point where a normal human’s throat would have become too raw to continue.
“Don’t worry, I’ll put you to sleep,” Melody said, her artificial voice calm and soothing, as she reached the writhing woman. “It’ll all be over soon.”
She reached out with her right hand, idly noting that her thumb, while broken, was already mending, aiming to lull the woman to sleep with one of her slower melodies..
And then there was a spark, a tongue of flame, connecting with Exposed’s wide open mouth.
And the deformed villain burst into flames from the inside out.
Melody cried out, horrified, raising her arms to shield herself – but she was not burned. Rather, the flames which consumed her down to a charred skeleton roared up, almost like a burning snake, and before Melody could do anything to help, lunged over to El Conquistadore’s unconscious form, setting him ablaze as well.
“Well, I guess now I know why Hemming wanted to give these posers another shot,” a mocking female voice spoke up.
Melody turned left and looked up, her blood running cold as she saw the speaker – a young woman, barely in her mid-twenties, if that old, standing atop a ruined building. Stark naked and clearly comfortable with it, she had bright red, nearly knee-length hair, which seemed to be threaded through with licks and flickers of real fire and a pair of eyes which, though green, seemed to burn from the inside, the green colors flickering with the illumination from within, her pupils turned to red-orange dots.
She would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for the contemptuous expression on her face, and the deranged look in her eyes, as she brushed her hair back behind her ears with both hands.
“That was bloody hilarious,” Fire Burial said with a childish grin on her face.