B007 Hastur, Shrouded in Dread (Part 3)

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The blood-covered woman approached Brennus slowly. Clumsily. She did not seem to have much in the way of fine control, the way she moved her body.

Never moving (outwardly at least), Brennus tracked his eyes over the room, accessing the situation.

Panthera Avis was holding him down from behind, his claws clamped around his armor’s upper arms – he was strong, the claws had already deformed his suit. I just finished this version. Now I will need to repair it. I need more money.

Worst case, he would have to either join the Juniors or take money from Amy.

Neither of which really appealed to him.

Netsense was just crouching nearby, her limbs folded up around herself, making her look far smaller than she was. It did not look like she was really aware of the situation around herself.

Hastur was watching him, and though he could not tell by the heat readings, he could feel her glee at what was to come.

She did not seem to react to the plans forming in his mind, at all.

Might be she is not really a mind reader as such.

No answer from the others. Might be they had come to the same conclusion as he had.

It made no difference. He could either try to escape or fight them to the death. Either way, they were not getting him. She was not going to get him.

Mary was just a meter away, almost close enough. But she stopped and looked back at Hastur, her body posture betraying insecurity.

“Get over it, dummy! C’mon, rip the mask it off!” Hastur urged her on.

Get over it, huh? He looked down at her feet – the blood she was pouring off had not yet spread over to him. She can only walk on her own blood? No, then Hastur would not tell her to get over it… her power only works while she is standing on blood?

Not enough evidence, really, but certainly something to keep in mind.

She took a step over the pooling blood, staggering a little before enough blood flowed out of her… every part to cover the carpet on the floor.

One step. Short, insecure. Half a meter away. The blood was touching his knees now.

Just a little more.

Everyone else in the room, save for Panthera Avis, was standing in nearly half an inch of blood. Avis was still behind Brennus, and thus not yet surrounded by blood.

The bloody woman reached out and touched his helmet, the motion almost gentle.

His reaction was most definitely not gentle.

One of his latest additions to the armor had been a defense system against being physically grappled. It was plain and simple, and he had slapped himself on the head for not thinking earlier of it.

He ran a massive current through his entire armor, and thus through Avis and Mary… and everyone else in the room, using the blood he and Mary were standing (or, in his case, kneeling) on as a conductor.

Avis’ claws let go of him as he was bodily thrown back against the wall behind. The other three shook and dropped without a sound other than that of bodies hitting a floor covered in blood.

He gave them no chance to react. Jumping forward, he slid out the blade hidden in his armor’s wrist, pushing it into Mary’s left eye, and then her brain, flinching as the deformed upper arms of his suit bruised his arms badly.

Sorry, Mary. I wish I knew how to save you, but I cannot risk being taken out now.

With his other wristblade, he cut through her neck, beheading her and throwing the head away from the body.

Best to be sure.

Hastur screamed in outrage, her power easily returning control of her body to her. “Gethimgethimgethimgethim!!!”

How unprofessional.

With a single, violent leap, he flew across the room like a bullet, tackling Netsense with such force into the wall that they broke through into the next room.

Before he had time to analyze the thermal images he was getting, he stabbed a blade into her shattered ribcage, cutting through heart and lungs. Or at least where they should be – he had no idea whether or not her mutations had shifted her organs around.

Which was why he took off her head with his next attack, then forced a grenade down her neck, making a sickening noise along the way.

Whether or not she can actually read minds, Hastur obviously has a very powerful perception power. Probably what allowed Panthera Avis to teleport beyond his line of sight.

And even if not, Netsense was far too dangerous to leave to Hastur – she could use her powers offensively, too.

The grenade detonated less than a second after he pulled his arm out of her limp body. And it amply demonstrated the difference between setting explosives off in the open and setting them off within a fleshy, juicy body.

The charge he had built into the grenade was normally sufficient to blow out a reinforced door’s lock, or punch a hole in most armor. Localized damage.

He was splattered with blood and worse all over his front, as Netsense was spread across the entire room.

* * *

No matter what one does, unless they’re complete monsters or inhumans, having a human – even a twisted human – explode right in front of them, splattering them from head to toe and covering the room will stagger one.

If the room is already glowing orange from all the blood and there are countless… well, not corpses, but pieces of them, and all of them twisted… then it does not help. Even if one is fortunately unable to make out all the details due to thermal vision.

Brennus staggered, almost throwing up in his mask (he had built in a feature to take care of that if it happened, but still) and not moving for a few seconds.

Panthera Avis slammed into him as Hastur screamed in frustration.

“Uff.”

The former villain, now an enslaved monster, must have weighed more than a ton by now – they both flew forward and Brennus slammed into the floor, creating cracks where their combined weight almost broke the floor.

“Hold him still! Rip his mask off, stupid!” screamed Hastur as she followed them into the room, her hood thrown back. Had Brennus not blocked his normal vision, he would have even more trouble now.

“It is a helmet, not a mask, stupid!” Brennus shouted back, annoyed.

As Avis reached for his helmet, Brennus once again electrocuted him, throwing him off for a moment. Ignoring the building pain in his arms, he whirled around and stabbed two of the faces within his open ribcage.

The others screamed so loudly they would have blown out his eardrums had he not included protection against such in his helmet.

It did not help much, though. Avis put his arms around Brennus and squeezed.

At first, little happened, but then the armor started to groan under the stress.

He never had this kind of superstrength. Just how much more powerful has he become!?

The armor groaned more, even as he started ramming his knee into Avis groin. The monstrous villain grunted in pain, but showed no further reaction, apart from continuing to crush Brennus.

“That’s it, wreck his armor and bring him to me! Good boy!” said Hastur, back to her sweetly cheerful mood. She was actually hopping up and down in place.

He could not see any colours, but he imagined her to look quite demented, her clothing mismatched, splattered with copious amounts of blood.

No time. Sixty percent energy left, got to make it count.

Expending as much as he could at a time, nine-point-fifty-three percent, he channeled the electricity through the blades still stuck inside Avis’ body.

Not his best idea. Avis convulsed, his arms closing even harder around Brennus’ chest. With a final groan, his chest armor cracked, and he could hear his arms break.

Ugh.

Another shock finally made Avis let go of him. Brennus slid down onto his knees as his enemy fell back.

Double Ugh.

He accessed his system diagnose – the chest part was mostly gone, the arms, even if his own arms were not broken, were largely destroyed and there was damage to the battery – it was steadily losing an additional amount of its charge.

I am going to lose this.

Using the controls in his boots and helmet, he forcefully – and under a lot of pain – cut into the legs of Avis. Not through them, because his bones were way too dense and blocked his swords.

I have to include the humming blade in my wristmounts in the next version. And more heavy firepower. A lot more.

Aye, mate. There ain’t such a thing as too much firepower. But there certainly is too little, and you have too little.

I propose finishing those remote matter detonation ray guns.

“Oh, shut up and surrender, you numbheads! Just look at my face and you can be happy and make yourself as much firepower as you want!” shouted the demented girl.

She can not read my thoughts, but hear our… communication? What the hell? You are just in my head, part of my mind, both of you… right?

No answer, and Hastur did not react, either.

Now I am getting really freaked out.

Avis screamed again through all of his faces – even the pierced ones, which were visibly, if slowly regenerating. He bent down to grab Brennus again, his claws opening once more, but he saw it coming and jumped backwards, again using his secondary controls.

This hurts.

Avis flickered forward, closing the distance and kicked him hard, right against the shattered breastplate.

He heard something break in his chest, along with the armor. One rib… two?

“Nathaniel, sweetie, don’t kill him, will-ya?”

Brennus slammed onto the floor, breathing hard – as much as his armor still allowed him to. It only got worse when Avis stepped on his chest, pinning him to the floor.

He choked, his vision blurring with tears of pain.

My arms…

No time to mope. He had still some control over his arms, the armor had been built to function for as long as possible. It hurt, worse than he thought possible… but for some reason, the pain did not disable him.

He moved the arms, digging both blades into the deformed, oversized ankles of Panthera Avis, one from each side, one towards the heel and one towards the front, cutting tendons and muscles.

If he could not cut his bones, then he would cut in between them. Sever the connections.

Panthera did not even scream as his foot was severed from his leg at the ankle, but his many faces snarled in a way that matched Hastur’s own snarl.

Brennus punched his leg aside, parting it completely from the foot, then activated the grappling hooks he had built into the two boxes at his hips.

The thin, ultra-strong wires shot against the ceiling, attaching themsleves their by their ‘hooks’ (the same devices he used for his boots to stick to walls). With a flick of his pinky, he made them reel in – but not equally. The left one was reeled in faster than the right one, tipping him onto his side as he rose, throwing Panthera Avis off.

Hastur’s monster fell down, unstable now without his foot and Brennus took the chance to push his left wristblade into his groin, letting the beast’s own weight and his own upward momentum pull the blade up and from groin to neck, splitting him nearly in half.

With a twitch of his ringfinger and some (very, very painful) shoulder movements, Brennus turned around in the air and landed on his feet, seemingly secure. He was not, of course, but the upside of fullbody powerarmor was that he could easily hide that.

Then again, his armor was so obviously broken, if it was not for his cloak he would probably look like a cautionary tale against frontline gadgeteers.

Great. I am running off on tangents again.

His arms hurt abominably, he had trouble breathing, his head was swimming and his legs had no strength left. On top of that, he felt like throwing up, first the contents of his stomach, then the bowels as well, just to be sure he was empty.

I need to end this. Get away.

He looked at his fallen foe – who was rising again, his wounds slowly mending, his foot regrowing while the other one began to rot in high-speed.

You have got to be kidding me! What does it take to put you down!?

“You have got to be kidding me! What does it take to put you down!?” shrieked Hastur in outrage, her sugar-like behaviour once more discarded in the face of her anger.

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B007 Hastur, Shrouded in Dread (Part 2)

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“Oh, come on!” Brennus shouted at the top of his lungs, as he stood atop a rooftop, watching the monster tear into a McDonald’s restaurant.

Polymnia winced at the volume. She so needed to come up with some kind of protection that didn’t cripple her hearing. <I know it’s disgusting, but->

Gloom Glimmer just looked green and ready to puke.

“That is not what I mean! This. Is. My. First. KAIJU. Could I not have gotten, I do not know, a lightning throwing dinosaur? Or a cyborg dinosaur? Or a chainsaw swinging ape? Or a chainsaw-swinging, lightning-throwing dino-ape?!” He looked incredulously at… the thing. “Instead I get to find out exactly how high you can pile shit!? Is this a joke!?”

Now Gloom Glimmer giggled. “Oh, I guess this is the so-called ‘nerd-rage’, right?” She still looked like she was about to throw up, though.

She couldn’t blame her – the stench was awful. Worse than anything she’d ever smelled before.

The three of them had been dispatched as a team – working under the assumption that, between Gloom Glimmer and the two of them, they should be able to handle it while the others split up into teams to hunt for Hastur – and any other victims of hers.

Now they were looking at twenty meters of brown sludge with two arms made of infected organs and muscles wound around crooked bones, smashing the restaurant open (fortunately, it had been evacuated in time). There were wounds and pustules all over the muscles and… other organs, pulsing and oozing more excrement. No head was visible, instead it looked like there was a particularly… productive opening at its top, covering the figure in wave upon wave of excrement.

“So, what do we do?” asked Gloom Glimmer after a moment, as her sick expression vanished. Acting on a hunch, Polymnia moved over to her, and the stench vanished. Slight changes in the sound around her told her that something was moving the air strangely. Low-level aerokinesis, most probably.

“We blow it up, of course! I will build a bomb, you deliver it, the thing is gone and we go after Hastur,” Brennus explained calmly. Too calmly – he’d just switched from outraged nerd to his usual calm self, like flipping a switch.

He was now looking at several cars that had been crushed by the monster. “And I have everything I need for a good bomb there.”

Polymnia grinned in anticipation. Haven’t built a big bomb before. Quite the oversight, really.

* * *

Irene had cleaned off six destroyed cars, removing their engine blocks and gathering them in one spot. Then she flew off to distract the monster – someone had slapped it with the code name ‘BigShit’, according to Sarah, and Polymnia was going to hunt them down, later on, and make them listen to her brown note – while the two of them worked on something to blow it up with. BigShit had killed seventeen people within ten seconds of appearing, apparently out of nowhere, and starting its rampage. Considering what little they knew about Hastur’s power, they’d designated the poor soul as dead already, and so they were to simply put it down.

The fact that twenty meters of super-strong excrement and whatever hid inside was rather difficult to contain also played a part in that.

Polymnia prayed quietly to God that whoever had been Hastur’s victim truly was lost, and they didn’t end up killing an innocent they could have saved.

No way to heterodyne here, now, especially considering how… worked up Brennus was. And she definitely wasn’t. Curious how easily it set him off. I took him for a calmer person. But then again, he’s totally calm now.

Not that it mattered whether or not they were heterodyned.

Bombs were easy.

Made easier by the fact that contemporary cars were completely electrical, and supplied them with all the parts they needed to work with. Though with Gloom Glimmer gone, the stench was back and worse – there were pools of sludge nearby she very pointedly ignored.

<Electromagnetic Thermo-Bomb?> she asked as she surveyed their material and their tools, distracting herself from the smell. She could already hear the beginning of a melody.

“Aye. You do the core – it’s closest to your speciality – and I do the shell?” Brennus replied, now calm again.

<Sure.> She had her spider-limbs bend backwards to let her work freely, and they started taking the wreckage apart. <What is your speciality, anyway? I’d guess it’s electromagnetism, or something close to that?> she asked matter-of-factly, or at least tried to. She heard Sarah take a surprised breath – the higher-ups really wanted to know – and she was curious, too.

After a few seconds of quietly working while Gloom Glimmer used a freeze-beam and geokinesis to slow BigShit down, she started to think he wouldn’t answer, or else he hadn’t noticed the question. She was just about to repeat it, when he replied: “I haven’t really found a definite focus yet, but it might be modular systems – everything I have created so far either has multiple settings or is easily adapted for multiple uses.”

She breathed in, surprised that he gave it up so easily. Then again, it probably didn’t make much of a difference for him.

At the same time, the song in her head continued to build up as she worked on the core, becoming more and more complicated. She loved listening to all the music her power made. Others did, too. After all, her schematics had turned her into an international superstar.

She’d only ever composed one song that was not also a schematic for some invention – even an aborted one – and no one but her had ever heard that one.

As the song grew more complex, her awareness of her surroundings faded, slowly. Her mind now wholly focused on her work, she kept assembling the core of the bomb. It really wasn’t hard, though she had to jump through a few loops to work it into her usual approach.

She finished it and turned to look at Brennus’ work – he’d assembled a kind of missile, only without any propulsion she could make out. Instead, its tip looked more like a drill than a normal missile tip, and there were exhausts further down the body of the missile, all pointing away from the tip.

“Complete?” he asked. She nodded, handing him the heavy core. He turned around and built it into the missile’s midsection – not the tip, as usual. “Can you assemble a B4CC13 battery, or an equivalent, out of the remaining parts? I already made one,” he continued.

<How is it supposed to work?> she asked as she went to work on the battery. It was even easier than the core, so her thoughts mostly focused on the question of how he managed to assemble both the missile and one of the batteries on time, when she’d just done the core. Even if the core was the most complicated part of the whole thing.

“We stick this into that thing, it drills itself inside and detonates once it reaches its core,” he explained while working on the core, connecting it to one of the batteries.

<How will it know when it has reached the core?>

“We can make an educated guess as to its rough position inside… that,” he explained, pointing at the huge monstrosity currently being baked by Gloom Glimmer. “My ravens will fly around it and serve as reference points for the built-in positioning system, so the missile knows when it has reached its destination. Nice and simple.”

She nodded. It was a nice solution.

<I so need my own raven robots. They’re way handy.> She handed him the battery.

He snorted as he put it in. “They are. The correct term, though, is ‘ravenbots’. Also, you can crib my technology, but you can not crib my style. Find your own animal to mimic.”

<Any suggestions?>

“Bats.”

<Bats!?>

“Well, you do specialize in sonics…”

<I guess so… but they’re kind of icky. And not colourful enough.>

He looked at her long hair that was constantly shiftings its colour. “I guess you are a colourful person. Maybe parrots?”

She thought it over. <Yeah, that works. I’ll see t->

An explosion cut her off, shaking the very earth beneath them for a moment. Polymnia staggered, as did Brennus, and he started to curse as there was apparently some damage to the missile.

<What happened!?>

Sarah replied: <Unkown. Tartsche, Tyche, Spellgun and Hecate engaged rampaging victim of Hastur, then our videofeeds cut off and there was an explosion.>

She turned to Brennus to pass on the information, but he just spoke, while still working on the missile: “Tyche reported in. The enemy was a powerful geokinetic, and he ‘detonated’, so to speak, when one of Spellgun’s shots penetrated a kind of core it had. She is unharmed, as are Tartsche and Hecate – except the latter got her costume ruined, again,” he grumbled for a moment, apparently annoyed more than he was concerned. “But Spellgun broke his leg.”

<Enemy down, Hecate, Tartsche and Tyche unharmed, Spellgun down but non-critical. Outstep will provide extraction,> replied Sarah, and Polymnia remembered that they’d allowed Brennus and his team to patch into their com-system.

Stepping up to stand next to Brennus again, she helped him put the finishing touches to the missile. <How come Tyche reported to you first? I thought you were all in our network.>

“It was down for some reason. She grabbed one of my ravenbots and reported through it.”

<What could knock out our communications?> That might become a major problem.

“I do not know, though it is possible that it was simply an effect of the detonation of this geokinetic. Ah, done.” He closed the body of the missile up. It was as long as they were tall, and looked more like a massive spear than a missile.

Thinking about it, she decided that it was a spear, more than a missile.

<So, how do we get it into that thing?>

“Gloom Glimmer, can you come over here quickly? Without undue risk to civilians?” he spoke into his com-system.

<Gimme a second, will you?> She was tying BigShit down with strands of billowing green energy that… made it look even more stomach-turning. <There, big boy, stay down.>

With a flash of light, she appeared next to them. “So, what do w-“

There was a flash of light, an sound like air being explosively displaced. Polymnia whirled around to see a girl in a yellow sweater and blue jeans, her head hidden by a deep hood.

Next to her stood a… a woman, naked, hairless, her skin black as ink, her body ridiculously elongated and with way, way too many joints on her limbs and torso. Also, her breasts were perfect replicas of her head, one of them locked into an expression of soundless screaming, the other soundless laughing.

And one more… a tall African-American man, his head missing, his chest burst open, the ribs spread open to reveal several twisted half-human, half-feline faces, snarling at the world. Also, she noticed, his… manhood… was abnormally engorged, and hard, to the point where it reached up to his… neck.

Before she could react, before Gloom Glimmer could react, before any of the attackers could do a thing, Brennus whirled around, throwing one of his batons at the girl – Hastur – and another at the twisted man.

The man flashed away, appearing again next to Brennus, while the other baton was blocked by the woman with too many joints, making her twitch for a moment – too little, considering the charge those things had to carry.

Folding her suit’s limbs forward, she tried to attack with sonics, but she was too slow. Gloom Glimmer struck at Hastur with a blast of billowing green energy, but it dispersed upon contact just as Brennus plunged his humming blade into the chest of the man.

The monster did not care, grabbing him with one monstrously deformed hand – it looked more like a toothless maw – and flashing back to Hastur, then vanishing again in another flash along with the two women.

<Oh God, no.>

Gloom Glimmer screamed in outrage.

* * *

They reappeared in a brightly lit room. Panthera Avis dropped him onto blood-soaked rich carpet, in front of the feet of Hastur.

“Hello cutie,” she chirped brightly, squatting on her heels in front of him.

His thoughts, however, were analyzing the situation. Panthera Avis, high-speed line-of-sight teleportation, enhanced strength and reaction speed. The other one’s faces resemble Netsense, shares senses with anyone she has touched in the last half-hour.

No information on the girl in front of him, apart from a sight-based control power. Obviously one that transformed you into a monster. Which was why he had immediately turned off his external cameras, and was right now working solely through thermal vision.

“Hello, Miss…?” he said, raising his head from where he lay on his belly in front of her, as if looking at her directly. Her heat signature seemed to be absolutely fine, and her body-type betrayed no obvious mutation, nor even an exceptional physique.

“I don’t really like to use my old name anymore. Just call me Hastur, I guess,” she replied in that chirpy, too-happy voice. “And you are Brennus. Nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine, Hastur. Though I would have preferred a more polite invitation – or any kind of invitation, really,” he replied. The longer they talked, the better for him to plan his next move. As far as he could tell, there were only three of her monsters around – Panthera Avis, Netsense and a naked, normal-looking woman – who was bleeding through her every pore, torrents of blood running down her body and staining the carpet, crawling over the floor. Her face matched up with that of one of the salesgirls that had been exposed to Hastur earlier. A Mary Smith. Unknown factor. No idea whether or not the transformation bestows powers upon its victims or not.

Or maybe they just manifest due to the extreme stress of the transformation, if they have the potential. Either way, you’re screwed, mate.

“This is interesting. What’re you two – or are you three? – planning?” asked Hastur, her elbows on her knees, with her chin on her hands.

Brennus froze. “You… can read my mind?” Just like that? None of Amy’s defences worked?

“Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I must say, it’s quite rude to hide your face from me like that. And you’re not even really looking at me,” she replied in the voice of a petulant child.

“I think it is necessary, seeing how your power apparently works on anyone who sees your face,” he said in response, staying as calm as he could – made easier by his mask and voice distortion.

“Oh, now don’t be shy, I’m sure you’ll love me at first si-“

He surged forward, tackling her to the ground. She was so light.

One hand cleanched into a fist and a blade slid out of the upper side of his wrist. He stabbed at her throat.

Before even Panthera Avis could react, his blade plunged into her throat and up into her brain. She tensed up, then slumped, going limp and motionless.

Her heart stopped, along with all brain activity.

Suddenly feeling sick, Brennus hesitated – and was promptly kicked by Mary, throwing him across the room and so hard into a wall, it cracked. Panthera Avis flashed in next to him and grabbed his arms with his two maw-like hands, holding him down on his knees.

And Hastur squirmed on the ground as her blood flowed back into the closing wound. Within the blink of an eye, she was whole and alive again, and rose to her feet.

“That’s no-o-ot gonna work, cutie!” she chirped, then broke out into giggles. “You can’t hurt me, not really, no-o-one can, nu-uh, no chance, not really!”

She took a step towards him. “Now, dear Mary, please rip off that stupid helmet, will you? It’s a crime, hiding such a cute face!”

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Teaser: B007 Hastur, Shrouded in Dread (Part 1)

This is murder for my heart.

“He. Hehe. It’s just fun for everyone, Jay-jay,” the girl they called Hastur whispered, giggling.

“Wrraurk?” asked Nathaniel. He shook his head, still not quite able to talk again after seeing her face.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

“Nothin’ nothin’, Nathaniel. Now, since you’re all ready,” Her new friends had all gotten themselves ready. Only five of them had survived falling in love with her, but that was to be expected. They’d been bad men and women, anyway.

“And stupid. You were all stupid, too. What in Dio’s name possessed you to let me loose?” She looked around at the five of them, but only got moans and gurgling as a response. They were all still speechless.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

She looked down at herself, dressed only in some old rags left from the clothing she’d had on when she’d manifested (not much) and the shroud she’d been given (she’d pulled the hood down). “I need new clothes.” She sniffed under her armpit. “A shower, first. And a shave.”

A few blissful minutes later, she was clean again for the first time since they’d caught her. She threw her rags and her shroud away, stretching her body a little to limber up while Francine brought her a clean bed sheet she could use as a cowl until she found something better.

“Clothes, now.”

Focusing her awareness on New Lennston – she’d always wanted to visit this city, and now she’d finally get to do it – she looked for a place with nice clothes, and found a nice boutique.

Nathaniel teleported all five of them into it. He normally needed line of sight for his power, but she had line of sight to anywhere, and Francine could tap into other people’s senses and share them with others.

They popped into the middle of the small boutique – there were only three customers and two salesgirls inside. And they all started screaming in horror when they saw her new friends around her.

Before they could run or call someone, she pulled her cowl down, while Nathaniel jumped around the room, bringing them all into a line in front of her.

They looked at her face and their screaming changed. Now they screamed out of love, as it overwhelmed them.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

She threw the sheet away and went into the underwear section while the five women screamed their love into the world. Fortunately, the street outside was rather empty right now, and the window’s full of merchandise, so they were hidden.

“Those are cute,” she whispered with a giggle to the sound of one of the women – Marge – breaking her own neck. Shame, she always hated losing them. She pulled the pink panties with the dancing unicorns on. “No need for a bra, and ain’t that depressing? Getting powers is supposed to give you like, a D-cup at least. But noooo, I’ve still got apples instead of melons.”

She found a cute pair of socks that matched her panties just perfectly. The tight blue jeans she put on afterwards were nothing special, but they showed off her hips well. And she’d always liked the curve of her hips.

“A shirt now, don’t you think, Nathaniel?” He was her favourite, so far. Such a useful power, and he was the best-looking of the bunch.

“Srrrrrurrrhh,” he replied, slowly getting more control over his speech.

“Or maybe just a hoodie? Don’t want just everyone seeing my face all the time, that makes things… interesting, but not very practical, sometimes.” She nodded to herself and looked through the racks while two more of the women – the two salesgirls – fought each other in a brief struggle, until Mary dug out Jenny’s heart with her bare hands and ate it.

“Don’t you dare get blood over the stuff I might want to look through!” she told her and the other two who were still screaming.

Just then, someone kicked in the doors, and she heard two voices yell “Freeze!”.

Nathaniel and Greg took them down before they could do any more.

She stepped around the clothing rag she’d been standing behind, still topless, to see two police officers on the ground, held down by Greg’s power. They looked at her face and starting screaming, too, while they fought to break free of Greg’s power, useless though that was. Her new friends were rarely smart at the beginning.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

“Hey, Nathaniel,” she spoke up after a minute – Mary and Jenny had just killed their two remaining customers and were eating the tasty bits – while she just couldn’t decide which hoodie to choose. “What’s Hastur mean, anyway?” Maybe it would help knowing that.

“Hhhhhasssssturrrrr… loooooovecraffffft st’ries… King… in… Y-y-yellowwwwww,” he said.

“Bravo, Nathaniel!” she shouted, clapping her hands, then she gave him a kiss on his cheek. “You’re getting better!”

Then she turned back to the clothing selection. “King in Yellow, huh? Well, Queen in Yellow, now. So, a yellow hoodie, then…”

And she found one, it was a little thin, but it had a cute little heart for a zipper, so she put it on and zipped it closed. Then she clapped her hands again. “Shoes! I need shoes, too!”

Eight minutes (and one dead policeman later – poor stupid thing, he’d ripped out his own intestines only to eat them, but they others had gotten hungry, too when they saw that), she’d found the cutest little black-and-pink sneakers.

Looking at herself in front of the mirror, she pulled the hood up and deep down over her face, so not even her chin could be seen.

“I look cute, don’t you all think so, too?” she asked her new friends. They’d all finished screaming and were quite fine now.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

There were various gurgles and moans of affirmation, as well as a “Of cccccourrrrrsssse.” from Nathaniel.

Great! Now, to see what the Juniors and Basil and friends are doing…

She looked into the headquarters of the heroes, but recoiled from the minds of Basil and Melody.

“Ouch. Damn, what is that?” She looked into the other’s heads, and learned all the wonders of heterodyning while Thomas explained it. “Ohhh, I wonder if I can do that, too, with someone. Something to keep in mind.”

Nathaniel teleported them all away, leaving only the bits and pieces of the poor things who hadn’t made it behind. They reappeared in the middle of a mob meeting, with her in the center of the round table they were sitting at. She pulled her hood down. “They’ll probably find out I’m free, soon. Let’s see who I’ll take now, and who I’ll play with until later.”

She let her awareness roam a little around the city – she didn’t want to reveal too much about her capabilities yet.

After a few minutes, she looked back into the workshop.

… but who’ll be the hunter and who the game?

“Oh, Irene, you don’t get it,” she giggled to the sound of her new friends professing their love in screams. “It’s a game of tag. We can alternate roles. Though, of course, if I win, the consequences will be… fun.”

She looked up to see herself in a large mirror on the wall, squatting on her heels in the middle of the room, in her new hoodie and those cutest of all shoes.

“Who ever said the end of the world can’t look cute, huh?”