That-A-Way and I were both staring at each other in shock for a second after that. I would’ve covered my mouth, but the helmet was in the way. The other girl had a hand over hers, leaning closer to whisper, “They’re going to kill everyone down there. We have to hurry.”
“We have to be careful,” I whispered back. “They’re setting up those bombs. If we go after the kids first, it might alert these guys up here so they make this whole place go boom.”
“And if we go after these guys,” she pointed out while looking over to the corridor the way the guys had gone, “their friends downstairs might hear something and start killing the kids anyway.”
I hesitated, heart pounding its way out of my chest. What was I doing? This was stupid. I was stupid. Why was I here? I was just going to end up getting a bunch of innocent kids–
No. Stop. Stop thinking like that. I was here because I could be here. Because they’d die if we weren’t. Without That-A-Way and me here, the kids would die either way. We had to do something, because if we didn’t… yeah. Terrifying as it was, we had to do something.
Shaking off all those thoughts, I forced myself to focus, whispering, “We… what should we…”
“These guys,” the other girl announced firmly. “We should deal with these guys… quietly. It won’t mean anything if we save those kids downstairs just in time to be blown up. If we stop these guys without alerting the people downstairs, we might be able to actually pull this off.” She was clearly doing her best to sound confident about that.
I nodded once, keeping my voice low. “So how do we do that?”
Looking a bit relieved that I was going along with it, That-A-Way turned. “First, let’s catch up with them and figure out what to do from there after we see what we’re dealing with. Just… remember, we’ve gotta make sure they don’t alert the people downstairs.” She was grimacing at the thought of what would happen otherwise.
So, the two of us quickly, yet silently (with the help of some black paint in conjunction with That-A-Way’s intangibility), worked our way back through all the rooms to catch up with the bad guys. They had stopped at one of the nurse stations. As the two of us peeked out of the nearest room, we actually saw them for the first time, and I let out a very low breath.
Two of the Scion people were ordinary thugs. Those were the ones dragging some kind of electrical wire from an outlet under the nurse’s desk out to the main hall. So they were normal guys. Well, one girl and one guy. Still, simple enough. Which was a thought that actually made me stop for a second to shake my head over. Dealing with armed psychopaths trying to arm a bomb to destroy a hospital so they could get back to murdering sick kids was simple? What happened to my life?
Unfortunately, the other guy, clearly supervising them, was a Fell-Touched. I recognized him immediately. It would have been pretty hard not to. His name was Fork, and he was basically an anthropomorphic porcupine. He stood about five-foot-eight, with a visibly rodent-like face, very fine gray-black fur, and long, sharp dagger quills sticking out of his back from the top of his head all the way down to his waist. At any point, he could shoot those quills out (they grew back quickly) and mentally direct them to attack people. If I remembered right, the quills could also explode. For obvious reasons, he didn’t really tend to bother with any kind of costume. More likely, he had some way of disguising himself when he didn’t want attention.
Either way, he was the problem that we had to deal with. And he wasn’t going to go down as easily as his two minions would. Which was going to be an issue. One we had to figure out very quickly, because I didn’t think it was going to take these guys long to set up that bomb.
After staring at that group for a couple seconds that felt like longer, That-A-Way pulled me back by the sleeve so we were out of sight. Crouching there, she put her face very close to my helmet and whispered almost silently, “How long can your black paint make things quiet?”
Instead of responding verbally, I pointed at the floor and shot a bit of black paint out to make the words, ‘About ten secs’ appear. It was easier than trying to talk and risking being noticed.
She nodded and whispered again. “I have speed going straight at them. If you can paint them and keep them quiet for that long, I think we can handle them together. Don’t forget that radio they’ve got sitting on the desk, just in case.” With what was clearly meant to be an encouraging smile, she put her hand on my shoulder. “It’s gonna be okay. You ready for this?”
Again, I didn’t respond verbally. Instead, I gave her a somewhat shaky thumbs up. Honestly, I had no idea if I was ready for this. But that didn’t actually matter. Those kids did. We had to save them. That was all there was to it. We would save the kids, no matter how scared I was.
That-A-Way offered me a slight smile, and I honestly wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I could tell she was probably almost as scared as I was about fucking this up. Together, the two of us moved back to the doorway. Fork was there, supervising (which in this case meant bitching angrily about how slow they were moving) the two guys as he stood with his back to us. Normally that would be a good thing, but in this case it just meant that those dangerous quills of his were aimed directly at us. This was going to be fun, I could already tell.
Putting a hand out onto That-A-Way’s arm, I painted a long green stripe from her shoulder to her wrist. Next to that, I placed an orange stripe, then a purple one. Speed (to add onto the speed she would already have), toughness, and strength. That done, I made sure she noticed what I was doing before silently holding up three fingers, two fingers, one…
As my last finger went down, my other hand quickly snapped up. With a silent prayer that this didn’t go wrong, I shot a spray of black paint all across the group including the radio on the counter, activating both that and all the paint on the girl beside me even as all three of them were taken by surprise, abruptly jerking (silently) when the paint sprayed its way over them.
That-A-Way blew right past me, a blur of motion that ducked under the four quills that had already shot out of Fork’s back. The quills were coming my way, probably by accident more than anything given he hadn’t turned around yet, and I quickly dove forward and down to let them pass over me into the room behind. By that point, the other girl had slammed into the first of the two normal thugs, the guy. With the added strength I had given her, she picked him up, turned, and threw him into the nearby wall. The female Scion started to react, but That-A-Way had a pair of cuffs on her just before she could do anything, which activated instantly and yanked her to the floor.
She turned to face Fork then, who had recovered enough from his surprise to make a half dozen more quills pop out to hover around him. From the way he paused and his body language, I was pretty sure he was trying to say something. But the black paint hadn’t worn off. Instead, he just made a forward gesture with one hand, sending those quills at the girl. I went to scramble to my feet to help, but at the last instant, I heard a whistling sound and ducked in time to barely (mostly) avoid the return of the quills that had gone back into the other room. One of them cut my arm, drawing a slight bit of blood despite the costume. It also clearly warned the guy I was there, because the quills that just passed me spun around in the air to face me once more.
Meanwhile, between the orange paint and the fact that I was pretty sure her invulnerability had activated given she was now facing the opposite way from her superspeed (I was getting the hang of keeping track of which direction created which power), the four quills that had shot toward That-A-Way did nothing to her, even when they exploded. And in another bit of good news, it seemed that the silencing effect of the black paint even applied to body parts (or other things) that were sent away from the original target, because of the explosions made no sound.
But that was probably about to wear off, and I still had these quills to deal with. I saw Fork glance very quickly over his shoulder as though judging where I was before sending them at me like a trio of very angry, very large wasps. Wasps that would explode, so… worse.
Before they could hit me, I activated the green angel wings on my back to speed myself up. Then I raised one hand and lowered the other, shooting red paint from both. At the same time, I also activated the blue paint that was already on my shoes. It hurled me up toward the ceiling, which I planted my feet against after flipping over in the air. Below me, the flying quills (now painted red from my hasty spray) were just about to adjust to come up after me, when I activated the paint both on them and on the floor. All three were yanked at the ground an instant before they exploded. Again, silently.
Unfortunately, that silently part didn’t last, because I heard Fork suddenly blurt, “—in your ass with a drill!” Which, looking beyond the obvious horrible things brought on by a comment like that, also meant that the paint had worn off. Which was just fantastic, really.
By that point, I had fallen back to the floor, landing on my hands and knees. Just as Fork realized that he wasn’t muted anymore and made a dive for the radio, I hit him with another shot of black paint. At the same time, That-A-Way crashed into him. Except the paint on her had worn off too, so she mostly just bounced off. She was still invulnerable thanks to her positioning, which came in handy as the guy backhanded her (or tried to) and ended up silently cursing as his hand bounced off like a bat hitting a wall.
His other hand was still trying to grab the radio, but I used red paint to yank it away and to my already-red glove before tossing it aside. A second later, I had to throw myself right after it, as another trio of explosive quills shot toward me. I leapt to avoid one, diving over the nearby janitor’s cart just as another crashed into it. Both exploded safely away from me, scattering debris and tools from the cart across the floor.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite fast enough to avoid the third. Just as I rolled on the floor, a sudden sharp stabbing sensation in the back of my leg made me yelp. Reflexively, I triggered both the orange shield and green leg armor my knight-image had. Sped up, I snatched the quill out just as it exploded in my hand. Ouch. Yeah, even with the orange paint, it still stung. If it had been left in my leg when it went off, I really didn’t want to think about what would’ve happened.
On the plus side, That-A-Way was keeping the guy busy while I got myself sorted out so he couldn’t take advantage of me being on the floor. On the negative side, he seemed to have gotten the idea of her power (or maybe they had briefings about that kind of thing, I wasn’t sure what the Scions of Typhon did/how much they prepared). Either way, he suddenly grabbed her around both shoulders and spun to put her on the other side of him. Now her invulnerability didn’t apply. Her super speed had kicked back in, but before she could take advantage of that, he put a fist into her face that knocked her to the ground with a cry. I could see another pair of cuffs on the ground nearby where they had fallen when Fork apparently knocked them from That-A-Way’s hands rather than let her cuff him. Because he was inconsiderate like that.
Adding to the bad things list: when I scrambled to my feet, a sharp pain from the (bleeding) wound in my leg made me stagger with a yelp, and the guy who had been thrown into the wall was slowly picking himself up. Oh, and he was yanking his gun out in the process. Yeah, this whole thing was going just swimmingly. What the hell were we thinking?
Thankfully, That-A-Way noticed the guy too, and he happened to be to the right of her, which put him to the north as she was facing west for her speed. And north meant she could teleport, which she did, appearing beside the guy in time to yank the gun from his hand while her other hand produced that taser of hers, which she jammed into his neck until he collapsed.
Moving north the way she had meant that Fork was to the south of her. So, as she turned to face both him and the half dozen explosive quills he shot at her, That-A-Way was intangible. The quills shot right through her to hit the wall beyond, just above where the other guy fell. They exploded, not that that did any damage to her either. It did, however, rain debris from the wall down on the collapsed guy. And the explosions may have hurt him too, I couldn’t tell from there.
My leg (and hand, from the explosion) still hurt, and the second round of silencing paint was about to run out. Plus, I suddenly had another trio of explosive quills shooting at me, courtesy of the jackass himself. With a grunt, I activated both the green and purple lines on my legs and threw myself forward. Sprinting toward the incoming dart-like quills, I dove at the last second. Sped-up by the green paint, I was able to go just under the incoming darts. In mid-dive, I shot red paint from both outstretched hands. One spray hit Fork in the leg, while the other hit a nearby heavy bench meant for people to wait on. As I rolled from the dive, the paint activated and the bench went flying across the room to crash into the man from the side. He went down hard with the bench technically under him, still attached to his legs. The heavy bench was on its side, leaving Fork unable to get his feet under himself very easily.
But he wasn’t done yet, of course. The guy was already getting ready to shoot more quills. I was pretty much done with that nonsense, however. The green paint was still active, carrying me all the way out of my dive and back to my feet to reach the man. And the purple paint meant that when I punched him an instant later, he really felt it. Hell, I felt it. His rodent-like head jerked backward as he yelped out loud, but I didn’t care. I hit him again, and again, just to make sure he didn’t shoot any more God damn explosive quills at us.
That-A-Way pulled me back. “Whoa, whoa, I think you got him,” she informed me. “Grab those cuffs, would you?” She gestured to the ones on the floor. Nearby, I could see the woman who had been cuffed when all this started. She was unconscious, apparently a target of the taser still crackling in the other girl’s hand.
I grabbed the loose cuffs, handing them over. She took them, attaching the cuffs to Fork while he still lay there with a black eye and bloody nose. He was groaning a little, clearly dazed but not quite totally unconscious.
“What about his quills?” I asked, a bit tensely. He might’ve been held in place by the cuffs, but his main weapons weren’t, and they hurt.
“Got an idea for that,” she assured me. “Quick, help me get him up and over there.”
Together, the two of us hauled the dazed man up, rushing him over toward a nearby supply closet. We basically dumped him inside. By that point, his eyes had started to focus, and when his mouth opened, I saw a few missing teeth from where I had hit him.
Before he could shout or anything, That-A-Way grabbed a nearby roll of duct tape and wrapped it around his snout-like mouth. Then she held her taser up to his face and made it crackle. “Hey, hey! Look.” Her hand moved to grab his face, and she turned it to show him all the cleaning supplies stacked up on the nearby shelf. “Paintball and I, we’re gonna leave you in here with the door shut. You could try using your quills to blow your way out, but A: those cuffs still won’t let you go anywhere, and B: you could blow open those chemicals, and who knows what would happen? We’ll leave a few bottles right by the door too, just in case. You understand?”
Glaring hatefully, he gave a nod and grunt.
“Good.” That-A-Way straightened, then pulled off another strip of duct tape. “And in case you get any ideas, we’ll just blind you too. Stay here, don’t move, don’t throw any explosive quills around, and you’ll be fine.” She finished putting the tape over his eyes, doubling it before stepping back. “There we go.”
True to her word, we grabbed a few bottles of cleaner and put them down by the door as well as around the small space, so he wouldn’t know where he could safely send any quills. That was the best we could do to keep him quiet and contained. Two regular guys down, along with one Fell-Touched. And the bomb hadn’t gone off. Bonus.
“You think we’re okay?” I asked tentatively while stepping away from the closed storage closet holding Fork.
“Okay?” she retorted. “Between the two of us, dude, I think we’re–”
“I think you’re fucking dead, that’s what I think!” The voice came from the left side, and we both spun that way in time to see another of the Prev (non-Touched) Scions with a shotgun. He was already taking aim, already…
Already falling to the floor, as something that glistened in the air behind him swung hard. The man collapsed, hitting the ground while the shimmering thing… the very familiar shimmering thing, stepped over him and decloaked, revealing…
“Twinkletoes!” I blurted despite myself.
“Hey there,” Pack, stepping around her Chameleon-Gorilla, casually waved. “Heard there was a party going on.
“And you know how me and my buddies hate to miss a party.”