Two steps into the chamber, and a sudden, dangerous thought struck me. A thought that made me abruptly grab onto Sands’ arm as the girl walked beside me. Gripping her tightly, I dove sideways while shouting a loud warning to the others of, “Drones!”
A second later, a handful of laser shots scorched the ground where all of us had just been. Sure enough, just as I’d realized, Isaac’s upgraded drones were hovering up in the front corners of the room, out of sight from the entrance. The boy hadn’t had his weapon in his hand while he had been talking to us, and he’d made no move to grab it even when he was pissed off at Jazz and lashing out. Given his other preparations, it only made sense that he’d have the drones ready to go, waiting just out of sight but in a position to cover him just in case someone actually made it into the room. It hadn’t even occurred to to wonder until right then. Luckily, I’d barely thought of it in time.
Together, Sands and I dove to the side, rolling only a little awkwardly as we hit the floor. But hey, I’d take an awkward roll over being shot by a laser any day of the week.
Roxa yanked Gordon the other way, and the sudden volley of lasers missed all of us, though it was an incredibly close thing. Even Gidget managed to avoid being hit by lunging forward, skidding a bit along the floor.
Great, we were being shot at from both the left and right corners. The very brief glimpse that I had managed to get while we were rolling out of the way showed two of the drones in the top right, opposite where Sands and I were. The third one, meanwhile, was in the top left, directly above us. And the damn thing was already reorienting to fire down at us.
“Go!” Sands blurted, sweeping her mace up to create a solid rock wall that arced over our heads barely a second before the high pitched whine of the drone’s lasers filled the air to rebound off the hastily constructed stone shield. “I’ve got the drone,” she continued quickly while sliding the badge meant for Isaac that her mother had given her across the floor to me. “You get the fucking asshole it belongs to! Just go, Flick!”
Across the way, I could see Gordon and Roxa split up similarly, with the werewolf girl going for Isaac while the boy turned to face the two drones with his shield and sword raised. As both drones fired, he caught the incoming lasers on the shield before pursing his lips to whistle. There was some weird, near-invisible distortion in the air that flew to hit the nearest drone, and it suddenly spun wildly for a second as if it was completely disoriented. One of Gordon’s new powers, apparently.
Meanwhile, Isaac’s focus on us had allowed Jazz to break free of the forcefield he had trapped her in, and she was already lunging for him. Quickly, I snatched the badge off the floor and dropped it into my pocket for safe keeping while heaving myself back up. Trusting Sands to keep the drone occupied so that it didn’t just shoot me in the back, I went for the boy. All we had to do was get the badge on him. That was it. We just had to attach it to him and it would do the rest.
But that was going to be harder than it sounded, which became clear as Gidget lunged toward Isaac with a vicious snarl. As much as Roxa hated the boy for the psycho piece of shit that he’d turned out to be, I was pretty sure it had passed onto her cyberform partner. Unfortunately, the boy snapped his hand up, and the metal cougar was caught in mid-air. Apparently there had been some kind of metal-manipulation power included in all the upgrades that he’d managed to get. Which was just fucking fantastic. With a smirk, Isaac threw his already regrown hand back behind himself, sending Gidget that way to crash bodily into the incoming Jazz so that both were sent sprawling. Before either could get up, Isaac sent Gidget up and then down again, battering Jazz viciously.
Roxa, meanwhile, was caught from underneath by some kind of metal tentacle that rose from the ground and wrapped around her waist. The metal coil squeezed tight enough that Roxa gave a sudden gasp of pain, all while Isaac openly laughed, cackling like this was all some incredibly fun game. But before he could do any more damage, the blonde girl opened her hands. Some of that black oil-like stuff that she could create and manipulate now poured out of both palms before shooting back up her arm. It flowed between her trapped arms and the tight metal coil that was wrapped around her. A second later, the coil was forced apart as the stuff solidified and shoved it outward to create just enough space that Roxa was able to slip free and drop back to the floor.
By that point, I had finally managed to reach Isaac. With a grunt, I swung my staff for the asshole’s face. Sadly, he was entirely too quick for that, jerking his head backward out of the way as the staff whipped past his nose. His cackling continued unabated.
I followed up by snapping the staff back against my chest while pivoting on one foot. The motion set me perpendicular to Isaac, with my right shoulder facing him. With my staff held against my chest, I continued my pivot to slam the extended end into the boy’s side as hard as I could.
Except the hit never landed. Isaac managed to stick the shaft of his flail (that was all that was left of it while the drones were elsewhere) into the path of my weapon, smacking it aside. As my staff was easily deflected, he met my gaze and waggled his eyebrows mockingly. Then his fist slammed into my face. He moved so quick I hadn’t even had a chance to register that it was coming, even with my enhanced reflexes.
And fuck. It was like getting hit by a speeding car. Or maybe a dump truck. My vision went white with black spots for a second as I stumbled clumsily backward, tasting more than a little blood in my mouth. Honestly, in that moment, Isaac probably could have finished things for good if I had been by myself.
But, thankfully, I wasn’t. Before the boy could actually follow through with his attack while I was still recovering, Roxa was suddenly there. She caught his arm tightly, driving her leg up into his stomach hard enough to crack a tree in half. Isaac, however, barely seemed to notice. He gave an annoyed snarl, flicking that empty weapon shaft up between them.
Then the shaft wasn’t quite so empty. In mid-swing, a long, thin blade snapped up into place with a smooth click. Apparently, part of the upgrades that Isaac had been giving his weapon included adding that blade for times when his drones were out and about.
Even worse, as the blade cut into Roxa’s side, she actually cried out in genuine pain and stumbled. Silver. The blade was made of silver. Because of course it was. God damn Isaac.
While Roxa stumbled, the boy’s attention snapped back to me. He pursed his lips and blew at me, of all things. It was like Gordon’s whistle, except instead of making me feeling disoriented, an incredibly powerful gust of wind slammed into my chest hard enough to knock the air out of me. As I doubled over, the wind turned into a brief tornado that sent me flying upward out of control with a cry of surprise despite myself.
My back exploded in pain as I slammed up into the ceiling before dropping once more. Stunned as I was for that brief second, it was all I could do to get my staff down and trigger a brief burst from it to slow my fall before I hit the ground in what basically amounted to a half-sprawl, half-roll. As much as I hated it, I had to take just a second to catch my breath and try to recover as quickly as possible. It hurt. I hurt. This was not going well.
Ahead of me, Isaac was swinging that extended blade of his at a (somewhat) recovered Roxa while Jazz ducked under one of the flailing tentacle-like metal arms that had risen from the floor. Gidget was down, unmoving for the moment.
Jazz turned to mist then, just as a second metal coil swung at her from behind. She reformed, throwing a hand out in the same direction that both coils had swung toward. One of her gravity-manipulation orbs appeared just past them, immediately yanking the coils that way and holding them there, even as they clearly struggled to swing back toward the black girl.
Meanwhile, Roxa stepped in to meet Isaac’s swing. Armored scales covered the girl’s body just in time for her to smack the blade aside while snapping her other hand up. A stream of that oil-like liquid shot from her palm and toward Isaac’s face. Rather than simply spraying him, however, the oil solidified into the shape of a large fist right before impact. His head was rocked backward slightly (which said something about how hard she had hit him with the stuff). Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to really stun the asshole. He recovered pretty much instantly, slicing through the solidified oil with a quick flick of that damn silver blade before pivoting around the falling pieces. Catching Roxa’s extended hand, he yanked her forward and off balance while spinning himself up and into a kick that took the girl in the side, sending her crashing to the floor. Going by the sound of impact, I was pretty sure only Roxa’s new armor had stopped him from literally putting his foot through her with that kick. It was clearly going to take the girl a second to recover from it.
Thankfully, I was up and moving again by that point. In the background, I could hear (and kind of half-see from the corner of my eye) Sands and Gordon working together to deal with the three drones. But my attention had to be on Isaac. We needed to get the damn badge on him before this got worse. This would be over and done with as soon as I could actually get the badge on him. But I didn’t want to tip my hand by trying too openly. The second he actually knew what I was trying to do, this would probably go from hard to completely impossible. So I had to wait for the right opening. Patience, I had to have patience, as hard as it was.
The boy took a step after the fallen Roxa, clearly intent on finishing the job with that silver blade. Before he could follow up, however, the dazed blonde girl was suddenly hauled up off the floor and toward the gravity-manipulation orb that Jazz had just created about halfway to the ceiling. The other girl had clearly thought quickly and snatched Roxa out of the asshole’s reach for the moment.
And Isaac clearly wasn’t happy about that fact, because he spun back toward Jazz while throwing his hand back behind himself in a gesture that sent two more metal coils launching up out of the floor and toward the still-stunned blonde girl as she floated in the air. At the same time, some kind of large, sparkling blue fireball launched itself from the end of his blade, rocketing quickly toward Jazz.
Fuck, fuck, fuck! Changing course away from Isaac himself in mid-stride, I snapped my staff back and down while triggering the boost that I had been saving up. It threw me forward, straight into the path of the incoming fireball. At the same time, in mid-flight, I flipped the staff forward and launched Gus in his grapple form at the furthest of the two coils that were trying to grab Roxa.
The grapple caught the coil just before my momentum yanked it down to crash into its partner, thereby pulling both of them away from Roxa. Simultaneously, that blue fireball hit me just as I focused on the power that I had stolen from Doxer. I felt the energy flood into my body, along with the urge to get rid of it immediately. To that end, I flipped over in the air, facing Isaac from an upside down position while I went sailing past him. My fist lashed out, and I sent a smaller version of that same fireball right back at the boy before righting myself just in time to land in a crouch while retracting the grapple.
Roxa had recovered by then, flipping over in the air to send more of her oil around the metal coils, locking them against one another as she solidified it.
Isaac caught the flame that I had launched at him midair, instantly dissipating it with what amounted to only a bare moment of effort. But that single second where he was focused on that was enough to distract him at exactly the right time (or wrong time, as far as he was concerned). Because in that second, he didn’t notice Gidget flying at him in hoverboard form. She spun sideways, slamming into the back of the boy’s legs hard enough to knock him over. As he landed on his back on the board, Gidget instantly flew straight up, slamming with unbelievable force right into the ceiling before he could recover.
The hoverboard flew away quickly then, letting Isaac fall back toward the ground. He caught himself partway down, slowing his fall somehow. Meanwhile, Gidget had flown down and around to let Roxa hop on, and the two were flying up toward the slowly falling figure. Rather than bring her metal companion in range of the boy’s control, however, Roxa took two steps forward and leapt up.
Floating there as he was, Isaac saw her coming. I saw a manic grin cross the psycho’s face while he readied that silver blade of his, flipping it around before thrusting forward, right into Roxa’s path. He wasn’t just going to stab her with the blade. He clearly intended to end her with it.
But Roxa wasn’t there. At the last second, she used another of her new powers to create a stone duplicate of herself. The statue-like figure appeared directly between her and Isaac, just as he shoved his blade into its chest.
As for Roxa herself, meanwhile, she ran up the back of her stone duplicate, launching herself up above Isaac before spinning in the air. By that point, the statue was already plummeting toward the ground, its weight yanking the weapon from the boy’s hand before he knew what was happening.
From above Isaac, Roxa dropped, slamming into the boy’s back with both feet. The impact knocked him toward the ground. Roxa herself, however, stayed in the air and out of his reach, courtesy of a gravity orb that Jazz, obviously thinking quickly once more, had thrown behind and above the other girl.
Isaac was falling toward the ground, launched that way by the hard kick to his back (which had to have broken something). That coming so soon after he had literally been pancaked against the ceiling by Gidget, it took the boy a second to recover.
It was a second too long, because a second orb appeared on the floor. This one, however, didn’t decrease gravity. Instead, it increased it. Suddenly, Isaac was falling a lot faster, slamming even harder into the floor than he’d been driven into the ceiling.
He picked himself up, but I was already there. Launching myself with a quick burst from my weapon, I rocketed that way. The boy managed to get back to his feet. He saw me coming, a grin starting to form on his bloodied and bruised face as he clearly imagined everything he was going to do when he got his hands on me. That grin fell away, however, as he tried to step forward and raise his hands. He could do neither, because his arms and legs were suddenly held in place by more of that solidified oil courtesy of the still-floating Roxa.
He probably still could have pulled some power out of his ass to swat me aside like a bug. But he needed time to think of it, and time was one thing that the boy didn’t have. Because in that second, my weapon connected solidly with his chest, and I was rewarded with the crack of bones snapping. Isaac doubled over, and I pivoted, spinning the staff up and around before driving it down into the back of the boy’s head. As he was knocked forward and down, I drove my knee up into his face. Honestly, it hurt my leg. But it was a good hurt, especially when I heard his yelp.
With a livid snarl, the boy lashed out, managing to break his arm free of the solid oil in time to punch me hard enough to send me to the ground with a cry of my own.
“You think you can win?!” he screamed, looking completely crazed. “You’re nothing! You are fucking nothing! You’re all worthless! You’re pathetic! I can take every single thing you can dish out! You’re done!”
“Now, see,” I managed a bit painfully from where I had sprawled. “That last part, that’s right. We are done.”
“What are you–” the boy started before his gaze snapped down. He saw the badge that I had clipped to his shirt while he was doubled over just in time to blurt a sudden frantic curse.
Then he was gone, as the badge transported him up to the ship. It was done. He was caught. We’d finished it.